3 months have passed since I wrote my blog…(feeling the sting lyrics of message in a bottle) It’s the first time I’ve really read the words. I related to being castaway, and feeling a deep loneliness and needing to be rescued before falling into deep despair and that only hope could keep me together.
I was never sure about the true meaning of hope. I remember talking with a good friend of mine a couple of years ago and she was filled with hope about something very particular in her life and I remember thinking that hope, at that particular point in my life, had quite a passive sense to me. I just hadn’t realised what a strong word it is and its many connotations, but it is something very powerful that, in fact, I had always had and still do have – hope. The last 12 months have shown me the true meaning of the word hope.
So, 3 months, or 12 weeks…..yep, I know what you’re thinking 7, 257, 600 seconds. Please don’t check my maths, but if you do, try it the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper – good old multiplication – I’ve still got it right?!
It’s a bleak Saturday afternoon but all’s well – just taken the edge of my hunger with a left over Chinese and a little soy sauce to lift the flavours, finished off with sipping a hot cup of tea – simple pleasures!
I think my writing days have come to an abrupt halt – the hot cup of tea which I was enjoying a matter of minutes ago is suddenly a distant memory and all that remains is a cold empty mug – I’ll have to disappear and pop the kettle back on to help rekindle my writings – why don’t I make a pot of tea?!
Today I rest easy, real easy. Nothing can phase me today. I am feeling a tad drained emotionally and physically, but all is truly well.
Yesterday I had spent a rather unsettled hour sitting in the Ear Nose and Throat waiting room, waiting, of course, to see the Head Honcho about the results of a CT scan of my chest I had last week. This was a scan I had been waiting to have since October last year as the 3 month post MRI scan had shown a hilar node deep in my left lung. The docs did say that the likelihood of it being connected to my head and neck was unlikely but of course it’s a shadow that’s been hovering over me ever since.
I received a call from one of the surgeon’s secretary’s a matter of days ago with an appointment to find out the results – a wave of dread, I have to admit, washed over me for a little while as I came to terms with the reality, or possibility, of what could be – after a while I defaulted back to my “whatever happens, I’ll deal with it” mode.
Just to say that my lungs have been playing up these last few months, but they’ve never been great – possibly a weak spot of mine, but when your chest sounds like an old classic car that’s just been pulled out of a garage after 40 years in storage and then in the hope that it will turn over by yanking the crank handle to bring it back to life, that’s my chest – failing that I sound like I have genuinely smoked 60 a day for the last 40 years – I’ll send you a sound bite, you be the judge! I have met many people with a similar lingering chesty cough these last few weeks– a dry, deep hacking. By now you get the picture, so I’ll stop elaborating…
At last it was my turn to be seen, I sat down and the doctor starting asking me about my chest and how I was feeling… I felt immediately agitated. I thought he would tell me about the result straightaway. I waffled for a minute or two, which seemed like a lot longer, before he turned around to the screen and explained that all had come back clear on my lungs – no metastases or anything sinister lurking about. As I write these words, I take an involuntary deep breath and sigh. I remember constantly glancing at the screen with all the medical jargon basically saying all was good.
I think at that moment I was stunned and ecstatic which produces a strange state of hypnosis – it’s like the body and mind are making sense of what has just been said before I can bring them back on-line and start functioning again – i.e. stringing coherent sentences, at least for a little while.
A very close friend of my father’s texted me yesterday and said “ Ade, you’ve dodged another bullet” I like that expression, and it resonated with me alot as she had very severe bowl cancer over 16 years ago and is still alive and kicking! If life really is a lottery then she got all 6 numbers!
During yesterday, and the evening before, I was in a strange state. I felt like everything was once again hanging in the balance and that my sense of normal, that I had been getting used to these last few months, could possibly and irreversibly change i.e. be brutally swiped from my grasp, that unsettled me greatly but I knew there was nothing I could do other than drop a little deeper into my silent space in my psyche and give myself a pep talk.
I know life is in many respects always hanging in the balance – the swingometer of fate in the background swooping back and forth. Denial and positive thought spring to the surface. As precarious as things can be sometimes I would rest assured that somehow things will work out in the end – but to what end is that? (Discuss) I felt like the university lecturer in this moment…
Life can turn on a sixpence, just like a helicopter ride I had recently. The pilot faked a stall and we dropped down seemingly out of real control but just at the last minute the joy stick was pulled back and we softly regained power and with a quick wring of the throttle up we went. Hanging by a thread, or on this occasion a rotor blade, but I had faith – I wasn’t in control but I enjoyed the ride. I even thought about dropping out of the skies at a 1000ft, cruising at 90mph thinking to myself that wouldn’t be a good scenario but I still envisaged landing somewhere soft that would break our fall and by a miracle of fate we would survive with just a few cuts and bruises.
I was working yesterday morning & afternoon up until a few hours before I got my results but I was strangely calm. I was at a local office doing chair massage. I felt surprisingly engaged and in the moment with my clients, which is a great place to be and is why I do what I do – I was truly in the moment.
