may will remember the importance I put on bacon in my life, not just in a physical sense, but also as a symbol for one of the simplest but – to me – most important ways I get through my days, whether in hospital or beyond: my almost famous bacon theory.
Rather than explain it all again, Mariacristina and I thought it would be easiest to repost my original explanation from my original blog, written in December 2005, for both those who haven’t heard it and those who want a refresher (but feel free to skip straight to daily update if you prefer). It still describes how I think, although I’ll write sometime about how the intervening years have led me look at some of my earlier pronouncements in a different light.
I’ve left the text unchanged, in spite of my editorial urges…
Bacon vs leukaemia
This is why I think there’s no reason for me to be any less happy than someone without leukaemia. I’m happy because today I have lovely visitors, and I might have one of those nice ready meals in my fridge. And I’ve got exciting little things to look forward to. I might be able to pop out for a few hours on Sunday/Monday, and that makes me happy, even though it’s just a possibility. Things like bacon sandwiches make me enormously happy. Leukaemia might seem to be a big negative, but the positive effect of a bacon sandwich is far greater.
Day to day, is my life ruined by leukaemia? Of course not. OK, I’m stuck in hospital, but my room is pretty well-stocked and decorated. I probably see far more people than I would if I weren’t ill, and feel incredibly loved. The future is uncertain, but the present is certain: I’m here and getting on with the treatment. It’s a case of making each day interesting and enjoyable. Which I do by doing things I like: reading the newspaper, writing things like this for my blog, talking to people on the phone, reading letters/cards, reading books, watching good TV programs (yes, they do exist), struggling with the cryptic crossword, thinking, having a reflexology session, chatting to the nurses, catching up with visitors, &c.
That’s the same whether you’re ill with leukaemia or not. This is why I could never do a job that I didn’t find interesting: you might get great rewards, which might help make the time you’re not working more fun, but if most of your waking hours are spent doing something you don’t enjoy, then is the payoff enough? Whether I’m in hospital or at home, whether I’m at work or at uni, whether I’m ill or healthy, each day I’m immensely cheered by little things.
And even if things are tough in the immediate present, there are always good things to look forward to, be it a bacon sandwich when I’m allowed out, or the end of intramuscular injections (admittedly that positive is a double negative, but thass ok), or another lovely letter, or Christmas, or the next great book to read. I could never not have something good to look forward to while literature is still legal.
I don’t think anybody can ever say that they have nothing to look forward to, because you make of your life what you will. If you feel you have nothing good to look forward to, then you can organise something so you do. Ring up a friend you haven’t spoken to for ages. Pick up a good book. Make a bacon sandwich. This all comes back to the ‘happiest people not having the best of everything, but making the best of everything’ dictum: I don’t believe in being happy by waiting for life to treat you well. Unfortunately life doesn’t always treat you well, but it’s how you deal with it that determines your mood.
Of course, if you rely on good little things to cheer you up, it’s possible that bad little things could have an equal effect on you in the opposite direction. But only if you choose to let them. I could be sitting here in floods of tears because I don’t like my fat face and I can’t go home and my hands feel funny. But I’d rather look forward to not having a fat face, to going home and to my hands hopefully getting better (and if not then getting used to life with them tingling). I’d rather smile at the lovely phone calls and visitors and letters and cards I had today. I’d rather laugh again remembering the tale of the Argh Peterty.
My post about ‘Je t’aime John Wayne’ was more important, therefore, than perhaps was immediately clear. I think it summed up what I’ve just been trying to explain. I said something like ‘how can anybody be sad when such a film exists?’ and that wasn’t just me being hyperbolic. It genuinely made me so happy to watch (and still makes me laugh and grin when I think about it or watch it again… sorry it doesn’t seem to be available online) that it cheered up my day. A little thing, but the little things keep your spirits up.
This also explains why I think nurses are great, and why what the OMV (Order of Malta Volunteers: there’s a link to the website in the right-hand column of this page), for example, does is so important. People who are ill or suffering might have fewer little things to cheer them up. You might hope for a cure for cancer or an end to wars, and both would be great, but at the moment people’s lives are still made difficult by cancer and war, so it’s of such importance to make sure people can get through each day with a smile on their faces. So if in some way you can make people’s lives a little more comfortable or entertaining, it’s wonderful to do so. The most amazing thing you can do.
So: on the scales, the joy of a bacon sandwich easily outweighs the gloom of leukaemia. At least, it does on my scales.
UPDATE FROM ROOM 5:
As for a practical update; I am indeed neutropaenic (neutrophils were 0.5 yesterday) and my counts are coming down as expected. Temperatures have stopped spiking, but I’m still on some ‘bug police’ antiobiotics, which is keeping me tied to my IV stand for a good six hours or so a day at the moment (not a major concern, given I can’t leave my room anyway). Fortunately the doctors might be stopping that. Otherwise I’m feeling relatively well, albeit weary, so I’ve been catching some kip during the day, too – any excuse for a sleep! Thank you for wonderful support, cards, messsages and more: you are all the greatest.