I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Monday, September 10, 2007

"It's brought out a strength in me I never knew I had."

Monday night. Normally time to prepare for class tomorrow. But tonight, as the kids sang and danced their way down the corridor to bed (Joel's oldest friend, Eva, has been staying with us since last weekend while her parents are a-conferencing), I flipped across the channels and realised Andrew Denton's Enough Rope was on. Tonight a "special", on three women with metastatic cancer, which had begun, in all three cases I think, with breast cancer. Paul is away, too, in Norway (Hi Meli!), and in any case, would probably have been working, if he had been here. So with a stomach full of tender roast lamb and home grown rosemary, and with these two beautiful young children safely tucked up in bed reading, I watched alone.

Here's a link to the website: I think transcripts and excerpts will be available there soon: Enough Rope

I don't think you would need to be a cancer patient or carer to be moved by this program, but the tears were certainly streaming down my face. These women were brave, and scared, and positive, and pragmatic, at different times. But I can't put a measure on the extent to which my story is their story. My medical prognosis is better, but at the same time I know myself touched and changed by the things that have touched and changed them. I don't put myself in their class, but on the other hand, to refuse to do so might be a form of denial, as I still must work out how I am to live; and I think their courage might help me.

One of the women said, "It's brought out a strength in me I never knew I had." It was said smiling under the eyebrows her husband painted on for her each day (that's their sex life now, they joked), and I realised how far cancer can take you beyond the normal vanities. Everywhere else on television are beautifully groomed faces and hair; here were bald heads and darkened eyes, confronting their own deaths; in one case, little more than a week away.

But I knew what she meant, about the strength. I have sometimes, myself, been surprised to find myself less distressed about things that normally would have worried me. (If I had had to, I think I probably would have been able to face the world without hair, for example.) But has it brought out a strength that was buried in me? Or did I grow it myself?

In the first half of last year I went to the physiotherapist complaining about pain on the outside of my right knee. He diagnosed a weakness of the muscle on the inside of the knee, and gave me what seemed like minimal exercises to strengthen the inner muscle so as to re-balance the whole knee. I realised, too, that I had developed a habit of riding my bike with my right leg slightly bowlegged (to protect my pants and shoes). One of my legs is very slightly longer than the other, too, as the dressmaker discovered when she made my long "wedding" skirt (scarlet silk chiffon over midnight blue peach satin, for the record). I've re-oriented my walking, running and riding habits, and now have no pain in the knee, and even a discernible bump where the strengthened muscle sits.

I think this is the kind of "strength" that cancer helped me grow, little by little as I got through the treatments and the sheer shock of being ill, last spring and summer.

At the same time, the program was a wake-up call for me. I feel so strong, physically, that it's been hard not to slip back into old ways of committing myself to lots of things. And yet I do get tired and wrung out by stuff; and I have to remind myself that while I'm nearly at the one year point since my diagnosis (with a mammogram and ultrasound to mark the event next month), it's a much shorter time since I was suffering considerable anxiety about re-entering the world of work. That world is particularly distressing at the moment, with the threat of job cuts in my faculty, and while I want to be involved, I'm finding it harder and harder. I'm not sure I do actually have enough strength for that.

I turned off the television, and could hear Herbert, our little frog, croaking into the balmy spring air, and was reminded of the ephemerality of it all. How hard it is to keep the balance between one's normal, human commitments to others, and the sense of stillness that mortality grants us.

1 comment:

Pavlov's Cat said...

You are brave womans, as Zoe would say -- I couldn't even bear to watch that myself. I did think of you though, watching the promo earlier that night, when that woman said that.

We are overdue a long conversation -- really looking forward to the Sydney blogging gig..