Now that it’s happened a second and third time, I realise this urge to take my wig off and have a photo taken at the tops of high places is all about wanting – and perhaps needing – to record instances of being somewhere I never thought I’d be while undergoing chemo.
The first time was earlier this month at the top of a hill in Wales (The Great Sugar Loaf Uncovering). Then this past weekend it was in Paris, where we’d gone for a few days, once at the top of one of the towers of Notre Dame cathedral and then at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
I really thought I’d be so wiped out with the chemo that I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything at all in a physical sense. But since starting the sessions just over three months ago, I’ve managed to keep playing tennis, I’ve been out for a couple of short runs, I’ve kept cycling to some degree (if not outside then on training rollers inside), I did that hillwalk in Wales and now I’ve conquered these two Paris landmarks.
The last thing I want to do is give the impression that chemo’s been a walk in the park as it really hasn’t been (“Maureen is tolerating the chemotherapy remarkably well”… just not today). There have been some days – but thankfully not too many – when it’s taken a real effort even to move from the sofa. Also, I still have three sessions to go, although after tomorrow’s session it’ll be down to just two. But I’m hugely relieved – not to mention happy – I’ve been able to do so much. There’s an important lesson here for all us about the pointlessness of expecting the worse.
To get to the top of the Notre Dame, my husband, two boys and I climbed a total of 387 steps up a couple of very steep spiral staircases. You go up in groups of around 20 and, while I was sweating by the end of both the first and second levels, I definitely wasn’t the only one in the group who found it hard going. It was well worth it, though, for the views and the sense of achievement in equal measure. In the photo it looks like those chimeras* are about to take a bite out of my head!
Managing that inspired me to tackle the Eiffel Tower. So on Sunday night, Jamie, Finlay and I climbed the 704 steps to the 2nd stage. That was in fact easier than the near-400 steps at Notre Dame. The Eiffel Tower steps are nowhere near as steep as the steps in the cathedral tower, you’re outside so it’s cooler and there are plenty of places to stop to rest. You get the lift to the top from the 2nd stage, which is where the photo was taken.
The blue light in the background is the laser beam from the tower. In the photo it’s the exact same colour as my jacket, but to the human eye it was white. All credit to my boys for this photo. As I prepared to “de-wig”, I asked if they were ok with me doing this. They both looked at me as if I were mad (good to see some things never change!) and one simply said “Why wouldn’t we be?”. I do wander around the house bare-headed so they are used to it.
There’s no need now for any more photos like these. I know I can do it. Also, I’m really not sure where I’d go or what I’d do next!
*Today’s architecture lesson… These are chimeras, not gargoyles. Gargoyles were built into the ends of the gutters to drain rainwater off the roof; chimeras are used as simple decorations.