Pushing on


I’ve just got off the phone from the office, having tentatively agreed to return to work in February on a part-time basis.

I don’t know if my physical state is much advanced on what it was a couple of months ago – perhaps I’m a bit stronger? – but as our esteemed PM keeps telling us, we have to learn to live with it. At this point, I’ve said I can do three hours a day/15 weekly. All going well that can be increased in March. Given the limited hours, I’ll be focussing on specific tasks rather than general.

I’m curious to see how I go. I’ve spoken before of how I have no interest or motivation for work, having faced down death. I expect that will pass, but it’s a real thing for now.

What’s real also is that I don’t have the energy or enterprise generally, which is a bit disturbing. I’m tired, I’m in pain, I’m deaf in one ear and walk with a limp, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that I don’t have that drive. And, I still don’t know if I’ve made it through the woods – whether I’ll survive this or not. Still, it feels foreign and unwelcome. I’m used to doing things. Used to striving for something. It was a part of my identity, but with so much of my identity disrupted – most likely permanently – it makes sense that my sense of purpose has diminished also.

The best way to illustrate that is this blog and how rarely I post anything. These days it’s a chore, something I have to do, whereas before it was a vital means of expression for me. Then, I bubbled over with ideas and words. Not now, though I still have strong opinions (which I can’t be bothered sharing).

As someone who has been working on writing a couple of novels in his spare time over the last few years, you might think this was a great opportunity to put more time into those. But no. I’ve written nary a word. It’s not that I’ve lost interest – what I’ve lost is the sense of enterprise and discovery. I feel mentally spent, with nothing left for acts of creation.

Surely some of that is physical and presumably will change with time. However, I also think that having a serious illness has changed my perspective and the nature of my creative thought.

In my situation, you tend to live day by day. There’s little sense of the future and little point to it, really when you’re not even sure if you’ll be around for it and what state you’ll be in, presuming you are. It’s very confused. You deal with the circumstances of the moment, resting as you need to, taking painkillers 24/7 and attending medical appointments. You drift. Until you feel well again and get the all-clear, all bets are off.

My imagination feels like an indulgence in this situation and has slipped down the list of priorities. If I forced myself, I’m sure I could be just as creative as ever, but I don’t have the energy for it.

This is one reason I’ve started being more proactive in my recovery process. I need a sense of control. I hate being passive. I’ve had a physio appointment and have referrals for a psychologist and hearing specialist. And now I’ve organised a return to work. That’s where it’s at, I feel: I need to force things.

I still don’t know what lies ahead, but I’m through with relying on hope. It’s easy to do nothing, but that makes me aimless. The world doesn’t stop, nor should I.

All the same


I wonder sometimes if I’m getting better at all. I’m a little stronger perhaps because I’m eating better, but otherwise I don’t feel much different to a couple of months ago. I take more painkillers these days, so perhaps I feel worse.

Because of my condition, and covid, my days are quiet. I barely go out, and only because I must.

I had a visit the other day from someone from the office. He’s the first and only. I was grateful for the effort. He brought me a book by Eckhart Tolle.

The rest of the time I’ve been watching the cricket. A friend comes each afternoon to watch it with me. In times between, I read. Earlier in the month I was getting through a book every day and a half.

My favourite time of day is the evening. I allow myself to take one of the heavier painkillers, which takes the edge off. I watch pay-TV, enjoying the distraction. I’ll go to bed between 9.30 – 10, and read for up to an hour. Often I’ll take a sleeping tablet.

I look forward to lights out because with unconsciousness comes relief. In the morning, I wake slowly. Often I’ll feel a second wave of tiredness afflict me. It recurs throughout the day to the point I can barely keep my eyes open. It could be the humid weather. I thought I had passed that stage.

I have another day like that ahead of me, and for the foreseeable future, until I really do start to feel better. The only variation is that I’m going out to see a movie tomorrow. Otherwise, it all seems the same.

