Still Pinching Myself
Tinto de Verano is the perfect summer drink; everyone orders it in Spain yet its ingredients are basic; red wine, ice cubes, lemon/lime soda, slices of oranges and lemons. It’s just something that tastes of summer. I’m drinking it during my one-week holiday (the first this year) in Barcelona, a trip thrown together at shockingly short notice by heroic Husband Pete.
After a year and a half of treatments, tethered to the flat, waiting for the next unpleasant surprise, this trip has proven there is still magic in the world. The sheer simple pleasure of sitting in sunlight reduced me to tears.
I know there are many people facing terminal cancer who can’t escape. I’d resigned myself to a drawn-out phase of becoming inexorably weaker, but I had not realised how rejuvenating being somewhere else can be. Walking out of our flat in the virtually deserted barrio, I looked around expecting to find foreclosure notices, drug gangs, dirt and litter, and instead I just found normal life.
My motto now is; Life goes on until it stops. For the first time in far too long, I am moving; the more I walk, climb, swim, the stronger I get. Some problems have reversed. Enough feeling has returned to my thighs and hands to make writing this much easier. A glass of wine sharpens my wits. I still have some brain fog. I was going to write myself a terrific Bryant & May short story but it evaporated. I’m doing exercises for that.
But what’s the point? I’m a terminal case. The disease is aggressive and spreading. It’s now in my weak spot – my lungs. None of the chemo worked. But what if this experimental drug treatment I’ve started turns out to retard progression? The worst thing in the world is hope.
Becoming A Monkey
BP (Before Pandemic) we usually came to Barcelona on Husband Pete’s birthday because he’s a Kiwi and spending it in London depresses him. This year we attempted to do it again. The paperwork was Kafkaesque, especially as I had to prepare for so many contingencies. A letter from my doctor allowing me to carry syringes on a flight was the easiest part, thanks to our fantastic local GP service. But while we’ve been here, the rules on which COVID tests are eligible have quietly changed again.
I admit I was scared. I’m having trouble breathing, nerves and muscles are errant. Traveling was physically daunting; the toughest challenge I’d faced lately was getting out of an armchair. Everyday things I’d taken for granted presented themselves as monolithic obstacles. Getting out of the sea with no balance proved impossible, but after just one day of practice my legs were almost strong enough to support me unaided.
And while nurses only ever want what’s best for you, not all of their instructions suit everyone. They nagged me to get my weight up, but all the bland food and extra sleep turned me into a sloth. So now this sloth is fighting back to at least be, well, a monkey.
Glitter And Be Gay
Husband Pete does not like show or fuss. So buying a glitter bomb with his birthday card was probably not the smartest thing to do, especially when he decided to pry the lid off out of curiosity in a quiet restaurant. I’ve seen what happens. The resulting chaos shall go undocumented here. We took him to a park where he could detonate the remains – and don’t worry, it was biodegradable and gone before dawn.