Tuesday, 21 October 2008

29. Slowing it down

There’s one thing that definitely isn’t happening – and that’s waiting around to die. Far from it. Never been so busy. Every day. Renewals, resolution, redemption, matters of life and death. I’ve learned a huge amount in these past few weeks. I didn’t know there was so much to know. I just wish it would all slow down a bit.

And, beyond my own swirling circle, more movement. Babies are born. I have pictures of William and Isabella, and Amy sent me the scan of her latest. Others leave. Another friend, going all the way back to West London school days, loses her husband, even before I’m back from hospital. Can we just slow it down please?

OK, let’s get the narrative in order.

Friday. Lunchtime. Prof Woodhouse and his team are removing the bladder tumour they cut back ten weeks ago, but which has regrown. Trepidation. Another general anaesthetic with unknown outcome. Mary’s sisters arrive from the Wirral. They’re the support team while Mary and kids negotiate another hospital, this time the Royal Marsden. I await the usual bumpy recovery. Confusion, sickness, noise.

And then – for once and at long last – a genuine victory. How long have we waited for this? Something goes better than expected. The operation is successful. It promises ten weeks of remission, and maybe more if it can be followed by some mild radiotherapy. And the Marsden comes through with flying colours. Efficiency with care. It is possible. Doctors who talk to you. Nurses who care. Take a special bow, Charli in the Transitional Unit, and even more so, Jasna in Recovery, the first time I’ve ever been smoothly coaxed back into consciousness. The catering staff were smiling. Even the television was made to work. And yes, I have already written to them. These people do good things every day.

On Saturday, I got up and went home in a taxi. Everyone was elated. It was sunny. We had tea in the garden. QPR won 2-1. Rosey Rose the Crazee Cartoon Cat celebrated in style – launching a massive all-out attack on her own tail. I slept a painless sleep and woke up hungry.

But Sunday – and the phone goes early. Always a bad sign. Dad died during the night. Susie, Victor and I go to my mum’s flat to tell her. Mum is calm. She will carry on as before. They had been separated over the past few weeks and, ironically, this gave them the space to become reconciled. At one point mum looks upwards towards heaven and says “I suppose he’s up there by now.” Susie and I sit with her, while Victor goes into hyperdrive making all the arrangements. It’ll be a Jewish funeral. It’ll be tomorrow.

And here it is. And we have been to Bushey Cemetery. The day starts to blur. The weather holds and the service is mercifully short. Dad’s coffin seems very small. I take up sentry duty around my mother. Dan does the same for me. People are not sure how to address me. It is customary at Jewish burials to wish the bereaved a long life.

Mary is not well, a virus adding to the stress, but somehow we’re getting through all this. I think it’s because we’re not fighting a battle. We’re not battling cancer. We're not battling fate. We’re trying to follow what’s happening in the hope that we can – even for a short while – get ahead of the game. But it’s all so busy and I do wish it would slow down.