Sunday, October 31, 2010

The end of the beginnng and its collateral damage

This has taken me a long time to write, to play with the metaphor, and grasp with the reasons behind writing this way - martially.  I don't really have any answers, but that it came out in this form.

Now this is not the end.
It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Winston Churchill


collateral damage:  any damage incidental to an activity


It is hard to compute how a bunch of rogue cells deep in a body can wreak such havoc on so many lives, and with almost military precision, which is to say with none at all - given the military debacles we know from civilizations past and present, and on the front page. Military terminology seems de riguer when dealing with cancer and its survivors, and the "collateral damage" it leaves in its wake, almost immediately after the word falls off the tongue.

Cancer is a war zone. So far as I can tell for me, there are incendiary devices still mid way through their trajectories - the chemo has not yet landed. Not even the beginning of the end. An Unexploded Incendiary Device. But is the chemo the bomb or is that the first blast through the war to recovery? Hmmm.
We have all seem to have absorbed an imagined piece of slo-mo footage of its impending arrival etched into our subconscious.

But even before chemo, in so many ways the war is here, among us, already, and we walk among in its noxious and invisible gases.  Fear. Despair. Difficulty Breathing. Nausea. Pain.

After 8 long tortured weeks of this course, nothing, really, has been done. Well, to the outside world.

Phase 1: Battle Plan. Recce. Locate and identify tumours. Success! Plan attack, set stage for attack and arriere garde, as required. Food stuffs, the circling of wagons, the haircut, the websites, the gifts, the phone calls, the guilt, the what-ifs. Collateral damage: denial, pain and stress, and apathy, and anger.

Phase 2: Attack. Bombarb. And as the citizens watch as the chemo bomb approaches- we find we all WANT it to hit hard and fast and with precision - hard to find another metaphor for the level of precision we need here. Collateral damage: FEAR, worry, phantom pains and projections of the ghosts we might become from this.

Vignettes: smallest child reading up on ghosts, in case mummy becomes one, so she knows where mummy will live and who here friends will be; small child with phantom pains in legs, arms - requiring splint to keep the body all together, metaphorically; larger small child with headaches, and keening wails, a desire to throw rocks at people -Adults call that anger; reversion from all small children to go hiding in boxes, cover up. Adults call it denial.


The collateral damage seems to be happening in slo-mo. Pieces of our lives flying ethereally through a recently smashed window - trips we have planned and now wonder on - when? Christmas - what will it be, look like? Long winter nights.... We see the before - a happy, muddled, delightful mess of love, frustration, good things; and now this place very clearly LOOKS and resembles our former life, but it's not quite the same, like a shadowy remnant. Like a Banksy picture from a distance. Looks real. The before is obliterated temporarily since it causes serious feelings of loss, grieving - what happened, where did it go? how did we get here? There is only now, and after now.

Phase 3: Recover. Ah, please, please, bring this one hard and fast as well. As the waves of the chemo invade, and liberate - we are hopeful that the walls will be rebuilt, the smashed glass will be replaced, and the pace of normalcy will resume.

We are not there yet, but this phase is the one we need to move on to, and keep always in our minds and never lose track of. Recovery.  Recovery of the happy, muddled, delightful mess of love, frustration, good things that is still there, just stunned. in sleeper mode.

Thank you for being here with me "as on a darkling plain.., where ignorant armies clash by night". 

As Mathew Arnold wrote "To Margeurite"

Only- but this is rare-
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Ours eyes can in each others eyes read clear,
When our world defean'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again
The eyes sink inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean we say, and what we would, we know.

I have no idea if any of that made any sense. But I long for the chemo, and the beloved hands in mine.

xo KO

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

In 1940 Winston Churchill said 'we shall never surrender' and there will be many hands reaching out across the Atlantic Ocean from this little country to you during your chemotherapy. Bring it on Kate, love marg x

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