Thursday 31 January 2019

#Chemotherapy Monster

Chemotherapy monster is scary. He (we'll call him 'he', for lack of a better pronoun; 'she' is too close to the bone). Speaking of bone, I can feel chemo monster gobbling at my bone marrow as I write: feeding on me day and night - I apologise in advance for any rhyming - I've been writing a lot of poetry lately. The form, with it's cutting blade, is the most suitable for what is going on in body and mind and spirit. Chemo monster must be kept in check, lest he run amok; he will take as much body, mind and spirit space as you will allow him. You have to allow the body access. The body, if you nurture it just so, will later fight back. You will not meet chemo monster on a walk in the park, or on any outing you are on for a lark. No, chemo monster sluices through your veins. With a dark metallic bite. It likes to haunt and scare. And not just at night. Given it’s own way it would keep you in shadow all day…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me... If you don’t believe in God you must cling fast to the good or the bad will take you down, quick.

Chemo monster carries death to fast growing cells: the soft stuff (a sentence becomes a many hyphenated, slippery thing); it rips at your throat and rips through your bone marrow. It is like having long metal trains slicing through your veins. You know the cold steel of death is clattering through you and left unchecked, it affects not only your body, but also your mind and spirit with its gritted death drive. If you're prone to depression, you really have to watch that it doesn't carry you far, far away. Sometimes it brings ghastly headaches; at other times one features in one's own projectile vomiting championships. How does it feel? Like you have been visited by an alien species intent on taking you over. Last month was hard, this month less so. I hate the catheters in the hands of the cheery nurses, that carry the drip, drip, quiver, quiver, drip. My hands and veins carry the bruises and the strain. Sometimes dark humour quips out. Sometimes I keep it real: After a nurse has loudly proclaimed my weight as I step of the pre-chemo scales: Thanks for announcing my weight not only to my husband, but also to the assembled, I say to medical staff and bemused headscarf wearers flipping through the magazines that keep their own dark dreams in check.

What is hard? I feel my life has been stalled. My life is ruled by Chemo Monster and his diary, dates and demands. You shall not work for 6 months…you shall not drive yourself…you will eat these steroids that inflate your face and make you race…The #1975Inheritance Act case, that began in December 2015 (3 years!) with a surprise (calculated?) and very public family attack has still not gone to court, which is like having had a divorce but waiting for the settlement, or like a recurring nightmare: Why Grandma, what big teeth you have...oh and how fanged these other wolves at the door are....all the better to eat you and steal all the contents of your basket, little Emily-Jane...and then, to turn you into a basket case forever…see the will…it’s written in blood…your blood… The divorce brought relief, but the case is not closed. See, the other, and more painful things in life do not go away. The cruelty of human beings to one another - these things become more acute in life and death situations. You just have more time to think about them. Here lie the long teeth of chemo. But oh, does it separate the wheat from the chaff and the silly from the meaningful. The endless stream of self important guff and nonsense on social media and in the culture.

So how am I managing? I am married to the finest person I have ever met. This is no exaggeration. He's managing everything. I am managing my body, mind and spirit, of which you now have insight. And doing what I can: trying to keep up my spiritual practises; educating the children - fun and engaging and creative; blogging, writing poetry. The thing that needs to be managed most is the mind. It must be reeled in, or it will go where the body wants it to go. If one focusses on chemo monster, he will block out the light completely and you will live in it's shadow. As my husband tells me, you must choose life on a daily basis. For me this is sometimes a mechanical thing. When chemo monster clouds my mind with dark thoughts I have to seek out the light: the faces of my children; the texts of friends; the laughs; the art; stimulating conversations with my brilliant husband; a walk around a castle; the sunset; the early daffodils that speak of hope.