Category Archives: Edinburgh

Tracking, Packing and Sacking The Past,

Just lately – well effectively since being diagnosed with cancer again and having to wait what seems like an eternity to go for my surgery – I have been acutely aware of the changes I’ve encountered over the years in my sense of who I am and who I was.
This has often been brought into focus for me when I have revisited photos from my past life but very much more so these past few days as I have been going through my possessions in preparation for re-moving .

Walter and I decided it made sense to join households, and to investigate renting out my flat, a wee while before I got my diagnosis, and I couldn’t see any reason why the project should be put on hold.  I am needing to make what should be heartrending decisions about what to discard, what to put into temporary storage (with the scary possibility that they will still  have to go at a later date), and what of my past to take with me into my future.  However, I’m left feeling a bit numb and somewhat lacking – as though there ought to be far more emotion about making such big decisions.  Perhaps tackling moving home and starting the ‘flat project’ at the same time as facing lord knows what with the cancer, is a bit too much for my wee soul to manage .  I have been moved by the evidence of the previous me as seen in my various boxes of souvenirs,  dozens of photo albums etc., and I do jib a bit at effectively discarding what once was precious, but in general the main feeling I have is an intense impatience for it all to be over and done with.  To get my things moved, my cancer removed, my flat done and my equilibrium back.

Photos below show some boxes and bags containing my previous life,  packed ready to be collected by Marie Curie Cancer Care. 

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However, on a brighter note – yesterday I came across two scraps of paper with poems I had written many years ago.  One is a wee ditty which was part of a story I made up for my first granddaughter. The other was written when I had had about two years free of epilepsy which I believed I had achieved thanks to facing fears, and I recall being sure in my own soul that they had gone forever.  A couple of years later I started very gradually to reduce my anti-convulsant drugs until by 1998 I was free of them as well as the fits, and have remained so ever since.   I feel heartened by the positivity shown in the piece.  Maybe that Susan is not so very much different to this one after all.

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Never bloody mind Patience Is A Virtue – I Just want to be A Patient.

Och, I am usually quite laid back most of the time I think, but now I am waiting to become A Patient, being patient is not really on.  Just now, at this moment of typing, I could scream with frustration at not knowing when I’m to be admitted for my hysterectomy. It’s ten days since my diagnosis of uterine cancer and a week since the multi-disciplinary team were supposed to be meeting to decide what to do with me/it. So much for the word ‘Urgent’ being ringed on the form I signed giving permission for the surgery!

I want this bloody cancer OOT!  Gone, away, skiddaling, pissing off – whatever you like – just out of my body.  Only then will I know what else is to happen. Am I to have further surgery ? radiotherapy? chemotherapy?  I just need to know so that I can start planning ffs!
And of course that ‘scream’ I mentioned can only be in my head because I cannae actually scream – as in make a loud noise – because I don’t have a bloody screamable voice do I ! Och, my obnoxious Englishwoman alter ego is becoming uppermost.
I know I should just stay calm, relax, what will be will be, just be patient, wait and all will be revealed and I have been doing that for ten bloody days… Huh!
Patience Is A Virtue – I Just want to be A Patient.

P.S: (written the following day)…

Och, it turns out I was talking through my backside! No pun remotely intended! Apparently the “ten days to a fortnight” timescale I had in my head was just to be notified of admission and that the doctor had told me it would be mid to late Sept for the surgery itself. Walter had recalled that but I hadn’t. After a lot of phoning, and mega frustration, that position has been confirmed though I confess I was wearing my ‘obnoxious Englishwoman hat’ when I was speaking to the nurse .”Mid to end September? By what stretch of the imagination is that classed as ‘urgent’? ” .  She offered me support from Maggies Centre or herself meanwhile to which I responded with “I don’t need support thank you very much, I need surgery! “.  Poor woman – it’s not her fault I don’t remember what I’m told.  It’s my own fault – I should have realised that would just be the letter of notification, not the actual appointment if I’d had my brain in gear.

I really got angry, but as it happens that was without real cause.  If it showed nothing else, it displayed the fact that I am far more stressed by all this than I would care to admit. That no matter how stoic I like to think I am,  hingin’ aboot takes its toll.  I’m calm again now.    Wonder for how long…..

“How are you?” “Fine Thanks”

” Hello, how are you?” say the cheery bank teller, checkout lady, bus driver and many drama bods. “Fine thanks” say I .   Well , let’s face it, one can’t very well answer “just diagnosed with Grade 3 cancer” can one, especially when the questioner is just being polite.  In any case, I AM fine.   I am actually probably physically fitter now than I have been for a good few years – the irony is not lost on me.   I am fine, honest, I’m not just ‘being brave’.

Since Monday’s diagnosis, when my wee world imploded on me, I’ve been totally fine for a few minutes every hour when I was being distracted by a Fringe show or something, but it was not long before my brain flicked back to this greedy thing inside my womb.  I can’t claim to have been worrying about it per se but my brain was going over all sorts of things,  drafting random ramblings in my head, almost as if I were blogging. (!)  It was as if there was a little engine chugging away trying to get my brain in gear.  As with a dream, despite being clear at the time, few thoughts were able to be recalled afterwards, though I know some were predicated on the fact I have good genes so expected to live another twenty-odd years, after recovering from pneumonia and getting the all-clear after breast cancer.

