We’ve got a family text thang going. The other day, Emma, who was away with friends skiing in Colorado, sent a text saying she’d had a dream about her grandfather Tom, Ed’s dad. Felix replied saying he’d also dreamt of Tom. And I felt very odd, as I’d been thinking about him a lot also.
Tom was an intoxicating powerhouse of a man. A medic specializing in treating diabetes – a pioneer of lap band surgery – brought up in Germany by a German Jewish father and English mother. They moved to the UK in 1936, when he was 15, swopping his father’s last name of Berend for his mother’s – Pilkington. He was sent to boarding school without a word of English. I remember asking how on earth he’d coped with that. He’d looked surprised at the question: “It wasn’t a problem – why would it be?” he had answered, in his impeccable London English.
Tom’s parents were musicians, and he an accomplished violinist. He and Pam, Ed’s mum, took us to the opera many times.
I, too, grew up in a musical household. Even when I was a hard-partying South East London teenager, I still got up at 8.30am on a Sunday to sing at St Alfege’s without a word of protest.
Throughout the course of my radiotherapy, I’ve listed to jazz, blues, rock, pop, soul, reggae, hip hop… kind of you name it. But no classical.
So when I was pondering what lucky composer would fill my head for my last day of radiotherapy on Monday, my mind lept to Tom, to classical music and to his favorite opera.
There was only one contender. I jumped up onto the gurney, pulled that mask onto my face. Closed my eyes and kissed goodbye to the zapping as the Ride of the Valkyries blasted my earways.
This is not about Star Wars or Apocalypse Now (even if my allegedly educated children think so). It’s about me maximizing my not inconsiderable strength. Staring TEF down for as long as it takes. And telling it to bugger off to Valhalla on a one-way ticket.
Wagner kept going (and some). Me too. With radiotherapy over, the next act kicks in. The immunotherapy infusions continue (third one yesterday) and soon I will resume chemo, on a five-day a month intensive schedule. The big one to get our heads around is the electrotherapy. If you want to show sympathy and get creative, google Optune, made by Novocure. Somehow I’m going to figure out how to wear this extraordinary contraption. The electrodes have to sit tight on my head and generate heat, making wig-wearing tricky. Which is sad, as one the fabulous Carol at NYU Radiology only went and bought me a wig! See pic. I sort of hope that when my real hair is allowed to grow back, it might look like this…(this is me trying to take a selfie a la Kim).