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Alison Napier

0800: Wake up and realise that I am half blind. Put on specs. Now only quarter blind. Right eye is glued shut and red and puffy and dribbly. Yeugh.

Another side effect ticked. Bath it in warm water and it partially opens. Stumble into the day. Fidel Castro has died and I look forward to all the confused and hysterical media reports. Already the Guardian is being prim and populist. Nothing is simplistically black or white.

0900: Suz away to work. Sip tea. Disgusting. Sip water. Ditto. Nibble on a pineapple chunk. Tolerable.

1000: Have phone call with cancer buddy/counsellor and we discuss this total loss of normal taste and accompanying vile chemical taste and smell. She suggests smoothies as they can just be glugged down and will at least provide essential nutrition. This reminds me that I love avocados. Decide to go on avocado hunt. May take remainder of the day. May not be of sound mind.

1100: I am going On An Expedition to Tescos (a five minute drive in a straight line).

1115: Venture out the front door dressed in thick mountaineering trousers, Paramo jacket, boots, woolly hat, scarf and thermal gloves. Creep down two flights of stairs clutching the banister. Pat bike on descent and say 'Hello bike'. Aloud. Get outside and feel quite dizzy and pathetic so have a seat on wall near the bins as I question my sanity.

1130: Ten yards along the pavement I find car. Temperature is minus 6 and car looks beautiful, entirely covered in frost an inch deep. Switch on engine, turn up heaters, close doors and start scraping.

1200: Car is clear. Icy air in lungs feels glorious and clean and the sky is a dazzling blue. I have crept round my little battered Peugeot with its Yes sticker for fifteen minutes, hanging on to wing mirrors and handles, enjoying the wonder of sunshine and frost and being outside for first time in over a week. Bizarrely happy. Remember my Expedition. Get into car.

1210: Arrive safely at Tescos car park despite blurry eye. Apparently it is Black Friday and everyone in Perth has a large flat screen television in their trolley apart from me. I am looking for an avocado. Which sadly is not in the BF sale.

1211: Arrange myself in position of nearly-open penknife and attach self to trolley. Remain in this position along aisles, through checkout and back to car. No children run screaming from me. Detach self from trolley and drive home in triumph with avocado.

1300: Sit in chair for half an hour recovering from ridiculously foolhardy but successful Expedition.

1400: Try to eat mashed avocado and it tastes… disgusting. Boo Hoo and Very Glum. Have a few pineapple chunks.

1500: Sit in chair and stare at sky for over an hour as it changes colour. Listen to music which makes me cry a wee bit but that's ok and tears seem to help the dry crusted eyes. Watch crow on high tree branch as it watches the sunset too.

1700: I have an itchy rash on both my hands. Perhaps I am allergic to pineapple chunks. But know really it is just another well-documented side effect of the lovely Docetaxel drug (which interestingly originates in the needles of the yew tree. Stay away from yew trees). Another tick. Heading for a full house with this chemo 5. Suz gets home and we share the highs and lows of our day.

1830: Suz goes out to a wedding reception to which we had both been invited but I fear I would have brought little to the party. Am also aware that I have lost all sense of social conventions and if someone had asked me how I was I might have replied 'Not too bad really! The rash on my bottom is much better since I applied Vaseline. Marvellous stuff!' So on balance a good thing that I stayed home.

1900: Hungry and not hungry. Need food. Dread food. Friday is traditionally fish and chip night so I lose all reason, decide 'To Hell With It!' and try to reproduce a fish supper by cooking three fish fingers, four oven chips and twenty frozen peas. Serve with dot of ketchup and it is…. Disgusting. Of course. Force down one fish finger, a chip and five peas in ketchup, drink water and have a few pineapple chunks. Depressed. Watch Nigella on Food Channel and try to imagine enjoying food again. Cannot imagine it. Google 'chemo chemical taste' and find suggestion that using plastic cutlery helps. Go to bed and listen to radio.

2300: Suz gets home, pours herself a glass of wine and makes a sandwich with a buttered end of bread, my leftover fish fingers, three oven chips and all the cold peas. I am mesmerised and deeply envious. Remind self that we are living in Exceptional Times.

0800: Sleep intermittently. Wake hungry. Determined to be well enough for Nepalese meal out in two weeks' time. I will wear thick mitts over my alligator-hand rash, dark glasses to conceal my red and crusty eyes, and a hat over my baldness. With a flourish I will produce my plastic spoon from the depths of a pocket and will tackle my delicious fish curry with rice and garlic naan without a care in the world and I will wave to Suz who inexplicably will be sitting at a different table. Roll out of bed and stumble into the day in search of a pineapple chunk. Feeling fractionally better and decide to try a mandarin orange which tastes… delicious!

Eat another three! Woo Hoo.

To be continued...

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See Episode 11 here

See Episode 12 here

See Episode  13 here

See Episode 15 here

See Episode 16 here.

Meet The Author...
Alison Napier
Who Am I?

Alison Napier is 58 and was diagnosed with a Grade 3 breast cancer in June 2016. She is a social worker to trade and is also a writer. Her short stories are published in many collections and anthologies in both Scotland and England and her non-fiction has appeared in a variety of national newspapers and journals.

She lives in Perthshire with her partner Susan, enjoys her allotment on an island in the River Tay (regrettably prone to regular flooding…!), cooks once a week for a lunch club for older people and plays the recorder with a fine bunch of friends in her spare time.

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