Since I was diagnosed with cancer of the lung and pelvis in late July I have lived a rather exciting life, it has made me increasingly aware of time’s winged chariot so I had a short break on the Riviera and have plans for a holiday in late March. Then there was my visit to the Penny Brohn centre which I insisted on calling a boot camp. Nothing could be farther from the truth and the days spent there were some of the most comfortable and useful I have ever enjoyed. I also met one other woman who was taking the same route with her cancer as me. She is convinced, as I am, that cancer is not the big bad monster, enemy but a new and interesting vagary of the body  that must be dealt with as such.

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When do you become too old/ill to bother with

I do wonder at what age we become a loss to the health service. It began weeks ago: I had asked to be referred to Physio & was getting ready to go there when the first call came. ‘The physiotherapist says she can’t assess your needs in a half hour.’ The man said. Then make me an hour appointment’ I said before he cut me off. Ten minutes later he called again to say that as I fell over I was not a suitable case for treatment. (Too old & with cancer!) Though he didn’t utter these words, he said that they would send somebody to my house. I explained that I wanted to use their equipment and that I had been to their gym before and found it useful. (not worth investing time in this old bird, probably be dead  in a few weeks) He left but phoned again in minutes – I had hoped that I may have the joy of speaking to the Physio this time, but no. Continue reading

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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.

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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.

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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.

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