Let’s love today, the what we have now, this day, not
today or tomorrow or
yesterday, but this passing moment, that will
not come again.
James Schuyler, ‘A Few Days’
My Twitter-fast has coincided with my yearly visit to this place, where I was treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006. I don’t think this was part of the plan. Nevertheless, I was keen to see how I would react to sitting in the increasingly unfamiliar waiting room without my usual distractions.
I packed a book, as I always do, and didn’t look at it (ditto).
Instead I sat and noticed things. The very real anguish of a man just to my left who had had his medication changed over the weekend. The groaning book-trolley, with titles like Deadlier Than The Male and Double Cross. The, to me, intoxicating stench of short crust pastry emanating from the cafe. It’s the one smell I still have trouble with from that time, my body remembering before I do that sudden need to retch every two minutes.
There were half-nods of recognition from nurses and secretarial staff. The same serene fish tank in the corner. Nothing and everything was the same.
A woman sitting behind me told the woman opposite her story. One morning, she said, she woke up with a terrible pain in her eye. She could barely see, she said. She was also a bit numb on her right side. After two days of this she went to the doctor’s, and was immediately rushed to hospital. ‘Didn’t come out for nine months,’ she said. ‘Stroke, then leukaemia. That’s why I’m here now. For the blood.’ There was a long silence.
Standing on the weighing scales I was side-swiped by a photograph of Jörn looking right at me. He was sitting on his lawn holding a large drink (vodka and tonic at a guess) and cradling an enormous and happy-looking Rottweiler. Though I think of him often, I wasn’t ready for this.
My consultant beamed at me. I love to hear stories like yours, she said. We’ll see you in eighteen months.
By which time I will have passed the ten-year anniversary of my diagnosis, as well as that of my remission. I wasn’t ready for this either. Texting my wife with the news outside, I sat down on the bench next to my bike. I put my phone in my bag and sat on for a minute, taking it all in, the blue sky, the stillness of the morning, feeling full somehow, but also empty, knowing this moment would not come again.