For every up, there’s a down right now.
And because this is a completely straight down the line, honest portrayal of what it’s like to have cancer, I’m telling you about this side of things too.
In my case, as you’ve gathered, my rational side is pretty good at this whole cancer thing. But my dreams will tell you an entirely different story.
I promised I’d tell you about the delirium or hallucination I experienced the other night. In its case, I felt I could attribute it to coming down off the terrible cocktail of IV drugs I was on. But since I’ve had an even scarier dream since, I’ve had to come around to the fact that it’s my own fear creating these dreams, not drugs in my system.
So, the hospital dream. It had been a long, weird, sleepless night in the hospital. As I lay sleepless and it ticked towards 2am, I began to hear a scramble of noises like radio static. I opened my eyes to find my little curtained off hospital room glowing red and strange, evil creatures lurking around the frame of my hospital bed. “This is crazy”. I thought, and blinked a few times, and the room returned to normal. But then the noises returned and there was an absolute army of all the evil things from the seven layers of hell all dancing, swooping around my bed. I distinctly heard the crazy non-English speaking lady in the next cubicle say “someone light some incense!” with absolute clarity. What was reassuring throughout though, was that I never wavered on my belief that though these creatures may come, they couldn’t get me because this was my safe hospital bed.
Scary? Yes. Also weirdly Catholic/ Christian in its content. I think all the crucifixes and bibles of St Vincent’s were making an impression.
But now, last night’s dream took me to a whole new place.
In this dream, I found myself in a public bathroom, late at night, after a music festival. Strewn among papers on the ground was an old book with a few banknotes sticking out of it, which I took with a view to handing it in to the police. However as I walked away carrying the book, I ran into one of Charlie’s sisters (Hilary, to be specific). I offered to drive her home and found that an old dog of mine, whose name I had strangely forgotten (Satchmo) was following along too.
When I dropped Hil home, she showed me a room full of paintings she’d created- strange saints with faces on their kneecaps.
She went off to bed and I went to leave, calling Satchmo “Lucie” and having him trot happily behind me. The car had gone and a huge gate had locked me in.
I returned to the house and settled down to flip through the book I’d picked up, curious to explore this strange object. It was extraordinary, page on page of weird and wonderful imagery, pop-ups, gold leaf and strange insertions. But when I reached the back page, there were a series of creepy black and white images, almost like blurry scans. I heard a raspy noise, and looked up to discover that an old shop mannequin with its face wrapped in rough sacking was headed towards me.
Pinned down by fear, I remained motionless, and realised that the terrible rasping noise was emerging from me. The mannequin started to scratch me away, the sensation was of a giant fingernail scratching and peeling away at my skin and flesh.
The thing that scared me most was that periodically, it would return dormant to its place in the corner, leaving me with my flesh in ribbons, in great pain and greater fear.
I tried to rouse the mannequin and get it to finish me off, and it rose again as a giant evil pinochhio, almost sanding me away with its wooden hands, strings dangling. I looked desperately for help, tried to scream or even breathe but the only sound I could produce was the rasping noise.
In the corner was a tiny wooden puppet master, with small cut strings hanging from his hands. I begged him mentally to step in and control his creation, but he just stared on sadly.
And then I woke up, like a small child, crying and terrified, almost hysterical. It was so real, I was sure that if I went back to sleep this terrible puppet/mannequin with his sackcloth face would torture me for ever.
I pity anyone who has to get through the night terrors of cancer without someone by their side. Thankfully, of course, I had Charlie, who’d been awoken by the horrible rasping noise I was making (yes, that bit was real) and comforted me just as you would a very scared small child who can’t yet tell dreams from reality.
I’m not sure I’ll watch horror ever again, my reality is scary enough right now.
Here’s one for all you closet Freudian analysts out there.
I am having the most alarming number of dreams involving scary animals. In every dream, my “house” is invaded by some variety of animal.
In one case, it was hundreds of snakes. They slithered everywhere, falling from the ceiling and dripping down the walls (yep, in my dreams, snakes “drip”).
In another, an absolutely massive goanna kept popping up through holes in our kitchen. Every time I plugged a hole, another hole would appear.
Another dream transported my “house” into the middle of a warm, light blue sea. I had to swim from one room to the next. And I was systematically pursued by an enormous shark from room to room.
Last night, my house was Westwell, our old family home in the Adelaide hills. I looked out the window and found a smallish tiger prowling around. I desperately tried to seal up the house. Time passed, but the tiger would not leave. I grew sorry for the tiger, and worried for its health, and decided that I should order a herd of goats so that it could have something to eat.
I’m beginning to wonder if in my subconscious, the cancer is being realised as an animal. The “house” is my body, perhaps? The animals never quite destroy me, but they do manage to penetrate and navigate through all the defences that I set up. It is a strange sensation.
The tiger dream was a little different, but closely reflected my feelings towards the tumour. I’m drawn between wanting to send love and warmth to the breast, or trying to turn my body against it, asking it to fight for me.
It will be interesting to see if the dreams continue after the surgery.