It has been awhile. Mostly I’ve been waiting. First I was waiting to heal after surgery, and then I was, and still am, waiting for radiation. I did the pre-screening for my radiation treatments the week before last and I thought treatments would start this week, but it will be next week. Apparently this happens—the planning process can take longer than expected. I can live with that, but just wish someone had told me.
As anyone reading this can probably tell, waiting makes me irritable. Once radiation begins I go every weekday for 4 weeks, so it is, as a physicist friend of mine would say, perturbative. But the main reason I hate the waiting is that I can only stop thinking persistently about cancer and cancer treatment once that treatment is over.
I have been reading a lot, and maybe the list of books (some for work, some for pleasure) says something, or maybe it’s an interesting kaleidoscopic picture of what’s on my mind right now. Or maybe it’s the story of how I’m filling my time, knowing that no matter what I do it won’t make my radiation treatments begin any earlier, or more importantly, end any sooner.
When I first got diagnosed with breast cancer I read all the “Miss Marple Mysteries” by Agatha Christie. They were my drug of choice. Then, pre-operatively I read The Long Walk by Brian Castner, because I thought it might help me. Post-operatively, I read Old Filth by Jane Gardam, a lovely gift from my agent—don’t let the title fool you. Then two serious books, both for work, followed the initial post-op period: Hunger by Roxane Gay; and Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors by Susan Sontag. There were also pop-up versions of Alice in Wonderland and Le Petit Prince, both beautiful and immersive.
And then more distraction came in the form of new gifts: The Dry a first novel by Australian author Jane Harper (thank you Bob Miller), and The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers, thanks to my buddies at Algonquin Books, who also sent Young Jane Young and The Leavers. I also bought another couple of Agatha Christies, and read a John Le Carre novel I got from the library along with the one Maisie Dobbs mystery I hadn’t read. I started a few books and didn’t finish them, finding them not distracting enough, or annoying in some way I no longer have the patience for. Yesterday was Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air (for work) and maybe today will be another Agatha Christie. I have never been a big reader of mysteries, but the sense they give of a restoration of order, of bad things being put right as well as they can be, comforts me.
So, I’m reading books about illness and thinking about it as a topic for writing—that’s satisfying. I’m reading entertaining books that make me believe in justice—that’s satisfying. The big picture of my health is good and my prognosis is excellent—that’s satisfying.
But, still, I’m waiting.