It is six months and four days - 16th of June last to be exact - since Sue, the Macmillan nurse, rang to tell me about the verdict on the Pet-scan I had on the 8th day of June.
Stage 4 cancer.
It has spread to both lungs now. The only treatment they could offer is chemotherapy. I have refused it, as I did last year, not being brave enough to face all the dreadful side-effects.
I asked how long it would be before it killed me, but of course she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer that. “It won’t be days or weeks,” she said, by which we assumed she meant it could be months. But as I have just said – six months and twelve days have gone by and I’m feeling fine. No symptoms, no pain. I get out of breath more quickly than I used to and I fall asleep during the day quite often, but they are the only changes I have noticed. So, things could be worse.
Of course, things did get worse this year with the Loss of Heather on top of everything else. If only she were here. I know facing up to this would be so much easier. She wouldn’t let me get depressed the way I sometimes do. I have been offered “therapy” and “counselling” several times, but I don’t think so. I mean no amount of psychoanalysis can bring Heather back or ease this dreadful ache I have. It’s with me all my waking hours. I think Cyril is the same. It doesn’t seem to be growing less and the anniversary of her death is rushing toward us. A day that, I know, is not going to be one we will easily get through.
We have bought a machine that digitises video tapes and I’m slowly working through the hundreds of hours we have of them: Family weddings, christenings, get-togethers, holidays, and our various travels to assorted countries. It’s a lot of work cataloguing them all, but I am determined to get it done. The thing is, though, Heather is there in many of them, smiling, talking, alive on the screen. Oddly enough, it doesn’t upset me. seeing her there and her smile again is strangely comforting.
We spent Christmas at Jason and Fatia’s house near Portsmouth – we booked into a hotel and Jason picked us up each morning and ran us back in the evening. The visit enabled us to get to know Adam (13) and Aiden (10) and their mother, Fatia, a little better. Something denied to us these last few years. On Boxing night, or it may have been early in the morning, I dreamt of Heather for the first time since she died. She walked into the room, smiling, and said something like, “Hello, I’m back!” and walked away. I shouted after her, Heather! Heather!” but she had gone.
Cyril woke me, calling out, “Gerry, you are shouting, wake up.” It was the first time I have dreamt of her and found it quite upsetting.
Perhaps it would be better if I had belief, a belief in a life hereafter I mean, which in the normal sense I don’t. I have found myself talking to her on several occasions when I’m on my own. I don’t if Cyril is around. He would think I’m going off the rails and I know he worries about me as it is. I don’t want to add to his concerns.
I talk to her mostly when I’m in the garden or greenhouse where she used to spend a lot of time. Pottering. Every now and then she would ask me to dig a hole and move a plant or ask Cyril to trim some of the bushes.
I spend a lot of time imagining she is watching and listening to me. I can almost hear her saying, “No, don’t do that, Tott” or “Yes, you’ll enjoy doing that,” and lately, “Don’t drink any more, Tott.”
I want her to give me a signal of some sort so I know that she is watching and listening – but I know that’s a silly thought; I don’t really believe it will happen. My Bumble has gone, and I must accept that fact. It would be so wonderful if I could spend five minutes with her to apologise for all the wrongs she had to put up with, all my misdemeanours and the times I should have told her how deeply I loved her and never did. The awful thing is I didn’t realise just how deeply I did love her until she wasn’t here to tell. The guilt I carry, is, I suppose, all part of the mourning process. I just wish it were over. But it never will be, will it? She will always be here, with me, in my head.
And that’s okay, Bumble. I want you there, with me.
I want to cry, but the peculiar thing is I can’t and, so far, haven’t. Yes, tears roll down my face when I talk about her and a lump forms in my throat. I am sure the tears embarrass people, but I haven’t actually cried. You know, an out and out breakdown cry.
But I do cry for you, Bumble, all the time, in my head. I think you must know that.