It was right at the beginning of December when I had a very early Christmas card from a friend who was getting in touch to tell me that her husband had finally died. He had been bed-bound with a significant care package for two and a half years, and wheelchair-bound for some years before that. So his death was not unexpected, but I know from my own experience that knowing your loved one must soon die does not necessarily make it any easier when it happens.
Even as I was writing to his wife, I received a phone call to tell me that my cousin’s wife had died. Again it was not unexpected, but again that doesn’t particularly help those left behind. That meant another letter for me to write, but only another ten days passed by before I was putting pen to paper once more because of the death of another friend. She had been amazing as she battled her illness, and a real inspiration to us all.
They say that things happen in threes, and the remainder of the run-up to Christmas Day saw me having happier news as I opened my cards and also made a fair few phone calls: you know the ones, which you mean to make during the year and never get around to. I also received a good few calls, and one unexpected visit from a friend who was at school and university with me. He and his wife called on their way back home to Lancashire. It was really good to see them, especially as it had been very many years since our last meeting.
So I was looking forward to spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day with my family. However, it was not to be: Christmas Eve saw first my grandson and then my granddaughter stricken with the dreaded norovirus. Although they recovered fairly quickly, my daughter was the next to suffer for a few days. All this meant that I steered clear of them over the Christmas period until any danger of infection was past, particularly because I wanted to stay fit for my various medical appointments which were due to take place shortly. My new year was starting with six appointments in seven days between 2 January and 8 January, involving blood tests, hospital treatment, GP and consultants.
In consequence, I had a quiet Christmas period. I did go to church on Christmas morning, but thereafter I was pretty much on my own for a few days. Perhaps surprisingly, I did not feel particularly lonely or depressed. I was able to spend time writing blog material (even on Christmas Day!), watching films, doing crosswords, as well as sifting through my many hundreds of slides largely taken in the period from the 1960s to the 1980s. One reason for looking at these is to search for shots of my aunt and uncle taken when they lived on Vancouver Island in Canada. My cousin has asked me to have a look for a project she is working on. Although I haven’t yet come up with anything worthwhile, it has been a splendid walk down memory lane. The early years of my daughter’s life are well covered, together with so many memorable shots of my wife.
Eventually, we decided that it would be safe to get together on 2 January for a delayed Christmas celebration: the first Christmas celebration of 2013?! Although the family had been able to do most of their celebrating previously, it was really good to be able to join them for a fun occasion, and to be able to share some presents around. In fact, we had a sort of late Boxing Day on the following Sunday, so I didn’t really miss out at all on Christmas activities.
The 8th January 2013 saw the first Day Hospice of the year for me at the hospice. As both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day had fallen on a Tuesday, this was the first get-together for us Tuesday folks for three weeks. It was almost like going back to school for the start of a new term as we met up and talked about how the Christmas break had gone. One of our number was not there as she is currently in hospital, and we also heard the sad news about the death of one of our former volunteers who had helped to look after me and the others during the first year or so of my hospice time.
I had an appointment with the clinical psychologist who helps me so much. One of the issues that I reported on was the outcome of my consultation the day before, when my consultant told me that my treatment was no longer effective and I would have to cease receiving Abiraterone. This hormone therapy has worked wonders for me for eleven months, giving me a huge increase in my quality of life. So I have really appreciated receiving it, and naturally would have loved to think that it would go on indefinitely. However, I know that is unrealistic and I have felt for a few weeks that there were signs of its effect diminishing.
I also had a word with the hospice doctor to let her know how things were going. My consultant will be doing his best for me, I know, and will be seeking some other treatment for me. Meantime, just being able to talk it through with the folks at the hospice gave reassurance and support as usual, allowing me to feel fairly relaxed about things.
So the New Year has commenced with a degree of uncertainty about the future. However, there is nothing new in that, and I am so grateful to know that I have the love and support, not just of the hospice, but also of all my other Blessing of Teams (see previous blog).