My doctor has always used the term remission, though he prefers ‘flare’ to ‘relapse’.
I have been here once before, in an August years ago. I waited for that day for months. I went to London on my own to celebrate, and I bought a ring in a shop selling vintage jewellery in Portobello. I chose a silver ring with a peridot stone and then I learnt that the peridot was the birth stone for August and it all seemed very fitting. I wore the ring every day, and every time I looked at it I remembered not how it felt to have glandular fever but how it felt to overcome a real and tangible obstacle, not to mention all the other things I’d achieved – working my first twelve-hour day since I was too sick to sit for even a tenth of that, walking for pleasure without pain, having problems with my glands that amounted to nothing.
And now I’m here again, a year in remission, with what is likely a different condition, though no one really knows. It almost passed me by, if I am honest, and I think it’s both healthier and unhealthier to ignore it. It means less to me because I no longer really identify as a sufferer or even a person who’s recovered, but I am also hesitant to celebrate because I can’t help but wonder if I will be here again. Or rather, that I won’t stay in remission forever.
It should be easy to move on or even be thankful. I kept my job. I am due to qualify in six weeks, and as I saw the red cups come in to Starbucks this morning Christmas no longer feels months away. I really do not think I would have a literary agent had I not got ill last summer. My first novel would still be languishing, and I wouldn’t have had all of the nice responses that drove me to write the second novel. I certainly would not be mid-way through a third. And that is a deal I would definitely consider taking – six months of illness to achieve a lifetime ambition? Probably, yes please.
And yet I can’t and won’t look at it in that way. I do not really like discussing what happened last summer, and I don’t really like to think that I am merely in remission now, as if there is a monster just off stage left, waiting to make its entrance. It must be that it is too raw; that I am, really, right back at the beginning again where colds still sometimes flatten me for more time than I would like considering my bloody Bradford Factor, and the memories of last summer and all its associated ulcers and nosebleeds and pain still loom large in my mind (so much so, actually, that only the other night I went to bed and cried, so fearful was I of the strange and varied menagerie of symptoms that occasionally rear their heads but that I am able to work through – remission it ain’t, sometimes).
I’m not wearing the ring again, but not really due to any of the above. I’ve become allergic to it, actually (since last summer, if irony were ever more fitting), and I feel too differently to wear it. I am not recovered. I am not a sufferer. Some good things happened as a result of my second illness, but there were losses, too. Mainly my peace of mind.
I might buy a new ring, when I qualify, or if I sell a book. I might not need a ring. I might just be me, with bare hands.