Sunday, 25 April 2021

My Anniversary

This is a special day. And one that I truly never thought I would see. Ten years ago today I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. I remember the events vividly. How could I forget that awful night on a trolley in Casualty? The doctor grimly closing the curtains around my bed? And then those life-changing words? I shrank into the bed feeling sure that my life was at an end.

So much has happened since that day. And readers of this blog have learnt all about the many twists and turns of my journey. The two metastatic recurrences, the four major operations, the many weeks in hospital and the two occasions upon which I was told that I wasn’t expected to survive for very long.

But I am still here. Alive and very much kicking. I’ve come through a great ordeal. I’ve found a well of resources that I never knew I had. And I’ve gained the partner who I was always looking for. Someone who has stood beside me on every step of the way. It has certainly been a sea change in my life.

I am now a stronger and more resilient person than I was ten years ago. But that does not happen by default; these qualities are not just gifted to you. I had to find my way through the ordeal to gain these benefits. They are burnished by fire. And they are all the more powerful for it.  For I know that I can rely on them in any circumstance.

I am also now a better person than I was ten years ago. I’m clearer about who I am and how I want to live my life. I’m more open and honest; I’m more aware of my own limitations. I also feel that I have become more understanding of others. Most people are trying their best in their difficult circumstances. But I am less willing to suffer fools. Life is far too short.

So where do I go from here? Well, I travel hopefully. And try to make the best of things. I don’t think in the long term. In a month’s time I will have my next cancer surveillance scan. And all being well, we will be going on holiday to Co Clare in the late summer. Apart from that, I’m pretty much living day by day. Today is bright and sunny. I’ll post this blog and go outside to work in the garden or in the garage. Tomorrow, if the weather is still good, I’ll go for a bike ride.

Friday, 9 April 2021

The Jab and the Refusers

I’ve just had my second vaccination; with no ill effects, other than a sore arm. I was very glad to get it, coming as it did, ten weeks after the first. And in two weeks time I will be as fully protected as I can from Covid-19 and some of its variants. But I won’t be throwing away my facemask and going in search of crowds. The vaccination centre I attended gives several thousand injections a day. And the staff, mainly volunteers, continue to be cheerful in their work. As I stood in the socially-distanced line and noticed the great variety of people who had come to get inoculated, I suddenly thought about the Covid sceptics and the anti-vaxxers.

The majority of these are apparently ordinary people who have become highly disaffected by lockdown and who have developed grudges against agencies that they feel are conspiring to oppress them, such as the WHO or the NHS vaccination programme. These refusers have found meaning and purpose in social media groups that support their views and which organize anti-facemask/lockdown/vaccine protests or even invasions of hospitals to try and get Covid patients removed from ventilators and treated instead with vitamins. Social scientists would recognise these behaviours as symptoms of alienation, exacerbated by the mental health challenges of lockdown.

What I was shocked to find is that these strange views also exist in our little rural community. Walking down our quiet lane has become a popular activity for many local residents during lockdown. And when you meet someone you normally stop and pass the time of day. And before long the conversation will turn to Covid and vaccinations.

It’s not that I trust our Government. Far from it. For they have cynically used the pandemic to draw a cloak over a large number of dirty deeds: from lucrative contracts handed to their cronies, to swingeing cuts in social care, local government, overseas investment, fire safety in tall buildings, civil liberties and health workers’ pay. Because the refusers are looking through a distorted lens, they fail to notice these problems.

But I do trust the science. Have the anti-vaxxers forgotten about the many widespread diseases that worried our parent’s generation: polio, diphtheria, TB and the like, all of which have been brought under control by vaccination programmes? And what about the many people in the world who desperately need a Covid-19 vaccination? I’m not just thinking of the millions of people in Africa and Latin America, where the disease is out of control and healthcare systems are unable to cope, but of a friend of mine who lives in a nearby European country and who suffers from a severe lung disease. If he catches Covid he has been told that he is very likely to die. But he hasn’t been vaccinated yet and will have to cross his fingers and wait for a long time, because that country is vaccinating its people strictly in descending age order and taking no account of anyone with serious medical conditions.