Today the sky is David Hockney blue. An unexpected bonus. A piece of delight, of joy. Normal.
There is normal in moments, the visit to the snowdrop garden on Sunday with my friend, the joy of the snowdrops, the mooching in the kitchen utensils section together in the garden centre, the decision of buying a colander for the allotment; shall I get the dinky turquoise one, or this lime green silicone one that folds flat? It is a good feeling when you know at the time you are having a good day. There is the yellow sign flashing on the motorway as I drive home. SALT SPREADING. Are we expecting a frost? Sherbet lemons that fizz in my mouth.
Several evenings this last week at sunset the sky is clear and there is Venus appearing first, followed by Jupiter, they hang in a line with a crescent moon between them. They are where they should be, where we know they will be. I can pick a random date three weeks from now (not actually random at all, 21 February, my fifth year ‘anniversary’ from diagnosis) and I can know where they will be in the night sky. I find that reassuring. Normal.
There is normal in my weekly piano lesson, followed by my visit to the cathedral garden, to see the snowdrops there. The garden is a graveyard, ancient gravestones line the paths, engraved with words; died age 82, died age five weeks. I am among the dead here. I don’t mind. I go inside the cathedral to get warm. Light candles and sit. In the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, where I often go, a small chapel off to the side, there is a prayer book where you can write a request for prayers. I never do, not being religious, but sometimes I read others. Am I snooping doing that? One says simply, ‘Forgive me.’ Another says, ‘Please help Audrey with her treatment and be able to lead a normal life.’ I close the book, tears in my eyes. ‘A normal life.’ Isn’t that what we all want? A normal life.
I remember the journalist Dina Rabinovitch writing about how she felt jealous of all the people who don’t have cancer (she died of breast cancer the year after I was diagnosed, same age as me). Yes I know exactly how she feels. Sometimes I feel that some of the lives that are lived around me are smug without cancer. Too much background noise to decipher what really matters. Too much unimportant stuff. That they can’t or don’t know how it is to ‘live with cancer’. Whatever stage it’s at.
Because there is me feeling the weight of cancer:
“Some days the weight of it all is too much.”
That proverbial albatross, it feels like a physical weight. Of those newly diagnosed, and those still years down the line still dealing with whatever comes up next. That’s most definitely not normal.
But there are shards of normal – for me. I scrape ice off the windscreen this morning. I am going to the pool. There is a lot of blue here. The tiny blue tiles in shades of blue that cover the shower, the steam room, the blue lights in the sauna, the blue of the pool, the dark blue edging, the turquoise blue of my swimming costume and my flip flops (with sequins). There’s me finding peace, now, at times. Normal.
This morning my US friends are all enraged. Komen, the largest US breast cancer charity behaving in a way that’s, well, just wrong. I don’t have all the facts yet, but it seems appallingly wrong, biased, unjust, prejudiced and right wing. (Reuters article here, Salon article here). I feel anger, but I also feel, ‘Well what can I do?’
At times like this, I am overwhelmed. The weight of cancer. It is overwhelming. I need to immerse myself in water. There’s me driving to the pool, and there is me realising that I have forgotten to clean my teeth today.