cows in Hereford

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

8 thoughts on “Building a den

  1. My lovely Jenny, I love your latest new post. In a strange sort of way I rather like the idea of a den ,that you described . When Ian died I wanted to shut myself away, and be on my own. I certainly didn’t want anybody telling me what I ought to be doing, but equally I was very loath to ask for help because I felt that I should be responsible now for what I was going to do with my life. My life, not our life anymore. You, my beautiful bald daughter are going to be the best you have ever been both inside and out,and we, both family and friends are all going to be the better, because you have had to walk down this Cancer road. This time, has made me realise how very special you are, and although you are away,you are always here with me and distance must not let that be broken. God bless you, darling and may the time fly past. Love you lots and lots. P.s. Have just bought a melon, raspberries, nectarine,and bananas, and frozen the rest of the Basil. Sent from my iPad


  2. Hi Jen. I really felt that. I understand what anxiety feels like and I understand the need to make the world a managable size, to feel safe and held. I know nothing and can hardly even begin to imagine how chemo feels… But I know my own vulnerability and that makes me feel for you even more.

    Coping can wait. Energy is a thing for next week. It is what it is.
    Hide in your den. Do nothing or something… It doesn’t matter.

    You are precious, your writing is amazing, your head is small and beautiful and clever. I love you so much and I think of you every day.

    J x

  3. for in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?but if we hope for what we do not see , we wait for it with patience . Ro 8:24-5
    For I am sure that neither death nor life, not angels nor rulers , nor things present nor things to come , nor powers, nor height nor death nor anything else in all creation
    will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Ro 8: 38-9

    Thinking of and praying for you Jenny xxx

  4. Keep letting it be what it is Jen and let yourself be looked after. Hide away and take shelter as much as you need to; it’s your time. We have your back! Love you loads xxxxxxx

  5. Dear Jenny, you write so well that one almost forgets that you are writing about a horrid and most frightening process. You are blessed with talent and wonderful family and friends. Have been most touched by your account above but also by your mother’s response. Be well. Brigitte x

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