Exile

Dropped without a passport in a foreign land,
Left without a map or means
To leave or find the way,
In this strange dark place I never sought
I eat the bitter fruits and think of home,
And contemplate how long the years to come.

Now the letters come to tell me that I'm missed,
And hope for my return;
And so I think how it would be,
How they would greet me, ask me how I am
With kindly eyes and curiosity
And think how terrible, thank God not me.

But I can never go where I would go before
For now I only speak the tongue of Nod:
Though echoes of the past sound in my head
I cannot speak their language now,
And so forever I could only be
A constant Cain marked visitor.

Having started on the so-called "magic bullets" of Arimidex and Herceptin, we started receiving letters and 'phone calls from friends and acquaintances saying they hoped Sandra would be able to start getting out-and-about again.

A couple of years earlier, a neighbour of ours had died of breast cancer. She wasn't someone we knew well; just to smile "hello" to whenever we passed. I can remember feeling ill at ease and embarrassed when meeting her walking down the street with her tea-cosy hat on; I also felt guilty at feeling that way. Sandra said she felt like that, too. Now the boot was on the other foot, and we understood what it felt like, knowing that other people were feeling that way about us.

To Sandra, the most dreaded of all questions was, unfortunately, also the most natural one to be asked when meeting someone: "How are you?". Both she and I answered this quietly, in our heads, in much the same way, "I've got cancer, so how the F*** do you think I am?". Factual questions about the treatment, or whether we'd been able to get away, etc were fine; questions about feelings were not, except from the very, very closest of friends.