“Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
Three days ago I finished radiotherapy. Future Suze, have you forgotten how that felt? It felt joyous, quite simply. I need to unpick a little as I’m all over the place. It feels like after months and months I can start to properly dare to live again. Dip the old toes back in. I know I still have further treatments to go, and I’ve not been given the magic “all-clear” but nothing can dampen spirits today.
After 6 weeks of early mornings and a minimum 4 hour round trip, can you imagine how thrilling it is to get up when I want, do what I want, pottering guided by my own wishes and intuition? But the best bit of all – my body and spirit are finished with being battered. The trilogy of Cut, Poison and Burn that have ravaged me for 7 months are now in the past. Typing that actually makes me cry. When I think of the physical and emotional pain I’ve have had to deal with this year. Now I can give me the love and care I deserve.
As I sat waiting to see the radiation oncologist for the last time, I scribbled down these notes:
“I’m sitting outside Dr Chevelle’s office, I’m on an ants nest. That’s how this morning has been. So long coming now and it’s here time has slowed to a crawl. I am so proud of how I coped these past 6 weeks. Not just mentally but physically and emotionally. I set out to treat it like a job that has to be done, day by day. Celebrating another week under my belt and relishing the weekends. While I’ve had the unfailing love and support of my beautiful family, and my human scaffold were all there and as ever, amazing, I did all this bit on my own apart from my birthday and one other day. I found the strength to do this alone. I wanted to, I wanted to prove something to myself and I rose to the challenges.
The early mornings and the long drive; battling the fatigue and discomfort; the anxiety – the only times I’ve had panic attacks during this entire nightmare were during radiotherapy. Spoken French without someone else to pick up the slack when I got overwhelmed by information or fear. What it’s done for my French comprehension and confidence! In the taxi we have talked about everything – the holes in my roof (“à mes saladiers!”) Hurricane Irma, how brilliant Radiohead are, pros and cons of Porsche ownership, swapping childbirth stories, and a lot about food (how very French), weather and travel. I’ve also chatted daily with my fellow radiotherapees and radiotherapists. Yet another change in me – from terrified of talking with strangers to being open to conversations with them. You learn a lot of fascinating things about all sorts of people. Who knew, eh?
I slept so badly last night, full of excited anticipation. The taxi was late and I waited a long time for my session. Should I go to the loo? What if I miss my turn? Eventually I’m on the table for the last time and I try to focus on my breath, warm light, a gentle breeze enters my heart centre. Why is it taking longer? interrupts my meditation over and over. I try my other visualisations – fireflies, golden vapour, white moths, thousands of rabbits – everything I’ve called on in the past 7 months. Are they taking longer as it’s my last day? Giving me extra rays to send me on my way with? Forgotten I’m here? At last I’m free and the therapist tells me to see Dr C before I leave. Of course now I’m here there’s 10 others waiting, the cruelty of a horizon that’s just beyond.”
You know how I can’t get on board with the warrior woman archetype for those battling cancer, but to tell the truth I’ve been a total champ. I’ve taken a lot of responsibility for myself, not handing myself over blindly to the medical profession. Dr Elizabeth Boham says … “daily movement, relaxation, cooking good food, and writing your journal can help your body heal. Your healing is not all up to your doctor”.
I’m proud of how I’ve nourished myself, kept walking, found my own solutions to problems. Most of all I didn’t waiver from breathwork, journalling and making art.
The painting above marked a turning point for me. Once chemo had ended I reached a point where everything I tried to draw or paint made me feel frustrated and upset. I would try to do a little every day but I was very frail. As I started radiotherapy burnt sienna began to appear more, and shapes more like the rugged mountains viewed on the car journey. It now seems so obvious, the river is a metaphor for the internal body, but the stones and mountains are the external landscape of the body. The prussian blue is fluidity, while the burnt sienna is heat, burning and damage. As a result, I’ve worked on dozens of small paintings and sketches. I’ve lots to show you and I will, soon.
I don’t talk much about what happens during cancer treatment do I? I’m not very informative about the processes and specifics I’ve been through. Well, they’re not much fun or very interesting. Anyway, everyone has a different experience so I’m not sure how helpful it would be. There are things I’d much rather tell you about instead.
The important thing to me is rather than a new chapter, a new book in my life series is about to be written. In a Goblet of Fire becomes Order of the Phoenix kind of way. Oooh, a phoenix! I like that! Rising from the burning flames, reincarnated more beautiful and strong, singing sweeter than ever before a most glorious song.
I’m looking very much forward to being around more frequently in this place.