I hope this finds you well, with pancakes being tossed all around you on this Shrove Tuesday. Last year I decided to take up something, rather than give up something for Lent, and I successfully wrote every day for forty days and nights. Admittedly, some of it was shite. This year, I have been set an Olympian challenge for Lent 2012: I have been challenged to not swear for forty days and nights. It’s going to be difficult. Possibly more difficult than your first ever triathlon whilst on chemo’. I don’t swear to cause of offence, but sometimes it just helps as an expressive release. I think I am going to have to go into a non-chemical detox, to get myself in the right frame of mind, the right mindset, for a more minimal controlled vocabulary.
As I sit here, the Olympic and Paralympics preparations are well underway and the hype is building, with the cycling, gymnastic and the aqua centre (a.k.a. big swimming pool) venues being tested. I am watching honed athletes tucking and twisting and spinning, back-flipping and elegantly entering the water, gracefully gliding across dance mats, reminding me of last week, when I had an experience that will stay with me forever. I wasn’t wearing a leotard, I wasn’t even exercising. I was shopping with my Mum, for a wetsuit. We were shopping for a wetsuit for Mum’s swimming leg of the Blenheim Triathlon, which she has been in training for. My Mum, aged 63 years young, who shaved her head off when we did VixBigShave, is now about to become an open water swimmer and take part in a triathlon. How impressive is that? The bloke in the shop said that he doesn’t sell many wetsuits in Glasgow in February and was equally impressed when Mum explained to him that she fancies being able to swim off their croft on Skye, into the Scottish seas. How brave, how very, very brave.
Mum and I were in Glasgow for reasons other than wetsuit shopping. I was up there for my three-monthly follow-up scan, and had the joys of the MRI scanner again, and forty minutes or so of lying very, very still, with whooshes, horns, and sirens blasting whilst they excited my protons and let them relax, again and again. The scan is done, and I wasn’t as queasy this time, so did a few flick-flacks and back-flips on exiting. It was great to catch-up with Mary Fraser who was my neurosurgical nurse, who’d been there for me post-operatively back in October 2010. It was lovely to show her what a good job my fantastic surgeon Nigel Suttner had done, and to show her that I am really pretty normal, whatever normal is.
Now though, I find myself in No Man’s Land, or should that be No Woman’s Land, or may be No Person’s Land, if I am going to be very politically correct. It’s a land, a place or space that doesn’t really feel like it belongs anywhere. It’s a frayed ending, or a new start, or may be both at the same time. It’s like the dusky-dawny twilight time, when you don’t quite know how to describe it, is it the end, or is it the beginning? One could miss the point entirely, and give the calendar date, and time on the clock, but that would be dismissive of the emotional place that is No Man’s Land. I am trying to get on and be normal. I try to be me. I try to be patient, waiting the two weeks and four days from scan day until clinic and results day. I try to be appreciative of how well I feel, all things considering, and appreciative of all that I have: friendships, loved ones, physical ability and mental toughness. I also wonder what’s ahead of me, what the results are going to tell me, and what they mean, and whether I will be able to skip out of the clinic and go away relatively carefree for another three months, or whether I will be needing a hanky. Carefree is very much a relative thing. I seem to notice every sensation, every headache, twitch, tingling, bit of tiredness, feeling of butterflies in my stomach, like never before. I think I may have developed a very acute sensitivity for how I feel physically as a result of what I’ve been through. I listen to, and hear more from my body than I ever did before, and that’s nothing to do with wind. I wonder if tuna is at bay. The No Man’s Land is full of wonder, and hope. Hope that my outlier status become more and more far-out, and that I can just get on with simple living, loving and laughing. There is though, the small voice that tells me not to be such a silly dreamer, and to remember the statistics, my A level statistics, and reminds me to be realistic of in my expectations of myself, of medicine and science. It makes me feel as if I am floating, alone, at sea (with no wetsuit on).
I hope I am being realistic in my planning and living. My realism tells me that Scotland are unlikely, again, to be winning the Six Nations Championships, despite playing a bit better against Wales than they did against England. I fortunately got to go to the first home match against England, and will be going to the France match too, spending quality time with rugby friends and family, supporting patriotically, and trying hard not to swear. I think that even a streak from me wouldn’t be enough to distract the French, so I will keep my kit on.
In my pre-scan weeks, I have been having some gentle family and friend time, complimented with my three-day working week. I’ve had a trip to Hadfield to spend time with my brother and family, to celebrate Burn’s Night, and a girls weekend at Ragdale Hall with my sister-in-law and her sisters (does that make them my sister-in-laws once removed or something?) and my cancer sister Angela. It was great to spend time with them all, to chew the metaphorical fat, put the World to Rights and admire Angela’s baldness and wigs. She’s an amazing lady, and is about to take to the catwalk for a breast cancer charity fundraiser in Cardiff. Mum’s been down and stayed for a week or so prior to my scan trip north. It has been lovely to do things gently in good company and feel looked after, chatting, sorting, organising and planning. I’ve also been enjoying seeing regular pictures of the baby, for which I was held responsible, who arrived safely on 6th February in Washington DC. Florence seems to have her philosophy for life sorted already. Massive congratulations to her Mum and Dad.
I’d like to drum up a bit of support, of the participatory kind if possible for some of the events I have registered for this year, please do let me know if you fancy having ago. As I’ve said before, it’s the taking part that countrs, not the winning (unless you are my Mum, who will be pushing herself for a PB in her swim). If you enter, any of these events, please let me know.
White Peaks Half Marathon 19th May, Derbyshire
Relay GB 2012. I am doing the final leg, 24th May, from Romford to Buckingham Palace. There are legs all around the clock, night and day, as this run goes around the UK 4th-24th May. You do not need to be a sub-4 hours marathon runner, really, trust me, I am not a sub-4 hours girl either.
VixTryAgain at Blenheim Triathlon 9-10th June.
Dingle Half Marathon 1st September, which I undertook with my American friends last year. It is stunning.
I am open to more suggestions to get fit for the London Olympics, and your invites to join you on nice events, where it’s the taking part, not the winning, that counts. Alternatively, if you are doing something and want to support and fundraise for my chosen charities, that’d be fantastic. Just let me know, and I will happily help you publicising your event and fundraising link.
Thank you for the whooshes of wishes and pulses of positive vibes which are helping me get through the waiting game. Thank you for your support and stories of what’s going on in your lives. One friend recently told me that she’d been having a good look at my blog after not having been there for some time, and her little two year old asked her “why’s your face raining Mummy?” I promise I don’t mean to make you cry, so apologies if I have smudged your mascara.
Here’s a bit of philosophy from Chekov for you: Any idiot can face a crisis. It’s the day to day living that wears you out.
Living, Loving and Laughing, with big kisses and bone-crunching hugs Vix xxx
P.S. Ladies, as we approach the 29th February, please do let me know if you are taking the opportunity that this offers (and I don’t mean working an extra day for no extra pay).