Angela McEvoy is a retired Civil Servant living in a village near Blackpool, Lancashire. She was diagnosed with a serious lung condition in July 2017 and life changed overnight. As part of her recovery, to help come to terms with her condition and life change, she started a blog documenting her life as a retired person aged 40 dealing with life and its challenges. Through this process she re-discovered her love for writing.
20 months ago, a spoon would be to stir a cooking pan, to eat food or to drip feed information to someone. I had to do that a lot in my job. Pass on information, knowledge transfer, training. It was all part of my busy daily role. Busy busy life. I had the odd bursts of bad health along the way and had a pair of naughty lungs who liked to misbehave.
Then literally overnight my health broke down and suddenly a spoon was no longer all of those things it was before. It became a metaphor for my life. For my energy and for what I could cope with in a day. I could no longer work, walk anywhere or some days function at all. I was reliant on breathing machines and staying away from any germs so as not to get sicker.
My first thought of the morning now on waking is; what can I cope with today? How many spoons are available to me? Some days I am rewarded with a manageable amount, some days very few.
Life isn’t spontaneous anymore. I even have to plan when I wash. I can’t suddenly decide for a day out. I have to plan my breathing treatments, what food I can manage to prepare and even what I need from upstairs so I don’t needlessly have to reclimb the stairs until bedtime. It’s hard work. It takes up a lot of space in your head, it’s confusing, tiring, upsetting and I’m fairly sure the planning of the spoons uses spoons itself. Irony.
Some days I can manage more and if my spoon gods are looking down on me, I actually get to follow through with plans. To go from a busy person, social, independent, to managing spoons was a shock. It's still a shock now. Some days I have more spoons than others. Some days I have no warning and suddenly there are none left. I crash badly and quite literally have to be put to bed. Aged 41. Like a child who ran around on a sugar high for too long and falls asleep where they stop.
So meticulous spoon management it is. I plan them as carefully as I did my projects at work. Taking a shower, enough spoons? Not even to get out of the house. Just to get out of the shower. Just to dry my hair. Sat on the bed obviously, always saving spoons. I have to use a wheelchair if I want to go further afield, or drive somewhere and be parked directly outside. Don’t be wasteful!
There won’t be a time in my life where I don’t need to manage spoons. Some days they are my friends and some days my foe. I resent them and revere them in equal measure. I have learned the shortcuts to doing things to conserve as much ‘spoon-age’ as possible and continue to learn almost daily.
What I do know though, is that without that management, that analogy, that knowledge of what my body needs I would find it virtually impossible to do any kind of a thing. I guess in some ways I need to be thankful for those pesky spoons.
In the Club
Long gone are the nights out, the pub crawls, the all-night dancing. Life isn't quite that way anymore. In some ways its more than that, in others that out of control enjoyment, its sorely missed. The memories, the feelings, of those nights. You can see it, smell it, relive it in your mind’s eye.
Finding your way into the club, feeling the music, it hitting your soul and you begin to move. The beat becomes your heartbeat, you can feel it inside, pulsing, pumping through you, a natural instinct taking over. It’s hot, sweaty, it smells, but it’s your place and this night, is yours for the taking. You stay there, on that space for the night, a freedom in your spot, no worries, troubles or realities, just you, the music, your body doing what it needs to. Dancing like no one was watching. Not caring if they are.
The end of the night draws in. The pinch in your feet telling you it’s time to go, tiredness creeps in, stomach growling as the alcohol starts to dissipate. Cheesy chips and taxi queues. Finding temporary new best friends who you will never see again. Talking, laughing, joking, admiring of shoes. The important stuff.
Hugs goodbye, the night coming to a close. Already reminiscing. The yell of ‘text me when you’re home’. Even through the vodka haze, the need to take care of each other. That sea of strangeness at 2am when nothing has felt real yet reality is creeping in.
It’s finally your turn, home is calling, as the taxi pulls away, destination stated. The chips cool in your lap as your eyes begin to close, taking in the breeze from the open window, sleep already coming. You fight it off, the half open, half closed eye, watching the passing streets. Car headlights flash past, how quiet, peaceful, eerie. The lone dog walker, the group of girls tottering to cross the road, a shriek, holding each other up as they stumble along. Tiny skirts, big heels, you hear your mum in your head ‘they need a coat on those girls, they will catch their death’. The passing traffic lights stay on green, you willed them to, anything to make the journey quicker, shorter, ever closer to home.
Home, finally. Shoes kicked off, chips cold, discarded to one side. A glass of water, something to quench the thirst. Pyjamas on, your body starts to relax, happy for the soft warm fabric, muscles start to throb, that weary feeling comes. The quickest of teeth brush, no removing of the make up tonight, that’s tomorrow’s problem. Stumble to the bedroom, it feels like a race now, how quick can you get there. As you climb in, sinking into the mattress, the cool sheets wrapped round as you drag the duvet up to your chin, a slow smile as you recall the night just gone, eyes close, sleep claims you. Another day to come.
The rumble of her nebuliser cut through the night. It was like a lorry was in the ward. She moaned and groaned and called for the nurse. She didn't know where she was or what she was doing there. She was confused, in pain, breathless.
They left the nebuliser on for what felt like hours whilst they tended to other patients also crying out in their sleep, coughing, calling for bed pans. It somehow felt busier at night than in the day.
Down the corridor someone crying out asking God to take her. Calling out she was ready.
There is nothing like being in hospital as in patient. So very poorly yourself but somehow, thankfully, not the worst.
The lady opposite, lovely chatty, very smiley who slowly deteriorated these last 48 hours. Sleeping more, engaging less, no longer eating.
Her family had been called. They arrived late in the evening. Crowded round her bed. Sounds of quiet crying, murmurs of love, and squeaking chairs from behind the curtains.
She was asleep. So peaceful, hooked up to all the machines and monitors. They knew, she knew. Her time was close.
The hours passed slowly. Nurses came to check, voices at a whisper. Then without warning a cough, an indescribable noise, almost a gargle. The boiling hot ward suddenly cold. A breeze rushed straight past me to the slightly opened window.
Then nothing. Just silence. The hospital seemed to stand still. The tick of the clock drowning out all other noise. Then a voice spoke " time of death 3.55am".