A life more ordinary

It’s impossible to be in a panic all the time. Even the most unusual becomes normal after a while.

After a month of poor physical and mental health, things have become very ordinary all of a sudden.

The headaches seem to have passed, and while I haven’t been tempting seizures on the bike, I get the feeling that the drug tweaking might be working.

When I go out on my bike tomorrow, I hope I should have an epilepsy free ride.

I have been stressed lately, but for the first time in months it’s nothing to do with brain tumours.

I’m impatient to finish the first draft of my book on equal parenting. I only work half the week – because I look after my children the other half – and there suddenly doesn’t seem to be as much time to get the book done in the timescale I’d planned.

But at least it’s not fear that my illness will prevent me finishing the book that is stressful. Rather it’s the need to get the book out to reviewers in plenty of time for publication next Fathers’ Day.

It’s actually good to be stressed about something else. My worrying about whether one of my madcap projects will work or not is something very familiar to family.

It’s what makes me me: writer, entrepreneur, over planner, worrier.

I have an appointment with my neurologist next Tuesday, but I’m seeing it as no more than routine. I’ve a few questions about seizures and drugs, but nothing deep and meaningful. Nothing to fear.

I have a plan (fuelled by anti-seizure medication) to get back on the bike regularly and hopefully to go out with a cycling club over the winter.

In the meantime I’m running: half-heartedly training for the Grim Challenge, and then the even grimmer challenge of competing against my brother over 10k next spring. As someone reminded me recently, he’s one of only a handful of English runners to have run a sub-four minute mile. Gulp.

“You probably don’t want to talk about the tumor all the time, so I don’t know whether to bring it up or not,” said my brother on the weekend, during a run in which I demonstrated how a summer of cycling miles has stood me in good stead for doing long cross-country runs over steepish hills on the outskirts of Wolverhampton.

In the last two weeks I attended my last conference as a charity sector trainer. My condition was far less of a talking point than I expected. Only one delegate asked me how I was: in that meaningful way that people do without actually saying the word illness or tumour.

Whether through people’s uncomfort, ignorance or sheer indifference it was a relief not to have to spend the day talking about brain tumours with people I barely knew.

My condition has fallen to second, even third billing in conversations with my family and close friends. Sometimes it’s missed entirely. I thought it might come up at my daughter’s first parent’s evening. It didn’t. But did I mind her being in the nativity play?

(Long story involving a letter to the school about praying. Another time…)

I’m planning Christmas, holidays next year, even my next book. All without a single thought about low grade gliomas, radiotherapy, disability or the Liverpool Care Pathway.

My cancer reading has been put aside, replaced on my bedside table by books on feminism, walking, alternative medicine.

The previously ever present cycling literature, particularly the intricacies of another rather more famous cyclist’s medication, has returned to the top of the magazine pile.

My tumour is always there. In my head. And in my mind. But it’s not present every minute like it was. And that feels good.

It’s not something I ever want to try to hide, to avoid, or to blank out. Every now and again, it hits me unexpectedly: a sad story from one of the brain tumour charities. A song on the radio that I know will be played at my memorial service.

But over recent weeks it has felt pretty good for life to be wholly unremarkable. There will be a time for panic later, that’s guaranteed. For now, no news really is good news.


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