At the start of my course of radiotherapy I made myself a promise. Each day, I would avoid the lift and instead climb the three flights of stairs to get to the facility.
So far I’ve kept that promise. Even if I’m running late, which I do a lot, or if I have to return to the car for something, I use the stairs.
I just can’t articulate why it matters so much that I do this. I suppose it’s a small act of defiance in the face of being told time and again that I can expect to feel tired and sore, especially towards the end of the course of 25 sessions. Surely as long as I can manage the climb, I can manage the etc, etc.
And so far it’s encouraging news. My skin is holding up well. I’m not too wiped out although this morning, each of Amy’s requests for porridge were like an Inception-knock back to consciousness. Still I’m up to do the 90 minute round trip drive alone (my preference) and have been going to the hospital with a kind of head-down resignation. I have been doing alright.
But two days ago, when heading in for treatment 16, something strange happened. I arrived just in time for my appointment, but got stuck at the foot of the stairs. I had this ridiculous conversation with the voice in my head.
‘No. I can’t. I just can’t. And I won’t! I’ve had enough. I want out.’
‘But you have to do it, Sambo. Come on.’
For several minutes this terrifying dialogue took a hold and left me immobilised.
Once I’d finally hauled my sorry, demotivated arse up there, I found the unhelpful chatter continue whilst having the treatment. Much of the 20-minute appointment is spent setting me up. A team of two move the gurney, shift me here and there, mark me with pen. Then they check one another’s work, which reminds me of a cabin crew disarming the doors and crosschecking. Actually the team’s disengagement with the job is also reminiscent of a flight crew’s. Normally I go into shutdown mode during this tedious process but on that day, I found that impossible. I felt like a piece of meat on butcher’s block and had to set my jaw to fight tears.
On the way home, normally a neutral affair, I found myself raging at the bullshittedness of everything. This is just bullshit. It sucks! I’m seriously over this and so on.
By the time I got back home I was a tinderbox ready to explode in the face of the next person who dared to crossed me. Fortunately, everyone was in good cheer, which gave me a chance to come down from the stratosphere and calm the fuck down.
Later I was reflecting with Ted that maybe I’m feeling it because I’m not quite at the brow of the hill. I’m past half way, but it’s not over. I emailed my friend Jodie, a marathon runner, to ask at what stage in the race she really felt the pinch. She responded:
There were two times when I really hit it and both were when I got an unbearable stitch (on a 38km training run and in the actual 42km race, both at about the 30km mark). I hated it. In the race I remember telling myself I was above the pain and all that, and that got me through for a bit, but I also remember having the distinct thought: Remember this feeling: it’s not fun. This is not fun and I don’t want to be here.
Both times it was a matter of “just get to the next lamp post and see how you feel”, then “just get to the next corner and see how you feel”. I don’t know what the “see how you feel” part was about – maybe tricking myself into thinking there was a possibility of stopping when I got there. But of course, when you do, the next corner’s not that far away. And so you keep going.
Today’s treatment was hard but better and tomorrow’s will be too, I hope.