Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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“People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X-ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes ‘prognosis poor’. ” – Anna Quindlen – A Short Guide to a Happy Life
From my regular spot at the Royal Marsden Hospital’s chemotherapy unit I look out over a quiet, pretty London street lined with trees, ones that this year I have watched change with the seasons.
When I started this journey back in July they were bursting with greenery and alive with bird song. Today some are bare, others are clad with a threadbare garment of faded Autumn leaves, like the unwanted wrapping left over after all the Christmas presents have been opened. The streets are wet from last night’s rain but all the snow of recent weeks has melted away.
It is my last day of hospital chemotherapy – after this, just 20 days of popping ‘chemo pills’ at home and my treatment programme will be over. I know this ward intimately now and hope that I will forever associate it with helping me to beat cancer. For now though, I want to banish it from my life. It’s normality I pine for, a world free of needles, drugs and nausea.
Three storeys beneath me, just outside the entrance to this ward, stands a French restaurant called Le Colombier, resplendent with its bright blue canopy stretched out above the streetside dining area. I’ve often looked down at it in recent months, day-dreaming of sitting at one of its white table-clothed tables and sipping a glass of Sancerre, instead of being drip-fed on a chemotherapy cocktail. The restaurant is just across the street – but it could be in another world.
It’s quieter than usual in the ward today. I guess some patients have deferred their treatment due to the festive season. Me? You couldn’t keep me away – I can’t get this treatment over soon enough. Normality. There’s that word again. I crave it like a sailor who has been too long at sea longs for land and home.
Today just as I was preparing myself for treatment, I received a cheery e-mail on my Blackberry from Peter Zottl, head of travel retail at Swarovski and one of the nicest individuals in this business. Like so many notes I have received in recent months, it seemed to arrive at just the right time, lifting my sombre mood better than any medicine could.
“Writing is cathartic for you,” wrote Peter. “You do and will write away the sickness and, following the motto of our seasonal card [pictured above], I wish that you may keep on and continue writing many new chapters.”
Thank you Peter. From such simple, kind words do spirits soar.
Over the two days before my treatment, I caught up with two great friends from the Middle East, Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free (above) and Dan Cappell of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (below). As always it was great to see both and particularly to see Colm so well recovered from his recent hip surgery. He’s got the full spring back in his trademark effervescent step and we were both able to raise a glass in confidence and look forward to a happy – and healthy – New Year.
For Dan – admittedly after we’d consumed a glass or three of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc – I even acted out a Dan Carter-esque Rugby World Cup-winning sidestep and touchdown on the pavement outside the restaurant, underlining my recovery from surgery and scattering a group of Scandinavian tourists in the process. I’m not so sure though that any of the All Blacks rivals would be too frightened if they had seen it.
Fun moments with good people. I plan for there to be many more and to make the most of them. As Anna Quindlen notes in her lovely little book A Short Guide to a Happy Life, ‘The lights came on for the darkest possible reason’.
For me, as 2010 closes, the lights are beginning to again burn bright, guiding me firmly and safely into a New Year that I hope will be full of health, happiness and joy. I wish all the readers of this Blog exactly the same gift for 2011.
(Nightime farewell to the Royal Marsden – the epicentre of quality cancer care in the UK)