I've been off on the sick for two months now – yep, as of tomorrow it's a full sixth of a calendar since my skull was jemmied open and the lurking horror removed – and people keep asking me how I fill my days.
The answer is 'with very little'. But that seems to be working, which surprises no-one more than me.
Boredom, or the fear of it, is what had initially bothered me the most about having all this time on my hands. I find it all too easy to slip into that Sunday afternoon torpor Douglas Adams described as "the long, dark tea-time of the soul", where ennui and inertia combine into urrggh. I had a few months of unemployment nearly ten years ago which did me no good at all on that front – you start to get into pointless, time-consuming routines; you actually start to regard going to the shop or signing on as What You're Doing That Day – and I was a bit worried about being sucked back into that.
But back then I was completely healthy, just unoccupied, and frustrated because a complicated mortgage insurance policy was stopping me from doing casual work, and my attempts to get back into the meedja full-time seemed to be constantly met with accusations of being either over-qualified or out of touch because I'd spent so long working in that dead-end, flash-in-the-pan online thing. Seriously, people actually told me that. Not a good time, for me or the industry.
This is different. I am, in a sense, still healthy insofar as I have no side-effects from my actual condition, or the hole it has left behind. But there are effects from the treatment, and they take a kind of a toll.
If I fill my time with little jobs like this blog, reading, and messing about with domestic tech projects, I toddle along fine and keep well away from the sucking mire of daytime TV. But I'm also aware that my energy lasts for about two hours at a stint before I have to eat and sleep, and that if I make the mistake of standing about in the cold or doing something strenuous, I'm going to be a bit gubbed.
Most days, first thing, I feel perfectly capable of going in to work. It's just that while I can sit here on my couch and batter away at my laptop, then nod off for a bit, that sort of behaviour doesn't go well in an open-plan office. Anyway, I still have daily hospital appointments, with the attendant public transport crawl across the city because the DVLA won't let me drive while I've got a bit of brain missing, and that's tiring in itself.
So the days fill themselves up satisfyingly with a pattern of pottering, sleeping and going to hospital, to the extent that I've breezed past the half-way mark in my treatment, at least this phase of it, without much drag at all. Doesn't time fly when you're enjoying yourself?
It all seems to be going as expected, too, which is nice.
My platelet count is stable, I'm pleased to say, because that tends to drop on this chemo and I'm very keen on not doing any more bleeding than is absolutely necessary. People do seem to want quite a lot of my blood on a fairly regular basis just now, and it's nice to know I can still close up again without all that messy spurting.
I'm losing even more hair, though, which is rubbish. I mentioned in my last entry that the patch I had only just regrown post-surgery had decided it was giving up on its comeback tour of the side of my head, but the rest of my right side is now also succumbing to musical differences. Annoyingly, it seems to be the black ones which are bailing out first; the greys are hanging on in there with the grim determination of a busload of pensioners in heavy traffic – a little extra memento mori, like I needed another one.
I have just over two weeks of daily chemo and five-days-a-week head-zapping to get through, plus three more Tuesday blood-lettings including an itchy vaccine-trial jag lined up romantically for Valentine's Day, then I get a break from all things hospital-y until mid-March.
I'm told I can expect to be thoroughly knackered for a couple of weeks after the death-rays stop, and that it might not be immediately afterwards – apparently there's a cumulative effect of the radiation that can kick in straight away or some time later, which I'm trying not to think of in terms of cooking. But, all going well, I hope to be back at the typeface from early March. There will still be a need to pop in to feed the Beatson's in-house vampire and occasionally go on a week of adjuvant chemo (which I should be able to work through), and there will be scans. But life should be back to more-or-less normal.
Until then, this is all really quite bearable. I'm feeling generally pretty good.
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