In limbo

It’s an easy argument to claim that life has been pretty strange for a while, though it’s a strangeness most have become accustomed to, if never comfortable with. For me, it’s gone to whole new level lately.

I have cancer and am waiting for surgery to remove it, which leaves me in a kind of spooky limbo. On top of that, I’ve just moved home, and though the first impressions are fine, it’s unfamiliar still, and the routines and patterns of my previous home have yet to be replaced. Everything is still very much in flux, and probably will be for months to come.

I feel a little lost, to be honest. I still have much of my household to unpack and place, and that keeps me busy to some extent. The Olympics are on in the background and once or twice a day, I’ll go out to walk Rigby and go to the shops. I’ve had breakfast out twice since I’ve come here, mostly just to change up the scene.

I’m not working at all, though in theory I could probably manage a couple of hours a day. I don’t because to do so would nullify my application for income protection. I have no interest in it, however, particularly after they have treated me. And, my head isn’t in it. How can I concentrate and even be interested in the trivialities of the office when my life, potentially, is on the line? Cancer is a great leveller.

I spend about 12 hours a day in bed. Generally, I’m in bed by 10pm each night, though I’ll read for a while before switching the light off. I cherish my time in bed. For the most part I’ve been sleeping beautifully, thanks to the plethora of painkillers I take. Sleep is a sanctuary. It takes me away from the pain and worry. For those hours I am just like anyone else.

Every night after switching the light off I’ll listen to an audiobook for 30-40 minutes. The cadence relaxes me and eases me into sleep. When I wake in the morning – somewhere between 7 and 8am – I’ll feed Rigby and then return to bed with the radio on in the background. I’ll sleep again, drifting between layers of consciousness, with Rigby snuggled up close beside me.

When I rouse properly – around 9am – I’ll make my coffee and return to bed where for the next hour or so, I’ll browse my iPad, catching up with news and events from overnight, or will read. Mornings are always non-fiction, and currently it’s a book on Albert Speer.

I suppose I could stay in bed, but it feels lazy. I always feel a bit sad when I get up finally and the day proper begins.

Physically, I don’t have the energy I had before. The move last week took a lot out of me. I had requested three removalists to speed up the move and take the pressure off me, but only two turned up. I did more than I intended and it knocked the stuffing out of me. My watch said I took 15,000 steps without going anywhere – that was all lifting and shifting and unpacking.

In the days after I had nothing in reserve. I would start unpacking, but after 20 minutes would need to sit down. My strength was undiminished, but I had no stamina. Whether that’s because of the cancer alone or the medication, I can’t say, but it felt like no matter how well I slept, I couldn’t properly recharge.

It’s like having a dodgy battery on your phone. It only charges to 60% of capacity and every action uses up more than it should. It’s why by every night, I feel worn down.

The right side of my face is puffy and numb now. It’s like I’ve taken an anaesthetic which has only partially worn off. My cheek feels distant when I touch it. The bag under my right eye feels fuzzy, and it felt a couple of days ago as if my eye was closing. The right side of my nose is numb also, though the left feels perfectly normal. My lips tingle and my teeth may as well be false, as I can barely feel them. It’s an odd sensation.

The pain has ratcheted up with this and I’m now taking painkillers as I need them, which is about every three hours. The right side of my face was so sore – that is, inside my face, not the numb surface – that I couldn’t rest on my right side.

I suppose I could be worried by this, except I think it’s directly related to how congested I am. I’d been pretty clear for a few weeks, but the mucus has built up again and my nose blocked by it. It’s a symptom, and I have to deal with it. I’m visiting the hospital tomorrow, just to check it out.

Mentally, I’m fine on the surface, though there’s an undercurrent of stress. I don’t know how surgery will go, and frankly it scares me a little. I’m considered young by the medical professionals and, despite niggles, pretty healthy. The surgical risk is low. I’m more concerned that they won’t get all the cancer when they operate or that it may have spread further in the meantime. And I’m concerned that I may lose my right eye.

Even assuming that it goes all according to plan, there are no guarantees. I know that, and I learnt when mum was ill to take with a grain of salt the optimistic prognostications of doctors. The signs were forever improving, then she died.

I accept I’m in a much better situation than mum was, and am pretty optimistic overall. I know, though, that having cancer once I must be on a lookout forever for it to return. That’s the way it is.

There’s no point worrying about it too much. Cliche that it is, I can only take it as it comes, one day at a time. By this time next week I’ll be in hospital and on my way.

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