Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Life is good" - Phrase on a rather large t-shirt

The introduction to this blog states that April 25th 2006 is a day that will live in infirmary. Yes, it’s meant to be punny. But for me, and I think for most cancer survivors, the day that you are diagnosed with cancer is seared into your memory. It’s an absolute time-stopping shock, even if, as in my case, you pretty much already suspect the worst. It’s an involuntary tightening of your hand around your wife’s hand when the words are spoken. It’s a sudden inability to process anything more that the doctor is saying. The lips are moving, he’s making sounds, but he just told me I have cancer and the word is just bouncing around in my consciousness. I don’t remember leaving the medical center, driving home, what we did the rest of the day. I just remember the moment, as if it were a minute ago.

But it’s a year ago today. How about that? What a year it’s been. I’ve been poisoned, burned, and cut. I’ve seen chemically-induced birds fly around the intensive care room. I’ve stood naked in the bathroom while two very attractive young nurses washed me from head to toe. Every man’s fantasy, right? I’ve been promoted from patient to survivor. It didn’t come with a pay rise, because it’s priceless. And it changes you. In both negative and positive ways. Nice balance there.

The negatives.
I’ve always been the archetype of the “live to eat” lifestyle. Suddenly, I can’t eat to save my life. Well, I can actually but my intake has gone down dramatically. If I overeat, I suffer. And overeating is so easy to do. More than a cup and a half of food at a single sitting, and I suffer from stomach cramps and frequent urgent bathroom visits. It’s the same with sugary foods. I used to be able to inhale a Milky Way and it wouldn’t touch the sides as it went down, but now anything like that just turns me over.
Talking of not touching the sides, my food still gets stuck quite regularly. I dilate every day, first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day – not. But food still gets stuck if I don’t chew everything well.
I can’t drink beer properly because of the sugar thing. And of course that coincides with just when they open the Boston Beer Company restaurant down the road from my house. Oh how I’ve dreamed for this day for the last eighteen years that I’ve been in this country of Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite, Crap Lite. And now my dreams have come true and I find myself out with Kath who is quaffing yards of ale while I sit there nursing my measly half pint of Randy Stoat Stout and asking her if she would like to finish it. “Ooh, yesh pleash”, she says.
I need to sleep sitting up. Otherwise my reconfigured innards regurgitate bile up into my throat. And I used to think heartburn was bad, this stuff is lethal.

The positives.
Kath and I are much closer, except when she’s quaffing yards of ale. Sure, we still snap at each other regularly over the smallest grievance, but we’ve always done that and it proves that our lives have settled back into a far more normal routine. But we’re closer than ever before, and we were never too distant. We take more time for each other. My love for this woman who looked after me last year is boundless.

I’m slim. You cannot imagine how happy I am at losing all the weight that I have over the year. It’s because of all the negatives related to food of course, so even they have some positives. The attic is now weighed down with an accumulation of fat clothes collected over the last 40 years and I’m spending a happy fortune on medium instead of extra large.

Because of the sitting up sleeping thing, we bought a new bed, a bendy tempurpedic. Both the top and the bottom of the bed go up. Having the bottom go up avoids turning the bed into a ski slope and having me suddenly shoot out of the bottom and across the room in the middle of the night. (The surgeon did advise me to sew velcro on my jammies but this is a far better option. Also less painful as I don’t wear jammies. But you didn’t want to know that, so forget I said it. Anyway, this is the best bed ever, like sleeping on a bank of recently worn, warm rugby socks, minus the pong. (Sleeping on a cloud seems so clichéd somehow!). Mundane perhaps, but the bed is so pleasant that it definitely warrants a mention in the “positives of cancer” charts.

Lastly, and most importantly, I’m happy to be alive, far more so than I was before. I took being alive for granted, because I’ve been alive all my life. A brush with the cold feathers of possible mortality makes you look at the world a little differently. It makes you realize that you won’t be in it forever. I don’t believe I’ll miss it when the time actually comes, but I know that before that time comes, the thought of not experiencing life in the future is daunting. That sounds depressing, but believe me, I’m happier to be alive now than ever I was a year and a day ago. As some of my attic-dwelling t-shirts say – “life is good”.


At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roger - may I say to you, my favourite brother (yes, I know that I only have one brother), a very Happy Anniversary. This is, I know a bit belated, but I didn't realise that time had gone by so much. It could be something to do with age you know.
Anyway, best wishes for a long future, and you might think to say hello and thanks to NED for me, may he always remain faithful towards you.

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Mark Rogerson said...

WOW! I must ask: Where'd you come up with the following beer?

"And now my dreams have come true and I find myself out with Kath who is quaffing yards of ale while I sit there nursing my measly half pint of Randy Stoat Stout ...."

Because I've been making that beer for years, but I didn't think any'd made it to Massachusetts.



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