Whilst I point the finger at Chemotherapy for rendering me out of my mind for some time, that is not at all the same as the erosion and steady loss of cognitive ability that I am now experiencing, though it does have the same genesis.
On my final interview with the doctor in charge of my case, when I asked how long it would take for me to recover from this cognitive impairment, he told me that I wouldn’t and Chemo has an aging effect which is greater the higher the age bracket and at 70 there’s no going back and the effects are experienced as much more intense than they would be in someone younger.
A small but significant example of this was yesterday throwing my ice cream tub sink-side waste container in the bin. In that moment the connection of ice cream container re purposed as a waste container was absent, it and its contents were all just rubbish. I didn’t notice it until this morning when my handy coffee grounds container was absent and I had a vague recollection of having binned it.
Walking through my work room after putting the coffee on, I was assailed by the feeling of walking through a room of familiar things as a stranger. The inner connection to all that stuff was absent unless and until I focused on a particular thing and I remembered it and it’s use or purpose. In fact, making stuff keeps my mind busy in creative expression, that spark that has been there and driven me all my life.
I am experiencing an increasing vagueness with reality, somewhat like walking through clouds, I am disoriented. It feels like my roots are coming loose and I can no longer rely on the familiarity of things in my life. Perhaps inevitably, I feel I am loosening up as the end of my time approaches. Certainly, much that was once important to me is now spurned by my mind. I cannot engage as I once did with politics, a main focus for decades of my life, both professionally and personally. I now feel politics as old junk, up to the same tricks and games as always throughout my life. I feel it is only getting worse because we’ve yet to find an effective way of getting rid of the self serving corrupt criminal class of politicians, though I still dream of democracy… we could certainly do with it.
Another curious part to all this is the increasing time I spend on every aspect of making stuff, spending more time on the flavour of each task and in no rush to complete it. I consider that a bonus, because all making involves a great deal of uninspiring tedium and I find myself engaging with that as never before, positively enjoying the necessary (absolutely vital) dull processes of making. A thought occurs to me that the repetitive, dull, bits are the kind of work people hire out, yet for me they are intimately linked to the creative process and I would lose something if I hired them out. Especially now, as my mind slowly slips from my grasp.
There is nothing here for me to regret. I cannot blame the Chemotherapy (cancer treatment) for my loss, without the Chemo I’d already be dead. Every moment of life I now live has been granted me by the Chemo and Radio therapy (yes, brutal, but never as brutal as cancer) which have cleared the secondary cancer that so unexpectedly assaulted me and took me to deaths door in July 2020.
I am now back to the incurable cancer in a deck chair that is my experience of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which I will die with, but not of. I am back to taking my daily high THC oil suppositories, which were so successful in reducing my initial tumours, much to the astonishment of my hospital specialist.
One of my greatest regrets is my decreasing ability to write, as I once knew and loved it. I am not sure quite what’s happened, but words are less connected than they once were inside me and writing has become a rare pleasure and hugely missed. Having reached an age when I all too often, and annoyingly, repeat myself, I can’t do that with writing. If I have nothing new to write, then I have no interest in it. This piece is new writing, in a process that is new to me and I think it is worth putting into writing for the benefit (hopefully) of others in their progress through life and its many pains and pleasures, so much of all of it unplanned and unlooked for.
The loss of control is not something I feel keenly, but then I have never felt in control of my life, my sense of self has always been fragile, buffeted by the unseen and unexpected. My relationship with life has always been serendipitous, and my greatest loves, pleasures and happiness have been discovered through the unexpected.
Learning to enjoy life has been without doubt the hardest thing I’ve learnt in life. As my mind clouds, it’s not the good things I’m losing, it’s all the crap and clutter, so much of which is utterly pointless anyway. I used to say, ‘Shoot me if I start dribbling’. Now that I’m old, if I start dribbling, if I’m happy leave me alone, or sit with me and hold my hand. There’s more to life than any of us understand.
Keith Lindsay-Cameron. 11 September 2021.