THE NEW NORMAL #44 – REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

I’ve been pretty angry recently. Angry at a lot of things from big things to small things. I’ve been angry at the inequality in the world, the injustice of the ‘one rule for us and one for them’ approach of British government and the catastrophic approach to the global pandemic that has cost tens of thousands of lives. Then I’ve been angry at the ‘unfairness’ of having cancer when I have so much love to offer my family and friends compared to the hate filled excuses for human beings that will still roam this earth long, long after I’m dead. I’ve been angry that the kids can’t shut cupboard doors or put shoes away and I’ve been angry that some knobhead has been driving his chicken-chaser up and down the road at high speed, scaring the shit out of my cats. Anger has a way of filling the void and, as I’m not working and we’ve got home schooling down to such a fine art that it only takes about 3 hours a day, there is plenty of void to fill.

I’m angry that a slice of normality now seems to involve phone calls from passing acquaintances with medical qualifications who like to tell me that there is something else wrong with me this week (nodules on my lungs that weren’t there before, problems with my thyroid, iffy blood tests). This makes me twitch every time the phone rings between the hours of nine and five, Monday to Friday but I also have to race to pick up as my five year old has taken to answering the phone and his grasp of medical terminology is so weak that the passing on of messages becomes like cracking a wartime code.

However, please don’t jump to any hasty conclusions. I haven’t been stomping around the house, shouting at people are putting any four-letter tirades on Facebook. No, I seem to be getting quite adept seeing the anger coming and nimbly dodging it like one of those rigged coconuts dodging balls as the fun fair. And by dodging I mean vigorously shaking my head for about 3 seconds to get rid of the thought and then going to do something productive like unload the dishwasher or flick snails away from my strawberry plants. Bastard snails – I’m pretty angry at them too. Once the dishwasher is empty and all the snails are whizzing their shells halfway across the garden then I have to move on to reminding myself that I still have a huge amount to be happy about and that’s an important exercise.

My reasons to be cheerful at the moment range from ‘I may be facing up to my own mortality but at least I’ve had more warning than “put your hands on the car and spread ‘em”, giving me some time to sort stuff out’ to ‘Every chance I get to share a learning experience with my little boy is a memory he will have of us together no matter what happens in the future’. I’m also quite buoyed by any instances of sunshine and a weekly shopping delivery with minimal replacement items not to mention winning 6 Sunday roasts delivered to my door by virtue of writing a sub-par caption for a picture of two dogs sitting in pub chairs (that was a very good day). Oh, and I should probably give a shout out to my wife who has the tireless positive energy of a Disney princess even when I am trudging around like Eeyore after he found Tigger using his tail to floss with. Again.  

Anyhoo, mood swings and managing my mental health aside, things have been edging forwards at what feels like glacial speed. The upshot of the London scans was that there is something on my lung but they don’t know what it is and that means yet another CT Scan on 15th June (I think if I have another 3 then I get a free CT Scanner. Or a T-shirt that says ‘I got cancer and all I got was this T-shirt after they repeatedly fed me back and forth via a massive Polo’). If it’s cancerous then there’s no point in doing the pancreas operation – what’s the point in putting out the fire on the ground floor if the rest of the skyscraper is ablaze, eh? However, if it’s not a tumour then it could be all stations go, it’s yet another waiting game. Other than that, the main problem has been my thyroid which doesn’t seem to know quite what to do and that is leaving me all over the place, energy wise, and giving me a nasty case of hypothyroidism and a touch of anaemia. Which is nice. Nothing that a tweak to my medication and a few more tweaks to my diet can’t fix but still it feels like someone out there must be running out of space for more pins on their voodoo doll of me. Imagine if someone has made a voodoo doll of me though – a pudgy little bald thing with eagle eyes and removable internal organs. Mad.

Yesterday I had treatment number 7 which was a little different to the usual affair. Firstly, I was handed a facemask on entry which meant I had to try extra hard to convey emotions and reactions with my eyes leading to some nurses going home to have fitful nightmares of a middle aged man glaring and winking at them. Secondly, my pesky thyroid had acted up during my blood test which meant that the nurses were nervous of starting the treatment without a doctor’s consent – it’s fair enough, if a patient reports being light headed on repeated occasions and has stupidly high TSH (Thyroid-simulating Hormone) levels you might want to double check before pumping a few grands worth of chemicals in to their body. Then again, after two hours of waiting, the doctor was still otherwise engaged so they decided to go ahead anyway – partially for my benefit and partially because by the time I was done it was nearly 6.00pm and the few nurses remaining had run out of things to clean around my solitary presence in the make shift ward. Oh, and they’d run out of white chocolate cookies by the time the tea run got to me so, yeah, another reason to be angry….

No, no no (3 second headshake). Reason to be cheerful? Well, my little boy sobbed his little heart out when I left for treatment and that is horrible but what a thing to be so loved by another person that they can’t handle you leaving for even a few hours? Also, Spotify has enabled my rediscovery of a load of 90s bands that I’d neglected (currently having a Mansun, Bluetones and Longpigs memory lane trip). Finally, I’m less than 24 hours away from that free roast (I’ve gone for the pork in case you were wondering).

The bottom line, as always, is that there is always someone else with more reasons to be angry and maybe they need a reason to be cheerful. I’d put good money that everyone reading this has either directly or indirectly been affected by either the Covid-19 pandemic or institutional racism and inequality – both hugely justifiable reasons to be angry. I have also, during this cancer journey, met many people having to make major adjustments to their life because of this horrible disease and they have every reason to be angry too. So if you’re in the lucky position to not be one of those directly affected then maybe reach out to someone who might be and give them a reason to be cheerful – anything from an unexpected and positive message or a small cake to a bag of flour or a stylish new face mask. It really does help when someone else pokes a hole in your black cloud and a shaft of golden sunlight beams through because, let’s face it, these are dark days for all of us so a little extra Vitamin D could be just what we need.

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