Time to do


New Year’s Eve was quiet for me, as it was for many this time around. I’m not really up for partying in my present condition. I can’t go that long physically, but with my present hearing difficulties and my rough appearance, my social appetite is much less than it was. I hope and expect that will change as I pick up, but on this occasion, I was happy to crack a bottle of bubbles and watch a movie. I was in bed by 11.

The other reason, shared by many, is that I’m trying to keep a low profile with omicron rampant. I’m boosted, but it won’t be at its maximum effectiveness yet, and I know in my condition that if I pick up covid then I’ll end up in hospital. That, I don’t want.

It’s been pretty quiet since Christmas in fact, partly because of that, but mostly because most of my friends are away and everything is pretty slow generally. I went out once during the week, by train to the hospital for a check-up.

I’ve been off-kilter since before Christmas. It’s not surprising. I’m frustrated and confused and sad.

I can be relied upon to process thoughts and feelings like these into something more productive. It’s a fine quality generally, but I wonder sometimes if I’m not meant to feel these things, and by moving on too quickly I lose something?

Not that I move on exactly. At bedrock I know there’s not much value in dwelling upon the unpleasant or the things I can’t control. If it’s something I can control I find myself moving in the direction of finding a solution. It’s not really conscious, but a function of the body.

I accept that there will be frustration and confusion, and maybe even some fear. I’m in an uncertain place. It’s natural. I find it hard to live with such things hanging over me like unfinished business. As in so many things, action is therapeutic.

I haven’t done anything yet, but I’ve made up my mind about the things I have to do.

Firstly, I’m going to get a referral to a psychologist to help deal with the road ahead of me. Cancer is a life-changing experience. On the presumption that I survive it, I have to figure out what I want in the life left to me. Whether I like it or not, the narrative has changed. I need a new narrative to live by, and part of that may well be a changed sense of identity.

My hip has been playing up to the point that come every PM I’m hobbling badly. I’d like to believe this will wear off in time as my muscles adjust to the surgery. In the meantime, I’m hoping to see a physio next week to accelerate the process, or at least to get a better understanding of what I face.

Finally, I’m going to see someone about my hearing loss. I’m finding it very difficult. I miss a lot of conversation in social situations, and even in watching TV there are bits I miss – I’ve taken to turning on the subtitles. I hate it. Practically speaking it’s tough, but I find it a real blow also to my sense of self. In general, I feel a bit like damaged goods, when once I’d have considered myself a premium product. It’s hard to get my head around my reduced capacity and is something else for the shrink to address.

There’s a chance that my hearing may improve once the swelling goes down, but I doubt it. In any case, I’d like to be professionally examined and get some sort of diagnosis, and hopefully a plan for treatment. I expect it will end with a hearing aid, and I’d like to start the conversation now (assuming I can hear it).

The bottom line is, I’m not willing to sit around hoping for things to get better. I think that’s been part of my problem. By nature, I’m a doer and it sits poorly with me to take it easy and let recovery take its course. I accept there’s much I can’t do, but if I can be better informed, at the very least, then I’ll be a lot happier.

Reset


On Boxing Day, I got a call from the bloke I shared a ward with after my surgery. We’ve spoken maybe four times since leaving hospital. His condition was similar to mine, though not as acute. In hospital, we’d banter and bag each other over our football affiliations. Like me, he’s had a course of radiotherapy since, but no chemo.

I’m glad to speak to him and maintain the bond, but he seems especially keen. I can understand as serious cancer surgery and shared recuperation makes for a heightened sense of difference. It’s like we’ve been in the trenches together.

As before, he extended an invitation to come visit him in Tasmania at any time, and I might take him up on the offer one day. At some point – hopefully in the next couple of months – I’ll recover to the point of feeling relatively normal, albeit with limp and other scars (including hearing loss).

There’s a lot I’m preparing myself to adjust to. I’ll never be handsome again, which is a blow to my vanity. The limp will likely fade, but the hearing loss – which I find difficult – is likely permanent. Much more than that, there’s a psychological adjustment.

