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Oh the Terrible Gloom of My Body, and The Optimism of Daffodils!!


The Dales were wonderful, a different colour to their Wintry look, with the rivers all bubbly and the lambs leaping in the fields. I finished a story about a very large girl called Gloria working in a call centre in Newcastle, and wrote a whole new bundle of poems. And I grappled with the voice of the novel and fastened down its hatches, and set it on a new course, and I think it’s shipshape now.

Coming back from a week of quiet isolation was hard. Retreating is addictive and I feel sorry for my family having to put up with my irritability after such weeks. I want everything to be in my control, and to have that same level of compete peacefulness you can get in the middle of nowhere. Domestic family life is very tricky, with all the doors opening and closing, the kettles boiling, dogs barking, and so many tasks, piling up, one after another…like, feed the dog, water the plants, hang out the washing, eat lunch. It’s exhausting !

When I got back I had volunteered to speak at a day assembly here in Newcastle of gay and lesbian and bisexual people telling the council what we wanted for the city. Why did I volunteer to do such a thing? At ten thirty on Saturday morning I was faced with a lectern and a sea of expectant faces. Being in a manifesto mood at the moment I was able to list a whole load of things I wanted for the city, like lesbian happy hours, lesbian and gay old people’s homes, monuments, banners over the Tyne welcoming us to Newcastle (sewn by the town leaders). Maybe one of the good things about my dodgy health is the worse the news is, the more outspoken I am able to be.

And the news is fairly bad. I just spent the morning seeing my Doctor, having more x rays, blood tests etc. We looked gloomily at scans of my insides, which are full of shadows. There is the spread in my liver, extensive bone cancer, some dodgy bits in my pleural cavities, and something odd about a kidney.

But, I don’t feel that bad. I feel the same as I did yesterday. Also, the cancer in my bones is non- threatening as it manifests as hard little patches, rather than holes, (which would mean breakages etc.) The pictures were actually rather beautiful. The Doctor says he wants to give me Vinorelbine…..a kind of not too toxic chemotherapy. He’s afraid that if he leaves it much longer I may turn yellow and then it will be too late.

Yet, the more I think about it, you could look at these results in a number of ways…you could say…’Isn’t it amazing, Julia, that you look and feel so well?’ and ‘These results show some slight changes, but nothing too terrible, a bit of treatment will help to stabilise things.We’ve got so much choice these days….and these are BRILLIANT drugs.’ Or even ‘You have done extremely well, and we look forward to helping you have a very dignified and happy death!’ I would be happy with any of these statements.

My other approach is to try and forget all about it, to pretend I haven’t got cancer, and go and live in pretendy land. This works very well on the whole.

For now there is still chocolate to be eaten, books to be written and mad arrangements to fulfil, and daffodils everywhere. What wierd flowers they are, like they were made in a plastic’s factory by aliens.