Over the last few days I feel like I have been very aware of both life and death. That sounds incredibly melodramatic and it hasn’t been, so let me explain why I said it.
Some of my experiences in the last couple of days have been truly life-affirming, albeit in a low key way. Tali sat an entrance exam for Highgate School on Friday. Coincidentally I found my old box of lucky charms in a drawer the evening before, so she bounced off to the test with her pocket full of the little knick knacks that used to come with me to exams. In a very small way it felt like a piece of the circle of life. Listening to her enthusiasm for writing a story, and thinking about her future if she is offered a place, threw me back to my time in her shoes and made me smile at the similarities between us. No matter what, I have fulfilled my genetic imperative, as my DNA has clearly been passed on to my beautiful girl. I have continued to receive a flood of supportive and sentimental messages from all quarters – old friends, newer friends, Facebook friends and others. The cancer presents keep coming too (the postman must surely be wondering what’s going on!) with some really thoughtful things arriving from unexpected quarters. My brother has brought his wedding forward to March and he and his fiancée are in full on planning mode, leaving the ladies of the family in full on dress shopping mode. Tali has already picked out a flower girl dress (now we need to keep our fingers crossed that the happy couple chooses a colour theme that allows her to wear that dress!) and I have ordered a mini tuxedo for Joey which will no doubt make him look even more munchable. And to top it all off there has been a steady stream of crappy jokes being sent to me – for which many thanks.
But – as the saying goes – in the midst of life we are in death. A very special elderly lady passed away on Thursday night. The grandmother of a friend, she was a beautiful, elegant, kind and sweet person who has been ill for some time. This morning we are off to the funeral. I can’t help thinking – will the next time at the cemetery be my funeral? Should I pause for a moment there to take it in and try to imagine what it will be like with my family and friends as the mourners? And sad sad news about two girls in my online support groups. One, with secondary breast cancer, has just been diagnosed with another form of cancer too. Another, with no secondaries, has been in hospital for a week in crippling pain, unable to see or look after herself. Her head and neck CTs are clear but doctors suspect cancer cells are in her spinal fluid – if so, it’s terminal. To say that it is unfair that either of these girls (and I mean girls – both in their 30s) should have to go through what they are facing seems like a very poor understatement. I feel like I have sadness leaking out of me at times, a thick, viscous, grey fluid that saps the colour out of everything it touches and renders me heavy limbed and unable to concentrate.
I feel like a dial within me is being turned up to the maximum. I am feeling everything more deeply and everything is taking on a greater significance than before my diagnosis. Small things seem big and big things seem dramatic. It’s intense and exhausting.