À Bout De Souffle

You leave me breathless. But then, everything leaves me breathless. Last Wednesday, the hike from my chair to the dais where I announced this year’s winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award––Station Eleven by Emile St. John Mandel, for those of you with bad memories––left me breathless. Not quite as breathless as getting dressed to go out, and not as breathless as the walk from Yo! Sushi to the nearest corner to hail a cab home, but panting somewhat. 

I’ve been a bit breathless now and then during my course of chemo but nothing like lately. This morning, I finally phoned the Macmillan Centre for advice. They told me to come in and have a blood test, as my red cell count may be low. I’m to wait for the results and if that is indeed the case, I may need a blood transfusion. So we’ll head on down there as soon as my poor husband has enough energy to get dressed.

Poor Chris. He has been my rock, my life-saver (and life-savour), my never-failling support and the air that I breathe as well as my one true love in all the universe. But there are times when neither of us are up to more than lying down. It is my honest opinion that this is harder on him than on me. After all, I can blame everything on either my illness or my treatment or both. Chris has to witness it. He’s staggering under both my fatigue and his own and frankly, I don’t know how he does it. I don’t know how well I’d cope if it was the other way around. I’m glad things aren’t the other way around. I’d be a basketcase, I think. On the inside, anyway. But then. I think most people feel that way about their loved ones. Ask anyone caring for a loved one who is ill and they’d probably tell you if it were possible to take the illness on themselves, they would. I know I would. So, very selfishly, I’m glad if one of us has to have cancer and all its attendant discomforts, it’s me and not him, and not because I wouldn’t want to take care of him. I wish I could take care of him now; I wish I could take care of him as much as he takes care of me.

Anyway, we’ll both have a rest and then head into central London to the Macmillan Centre for my blood test and possible blood transfusion.

I haven’t had a blood transfusion since my long-ago heart surgery when I was five. The fact of that old blood transfusion was something Robert Heinlein and I bonded over back in early 1976, when I took on the duty of liaison between him and MidAmeriCon, the world science fiction convention, held that year in downtown Kansas City, MO. Whenever Robert Heinlein was a convention Guest of Honour, one of his conditions was that the convention organise a drive for blood donations. He was AB Negative, the rarest blood type, and his life had been saved during surgery by a transfusion. 

Heinlein was like me––he wanted desperately to stay alive––and the fact that donated blood had allowed him to keep breathing had had a profound effect on him. Some people felt he was being a primadonna or throwing his weight around to show how important he was, particularly after he announced that he would sign autographs only for people who could prove they were blood donors. But that wasn’t it. He just felt he had a debt to repay. He couldn’t pay it back so he had to pay it forward––he had to do what he could so someone else’s life could be saved. He felt it was a sacred duty.

But I digress. In a way, though, I don’t.


6 thoughts on “À Bout De Souffle

  1. Pat… Hoping you’ll be able to get something that will help give you more energy. I’m really impressed you could write that much while so tired.


    • I’ve just been told I need two units of blood but it’s too late in the day to hoook me up so we have a date with a transfusion early tomorrow morning.

      I’ll probably sleep through it. 😉

  2. Pat: I hope they can figure out what will make you feel better. The chemo has a lot of side effects, as you know, and if a blood transfusion will do it, great. It may be, though, that you need to alternate rest and activity so you can build some stamina. All the best for your lovely and loving husband, too. Care providers need support so they can recover, too!!

    Wishing you both health and energy!

    • Thanks, Joanne. We’ve just come out of haemotology and my red cell count is indeed ‘way, ‘WAY down. I have to have a blood transfusion tomorrow.

  3. Yup. My guy worked eight hour days, with a 3 hour commute to work and back, did all the shopping, cooking, housework, errands, everything, and drove me to the oncology clinic and sat with me the entire day when I had chemo, held me in bed at night when I was in so much pain I couldn’t help crying. He stopped smiling, was exhausted, cried when I said he’d be better off if I just died and told me never to say that again. He helped me into the hot tub in the evening and massaged my chemo numbed feet before bedtime, he walked with me down the street and back in the evenings (because I couldn’t go out in the sun) while I clung to him for balance. He never complained, never. He was a goddamn HERO – these guys should be given medals and knighthoods and keys to any city they want. And this morning – 22 months after my last chemo, he looked at me and said, “You don’t have bed-head in the morning any more, the chemo curls look so pretty….” I love this man more than words could possibly ever express – so I know how you feel about yours, Pat. They’re worth more gold than exists in the universe.

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