Sunday, 3 March 2013

Roadhouse

Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel. We're going to the Roadhouse. We're gonna have a real good time
Roadhouse Blues - The Doors

My fingers have been prised, reluctantly, from the controls

I'm used to being in control. In the (nearly) 22 years since I left home, I've always considered myself thoroughly independent. I'm also used to having (or thinking I have) nearly boundless inner reserves to draw on to get stuff done. I'm the guy who lived with no electricity or running water. I'm the guy who trekked 5,000m mountain passes in Peru. I'm the guy who set up a business in the teeth of the financial crisis. And started a family at the same time. Dammit, I'm the guy who swam with alligators/ survived by eating lip protector/ negotiated (alright paid) to be released from being held hostage by Tigrayan villagers/ and smooth talked his way out of trouble with the customs men in Mali and the policemen in Pune. I'm not quite Ernest Shackleton, I grant you, but I'm the guy who can run a business, train to teach and be a Dad to three young children, all at once.

Only I can't do all these things, and fight myeloma.

My medics, my tutor, and most of all Marisa, have spent the last few weeks cajoling and commanding me to let go. I find it incredibly hard. I'm frightened of the boredom that might ensue, and more of the loss of control. Keep your hands on the wheel, Alex. Maybe the last 6 months, when I've continued my business, and my teaching, in the teeth of treatment, have been testament to my strength. Maybe they have just been testament to my stubbornness. Right now, I'm not sure I know.

I've always prided myself on keeping control, whatever might be going on inside. Twice in my life that has been hard to do. Jump back to 1995. I switched degree courses mid-stream in my third year. A great decision, but it gave me a lot of catching up to do. The workload got to me. For a month or two I used to hide when I couldn't cope - climb over the fence and spend the night sat under a tree in the college sports ground, where no-one would find me. Maybe my girlfriend knew something was up. I doubt anyone else did. Forward to 2002. I was working in a small consultancy, rapidly taking on responsibilities. Never underestimate the toxic powers of stress. There were times I couldn't disconnect my mind from work at all. I broke out in boils on my arms and legs. But I hope only Marisa and a few of my friends noticed things weren't right.

It's impossible to carry on the same pretence when you are being assaulted by myeloma. The impact on my mobility, my energy, my focus are undisguisable, not to mention the hair loss. The facade of invincibility tumbles down.

So, for the next month I will focus only on me, and the journey I must go through. And when I have sufficient energy, I will focus it on Marisa, Ben, Gyles and Lyndon. When I have more to give than that, I will review my life, and see just what and where deserves me. I refuse to be grateful to myeloma for anything, but I have learnt a lot, lately, about what really matters.

Inevitably, sticking the blog up last week generated quite a lot of messages (thank you all). Several people discussed issues associated with bravery, strength and determination. I'll let you into a secret. I'm not brave or strong - but I have no other choice. If it was just for me, I'd probably have given up already, but (to steal a thought from my friend and fellow traveller Sean Murray) I'm not battling for me. I'm just doing all I can for Ben, Gyles & Lyndon's Daddy, and for Marisa's husband. They're worth everything I've got.

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