Sunday, 26 October 2008

30. An extra hour

The clocks go back tonight. It’s no longer British Summer Time. It means I get an extra hour. I've decided to use it here. I haven’t added anything in the past few days because I was hoping for something to lift the mood. Well, Not yet. That’s my new most-overused phrase. “Not yet”.

I’m in our bedroom, the airy loft conversion Mary persuaded me to build after only 20 years of gentle nudging. It’s around midnight. I’ve been up here pretty solidly for the past two days. Despite constant coaxing, I haven’t been able to eat anything. It’s because a reverse law of gravity applies to cancer – everything that goes down must automatically come back up. This includes the pain medications and, with due irony, the anti-sickness tablets. They go down – but then re-emerge, often with violent intensity.
So they have to be injected, a process that’s needed both the Macmillan and district nurses, plus – by chance - a rather weird Russian doctor from the out-of-hours service. She wanted to know where to stick the injection. Leg or buttock?

The last district nurse left five hours ago. Like the others, she noted the steepness of the climb to the loft. Mary does this dozens of times a day and can look exhausted.

I’m at a desk in the corner of the room, facing the wall. My laptop is plugged in. Cold perspiration is dripping from my head. I mop it with a yellow towel. I don’t know why I’m sweating. Could be the drugs, could be the cancer, could be the sheer effort of my heart beating to keep me alive. I will probably never know why. But it happens all the time and I feel myself going grey. The remedy, as usual, is to stay perfectly still.

I was thinking about this room. I will be seeing a great deal of it in the near future and I want to keep it looking like a bedroom.
Not a hospital room. I want to hide the paraphernalia of my illness – all the drugs, pills, syringes, sharps box, and cartons of Complan.
Not an upstairs office. I’m forever scribbling notes about the drugs I’m taking, my blood sugar and blood pressure levels, memos to self and doctors’ phone numbers, and I can do without the clutter.
And not another lounge - even though it comes with tv, dvd, dab and all the other digital delights. Mary’s paperbacks are OK – but that’s about it for visible home entertainment.

No, it’s a bedroom, with a handy next-door bathroom, stocked with mulberry towels, and a surprisingly tranquil view over the allotments of Muswell Hill. My intention is to wake to that view in a few hours’ time. It just so happens that the night is one hour longer than I’d expected.