It’s been a tough week emotionally, both personally and, in the wider world, where Manchester impacted on our consciousness in ways which disturb and shock in equal proportions. During the week I had visits to hospital, three times this week, started a new ‘heavy duty’ chemotherapy drug, another gear change in my cancer journey, and the week ended with an assessment regarding my lack of mobility and whether I am eligible for PIP (Personal Independence Payments). Last week I blogged about the beauty of Wensleydale, unconditionally wrapping you and me in good feeling, I hope. This week has to be much more reflective and introspective.
I woke up early on Monday morning to discover that my very good friend of over forty years, K, had passed away after suffering from prostate cancer. I wrote on Facebook just an hour later in an attempt to make sense of it. This was not easy but I had to try. It was not a surprise, I had seen him about 10 days ago when he was at peace with himself and we had chatted openly about end of life. His suffering has now ended and for that we can all be grateful. I have no difficulty understanding the nature of mortality given my own situation and K and I had talked about that many times.
Nevertheless the sense of loss I felt that morning and all week remains with me. I know his wonderful extended family, partner and friends well and if I could I would just give them all a huge hug. It is sad, it is, as with all cancer, unpredictable and sudden, we will mourn his loss separately and together but we will celebrate too. K made a great impact on everyone who knew him. A committed family man, a sensitive and caring probation officer, a loyal and strong friend and a capable musician who played in bands for over 40 years and with many family members too. Just 8 weeks ago I wrote about a charity concert in which K. played with his son and one of his daughters. It was a powerful, memorable and determined performance. (See my blog for details of that wonderful, for me now, unforgettable night – https://yorkhull.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/when-it-rains-it-pours-with-generosity/) RIP K, I will miss you so much.
Less than 24 hours later we were having to make sense of the Manchester atrocity. Of course you cannot make sense of it. I have thought that in some ways you can make an analogy with cancer. An unpredictable, soul destroying disease happens when you least expect it. It targets anyone indiscriminately and without warning. One day you are leading your life and then by a twist of fate unknown you are challenged by cancer. It can kill quickly and leaves many distraught by the consequences of even a curable diagnosis or family and friends trying to make sense of it. We cannot comprehend cancer any more than we can comprehend terrorism.
What struck me too though was Manchester’s response to this invasion in their lives which has been to stand firm and united and this is an awesome and brave approach. It is the best message to terrorism as it sends a message that such atrocious events will not derail humanity, positive community responses abound and a real sense that life will continue. This is exactly what we have to do with cancer. To allow it to define our lives, to stop living and continue to build our memories of the one who is suffering would be wrong. This spirit is the spirit of human endeavour. It cannot be crushed by tragic acts of terrorism or individual tragedies of loss through cancer. That is not where our thoughts should be. Support every effort to reduce the incidence of these tragedies, keep our faith with each other and promote peace, reconciliation and in the case of loss through cancer, the community which family and friends wrap around us at this time. This strength, however shattered by circumstances, must prevail.
As the week has proceeded I have also been confronted by my own deteriorating condition. I have started a new, heavy duty drug this week which if successful may give me a year or two. If it fails the options narrow even further. I also can mark the passage of time with the level of fatigue I now experience and the reduction in my ability to walk. Scans reveal that there is more bony metastases in my right leg which I feel when I walk. So I have had an assessment to see if I qualify for help which would improve my quality of life. Here political policy meets needs criteria. I have a few weeks to wait to see if I get the help I need. It’s also a bit embarrassing to go through this process when just a few years ago I could walk fine.
What gets me through the week and looking forward are the sentiments I hope I have conveyed above. It remains important for me to be positive, to be determined, to be committed to make the most of whatever life throws at me. It is challenged most by death and atrocity but I will remember the defiant poem, ‘This is the Place’ by Tony Walsh in the midst of the vigil, which lifted everyone, stirred people into applause and, when the time is right, to prosper again. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-40072170 ) Celebrating the death of someone is about doing just that too. Remembering the contribution they made, the memories they created, the gifts they gave to their family and friends. We need to cry. I have done so a lot this week, we need to mourn, but we need to go on. It is easy to become despondent and fatalistic. I resist that, I will always make the most of what life throws at me, I will search for the positives and celebrate life. This is never more important when all of this is threatened.
This is my 26th blog, halfway through a year, since I said at the beginning of the year that I would write a blog a week. The pattern has been that, apart from one occasion, I have published on a Sunday afternoon and I hope those who follow me regularly are enjoying the variety. I write about the key issue affecting me in that week and happy to engage in discussion. It’s great to hear your thoughts.
My week in photos.