I have one week left of treatment and am now starting to look at what comes beyond that. It’ll take a while to fully recover, but I hope to be in a reasonable shape come Christmas – the swelling all but gone, my hair re-growing and my taste buds fully returned – and able to eat anything once the final stitches in my mouth release. Through all this, I’m making a big assumption – that the cancer is gone. I don’t think I can do anything else.
With a week to go, I’m hanging in there. You adjust as you go along, though it’s no fun. Besides the swelling, my cheek is red with sunburn from radiation and skin peeling. My nose is perpetually blocked and often bleeding. My mouth and throat are periodically sore from ulcers. And I’m generally weary, and sometimes worse than that. The dehydration is under control now, but I’m consuming so few calories that I’ve become weak. But – just a week to go.
It will take a few weeks until I can hope to feel human again, though I hope there is a distinct and steady improvement once treatment has ended. Mostly I look forward to eating again, both for the sheer pleasure and to hasten the healing process. It’s probably not practical, but I look forward to exercising also. Though I’m much slimmed down, there’s no muscle or definition and a lot of softness that I hate.
I have greater goals than that, though, which is what I’ve started planning towards.
I had some notions in mind even before I had surgery. The shock of the news jolted me into reflection, and one of the things is that I realised that I had neglected the things that would make me happy. And so, at that time, I came up with the great goal of living in Europe for 3-6 months in a few years from now (hopefully with LSL to ease the passage).
I’ve very much got a European mindset and crave so much of the simple things that Europe offers. I could base myself in Paris initially, and perhaps Berlin later, and use them as bases to explore further afield – as well as to immerse myself in the culture.
That idea has broadened and matured since. It came to me about a fortnight ago that I had denied myself joy for several years now. Some of it was perfectly natural when I think about it – I’d come close to bankruptcy and had no money. But when I started to earn more money, I still held back. Was it fear? I don’t know.
This manifested itself in many ways. No holidays, for example – I reckon I’ve had three days ‘away’ in the last 6 years. On top of that, many of the things – once fine – had worn-out and fallen into a state of decrepitude since, and I didn’t do anything about it.
For example, the bed frame I bought about 23 years ago – and a quality bedframe it was – has been broken for about five years. Not a night goes by that a slat or two doesn’t fall out. I tried repairing it, to no avail. Likewise, the leather couch I spent good money on 14 years ago is now worn in patches and torn in others.
This state of mind is best epitomised by the fact that I left things packed in boxes for the entire tenure of my time at the previous place – which was what, five years?
I never committed to the place or my sense of belonging – there, or anywhere else.
It seems so clearly unhealthy now, but I never saw it before. So, of course, the solutions are obvious.
I will take holidays. I’ve already booked a week in Sydney in December to stay with a friend. We’ll visit the Blue Mountains for a few days while I’m there. After Christmas, I’ll go down to Wye River and stay with the Cheeses for as long as they’ll have me.
I don’t want crappy stuff around me anymore and have set myself the target to replace all the weary and broken things around me in the next two years. I want beautiful stuff I can feel good about. First is a new bed. Then a more practical dining table (I can’t wait to entertain again). Then, later next year perhaps, a new couch.
And I’ll unpack my things, particularly my books. They’re so much of who I am and to keep them boxed up all these years seems a travesty. That means I need to buy a bookcase, too. The thought of having my books available for easy browsing thrills me.
I’ve been holding back, and the goal now is to commit. That means I’ll also celebrate Christmas this year, though I don’t know how as yet. I always loved Christmas. It was always such a joyous occasion. Then my mum died. She was ever the driving force behind our celebrations, but her death brought disruption and controversy. It became a bitter reminder for me, but it’s time I got past that.
Then there’s work. I don’t know how or if I’ll return to the same job, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. By the time I return, it will be 6 months since I sat in the chair. Since they’ve engaged someone to backfill a part of the job, and the rest is being shared between a few. The project that was mine is now being executed by others. Most likely, I’ll return with it done.
Whatever it is, I intend to have some candid conversations with management. The failures of before seem clear to me now. All I want is to do work I enjoy, for which I’m fairly reimbursed part of an authentic, engaging culture. It was a distinct failure on at least two of those counts, and you could question the other. It’s not good enough.
There are things I can do outside of work, and the plan is to make my work less of a thing generally. I put it to my Facebook friends to get feedback on what they thought I could or should do. The big one was writing.
I haven’t written meaningfully since I got sick, but I hope it’s a part of my recovery. At that time, I was halfway through writing the second draft of my second novel. With luck, I can get it finished by early next year. With a lot more luck, maybe I could look to get both books published by this time next year.
I’d also like to earn a few dollars along the way doing it but didn’t know how. Then, out of the blue, as if the world was listening, I got an invitation from Quora to be one of their paid contributors. I’ve now signed up for that, and I plan to write 4-5 pieces a week for them when I feel up to it.
My other plans are smaller, though important. I’ll start to put weight on in about a month, but there’s a great opportunity to shape myself and be fit as I haven’t been for years. In counter-opposition to that is my craving for food and desire to cook. I’ve always looked after myself well, but being deprived of flavour for almost three months has really piqued the desire. I’ve been collecting recipes and watching cooking programs toward the day.
I don’t know what the future holds. There’s still a distinct possibility that even after surgery and treatment that some cancer remains. Or I relapse. I won’t be safe for five years, but the danger could come well before then. I just have to plan to a return to some kind of normality, and if it’s otherwise, deal with it as it arises.