Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Faith Hope, Cakes and Candles

Good morning God,
It's always tempting to try to write about something that you are interested in or a part of. The temptation to compare your facts with other people's fiction overcomes the natural (and usually very necessary) fear of looking like an idiot (so what's new!)  and when its about hospitables - it seems it's almost irresistible.
It is possible to separate the dross from the gloss when writing about the Royal Marsden without exageration or manipulation in any way shape or form, put simply - no doss - just pure gloss. Bright, sunshining colours are present as pens, watch straps, hair bands -  wherever possible and enable people to remember that in spite of the inevitable maintenance works at the front, back, sides and lifts - there is a Monet or Renoir beauty also hiding back there somewhere, well thumbed magazines are left nonchalantly lying around along with a loyalty card for the coffee bar (as just one more hint of the optimisim that permeates the whole place)

Yes - I DO know what I am am talking about - this is my fourth week (I think) not counting the two or three days home for good behaviour towards the start of the month - and no - I am in no delusions about my disease or how vile, disfiguring and unpleasant it really can be. But I would want to echo everything good that was said about the Marsden in the guardian this week - and add some!

You see, they mentioned the patients, the brilliant but peculiar form of altruism practicesed by them, they pointed out how special and unique it is to have this facility on site - but they failed to mention some of the most incredible people I have ever met.
As a Methodist Minister, I get used to meeting saints (no really!!) But the staff of the Royal Marsden just astound me. They see ME - not the disease. They took the trouble to learn how to make me smile, how I like my tea and just how much ice makes a build-up milk shake actually taste like a mik shake.
This last fortnight I celebrated both my birthday and my 25th Wedding anniversary in the Oak Ward at the hospital trying out new treatments - so far no go..
For my birthday -there was cake, a candle and a song - for my Anniversary, one of the staff found a way of obtaining an anniversary card for me to be able to surprise my husband with, a doctor found a way of giving new signs of hope and two nurses were a step ahead of me in figuring out how we could enable me to sleep in spite of all the gadgetry sewn into my back.

I find myself wanting to ask not just for £2.00 a month - I want £2.00 + 2 smiles, or 2 acts of random human kindness as I am  convinced beyond measure that the cure for Cancer lies as much in the attitude of the people who work here and the care that they show as it does in the chemicals they research and administer.  These chemicals are incredibly expensive and although progress is fairly rapid, it does take time to solve the mutations that warp our cells. We have however known what warps our hearts and lives for a long time already.
Me? I'm going to try and take a leaf out of thier book - from the way I am greeted at the door, to the way I am wished goodnight, I will try and be worth the investment of the staff in me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

“End of Days”

Almost always with cats, the end
comes creeping over the two of you—
she stops eating, his back legs
no longer support him, she leans
to your hand and purrs but cannot
rise—sometimes a whimper of pain
although they are stoic. They see
death clearly though hooded eyes.

Then there is the long weepy
trip to the vet, the carrier no
longer necessary, the last time
in your lap. The injection is quick.
Simply they stop breathing
in your arms. You bring them
home to bury in the flower garden,
planting a bush over a deep grave.

held in a lover's arms
That is how I would like to cease,
held in a lover’s arms and quickly
fading to black like an old-fashioned
movie embrace. I hate the white
silent scream of hospitals, the whine
of pain like air-conditioning’s hum.
I want to click the off switch.

And if I can no longer choose

I want someone who loves me
there, not a doctor with forty patients
and his morality to keep me sort
of, kind of alive or sort of undead.
Why are we more rational and kinder
to our pets than to ourselves or our
parents? Death is not the worst
thing; denying it can be.

“End of Days” by Marge Piercy,
from The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems, 1980 – 2010. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

When not believing is more important than believing

There are times with cancer when the world of belief stands on its head - when it becomes more important for some people to not believe, than it is to believe.
Belief is such a powerful force, it can move mountains - and some say, destroy cancer.
So when you begin to suspect that the cancer is returning, when the breath comes harder and the pain is more noticeable, you desperately don't want to believe what you fear.
And those who love you, urge you to not believe it. For they fear that the more you believe the cancer has returned, the more likely it is to do so...
Belief is, after all, such a powerful thing.

'You don't have to believe it's the cancer, it could be a million and one other things'.
This I am told, and this I understand
What we disbelieve can form us just as much as what we believe can.

But belief is not a magic wand to deny truth with. The one thing that I find is necessary, to live with, rather than suffer all this - is truth.
My body needs me to be aware of it in order to care for it. I cannot 'not believe' in what it is telling me.

I'm finding the isolation that comes with this particular stage in cancer quite profound.
After such an obvious time of remission, it is impossible to speak without betraying the belief of someone I love, that the cancer is still stable, and so it is impossible to share the pain I am in, and find comfort unless I am prepared to cause pain first.

I need my life to be like that of everyone else - a matter of fact - not belief.
It should not matter what I believe about the cancer - it either is, or is not stable.
The scans will tell us.
Meanwhile, surely what does matter is whether I believe in life,  not death, in hope  not despair, in joy not sorrow?

I believe in me - a child of God - who happens to have cancer.
I don't believe the cancer part is the most important part about me!