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.