100 Years of Perspective.
I wasn't sure where to begin for this blog. Anyone who knows Spinal Tap will have a ready response to the title this week but in my case the amount of perspective was just right.
It's now just over a week since the first chemotherapy round started and it hasn't been too bad so far. I've been feeling quite muddled (not much difference there then!) and I've had a couple of not so good days which culminated in a low temperature and extreme tiredness. There are the strange, fizzy, chemical burning sensations which crawl intermittently all over my skin. I've had a sore mouth on a couple of evenings which made reading Arthur's bedtime story a bit awkward and uncomfortable (and quite strange to listen to for Arthur I should think, though he didn't say anything). And my hair has started to fall out (it seems to coincide with the fizzy thing) but I've got so much hair it's going to be a while before it shows... Probably.
But the main thing this week hasn't been to do with cancer or it's treatment at all (though I believe it's going to help with the recovery)
On Wednesday I went with my Dad, Aunty Mary and Brother, Will to visit my Great Grandfather's grave in a small War cemetery just outside the tiny village of Priez. He was one of the first members of the Royal Sussex Regiment to be killed in action in the First World War on 10th September 1914. We visited the site of the battle and during a wonderful commentary given by Colonel Roderick Arnold to the 150 or so people present (members of the Royal Sussex Regimental Association and various descendants such as us Cleares), we were told the position RSM William Cleare fell to within a few metres.
Seeing the actual geographical site of his death was quite a shock but also very moving. Suddenly he was there, very real and in some undefinable way, the eighth of me that is him acknowledged that.
This may all seem irrelevant to a blog which has thus far concentrated on my current circumstances and the personal battle I'm undergoing with breast cancer. But it has added a very sudden and as it turns out much needed perspective to the whole thing.
William Cleare was the Regimental Sergeant Major when the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment were deployed to France in the middle of August 1914. He was 40. Six years younger than I am now but, compared to most of the regular soldiers under his command, who were in their late teens or early 20s, he was an old man. I imagine him to bear the weight of this responsibility as a father figure, losing his life ensuring his boys were where they needed to be and all accounted for. He left a young daughter (Auntie Kitty) an even younger son (my Grandfather, also a William) and our Gran Cleare (his wife). She survived her husband by almost 70 years and her only son (who was killed in the Second World War) by 35 years. I knew her (albeit in quite infirm old age) and at the time never realised or understood quite what she had been through. I don't think many of us, lucky enough to be alive today and living in the peace and freedom we currently enjoy, can ever fully comprehend what that generation went through or the losses they endured.
My current battle is small and insignificant in comparison and I have so much to be thankful for. I feel humbled and very privileged to have been in the tiny village of Priez at the unveiling of a monument to the men of the Royal Sussex Regiment who fell on that day and throughout the rest of the Great War.
If ever I start to feel sorry for myself or like I'm not up to the fight, I will take myself back to the edge of a field, on the crest of a gentle slope in France and the place where RSM William Cleare fell. And I will remember him.