Time Stopped and then it stopped for Everyone

Sunset Cruise

© irene waters 2020

Have you ever stopped doing something and then found it hard to restart?  Time stopped for me in 2019 and getting going again has proved harder than I imagined.

My last post at the beginning of June 2019 was not the beginning of my saga. That began in February. If that had been the only thing you wouldn’t have noticed my absence. Perhaps you didn’t anyway but I know some did and your emails were bright lights in the dimness. In February 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t hiding it but I only told a few friends because I made a decision not to tell my elderly mother who was becoming more anxious as time went by and I didn’t want to add to her anxiety. I didn’t tell anybody that also knew her because I couldn’t ask them to tell lies. Fearful that she may discover my blog I couldn’t write about it. But not talking was harder than I imagined although  I wasn’t that worried about my diagnosis. I  had my book launch in March and went on to China.

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© irene waters 2019

We had booked an incredibly cheap trip and our neighbours across the road asked if they could come. Not wanting to spoil anyone’s holiday again I kept it to myself. The trip was fantastic and I’m sure that over time I will bore you silly with my experiences. On our return I went in for surgery. I told Roger to drop me off which he did and I arrived in theatre alone. It wasn’t long before I was taken to xray for the dye  to be inserted to attempt to find my sentinel lymph node. For the first time it became real and I couldn’t stop crying. The technician was so sweet. I guess it wasn’t the first time he’d had women go to pieces. Then off to ultrasound to put pins in to mark where the tumour was so the surgeon would have a wide margin for error. Another sweet nurse. Back to theatre waiting room for hours. One book finished and nothing to distract me, the waiting was hard. Finally it was done. All that awaited me was a course of radiotherapy which started in June.

Then the Double Whammy. Roger was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. Unlike me he is not going to be cured. I started radiotherapy and he started chemotherapy. Every day we attended the hospital. Radiotherapy is not pleasant but so much better than chemo. I kept my burns and pains to myself, now not sharing with Roger as well as keeping it from my Mum. Mine finished in July.

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© irene waters 2019

Roger’s was to continue for a year. At first twice a week  and then once a week. They had to hit it hard as it was transitioning to leukaemia – not a good place to be apparently. Luckily it had been discovered on blood tests done for his total hip replacement. As the haematologist told us – normally when I see people with blood levels like this it is because they have a life threatening infection, a broken bone or renal failure requiring dialysis. All of Roger’s organs were in perfect condition.

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© irene waters 2020

I stopped writing. I stopped doing anything much at all. I didn’t dance, didn’t blog and I put on weight (because they told me not to lose any to ensure the radiotherapy didn’t but too badly) and life took on a surreal existence.

But they say things come in threes and they did. My Mum started to deteriorate and ended up in hospital. She was delusional and I feared it was a medication that had been increased. I asked them to check the levels and they assured me they would but I didn’t check up on it because Roger suddenly got sicker and sicker and he ended up in intensive care with septicaemia (infection in the blood). I went between the two of them. They wanted to send Mum to a nursing home – I said no she would be right when she got back to her own surroundings. So I took her home – still delusional but she had worked out how to hide it well. I should have twigged when I picked her up and saw what she had written on her bedside table.

Mum's Madness

She only lasted two days at home before having to return to hospital. This time the blood test was done and she was toxic to the drug and thankfully all the delusions have now gone. There was no choice however than to face that her time of independent living was over.

I dread if I ever get to her age (or younger and need care) without someone to guide me through. The rigmarole for getting into aged care is difficult to negotiate for someone who is computer literate and can understand the miles of paperwork that is necessary.  I was also stunned at the size of the move from her apartment to the nursing home.  Between Roger and Mum I had no time. I’d already stopped dancing – now I did little apart from manage my family, putting my continuing pain on the back burner.

Roger was in a bad way with the chemo. At the same time I am in total awe at the way he would not give in. He was determined that he would get as much done as possible so that I would be left with everything in order. When he could he worked on various projects – the first being reconstruct the bathroom that we had pulled out shortly before his diagnosis. The fatigue was overpowering. His loss of appetite due to loss of taste worse. Peripheral neuropathy, sight and hearing problems, blood clots and so many others but the worst was his hip that hadn’t been operated on. He could barely walk.

By December the haematologist said he was in a safe enough position to miss a couple of weeks treatment and he could have his hip done. In January this happened and the difference was immediate and positive. Around the same time he went into complete remission. We’re told the average time is 2 years. I’m hoping for five. Chemo stopped after 8 months in March – a wonderful birthday present. As he recovered we started looking at what and how he might want to spend his time – a trip to Turkey was planned and one to Canada.

Finally I went and saw about the pain which I had been putting down to radiotherapy. Turned out to be lymphodoema for which I am now having treatment.

And then time stopped for us all. Covid 19 changed life as we knew it and we won’t be going anywhere for some time to come I feel. One of life’s little ironies but we have to say that we are blessed that we live in a place where it seems to have been contained and we don’t, at this moment, feel in real danger. I worry about everyone I knew from WordPress that live in countries not as fortunate and I hope you are all safe and well.

We have all been faced with the possibility of our own mortality and that of those we love and it has brought me at least, a recognition of what is important in life. I don’t know that we will ever go back to the way things were before. I know that Roger and I won’t. I hope that humanity won’t either. The world is in this together and together we can see it through. Kindness has been prevalent and we’ve had the gift of time. Use it wisely  – I hope we retain having extra time  but you just don’t know.  There have been some unexpected benefits – for me it is attending a New York Met Opera once a week and the odd London National Theatre production and having less cars on the road and seeing pictures of deserted cities. And finally it has brought humour back to my world.It’s not wrong to laugh in a time of crisis – indeed laughter relaxes and boosts the immune system so you can view  it as medicine. There are so many funny and creative people out there. I’m not one of them but I certainly appreciate them.

