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Our lives at the moment are ruled by uncertainty. I never know from day to day exactly how I will feel. Will I be nauseous? Tired? Full of energy? It’s impossible to tell in advance. The uncertainty doesn’t stop with how I will feel; it extends to my treatment. I was supposed to go into hospital four days ago to start the fourth cycle of chemotherapy, and yet I am still at home. Even now we don’t know when I will actually go in, although we do know that I am moving higher up the priority list. But underlying all this uncertainty is one huge, almost inevitable certainty, although even the date of my certain death is uncertain.

It is the uncertainty that makes day-to-day living hard to manage. Gillian and I have completely different ways of coping with it. I cope by simply ignoring the uncertainty, making as few plans as I can get away with, and a total refusal to be embarrassed when I do have to cancel plans at short notice. For example, I was supposed to meet a group of friends and ex-colleagues for coffee tomorrow afternoon. Who knows, I may still be able to do so, if I don’t go into hospital tomorrow, but I have had to warn them this evening that I may not make it tomorrow. But I’d still love to meet them if I don’t go in so I am very reluctant to actually cancel the date. Hard on them, and potentially embarrassing for me, but it’s simply part of life that I have become used to.

Gillian, on the other hand, copes by making backup plans, and secondary backup plans in case the first backup plan goes awry. It’s extremely stressful when the second backup plan gets activated and we have to start thinking about what to do in the now distinctly possible event that something else goes wrong. This matters far more to Gillian than it does to me, because she has a real life to lead, and has responsibilities at work, most of which are nowhere near as flexible as my own responsibilities. It’s easy to see why day-to-day life is harder on her than it is on me.

But the hardest thing of all  is that underlying certainty. It doesn’t bother me for myself, and there is no reason that it should. After all, I won’t be around to suffer the consequences. But Gillian, and the rest of my family and friends, will have a long time to live with my no longer being around. In the climate of uncertainty in which we live, this seems to me to be the worst sort of irony, that the certainty we crave will be delivered by the one event we all hope to avoid for as long as possible. We do both know that there is a small chance that I will live for more than the two years maximum that was predicted for me, but that is too remote a possibility to hang ones hopes on. Neither of us does so. I am content to manage by living each day as well as I can. I don’t think that can ever be enough for Gillian, and it saddens me enormously that it has to be that way. What can I do but apologise? Apologies are no consolation, I’m afraid, but they are all I can offer. In the face of all that, the only thing I can offer is gratitude and love, which I do without reserve. Gillian is a wonderful woman to look after and love me through this terrible time, and I am a lucky man. That’s the real certainty in this story.

{ 7 } Comments

  1. Gillian | 29 March 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Chris mentioned my endless plans and back-up plans. It’s the end of the Financial Year for my main customer, and I have lots of milestone reports to deliver, plus a number of rather important meetings to go to at fixed times and rarely in Malvern. And I’ve got to deliver & collect Chris from hospital at some indeterminate point. “Plan A” and its back-up, “Plan B”, went out of the window last Thursday when there was no bed free. I reckon I’m on “Plan H” now, and still counting……..

  2. icyjumbo | 29 March 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Having just listened to each of plans A–H, I can report that Plan H is no exaggeration. And I’m sure it won’t end there.

  3. Richard P | 29 March 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Dear Gillian & Chris,
    We’re sorry to hear that the postponements are continuing, and hope that if we appeared somewhere within plans A-H we can still be included in any plans I-Z. We really enjoyed seeing Chris during our somewhat stochastic time last week, and hope that this gave Gillian a bit more time to concentrate on the joys of business trips.
    Best wishes,
    Richard & Fabienne.

  4. icyjumbo | 29 March 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    We’ve just heard from Gillian’s mother that she was particularly glad that you were able to be “part of plans A–H”, as it meant that Gillian was able to visit her, something she was looking forward to. Plans I and J involve a direct train down to Cheltenham, which looks very convenient as G has another meeting tomorrow.

  5. frosty | 29 March 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    If I can ever help as a backup plan Zi.ii.iii just shout. I now work some of the week in Tewkesbury so only one junction up from Cheltenham and am a dab hand at taxi driving as the sproglets will testify

  6. Mark Cottle | 3 April 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s struck me that we humans seem to have a particular weakness when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. We seem often to dislike it more than other things that are actually directly detrimental. It’s one of the “big” questions that occupies my mind these days. If I had a world shattering answer you’d be among the first I’d share it with – sadly I don’t yet.

    In the meantime, I’d just like to say that to play a part in any plan ‘Z’ of yours would be a privilege and worth more than many plan ‘A’s I’m likely to figure in.

  7. icyjumbo | 3 April 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve thought for a long time that Depression was strongly linked with the sensation of loss of control. Not the actual loss of control, you understand, but the feeling that you don’t have it. I’ve seen it work that way in so many of my friends and family. Confusingly, if you accept that you don’t have control over something, and let the uncertainty wash over you, it has much less power to hurt. Fortunately I’m in the latter position these days; it’s a quirk of my nature. In the old days I would definitely have felt the loss of control over my life. Now I know the parts I am in control of, and I relish those to the full. Calling on friends and family for help is one of the consequences of that, and it’s lovely to know that there is such a long list of people who will step in as and when. Plan Z is far too far down the line for you, I have to say. As long as you understand that the plans aren’t made in advance, they are a response to the moment. That is, plan C arose once plan A fell, and plan B needed a backup. That often means that we are able to resort to more local help, which can more immediately be supplied. But I promise, if the local help fails, we will look a little further abroad. Yes, Wales is abroad 🙂