Life has been very strange of late. I’ve thought of writing about it several times, but then another strange thing happens that catapults me into a whole new area of non-expertise, and I am temporarily lost to the blog. But now I have stored up all the weirdness, called a halt for the moment, and I feel free to write about it.
I am totally delighted to be doing radio interviews connected with promoting my book, which is weird in itself as I thought I would be really nervous, but I have really enjoyed it. And the interviewers have actually done that thing you are supposed to do before an interview – read the book – and they are quoting bits of myself back at me and asking me to comment on it. Aaaah. Hmm. Yes. I wrote that particular blog in the depths of the Dark Night of the Soul in cycle 4 and I am now two years on and feel ever so slightly different about it. Or do I?
The biggest thing people have picked up on and are asking about is that I said I have changed and will never be the same again. How am I different? I think getting a cancer diagnosis changes anyone’s life. I never, ever imagined I would be sitting in a consultant’s office hearing that I had cancer, and neither does anyone else. We all expect to live our three score years and ten, despite the abuse we may hurl at our bodies, so hearing those awful words is a huge shock – and I don’t think anyone can be the same afterwards. How can you ever be the same when you realise that life can just be snatched away like that? This is the point where I remember that I am part of an elite but ever increasing club, where we can talk about anything; a gallows humour and honesty prevails that other people, even our loved ones, cannot understand or participate in. And that means I can talk to anyone who has cancer, which is a massive gift. Just like a bereavement, a cancer diagnosis causes people to back off because they don’t know what to say. Although I lost both my parents to cancer, I still found it hard to talk to other people about it – it was all too raw and painful, and somehow I still didn’t have the words. Bereavement, yes, but cancer, no, because at that time, to me cancer meant losing a loved one. Now I have the vocabulary and the knowledge, but most of all I have that memory of the gut-wrenching moment when we got the diagnosis. And because of that I am changed forever.
Life seems so much more precious to me now, and I am treasuring every minute, because I know how fragile our connection with it is. Regular readers will know that I am really not one of the ‘sky is blue, the birds are singing’ brigade who insist everything is fine when deep down it isn’t. During the long hours on the drip, and especially when I was in isolation, I was pushed to depths of emotion I never expected to experience, which surpassed even the grief of losing my parents, and I think surviving that fundamentally changes a person too. Having looked the prospect of death in the face I now plan on living every moment right up until I die; and I don’t mean in a wild partying kind of way. Rejoicing in life also involves exploring the reasons behind not feeling particularly joyful on occasion. Oh look – we’re back at the deep stuff! My favourite place :-)
In my most recent interview I was asked why I thought people wanted to read my book. I really squirmed at that one because I still find it hard to believe that people do, and I thought it was a strange question to ask. I wrote it because joining all the blogs together into a coherent whole seemed to be the logical thing to do, and it also felt like the completion of the cycle – an important sense of closure for me. And I suppose that I wanted any interested parties, and there seemed to be a few, to be able to read the whole story, including all the background trivia that still had to be dealt with; you know, all that ‘life goes on’ stuff. However, what was closure for me has proved to be ‘Open Sesame!’ for everyone else as new readers are discovering my inner thoughts. One reviewer said the book made her feel as if she knew me personally – which is really lovely as it means I achieved my objective. My original intention in writing the blogs was to be able to share the minutiae of daily life that I would have chatted about in a phone call with a loved one, because we didn’t have time for all the phone calls and texts. The difference of course is that it was (and still is!) all one-sided, so I could witter on to my heart’s content and venture into areas that would have had the listener falling asleep on the other end of the phone. It was a chance to play with ideas, plumb the depths of my greatest fears and also to show what absolute lunacy and hilarity can be found in the most trying situations if we only look for it. Like my crazy, radioactive dash across the countryside. And that was before I even started treatment!
So the questions and comments that are coming back from readers have actually started a whole new cycle, because of course when one finishes, another one starts. I hadn’t thought of that, but as we know, nature abhors a vacuum, and my witterings are now being quoted back to me and laid out in broad daylight for my comment. Enter opportunity for self-examination #2! And I am certainly getting plenty of opportunities. Apart from the radio interviews (see link on the home page of the blog) I am being invited to contribute to new blogs and submit articles for magazines, which is really exciting, as the invitations come from diverse areas. One of these is from the lovely people at Watkins Books in London. At first I panicked, as writing and speaking are completely different things. I mean, obviously they are, but in writing I get the chance to edit and change what I want to say; there are no second chances when you are looking out over an eager, expectant audience awaiting words of wisdom. At least, I hope there will be a bit of an audience. I know at least Stephen will be there, and the staff from the shop, so that constitutes an adequate gathering, as far as I am concerned. Then I panicked again, wondering what on earth I would talk about. Who wants to go to a talk about someone’s experience of chemo? Pretty dreary subject matter, I thought, then it occurred to me that it isn’t the experience of cancer that is important, it is the experience of life. I suddenly realised that the blog charts my spiritual journey just as much as the physical one, and it continues to do so. It is amazingly cathartic and I love it. And so my first talk has a title: ‘Blogging as a Spiritual Journey’. Now I just need to find some words to say! If you are around on the 26th May at 6.00pm it would be lovely to see you. Here is the link http://www.watkinsmagazine.com/events.
With much love