Archive for July, 2003

Leaving

Posted in Cancer Journal on July 28th, 2003

Emma slept well without digestive or other problems. Seems cheerful but it is a painful moment to part. Comforted myself with the thought she would be at yoga that day and she sent photos later by email to confirm. Sat on the stairs waiting for the taxi. Encircled each other and had silent weep. She bravely sent me off- “Get back to your life”. Felt helpless. Would she be the same when I returned? Would she be worse or better? How much time do we have left together? Take a car to LHR.

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Post Chemo Day 6

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 27th, 2003

It is now day 6 of the chemotherapy treatment and Emma is bearing up very well. The third and fourth days were low points but she has rallied today. It has been a lifetime in one week.

G at yoga teaches with few words and lots of humour, brooks no nonsense and is tough and tender all at once. “Don’t thank me I don’t need anything.” she says.

In Deptford High Street seen at a distance chatting to people on the market made me realise how she was both of this part of London and at the same time of a much wider world. It is a fascinating place with a rich mixture of people from everywhere. The history too: a church memorial to Christopher Marlowe who was killed in one of the local watering houses.

Since Friday last when G heard of Emma’s plight she has given strength and practical assistance in the form of yoga sessions to help with the post operation healing and to give strength to carry through the ongoing treatment. She took me in at the same time and is teaching me what she teaches Emma. We are living yoga daily: for me the actual classes, for Em the special relaxation sessions. The traditional medicine gives her a chance of survival and the yoga gives her the strength to stand the ordeal.

“Surrender to mother earth “the final instruction at the end of the session is the counterpoint to that. It is remarkable how you can draw energy at the same time.

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Tummy Pull

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 25th, 2003

This morning Emma is feeling better physically and in a good state generally. She has a tummy pull from the operation scars. Later she goes out for tea with a friend. I spend the afternoon cleaning upstairs and the evening with a nice glass of wine and garlic prawns.

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Yoga Therapy

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 24th, 2003

Em is feeling less lively. Some muscle aches, neck tenderness. No sickness but bowel problems. She remains positive and active.

We are having a quiet morning at home pottering and emailing. Later in the day after resting in bed she began to feel quite low. We go to yoga at 7 pm after buying a cassette tape recorder. Tears and dark thoughts at the overwhelming situation. We sit on the steps of the yoga institute gathering ourselves before going in. At the end G suggested a schedule for us tomorrow- somehow she knew it was a tough moment. After the session Em felt so much better and that continued throughout the evening. Her eyes have darkened and she is looking increasingly subdued ‘though still as beautiful as ever.

The physical effects of chemo are not the worst problem. It is this confrontation with a long drawn out treatment with no guarantees. I am in a dream-like state- only in the quiet of the yoga room do I face what might happen. G warns us we might feel emotional during the sessions and need to cry and so I am not taken unaware when it happens.

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Routine

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 23rd, 2003

Now it is a question of establishing a routine- food, yoga, relaxation, sleep. Emma anxious about keeping people happy, not finding it easy to put her own needs first. The rush of visitors and phone calls has left her tired and anxious.

Today we yoga and plan and rest. Found the washer-dryer instructions.

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Post Op Follow Up

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 22nd, 2003

Post-operative visit to the surgeon. Discuss what was done- removal of organs. He thinks the presence of the cancer predated the March operation- may be two years ago it was there. He said it was rare in her age group and that took them by surprise.

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Stage 1 Chemo Day 1

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 21st, 2003

Start of chemotherapy at London Bridge Hospital. She will have docetaxel and carboplatin. Steroids administered first to prevent the ‘tree protein’ in the drug interacting with her human protein.

Very crowded room with patients in blue helmet like head gear. Head cooling to reduce hair loss. It is like having your head wrapped in bags of frozen peas as Em put it.

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Finding Jacqueline

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 17th, 2003

To Stamford Hill to acquire Jacqueline at the home of an young orthodox Jewish woman. The choice is stunning, the realism too true. She chooses but a deep reluctance. A kind of insurance should the hair disappear suddenly.

[ironic really that this was the first thing she bought and yet her hair proved too strong for the chemo. In the event she never wore that wig except once. It was almost too realistic. But she needed to make a statement to herself and the world. She preferred Gloria as the blond wig became known.]

We go for a long relaxation yoga session. G responds to Emma’s plight with great generosity and sensitivity. A week of yoga follows. Good for us both. G is tough and tender in a happy combination. We are truly blessed by her support and practical intervention.

Emma finds her visitors welcome but hard to handle. Some stay too long and she has conflicts between them and her phone calls. In the end she is irritable and blames me for making them too welcome. We go to our beds but do not sleep.

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Facing Chemo

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 11th, 2003

She came out of hospital on Friday morning 11th July and we stay in New Cross. Her friend B stayed for two days the next week while we went home to finish the house changes. Emma seems determined to face her treatment positively. She is starting to worry about the side effects of chemo.

Next Monday she starts chemotherapy. She has said we have to carry on our lives as normal so I am not sure whether she will allow me to stay the course! I will just travel back and forth more and be there.

So it is preparation time. New hair in advance of losing the old and buying only the wildest sunglasses for bare eyebrow disguise. The Art Deco show at the V&A and then Bridget Riley. London is hot and bothersome and full of complaining people.

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Operation

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on July 5th, 2003

6.48 am Early train from New Cross Gate to London Bridge. The people who keep London turning on the train. Calm, milky sunshine over the Thames.
At 7.15 am Emma is fearful now. A sleepless night. The nurse comes in to do a pre-operation check and says the surgeon wants her to spend a night in the High Dependency Unit. It sounds ominous and later proves to be a mistake.
She showers and dresses in the blue flowered cotton gown. Tearful. A little girl of five again. Laughs at being allowed to be five again. We go down to the theatre at 8.05 am. She goes through the double doors looking back at me as if to stay the process a little longer. Facing the worst - expecting to be without ovaries on awakening.
The biopsy tests go in today or Monday and will be back by Wednesday. Then we may know just how long this journey is going to be.

[Looking back I realise now that we did not have any idea how quickly and forcefully the truth would be revealed that morning. Waiting for test results would be irrelevant.]

I walk along the Thames towards Tower Bridge in the quiet of the morning while she is under the knife. The river is slow and grey and largely uncluttered with craft. Soft lazy light. No one around on the Jubilee walk past the Belfast and the London City Council offices. Saturday morning a few early tourists. London is indoors or abed.

Waiting in Emma’s room. Between 9.30 am and 9.45, the surgeon comes to tell me the news. The operation must have taken just over an hour. He says she has an aggressive form of ovarian cancer, Nodules all over her abdominal cavity and on her uterus. The only course is six months of chemotherapy (6 cycles). There is no cure. He advises any sister to have a scan. I blank out for a moment but I think he says six months and then seeing me blanch, revises upwards to two years. When I sink down into a chair, he touches my hand briefly and says, “You must take care of yourself.” Then he is gone.

[On reflection he seemed unusually shaken for a hard-headed surgeon.
This was a moment constantly being replayed in my head. Walked around in shock for two days afterwards. And since then, I have been through a transforming experience. From normal expectations of life span and all the assumptions it brings, I have been thrown into a heightened state, cherishing every moment, day by day, feeling the precariousness of existence, fearing the suffering she has to endure now and later. Waking up each day thinking for a split second that this is a nightmare- and will stop soon.]

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