However, something happened yesterday – Friday.  I wasn’t aware of any reason in particular, but I suddenly felt quieter inside, as though that little whirring engine noise had switched off.  It’s as though my brain has finally processed what’s happening so is now just getting ready for whatever lies ahead.  Maybe this is all par for the course, and my state of mind-cum-emotions will fluctuate often – I don’t know.  All remains to be seen.

I’m aware of the ‘blogger mode’ thingy-wotsit in my brain is still chundling away,  but its effect is different, I don’t feel ‘boverred’ by it as I was earlier in the week.  In particular, I feel far calmer about my decision to step down temporarily from some of my drama responsibilities in order to give myself a less-stressed few months.  Luckily this is the ideal time to hand over – after the Fringe and before the organisation of the following year’s one-act festival starts – so whomever stands in for me will not be thrown in at the deep end right away.

A very supportive friend referred to cancer patients as having a war to face which consists of many smaller battles. One has to make sure one’s army is in the best possible condition for the skirmishes ahead, there being no point asking them to fight if they are undernourished and/or tired. This wee scenario of the fighting force preparing to do battle with cancer for me really appealed  because it chimed exactly with the theme of the recent film ‘Inside Out’ which had quite an effect on me. (I’m a simple wee soul really) . There’s a place for Fear and Anger but I’ll just keep them both busy with trivialities like world politics so that they don’t have time to bother me much.  I dare say Disgust will get a larger role, especially if I do have chemo which makes me sick ( I cannot stand vomit – urrrgh!).  I accept that Sadness has her role to play, but Joy will continue to be in charge at my control panel, strengthened when I go feeding my soul w11039845_10204965326752811_3696481917482359627_oith Scotland’s wonderful nature and refuelled from the support of my partner and friends.

So, I might have cancer but I’m fine really, just fine, how are you?

Two steps forward, one step back

I’ve always believed the only way to conquer fear is to face it but I was snookered  today because, to do that effectively, surely we need to know what it is that is scaring us! Try as I might I just didn’t know why  I was hyperventilating and  shaking as soon as I started cycling on the canal path.  But, let me backtrack a wee bit……..

After a gap of about 15 years I have started cycling with the help of an Ageing Well project along with my partner, Walter and our fellow ‘Intrepid’ Sid.  I wrote another blog about how scary this was for me – see http://wp.me/p2xEo6-2H .  After 5 weeks we felt gallus enough to try a ride from Glen Ogle to Lochearnhead and, despite initial waryness, I had a great time, as did we all, and my confidence was increasing leaps and bounds.  I even manged to “weeeeee!” down about a third of the steep slope at the end.

Photos: Sid and me at the start of the route /   Walter and Sid on the Glen Ogle viaduct. / Me on the steep path down

After this adventure we all all made good progress at the next Ageing Well session, especially me because I eventually got the hang of pushing off properly instead of scooting first.

So we agreed to go on the Union Canal path, a section of which started very near Sid’s place.  I admit I was doubtful right away because I knew the canal path was narrow with water very close (sic!) but Walter pointed out there had been a massive drop on the Glen Ogle route which I managed fine – so we scheduled it for today.  This morning the wind was quite brisk so I felt even more uncertain.  My main reason being that I wobble a lot and if blown by the wind as well – on a narrow path with water alongside…….you get the idea maybe.    As a result of my doubts, the boys initially agreed to cancel the ride but then I felt really mean and cowardly so I changed my mind and we set off.

On the side roads to the canal I was OK but as soon as I started on the towpath the horrible fears started – but they were nameless!   I tried so hard to reason with myself…  Am I afraid of falling?  No, not really cos I’m going slowly enough to stop easily.  Is the wind too strong?  No, it’s not having much effect.  Am I afraid of other people on the path? Yes, but I can slow right down or get off if necessary.  Am I finding it too much physically?  NO, I am quite fit – I can walk for miles and not feel any effect.  Then what the ***k is the matter?!!!  I don’t know!  All I know is my heart is pounding, I can hardly breathe, my mouth is completely dry and my hands are shaking.  To be honest, I was finding the actual riding difficult because my arms and hands were so tense I was wobbling all over the place but this was ‘chicken & egg’ – the more tense my arms, the more I wobble, the more I wobble, the more tense…..

I can see the tension in my face in this shot taken as we stopped for a drink and as I walked across the aquaduct the first time.

Eventually I just had to stop – my system was protesting so much.   I realise the problem (whatever the heck it is!) is mental and emotional but it becomes physically inhibiting.  I suggested the boys finish the trip to Ratho while I went back on my own, but they were both adamant that it is “All For One And One For All” so we made our way back.  Now – surprise, surprise…not!…I was nowhere near as stressed going back – by gum the mind’s a funny thing.

I can see the stress in my face here as well, even though it was far easier by then because we were on the way back. We covered about 4 miles in total.

Walter has suggested that one of my problems may be not looking far enough ahead, hence making me wobble and starting the whole viscious cycle (pardon the pun).  So at the next Ageing Well session I shall concentrate on rectifying that. Then the boys and I will have another go at the Sighthill/Ratho Union Canal ride next week. The debilitating fear has to be conquered. It was two steps forward, one step back this time but stay tuned – I shall overcome.

The end of the route – phew!