On the Fringe…

I went to the Edinburgh Fringe festival a couple of weekends ago with my dear friend Shiri.

It was brilliant. We caught up with Katie’s (my bestie who was visiting recently) friend Sam who I met while Katie was here and I loved her so we’re friends now. She’s an actress and we caught her improv show, which was fun. Like an actual actress! How cool is that!

We also met a guy From Seattle named Sam. It was a weekend of Sams. I wrote a limerick about him because that’s what I do now when I meet people –

I once met a man from Seattle,
I was happy that he did not prattle.
We met at Ed Fest,
I asked what he liked best:
A puppet show that was a battle

So we mostly went to great shows but we also went to one that wasn’t good, at the insistence of Seattle Sam. It was a puppet show about puppets dying. Yes, as you might have guessed from the limerick, it was a battle to watch. People laughed, we didn’t really get the jokes, they were crude and meaningless.

But one of the puppets was there through whole thing: the narrator, an old man who talked about the ever-moving, ever-changing phases of life. Seasons come and seasons go, time is transient.

He told of a man who feels every death in the world as if it’s a personal loss. If a man dies on the other side of the world, he is sad because he imagines it is his own father. If a woman dies, he imagines it is his daughter. The narrator explains:

What is the source of this poor man’s grief? It is the unbearable truth of the world. And because it is unbearable, we have closed our hearts to it, so long ago that we have forgotten how to open them.

Have we closed our hearts off to some of the world’s unbearable grief? It’s possible, I think we may tend to minimise a lot of things, a lot of things are more normalised now we can see it all on tv. But you can’t take everything on as personal or you’ll never get out of bed.

While most scenes in this show were insufferable, this old man popped up every now and then to discuss humanity and the world. And as it reached the end, he got more tired, and in one of his speeches, he loses momentum, he whispers his last words as he sinks to his knees, his final thoughts barely heard by those listening. He falls, his final resting place on a black box, in the middle of the stage, everyone silent.

Moments after, a big menacing creature ambles out. While rather scary, it has a look of quiet resignation on its face, almost as if it is a protector. Human sized, it reaches down and it picks up the small fallen wooden old man and then it pauses for a moment, turns around and looks straight at me. Not just out into the audience, not just to my side of the room, it looks at me. And for a few brief seconds, death and I look each other right in the eyes.

And I knew it meant me no harm. And if my time were to come, it would be there to take me in its arms and carry me away.

Yes yes, I’m not religious, I don’t believe in spirits or death being a big menacing monster who holds you in your final moments. But there was something rather reassuring about this moment. We are not far from the big monster many times during our lives, sometimes more than others. It was Epicurus who said:

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here…

Having said that, I think I’ll try to keep the hell away from old mate death for as long as possible thanks, because I’m busy, I’ve got lots of things to get done before we meet again. And there’s nothing actually reassuring about dying, death is death, not of us want to die, and it’s not nice on all counts. But it was nice that it took the time to wander past to say hello, and kept on moving on its way, leaving me with a reminder of how lucky I am to be alive.

Sound like an analogy for something?

Anyway, the other bit of life wisdom from the festival was from a play about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now this one we actually did enjoy. The poignant line from it was:

Home is not a place, it is a thing that you make. That is Freedom.

Aah. There you go. It is true though. Where I grew up will always be home, but so is London. And other places have been too. Home is made by the people you surround yourself with, and the life you make for yourself, and the freedom that gives you. So thank you to all the people who have contributed to my feeling of home throughout the various places I have decided to settle throughout my life.

Anyway, I highly recommend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I had a fantastic time. I will be back every year.

New Year updates

Now that all of the excitement of Christmas is over and my parents are gone, it’s time to do some reflecting.

December was a big month. I turned 30, I had the worst few weeks of my life health wise (physical and mental health) when I was feeling so terrible and going through so much pain and stress, and on top of that Charlie has decided to leave me and move out.

I had no warning at all, no idea it was coming, so it’s been a total shock and not easy to deal with at first, but I am pushing on with purpose into the new year.

He is still being supportive when I need him for something and I am grateful that he got me through the worst bits, and definitely through the last of my injections. I will always be grateful for everything he has done, he was wonderful.

Having my parents around has been amazing and I am grateful to them for their support. It was good timing that they were here.

