‘It’s cancer all right; the negative report means only that it is not active at the moment. That often happens.’
Sheila persuaded the chief surgeon to carry out another bronchoscopy himself. The results were shrouded in haze for me; it seemed that ‘it’, whatever it was, had not increased in size. It was agreed not to operate. I was subjected to a series of treatments, the worst was a course of antibiotics. After a few days I could not stand, and found coughing a serious strain. I thought, ‘I’m damned if I’m going to be killed this way,’ and started hiding the pills. Sheila came every day to visit me. It was a great strain for her; there was a bus strike, and often she walked the whole way. My prolonged illness was not only a big expense itself but now my map publishing business was beginning to run down.
England Map Road Photo Gallery
I was still on the Court of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, and one day I had a state visit from the Master of the Guild, Sir Frederic Tymms: it did me good, because
Freddie, who was extremely kind, obviously thought that I was shortly taking off for another world. This amused me, and put a little ginger into me. Many of my friends visited me too, but often I felt too ill to talk. I would make an effort, but felt I needed to conserve the vital spark, and not to fan it into flame. I wanted only to lie still in peace, and to defer the horrid moment when I would start coughing, and pass through the experience of feeling suffocated. There came a time when I said that suffocation had caused me to die a thousand deaths, but this was an exaggeration; perhaps it was a hundred, or even less. But it is what seems that counts, not what is. I had always heard that drowning was a pleasant death. I cannot understand this. Perhaps it is different to be choked by water from outside. I developed a terrified dread of that slow choking from within. I despised myself as I became an abject coward about dying that way. As each fresh crisis built up, I wanted to cry as if surrendering to that weakness would give me respite.
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