Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Crystal ball gazing

Yesterday evening, we had an unexpected phone call from an old friend from our student days who shares our passion for photography, as we discovered when we met up with him and his wife last year when they visited Oxford.  

He had phoned to invite us to give a talk about architectural photography at his local camera club. When asked when this was likely to be, I was rather taken aback by the answer - June or July 2012.  I had to explain gently that even though Steve's condition was still stable at his assessment in September, we had no way of knowing how things would be in eight or nine months time. We simply can't make firm commitments that far ahead in the future, and we would hate to let them down if we couldn't make it because Steve's health had deteriorated.

The conversation made me think. Even though I have written many times in the blog that we plan our lives around Steve's three monthly hospital assessments, it seems that not everyone fully appreciates the reason why - which perhaps is not surprising, if you have no personal experience of this disease.  Although it has a very long latency period (20-40 years) mesothelioma is usually a very aggressive cancer. By the time symptoms of the disease are bad enough to see a doctor and a diagnosis confirmed, disease progression can be rapid. We try not to think about this, especially as Steve is asymptomatic at the moment. However, there are times when we have to face the demon.

This has been brought home to me recently with the rapid deterioration in the health of one of our meso warrior friends, Ronny.  In late July, Ronny was told by her oncologist that she was in a "dangerous phase", a euphemism for final stage, with just 4-8 months to live. Determined not to give up, she went to Germany in early August for treatment with Prof Vogl, then started chemo in mid-August. A fortnight ago, Ronny wrote in her blog that two months into her 4-8 months prognosis, she didn't feel any worse.  She hoped the goal posts might have changed a bit and that she may yet defy the odds. Then silence. Last Sunday we heard that she was feeling very poorly after the third cycle of chemo and was not eating. Yesterday, her daughter wrote that things have deteriorated and Ronny is now being looked after (very well) in the hospice.  Our thoughts are with Ronny and her family.

Only last week, I wrote about breaking the self-imposed rule about not making firm plans beyond Steve's next hospital assessment.  Ronny's experience is a timely reminder about why we have adopted this approach to life.  We have taken a calculated risk by making arrangements to do something special in 2012, a couple of months beyond Steve's next assessment in mid-December.  However, we are no more able to make a firm commitment to do something in June or July next year than we able to predict the future with any confidence by gazing into a crystal ball.

So - back into the here and now.  When you plan your life in blocks of three months, things tend to get crammed in to make the most of this relatively short space of time.  After a little lull in activity recently, we are about to enter another lively phase of life.  Don't worry if the blog goes quiet for a bit.  We are just busy having fun!  

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