Epilogue

Dear all, a short post to wrap up (Part 1 of) this blog.

After 50 posts, comprising something like 75,000 words, I am sure you’re as exhausted by the effort of reading as I have become by the effort of writing. Since leaving hospital, I’ve sometimes found the energy required to blog almost beyond me. In any case, I think the next few weeks (until I have further medical updates) are a time to live, rather than to write. So I think it’s the moment for us all to take a break…

Progress a week on from leaving hospital is steady but slow. I’m surprised by how quickly I still get wiped out by relatively easy everyday tasks. My brother Ames (the trained nurse) says it’s because my body is spending its energies on trying to heal the wounds and leaves little over for ordinary life. Nonetheless, I am steadily stepping up the amount of walking I do; and I am eating regular and increasingly substantial meals, many supplied by the very kind friends and family who’ve rallied round. The only time now that my abdomen causes real pain is when I sneeze; laughter and coughing have become quite comfortable and should get more so once the clips (stitches) come out tomorrow.

Psychologically I still experience moments not of the kind depression I felt in hospital but of a kind of greyness or flatness, the feeling that there’s nothing in the tank. Fortunately, these don’t last long and they are more than compensated for by a rising mood of confidence and optimism. I continue to greatly enjoy the company of my brother Ames, whose upbeat attitude is a constant inspiration. I have lots to look forward to, including: a few days in Broadstairs in my colleague Pia’s sea-side house; Maddy’s birthday party on 20 June; the arrival of my two other brothers, from Afghanistan (yes, you read that right) and Australia respectively in the last week of June – this will be the first time we’ve all been in the same place since 1984(!); a four day camping holiday in a Peppa Pig VW Camper-van with our friend Paul and son Sam in the first week of August, which has been booked for months; a fortnight back in St Girons in the second half of August if we can manage it; the possibility of my cancelled April research trip to Israel / Palestine being rescheduled for September and so on and so forth, all the way up to Luke’s expected arrival in late November…So I have tons to look forward to in the short term as I also continue to do my daily exercise of visualising myself at Maddy’s graduation in 18-20 years time…

This isn’t to say that I’m not facing some tricky mental challenges, most of which revolve round the great unknown – how much time I have remaining. Remember that the lower estimate on April 20 was six months, so in theory I’ve possibly already used up a sixth of my remaining time. Of course I’m going to be around longer :-), but there are practical decisions which are going to have to be made fairly imminently. If I only have a year, say, then I feel I should probably resign as planned before I fell ill (on August 31), forgo the remaining 5 months of my Leverhulme Fellowship, give up the year-long Gerda Henkel Fellowship which is supposed to follow and spend the time with family and friends, on nice holidays etc.

On the other hand, if I have 6 years, the maximum time scale mentioned by Mr Khoubehi, then I should probably defer retirement, to which Goldsmiths have in principle agreed, to take into account the period of sick leave I’ve been granted. This would allow me to complete the two Fellowships and, with them, the big book on Israel / Palestine which I have begun and made substantial progress on. This should be completed by the end of 2016 at the latest, leaving me ample time to then go back to my novel about Mandate Palestine and finish that off in turn. If I pack in everything now and later find I did indeed have 5-6 years (of course there will be at least 18), then I know I’ll be very disappointed not to have completed the academic monograph into which I’ve put so much work as well as to have enjoyed both Fellowships to the full.

Then there’s the in-between, statistically average, period of 30-40 months for people with my condition. What can I, or should I try to, accomplish in that period – if anything? Or should I just devote myself full-time to Anna, Maddy and Luke…

Before moving to a resolution of this dilemma, I will await my meeting with Mr Khoubehi on June 15; by then the histology results should be through and we’ll have a better idea of how aggressive the cancer has been / is likely to be. A few weeks further down the line from that (sometime in August), we’ll know from the next set of scans whether the lung lesions have grown and, if so, what treatments will be necessary and when and what the outcomes might be…

Updates will be provided as promised from time to time. They’ll be of two kinds. Firstly in the form of medical bulletins, beginning with my meeting with the surgeon’s team on June 15th. Secondly, I’ll update you with particularly significant highlights from daily life, for example Maddy’s 4th birthday party etc, so you can keep in touch with how we’re all doing if you’re interested…

Thanks to everyone who’s travelled this difficult journey with me, whether you’ve been in on it from the beginning or joined me later down th eline. Your support and concern, as manifested in your many comments on the blog, emails and texts, have been absolutely vital in getting me this far. There have certainly been dispiriting moments and I hope I haven’t put you through too much in recording them. However, for my own peace of mind, I’ve tried to be as honest as I can. As stated in the Home page, this sort of account only has any sort  of merit or utility if it’s warts and all.

