Once a month or so I like to write an update post on here. It’s a great way of keeping on track, looking at what I’ve achieved and what I haven’t. A way of being able to focus in the moment, sit back, and take stock of where I am. It’s also a break from manuscript writing or editing. Plus, I always considered a month isn’t a long time, not really, especially when you do the same thing every day.
But this month has been a long month. There has been a lot going on. My deadline for book two was fast approaching, and my publisher requested to have it sooner than I expected. It wasn’t quite finished, but I learnt the first time round that finished books before editors get them really only exist only in the minds of writers, or perhaps the same dimension as fairies and the Loch Ness Monster. Therefore I hit send, cursed a bit, and have since been crossing my fingers in the hope that it’s OK. Sitting and waiting is hard, but there is nothing else to do. I also heard from the organisers of the London Marathon, and I didn’t get a place this time, but it might be for the best because my training schedule has gone totally kaput. In positive news I’ve moved house, and managed to write over 20,000 words of a new manuscript. Ordinarily I’d be super excited, blasting it all over twitter, GIFs galore. But besides work related tasks and meeting deadlines I’ve also been in the UK for three out of these last four weeks. Normally that would be great, getting to see friends and family and kick around in fallen leaves during the best season that the UK has to offer. Only this time it’s not. I was there because my Dad got cancer.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to mention it here. I mean, this is supposed to be about writing. I thought about pretending it wasn’t happening in online life, posting all sorts of lovely pictures of the UK, the colours, the awesome clouds, and my daily chai tea latte from Starbucks. But here’s the truth of it; every two minutes in the UK somebody gets diagnosed with cancer. Every two minutes somebody’s life changes. That’s three people since I opened this file, and at least forty people if you count how long I’ll roughly work on editing this piece. Those forty people no doubt sat open mouthed, as shocked as my Dad did when they got the news. When they heard that word. I can’t even hazard a guess at the number of lives those forty diagnoses must have changed when you total up friends and wives and husbands and sons and daughters like me who heard that the person they love has cancer. It left me feeling like the world was caving in on me. But strangely, and perhaps sadly, not alone. I knew that I was one of many, just like Dad. And so because of that I didn’t think there was any point in hiding it, or pretending that it wasn’t happening to my family.
And somehow, when my Dad told me he was going for a chest X-ray because he’d coughed up blood, I knew that was what it was. I knew from the tremor in his voice that he knew it too. You can call it intuition if you like, acceptance because he was a smoker, or some sort of hocus-pocus sense of foreboding, but we knew what we were dealing with even before we’d seen a doctor. We both knew it was going to be cancer, yet kept telling each other it wasn’t just in the hope that maybe there’d be a miracle. I booked a ticket back to England. I hoped we’d caught it early, even when he started being sick and couldn’t walk very well. I hoped and hoped and hoped. But then we saw the first consultant who confirmed the diagnosis, and then a second a couple of days later who told us there was nothing that could be done. It had already spread. A lot.
So the last few weeks have been strange, the worst of times, and yet in some ways good too. I have seen the harsh reality of cancer, what it can do, and how quickly. I have cried when we discussed the issue of resuscitation, and how there would be none if something that was no longer unthinkable was to happen. I have made theoretical deals with faceless entities that if it had to happen at all it should happen before my Dad has to suffer. That I’d trade a month of having him for no pain. And then I have also felt the comfort of a stranger’s hand, and made friends with other patients and their relatives, and shared jokes with them even when there was little for us to find funny. I have felt the momentous joy of victory when my Dad managed to eat a plate of food. And I am thankful that even though all of this is happening, I have the opportunity to do as much as I can for my Dad when he really needs me, because I have friends who got less in the past. I get the chance to tell him why I am there, sitting with him doing the same thing every day, so that he knows how much he matters.
Because sometimes you just have to sit and be present, or wait because there is nothing else to do. Sometimes to wait it out, hope for the best, and reach out and touch somebody’s hand is the only option you have. Because when there’s no time left to achieve anything else, but you have people at your side who love you, is there really anything else you need to reach for?