Half Life - 33 – locked up
June 11th, 2021
It starts with a small prick, followed by a gentle insertion. Once in deep enough it is withdrawn and replaced with a plastic tube. The canula signals the start of another treatment cycle, with slightly salty water dripping into an arm until the radioactive injection is pushed in, kept company by yet more saline. Left alone with a book, a water jug, and the bag on a stand, the radioactive isotope is, with luck, finding its way through arteries and veins to kill Nobby the cancer with miniature radioactive explosions. The technician, Geiger counter in hand, comes in every half an hour, stands a carefully measured metre away, checks the radioactivity is at the right levels, and to encourages me to go to the toilet. Blood spurting from the hole in my arm as the canula is removed, putting the future of a decent shirt in doubt, provides the most excitement my small cell had seen all day.
Keeping amused while isolated in the clinic is nothing compared to avoiding everyone for the seven days that follow. Dancing around children in the kitchen so they never get too close, dissuading the dog from jumping on the bed for her ritual early morning cuddle, and eating on my own, all keep the radiation away from those who don’t need it, but make life complicated. Sitting upstairs, even with the ability to choose the program on the screen, is a lonely experience as the laughter from downstairs floats up. Getting the whole bed, sprawling in every direction during the night without being thumped, is one of the few the positive parts of the experience.
It was having to miss The Wife’s birthday which hurt the most. It was one of those with a zero at the end, a big one with which the word crisis can be linked. She was well catered for, family and childhood friends conspiring to surprise her at her parents’ house. Failing the Mrs Marple test, she didn’t notice any of the clues unintentionally dropped during the days leading up to it. Information security was so poor even JJ the dog knew there was a party waiting for her to walk in to. As she celebrated in the sunshine far away, all attempts to address the tiredness the treatment generated were thwarted by a stream of deliveries. Every inch of the kitchen table was covered with gift boxes and bunches of flowers, and all objections to the large number of vases we accommodate, which act as housing for spiders and dust, were swept aside as even the ugly ones were called on to perform their primary function.
An unrecorded, and tragic, side-effect of this round of radiation isotope treatment is a, I hope temporary, aversion to wine, whisky, and beer. Chemotherapy managed to make food taste like badly made humus and red wine like chewing aluminium foil. This therapy was not meant to do anything as disastrous and, previously, hadn’t got in the way of the compulsory daily alcohol intake. Experimentation, in the name of science, to see how long it lasts is on-going and, after four days, there are indications of it wearing off as radiation levels drop. The curse of tee-totalism looks like it will be avoided.
The days separated from the world, and wine, drag on. Schadenfreude when watching the new national sport of going abroad and then rushing back just as the government, with an evil chuckle, changes the rules, loses its joy after listening to the twentieth radio interview with an upset holidaymaker standing in an airport. It was easier when the media was full of stories about people living on their own in lockdown, at least then there was a sense of being involved in psychological experiment on mass obedience and the orchestrated damaging of saucepans on doorsteps.
The irrational, intense, need to eat which the steroids caused had resulted in piling on weight and a puffy face worthy of Captain Pugwash. Cravings were never for fruit and vegetables but crisps, donuts, and sausage rolls. So much that, in the week leading up to isolation, Older Boy was forced, slightly against his will, to head into Greggs as soon as it had re-opened to fetch the full meat, full fat, full gluten sausage rolls needed. The donut bribe was insufficient to remove his obvious disapproval at my culinary choices. Using isolation as an opportunity to come off the steroids, and maybe the sausage rolls, resulted in my no longer feeling like a very hungry caterpillar the whole time. Release from the isolation cocoon, when it comes, may not produce a beautiful butterfly, but certainly a thinner one.
With the end beckoning like a jail release date, when I am reunited with the family I live with but have not touched for a week, a potential lunch date is already planned for day one and discussions about where to go over the weekend are conducted at high volume between rooms. Until then, the garden, with the summer warmth bringing it back into use, looks like the place to spend the time, as it gives enough distance away from the children as they muck about so as not to mutate them any more than they already are.