It is hard to describe what it’s like as chemo takes effect on your body, and surprisingly hard to remember what it did to you when you are through the worst and coming back to yourself. After the elation of my run last week, the last two or three days have been a predictable descent. Chemo affects you physically of course – my bones ache and I can’t get comfortable, my mouth is tender, my appetite and taste buds seem to have disappeared, it’s hard to concentrate on anything, my energy is so low. But it also affects your perspective on the world and your place in it. Last time I wrote in my journal, ‘At the heart of me, I’m taking shelter, hiding away in a safe place, trying to make sure that all I need is within reach. I have made a den under the dining room table and hung blankets over it to create soft walls that reduce the world to a manageable size, that create the illusion that this is all there is. I don’t have the energy to explore; I don’t want to make decisions; I want someone else to take care of life for me. I’ve retreated into childhood, taken a step back from the competent, taking-charge me.’ We were staying in Herefordshire on holiday at the time and the day before Jonny and I had gone for a walk through some fields. I’d felt incredibly anxious about where the paths were, and where we were allowed to go, not wanting to step out of line or be found in the wrong place. Yesterday I got really stressed about whether I was getting a temperature and whether or not I should phone the hospital. These are not normally things that flummox me.
I find it hard to feel so vulnerable but I don’t feel I have any choice at the moment, which is perhaps a good thing. I can’t toughen up because I have nowhere to summon toughness from. I need to let this be what it is, to remember that thankfully it is temporary for me, to be kind to myself, to accept all the help that is so generously offered. Because this, too, shall pass and next week, hopefully, I shall be running again.
Photo: Jonny Baker, taken on the walk in Herefordshire