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Jane's fencing bag

01 August 2011

With her fencing kit from the last time she used it. Probably around June last year. Freshly washed, ready to be used again.

The Bag on the Back Seat
Her mother took it home for storage when we moved to the flat and had no space. I picked it up today. First, I could not get it out of the car. I left it on the back seat and went into the flat.

After an hour of only thinking of The Bag on the Back Seat, I went to the car to get it. When I opened the door, my heart just stopped. I used taking a picture as a tactic to keep my composure. Life is different when seen through a lens.

I finally got it out and put it in the wall outside. I could not bring it inside yet. My hand were trembling as I feared a complete collapse when opening the bag. I was afraid of what I would find inside. How would I respond to what was inside? Opening the bag would show me a snapshot of when things were still reasonably OK. Things packed away in the expectation to be used again at some point. A reminder of a life halted. A river stopped mid-flow.

Shoes, her breeches and other fencing clothes. The little towel she used to wipe her forehead. Her mask. The bandana she wore on her head. Her sweatband. As if I was looking at her body.

Feeling upset but composed, I rummaged through the bag. Looking for something but not sure what exactly. I zipped the bag up again and brought it inside the house. I felt quite pleased with myself for not crumbling into a heap.

I cried a river
That lasted about 4 minutes. In fact, it lasted until I sat down to relax. Tears just did not stop coming. I walked up to the bag and got all the clothes out. I sat on the floor and hugged the bag. Crying and crying and crying. For about 30 minutes. Leaving big wet patches on the bag.

I was going to give the kit to the fencing club to be used by others. But I don't think I will ever be able to do it.

Fencing was probably the only thing Jane and I never shared. I tried it just so I knew what she was doing but I don't like it. Too much like physical chess for my liking. Maybe this is why it was so extremely painful to go through the stuff. It was 100% Jane. Something I had nothing to do with. Something she absolutely loved and was hers alone.

Her mental decline was mercilessly exposed after the radiotherapy in 2009. A sport that requires logic, speed of thinking, forethought, planning and a fast reaction speed was probably the worst thing she could have chosen.

Firstly she no longer fitted in her own kit and had to use the club's borrowed stuff. That hurt. What hurt more though was watching her attempts at fencing whilst seriously impaired. She was slow to respond, could not think ahead and generally just stood there whilst other people let her win or let her hit them. That was nice of them but it was absolutely soul destroying to see. She wanted to get back to it so badly but she cut an extremely sad figure. A complete shadow of the woman who had competed in championships and won trophies only a year before.

Jane getting 3rd place in
County Championships

Things got a little better and she did return to fencing between March 2009 and June 2010 but she was never the same again.

Another stark reminder of how incredibly gut wrenching it is to see an extremely bright woman, an academic, a PhD student, a fencer, struck by a brain tumour. And not just in any place in the brain. Some people are 'lucky' and have a tumour in a location of the brain that controls body functions. So they might lose the ability to walk. Or hear. Or see. But at least they remain in control of their faculties until the end. But not Jane. She caught it in the place that made her what she was. The place that controls memory, logic, ability to process information, personality. So I never knew how she felt in the last 9 months of her life. We both knew she was dying but she was unable to discuss it; either because she could not find the words or because she could not comprehend it.

6 comments:

Julie said...

I have thought this for a while, but have not wanted to intrude and say it. Firstly, it is none of my business. But moreso, I do not want to influence the way that you are approaching the emptiness. But here goes ...

Your writing is very strong: clear eyed whilst still incredibly emotional. I would not want that to alter at all. I would not want the topics that you address in your postings to be influenced by anything outside you, and your relationship with Jane. Having said that, there is sufficient quality here for a small book for family and friends. Starting with where you are now, and intermittently looping back into the past to amplify a point you want to make. The two blogs are your raw material. The project is yours, but Jane's also. Commencing maybe towards the end of 2011, with the book to be published (Blurb or similar) by end May 2012.

Dutchcloggie said...

This thought has crossed my mind many times too. I have spoken to people, writers, journalists etc.

I don't really want to do a book for family & friends because it is not about me. I write this blog for me and I don't see how it has a wider reach. Also, it would feel pretty self-indulgent to me to think my family want to read a book about me.

The blog I wrote about my time with Jane however is a different matter. There is stuff in there that could help others. It might help people understand about brain tumours, about being a carer, about paliative care etc.
Evenmthen, there would need to be a wider theme for it to be of interest to a wider audience. Something that people can extrapolate to their own life. If it helps people, then I am interested. But it would require an editor because I am unable to edit it myself.

However, I don't like re-writing things and having to think about re-ordering things. I am not organised enough for that and it was never my intention. Basically, if someone wants to do it for/with me, then cool but although I like the idea, I am not committed enough to take it on. And, regardless of what other people say, I am not convinced my writing will stand up when it is being tinkered with, re-written or otherwise no longer spontaneous.

Bit I am always flattered when people suggest it though. I just think the reason it touches people is exactly because it is so raw, unprocessed and emotional.

How are you holding up?

Julie said...

Holding up? Not good, I suspect. Darren is going out again this morning, and will let us know. I don't think I could cope seeing her for the first time by myself, so Tony is going to pick me up from a station over that way (MUH is not far from where he lives now) and we are going together.

All this does yer head in, and the body follows ... as you know.

I will talk more about the writing on another occasion.

Dutchcloggie said...

Good luck with your visit today. Just remember that all the tubes and medical equipment are there to help her heal, they are not needed because she is ill. If that makes sense.

Dan, in real time. said...

I'm pleased that you found my blog. I'm so sorry that you find yourself going through the same painful reality. As you may have read, my husband also died of a brain tumor in his right frontal lobe. He very often said that life was so cruel, as his most valued his mind. I loved him every minute we had together, and like you say here, nothing prepared me for the end. People may say, well, at least you were prepared for the end, but no, it is of no consolation.

Hand in there. It will be difficult for quite some time. Be patient with yourself, and ask for gentleness from others.

Peace.

Dan

Dutchcloggie said...

Thanks Dan. Jane's tumour was in her right frontal lobe too. Thankfully we did not really research the implications of that location until it got really bad. Otherwise it would have hung over us like a black cloud.

Hope you are coping.

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