How do you damp-proof a life?

I need to get back into the habit of writing again. I’m just not sure what to write.

I am struggling at the moment.

This year has been very difficult. Just under a year ago, my father was diagnosed with cancer. As soon as that happened, everything I’d been dealing with in my own life had to be put on hold. The analogy I’ve been using is that you don’t address the damp problem in your house when the roof blows off.

Although I’ve been shielded from much of it – there is a physical reason why I can’t be of much practical help during illness – watching him go through the treatment has been painful. My family all knowing that the odds of survival with the type of cancer he had are around 40% for the first year, but none of us actually saying that out loud. Articles in the media, blogs from people with the same type of cancer who didn’t make it, despite being decades younger. Horror stories of what his life would be like after cancer treatment, after an operation which is harder on the body than open heart surgery.

We never talked about any of that. We still don’t.

And at the time of writing, we have cause for hope. The operation – at Christmas – was a success. The chemotherapy has finished for good. There are no signs of the cancer. The doctors talk of him being ‘cured’, although I suspect it’s technically still ‘in remission’. His hair is starting to grow back, and although he’s still not up to full fitness, he’s getting there. My parents have even booked a holiday.

I don’t want anything I’m writing now to take away from that. And I am so grateful that he was able to have the treatment he needed; so grateful that he is still here for a while longer.

But – once the roof of the house has been fixed, you remember about the damp problem. And during the time you were getting the roof fixed, the damp has spread.

And I’m back where I was a year ago, only worse. Because what this year has also taught me is that I have very little support in my own life.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have asked if I was OK; if I was coping (I wasn’t).

I haven’t had the energy to keep up with people I knew before I moved here, and none of them have bothered to contact me. That’s not unexpected, but it still hurts. It hurts to realise that, once again, I have misjudged the extent of a friendship. It hurts that some people I thought would care don’t; to understand that I am not as important to them as they are to me.

I don’t make friends easily. I don’t really know how. Even if I did, I’m at the wrong age; the wrong stage of life.

I am still alone most of the time. Still isolated.

I know myself better than I did two years ago. Some would say that’s a good thing. I’m not sure. When I was pretending – when I was adopting a different persona – I didn’t mind too much if people didn’t like the persona, as it wasn’t really me. I was happy not to be around people, as keeping the persona up was tiring.

Now I don’t have that mask, I am just myself, it’s much more difficult. I care more what people think. It cuts more deeply when I am rejected. I want and need to be around people. But I am more alone than I have ever been.

My father has a renewed chance at life. I am happy for him.

But I can’t help thinking that the burden he bore should have been mine. He has people who care about him; I do not. He has fought for his life; I have tried to take mine on several occasions.

In his position, my choice would have been very different.

You can’t have a house without a roof. But damp, left untreated, can also damage the house beyond economic repair.

So how, exactly, do you damp-proof a life? I wish I knew…


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