Time may have stopped but it will start again. Our lives will be different if for no other reason than we have faced death – all of us. No longer do I feel alone. Soon we will all have time going too quickly. Finally I am ready for time to start moving and me to get going again.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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40 Responses to Time Stopped and then it stopped for Everyone

  1. thewordygecko says:

    Thank you for writing this, Irene. Wow, what a time you have both been through. And now a pandemic! I look forward to reading more of your posts, and seeing your name on another book or whatever you want to do with your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful surprise to see a post from you today! You know I have been thinking of you. I knew you’d come back when you were ready/ were less busy with all that stuff. Welcome back! And with messages of positivity in the face of all the hardships.
    In brief, I am well, fortunate to have space to romp in. I’m involved with a virtual saloon at Carrot Ranch to give folks in the blogosphere a place to go and hang out and am in turn sustained by the weekly prompts and story telling that continues even as the world as we knew it changes.
    So good to hear from you!

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    • Thanks for the welcome Dee. I don’t know why but it was incredibly hard to do. I’ll have to drop by to the saloon and catch up with everyone. You never know I may even be tempted to get back into story telling in flash. I hope so. Thanks for staying connected. Good to hear from you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. V.J. Knutson says:

    Sorry to hear you have gone through all of this. Your tales of breast cancer surgery took me back to my own – not fun. My husband has his biopsy for cancer exactly a year after mine and like Roger, faced a bigger battle. It felt as if we were caught in a downslope, but happy to say we survived it all, and then, as you say, COVID-19 happened. At least, we are used to being at home without much else happening. Take care Irene.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wind Kisses says:

    Sorry to hear of this chapter. Glad you are making your way back. Donna

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am glad to see you are back. I thought that something must have happened to prevent you from writing as you had not posted in so long. You are very brave to have dealt with so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. oneletterup says:

    So glad to see you back. I had wondered where you “went,” as I had enjoyed your posts and Times Past challenges. You survived an awful personal health crisis while taking care of loved ones at the same time. Wow. What a year – and now it’s new hurdles with the pandemic. Good to see you back online – and no, you are not alone. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ghostmmnc says:

    Good to hear from you again. Sorry to hear of what your family has been through, but good to know you have weathered the storm. Continued good wishes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, my word, Irene, you and your family have certainly been through it! You’re such a strong person and retain a wonderful attitude. I believe that you’re one of my heroes!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was so happy to see a post from you today, Irene. I am so sorry you have had such a terrible time and about your awful pain. Chemotherapy is a horrible thing to watch someone suffer through. My mom had breast cancer and had chemo and Herceptin. She is fine now and has been in remission for over 5 years. She is nearly 82 years old. I hope you mother is fine now and all the very best for Roger. A brave and determined man. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely to see you Robbie. Hope all is going well for you. You understand the chemo – I’m glad your Mum is doing well. My Mum is 92 and struggling a bit. Her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and they let me see her for the first time in 2 months. It was lovely. Thank heavens for facetime and skype. I think if there had been no connection it would have been very difficult for us both. Yes Roger is amazing. Hugs back.

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  10. Irene, I’m so glad to see you back here though your news is difficult to read about and must be very difficult for all of you to bear. Your attitude is upbeat and you are right about all of us having to live a different kind of lifestyle. There will be less emphasis on acquiring things and more on bridging gaps between people and maintaining friendships. I agree about facing death and gaining a new perspective on what’s essential and what we should all be grateful for. Learning to live with the Covid 19 virus has made many of us understand how precarious life is. i hope it’s a value we keep.
    Here’s to wishing you, Roger, and your Mum good health and relief from pain.
    And I do love the smile on your face – joyous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely to see you Sharon. I’ve missed our conversations. I am hoping this devastating time will be the catalyst for peace – I may be wishful thinking but it does appear that many people’s values are changing and one has to live with hope.
      When they offered to take a photo of me after the final session I thought they were offering to take a photo of the burns etc. I got such a shock when they took me outside. I thought ‘I’m not lifting my shirt up here.’ but of course they were just giving me a reminder of what had been and the beam being off couldn’t have been more apt.

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  11. I am so glad you got to see your mom, Irene. Human contact is so important. I am glad my husband’s mother is with his mom and not in the home. She would have been so lost and lonely. She is turning 98 this year. Stay safe and well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    There you are, Irene! If you felt a big wind pass your way that was me letting out a sigh of relief at your return! Ah, what a time of it you’ve had, and so much you faced silent and alone. You did good, standing by Roger and your Mom. What a trooper Roger is, I can see his joyful determination on his face in the photo you shared. I’m just so happy to see you! Each sunrise is a blessing. Big hugs to you and wishing you and all your family well.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’m just a follower of yours from your writing at Carrot Ranch, but I grew worried and even asked Charli about you!! I hope the cancers go down and away!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Irene, I’m way behind the curve and have just seen this! I’m crying as I type as I’m so pleased to see you back among us and so sorry for what you’ve gone through. Strange times for everyone but realising how much these connections matter is part of the benefits. Sending you virtual hugs (which is what we’re doing with people we see in person now, so what’s the difference?) Welcome back and go easy on yourself.

    Like

    • Thank you Anne for your welcome back. Thanks for the virtual hugs – we are very used to them in life now not just on the internet. Hope you are keeping well and safe. How many books do you now have out – I’ll have to pop across and see for myself. Cheers Irene

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  15. Pingback: COVID 19 showed me Why I love Toastmasters | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

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