It’s lonely having cancer when you live alone. It’s probably lonely regardless because cancer makes you an outlier. People look at you differently, and often treat you differently. It’s understandable, perhaps even necessary on occasion, but it only accentuates the sense of being an invalid. As an independent type, I find it difficult, but it’s hard to argue the facts.

I’m not about to make any final judgements, but I have the strong sense that this experience has exposed how much we rely on the pleasures of lifestyle to paper over a lack of real purpose or authenticity.

I’ve had no lifestyle – it’s been beyond me – and, in a sense, felt as if I’ve had no life. Sure, I’ve missed the things that made living pleasant, but found in its absence there wasn’t much else.

I don’t want go get too esoteric. There’s still much to play out. The one main takeaway is that there’s no real intimacy in my life. I sure could have used it on the struggle back, but even in the everyday sense, there’s no one I can share my feelings without reserve. No one I can close my eyes with knowing they’ve got my back. The person who wants to be there, as I would be for them.

Without the shared experience I don’t know that there’s much sense of purpose, though doubtless it varies. If life is just lifestyle then there’s no real thread. Everything just happens, fun, perhaps, but forgettable. Just things.

The scare with Rigby last week and being a Christmas orphan (I did make it out for lunch) has highlighted this sense, but not warped it.

Christmas was a time when you felt loved and embraced. In truth, I had that year-round, but it shone through come December. I experienced a casual intimacy now absent. I am truly loved by a dog now who follows me from room to room and is my constant companion. But that’s it, and at threat.

These are the things I need to consider in the months ahead. I live alone and haven’t worked for nearly 6 months, and I don’t think I want the role saved for me. I have some friends who’ve been great, and others that have disappointed me. I will likely recover physically, though I’ll never be the same again. And I have the choice – continue as I have for year’s, or make a change?

This is the time, perhaps. Time for a hard reset. I’m in limbo now, between worlds. At some point, I will have to move on. Recognising the need for a change might be the easy part – manifesting it much harder. It has to happen, though. If I am given the gift of survival, against the odds, then it only has real value if I live it properly.

Surviving the season


Yesterday, I had appointments back at the hospital to check my progress. I couldn’t get a lift, so I got the train in.

I left early, intending to visit the Exhibition building to get a Covid vaccine booster shot. I’m vulnerable to any infection, and the AZ shots I have appear quite ineffective against the new omicron variant. With cases exploding in NSW particularly (the mate I stayed with last week now has Covid), and across the country, I wanted to do all I could to safeguard my health.

It was a good plan, and I walked out of there with the Moderna vaccine as my booster, but it was a bit hairy in between.

It’s quite well organised, however, there are extended periods standing in queues. This can be problematic for me at times, and it was yesterday.

At no stage did I feel particularly strong, and travelling in by public transport had probably put an additional strain on me. I managed to weather it initially, but after about 20 minutes felt increasingly unwell, which included the splotches that appear in your eyesight. I hoped to make it to where others were seated waiting to be called up for their vaccine – perhaps 6-7 minutes away. If I had a seat, I could recoup my energy.

I didn’t make it, though. Feeling as if I might faint at any moment, I dropped to my haunches. The man before me in the queue and asked if I was alright. I swear, for most of my life and 99 out of a hundred times, I’d have answered that I was okay. But, this time, I answered honestly, “no” I said I wasn’t alright.

He went to speak to an attendant. Another woman in the queue came to check on me. I was very grateful for their attention and just a mite embarrassed by it. I admitted to the woman I had cancer as if a tall, fit-looking guy like me might be faking in. A wheelchair was brought to me, and I was wheeled into a medical room accompanied by a doctor, where a nurse looked after me.

They took my blood pressure and checked my heart rate – activities I’ve experienced hundreds of times in the last few months. I had a glass of water. Lying down, I began to recover.

