Thank you for your nice letter of January 12th.
It’s true, when I sent you a postcard mentioning a medical problem, I was definitely skirting around the issue. A pretty vague way of putting it. So here it is.
I have a large ovarian cyst, it’s swollen up out of nowhere to occupy the entire right side of my abdomen. I’ve gone from a flat stomach to a bloomingly pregnant 4 month bump in just 8 weeks. Cysts in themselves are not a great problem, apart from getting in the way when you’re trying to bend. I’ll have an operation next week to remove right ovary, cyst, appendix and omentum. The scary part is that a blood test shows a high level of something (ATP maybe?) that indicates it might be a rare form of cancer. Might be.
The cyst can’t be diagnosed until it’s removed so I’ll find out a week after the operation whether or not I had cancer. Which feels pretty neat and tidy.
What’s happening right now has been a whirl of blood test and scans, following the cancer alarm being raised. There was fluid in my lungs which appeared and disappeared just as they were preparing to draw it off. It’s been dramatic and worrying at times, especially finding a place to stay during the treatment. I’m very independent (as you might have guessed) and the thought of entering the post op period of great vulnerability in a place where I didn’t feel comfortable or welcome was a horrible prospect. But that has been resolved and I can now prepare for the operation in peace.
Another relief is that the CT scan showed no lumps anywhere else which means that I probably don’t need chemotherapy post-op. If this cyst does turn out to be a germ cell tumour then it will be out already and in the hospital incinerator and no other lumps means I just go into follow up treatment, regular scans .
So really it’s exactly as you’d hoped – serious enough to be impressive but not properly serious. I just need to recover after the operation, which is basically a caesarian cut. So a week in hospital and 8 weeks of no heavy lifting. I don’t know how mothers manage this with a brand new baby in tow.
I have half of another letter to you which I started in December, before events overtook me (as they have done quite often this year). I’m very aware that my correspondence has slipped, but the longer I leave it, the greater the backlog of events I have to relate and so it becomes more difficult.
Here, then, is June – December 2011
I went to Germany, bought a kayak, hitchhiked with it for 600km to Ingolstadt where I joined a group of people and together we set off to kayak down the Danube. I made friends, I annoyed people, I drank a lot, I found a boyfriend, I met hundreds of people of varying nationalities, I had amazing and crazy and intense and incredible and beautiful experiences every single day for 3 months, I was thrown out of the organised tour for breaking too many rules (and endangering my life) but I continued to the Black Sea anyway. When the tour finished I bought another kayak for the boyfriend...who I didn’t like very much by this point....and we kayaked alone through the Black Sea, down past Romania and towards the port of Varna, Bulgaria. We hitched a lift with a yacht outside the port of Mangalia, last town in Romania and had a mad 30 hours rounding the point towards the harbour, towing our kayaks behind the yacht and struggling for hours when they became waterlogged by the choppy sea. When I arrived in Varna I dumped the guy, sold the kayaks and lived on the yacht for a month while I searched for a place to live. Eventually I found a small, barely livable house in a small village in the NE of Bulgaria – free in exchange for basic decorating and gardening. I spent very little time there...3 days, then a visit to Serbia, 10 days, then a month housesitting elsewhere. But finally, for the month of December, I was there, preparing to settle for the winter, learning Bulgarian, meeting my neighbours and curious villagers, making tentative friendships, going to help in English lessons in the big school in the nearby town.
Trying, even, dare it be said, to approach the blank page and write something.
I wasn’t planning to come back to the UK but when it came to about the 20th of December, I got an urge. So I closed up the house and set off. 6 days hitching, a detour to Sarajevo and two lorry loads of Turkish tomatoes later, I arrived in London. A few visits to friends, a mention of the strange feeling I had in my stomach, a visit to the doctor and now here I am....nothing to be done but try and keep up with myself.
So there you are; it's been a while since we exchanged letters but now you've got a better picture of what I'm doing, lumps, bumps, travels and all. What's happening with you?
Lots of love