Occasionally I wonder if I should have displayed so much of my life, unfictionalized, for readers, but I seem to have come out unscathed. Indeed, if anything, writing so much ended my chatterbox ways. Of course, I am still capable of conversation, but the only time my voice is guaranteed to take a frenetic note now is when I talk about Benedict Ambrose's brain cancer battle 6 years ago. I always feel wrung out and exhausted afterwards--a symptom, if I remember correctly, of post-traumatic stress.
Therefore, I am not particularly interested in talking at length about B.A.'s latest diagnosis.
When I mentioned to him a year and a half ago that I had a sore back, he said that he had one, too. Being a woman, I went to a doctor and then to a physiotherapist and did exercises to strengthen my core. Being a man, B.A. did nothing. Eventually, however, I ordered him to go to a doctor, which led to his oncologist suggesting he have--just in case, just to put his mind at rest--a scan of his spine.
And B.A., who already has the remnant of a very rare tumour in his brain, turns out to have even rarer tumours in his spine. They settled there after behaving in a very singular fashion--breaking off from the parent tumour on his brain stem and migrating southwards.
We discovered the existence of these tumours an hour before we had planned to leave our home for the airport and Italy. B.A. explained this to the doctor who telephoned with the news, and the doctor said we might as well go on holiday anyway, as a week's delay wouldn't make a difference. This was in late May.
Naturally I burst into tears and indeed cried myself to sleep that night in a strange bed within 200 metres of the Mediterranean Sea. B.A. was his stoical, cheerful, and optimistic self. In the morning, in the Italian sun, I cheered up. We lived the next six days to the fullest. When we returned to Edinburgh, we discovered that B.A.'s oncologist was also optimistic and that she had a good plan for controlling (if not curing) the tumours.
The tumours are so rare, she said, that she didn't know if she could cure them or not. However, she assured us, the reason for their spread was not metastasis but mechanical. As spinal cancer can kill a man in four months, this seemed to explain why, after over a year of an aching tailbone and a host of other ailments he had simply thought the post-cancer "new normal", B.A. is still alive.
So now he is on steroids, which make him bouncy, energetic, loud and slightly distracted. And I am not on anything, so I am lethargic, quiet and sleep late. In a week or so, B.A. will begin a new course of radiotherapy. And I will continue swimming the breast stroke in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of contemporary news, as that is my duty and my job.
We have cancelled a pleasure trip to Poland, but the doctor sees no reason why I can't go on a work trip to Canada in mid-July. Therefore, I will at least be spending some time with my family before radiation leaves B.A. feeling tired and ill.
It is sad--even crushing--to think that B.A. felt tired and sometimes dizzy and ill for so long because he thought it was simply the "new normal" and nobody told him differently. Naturally, for the rest of his life, every time he mentions a slight ache, I will assume it is life-threatening and beg him to call his oncologist.
I think the only thing left to say is that I have often thought about long-term "Seraphic Singles" readers overjoyed when they found "the One" and embarked upon a new life that turned out not to be a bower of bliss but a rocky journey featuring miscarriages and serious illnesses visited upon either their children or their husbands.
This may or may not be a lesson to those who despise their Singleness and long for marriage. Of course, a life for which you take a permanent vow may feel more meaningful--whatever the innocent suffering--than one for which you have not. Whether it actually is more meaningful depends on the reader. A unvowed Single life dedicated to service is certainly more meaningful than a Single life dedicated to experiencing the maximum of pleasure and the minimum of pain.
Married life is not a refuge from pain. However, there is a lot of joy--even at the most unexpected times--and hope.