Day to day

Last week, when my worst fears became possible once more, I dreamt that I was abducted by the sort of terrorists who film the act of cutting your head off. I was in the process of escaping their clutches when I woke. Did I get away clean? Or did they re-capture me?

It seemed obvious to me once my mind was clear that the dream was a metaphor for my situation. The abductors are Cancer. I am trying to escape from it but don’t know yet what the prognosis will tell me. I choose to believe that I eluded them and found my way to freedom.

Last night I had another interesting dream, and more complex.

I am part of an expedition that has travelled to a faraway planet. An earlier expedition had built a great building to house them and where they would conduct their scientific experiments. Every one of them has disappeared, however, which is one reason we have come.

The planet is inhospitable but safe. We can breathe the air, and gravity is as we know it. It’s dim, though, and for most of every day, a wild wind blows. It’s not somewhere you go for a vacation.

There’s a scene involving lifts and precarious footing leading to a great fall and death with one misstep. All that is vague to me. What remains clear is how members of our own party begin disappearing without a trace. There’s fear in the air and great uncertainty. None of us knows what is going on.

Then, walking between buildings one day, I see a distant moving shape come in my direction. In the dim light, it’s hard to make it out. I pause, not knowing if I should be afraid but curious also. There should be nothing outside of our cluster.

From behind me, I hear a cry. A guard of some description has spotted the shape also and is raising his rifle to shoot it. I call to him to stop. Then, the shape emerges, and I can see it is a dog. It runs to me, as dogs will, full of energy and affection, and leaps harmlessly into my arms.

It’s a huge relief, obviously, but the mystery deepens. Where has this dog come from? Then we realise that it was brought on the first expedition and that it has not changed or aged a day since then. Then I wake.

I am in a pattern now. I try to balance the discomfort of my head pain against the fogginess induced by the tablets I take to reduce it. Unfortunately, there’s little give in the equation, and I feel I have few options. I try to hold off as long as possible, but by mid-afternoon, I must take something – today, it was the first thing.

I take one of the painkillers prescribed by the doctor to start with. They are safer apparently and are made for chronic pain. I have two versions, the more intense lasting 6 hours or the 12 version that more subtly blunts the worst of the pain. Neither of them removes the pain by themselves, and neither last long as claimed. They are the background medication I take.

I’ve worked out the best I can do is hold until the afternoon, when I’ll take a 6-hour tablet, before taking a 12-hour tablet in the evening as I prepare for bed. Today, I had to take a 12-hour tablet at 9.30am.

These are what I’d call defensive measures. When the pain begins to amp up regardless, as the day goes on, I take a different tablet – a frontline tablet.

Most effective is Neurofen, but I have to be mindful not to take them every day. Panadol is much less effective but much safer also. Whichever it is, I try to hold until the evening before I must take one, though more often it’s late afternoon. If it’s a Neurofen, I take only a single tablet.

They last for a while, but eventually fade. I resist taking another in the evening, though sometimes I will.

By now, I feel pretty foggy. I’m slow and distant. I’ve noticed that I’m talking with a slur, and occasionally I’m unsteady on my feet. These are all unwelcome side effects. I may sit on the couch and watch TV, but I know it will be an early night. I try to last until 10pm, which is an hour sooner than normal, but half the time, I’m in bed shortly after 9pm.

It’s strange, but it embarrasses me that I’m reduced to such an unmanly state. I feel useless and helpless and as if my life is not my own and my body and health the plaything of malicious fate. I feel time differently and, once more, as if I’m outside of regular convention. I hate the sense of being used and, as much as the pain discomforts me, the psychological disruption is difficult to manage.

Once I’m in bed, I might try and read for a while, energy permitting, and more often lately, I will listen to an audiobook as I drift off to sleep.

I welcome sleep. It’s when I feel most safe. I’ve learnt, though, that unless I take the necessary precautions, I’ll wake in the middle of the night with my face and head in pain. So before I turn the light out, I take a Voltaren. I sleep well with that, without disturbance, and wake about 9 and up to 10 hours later.

As an adult, I’ve always woke up pretty clean. Open my eyes, and I’m completely switched on. Not now. Now I wake like I did when I was a growing teenager and couldn’t get enough sleep. Mostly it’s Rigby who prompts me to wakefulness, an hour or so after normal. Then I am groggy as if walking from a heavy dose of sleeping pills. I suppose I am.

My inclination is to roll over and go back to sleep. Often I will. But then, sometimes, I stagger out of bed to feed Rigby and even make a coffee. I go back to bed, and half the time will go back to sleep. I’m never quickly out of bed by choice. It’s where I feel most comfortable. Today, I didn’t get out of bed until 10.30.

I’m at my best, approximately, between 10.30am and 1pm. Then the cycle continues.

Through this, I must still function. I’ve given up work temporarily, though I’ve done a few things. As I must soon shift home, I force myself to pack boxes and to go out and check out properties (I applied for one yesterday, in Black Rock, out of necessity).

I can’t wait for all this to be over. I have an MRI tomorrow and the specialist again on Wednesday. I assume the most positive outcome, but it still leaves me with huge questions to be answered. This episode has shaken me out of my complacency. When I’m right again, I must seek answers. I know now, everything has an end date.

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