Blog post by Colin Wastie

Hope

Wow, What a year!
Who’d have thought that December last year was our last ‘normal’ lead up to Christmas?
Crazy!
December 2019 was also the time that my world came crashing down after a cancer diagnosis.
After many scans and painful biopsies, I waited nervously over Christmas only to be told on the 29th December the worst ever news.
It was one of those almost laughable moments, I couldn’t actually believe it.
But there I was, part of an exclusive club I never aspired to join.
Many hospital visits followed as you can imagine and I was fortunate to be given many choices.
One of the choices was for a new experimental treatment for prostate cancer involving light sensitive drugs activated by lasers. It wasn’t proven technology and only available as part of a clinical trial.
I signed up quickly as the treatment would not only be less invasive and benefit me, but could potentially help many others in the future.
Everything was of course very scary but there was hope!

Then…. Covid.
Firstly the clinical trial was cancelled, this was a major blow,  then I was put on the list for surgery, which I didn’t really want due to the permanent and lasting after effects but I knew it would save my life. NHS timeline target is 30 days from diagnosis to treatment, but so many others just like me had been diagnosed that the waiting times were much much longer.
My cancer hadn’t spread (so far) and I knew it was only a matter of time until it did, so it was certainly a worry .
Then the worst news.
“We know you have a cancer that can kill you, but we can’t treat you due to Covid 19 and all cancer treatment has been cancelled.”
Well, there’s nothing you can say or do after being told that.
Not really, just despair.

So lockdown proper happened.
This meant that my business in Witney converting VW vans was in mothballs with no income for 4 months.
Knowing that I had a cancer inside me which was lethal and also knowing I couldn’t get treatment for it was an extremely difficult concept to grasp.
It seemed that I and thousands of others were being forgotten and left to die.
My partner had previously moved from her house in Gloucester to my home in Eynsham to give very generous support and jointly try and survive the weirdest period in time any of us have ever witnessed.
Due to a long standing lung disease that I have endured for many years I was particularly vulnerable to this horrid virus,  so being on the ‘government shielding list’ (gawd), I had to be very careful. 
Consequently the only time we went out was for walks, not to shops or anywhere else. Total confinement!

My lovely friends and family carried out all my shopping, which I could only reward with fresh warm bread, but only when I could get the bread flour and yeast, do you remember the shortages?
So, no work, no income and no hope of cancer treatment, what to do?
Well I immersed myself in DIY projects like lots of people. I /we decorated bedrooms, made the patio brighter by painting walls and built a raised bed to grow tomatoes (thanks to Trish and Nic at Eynsham DIY for the plants!) .
If I’m not busy I tend to suffer from depression, so I was trying to immerse myself in lots of projects to offset the darkness. My partner Catherine was instrumental and vital in that regard, (Thank you so much!).
I’ve always enjoyed art and music, I sing in a local band, and of course there was no chance of even practising, let alone a gig, so it was yet another blow.
So I decided to experiment with art at home instead and managed to buy art materials, canvases, even ostrich eggs!, online.
I taught myself some acrylic paint pouring techniques making paintings with silicone cells added and had a lot of fun creating paintings reflecting the cells in my body and what was going on, but all the while knowing that I’m not winning any Turner prizes!
That’s ok!

Hope
Tumour or Virus?

I think that lots of us had the time to experiment with things that we had never ever had the time to indulge in before, the free time was such a blessing!I think one of the hardest things was the cancellation of so many Eynsham events that people work so very hard to organise, we all missed the Carnival!
I had tickets to lots of concerts/gigs, from Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, to ELO, all cancelled.
But there was positivity too.
The beautiful stillness got to me I guess.
The quietness, the peace, the community spirit, the way we just got on with it, smiling when we could!
It reminded me of past, simpler (maybe happier) times.
I really appreciated the peace and thought that it was a lesson well learned and that the feeling should be remembered after lockdown and cosseted, but could so very easily be completely forgotten.
I certainly won’t ever forget the kindness and generosity shown to me during that period of my life.

Village lockdown events helped me greatly, still being involved at a distance!
The Primary School scarecrow competition was so fabby.
We made a Scarecrow called Lockdown Lucy accompanied by a poem. It was brilliant to take part and to witness people laughing at it on my front lawn, albeit watching through the window.
We won a prize as well, Flour!! Thank you!!

Lockdown Lucy

Another notable event was VE Day.
A marvellous and worthy reason to decorate the front of the house and to sit on the front lawn with a glass of wine chatting to lovely neighbours at a distance!
A fantastic and very enjoyable community day!
My family/ancestors have lived in and around Eynsham for many hundreds of years and for good reason!

Just as lockdown was ending I got news of a surgery date, wow, so I finally had my cancer surgery on 29th June 2020.
All went well despite having to be readmitted to hospital afterwards but it also meant another 9 weeks off work.
My lockdown was extended!
Friends were a great support during my recovery.
I managed to borrow a wheelchair from the Witney MS society through a kind soul in the village, as whilst I could walk, I couldn’t walk far at first.
I can’t tell you how marvellous it was to be pushed down to the Queens Head and Newland pubs for my first pint(s) of Guinness since March!
Many hospital visits have happened since with a lot of complications which continue to this day (December 2020 ) but there is hope and lots of it!
The last (second) lockdown I spent in isolation too, so 7 months of this year with no income, but I feel lucky that I haven’t succumbed to the crappy virus unlike many other poor souls.
The amount of people lost to Covid is appalling and astonishing, the heartbreak it’s caused to everyone just cannot be measured or appreciated. Horrific.

Now December 2020, the wheelchair wasn’t needed long and I am recovering well.
I have managed to have a few band practices, have returned to work, albeit to a much reduced company that may go to the wall, along with many others due to this crappy virus.

But, what I have taken from this awful year is that in the darkest of times, there is always hope.
There IS hope, with friends, loved ones, and an amazing Eynsham community spirit.

We can all find our own form of peace and happiness with the help from all of the above and I sincerely hope that you all find your own, despite the past year!
Happy Christmas and let’s hope for a fantastic and normalish 2021, I’ve just remembered that I’m 60 next year, crikey!
I think when this is all over we all deserve a massive village party, don’t you?

Colin.

Author: Eynsham Lockdown Editor