The door out

When I got word that I had cancer it was naturally surprising, if not shocking. Part of the surprise was that in all other respects but one, I felt well. I was active and fit and strong. Up until the last couple of weeks before hospital, I had pain, but felt capable. I felt whole, but flawed, though more apt is perhaps I had a poison in me that had to be removed.

Since surgery, I feel damaged. I’m a long way from feeling active or fit or strong, though hopefully with time I will again. In most respects, I feel incapable. I don’t feel whole, and don’t know if I ever will again.

If everything goes to plan I’ll be completely free of cancer within a couple of months. Recovery will take a bit longer, but when complete I’ll be free of the hobble that constrains me now. My head will be clear and I’ll have my breath back. The plastic surgery means that you’ll have to look hard to know I had surgery on my face, though it seems inevitable that I’ll always be numb in places (the right side of my face, still swollen, looks dead currently). The only question is my right eye, but even that looks like to repair, and is manageable if it doesn’t.

If all goes to plan, I can hope to be maybe being 85% of what I was before.

That’s 5-6 months away probably, maybe sooner. For now, I look upon people walking and talking normally with some wonder. How did I so take it for granted?

This is the other side of it. I never really thought about it before, but now I feel mortal. That was brought home hard when I was in hospital. Being around so many badly sick people reminds you how frail the link to life is. Then I had my episode and came away from it thinking that I know how you die now – a series of flashes, then nothing.

I have changed from someone quite carefree about simple existence – I would speculate that I might actually be immortal! – to knowing that I’m on the edge now, and that one day, be it 12 months or 30 years, it will happen.

It’s a dark sort of knowledge that shifts your perspective on many things. It’s a cliche, but it woke me up a bit – and I was always someone more alert to life than most. You realise how much you take for granted, right down to walking and talking. You realise there’s no point in seeing out time if that time can end at any moment. And, in my case, you begin to draw a line between what is acceptable and what isn’t.

The reality is that while I might be completely cured, I might also relapse into cancer, even after treatment. The chances of that are only a little under 50/50. If I can survive the next five years then I should be right. For now, it’s not something worth worrying about. Get through this and if it happens, deal with it then.

Nothing about this is easy. I try to remain steadfast and mostly succeed. I have a grounding in stoicism and it makes me strong.

I had a bad night though and feel shithouse today. I’m getting stronger, but I feel off, and where they operated on my groin is troubling me. I got a bit teary for about 30 seconds feeling over it, and knowing what’s to come. Then it passes. There’s only one door out of here and I have to pass through it if I want to survive. As I said to someone the other day, I suit up again on the 15th and go into battle.

I’ve learnt a lot from this. Maybe that will make a difference in the years ahead. In the meantime, it’s bloody hard.

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