Monday, 26 November 2012

Loving books and reading

I keep thinking about books. I am in a reading phase at the moment, and I've been lucky to pick some great books to dip into. Or rather devour.

I was overwhelmed with donations of second hand books for the Macmillan Coffee Morning in September. Overwhelmed in an incredibly grateful way, and overwhelmed in a physical way. It was impossible to display them all we had so many. I'm not sure how much money was raised just from the book stall but I'm guessing in the region of £150.

The left overs - a car load - were taken to the Willen Hospice warehouse for selling in their book shop. But not before I whisked a small box load away for my own rekindled (but not with a kindle) pastime of leisure reading.  

So, what I hear you cry (well, in my imagination I do), has been keeping me up at night? What are the page turners that distract me when I should be putting the washing away, vacuuming, clearing the pile of admin currently residing in a box in the kitchen?

At the moment, it is Jodi Picoult's My sister's keeper - an extraordinary story. I'm not used to book reviewing but to give you an idea of what it's about: it is a book that shows what can go wrong in a family when a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Not an every day situation though, as they engineer a baby, Anna, whose cord cells (from the placenta) at birth could provide the life saving, genetically matched cells needed to cure their elder daughter. But, when the leukaemia returns, Anna is called on again and again as a tissue donor. She serves a lawsuit against her parents for using her body without consent. The story is told from many perspectives and you feel for the family members going through the anguish and torment. Slightly annoying is the relationship between the attorney and the woman appointed by the judge to give an account of the family and Anna's maturity for decision-making. But overall, I would definitely recommend this book as an absorbing, thought-provoking family saga.

Also, on the recommended list: The Friday Night Knitting Club. When I first got going on this, I thought it was going to be saccharine sweet, American frivolity. But in no time I was caught up in the twists and turns, and when tragedy did strike (it was not all saccharine frivolity after all) I actually cried. Probably on the chick lit end of the spectrum for some masculine tastes, but clearly this is not a problem for me. I felt like I'd snuggled under a fleecy blanket with a hot chocolate and found it an easy reading page turner.

A different type of story again, was Grace Williams Says it Loud. Now this was not always comfortable reading, describing as it did some sickening scenes of abuse. But it was also a touching love story between two individuals institutionalised and written off by society, but finding fun and adventure with each other despite the hardships. Another thought-provoking read I was grateful to have stumbled across.

I haven't converted to a kindle yet. I really like books as they are. The touch, the feel, the covers. Before kids, when I had some disposable income to call my own, I loved going into Waterstones and picking up their 3 for 2 offers. New books piled high waiting to be dived into.

Occasionally I think I would like to have a bookshop - probably with a cafe inside - in a strong, local community. Oh yes. A bit like Stony Stratford! But I suspect the right time for this may never come. I couldn't dedicate myself to such a venture with the kids the age they are and by the time I'm ready I fear there may be no books left as digital takes over. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy these paperback novels. I may even write one myself one day!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

An unsettling day

As someone who used to have cancer, I am often asked is everything OK now. My usual response is "I hope so. It should be."

I am always living with the consequences though. The cancer was stage IV which meant my treatment was full on, and the surgery substantial. Thank goodness it was caught before any secondaries took hold. Life goes on and I don't always think about it, but my daily routines after surgery are and never will be the same as before.

Today is a significant day as I go for my annual CT scan. My response to "Is everything OK now?" will be more accurate in a few days time when I get the result.

Am I anxious? A teensy bit. But also: Bring it on!

I don't relish the thought of the barium drink and the injection of contrast media, not to mention the general tedium of an hour or so hanging round the X-ray department, but it will certainly be reassuring to get the all clear (for now) at the end of it.

The whole process is unsettling. Two years on from surgery, it makes you remember what happened. Yesterday I was tired and emotional after a long drive home from work (until I re-set my emotional clock with an hour or so of ballet - hurrah!). It is difficult not to allow the occasional nagging worry from creeping in. What if something shows up that shouldn't be there. I am well; there is no reason to suspect anything untoward, but the original diagnosis was so unexpected I have certainly learnt you can never be 100% sure.

I will get through this afternoon, and look forward to treats afterwards. My nurse appointment is later in the month, so until then I need to put any anxiety to one side. Indeed I can daydream about hearing the outcome as a positive 'nothing showed on the scan'.

A couple more years of quarterly blood tests and annual scans and I think they will declare me in remission. Then I'll go through a different sort of unsettling phase where there are no blood tests or scans to demonstrate that I'm still OK. When people ask if everything's alright now I'll still be saying: "I hope so. It should be." And optimist that I am, that's what I believe.