Registration, matriculation and graduation in a week!

It’s taken me a few months to adjust to a life alone and it involves many aspects not just the obvious one of living alone, well apart from the cats. Glenaffric trundled along through all but the more difficult times and my plan was always for it to continue. But I knew I would need something else, something more to keep me out of mischief – there had been talk of a book, a sort of account of Jane’s care and her attitude to what had happened. When I set off for Belgium I thought the distance would give me the impetus to start and I did do a fair amount of preparatory work. But it was so personal and in many ways so private that I felt I just didn’t want to share it with the world or be exposed through any subsequent publicity. And if you leave out the personal then it’s just another story of someone who had cancer and you know who would be less than impressed.

But there’s more to the story than just what happened to Jane – I spent many hours sitting with her through diagnostic procedures, clinic appointments, chemo sessions and during her few hospital admissions. I would feign reading when appropriate but most of the time, apart from giving Jane my undivided attention, I was observing what was going on around me. Not in a negative or judgemental way, I was just curious about how nursing and hospitals had changed and I was also interested in how other patients reacted to what was happening to them, especially in the clinics and during the chemo sessions. But that doesn’t make much of a book, but it did set me thinking.

I’ll cut to the chase, and the title of this post, I decided that what I really, really wanted to do was research. I had done some in the mid eighties but for various reasons walked away after two years and never finished it. After a false start I had a research proposal that was acceptable and then before I knew it I had been accepted by Nursing Studies at the University of Edinburgh for a PhD. It’s entitled ‘Keeping control: a model of practice to support self care following initial cancer diagnosis’ – that’s really just a way of giving it a broad scope and is likely to change as the research progresses. There’s not much more I can say about it at the moment beyond it’s to do with understanding how patients make sense of what as happened, how they learn all the new things related to their diagnosis and treatment while remaining in control. And Jane did know about it, partly because she was concerned about what I would do with myself but also because I needed to know that she didn’t think it was daft – although at the time it was more dream than a likely reality.

So by Wednesday I had registered and acquired a student card with the statutory terrible picture (I’m sure they do it on purpose, and there’s no point in pretending I’ve lost it because in these happy, digital days it’s on file so a new card would have the same ghastly image). Technically I haven’t matriculated yet as you need to pay the fees for that but in all other matters I seem to be a postgraduate student at the university where my grandfather studied medicine, and father until he was encouraged to leave – we were never sure of the real reason but I think he was a bit too squeamish in the anatomy classes …

And the graduation was at the Royal Botanic Gardens on Thursday where they had a presentation for all the various courses ranging from horticulture and herbology to botanical art where I seem to have achieved a certificate with merit. It wasn’t particularly easy but then the next three years will need more than fine paper and artists quality colours.

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