It’s Friday morning and I’m feeling nervous. No change there then, I hear you cry. Except that, this afternoon, I’m going into hospital to have a brain scan.
I started to feel odd soon after New Year. I would be walking the dogs and be unsteady on my feet. I began to hold on to trees. I wouldn’t look round to see if Mini Puppy had stopped to sniff, as that would make me dizzy.
It got worse. I couldn’t get out of the car. I felt so dizzy in the Co-op, I’ve never dared go back. I’d wake up, and the stripe of light from the window seemed horizontal. I’d be watching TV and suddenly the room would spin. I would only have a minute to make it up to bed. Once I’m dizzy, I vomit for 24 hours. These attacks have grown more frequent: every few days.
When I have an attack, I go completely deaf: it’s as though someone has their hands clamped around my head. I can now only crawl up the stairs. There are times I’m too frightened to move my head or open my eyes. I’ve lost weight. I’m far too terrified to even have a sip of wine. Funny, isn’t it, that you have dinner with an ex and the only thing he notices is that your hair has grown long.
After five months of this, I gave in and booked an appointment with my GP. I recounted my symptoms. ‘Perhaps your ears need syringing,’ she said. She suggested it could be Ménières disease, which is when the inner ear has too much pressure and you lose your balance. I was prescribed tablets. Nothing worked. I went back. This time, a different GP said I might have had a stroke. Or that it could be a brain tumour. Hence the impending scan. Nic has to take me as I’m not allowed to drive.
I had been thinking life couldn’t get worse. There is nothing more terrifying than the night before a meeting with HMRC. Or opening a letter from the Official Receiver that says, ‘We learned from reading your column that you gave your grandmother’s 1920s diamond engagement ring to your niece at her wedding. We want it.’ I have been through the mill over the past ten years, unable to withdraw any money from the cashpoint as the amount in my account was too small, and I have finally dragged myself by my fingernails to the other side. I’ve survived not because a single soul offered to help me, or even sent a can of dog food. I’ve survived because I have worked seven days a week, getting up at 4am to drive 500 miles in one day to write a feature. I’ve written two novels and a screenplay. Just last week I was finally able to buy a washing machine. When I lost my beautiful home, I had to give my expensive Miele washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher to a friend, as the house I was forced to rent already had them built in, and I couldn’t afford storage.
I went to the gym a few years ago – not to work out, to buy a sandwich – and I saw a sign, one of those annoying platitudes like, ‘Keep calm and carry on’, that meant nothing at the time: ‘Your body isn’t a temple. It’s your home.’ And I realise I’ve spent the past five years, since losing my house, scrolling through Rightmove, gazing at properties, imagining how happy I would be if only I could manage to buy somewhere again. I would sit by that floor-length window, sipping coffee. I would be ‘me’ again. I would wander through the airy rooms, caressing all the furniture I would somehow manage to buy all over again. Only then would I be happy.
Of course. Silly me. I didn’t realise my body is my home.
It’s now Friday afternoon. Nic nudges me. My name has been called. I didn’t hear it. I stand shakily. And I go to find out my fate.
Liz’s first novel 8½ Stone will be published by Filament on 14 July. Price £14.99. To order a copy for £12.74 until 25 July go to books.mailshop.co.uk or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Also available as an audiobook, £5.99.