After about 10 minutes, they gave me the vaccine (no side effects except a moderately sore arm). After another 10 minutes, they let me go.

I was much better and made my way the short distance to the hospital. There I was told that if the swelling and redness didn’t improve within a couple of days, I’d have to call up to be re-admitted to hospital for another course of IV antibiotics. I don’t want that, and it’s probably not feasible given there’s no-one to look after Rigby.

Because I was in town, I’d agreed to visit the office. It was the first time I’d been there since about June. I met with my team leader, and we went to lunch. He wanted to know when I might be able to return to work. I told him it was a week to week proposition and that things could change quickly – but, I said, maybe February, on a part-time basis.

I also told him I might need a holiday first to clear my head of everything. I need to make sense of things. I can’t understand. It’s been a terrible year. I don’t know what’s to come of me, but what justice is there should I be cured when my dearest companion is (likely) condemned?

I came home and slept for about 90 minutes. I felt washed out, but I had a dinner to go to.

As in previous years, I met with friends at a restaurant in Hampton to celebrate the season. It felt very different for me.

I didn’t feel great, and it’s hard to be as light-hearted as in previous years with everything that has happened. I’ve realised these aren’t enjoyable occasions for me. I can’t hear very well, and what I hear sounds muddy. I expect most of the hearing loss will be permanent and that I’ll have to get a hearing aid down the track. The effect right now is that I feel out of it and in a separate bubble from everyone else.

I was tired, and the act of speaking – with my face swollen and mouth half blocked – was wearying.

I made the most of it, but I don’t think any of us were in a particularly festive mood. It was an early night. I was home by 9.30 and straight to bed, sleeping just over 12 hours straight.

Love and hope


As of Friday last week, back home in Melbourne. It’s good to be here. The plan is to take it easy as much as possible, though it’s a busy time of year. It means giving up the little post-Christmas jaunt I hoped for, for fear of getting another infection. I’ve had lunch with my dad and aunt and uncle on Monday. Wednesday night, I catch up with friends for a pre-Christmas dinner. Christmas day itself I will spend with the Cheeses. In between is a visit to the hospital for a check-up and hopefully the chance to sneak in a booster shot.

My health has gone backwards a little since returning from Sydney, and I saw the doctor yesterday to get a new set of antibiotics. I expect they’ll do the trick, though I’m resigned to the fact that proper health is months away.

For most of the time since surgery, I would describe my state of mind as philosophical, if not stoic. It’s a practical mindset that accepts the things I can do nothing about and must accept. My challenge is to make the best of the situation presented to me. I have my moments of exasperation and impatience, but, by and large, I think I’ve achieved that. At times I feel it’s added a hard edge to me.

Surprisingly, there are occasions when I feel very emotional. The trigger event will usually be a news item – the usual, something sad or something uplifting. However, it taps into something deep inside me. I suspect there’s a lot of unexpressed fear inside me and grief and loneliness.

Today, I’ve had more cause for emotion. I can hardly bring myself to write about it.

On my return from Sydney, I noticed a lump on Rigby’s back. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed it before. He’s had various lumps over the years, and most have been fat deposits. This felt different, though it appeared it wasn’t causing him any pain or inconvenience.

I’d planned to take him to the vet, but this hurried it along. We went this morning. The vet confirmed what was probably obvious: it’s a tumour of some description. Given his age – he turned 13 in November – there’s not much that can be done.

I can only hope it’s benign, though I fear the worst. He’s remarkably chipper for his age – still lively and full of energy. Other than the occasional issue with his back legs, he appears just as fit as ever. He’s happy and appears pain-free.

There’s nothing I can do. The time was always going to come when he would begin to fail, but I don’t know how I’ll cope with this. My own pain, my own dire state of health, is easier to deal with than the thought that my best mate may be ailing. I can only continue to love him and hope for the best.

Pushing on regardless


Probably for the last 6 weeks particularly I’ve been looking ahead yearningly, expectantly, to a time when I might consider my state of health and being as ‘acceptable’.

