Seriously, really?

I have gone beyond the pale, so far I am a mere whitewashed speck and I don’t like it. When Miss Mason was small, she used to say “I don’t like it!” in a very peculiar voice that I still find myself using today. Toddler speak. Anyway, on Tuesday I go to Charing Cross to see two friends, one of whom is having surgery and the other who is having a new drug, TDM1. So new is this drug that it is not on the NHS prescribing list and no-one seems to know anything about it. What are the side effects likely to be? I ask. “Don’t know. No-one knows. It’s a mystery” she says with resignation. Yep. Nothing to do except take the drugs and hope for the best. I am actually hoping for more than best because she is one diamond in my depleted night sky at the moment. My other friend is having herself tidied up. This is short-hand for removing a radiotherapy damaged implant, re-doing the reconstruction and up-lifting the other breast so it will resemble the other. When I go to visit her, there is a woman in the bed opposite she describes as ‘a shouter’. Oh, yes, indeed she is. She shouts at every approach from a nurse. “Don’t do that! Don’t touch that! Don’t move it!” As soon as one nurse has seen to her she is ringing the bell again with a delighted look on her face. It is time to go when she orders a commode. As the curtains are drawn we are hoping it will just be for a wee. Some things should really be private. However, it sounds as though she has a racehorse in there as a Niagara Falls sound-a-like issues forth which continues far longer than nature intended. Henceforth she is known as Shergar. I hitch a ride home with my TDM1 friend who is already feeling the effects. The only information she has been given is a brochure for health professionals. Sigh.

Today I have a meeting at Kings Fund which starts at 11, leaving me time to have a slow start to my day. I admit I have been feeling more and more tired recently and am glad it does not start at 9. I work out what time I will have to leave by and then work back from there, giving myself a time I must get up by. I have coffee, I shower and then dress as I listen to a really interesting Radio 4 programme on women in Islam. I keep glancing at the clock to make sure I am on time. When it says 10.33, I go downstairs and gather my things together before Mr Mason gives me a lift to the station. Fellow Londoners will be spotting the deliberate mistake here. If you ever ask someone in London how long it will take to get from point A in London to point B in London, they will overwhelmingly say 1 hour. It will take me almost an hour to reach Kings Fund and I am leaving the house at 10.45. Hmmm. My brain does not detect the mistake until I am on the train and glance at my watch which says 11.10. I am absolutely thrown by this as though I have gone through a time warp. It then dawns on me that I am out in my timings but a whole hour. Given that some people at the meeting have travelled from Whitby and still arrive on time, I hang my head in shame as I sidle into the room.

Sometime during the course of the morning, the second bombshell drops. Mr Mason rings to ask where my passport is. He has looked in the drawer and cannot find it. Now, I have a memory of doing something with my passport in the last few weeks but I am not sure what. I feel I needed to enter the details on a form for, possibly, insurance. I remember showing it to Mr Mason and saying how I looked like a peasant or Russian hit woman. I could not decide which. What became of the passport after that, I am not sure. All day I worry about it. I absolutely hate that cancer and chemotherapy has so massively robbed me of my memory. I know I joke about it and everyone says “Oh, my memory is terrible, too” but it’s not the same. I had a good memory. I could file things away mentally and then retrieve them. I knew where I had put things. My brain worked. And to have that suddenly taken away is – well, devastating. A part of me has gone and while I was so ill I didn’t notice because I was only focusing on hour to hour or day to day. Now I am attempting to reconnect with my life in a meaningful way, I am reminded time and again of what I have lost. “It will come back!” people say, reassuringly. When? Just when will I be able to remember what I did and when, who said what, where I put something? How long does it take? Like this, I am not me. Perhaps, more tellingly, I am not accepting the me I have become. The person I do not want to be. I am not angry I had cancer. I am angry with the effects of the disease and treatment and where that leaves me. Yes, yes, things could be a lot worse, I know. But that doesn’t take away from how I feel about being different.

