My Best Women and I stand on a wet bridge in Paris, under the shadow of a damply dripping Notre Dame, late last Saturday night. We have 18 years of friendship behind us, topped off by 36 glorious hours in mesmerising Paris. 18 years and 36 hours of ballast against those insistent hoof beats of time.
The bridge we stand on is glittering with padlocks. Each lock is inscribed with a set of lovers’ initials; locked on to the side of the bridge, keys thrown deep into the Seine below. It is the most romantic and beautiful thing I have seen in a long time; thousands of people trying to lock love into the here and now with hope and metal hardware. I know that these love-locks are causing the eminence grises of Parisian local government trouble as they threaten to collapse ancient bridges (though I don’t think we ladies helped with our combined weight after a nose-to-tail eating experience on the Left Bank). But I also know how the lovers feel. Had it not been the dead of night, and raining heavily, I too would have searched out the overpriced lock-vendor and bought hundreds of the bloody things. A lock for Billy and our 2×2 nuclear family. A lock for my parents, my sister and I, the Gross family. A lock for the Best Women, my coven. A lock for the Irish Muntir. Luckily for the Pont des Arts, the lock vendors were avoiding the deluge at home. Besides, I don’t need to shore up my many loves with a padlock; they know, and I know, that we are beyond that.
Anyway. I owe you an update on the Nuisance and its’ attendant winged chariot. I have had all my most recent scan results. Mixed news; the bloody Nuisance is growing in my bones (pelvis), but just about holding stable in its other resting places (colon, liver). It’s not spread anywhere else yet. So despite my ever rising tumour markers, Uber-Doc at the Marsden thinks there is a little bit more juice left in this chemo before the cancer becomes completely resistant to it. Which is good because it’s (a) tolerable (though my fat face, thin hair and weight gain say otherwise). With this chemo, I can usually read a bed-time story 12 out of 14 nights), and (b) this chemo is the last approved line of defence against the Nuisance. When it’s done, the next and final stop is Phase 1 clinical trials, which may well prove as useful in Nuisance halting as a bunch of the Prince of Wales’ homeopathic remedies. There will be no guarantees, and far too much uncertainty for my ordered little brain in this period to come.
The thing I am struggling with, still, is time. There probably isn’t much more than a few months left in the chemo. The winged chariot is speeding up, and I won’t now have the blissful treatment-free interlude I’d hoped for in the Autumn. Chemo, for as long as we can spin it out, then lab-rat territory.
With this worse-than-I’d-longed-for, better-than-I’d-feared set of results comes a new set of plans for the next few months. I am used, now, to my plans getting knocked off course. But really, this summer the only important thing is the Knights; and Billy and I making the most of their first long summer holiday. It may be our last together. We have some great plans (and I have a book to finish). So, dear ones, you may find the inner circle closing in on itself for the next wee while. That doesn’t, of course, mean we don’t love and welcome your support (and especially your news, letters, emails and the glorious packages). But my energies will be focused on the inner circle.
So, until I see you next: remember that love locks us all together. No need for a trip to B&Q for a padlock to weigh down the Bridge of Sighs, Westminster Bridge, or the Bristol Suspension Bridge. Just tell those to whom you are locked that you carry their hearts, and they carry yours, forever.