Reflections on the festive period 2023

As ever in our house it was a busy build up to Christmas. Two school age children in different schools meant two carol services, two Christmas Fairs, and all the other random events they have. My son even had a trip to the National Theatre to see The Witches the week before he finished, a great thing to do, but it came with a return time of 11.30. As he hadnt eaten since 5pm, that meant a late night, which was tough when they were expected back in school at the normal time the next day.

My daughter had two university interviews as well, one on line, the other in person. That was days worth of travel the week before I finished. Fingers crossed it went well though, but we wont hear the results until the New Year.

Then my work has been the most stressful I can remember for a long time. I was covering a second job, which had very quickly gone south, and we were struggling to catch up. This was on top of my day job, which is booming right now as the business area is expanding, so that needed my full attention as well. I was cancelling meeting with friends in the run up to Christmas, which felt very sad.

At the same time we were conscious of the rise of covid again. My wife is obviously rightly concerned about catching it, as she is having chest problems anyway. So the rounds of parties and social events, even school carol concerts were bringing in an added risk to her.

One group of parents organised a Christmas social, drinks and nibbles at a local pub. We hadnt been before, so decided to try and get along, and were made to believe that it was to be held in a room at the pub. Unfortunately, it wasnt explained that the room was the outdoor covered area, heated by a handful of bar heaters. It was lovely, and looked fabulous, however my wife very quickly got extremely cold, and her body totally seized up. I had to gently walk her to the car after being there for about 20 minutes, quickly putting on the heating, and racing her home, where she crawled up the stairs and collapsed into bed with a couple of hot water bottles.

This is a new problem in the cold. Her body cannot cope with the extreme. It is almost like she has a certain amount of power, so her brain diverts it to keeping her warm, taking it away from the other bodily functions. Like a phone in low power mode I guess. And this process can happen really quickly – as above it was about 15 minutes from being in the relatively cold air.

The other major thing she is battling with right now is food. She will often suddenly rush to be sick during meals, unless the food is really bland. There doesnt yet seem to be a pattern we can detect. We know she has an intolerance to cooked eggs and alcohol, but there are other unknown items that lead to this violent reaction. The children and myself have sadly become accustomed to her running from the table to be sick, carrying on our conversation until she is finished.

It does mean that when eating out, we always have to clock the toilets first, and make sure we have a table with clear access, as well as being in a quiet area. It can be quite the demand during the festive period when businesses are trying to jam in as many tables as possible.

This has been a sad development for my wife, as she feels very restricted in what she can do. For someone who was really sociable in the past, yet again cancer is squeezing down the space she can live in, pulling the walls around her. I dont think that enough is made of this element of the disease. Whilst we rightly see pictures of frail and ill people, there must also be many more similar to my wife who are not bed ridden, but cant easily go out as they dont know what their bodies reaction will be. Not actively in treatment, with living with cancer. Almost forgotten about.

Like the drinks mentioned above, even sometimes events can be restrictive without people realising. A simple trip out in the cold to see Christmas lights will have a long term knock on effect, in our case we know that we will have to write the next day off. An invite to dinner has to be planned and executed such that we have an exit route, and a clear day the day after to recover. Not from the hosts cooking, but from the simple act of putting a certain combination of seasoning on a dish.

Many days these days are spent with my wife on the sofa. Her stomach is very swollen, and can be uncomfortable. We know the cancer has spread to various organs away from its original home, and I suspect that the issues described above are the result of that spread. The next round of scans are in January, where I imagine we will be told that it is getting steadily worse, but at this time there will be nothing they can do about it.

There is a race going on now, between my wifes strength and resilience, and the spread of the cancer. The hope is that she can hold on before the tumours become too strong and that a cure has been found. After nearly 8 years post diagnosis, the odds are stretching out, but we always have hope. She has defied the doctors predictions so far.

Last year at this time I said I couldnt see my wife surviving until Christmas, the one just past. This year I have no idea. She is becoming weaker in some aspects, and stronger in others. The coming year is an important one in our house, as my daughter is hoping to go to university, and I would dearly love my wife to be strong enough to help her settle in. That will be September 2024. Lets hope that medical science has a breakthrough scheduled for announcement in Jan!

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