Go With the Flow

I love Queens of the Stone Age. Their music is straightforward but intricate, always promising to take you somewhere good, then taking you somewhere better, an alternative journey to a familiar place, so when you arrive you see things a little differently. We’re travelling down the side-roads that wind across and parallel the highway. Sunlight flashes through the trees.

Music has always inspired my writing, the vibe, the lyrics, the pure emotion: humour, love, anger, joy, and melancholy. I’ve come to realise that last is one of the defining emotions of great rock. Perhaps that is why it will be forever young.

The great thing about lyrics is they leave a lot of space for your own imagination. I once wrote a story in part inspired by a Hindi song called Mausam, by Nitin Sawhney. It’s a gorgeous piece of music and I determinedly refused to translate the lyrics until well after I’d finished writing because I didn’t want to risk the emotional landscape it had created in my mind and heart. When I dd, I discovered I wasn’t far off the mark. Music really is a language.

So – go with the flow. I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

The Thing I really hate about cancer…

One of the Three Things…

Among the Many Things I hate about cancer is that built inside it, right at the core, the boss-level challenge, is something that is the opposite of optimism.

I hate that it is so hard to forget. Partly that is the treatment which, right now, is all-encompassing. The pills, the routines, the schedules and appointments, the aches in body and soul. But what I really hate most…

…I’m going to take a moment here because I realise I’m using the H-word a lot here and want to say that yes, it a strong word, one of the very strongest, here it is justified. I don’t like coffee, I don’t hate it. I don’t like dogs. I fear them but I don’t hate them. And there are lots of things I really don’t like about cancer, but I don’t hate them. With this one thing my Hate is justified. The Hate is strong in this one.

… what I hate most is that having lived most of my life in anticipation of tomorrow this disease works hard to take that away from me. Slowly, slowly, one thing at a time, yesterday becomes a better place.

I used to be able to write every day.

I used to be able to use a broom for more than 10 minutes.

I used to be able to run up that hill I now struggle to walk. (And every time I do I’m wondering if I will have to stop halfway. But no way. Not yet, not today.)

I used to be able to…

If the optimism of tomorrow is being denied me, I still have the moment, that eternal and endless beautiful place called ‘Now’. The sun shines, shining always above the clouds, through the clouds, down on me. I sit in the garden and feel the warmth and see the life that heat and light bring. And when it rains I know my tree ferns are happy and that makes me happy too. ‘Now’ might not last for very long, but it also lasts forever.

And yet having these things pared away reveals life’s essentials. That has been an important gift.

People tell me I’m brave. Maybe, but if so, it’s an everyday kind of brave that thousands and millions of people have. I’m fortunate my passion for writing lets me express myself, but in all honesty so can everyone I’ve met since I’ve been under treatment, and every single one of them is worth listening to. Cancer is a philosophical, contemplative disease.

All I want to do here is let people know what it’s like for me in the hope it might help you, so you’ll be a little better informed about what it’s like if you, or you and yours have the misfortune to go through this. I’ll say it again: get tested, people[1]. You don’t want to come over here, there’s nothing to recommend it. Don’t be scared.

Go with the Flow. Yes, I will. The current is strong, but I’m a good swimmer and I can keep my head above the water. I just need to keep telling myself I’m not circling the plug hole.

Even if I am, it’s a way off yet. There are places you can see, and sometimes after a good hard look you can decide not to go there. Once, for me, it was the bottom of a bottle. This one, I’m not so sure. There’s no bottle I can put down. I still hope by some miracle, and it would have to be just that, that those currents may change.

And we Gullens are an obstinate breed. We just keep going, even when we’ve run out of road.

So not yet. Not today.

Fuck cancer.


[1] Cis, trans, intersex, if you were born with a prostate you have the risk. Get tested.

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