There wasn’t a plan.
On January 1, 2006 I woke up with a sharp pain on my right side. I thought I had slept in a draft. You can imagine the levels of sympathy I received as I shuffled around the house feeling sorry for myself. Of course we had celebrated. But I had actually behaved. By that evening we were in A&E, asking for anything, anything at all to take the pain away.
The doctors shrugged.
By the end of the first week of January I was back in hospital, this time overnight, for tests. The doctors still found nothing, and increased the dosage of painkillers.
Three weeks later, a week before my formal diagnosis of lymphoma, but after a biopsy of my ‘abnormality’, I began writing my experiences down.
I wrote longhand in French A4 notebooks, on pages made of tiny grid squares. I never wrote in hospital, though I did jot down names of drugs and doctors and songs and TV programmes in notebooks as I waited for my chemotherapy infusions.
I wrote mostly propped up on pillows on my bed, with normal family life −arguments, TV, cooking, my kids’ music− going on around me. I still think of bed as the perfect place to write. In a way, it was perfect. Everyday routine carried on. I walked children to school. I watched daytime TV. And I would sit in bed writing, feeling crap.
After a sleep, or some lunch, or two lunches, I would pick children up from school, and then try and write again. By grabbing the odd twenty or so minutes each day to note down what happening to me I found I could frame the unrelenting effects of chemotherapy within discussions of other things: the plot-lines of Frasier, for example, or listening to the cricket on the radio. I am convinced these things kept me alive.
I learned that even if you are nauseous, strung out and exhausted those twenty minute-pages can soon add up to something that is bigger than what you started out doing. My sense of what happened, framed by the need to commentate on it each day, is now fused with the actuality of the events. Somewhere in the middle is the truth of what occurred. Love for Now, published next week, is one version of it, but it is mine, and it is what I wanted to say.
You can read more about my diagnosis for cancer here
You can read about my learning of remission here
You can read about my thoughts on cancer here