I felt a little like a dead man walking, but at the same time I was very accepting of my fate and that what will be, will be – an almost calming sense of my own mortality knowing that the spark of life which remains so powerful in us all will no longer, at some point, fire up before we shoot into the ether as sparks of energy – that’s a given. So when things hang in the balance these are the thoughts that roll through my mind, trying to make peace with the reality of life in all its raw beauty and ugliness too – trying to find a balance.
That’s what life is perhaps all about in many respects coming to terms with the balance and imbalance of life with its ups and downs. I take solace in this fact and it makes me more aware of being in the moment but at the same time of not being too attached as each moment in life is transient and passing – it comes and goes the ebb and flow of life.
I’ve just popped on my headphones, listening to Ed Sheeran… my daughter mentioned this guy a while back but I didn’t pay too much attention. However, on a recent trip to the USA, I was listening to BA’s music collection and I came across his album X – some great tracks.
I don’t normally listen to music when I’m tapping at the keys so it’s a bit of an experiment…
I found myself in a rather precarious place last night, outside my buddy’s flat, midnight, cold biting wind, I was pretty tired and ringing at the door, long story short, things apparently at the time didn’t swing in my favour and I found myself turning on a sixpence and hightailing it back to whence I came. All I really remember is thinking, I am alive and kicking and nothing will phase me at that moment.
Things didn’t swing in my favour at that particular point but life was seemingly hanging in the balance a matter of hours before and from then on everything else was trivial, insignificant and didn’t matter. As I stood there on the spot, I took a deep breath of the cold wind only to see a young Taiwanese guy come up to me asking where the nearest bus stop was, he was lost, and his phone had died and he couldn’t hook up with the friend he was meeting as he couldn’t remember their number. I remember thinking that this guy is really in a vulnerable position. It was funny because I couldn’t really do a lot with my predicament, a tad lost, but I could certainly help this guy out and so I found him a safe space to get himself sorted. Good deed done for the day. A late night but refreshing!
So 3 months later my hunger, appetite and tastes buds are back and I am slowly putting on weight. My mouth often feels like someone has just stuffed a towel in it for half an hour – if you fancy experimenting please give it a try and let me know – it seems to be the only way to describe it. I have other symptoms that come and go regarding hearing, muscle tightness in my neck and jaw, swallowing etc but that’s the just the way it is. I met a guy in the hospital yesterday who had only just recently had his feeding tube removed after 4 and a half years! On the upside, he was still alive and kicking too.
As I slip back to into my old ways (normality) I am aware that I have acquired a new hotwired, neuroplasticised part of my brain that helps bypass the older networks that help me reflect and move forward in responding, rather than reacting to whatever life throws at me.
Having just written the word ‘throw’ I had this great image of food fights, i.e. Tiswas and custard pies to la Tomatina in Spain, the great tomato food fight where a small village grows from 9000 to around 50,000. I am not big on crowds these days but that looks like a heap of madness that I am wholeheartedly up for!
That is the way my brain has always worked and is wired – I go off at a tangent, a vivid imagination perhaps. I was working with a gal the other day, and I was admittedly skylarking around. She looked up at me and said “Ade, you’re mad”. It stopped me dead in my tracks and put a big smile on my face. At that moment, I threw my hands in the air and agreed with what she said.
I spent the latter part of last year recuperating and Christmas 2014, I think, was one of the best. I feel very privileged to have spent precious time with family and friends to round off what was a rough year from the get-go.
I am officially penniless having not worked for at least 5 months but I am picking myself up and dusting myself off but that’s fine and an obvious knock on effect.
“That by which we fall is that by which we rise” (tantric saying) I am sure Confucius said something pretty similar too, but you get the gist.
What I really want to acknowledge is the resounding love and support I have felt from my family, friends, work colleagues, clients & acquaintances alike from financial support to profound words of encouragement, handmade cards of support as well as a couple of beautifully handmade notebooks with which I wrote in daily and still do.
I know the challenges I have faced have had a huge impact on my family who have faced their own challenges in trying to deal with the immediate effects of my illness whilst trying to carry, on as normal, with their own lives.
The fear, the unknown, the helplessness but ultimately hope that I have felt has resonated far beyond whatever I could have possibly envisaged.
The goodwill, generosity, empathy and kindness of others has played a huge part this last year and genuinely touched my heart very deeply.
I want to thank you all for the tender love that I have experienced in so many different ways.
I feel refreshed, blessed and remain evermore humbled by the breath of life.
FYI: I changed my cheesy smile photo to a pic of me on the Shropshire hills, several years ago. I was on the Long Mynd, it was an early Sunday evening with the sun setting – a biting, fresh breeze. Just me, nobody else around apart from the wandering sheep. The silence was deafening and I stood there for a long while soaking up the atmosphere and realise now that back then I took a selfie! I lived in Church Stretton, as a boy and was dropping into to see my mother after a long drive from Cheltenham before heading back home to the Surrey hills.