Big sigh of relief

I didn’t mention it last week, but I found a lump. I saw the doctor the next day, and was referred to the breast cancer clinic. Probably nothing, they said, but that didn’t stop me waking at 5 am every morning imagining – well, everything you can think of. They said I should know the date of the appointment by the weekend, but no letter came until Monday. The appointment was on Friday; it might have been Friday 13th, but it was the best day for me because I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere else, so it wouldn’t interfere with my work.

Meanwhile, it was helpful to keep busy. As usual on Monday, I did lots of bits – prep for a gig and for the Writing Squads; Poetry on Loan website updates, emails – and I started writing my Christmas cards.

Tuesday was a bit of a washout. It was one of the centres in Birmingham where I had worked with only one person the week before. She had said that she would come again this week, but was worried about remembering because it was a different day of the week. She didn’t turn up. I went home and wrote the minutes of the TADS meeting, and packed up lots of books to be sent to people I had worked with in Hereford. I hope they will be pleased to see their work in print – they should be, and proud, too. And I cleared some of the bags and briefcases from the floor in my office and put them in their new home – the toybox in the room next door. In the evening we saw Saving Mr.Banks, which was no more syrupy than you would expect.

The next day I was in the Oncology Unit, looking at it all with a new eye – would I be coming here as a patient? Actually I was here for a meeting with the hospital arts co-ordinator, to discuss displaying some of the poems produced as a result of my work there, among other things. I seized an hour to do some Christmas shopping, which was remarkably successful; I now have everything I need to buy, except food.

And, oh, my lovely GP surgery group in the afternoon helped me to forget all my worries. It was quite an emotional session, but in a group full of warmth and support. A quick writeup, and then out again to see Jeremy Hardy; it was a bit of a rant, but very funny in places.

On Thursday I had my last session this year working in the hospital; now I have to do a report. People make such lovely comments about what we do together, and I collect them all up to send to the funders; I don’t see how they can resist keeping this going for – well, ever.

And I went swimming – 40 lengths, this time. It’s very soothing, I find, just chugging up and down in warm water. I spent a bit of time judging the entries for a poetry competition at the prison where I’m working. Difficult! Three good entries – but I have plumped for one that (a) is very much in the man’s own voice and (2) made me look at something a bit differently and (3) showed some evidence of care in its crafting. What more can I do? I did the hospital writeup, and then it was off (yes! Out again!) to Worcester, where I was headlining at this month’s Speakeasy event. It was an interesting evening with a wide range of poets, and I had lots of compliments for my set, which is always nice. Even the new poem, which is much less edgy than my usual stuff, went down well. A small sigh of relief; that’s my last gig of the year. The lovely Fergus hosted.

And then it was Friday. The Daughter had insisted on coming with me to the appointment – she had a day off anyway, and really wanted to be there. And it was all good news. Apparently I am full of cysts, but nothing to worry about at all. We had a celebratory gingerbread latte afterwards.

And it was back to work – prep for four workshops this week and loads of emails, and most of the Christmas cards written.

Saturday was great. After writing their play last time, my younger Writing Squad group performed it for parents and friends. The lead character didn’t turn up – she must have been ill, because she has missed hardly any sessions since we started the writing squads. But another who wasn’t there last time took her part, and we did a hasty rewrite to include another newcomer, and they did themselves proud. Some of the parents couldn’t believe that they had written the play and got it ready to perform in one and a half sessions! The second group did really well, today, tackling a fiendishly difficult bit of dialogue with originality and confidence.

Yesterday I went to get my Christmas tree, and wrote a list of all I have to do before Christmas. I think I’ll be able to do it, but I’m not going to breathe the sigh of relief about that just yet. And I had my first full day since January 9th (the Great Ladder Fall) with no painkillers! I was a bit stiff this morning, but ok at the session at another of the Birmingham centres. Again I had only one participant, but she was keen and really took to it all. And this afternoon I worked on life writing with the follow-on group.

It’s all been a bit busy, and I’ll certainly breathe a small sigh of relief when my work (or at least my engagements) for the year finish on Friday – but meanwhile I will allow myself a sigh of pleasure. I am so lucky to be able to work with such enthusiastic, warm and interesting people.



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