In my mind at least, acceptable equated to minimal pain and much greater capability. I expected to be stronger in body, to the point I could walk down the street without fear of potential collapse. The pain I was less fussed about, though fully expected that I would breathe easier and the congestion I’ve suffered from would be gone, and probably with it the swelling.

From a purely cosmetic point of view, I hoped that my hair would begin to regrow as the swelling came down, and that I would get greater command of my mouth.

In the last couple of weeks there’s been a series of events that suggest nothing is as simple as that. I guess I knew that already, but I hoped for the best.

I ordered a new bed about two months ago. It was meant to be delivered within a fortnight, but a part was missing. I had to chase it up, and when they finally delivered it a month later they didn’t put it together, as requested. I slept on a blow-up mattress that night and then went into hospital for the next four nights. They finally returned last Wednesday to set the bed up.

I’ve spoken of my time in hospital. I picked up very well in there, but almost collapsed leaving the place. I‘d picked up diarrhea, which undid all the good work. I was frail for days after, and the congestion returned. My head would spin as my body sought comfort.

In the meantime, my work advised they’d paid nearly $1,000 to my account in error: could I please pay it back? It was a blow to my budget, but pay it back I did.

All this time I had my eyes on a trip to Sydney I’d booked in more hopeful times. As the day approached I was afraid that I wasn’t up to it. I feared that I would get there, take a turn, then be stuck. I was determined to make it, but wasn’t sure if it was wise.

It seemed even the gods were against me when I got to the airport on Friday. The flight left at about 11am; by 2pm it was back in Melbourne. A storm cell in Sydney had prevented landing. We sat on the tarmac for another hour, before finally we jetted off again. I arrived in Sydney at about 5pm.

The last couple of days I’ve spent in the Blue Mountains. It’s been very pleasant, though it’s tested me. Because I came away with a purpose I’ve wanted to do things, and I’ve been 2-3 more times active than before.

I tend to think of that as a good and necessary thing, though I’m not always certain. I feel like an invalid much of the time. Like a faulty part. I hate that and I push against it. It would be easier to stop, but if I never try how am I going to get ahead?

There was an episode on the way up which is symptomatic of much. We’d stopped at a second-hand bookstore to browse. We’d been there about 20 minutes and I could feel it wearing at me. Then I suffered one of the dizzy spells as I clung tight to a bookcase. In my head was some kind of crazy notion I was trying to figure out, as if it might cure my ills. I was like that for about 10-15 seconds before I came to. I had realised it was nonsense and knowing that broke the chain. I blinked, feeling weak and scared, but back in the world.

Otherwise, I need to take regular breaks to sit down, even if I’ve only been standing. I’m breathless often, occasionally without having exerted myself. But then I think, I can only get fitter by pushing the envelope – and I’m doing over 4000 paces daily, up from under 2000.

It’s frustrating, and psychologically challenging at times. I feel old and helpless; it will pass, I tell myself. I’m self-conscious about my appearance and wary of speaking too much – it comes harder than before, and with a thicker tongue. None of this is like H of before, and that’s the thing hard to overcome.

I don’t hide from it, though. I accept what is because I have no choice. I can’t hide away. I can’t take the easy option. I have to push, hoping it will get me where I need to go sooner.

I enjoyed my time in the Blue Mountains. Most of it we spent in Blackheath, where I have memories of a previous visit 30 years ago. I’m eating much better, which is a plus, but still not getting much joy out of it. In theory, I’m becoming stronger.

I’m back now at my friend’s house in Wahroonga. It’s very leafy and serene here. I’m sitting out on his deck typing this, in between reading. I might take a nap soon. It’s good to get away. Good to see familiar faces again, and to take in an environment far different to the stultifying world I’ve been stuck with these last four months. I return home on Friday.

