Tabula rasa

Several years ago M and I agreed that assuming you reach it, a time comes when having more stuff – trinkets, baubles and chattels – is unnecessary. That time happened to coincide with my cancer diagnosis. The maelstrom that followed only served to reinforce our thinking and of all the stuff we had, time and health were by far the most precious. Unfortunately they both seemed to exist in a separate realm, one that was well beyond our immediate influence or direct control. When presented with significant and life-threatening challenges time is suddenly measured in moments not years and moments can seem extraordinarily brief.

Peace for the restless soul - Lulworth Cove

Peace for the relentless soul – Lulworth Cove

On Saturday it was M’s birthday and rather than look for useful yet useless material goods I opted to create moments – experiences that will endure time even if one or the other of us doesn’t. It’s a fact of life that neither of us will last forever but our memoires might if we write them down, record them in photographs or share them in stories for future generations.  With that in mind and as a surprise birthday getaway I arranged for us to spend a few days in Dorset. M was duly surprised and pleased. He enjoyed the location, the warm weather, the food, the wine and the great outdoors. Our brief sojourn presented a welcome escape for me too following months of non-stop activity thanks to a continual stream of increasingly paradoxical issues at work. Good fortune smiled on me and what started as a means to create enjoyable memories for M on his birthday also became three days of peace for this somewhat wearied yet relentless soul.

The last time we visited Dorset I’d just finished treatment, a whole twelve months of it. I could barely walk and found myself exhausted every hundred yards or so on flat ground. Climbing stairs was virtually out of the question. As a shadow of my pre-treatment self I remember my inability starkly and cheerlessly. I also remember how very glad I was to be alive. To prove it I pushed my battered body to its limits. On reflection I afforded little allowance for the gruelling assault my physical self had recently endured because treatment was over and I wanted to be me again. Submitting to a range of rare yet debilitating long-term side effects was not the outcome I  intended.  This refusal to accept my suggested limitations may go some way to explain why M remembers our visit but doesn’t recall any trace of my incapacity, frailty or complete absence of stamina. I also had very little hair at the time yet it transpires M remembers nothing of the seven months I spent as a translucent Gollum-like creature, entirely bald, without eyebrows, eye lashes and missing assorted toe nails. For him it seems the year between my diagnosis and final Herceptin treatment is something of a tabula rasa. All the details have been erased. The same is not true for me. I recall details of treatments and appointments, waiting for results and wondering what next…

Aside from regular follow-ups that time is now past and though I rarely wish my time away I am glad to be the other side of diagnosis and all that it entails. Damaged joints remain damaged but they are manageable and largely compliant with the wishes of their owner. Stamina continues to grow and Herceptin weight-gain continues to resolve thought that is taking much more time, effort and discipline than I’d ideally hoped.  Moment by moment life returns to near normal, so much so that it overshadows the prospect of an unexpectedly swift demise. The slate is never entirely blank, every cancer patient knows that, but it is clean enough to support the odd daydream and make little plans for the future. In a world where miracles are increasingly rare that is miracle enough for me 🌠

10 thoughts on “Tabula rasa

    • Thank you! Have been a bit lax with the blogging, so much else going on at work and outside plus summer is always good to get outdoors away from technology 🙂 hope all is well with you in lovely Holland xoxox

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  1. Kind of looks like my home, but then again that makes sense as so many of us here in NL trace our origins exactly where that picture was taken. Yes, a blank slate–at once terrifying and exciting. Still, though, there’s comfort in imagining just how much is still to come.


  2. Count me in on that toast, ladies. It’s five years for me and I am still rebuilding myself and my life. I still struggle with various issues, but as they say, it is what it is. There is a fine line we walk between gratitude and grief. Of course, we’re grateful to be alive, but there has been a great deal of loss too. And as for the letting go of stuff, I’ve started doing that too. Here’s to many more daydreams and plan-making for us all,


  3. So pleased that you have have the energy to enjoy to best activities in life, chilling out/walking in a beautiful place with somebody you love, longing for that day when my batteries recharge enough to do the same. Does M have a name !!

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    • Ah yes, the battery recharge… it has taken me three years (sigh) and I am still not as nimble/quick/strong/pain-free as I used to be but I refuse to be beaten so keep pushing the boundaries little by little in the hope that over time they might disappear. I hope you’ll recharge fully Liz and find yourself able to enjoy all the people and things you love too. M does have a name but he prefers M – I think he has a secret James Bond thing going on 😉


  4. So. much. stuff. I was married to a pack rat and we raised three more. They have all moved on and here I sit with everyone’s stuff. I admire people who are able to pare down to the necessities. I’m getting there! slow but sure .

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    • Oh yes. M is a hoarder of the first degree and our son J is even worse (don’t mention clothes… I think we could clothe a small high school with all his stuff!) Slow but sure is definitely the way to go. I think I have at least another three decades worth to plough through!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am toasting our mutual continued good health too Mae (and quite literally, we are in the throes of a mini heatwave 🙂 )


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