When I began blogging – back in November 2009 – I was heading towards a depression. I’d been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and there was very little that could be done about it. They had already given me six months oral chemotherapy – easy, no side effects – then operated on me three times, and then more chemo, and radiation too. I can see why I was depressed.
I know what to do when I have a depression, because it wasn’t my first bout and I googled my cognitive behavioral therapist Bill Mitchell. By an unbelievable serendipity, he had moved his office from the city (miles away) to around the corner from me. I immediately booked an appointment and went to see him. We talked through the sadness of the disease and the prognosis, and what I could do about it. At that point I had very little physical voice, but Bill remembered I could write, had written for the Open University for years as well as a book on child development, and he knew I had a sense of humor. He suggested I start writing a blog about my experiences with cancer. Alternatively because of my own years doing group therapy (I am a qualified psychotherapist), I start a group. I couldn’t face a group with my voice – it would have been difficult to be a group leader, a therapist, though not impossible as leading doesn’t mean talking all the time, it means being able to shut up. But the blog intrigued me, because it was new and sexy. In my 70s by then, a blog sounded pro-active and the way to go. So I went immediately to the bookstore, and bought a book about how to write a blog, contrary as that seems. And from that point on, there was no stopping me.
I always thought that my blog would be funny, because my whole family had cancer and we always tried to laugh about it, even my poor mother lying in bed with breast cancer tried to be humorous about it, though I was so angry at the time I couldn’t get it. And my cousin Nora found a funny side even with very serious cancer. I’m sure it helps keep her alive.
My first blogs were terse, smart arse; I tried to be funny; but as my depression lifted, my blogs got more complex, and I depended on writing them and on the responses I got, as much as anything, to give me energy in my life. I was very lucky that as my health deteriorated, my friend Antonia Johnson (who’d already been proofing the blogs) came up from Bath once a week to help me type these blogs, because otherwise I wouldn’t physically be able to do them. Antonia nags me into writing, because she knows it does me good. In fact when Antonia comes to town everyone clears out and we get to work.
One of the big advantages of the blog is that I can correspond with my friends – keep them up to date with how I am – without sending out endless emails, or trying to have telephone conversations, which I find very difficult, even though my voice has come back somewhat no one can understand me on the phone. The sad thing is that this is all happening when some friends are going deaf, they take their hearing aids off at will so my kvetching can’t be heard any more. But I am heard on the blog. I am very moved by all the comments I receive, and I wish I could answer them, because people give a lot of thought to them, and it is deeply appreciated. I’m very excited that so many people are reading my writing, it is an encouraging and invigorating experience.
My last blog will be written by Antonia and I’m beginning to think that it will not be too far off, but I have so much work to do before I leave this green and pleasant land.