October 19, 2003

War of Attrition

Yesterday was in many ways an ideal day -- the closest to a 'normal' day I've had since that day I first went to the doctor feeling breathless and shaky. Can that really only be four weeks ago? It feels like another lifetime.

So yesterday was my ideal fall day: the wide blue skies I've yearned for, bright leaves, sharp astringent smells in the air, warm and windless. I phoned David, a good and dear friend, and suggested a drive out. He was wonderful: picked me up, toting his almost unbearably cute 4 month old Wire Haired Fox Terrier and drove us out to Chanticleer, a privately endowed "pleasure garden" -- 31 acres of old trees, gardens, streams and meadow. We walked slowly and companionably in the sun for an hour or more, he carrying the pup, me bemasked. The place wasn't overrun with people, so it was a gentle pleasure to sit on benches and look at shrubs and grasses and flowers. Late roses still out, anemones standing proud. Ducks and geese calling, and even a lone songbird tentatively singing an autumn song. Lovely stuff.

Yet by the end of the day, I was all sort of snarled up inside. Partly, I think, the experience of a "normal" day allowed me to reconnect with Life Before Cancer (LBC), and that left me bereft when I came back to my plant-free house, with its boxes of masks and sterile gloves and hand cleansers and bottles of salt mouth wash. And partly the saga of my watch.

There's so much loss right now -- mostly of my treasured independence -- that it's hard to know which particular loss is going to be the peg on which all my frustration and rage get hung. The watch was it last night.

I should add that, while I was in hospital, my gold chain disappeared when I moved rooms. This was my father's last gift to me, and meant a lot to me: had been a sort of amulet against bad stuff. Very important to me, it has been, for the past ten years or so. Yet when it went missing, I sort of shrugged and got on. A bit ooked by the loss of luck (superstition is a powerful force in serious illness, I'm finding), but able to cope. Then, when I went for surgery, I took off my pearl earrings and gave them to a friend (or so I thought). They've disappeared, too.

Then last night I went down into the basement to do a laundry. A helpful dog-walking friend had decided to launder my sheets for me while I was in hospital. Problem was, she'd scooped up my watch (which I kept under the pillow for ease of access during the night) and laundered it too. Not an insanely expensive watch, but a good one. It was small and elegant and I'd bought it for myself with some pride many years back and had always loved its look and the way it fit my wrist. The thing had first been laundered then dropped on the floor and scrunched.

The thing of it is, it can be replaced: I've loving and generous friends whom I'm sure would give me another watch. I still have enough dollars left to buy myself another one, come to that. But that wouldn't be the same damn watch. It's not the one I bought myself when I began to earn real money. It's not the one I've lived with and treasured all these years.

It's just another fucking loss, and for some reason it's the one I simply can't stand.

That was it. I lost it completely. I had friends over who, dangerously enough, were there offering to do laundry for me, and I'm flapping them out of the house, telling them it's time they went, telling them to go away, yelling that I'm being helped to death and everyone needs to leave me alone and get out of my face. I know I'm being unreasonable, I know I'm being ungrateful, I know I'm being unfair. But it makes not one whit of difference to my actual behaviour.

Guess I've hit the rage stage.

Then, last night, I was so wound up that I couldn't get to sleep. Finally drifted off at around 2.45am, having exhausted myself with imagining the chemo to come and the shape of life for the next eight or nine months and secondary cancer and whether I'll accept cranial radiation which has an impact on cognitive function and what my stopping point is on all this hi-tech interference. Your basic fun Saturday night fantasy, in short.

And at 3.30am, my cellphone rings. It's some sinister guy telling me I'm a motherfucker and he's coming after me, he's gonna kill me. I nearly tell him that he's too late, the cancer's beaten him to it, but just settle for telling him he's a silly little man and should go away now.

Sleep was a while coming.

Posted by maddy at October 19, 2003 12:20 PM

Feel free, if you need to, to find something I've emailed or posted or published somewhere and rip me a new orifice about it when the rage threatens to overwhelm. I'll take it well, and I'll probably deserve it anyway, and that way you don't have to fret when the feeling passes.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at October 19, 2003 06:43 PM
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