All the leaves are changing and nothing is changing and maybe everything is changing. My mother sings California Dreaming while she stands smoking at the kitchen window, just the first two lines, nothing more, she doesn’t know the rest – sometimes softly to herself, sometimes with vigour, with an excitement about the sky being grey, whether or not it really is. Sometimes I look in the mirror or catch my own mannerisms, think about my ways, and realise I am becoming her a little and I love it. I talk like my dad. I tell people to pack it in and stop mithering and find myself repeating sayings I assume are a bit northern and explaining it away with as my dad would say. My family is the best family to ever exist and we don’t need to be perfect because nobody is – I can only emulate the best people I know, and they are the best people I could emulate because they never left. Others left and said they had come back but they haven’t, not really.
I had my gastroscopy on Friday and it was the best endoscopy experience I’ve had so far – not least because the only thing I remember (thank you, sedation) is my doctor straight after the procedure saying “nothing serious”. As a result, I’ve had an extremely relaxed weekend.
Happy bank holiday! For me, this long weekend is appearing between scans and checkups, as snatches of joy often do. I had my PET scan on Wednesday, which was a breeze – it’s always easier when you’ve done something before. I had a nap during the scan last time, and this time was no different, except this time my leg didnt jerk in my sleep and wake me up panicking that I had unintentionally moved. The results should come back in a week or two. Next Friday is my gastroscopy, at a completely different hospital, so Peter and I are continuing our tour of the local medical establishments.
Anyway, I wanted to share a poem today, because I haven’t posted one for a while and I haven’t submitted much to lit mags or had anything published for a while, either. Here’s something I wrote on the way home from a friend’s house last week, and the photo that follows is my terrible attempt at taking a photo of the moon that same night.
The moon behind the church
I want to live where I can see the moon. I want to be with people who can see and nod and agree with my assertions about the beauty of the moon. When the traffic slows, I like to think it’s because every driver is trying to get a really good look at the moon. I want us all to turn off our own moons – headlights – and slow to see the moon behind the church.
I pull over to take a picture. Get my good side, it says, keeping its cheek turned. I comply, the photo doesn’t turn out quite right – I don’t have the tools – but I am happy to sit, forget the day the sun had burned, and let my head cool as I admire the moon behind the church.
I haven’t posted for a while because I haven’t had much inspiration to write and I’ve been busy with house-related things. I did finish writing my memoir and came closer than I’ve ever gotten to having a full-length book published, but it didn’t work out so I’m back at square one with that. Not very much news on the lit mag front either – I haven’t been submitting much but there is some of my stuff that has been accepted but not published yet, and with no date set, and some stuff that’s been out for ages with no response. Meanwhile I’ve closed Peeking Cat to submissions and it’s probably going to stay closed for a while as my PhD gets underway in October. But people keep submitting stuff, which is a bit pointless because I have to either reply saying we’re closed, or just delete it. Continue reading
I have two poems out in the new issue of Vamp Cat Magazine! This issue has the theme of wanderlust, so my two poems are suitably travel-related. The first is about visiting the seaside with a friend, and the second is about driving to see family at Christmas as a child. You can read them here.
I’m so pleased that my creative non-fiction (well, sort of fictional dramatic narrative of non-fiction?) “Lucky” has been published by Bonnie’s Crew! I wrote this short piece this time last year around the time of my second and third cancer diagnoses. Read “Lucky” online here.
A bit of a life update this morning. I went to bed on Thursday night feeling fine and woke up the next morning feeling anxious without really knowing why and it sort of stuck with me all day. I think it’s partly because I was worried about my teeth. Every couple of years my wisdom tooth has a bit of a move about and the gum gets infected so I go to the dentist and he gives me antibiotics and says if it keeps causing a problem it will need to be taken out under general anaesthetic. So this happened again the other day so I got antibiotics but the dentist also said that because I’m on alendronic acid (to prevent osteoporosis because I can’t go on HRT for the menopause because of the cancer risk), he wouldn’t want to take any of my teeth out because AA might make it take a long time to heal up. So that was me jumping to worst case scenario of having my wisdom tooth out and suffering with it. Typical of it to flare up as soon as I go on AA. But I looked online (not always recommended, really) and found some people saying they had teeth out while on AA and it was all fine. So I feel better about it now.
I had a dream last night that my CT scan results came back (I had the scan three weeks ago) and by some miracle I was pregnant. We were worried about losing the baby because of my surgery but we were excited. In my dream I got some counselling at my gynae checkup too, asking what was on my mind and stuff. That was before someone rushed in with the scan results (which I thought showed the cancer was back because of how she ran in with them). And before that, I had a dream I was playing with someone else’s baby. He was very smiley and didn’t cry and I think I might have been his favourite out of everyone in the room. My grandad was there too, as he sometimes randomly appears in my dreams despite no longer being with us, and he said “you’ll be wanting one of those of your own soon”. Nobody bothered to correct him.
Feelings around being childless and having a hysterectomy are quite complicated. I think I’d like something good to happen to me medically. I’d like me and my partner to go to my parents’ house to tell them something big that isn’t how I have cancer again, but something good. I would like to feel like other people. I would like to feel like I’m having a normal, big experience. I’d like to be counted as a mother in the general population. I’d like to be pregnant and excited and understand and enjoy the experience. I’d like to have a tiny human to look after. I feel so alienated from people around me who haven’t had cancer – I don’t have any “cancer friends”. Having a baby is among the things I want that I thought I would have in my life but haven’t yet. I want a baby, I want to get married, I want to own a house. I just want to be a normal grown up.
I got a lot done yesterday. I booked our flights to Florida for next year, and I got Keane tickets for me and my mum. I tried to get them during the presale on Wednesday but they sold out within two minutes, so I’m glad I managed to get them yesterday.
And the big news I haven’t mentioned is that I got accepted to study for my PhD at Teesside University! I’ll be doing it at a distance, researching the role of poetry in psycho-oncology. I want to find out how writing poetry can help cancer survivors in remission to work through fear of recurrence, health anxiety and other related feelings.
So, good things are happening even if they aren’t the big things I’m still waiting for or might never have. When life doesn’t give you any luck, you have to create it for yourself. And most of it isn’t luck, it’s work. Good thing I like making things happen for myself.
Did it snow this winter? I can’t remember watching flakes fall from my armchair but really, wrapped in recovery, I was not here.
It was hot last summer. I remember roasting watching the football, sweating walking into town for drinks to help me forget that I was too much here.
I’ve spent sporadic seconds each season wondering what the point is in seeing the next one if illness and fear is all there is for me, if nothing I expected to happen is waiting for me, wishing I wasn’t still here.
Summer is slinking around again and the bio oil I rub on my scars smells like a Floridian hotel in a way I can’t quite identify, but is surely a metaphor for how Orlando in four seasons’ time can heal, can erase, can smooth out, can soften me, can help me remember why I am still here.
My poem “Welcome” has been published in Picaroon Poetry today! I wrote this one in January, two months into recovering from Whipple surgery and four months post-hysterectomy, and it’s a really short one about what it’s like recovering from major surgery. Hope you like it! Read “Welcome” here.
I went for a tiny run today and the biggest effect it had was that it made me want to write. Which is better than the shower I had afterwards, at which point I took a photo of my belly, which just made me want to cry. It looks pretty bad – all scarred and lumpy and disfigured. Don’t care about the scars so much but my waist only goes in on one side now – what’s up with that? At first it was funny to feel a sort of gap where my organs used to be but now that I have actually seen how straight my other side is in comparison, I’m a bit freaked out. Have things actually moved further towards that side in the past couple of months? It’s weird and I don’t like it.