Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Monday 6th July

I wonder what constitutes the ‘perfect day’…

I’m sure it is a term that differs so vastly – in fact, as vastly as people themselves differ. For some, it must be about, possibly, doing absolutely nothing; for others, about doing more than everything. For a group is may be about making pots of money; for others, about simply surviving.

For me, the perfect day, at Sedge at any rate, is about doing as much as possible to make the most of every moment of the day.

Today, I think, was a really, really great day. Perfect, in fact. To start off, the weather was lovely. It was mostly clear the whole day and, although there was a wind, it was warm – for Winter, at any rate. I went for a run before breakfast, then made a big meal for everyone. We spent time on the beach; Dani and I went for a cycle; and, in the evening and in the big wind, I went for a paddle. Such a lovely day.

Yesterday, everyone else in the family did the Knysna Harbour to Heads Challenge canoe race. They all set off in great spirits and returned variously – and in different states of tiredness, cold and happiness. I saw them all off and then alternately waited and rushed around taking photos. At the beginning, I felt highly miffed that I was the only one in the family not actually doing the race – me and Charnelle. The reason I was not paddling was because I am just not recovered enough to handle any distance, let alone on the lagoon against the tide.

Partly, I felt vaguely pathetic and a little of the ‘this is unfair’ feeling. Then, of course, I had to remind myself that it may be 9 months after the op, but, after all, it is not even year – and a much shorter time than that since the chemo.

This evening it was brought home to me that there really is no question of me even thinking about some form of challenging paddle. I went on the Swartvlei on the Surfski, which the girls carried down to the water for me. (I did carry it back with Sarah.) Even in the first 100 metres, or so, I could feel my right side pulling – specifically where the muscles were cut. Again, I was reminded that this was a helluva operation. Never mind the seemingly slow pace at which my poor old body is working to get rid of all the effects of the chemo (as manifest in the tiredness I still feel and the way I just don’t seem to be able to get past a certain stage of activity, either running or paddling because of it), my muscles were definitely harshly affected and it is still going to take time.

Without crying it from the mountain tops and bemoaning things, this all makes me realise (again) that this really was a large operation and that one’s body really does take strain. I may not be 20 anymore, but I am very fit for my age (at least, I was before the cancer thing). I have also been doing regular exercise, both running and paddling, from just about straight after the first operation and around the others, as well as all through the chemo. Despite all this, my muscles still take strain and are simply not fully recovered enough to really do any activity that is very demanding.

Cancer, as they say, is not for cissies!

So, I am back to giving myself pep talks about everything being relative and that, in a year’s time, I will be doing the canoeing race myself. Presumably.

Letting things happen as they have to, as they need to, in order to recover properly, is a huge lesson to be learnt from this cancer thing. That and, of course, patience.

Moment-by-moment. Step-by-step. That is the only way to tackle journey, no matter how slow the pace may seem to be at times.

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