First of all I have an apology to make. And that is an apology to you, my readers. I am well aware that I haven’t posted an entry in over a week. My sister reminded me that I’ve entitled this blog ‘a selfie a day’ not ‘a selfie a month’. I have some reasons for this but the main one is that, well, not a lot happened this week until this weekend. So I thought I’d wait till the weekend was over and then relay it all to you in one post.
So throughout this week my neutrophils have been slowly creeping up which means my bone marrow is regenerating (I’m so like Doctor Who). Once they get to 1.0 I’m allowed to go home for a week and then come back in for the second cycle of chemotherapy.
On Friday they were 0.6 so my doctor said that if they went up a bit more on Saturday he would let me go home for the afternoon. And guess what? They did go up a bit. So on Saturday at around 1pm, armed with 0.8 neutrophils I left the hospital for the first time in 5 WEEKS! I had to wear a mask till I got home but I was still able to feel the breeze and walk further than just up and down my nearest corridor.
It all sounds very romantic and idealistic and yet it wasn’t at all like I’d imagined it would be. I’d pictured running through fields and feeling alive from the fresh air and the people, and just being overwhelmed with the sense of freedom. But, in reality, it was very far from this expectation.
Yes I did run down the hospital stairs as fast as I could, and yes I did marvel at the beauty of Richmond Park as we drove through it on that lovely Saturday afternoon, but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat incomplete.
When you’re cooped up in one room for 5 weeks and there is a routine in place around you and everything happens at a set time, it is then very difficult to readjust to something entirely different. Most of all, I felt incredibly vulnerable. I am, after all, still very prone to infection and when I see other people I steer clear of them and try not to breathe too deeply as they pass me. I’m scared of strangers, of any illness they may be harbouring. In some ways this has made me think that you have to be at your strongest when you come out of the hospital, when you enter into the world again because no one’s there to tell you when to eat or when to take your pills or check your pain levels or to set a protocol about visitors. When you’re out there, you’re really and truly alone, because although you may be in control of your body when you’re in isolation, you’re never fully in control of your whole being until you’re amongst the populace. That is when you have to be strong, that’s when the fight really begins.
When you are used to isolation it is very easy to expect that no one else exists. That no one else is going about their lives with no knowledge of your situation, but they are. They’re out there living their lives completely ignorant of how much yours has changed. And yes, it may sound incredibly self-centred to believe that the world may have stopped turning, but it did stopped turning for me. Everything I’d planned to do has been put on hold. I should have been packing to go off to uni but instead I’m fighting cancer (something I did not plan on doing – it certainly wasn’t on my bucket list).
I thought that when I came home everything would be exactly as I’d left it and sure enough it was, in a way. But if feels different. When the car pulled up to the drive and I crossed the threshold, discarding my mask on the radiator cover, I smelt the same smells, the same draught wafted through the house sending a chill up my spine but it was still home. It was still the place I’ve lived in since I was born with the same atmosphere. But it was different. It is different. Because whilst the house may not have changed in the last 5 weeks, I certainly have. I’m not the same person I was when I left to go to A & E that Friday evening.
The strange thing is, I hadn’t realised how much I’d changed until I was thrown back into my original environment and I felt like somehow I didn’t belong. I know that when this is all over I will readjust and feel comfortable once again but for now I’m only starting to get used to it.
Now this all sounds very sombre for what should have been an uplifting trip home and it many ways it was. I got to walk into Kew Village and see people being well. Because all I’ve seen in the last 5 weeks are nurses, doctors and ill people. So to see people with no illness was very nice actually, even though I did cross the road whenever I saw a child or an old person, just to be on the safe side.
I may have got too over excited when I saw the tube rush below whilst I crossed the bridge but I feel that I’m allowed to be excited by ordinary life, because I’ve been so far away from it for so long, and yet it was only outside the hospital.
My sister, mum and I went to get a cup of coffee and sat outside so as not to immerse me in a possibly infectious environment. I was wearing my soft cotton beanie but my head was itching awfully, so I went to take it off and my mum very kindly and lovingly said, “Oh don’t take it off, you’ll scare people.” This is because I am not yet fully bald but have a lovely covering of what my mum calls baby hair, so yes, I do indeed look like an 18 year old baby. Lovely.
Mum drove me and her back to the hospital around 9pm on the Sunday night (I was allowed out for the same time on Sunday – this time at 1.2 neutrophils!!) As we drove past the Royal Star and Garter Home by the Richmond Gate entrance to Richmond Park I saw an elderly chap lying down on the pavement outside the home. I nudged mum to make her look too and then we realised he hadn’t collapsed or anything but was in fact doing crunches, on the pavement, by a main road, in the dark, 9 o’clock at night.
And at that moment, I knew what I’d been missing in isolation. Crazy random people who surprise you every day. I’d missed being surrounded by a world that can shock you at any moment, a world that makes you adapt and change your day to fit what it has planned for you. I suppose, in a way, I’ve had to adapt and change to fit this new world that I’m living in, but I’m okay with that. I like change. No one should be opposed to change. Change is good. Change is interesting, it makes life interesting. Maybe I could do without being SO interesting at the moment, but when I’m finally released back into the big wide world, I might feel like doing crunches on the side of the road late at night just because I can. Nah, I can’t be bothered to exercise, I’ll just sit there and down a hot dog.