There is an avocado in the fruit bowl, nestling between some bananas in an effort to make itself softer and more alluring. I don’t remember how it got there. I ask Mr Mason. He says ‘you bought it when you went out yesterday and I found it in the bottom of the shopping trolley’. Oh, I have amnesia when it comes to the purchase of avocados. Actually, I have amnesia when it comes to a lot of things these days and it shows no signs of abating. Looking up information on the internet, it seems that memory loss and impairment of mental function often returns. Meaning sometimes it doesn’t. Memory loss or not, it still reminds me of the Bill Bryson book where he walks part of the Appalachian trail and reads a book on bear attacks. He was not really comforted to read ‘Bears rarely attack’ because in Bryson speak, it meant ‘Sometimes – they do!’ And that’s how I am viewing my mental impairment at the moment.
What will I do if it doesn’t come back? It’s all very well being amusing, referring to actors as ‘the one who isn’t Harry Enfield’ (and, of course, I mean Paul Whitehouse) but that will only get me so far and, to be honest, it’s not that much fun telling someone that I am reading a really good book but I can’t remember who it is by or what it is about nor, indeed, what it is called. And before you shout me down with cries of ‘it’s old age!’ – it’s not. It’s really not. Multi-tasking was a specialty of mine. I could juggle tasks with ease, remember what needed to be doing when and never forgot a birthday. Now? I am unreliable and can’t be sure to remember anything and it’s fucking annoying. That’s clearly putting it mildly but I am aware I may have some young people tuning in.
So, apart from the forgetfulness, the absence of the multi-tasking ability and the ability to buy fruit without remembering, I can’t see properly. My eyes constantly tear up. I wander along the high street looking like I am perpetually tearful which, I am, but not for reasons of sadness but because my eyes don’t know when to shut up. They go on and on, tearing away like anything, ruining my attempts to look interesting with the application of a little makeup and causing me to be hypervigilant about carrying tissues which, given the state of my memory, is a tall order. Not only do they fill with water, they also fail to see things properly. They are really letting the side down. Talking to fellow cancer survivors, I learn this is quite a common problem but not one which is widely talked about. And, let’s face it, glasses are expensive to replace but not the sort of thing you can skimp on.
I decide on a whim to visit the local opticians. They say they are doing eye tests for free which appeals to the hard-up side of me. I enquire if they can see me and they have an appointment there and then. I wheel in my shopping trolley and feel embarrassed about it. I hadn’t planned on having my eyes tested or I would never have taken the shopping trolley. I feel it marks me out as elderly, infirm or slightly bonkers. However, I can’t do anything about it so I apologise for it and then go with the young man who seriously looks like he should still be at school. I am expecting a proper optician to pop up at any moment but no, this young man is the optician and he is going to check my eyes. Now, I have a freckle/mole/birthmark – call it what you will – at the back of my eye which always excites opticians and they spend a lot of time looking at it. When I say a lot of time, I really mean it. This young man is no different. He shines lights in my eyes like an expert interrogator and contorts himself about so he can see it from every angle. I reassure him it’s been looked at and it’s fine. It’s not a lesion which is what they worry about. It’s just a birthmark/freckle/mole. He still spends ages looking at it and tells me he wants me to be seen annually ‘just in case’. We all know what he means and I am far too fed up with the whole thing to even open up that debate. He explains kindly that chemotherapy has stiffened my retina which means my sight is worse than it was a year ago and that it won’t recover. Bugger. And also boo to those who told me it was just old age. The next person who says that is going to get a sock in the mouth. Honestly.
The next stage of the torment is to go and choose glasses. I don’t think I look good in any glasses but I have a steely and determined woman with me who is going to tell me what looks good and find bargains, to boot. She is very drawn to the designer brands but I tell her I am not going to pay that much. She then searches through all the sale glasses to find designer brands heavily discounted. Personally, I don’t mind if my glasses were designed by a chimp as long as they look OK and do the job. I don’t know who Roxy or Osiris is or are and I don’t care. I tell her if I’m going to change glasses then I’d like something different. This is a mistake. She finds me pairs that make me look demented and says bizarre things like ‘you really like lime’ which I am hard pressed to understand. She is very fond of one pair which looks like an old lady might like them. Something for that woman in Murder She Wrote. But not me. I finally decide on a red pair which I’m not sure I like and a roundish pair (they are Roxy!!) which will have those lenses that go dark in the sun. Whatever they are called. Memory failure. The sum I have to pay is astronomical and I wince as I type in my PIN number. Ouch.
They will be ready in 10 days’ time whereupon she informs me we can meet again for another hour of torture as she fits them and waxes lyrical about spring arms and designer brands. Will they stop my eyes tearing up? I hear you cry. No, of course not. But I may be able to read subtitles a bit better which will make me slightly less grumpy. Oh, the joys of cancer. It really is the gift that goes on giving. Hmm. Maybe a good strapline for one of the charities.