So, I need to turn the house upside down in an effort to find my passport which I will need in the next few weeks. It’s a real pain and I don’t like it.

Just to cheer myself up and because I have learned how to, crank up the volume and enjoy 3.21 minutes of  The Hives  🙂


3 thoughts on “Seriously, really?

  1. so pleased to hear that. Mo told me the story of her missing passport – that had slipped out of the BACK of the drawer and onto the floor – she found it UNDER the chest of drawers at the 11th hour – just BEFORE she was going to tell Jon it was missing. They were flying next day!! PHEW – close call. I had put our passports in the place where they were kept 10 YEARS PREVIOUSLY – I tracked them down by logic or do I mean luck? xxxxxx

  2. Thanks, Margaret. I have now found the passport. It was face down in the printer and I found it while I was going to photocopy something early this morning. Well, when I say early it was around 11am. I struggle with time a bit but I feel so much better now the passport is back in the drawer. I resonate with your love of paper. Stationery, generally, is a wonderful thing. xx

  3. For years I have been saying that if there is a place for something then that’s where it is. The problem, as I’m sure you will understand, is that there is rarely a place for a lot of things in this house. Whether they are necessary or not, I’m not prepared to discuss, for some reason I want to keep them and that is what is important to me. However as I approach my 68th birthday I have to admit there are too many pieces of paper. If you have ever read Cranford you will understand. To me paper is sacred, especially if it contains the written word. It’s as if I truly believe I will find the answer to life and the universe in one of those pieces of paper. You’re getting the idea, I have a lot of pieces of paper, from newspapers, from doing a degree late in life (mature students are well known for having total commitment since it is far harder given homes, children, partners, for them to achieve a degree). From teaching, God help me (if there is one) I have a whole forest of pieces of paper from teaching. And if I throw them out I may throw out the one piece of knowledge that will make sense of my life. Where the hell do you go from there?
    Why do we keep what we keep? my boys are brilliant at shedding; is this a reaction to a mother who keeps everything (on paper; the t-shirts have at least gone to the charity shop). Well I’m starting my downsizing by getting rid of those sacred pieces of paper; those books which I feel I should read but know I never will because I don’t really want to. Inspired by a letter from Oxfam Books which said we had raised £50 through the books we donated. What books? then realise when we were executors to Rod’s brother we brought home hundreds of maps, dozens of climbing guides, loads of travel books. If he couldn’t find it, he simply went out and bought another one resulting in a lot of duplication. So it was easy to take them to Oxfam Books. Now we have perused the shelves and shed many of our own books, leaving a mere 1000 still to go. Books, books, books everywhere – the sacred printed word again. If you haven’t read Cranford do – Miss Mattie cannot bear to see a small amount of butter left on someone’s plate. She wants to put it on bread and eat it so it is put to good use. I am the same with the written word; it is so important to me. When I was a little girl I used to play with my books – they have numbers from when they were library books, others have prices 2/6d from when it was a bookshop. Diderot said books “were my best friends; you could always find within their pages the advice, the comfort, the friendship you needed” (actually I’ve paraphrased that). But he’s right; you are never alone if you have a book.
    None of this is going to help you find your passport Shelley but rest assured you are not alone in wallowing in the mire. I can’t find things because of the sheer quantity of articles, pamphlets, leaflets, notifications that I have kept. The only way out is to throw out so in the end there will be so few items you can find what you are looking for. It’s called minimalism I think and I’m never going to achieve it in my lifetime. But I am damn well going to strive for it. So I’m by your side in the quest for the passport, try to laugh when you find it as you surely will. Because it will be exactly where sub-consciously you knew it was – it’s just a case of letting that knowledge surface. I haven’t been through anything like you but did exactly the same with both passports precisely a year ago. It took two days to track them down by a process of elimination, logic and sheer doggedness.
    I wish you luck and a flash of memory lol marg ☺

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