There was a time, not so very long ago, when I was filled with horror at the thought of travelling by train or waiting at the post office without anything to read. The wasted time! The missed opportunities! The potential for boredom! Long live the Kindle app!
Now, I cannot focus on anything beyond my own little world, which has shrunk to the size of my bedroom.
My overnight bag for the lumpectomy held and optimistic Jane Austen, but the sentences that had been so full of delight the day before surgery became an impossible obstacle course the day after. Back home, I tried Agatha Christie, but that required me to hold various bits of information in a brain that refused to hold anything. In the end, my younger daughter’s book, allegedly “perfect for 8-13 year olds”, did nicely for a zombied 50 year old. I spent most of my post-lumpectomy weeks watching harmless DVDs and sleeping.
It was partly the anaesthetic trying to maintain its hold, but it was also just a lack of brain space for anything but getting my head round my new station in life. Travelling home from hospital that ominous first day of this cancer journey, not with a cleared cyst but with an alarming scan and an appointment to come back for The Result, I found myself still sitting on the bus several stops past my home, with no idea where I was. Granted, I don’t usually take the bus (bikes are best), but I’ve lived in this street for 20 years and should really know my way home.
I did try to get back into doing some work, 10 days post-lumpectomy. I am lucky to have a flexible job that I can do from anywhere, currently revolving around analytic writing. Making the thoughts and words travel from a corner of my brain to the computer screen took so much energy that I gave up.
Then I was hit by the news of the dodgy lymph node and the mastectomy, and my mother started dying, so all thought of work was abandoned. Nobody had demanded anything of me but myself, and by now, even I had accepted that my only work was to get through this stretch of life.
Now, even Winnie the Pooh is too challenging.
I have spent the past few weeks:
- Sitting with my mother, or talking and writing about my mother.
- Sitting/lying in hospital, or talking and writing about hospital.
- Lying in bed. Motionless. A lot.
A good friend thoughtfully brought some undemanding magazines, but they are too demanding. DVDs? They involve a story line. I have space for only one story, and it is my own. The BBC news? Not interested, although I let it wash over me, just to try and feel normal again.
The only thing I managed to sit through was Holland beating Spain in the football world cup: one goal at a time (five times! and only once for Spain!), manageable even without understanding the off-side rule.
The brave friends who have visited me have had to put up with this (and they did: all credit to them). When I made the mistake of asking them how they were, I had to stop them half-way: Sorry folks, don’t bother, I know these are plain English words but I have no idea what you are talking about.
I did try Winnie the Pooh. The problem is that I am told Bears like honey and Piglets like acorns, or was it thistles? And what is it that Tiggers like? I'm sure it is important, but honestly, I couldn't care less.
You see: Too Much Information.
I like a cup of tea. That is all I know. I hate sugary tea - but right now, I wouldn't mind a bit of honey in it.