Getting back to it


When I was packing for my trip to Sydney I threw the in a book of Clive James essays: Cultural Cohesion. Yesterday, now in Blackheath, I bought his final book of poetry in a local bookstore: Injury Time.

I’m a great admirer of James, but in this case, reading two of his books at the same time is largely coincidental – though it becomes meaningful.

We’re in an Airbnb in Blackheath and last night, after returning from dinner, I sat on the couch and began to read his book of poems.

I don’t know of any writers more clever or learned or versatile than Clive James. His poetry tends to sit a bit lower on the totem pole, but I’ve always found it engaging and affecting. I like poetry without being an aficionado, but I believe that James is one of our greatest poets ever.

The name of this collection alludes to the state of life he found himself in as he wrote it. Having been diagnosed with cancer some years before, he found himself living beyond the decreed span of year’s forecast to him. He suffered the effects and lived through the uncertainty of disease that could – and certainly wood – tighten it’s grip at any time. His time is up, pretty much, but he finds himself on the pitch still pending the final whistle: injury time.

As always, I was drawn in by the easy command of language and the evocative imagery. He’s an intellectual, but while there are splashes of the high falutin’, what sheets these poems homes often are the colloquial references that hit the right spot.

Nearly all these poems touch upon looming death. There’s memory and reminiscence in there, as well as a stock-taking. It would be poignant at any time, but I felt it much more so myself given my own situation. I may well follow the same path and I didn’t want to know it – but I read on, understanding it, feeling it also. And, of course, it finally caught up to him.

There’s so much I could excerpt from what I read – so much that is telling and true, so much that evokes an easy, democratic image that sticks with you long after. How’s this:

The Reaper sobers you. You will be stirred
By just how serious you tend to get
When he draws near and has his quiet word.
His murmur is the closest you’ve heard yet
To someone heavy calling in a debt.
No gun, no flick-knife: none of that gangster thing.
Just you, him, and the fear that you might die…

Like a heavy calling in a debt…brilliant. There’s a lot of brilliance in these poems, and a lot that leaves you pondering.

I went to bed, where I read from his essays for half and hour. Lights out, my head was abuzz with thought. I’ve missed this, I thought. Even just browsing the bookshop for 40 minutes earlier in the day felt like a return to something neglected lately, but once so familiar and vital. Here were words about me and knowledge, eons of experience and the projection of lives lived and lessons learned and perspectives formed – not to mention the sheer creativity and imagination on display.

I once lived within that. My mind was something I nurtured. I delighted in learning. I felt I was on a journey, and part of a grand tradition which, for ten years past perhaps, I have strayed from. But this is me, I thought in the dark. I have to get back to this.

In the morning, I picked up the book again and read some more. I’m fascinated and curious by what I read or learn, but the sum total of what I discover about how Auden’s homosexuality informed his poetry or Robert Lowell’s technical development as a poet doesn’t make me a better man one day to the next. What is vital is the train of thought and conjecture it kicks off in me. I’m in the maelstrom suddenly. I’m reminded of the possibilities of art and the endless speculations it leads to. It feels important because it echoes life and our attempt to harness it. And I am part of that again, my mind darting off in different directions, vibrant and resonant – connected once more.

This is what I remember. It’s what had forgotten. To gain knowledge is fine, but it’s a quest without end. More important is to untether the mind and find yourself searching without constraint. To feel that utter richness of infinite possibility, and wonder. It’s the rediscovery of wonder that counts. It’s what all creativity springs from. It’s what I have to get back to.

Hospital reading


When I discovered that I was going go be sent directly to the hospital the other day without the chance to get home first I asked Cheeseboy to pack a bag for me and bring it to the hospital. Grab a book from the side table I asked, hoping he’d grab the Clive James book of essays I’d just had delivered. He remembered everything else, but forgot that.

Fortunately, I’d downloaded a book to my iPad before journeying to the hospital in August, prior to my surgery. I never read it then, but it was waiting for me this time – and it’s a perfect book for an extended hospital stay (I’m still here).

