18. The Mutation

Oil on Canvas
Originally an oil painting commission for the Cancer Research Laboratories in South Mimms.

What happens to the Sin Eater once he’s eaten all your sin?

Well he’s cast out of course. Lives as a hermit on the outskirts of the village. Who wants to know him? He’s eaten all that sin!

But I race ahead of myself here, for we haven’t got to the Sin Eater of our story yet.

Douglas was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring. It was in the early stages. The chance of full treatment and recovery was very good, but it terrified Douglas like nothing had ever done before. The word “cancer” rung over and over in his ears. Until that moment of diagnosis Douglas had been immortal, now he was merely human. A damaged human at that. That he, such an important individual, could have the possibility of death hang over him, seemed appalling. Unacceptable.

There must be some meaning to it.

What this meaning could be started to dominate his every thought. Luckily Elsie was there to look after the art business, and counsel him during his darkest moods.

And they were dark, for the ego of a successful man realising he is mortal can have some real hatred in it. How unfair it was. How there were others more deserving of death. He had so much more to give!

There must be a reason.

Elsie tried to cheer him up. Point out that he wasn’t dead yet and the chances of full recovery were great. She was his best friend during this time. She would not sleep with him, the thought repulsed her, but that didn’t stop her caring for him immensely and feeling sorry for him when  he tried to stroke her knee.

So she sat and listened to him. Listened to his rants, his cursing, his bitterness, and when he was finished let him sob into her shoulder. Her grand boss, the charming, influential Douglas, reduced to this.

There was a reason.

So Douglas discovered. The reason was very simple, the reason was that he should realise how wondrous life is and that he should teach people. Teach people that some are worthy of this fantastic life, and some are not.
17. Elsie’s Pragmatism

Texting from the Death Bed

There I am, knickers torn apart*, lying on the table with a tall dark stranger pressing down hard on my groin. For 15 minutes. It hurts.

We discuss tea and the weather.

He offers to show me revealing pictures of my brain, but then the camera screen stops working. He starts looking at another screen, a computerised 3d image of a skull from various angels. Impressive.

“Is that me?” I ask

“No” he says, “that’s another patient”

And I feel jealous. How dare my surgeon be considering someone else whilst he’s still finishing my operation!

Now days you can use mobile phones in hospitals**. How odd this is. There I am forbidden from moving my body but I’m still able to answer my phone. I have a fancy phone now so I can also use email, Facebook, camera, as if nothing was wrong. Good in some ways as 5hours of being very awake and only able to move your arms is difficult. Bad because the temptation to  Facebook/Twitter/ text the world to death with a running commentary is overwhelming. Think I may facebook/skybe my next operation, sneek the phone into the operating room, even skype my own death!

In the shower this morning I looked down at my body and thought “wow, a tiny tube is put in an artery in my right leg and is fed through all the way up to my brain. That is amazing!” But this time it hurts more than last and I wonder how many more tubes my body can take.

After all I am basically fine.

*Luckily these are not my own knickers, they are one-use-only disposable knickers provided by the hospital. I don’t understand the purpose of them, they’re flimsy and see through.

**http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/2146.aspx?categoryid=68&subcategoryid=162