On Valentine’s Day, 2006, I was was formally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. I was 42.
Love for Now is the journal I kept of my experience of diagnosis, treatment and misdiagnosis of relapse from this disease. It begins in the days shortly before my diagnosis, and ends some six months later, as I enter the uncertain territory of remission.
It is a book that details the physical and emotional demands of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, both on me and my family. If you are squeamish about bodily functions, this may not be the Christmas-read for you.
It is a book about hospital corridors and sitting in waiting rooms, the doctors and nurses who treated me, their calm and humane professionalism in circumstances most of us would not readily equate with the idea of going to work.
It is also a book about language, both of the doctors I met and in the culture at large, its adequacy, its evasions and its power. If there is one difference I hope to make with this book it is to challenge the overwhelming use of war metaphor (‘Today saw the passing of X, after a short/long battle with cancer…’) to describe cancer. This is inadequate for three reasons.
Firstly, let me assure you, after a day on a chemotherapy drip you feel the battle is being done to you, not that you are choosing to fight in one yourself. Secondly, the notion of a ‘battle’ places the responsibility of getting better upon the patient. This opens up the possibility that it is the ‘strong’ or ‘deserving’ patients who survive having cancer, and that those who die from it are somehow lacking in moral fibre. Thirdly, the idea of cancer as a battle unnecessarily romanticises cancer as a disease when there is nothing romantic about it. Consider the short sentence above, used almost always in the past tense and when someone has just died. Even though the battle has been lost we persist in reassuring ourselves that the deceased has ‘given it everything’.
Love for Now is also a hymn to everyday living and love, especially of my family and friends, without whose support I would not have endured (it is hard to resist war metaphor, even when you are persuaded it is balls) my treatment.
The heroes of the book are the people who were there, who left brownies on the doorstep, came round with meals, organised lifts and childcare; who wept with us when my scan results were misinterpreted, and again when the mistake was discovered.
The book takes its title from the email signature I made on updates to friends of my progress during my treatment. It seemed to me then, and still does now, an imperative to make the most of each day, while realising that each one is so short.
You can pre-order Love for Now from Amazon here.Follow @awilsonpoet