One of the people who introduced me to reading was my spinster aunt. My grandfather, who had a great library, played a part, as did my mother to some extent – and also my own precocious curiosity.

Every birthday and Christmas I could expect at least one book, exquisitely wrapped, to be presented to me. She has her own bookshelves also filled with quality classics and contemporary fiction, as well as history. She was a learned reader and fierce intellect. I read many books from her shelves.

I remember one of the books I plucked from them was James Clavell’s rollicking Taipan. This must have been the late seventies/early eighties. I loved that book. It was a great read and a wonderful insight into the history and culture of the times – British colonial expansion into China in the 1850s, and the establishment of Hong Kong.

I was big into books then, as I have been ever since. At some point I was a member of the Book of the Month club – quite a thing, then – and ordered in hardbacks of other Clavell books. He was a big writer for a while. I loved King Rat, and then I got Shogun.

That’s the book I’m reading again now. I loved it then – for the grand adventure and the fantastic writing about traditional Japanese culture, which I was much impressed with. I don’t think I’ve read it since the mid-eighties, though I watched a surprisingly good mini-series staring Richard Chamberlain back in the day.

What I’m saying is that reading it again now brings back many memories – and that I’m finding it as enthralling an experience as I did the first time around. I’m ripping through it, which is just what I need.

I’m only about a third through, but it’s a long book. I find I have to ration myself reading, as you do sometimes with the best books. God knows why I must now, I’ve got nothing better to do – habit, probably. A book like this at a time like now is a godsend. Time in hospital is bleak and sometimes painful and often tedious. Anything that gets you through it is welcome.

Tomorrow I’ll be home, to the hot bath I crave and my own bed. The things you cherish when you don’t have them. And back to Rigby.

Back where it started


I’m sitting here looking out the window at a familiar view of the city, a few rooms down from where I lay back in August when I woke from my cancer surgery. I’m back in the hospital.

That may seem a depressing turn of events, especially considering I’ll be missing the annual Sinterklaas celebration at the Cheese’s tonight. That makes me dreadfully sad, not only because it’s always a great night, but mainly because this year I was approaching it as my coming out event post-treatment. It was my chance to see the friends I hadn’t seen for many months, and have a decent crack at some festive fair. Not to be, but it’s good I made it to hospital.

I explained how my right eye had closed up. It was decided that the best treatment was a course of antibiotics by IV in the hospital. It wasn’t exactly as I expected.

I saw my GP first thing Thursday morning. He sent me to Sandringham hospital for what I expected would be a few hours of treatment. It’s just up the road and so I took a bus there wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

Once I was taken in I was plugged into an IV while the resident doctor conferred with St Vs. It was decided that I would be transferred there for at least a couple of nights stay. That resulted in a mad scramble organising for someone to look after Rigby, and for Cheeseboy to pack up a bag of clothes and drop them by the hospital.

By 2pm I was in the back of an ambulance – first time ever – and on my way to St Vs.

There were predictable delays on the other end before I was admitted after about 2 hours sitting in what appeared a converted garage. COVID has added a lot of red tape. Outside it was hot. Then it stormed wildly. Then I was admitted.

I’m back where I started. I feel a lot better now. My eye has just about recovered and I’m breathing better than I have for months. I’m eating well, though the food is poor – overcooked and bland. I haven’t quite got my taste back, but nearly. The major concern now is the swelling in my cheek that has become cellulitis.

I’m due to return home tomorrow and feel like I’ve been set on the right path. I expect I’ll be quite a bit stronger and the improvement in breathing/reduction in congestion will make a vast difference to my quality of life.

My main concern is the swelling. I have doubts, probably unreasonable, that it’ll ever return to ‘normal’. That has huge implications for my appearance, and my ability to eat properly. I’m probably being paranoid, but I need to see some real improvement. Perhaps that will come when the radiotherapy and chemo are completely out of my system.

I’m quite sure I’ll never be considered handsome again.