A YEAR OF GRATITUDE
JANUARY, 2013 – Tuebingen, south Germany
I must be honest with you from the start. It was not simply that I liked the title for this essay, but I also believed it to be true. It was not. That ‘year’ has now entered it’s third, and I can’t be so bold as to say that it has finished yet. The ‘gratitude’ bit, though, is absolutely true.
Two perspectives: the patient and the beloved-carer. Of course we’re talking about the same subject: my cancer and my transplant, and all that has gone and goes with it. But how diverse are our viewpoints. Much of my memory needs to be prompted by Franci’s recollection of events and emotions, but often what emerges is again a pair of different pictures, of the same theme but from a different angle.I am still editing this, and the story goes on …. here is the preamble:
In December 2011, several tumours were discovered in my liver, including one large one. Four weeks later I was rushed into surgery to excise them. Successfully, but my liver was already so diseased that it began to show indications of total failure. I should be prepared for the possibility of a transplant, although the waiting list was very long. By May though, I was critically ill, and it became clear that without a transplant, I would almost certainly die.
In spite of the best efforts of the highly competent German Health System, I continued to decline alarmingly, and remarkably (in a country in which three people die daily due to a lack of organs for transplantation), I was rushed up to the head of the priority list. Although I remained constantly optimistic, the chances of my survival were becoming clinically slimmer. In June I received a liver transplant, and have been gradually recovering since then. In the period between May when my health situation became desperate and two months following the transplant, I was drifting in and out of coma, had kidney failure necessitating dialysis, ascites, pneumonia, encephalopathy, severe haemorrhaging, as well as the emergency of the transplantation itself.
Throughout the dramas of my illness, I felt that I was blessed, never considering that Death might be the outcome. The competence, care and love which carried me through were constant pillars which sustained me. I have cried so many tears of gratitude over the long course of this journey.
Apart from my physical condition, I was drifting seamlessly between fantasy and reality, insanity and lucidity, rage and bliss. For months, I spent significant time in intensive care, as my body and mind drifted this way and that. There was simply nothing for me to do except surrender to Life and whatever it might hold for me.
This is my story an extraordinary adventure, yet a journey that is also common. We all face death, suffer illness in ourselves or our near ones, meet with madness or fear. My tale is an intimate, outrageous, shocking and wonderful one, which will never end for me. Life changes when we meet the Edge, and are blessed to return.