On not having golden insides
Here’s my secret. I’ve never knowingly failed at anything, and I’ve been waiting anxiously all my life to do so. Thirty four years, so very many exams, too many hours working late into the night and worrying about what result I’d get on my GCSE maths coursework or my Middle English paper. Or my slightly-pointless-MPhil. Driving test, AS level general studies, job interviews, getting a mortgage. Tick! All of them ticked (well, perhaps some more scrape than tick). Believe me, I’m not saying I am some kind of genius – oh no. But I am an absolute control freak who looks at failure and says “not for me, thanks” and instead switches on the desk light. Or, in times of crisis, phones a friend or throws money the situation (c.f. physics GCSE tuition).
But throughout these hours of graft, I’ve had a niggling feeling that there would one day be something which I couldn’t do simply by knuckling down. Something outside the intellectual arena which has, broadly speaking, defined success in my life so far. And now there is. I think the most difficult part of the Nuisance (other than ‘Norphan-Angst) is that even though it is in me and part of me, I can’t control it. And so when I desperately, desperately want to beat it with a stick and give you all the good news that I \am winning this battle, that’s not in my power.
This truth about myself explains why this last week has been difficult for me. I’ve described the news coming out of my scans as middling good, middling bad, depending on which way you look at it. On my Pollyanna days my glass seems very much half full. But of course, some days the complete opposite applies. Continued uncertainty, a long treatment path which will involve many, many more twists and turns, good news and bad is the not what you want to hear from me or what I want to be happening. A clear-cut “A”, a B – (room for improvement) or perhaps even an F for dismal failure would have been easier to handle. Uncertainty becomes no-one except the saint. So, I shall have to get used to a different world where I can’t be in control of everything. This is probably good training as Oscar and Isaac grow up and decide to deviate from the path Mummy has chosen for them. And you? Well, you will need to support us through a long period where the outcomes are uncertain, statistics plentiful but dodgy, (some of the) medicine unproven, and provide metaphorical and real hand-squeezes to Billy and I as we approach each and every scan or test. Bring me your own stories about difficult and uncertain times so that I can learn from you how to be. Remind me of the big truth (which I’ve seen a lot of through work, but thankfully never experienced first hand): bad things happen in the world and people get through far, far greater than this with dignity and humour. Make like Cruffy and tell me that uncertainty leaves room for the Thing with Feathers. And play to Pollyanna by telling me that whatever happens, all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. And what I mean from this is not that I will be fine: that isn’t in your power or mine. But that whatever happens, all SHALL be well.
P.s. any cancer lexicon deployed in response to this post will be redacted like a Downing St FOI response. You have been warned, friends.
P.p.s. For those requiring real news, rather than musings: chemo starts soon, I’ll have 3 months of that and then more scans to see what’s happened to my liver & if there is any other spread. I am currently in unseemly good health, eating masses and being active, taking O&I swimming, having sword fights with Frank etc.