In November I went for the results of my CT scan. I’d had the scan early because the original date clashed with a short holiday in Norfolk. There, I watched the seals bask, listened to the curlew’s cries carry across the salt marsh, and basked in warm sunshine in the shelter of the sand dunes. After the basking we trudged 5 miles back along the pea shingle and I pissed blood for the rest of the evening, so I fear even Nirvana has its nuisances.

They told me there’s a new tumour. This new little pony lies on my Trachea, which is the windpipe that then divides into the bronchi before they enter the lungs. This one is nasty in so far as it’s a focal lesion that has started on the outside and wormed its way through the lining to form a little bulbous mass inside the duct of the pipe. This could be worse if it goes the other way. There are many arteries around there, and if it breaks though one of those… Well, then the levee breaks, my lungs fill with blood and it’s over. It’s similar to one of the ways that tuberculosis carries you off.

He likes to give me extra, does my Oncologist. He reminded me of the tragic end scene in Guiseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” (The Fallen Woman), in which the heroine (Violetta Valéry) dies of a massive blood clot. Now, you just don’t get that type of quality in a lesser institution, and I’m dismayed the CQC does not take this into account as a factor. Feed the mind, I say. We’re going to die anyway, but absolve us first from the original sin of ignorance.

“How romantic”, I muttered. “I rather like the sound of that”. How we all laughed. I must have subconsciously channeled Byron, who famously said that he’d like to die from consumption. But, in the end, only Keats could achieve it, as he made his way to the icy silence of the tomb.

Verdi travelled to Paris in 1852 with his own “fallen woman”. There, they saw the theatrical hit of the day, which was an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s novel “La Dame aux camélias”. It’s the tale of a prostitute who falls in love with a young nobleman, much to the outrage of his family. She is the lady of the camellias because she wore a white flower when available, but a red flower when indisposed by illness.

Maybe I could adopt this convention, and place a flower (red or white) at the top of this blog to signal my health. The trouble is, I prefer to grow red camellias.

As soon as he could, Verdi hotfooted it back to Italy and wrote his opera around it. Violetta is his ultra glamourous Parisian good-time girl who knows how to party and still spit scarlet blood onto white cloth with the best of them.

You’d recognise the tunes from La Traviata if I hummed them. There’s the drinking song “Brindisi” and “Sempre Libera” (Always Free) with its many soaring trills and high notes. But it’s the finale of Act III that we must now have in mind – “Gran Dio!…morir sì giovane” (Great God!…to die so young).

Gran Dio! morir sì giovane,  (Good God! That I should die so young,)
io che penato ho tanto! (After so much suffering!)
Morir sì presso a tergere (To die so near the dawn)
il mio sì lungo pianto! (After the long night of tears!)

Unfortunately the opening night was not a success. It’s said that the audience could not empathise with a well-upholstered Soprano playing the part of a beautiful waif-like creature consumed by the ravages of consumption. So they booed.

Should I too follow the cadence of days in a foreshortened life and penser sur mon mort inactuelles? It’s true that I cough, spit and live in my viscous world where unfortunately nothing is vicarious. My words are earthy: phlegm, mucus, sputum. My colours are smeared: blood-streaked, frothy pink, pearly-white gelatinous. It’s all so achingly fragile.

But we never give up, my aria-admiring Oncologist and I. He referred me back to my old friends in the Thoracic Park to take a look at these lungs of mine. Today I had another CT and a Bronchoscopy. It was partly to take a look at the possibilities for stenting the collapsed lobe, but it was also interventionist. They used cryotherapy on the new tumour, which was a first for me. It is a technique where they freeze the cancerous tissue towards destruction. They did not go on to “pull it out” as they’d suggested they might during the pre-op. But there is time. My tumour must not feel a warm and capable living hand, but rather the cold and icy fingers of cryosurgery. Perhaps that will haunt its days and chill its dreaming for a while.

It all went well and I was able to go home a few hours later. But, you’ll excuse me now if I leave you to wallow in my pensive, poetic melancholy. I shall lay the back of my right hand against my forehead, throw back my head, and sigh. There are fresh, clean, white sheets on my bed and I do have rather a bad cough.