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Father’s Day

I’m not much of one for family. They are just there – like the Pennines or the seasons, or, if you live in Manchester – like the rain. There are different kinds of rain but you know you’ll always have one kind or the other and often closer than you would like. It’s a given.

Only soon it might not be. I got back of holiday a couple of weeks ago to be told my Dad had a cough (cue analogy to weathering and erosion or some such). Later this week we find out if/how the cancer can be treated and how long they think he’s got. There you go. Simple as that, part of the coastline crumbles into the sea.

So today is Father’s Day. Do I go along and tell him off for 60+ years of smoking and then having the gall to get ill? There can’t be anyone that doesn’t know the risks. I even grew up telling him that this would most likely happen. Always there – Dad and smoking. He wasn’t the only one. I remember Uncles and friends of the family all smoking (we must have all reeked of it but everyone else’s parents smoked so who was to notice?). I remember the party one year when they all decided to give up together.

And they all did. Except for my Dad.

We all are all made by our environment.  Years of watching my Mum nag him helped me grow up to be someone who very specifically does not nag. I also do not tut. I also realised that there is next to no chance in changing a person. My Mum seemed to have wanted to stop Dad smoking ever since she met. At that was over 50 years ago you’d think she’d have got the hint before now. I’ve even known my Dad wind her up to an argument so he can go off and have a smoke in peace on holiday.

Current husband smokes. He smoked when I met him and I have never nagged him to stop. I haven’t even asked him to start smoking outside. He’s tried giving up a couple of times and I’ve been supportive but he always goes back to it. He might not smoke a lot, but he does smoke. (By coincidence my previous chap smoked cigars. I might not like it but I do seem to have ‘form’ with smokers.)

Last week I finally asked other half if he would consider the possibility of maybe giving up smoking for good. (You can see I was really forceful about it.) He’s still smoking. He tells me not to panic, not to upset myself as – after all – the final diagnosis has not been determined. His own Father died of a smoking related cancer. If nursing your own Dad doesn’t make you reconsider then I doubt if what your wife says will make much difference.

I’ve grown up expecting this, there’s nothing I can say or do that will stop it. And I’m so angry at my Dad but I cannot say “I told you so” because that does no one any good. I can’t tell him I’ll miss him, because we haven’t had the final word yet and we don’t know how long things will take. After years of waiting for it I’m trying to be the objective one but I still expect to fall apart when the time comes.

Father’s Day. The day we celebrate bad DIY (yes, that shelf did fall on my head), being shown up in public (dancing to Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones), putting your foot in it (“no, I only meant you were all in proportion”, “oh, so I’m fat all over, thanks Dad” – conversation on holiday some years ago) and having the sartorial elegance of socks and sandals with milk bottle white legs and baggy shorts when abroard. The day we also say “I love you” with a card, often sarcastic and either mentioning money or farting, because we are all too stupid to say it out loud.

This is my Mum and Dad and my brother at his wedding a few years ago. I can’t quite think what the scenery is going to look like when one of them is missing.

Our kid (‘ar kid’ if you are local), Mum and Dad

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On not appreciating what I had

A few years ago now I started to feel ill and began the merry-go-round of doctors, tests and – needless to say – problems at work as I went through phases of just never seeming to wake up.

Symptoms: fatigue, thirst, nausea, pain in joints, sweats, burning skin, itching, loss of concentration, insomnia, increased irritability. Did I say fatigue? Oh and forgetting words at work! It was so frustrating. If I could get to the end of a sentence I couldn’t remember the …. did I say fatigue?

And what seemed to bring all this on? I had hit forty and joined a gym. I had bought a pair of trainers that corrected the pronation in my ankles and could run for the first time like ever without pain. At the point of going to the doctors I had been at the gym 3 times a week and was running at least twice a week. Not doing anything mad, I’d just gradually built up over time in an attempt to correct the damage of years of neglect. The week before I had a bit of a collapse when my legs just didn’t seem to want to work any more I remember that I had never felt so good and everything seemed to be going well – I was happy at home, work was good and I’d gone from being over a size 16 to being an easy size 12.

Test start and questions are asked, given my age and the fact that I had lost about 2 stones in weight (total weight loss ended up at 3 stones) diabetes was an early contender. But no, I’m not diabetic … just glucose intolerant. Two months of tablets for this mystery intolerance and I’m back at the doctors feeling no better just to be told that “oh no, glucose intolerance has no symptoms, that was just what we found.”

Nearly 2 years in all to get a diagnosis of M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or whatever is the current fashionable description). Nothing really very scientific, they just tested for everything else and when it was proved not to be Cushings, or Addisons, or a pituitary tumour, or anything else that might have been treatable we ended up with M.E. as the last man standing. The only thing was not seriously suggested was anaemia and I had begun to think that could have been highly likely with the amount of blood that I lost in the process. It was a good thing that I have always been vaguely interested in medicine and have absolutely no shame about collapsed veins and bruises on my arms.

Maybe I have been one of the lucky ones, there was a neurologist in the area who ran and M.E. clinic so I got onto a management program and have also found a sympathetic ear at occupational health. I know I could be much, much worse off.

I still work. I have had to reduce my hours but I do still have my job. The people I work with are quite understanding, they are used to seeing the zombie in the corner and know that some days she just can’t make it in. The people I work for say very little. What can they say? Though I never wanted to have the words said it seems that I am now protected by the disability discrimination act (that sounds so wrong and potentially unfair to those with more ‘real’ disabilities).

I am now low sugar, low fat (high cholesterol was the news flash last week), low/no caffeine, and low dairy (oh, but increase the cheese because of risk of osteoporosis – can you see a problem with that?). I’m still on the tablets for glucose intolerance. When asked what the point was of taking them I was told that it was to avoid diabetes in the future and that I couldn’t come off them unless I lost a lot more weight (“Hang on”, thought I, “you said the weight loss was part of the problem …”).

I am also now quite low on fun.

None of my symptoms have actually gone away, they just come and go mostly according to stress/excitement. Going for a night out and having a laugh can cripple me the day after. Bad news can set me off. Making the effort for social interaction definitely takes it out of me. Strangely enough the gym has been one thing that has kept me going, I have just had to learn the exercises that cause me problems and work around them. I can manage a massive 6 – count ’em – 6 lunges in total and can now skip for 1 minute before knowing I will collapse later in the day. I no longer attempt to run any distance. In contrast I seem to be able to do sit-ups, push-ups, some planking and punch like anything with no apparent ill effect.

I’m not certain but I might be one of the few M.E. suffers who kept their gym membership and users time off work to see a personal trainer. Odd though it might seem this is the only time I get encouragement to try and see what I am still able to do. I may no longer be losing weight (how all this started in the first place) but my body fat has gone from 29% to around 22% so for a forty something woman with a sedentary job that’s not too bad.

Wikipedia have a cracking article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_fatigue_syndrome It scared the daylights out of me when I first read it, now it’s like an old friend.