The following is a long-winded blog entry I wrote in the midcdle of my treatment...
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The Road Less Travelled
Not so long ago I was updating this blog on a relatively frequent basis, having a job I could do with one arm tied behind my back left me ample time to pursue more interesting tasks throughout the working day.
My blog was a regurgitation of life’s simple pleasures, and filing it with self-indulgent quips of London life made me glow with all the pretentiousness of someone completely and sickeningly content.
My life has, however, in the last few months taken a detour and I’ve been forced off the beaten track, down a dark and lonely alleyway with no lights and no street signs to show me the way back.
On December 29th 2005, after having felt miserable and unwell for about a week, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. I was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital’s Haematology Ward that day and commenced treatment almost immediately.
Prior to diagnosis, my first Christmas in my new home with my wonderful boyfriend was spent sleeping off exhaustion, only staying awake long enough to feign interest in the brightly wrapped gifts littering the floor under our £10 tree. Food was abandoned and although we did attempt to get out of the house and walk through the woods for some fresh air, in all it was a painful and exhausting day - a feeling which got worse each day thereafter.
Of course, ignorance is bliss and thinking that I’d just been struck down with a typical London-winter-flu was the worst thing I could imagine at the time, as our planned trip to celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square in New York loomed ever near.
Magically, it snowed the day after Boxing Day in Muswell Hill, and as Chris and I rugged up and walked up our street to the shops for dinner supplies, it was a surreal and eerie experience, almost anticipatory in retrospect. I think I knew something was wrong – in fact, I said to my mother that I thought something was seriously wrong, a conversation she fobbed of as flu-induced delirium at the time – but something about that night in the snow, something in me knew. I remember sticking my tongue out to catch the frosty falling flakes and smiling over at Chris who, although holding tight to my hand in the freezing cold, seemed suddenly so far away.
I have this constant image now of me as a child playing with coloured building blocks, building a tower as tall as my 3-year-old self, then standing back to admire my work. There it stood in all its magnificent glory, a tower that represented all that was organised and structured and perfect in my little world. But then dark clouds loomed and the psycho brat-child from next door with the mono-brow and the Denis the Menace t-shirt rampages through and knocks down my tower with one swift, unyielding hand, laughing momentarily at my distress, then vanishing off into the night.
This is Leukaemia. That tower was my life, and that brat-child is my Leukaemia.
Now, my life is a cacophony of experiences – none of which fit in with my previous life, but then I suppose nothing is really going to remain, is it? My days are filled with Chemotherapy and a drug regime that would make any Columbian dealer green with envy!
I have been hospitalised now for almost three months, and in that time I have been able to rest in my own home for only 4 days. When at ‘home’, the apartment feels different and I struggle to feel like I actually belong there, instead feeling like an impostor in someone else’s home.
My intrinsic need to organise, categorise and have control over my surroundings has been tested, and I find simple solace in having photos of loved ones on my wall, in the place I like them, in the order I have placed them.
Material possessions have become oddly important and any change in my daily routine, even down to missing my normal shower time in the morning because of doctors visits or phone calls, upsets the cosmos that is ‘my space’ and I never feel quite right for the rest of the day.
Sometimes, I’m bored and I dwell on the ‘…what ifs…’ I contemplate adopting the melodramatic ‘…why me..?’ attitude and sink into a momentary self-indulgent depression where I consider what I may have done to deserve being punished.
And then sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes I wake up and I forget. I spend a whole minute in peaceful ignorance before I remember where I am and why.
Most days, however – I am a form of myself that has been stripped of most everything, but that still has heart and soul. I still laugh – heavy and loud at ridiculousness and silly insignificant things. I can laugh at myself, and more so at those around me, because lets face it, nothing is funnier than watching someone you love battle with political correctness in a cancer ward! It gives me random, spasmodic, Tourettes-like impulses to tell funeral jokes and the like - just for cheap thrills!
Three-year-old me is just starting to think about rebuilding her tower now. She’s considering if she’ll use the same blocks, in the same combination, where she will build it so it can be safe from further threat, if she will rebuild it at all…and the knowledge that, once rebuilt it will never quite be the same, lingers.
Block by block that tower is gaining strength each day; it won’t be long until it resembles some form of the magnificence it used to be.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.