A note on this blog. As described last week I've got a break in my treatment at the moment. I start an immunosuppresant on Tuesday to keep a lid on my AFP tumour markers but apart from that I get a rest from the poison. I'm going to take the time to build my strength up, see friends and write more. With that in mind I'm going to do weekly posts on this blog throughout this year. I'm going to try and widen the scope not just to chronicle my ongoing dance with germ cell cancer but also look at other things that interest me. These will include culture, exercise, attitudes to cancer (a media criticism special! I've got to make use of my degree somehow) and hopefully interviews with interesting people in and around the cancer field.
My big new year's resolution this year was to get outside more. For most of last year I was undergoing chemo or recovering from it, so that was obviously very limiting on my movement. Treatment is a full time job and what with the weekly visits to the hospital and recovery at home, you don't get out much. This I think is one of the hardest things to deal with in illness, normal things like going to the cinema or seeing friends and family become rare events when you have the strength. My night out was usually one Monday every three weeks right before my next chemo session. It was the only time I had the strength. Staying in against your will is isolating, dull and depressing. I've watched everything on Netflix and get really annoyed at having to wait a whole seven days for a new episode of The Good Place to land.
There's a growing body of thought that engaging with Art and culture can be a source of emotional support for people with chronic illnesses. So I thought I'd give it a go. I've joined some cultural spaces and access schemes for 2018. Did you know that under the 2010 Equality Act as a cancer patient you are automatically registered as disabled? This gives you legal protection in the workplace but also entitles you to schemes run by cultural spaces to improve disability access to their buildings. Now you may not think of yourself as disabled. I fought against the idea in my head for ages, like trying to swat away a persistent and angry wasp. When it comes to getting out and about though, it can come in very useful. Going out can be expensive, and these schemes help with the cost. For most of what follows I just had to show my PiP letter to qualify for the schemes.
The first thing I did was join the Tate Art Galleries group. For the price of a single membership they give you a Member + Guest card. This gives you entrance to all the exhibitions for you and a friend across the four Tate sites in London, Liverpool and St Ives. Also you have access to the member's rooms. The view from the fifth floor bar at Tate Modern overlooking the Thames is worth the membership alone. I've seen both the Impressionists in London and the Modigliani current exhibitions and they're fab. Art Galleries I think are great spaces and can give you space to think and contemplate which you might otherwise not have. Also they have lots of places to sit down if you get tired, lifts between floors and the cafes usually do a good selection of tea and cake.
The second thing I did was sign up for the CEA card. This is a scheme which offers 2-for-1 entry into participating cinemas for people with disabilities. All you have to do is upload a photo and your PiP letter to their site and for six pounds you get a year membership. Unlike other 2-for-1 offers this card does not have a day or time limit on it. I also used the current Times + offer to get half price membership to the Picturehouse Cinemas group. Not only do you get four free tickets but a discount on food and drink. I love going to the cinema, but especially in London it can get very costly (Picturehouse Central peak tickets are £13.50), so this is an excellent scheme to make it more affordable.
The last thing I've done is join some Theatre access schemes. I've joined the Barbican, National Theatre and Southbank Centre. They all offer discounted rates or a complimentary ticket for a friend and you can specify individual needs like seating requirements. As I haven't yet used these schemes to book anything yet, I'll report back on a future blog post about how it works and what to look out for.
I think anything that helps you feel like a normal person while going through the hell of cancer diagnosis, treatment and aftermath is a very good thing. I will be writing later in the year about how I think it's helped me along.
This week I've been.... Watching Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri and The Post. Two great central performances from Frances McDormand and Meryl Streep... Reading William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, about a 'Cool hunter' who goes on a hunt for a mysterious film.. Listening to Mark Radcliffe's remembering of The Fall's Mark E Smith.
Next Week! Exercise, is it really worth it or should I just stay on the safety of my sofa?