I can remember vividly the day it all ended, that life of mine; career girl, vivacious and independent, the girl about town, a woman on the up. But now as I pen these words, and after they have cut through the very flesh and the very bones of me, it’s difficult to recall when exactly it all began.
Talking about the past, that terrible time, makes me tremble at the revelations I divulge. They are private thoughts about the people I love, the people who kept me alive and sane. The people who nurtured my wounds and embraced me, without fear of rebuttal, abandoning their own desires to cater to mine to make me feel protected and confident about the life I was about to face.
I remember one. Doctor Ruth I called her. She was a dark haired angel leaning over my body. Her smile was sympathetic and her face showed no fear. Her hand touched mine when she told me something that somehow I always knew.
“We’re going to have to amputate,” she said, clear and precise. Her firmness calmed me as her resolve allowed no room for doubt and that ‘to cut’ was the only route left for me now.
I looked at the man next to her, his presence and strength towering over me as his love dispelled my fear.
“What will we do?” I asked him, only wanting his assurance, just a guiding word.
And as I surely knew I could not think beyond that moment and unable to plan, as I always planned in times of trouble, he spoke to me.
“It is a blessing,” he answered, and for once I couldn’t tell what he meant. “Because afterwards, there will be no more pain.”
He was right. It was true. That pain! That excruciating pain gangrene brings, indescribable and terrifying. Pain only momentarily numbed by the morphine pumping through my veins, making me sleep, living in oblivion even though the darkness reigned there in my unconsciousness.
I recall one dream. It was painted black, like a charcoal sketch with deep long strokes depicting a motorway’s slip-road running down to a raging river where whales and dolphins swam. As I pushed my four flailing limbs, swimming for my life, I looked up and watched a great black whale make a towering lunge above me. And as I imagined the pain I would feel when his weight crushed me, as it surly would, he crashed down upon me and snuffed out the remaining light of my darkest thoughts.
They took my leg then, Doctor Ruth and the others. Saving my life with their surgical procedure, as those whales and dolphins led the way, those gentle mammals taking me to a place where I would be safe again, free of that torturous pain.
I was wrong. That wasn’t the end. Gangrene spreads. They never told me, but they knew there was more to come. They could smell it; the disease down there, where the empty space in my bed mocked me; the place which once was full with a limb, long and shapely.
So, they took some more, and after, some more again. My family and friends were praying they would stop. They couldn’t bear any more. Enough! They cried. This shouldn’t be happening. Not to her!
Many could not understand how for me the recovery was worse than the event itself. How my mind played games with me, how the people I thought I knew, changed.
‘Going home’ was arriving at a house, a strange place where suddenly it was mine no more. Ramps, wheelchairs, levers, low levels and canes, all there to assist me, to take away what was left of the person I once was.
The final scene was misery unleashed. My eternal optimism diminished each day as a knock on the door pushed me further away. I was an entity, no longer the girl I was, someone to pity, to indulge, to tolerate. It killed me that attitude. It put me in a place where for years I had defended myself against, with armour of business suits and high, spiked heels, preventing them from hurting me. I was stripped bare and they came in droves to torment me, teasing my mind, my soul, my conscience, my passion, and my decreasing gusto.
Time passed; good happened.
Everything in my world once familiar changed. I married a wonderful man, the love of my life. I bore twins, a beautiful boy and a beautiful girl. Then, leaving our homeland we found a new life in France; a vineyard, a country house, a peaceful existence in an age reminiscent of the fifties, where values and ideals gush like water in an eternal running stream.
Now, a decade later, as if a new life wasn’t enough to enrich me, to make me smile, to make me dance for joy whilst balanced on two sticks, I now have a shiny silver laptop, enabling me, as the ultimate finalé, to write and to write and to write.
And now I’m home.