I want to particularly thank not only my adored family, especially Anna and Maddy, and my many fabulous friends but the sometimes mysterious WordPress community which has coalesced around this blog, adding its own great support and comments. In some ways, I feel the blog hasn’t adequately expressed the debt I feel towards certain people, about whom I intended to write at greater length. Please accept my apologies if I haven’t done you proper justice. I am also going to have to forgo writing about certain topics which I’d hoped to find the opportunity to do, for example why Zionism is best understood as a form of anti-Semitism as much as anti-anti-Semitism (a topic I’m heavily invested in personally since, according to some definitions, both Anna and Maddy and Luke are Jewish.) But, given the decision to eschew politics for the moment, I’ll do this in other fora…

Contact will, I hope, be maintained in more conventional ways henceforth. In particular, I would love to start seeing people again. I think that until mid-June I probably won’t be able to meet up very far from Battersea. However, I’d love to have people over to catch up. I’m open to any suggestions for morning coffee or lunch in the vicinity of Clapham Junction and also to having people round for tea (please phone, text or email if you have any dates in mind). Other times for a visit are certainly possible (I appreciate many people have conventional jobs which restrict their movements), but at the moment my energy still dips appreciably after 7 pm and I’m trying to be in bed by 10 at the latest to give myself as much rest time as possible.

Conclusion. The last 52 days have amounted to a revolution in my life, which can never fully go back to what it was. While I certainly wish I hadn’t succumbed to kidney cancer, I also must acknowledge the huge positives which have come out of the experience. It has made my relationship with my beloved Anna more solid and trusting than ever, a development reflected in our marriage, which I am deeply happy to have at last accomplished. It has made me appreciate the tiniest aspects of Maddy’s ever-growing and more complex personality with an intensity and pleasure even greater than before April. It has given me much more insight into myself than I had before and it will continue to help me recognise what’s really important in life more clearly. It’s made me appreciate my friends to a far richer degree than before and makes me determined to take them much less for granted.

And the experience has also exposed me in a much more direct way than ever before to something which I can only call the Sublime. On the one hand, I feel I’ve looked Death in the eye, been brushed by the raven wing of Pure Abjection, and neither blinked nor flinched excessively; on the other, I’ve experienced an almost religious sense of Love in the overwhelming support I’ve received from so many people. As the New Testament would have it, the love of Christ is ‘too great to understand fully.’ While I’m not a Christian, the love I’ve been shown, not just by family and friends, but even by relative strangers, falls into the same category of awesome incomprehensibility.

If, in many ways, this has been a truly dreadful experience, it’s therefore also opened me up to new ways of seeing, understanding and feeling which I am convinced are going to help see me through to Maddy’s graduation and Luke’s coming of age. Above all, I think the experience has made me more human and made me appreciate more clearly that that is the task and trajectory we all have to embrace if we are to make the world a better place and love each other better. The corollary of that, however, is that our efforts to become more human are inhibited by the growing inhumanity we see all around us; and that in turn is why we can’t avoid politics, or at least analysis of the relations of power which decide that some categories of humanity are less human, or less worthy to be human, than ourselves (the privileged neo-liberal West and its proxies.) So while I’ve given up politics for the time being, my experience of illness has convinced me more than ever that I will have to be more engaged and activist when I am recovered enough to be so…

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to walk this journey with me.

With deep love and appreciation, Bart xx

4 thoughts on “Epilogue”

  1. Bart, thanks for being so open about everything and closing the distance. It’s great to hear that you’re on the mend, have even more excitement to come with Luke’s arrival, and there’s hope. Looking forward to seeing you in the summer, even if only briefly if that’s all you can manage. Keep up the healing! Eve xx

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  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. The fact that you have managed so well is testimony to the support and kindness you have received from family and friends – all who believe in you. You have instructed us in many ways and brought us closer together. Many cheers to Bart, Anna, Maddy, Luke and brothers of B.!

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  3. I keep thinking about the name of the yet-to-be-born, Luke: the doctor, patron of physicians, surgeons, students and butchers, innocent symbol of hope and blessing, brother and son. May his, their, our lives be long and happy. Thank you for writing so bravely. Thoughts and prayers, Mate. Love, Tony…

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  4. Bart,
    I discovered “oftherightkidney” when I went online to find an email address to send thanks for your book “The Setting Sun”. Discovering this blog and the impetus for it following so quickly after the publication of your book last year was a reminder of the importance of seizing the moment and attending to life’s most important priorities. While this may not be the best place for this message, I trust a thank you is never out of place.

    I happened across “The Setting Sun” quite by chance in a local library here in western Canada and believe it was the proverbial right book at the right time for me as I am also doing research for a book about an ancestor who spent 10 years in India, although seven decades before your father. A different period, yes, but there were some very similar themes. Some of the insights you shared in coming to terms with your father’s role and actions during his time with the IP were very meaningful to me. The serendipitous discovery of people, before unknown to you, who helped you with your research made for delightful reading. I enjoyed both the historical and autobiographical components of your book very much.

    Warm thoughts for your health and family are sent to you across the miles with sincere thanks for sharing your story and that of your father.

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