I thought it might be a lot more difficult from here, being on my own now, but then I realised I’m not on my own. I’m never on my own. I have such amazing friends to support me whenever I need them, and I am staunchly independent anyway so I’ll survive. And as I say, the worst of it and those bloody injections are gone!

Dad and I did a cover of Alanis Morissette’s ‘Hand in my pocket’ on Christmas day after hearing it playing at a café the day before. I’ll put a link to the video up here soon, but I have a new appreciation of that song now, I’m pretty sure it was written about me. Very poignant.

And all I can say is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine.

Trex week wrap up

This week I met with a 4th year medical student who needed someone to use for a case study. You mean I can be the centre of attention and talk about myself? Oh ok! He was nice. We had fun. I’ll see him again sometime.

On Thursday I stopped in to grab my lunch at the UCLH café and came across a lovely couple of older guys also having lunch. I had to poke in at the table with them because it was so busy and I’m a bit tricky, needing two chairs (one for my water backpack). But they moved and shuffled around to make room for me. I eavesdropped on their conversation and one of them had some sort of cancer and it sounded like he was going to be starting chemo. I’m with you brother. Maybe I’ll see you around soon. When I got up to leave they insisted on taking my plate and scraping it and putting it away for me. Thanks guys. Things like this, as always, make my day. What lovely people I keep coming across.

Then I walked through the main UCLH foyer and there was a baroque quartet playing. I always enjoy the mid week entertainment they have there.

So glad it’s the weekend. MRI on Sunday (I don’t seem to be able to keep away from the place!), but I’ll try to slot in a few fun things too.

I never thought I would get cancer

Of course I didn’t, who does.

But now it is just a part of my life. Only for a short time, I hope, I desperately hope it doesn’t come back again. But here we are.

But it’s ok, I don’t really mind much. Seriously. Everyone else seems to mind a lot more than I do. I’m not sad, angry, upset. There’s no reason to feel these sorts of things. Tricky things happen in life and you take them on, tackle them and come out the other side stronger. I don’t see why this is any different.

I honestly don’t feel like my life is any worse off than it was before this. Is that a strange thing to say? Sure, I’m going to a few less gigs at the moment, and I’m spending my money on a few less spontaneous holidays (my bank account is grateful). I’m also a lot more flaky with committing to social events. But I’m still going out to bars, I’m still hanging out with my friends, my boyfriend, going out for brunch, coffee, going to parties, seeing bands, blogging…

I’m only going to work for about 1ish weeks out of every 5… I guess that’s quite a change. That’s definitely the biggest thing that’s different in my life. But I’m still in touch and I work when I can. Everyone else I’ve spoken to going through chemo is always amazed that I’m working at all. They say they’re not able to. Um… well… I get one good week, so I’m going to make it as normal as possible.

Anyway, I’m also reading a lot more, and I’m making new friends, and having brand new experiences and adventures that I never would have had… I’m not saying I’m glad it’s all happened obviously! But I don’t have any negative thoughts towards it.

Although what IS annoying is that I have this huge lump on my face for a year. I think that’s probably the worst part. But you know… even with that I see more positives than negatives (God, I’m annoying, aren’t I!) I’ve seen patients with lower jaw sarcomas that are huge. The whole side of their face is swollen, and often sarcoma people are almost unrecognisable pre to post surgery. Poor, poor things. Mine isn’t going to be that much of a difference. I mean it’s always there, and you can’t not notice it. But I’m getting really good at angles for selfies, and often if people don’t know it’s there then they don’t realise. I’m also learning to smirk instead of smile, hides it a bit.

I am the person in the ward sitting there smiling while I’m getting my chemo. I’m the person who’s excited to go into the ward each day and see everyone. I’m the person who’s excited about getting kitted up with my new backpack of chemo to head off to the hotel. I’m the person thinking it’s a great fun adventure when the fire alarm goes off in the hotel and we all have to traipse down 5 flights of stairs (I got to catch up with all my friends out on the street!)

Yes, I’m the person who only has positive things to find when people are complaining. Who, even when something bad is happening to me, manages to only find something good from it. I look at myself sometimes and roll my eyes. I’m sure I’m annoying. Oh well! I don’t really think there’s any other way worth being.

What was the song? Always look on the bright side of life.

Something like that. Life is too short to not enjoy it!