(S)he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose

Today’s title comes courtesy of Anne Bronte. I’m not great with poignant quotes so borrowed one that seems pretty apt. It’s 10.00pm here in the UK and pitch dark outside (has been for several hours). I’m not feeling as knocked-out as I did three weeks ago and more importantly, my side-effects appear to be better controlled. This is a gift.  Scientifically I don’t know if it’s the power of positive thought or stronger drugs but my guess is a bit of both. It’s getting late and before I try to sleep I wanted to share a little of today’s adventure. I need to pay tribute to folks who helped me make another move up Everest in flip-flops and sarong.  In the beginning I felt woefully ill-equipped but a few good folks keep kiting me out with crampons, ice screws and leashes.  The climb is getting easier and it’s a lot more fun when people climb alongside me.

I was up early today for the 20 mile drive to chemo camp.  We live in the countryside and had very bad storms overnight which is always a worry.  Whenever we get storms there’s a danger of fallen power cables, trees, other wreckage and severe flooding. We don’t get flooded because we live on a hill but our outbound routes become torrents of muddy water and debris. During and after bad weather there’s also a risk people will take the roads too fast, whip round a corner and wind-up embedded in a tree or launched right through a hedgerow.  We saw one this morning. Fortunately the police had sorted things out and it looked like the driver was walking wounded; not everyone gets away that lightly. So Zub, my long-time husband, comedian, chemo taxi service, handyman, part-time cook, cat sitter, supporter and fellow baldy (I’ll come on to that) had to take it slowly, guessing the best route based on the carnage we witnessed over the first couple of miles.

We arrived at chemo camp on time so I went to chat to Brian, already lined up for his transfusions and another stint as my next-door neighbour.  Brian is special. Although he has plenty of his own problems he took the time to help me settle into camp when I joined. That was a huge gift.  I remembered to ask about his wife (she stabilised but has more surgery in December, right before her birthday). It made me wonder how many other families who celebrate Christmas have to hold off this year for lack of health or wealth.  During our previous camp I joked that if I met Brian again I’d expect him to wear a red rose. He did a lot more. He picked and wrapped me the last three roses from his garden, pale pink, cerise and blood-red. How kind is that?  And it’s all the more touching because rose signifies optimism, love and unity; my fellow campers inspire all those things.  We laughed about losing my hair, how it might come back curlier, straighter, grey, white, mixed, more ginger or possibly not at all.  I’d be pretty happy if it came back silver-grey, signifying a sterling character –  someone who offers a helping hand. But I admit I’d be happier with ginger (representing Celtic origins, a certain feistiness, endurance and willingness to be the butt of jokes).  Irrespective of colour, I hope I’ll be able to help others with their journeys just like Brian is helping me right now.

A rose by name and by nature

The last three roses from Brian's garden :-)

The last three roses from Brian’s garden

My other companion today was the magical Mrs M. After some extended parking faff she came into camp just at the right time. I was having my cannula fitted and regular readers will already know my veins have issues with me. Yesterday they were almost happy to accommodate the phlebotomist, June. Today they refused to play ball with chemo-nurse Ronnie. I think it’s a direction of travel thing.

If someone wants to take some of my red stuff away my veins will go along with it after a little persuasion.  On occasions like today, they’ll give a bit away free of charge too.  But if someone wants to put “the red devil” in there, well that’s a different story.  Thankfully Mrs M distracted me from talk of recannulating and comments about the implantation of a central line. She checked the procedure regularly and made sure I was doing ok. On the whole I was but my vein put up some tough resistance and we all camped out for another four hours. Mrs M, knowing four hours in camp is a bit taxing, had thoughtfully rustled up a huge Shepherds pie for us to take home for dinner.  It was very much enjoyed by Zub. She also made him apple pie, (his favourite) which he said was “even nicer than last time” and she topped it off with a bottle of beer to accompany the tasty ensemble. She bought me chocolates with orange, strawberry, coffee, hazel and a multitude of other flavours.  If I find one flavour tastes bad I can choose another and it might taste good.  Very, very kind.

And before I try to sleep I’ll go back to my ‘fellow baldy’ comment because I’ll forget if I don’t. Zub shaved the remnants of my hair off yesterday, it looked moth-eaten and scraggy. In a gesture of solidarity he let me shave his hair off today and currently has more hair on his chin than his head!  But this time of year is great because although I don’t look as good as Zub, I’m verging on a fabulous Hallowe’en disguise. Sans disguise.   Zub is a guy and our postman has seen him shorn before….  just wait ’til he gets a load of me!