On not relapsing


A year ago I had a relapse of my cancer.

Except I didn’t.

For a week or so I knew I was ill again. I saw it in the doctors’ eyes and felt it in the tremble of their hands as they prodded my internal organs, meeting my own eyes with a look that was part nod, part sadness.

No one outside of my immediate family knew.

For a week we hunkered down, ate soup and spoke to nobody. Normal things continued: teaching, working, shopping, writing, even blogging.

There is no point, we said to each other, not until we know.

Except we did know. We absolutely knew.

It began so similarly to my original diagnosis, with pain. Searing, crawling into work bent double and being sent home, no, to the doctors immediately, Anthony! That kind of pain.

Not man-flu.

Pain. Crying for a day under the duvet pain.

How could it be anything else? Then came the prodding, being sent to the unit, right now, please, yes.

Where they booked me a scan.

How could it not be returning? How?

We knew: I was being fast tracked. They don’t do that for just anybody. On a Saturday? It only meant one thing.

We knew. Even while normal things went on around us (a dog chewing a frisbee on Facebook, look at this tweet about Mr Gove), we knew. I was relapsing. But we told no one.

And then a phone call, in the middle of normal things (teaching notes, blogging, an amusing Secretary of State), to say actually, no, you are fine, it isn’t, I mean, you aren’t.

I mean.

‘Your scan is clear, Mr Wilson. A false alarm.’

The profuse thankyous (remember those?). Then silence. The silence of knowing what no one else knows. Of not saying (having said) anything to anyone. Of normal. Of ‘normal’. Which now includes the normal of not accepting ‘normal’ ever again. The silence of knowing (the not known: my secret, ours, four people, you didn’t know, we did know, you still don’t know) what you did not know.

Of not sharing it on Facebook. Or a blog. Or an amusing tweet.

As they say on police-shows: move away, please, there’s nothing to see.


Nothing to say. (Except it did; and didn’t.)

Until now


      1. Anthony, strangely, Viv’s comment below cropped up today which brought me back to this post. But I wanted to tell you I’ve been rereading Love for Now as my husband was diagnosed yesterday with high grade NHL – not sure which type yet…I was so pleased I had your wonderful book to hand as a source of comfort and a route map to what we might (possibly) expect….strange when I bought it was never expecting to have to live with it so close to home. But thank you. I really appreciate that you’ve written the account of your own illness and written further on its aftermath here. It is such a comfort to see it so clearly set down, even if it does show me how tough it will be, I know it is possible to come out the other side – albeit with the lingering shock and anxiety you describe here, which I can now well imagine – we were in A and E as the pain was so excruciating at the weekend – and not yet properly diagnosed. But it is now!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much for saying so Tricia. I’m so sorry to hear that your husband has NHL, but pleased at least you know what it is. With very best wishes for a speedy and full recovery, Anthony


    1. Hi Myra, thank you for saying hello. It was only a week of not knowing, but enduring is exactly the right word. I’m grateful as ever for your support. As ever with good wishes


  1. Anthony, what a frightening experience…and how beautifully you have written to tell us. Courage comes in so many places.


  2. Know this so well and how it feels. I’m so glad all is well with you Anthony. I went through the same a few months ago. All the same old symptoms, I brought my 4 monthly blood test forward two months and just waited for the bad news. Even started making plans for the inevitable. Results came and were better than they had been for years!!! Strangely, I started feeling better from that moment on and all the ‘symptoms’ gradually went away.
    By the way, did you know the poet John Moat? He was a close friend of ours and lived in our village. Good bit on ‘Last Words’, Radio 4, about him this evening.


    1. Hi Sue, thank you so much for sharing this, and so sorry to hear that you have gone through a similar scare. It sounds rotten.
      I did knot know John personally, only by reputation, which is huge. Will see if I can catch the programme on iplayer.
      As ever with good wishes


      1. Hi Anthony, Yes John was a lovely man and will be greatly missed by our community. There were obituaries in The Guardian, Independent and Telegraph but my favourite one was written by my husband, Mick. Antoinette, John’s wife, wanted one of his village friends to do one and approached Mick. It was about John, the ‘down to earth’ and very funny man, rather than John, the famous poet. Sue x


  3. Beautifully written, always! And good news! When I was signed off my Oncologist just said I would “know” if it came back -that is tricky? http://ailsawishes.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/what-if/
    I like this quote best, “Eventually the time came to invite my cancer to leave. She has left the place in a bit of a mess, and I’m conscious that she has kept the key. Still I’m hopeful that in due course all I will be left with is the rich memory of time spent with a stranger I never expected to meet.” 


    1. Thank you so much for letting me see this poem. The more I think about it, saying goodbye seems to be an iterative, recursive process. You think you’re done, then wham. There is a scare. Or a friend is diagnosed.
      With thanks and best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

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