My disease has moved into a new phase. I suffered pains and sickness just before Christmas, and though I recovered, I’ve had further episodes since. I began a 2nd round of chemo on New Year’s Eve, but that has been on hold for a week because of a longer episode of illness last week. This resulted in me having a syringe-driver attached administering (successfully) pain and sickness relief. Since Friday I’ve been taking this orally, with side-effects of tiredness worse than I’ve ever had under chemo. Hopefully the chemo will re-start on Monday. So, overall the landscape on my journey has changed, the path’s got a little rougher, and the view’s not what it was!
The other slight inconvenience I had was picking up MRSA somewhere along the way. This isn’t a problem (about 30% of us carry it without knowing), but it means I’ve had to be in isolation when in for chemo. It’s thought I picked it up at The Christie. (What – not just MRSA but a Lancastrian strain, said one horrified nurse!) I’m now clear.
All this has happened during a period of anniversaries. As well as Christmas and New Year, I’ve had a birthday and passed the 30th anniversary of when Jane and I first got together (we’ve been happily unmarried since then)! I have passed the anniversary of my first admission to hospital and the operation that discovered the cancer. Coming up shortly will be the anniversary of me finding out that it’s incurable. But all these fall lightly upon me. In some ways they provide markers that at times in the last year I’d thought I might not ever get to, but really they’re just dates on a calendar and I’ll continue to look forward rather than back. My current health uncertainties help me focus on the moment more than ever!
A good friend recently bought me a copy of Christopher Hitchens book Mortality. It’s his reflections on having a terminal cancer diagnosis, and he writes beautifully about it, often reflecting my own thoughts on a range of matters. One of the things he discusses is the language of cancer, something I’d been given to reflecting on recently. We’ve moved on from the days of the Big C where somehow to mention the word cancer risked immediate division of cells. But we do talk about fighting cancer. People who die of cancer are often said to have lost a long battle. Some even defeat it. It’s as though cancer is an invading alien force that enters the body and has to be tackled. I have to say I don’t see it like this. I don’t feel to be battling the cancer. If I am, I know that there’ll only be one winner in the end, and it won’t be me. I hate losing, so best not to play that particular game! I prefer to think that I am living with cancer rather than fighting against it, in the best way I can, enjoying life as much as I can, and with as much dignity as I can muster.
As for the gong….some may not have heard that I was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s honours list. I’d heard in November, when it came as a big surprise. I’ve known a few other republicans accept such awards, so that gave enough excuse not to even think about refusing it. I know most of these awards go to people who have done amazing things (I cited a couple when I worked at DCLG) and feel very honoured to be thought of in the same light as some of these people. The way I (and a few others) have worked over the years rarely gets recognition, let alone honoured. So I hope that the OBE is in part recognition of the value of a community development approach to renewal and engagement. I’ve had some lovely messages since the announcement, and interesting letters. The best is from the Garter Principal King of Arms, telling me I am now eligible “to petition for a grant of Armorial Bearings”. I’ve been thinking of what my coat of arms might include: as a minimum it would need a CND symbol, walking boots, a white rose, a football, the Yorkshire Dales, Halifax, and a positive image of (tenant controlled) social housing. Any creative Armorial designers out there?
And finally, in this shorter than most blogs, lots of thoughts this week about the wonderful and inspiring Pete Seeger. To everything there is a season……