Saturday, 28 November 2009

Quick Catch-Up

As I write this Nick is landing in Sydney.

Last night I said goodbye to Nick at Paddington then stood on the platform watching the Heathrow Express slip away westward. I thought that I might cry but I didn’t. I have learned that crying often happens when I somehow feel that I’m being deprived of something. But I know that I will see Nick again. And quite soon really.

Being with Nick has taken up a lot of my time and attention. I’m alone again. It seems like a good moment to catch up on where I am with treatment and future plans.

Money continues to be a worry. But so far, everything has worked out somehow or another. So perhaps I should desist from worrying. It doesn’t contribute anything to the situation. I feel compelled to tell you that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been unfailingly unhelpful. Since the beginning they have bombarded me with paperwork. Last month I received seven separate letters from them in a two-day period. Last week they sent me a fifty-page form asking me for all the information that I have already given them. They assessed me as fit for work when I was recovering from surgery and having intravenous chemotherapy. I have had to fight them every step of the way for my benefits and it has been exhausting. Six months of illness has generated a file of paper three inches thick. Each of their mad missives necessitates a telephone call, a long period on hold, an inane conversation with yet another person who doesn’t know what they are talking about and cannot help and finally a wait of indeterminate length until someone more qualified calls one back. Or, sometimes, does not. During that time one cannot leave the house nor even use the phone for fear of missing the call and having to start the whole hellish process over from the beginning again. It is not the kind of help one needs when one is ill.

The Inland Revenue, by contrast, have been marvellous. In July I contacted the Inspector of Taxes to explain my situation. After waiting three months I received a letter in reply. The inspector informed me that, as a writer, I am able to spread my earnings over two years. Thus, at a stroke, I halved my tax bill.

When the chemotherapy ended I thought I was fine and fit as a flea. With hindsight I can see that I was actually quite sick and very weak. In the past week or so I’ve begun to feel stronger, although immensely tired. Yesterday was my twelfth radiotherapy session, out of twenty-five. So I’m nearly halfway through. Since I injured my back a couple of weeks ago there has been quite a lot of fluid collecting there. I’m quite distressed about that. It feels like I’ve taken a step backward. Parts of my arm, back and breast are still numb following the surgery.

On the whole I’m really pleased with my progress. I tolerated the chemo very well. Although I felt sick and all my hair fell out, I did not have to be hospitalised at any stage. As previously noted, my hair is growing back rapidly.

The radiotherapy is really causing me very little bother.

My concern now is whether or not to take Tamoxifen. This is such a big and complex issue that I’ve been avoiding writing about it. Every day I change my mind five times before breakfast. I am swayed in one direction then the other each time I read something new or get another opinion. However, I am gradually marshalling all the information I need to make a decision. I will soon write a long piece dedicated solely to Tamoxifen and tell you everything that I have found out.

In the meantime I think about what else the future might hold. It's only twenty-six more days until I leave for Australia.