I’ve just undergone a three-week course of IV treatment, my first in 19 months. It’s been tough to revert back to being the ‘sick boy’ again. I stayed with my mum in Southampton for the first half of the treatment and then spent the rest of it back in London with Katie and Felix.
Having the exhausting and time-consuming IV drips three times a day alongside the rest of my usual medication equates to me only getting about three hours free of drugs during my waking hours. My illness really takes charge during these sessions.
While I was in Southampton, Martin Sleet, long-time friend from Southampton and former London house-mate, sadly died of leukaemia, 15 months since it was diagnosed. Martin was a helpful and forthright chap, with a passion for wildlife, particularly in the Ocean, and Southampton Football Club.
One of his enduring talents was the unique ability to eat a shocking amount of mustard on a cheeseburger. One might say that he had food with his mustard!
Martin had an obdurate approach to his suffering and endured endless stays in hospital, which sapped him both physically and mentally. It was in the hospital that my twin brother, Jez, and I last saw Martin, a week prior to his death. On the morning of his sad passing, I visited his parents to pay our condolences.
Dusk you and me
On the day of Martin’s death, as the remains of a sunny September day were turning into night, I went for a walk on Southampton Common. It felt appropriate to walk on the same park land which Martin would have frequented on numerous occasions, either socialising with our local group of friends or walking his family dog.
I needed to feel close to Martin, even though he wasn’t actually visible.
I went straight to the fallen tree, now covered in overgrowth, which myself, Jez, Chris, Ant and Martin used as a muster (and mustard) point before riotous nights out as callow youths.
Later on my walk, I stood transfixed at the Ornamental Lake, where I felt a light breeze on my face, and the juxta-position between the warmth and cold of my body depending on whether the sun was covered by clouds.
I studied the reflection of those clouds in the water, witnessed a woodpecker gliding from tree to tree and I saw some crested newts bob up and down to the surface, like Martin used to do with his scuba diving. Then to my astonishment I saw the beautiful and rare sight of a kingfisher bird on a tree overhanging the lake. In a whoosh of blue, it darted down into the water to grab its prey before flying off to some near-by trees.
It was a telling and thought-provoking moment – all this beauty on earth which Martin would have cherished, but sadly will never view again.
His death makes no sense and isn’t just. Cancer said to him, “I choose you Martin Sleet!”
Correspondingly, why have some of my wonderful CF friends and so many others, often under the age of 30, died of CF while I’m still here?
When will CF bellow to me, “I choose you Tim Wotton!”
Martin has gone to a place free of pain and suffering. For 44 years, he was here on earth, now he’s there, somewhere which I hope is heaven. I am still here and he is there. I’m lucky to still breathe this air and see all the beauty that surrounds me.
It’s chilling to reflect that during my IV’s and all that it brings with the extra burden of treatment, where I feel completely owned by CF, I do feel marginally closer to being there than being here.
The last few weeks have taught me so much. I’ve learnt once again to respect the living and honour the dead. It’s also reinforced my cast-iron belief that life can be short so must be appreciated to the full. Life is beautiful. Do not waste it. Treasure it while you’re still here…
Martin Giles Sleet. RIP my dear chap.
I will keep you posted on my life-affirming moments, trials and tribulations as and when they happen. Please keep reading and sharing my blog and sign-up (on the right hand side tab) if you have not already done so.
Yours cup half full.
Tim Wotton (author of Award-Winning CF Memoir)
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 10,000 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations. For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website.