There are some good things about being old, even being old and decrepit has benefits. For a start not so many people have any right tell you what to do – and if they do it is easier to tell them off. It is a little easier to be selfish – in the true sense of that word – you have had more time to decide what is important to you. This can change from day to day or even from hour to hour. People tend not to expect consistency from the old. In fact rather a lot of the expectations of the young are pretty derogatory but we can forgive them for their foolishnesses with a look that says ‘been there, done that and decided against it!’ an arched brow is useful for this manoeuvre with a slightly knowing smile.
It is very irritating when the young take it for granted that they invented many of the more enjoyable vices – we know better of course. And we got there first and we could tell them a thing or two but we won’t, and they wouldn’t listen which is fair enough.
So I appear to be living with cancer in a kind of equity. My doctors, one of whom is an old friend and I am convinced that she likes me, looks at me with a mixture of exasperation & sadness. ‘Are you sure you don’t want treatment, even just to be on the safe side?’ I explain once more that treatment does not seem safe to me & that my tumour has not grown perceptibly. I also tell her that I feel incredibly well and that my new herb, green tea, bi -carb and stir fry diet appears to work well and I am loving my wok. I still have a hideously sweet tooth and I succumb to the odd lemon yum yum but have cut out the bon bons and haven’t bought biscuits for years. I have lost a half stone of what the adverts insist on calling ‘belly fat’ and can wear a jacket with ease that has always been beyond me – or my girth.
I seem to be making light of my cancer according to people I discuss it with. I don’t think I am, I was appalled when I was first diagnosed – my primary reaction was to flog everything I have and go on holiday – in fact I had a few days booked before I was diagnosed. Also, having been given seven months to live by one doctor I felt relief that I would not have to decide if I painted my front door – which has begun an automatic peel. Also I only taxed the car for six months though I decided to splurge on a service because I have a friend who badly needs a car. So I began to arrange my life around this depressing outlook.
I hadn’t realised that the Pre Alps are so impressive. That they tower over vast deep gorges, that they are clothed with olive trees and conifers that cling effortlessly to near vertical terrain. Houses dot the hillsides where no house should be able to cling on. And all the time, on vertiginous hills there would be a solitary cyclist crouched over handlebars powering himself with strong sometimes stringy legs pistoning furiously up or swiftly flying down these vast hills, the one I remember best had long grey hair flying out behind him. As a non cyclist I can only imagine the muscular energy that this must take – my own muscles twitched painfully in sympathy. The Tour de France has much to answer for.
I had spent some time in Nice many years ago and had never ventured out of the town so absorbed was I with sea, sex and food. Now I am enchanted by the dramatic landscape the beauty of trees and the shadows, the clear air and the sheer wonder of such wildness. I used to be a strictly city slicker and now I am a newborn countryside enthusiast, I am bewitched and it is marvellous.
‘And if I don’t have chemo, if I do nothing?’ I asked
Her eyebrows did a small dance of deepest sadness, like I was a recalcitrant child. ‘I would think seven months.’ Her eyes were sorrowful
‘Then what?’ I said rather sharply, ‘death?’ she nodded. I was surprised at the accuracy. Also a little shocked followed by: I’m glad we had a good summer this year, I should have hated to miss that!
‘Do you have any more questions for me.’ Said she. I said that I didn’t but thought: ‘I’ll show you!’ and came away rather cross but quite determined to live – ‘for at least eight months’ I joked with my friend as we shared a hot chocolate in the sunshine that felt like midsummer.
She told me again that it is pointless to speak of complementary methods of treatment to doctors. I had posited that diet could slow the growth of cancer, she had shaken her head sadly but with total certainty, ‘It might make you feel better but it has no effect on the cancer.’ I demurred at least in part for having guzzled pints of green tea and missed out on roast dinners and pork crackling for nought. In fact I have discovered the most delicious ways with stir fried veggies so it has not all been wasted and I do feel healthier than before I discovered the cancer advent. Which is maddening.
I met my lungs today
A first time meeting,
blind date type of thing
the right looked right
as a lung should be, apparently
the left swam in a miasma, a type of soup
it evaded capture by xray
an evasive organ see?
You reckon its cancer?
I asked the cool young stud
Who was doctoring me
I don’t know he said
Sent me for a blood test
A breath test – a complicated business
Of huffing and puffing in,out,in,out
I bought a Costa coffee at vast expense
Against my principals too
Drove home in wonderful sunshine
Tonight I will repot my tomato plant
Give it room to breath….