Up Front by Emma Hart


Adric and the Art of Asking

Some of you may remember the time, five years ago, when I had to go into hospital and have the brain tumor that was blinding me removed. We called it Adric, we made jokes to cope with the fear, and you were all amazingly supportive and kept me sane through a long but ultimately successful rehabilitation. I complained about the endless MRIs afterwards, because I was obviously fine, and what was the point in putting me through that? 

As it turns out, we picked the wrong scifi metaphor. This isn't Dr Who. This is the Marvel universe: nothing ever dies. Adric is back. 

Right now, he's a tiny little thing, about the size of a 1x1 Lego brick, sitting on the front edge of my sella turcica. (In comparison, he was roughly the size of a 2x4 Lego brick the last time I had him removed.) He's not bugging anyone right now, but he's growing, and given time he'll be poking around buggering up my eye and/or my pituitary gland again. So, in fine comic-book tradition, we're going to dose him with radiation. 

As soon as I get back from my holiday in early January, I will start receiving radiotherapy, five days a week for five weeks. My oncologist thinks, given my underlying issues with fatigue, the treatment will continue to affect me for about three months. 

Next week, they're going to make a plastic mould of my head, so I can't move at all during my treatment. This sounds like the least fun way I have ever been restrained. I'm hoping we can keep it afterwards, and there will be prizes, or at least kudos, for the most imaginative uses. 

The treatment will come with side-effects. Almost certainly there will be tiredness, hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea, and difficulty swallowing. Things get worse from there right up to the very unlikely memory loss and cognitive impairment. 

I have been through Some Stuff in my time, but this is the most frightened I have ever been of something I could see coming this far in advance. When I had surgery, I had a mother and a partner. Not so much now. 

So here's where you guys come in. There are probably going to be three months where I can't work. People have wanted to help me, but I am terrible at accepting help. I may be unable to Internet very much, and I'm going to miss that sense of engagement. I kind of hope people would miss my voice, too. 

I believe I've come up with a solution to all these problems. For an embarrassing number of years, I've been writing a novel. Of course I have; who hasn't? For a ridiculous number of those years, a group of people – including a few PASers – have been reading it and providing me with feedback. It kept getting pushed onto the back burner, though, by paying work and an hilarious succession of major crises. 

Well fuck it, you know what? This is the time. Starting today, I will be releasing a chapter a week of The Isis Knot. I'm using technology to return to the fine traditions of Dickens, and serialising my book. It's free to read, but there's a donate button on the site if you'd like to help me pay for hats and access to cricket. An ebook will become available, but to begin with, I'll be sticking with drip-feed torture. 

A word of warning about content: I am the only person in the world currently NOT writing BDSM erotica. Well, not for commercial sale. Well, not this book. The Isis Knot is, I suspect, dispiritingly and surprisingly safe for work. It's about the things people will do when they're part of a group; what they will sacrifice to belong. It's also about asking the question, "In what circumstances could someone commit a murder, and I would think that was okay?" On counting, I've realised I could have called it "Four Funerals and a Wedding", but that makes it sound misleadingly cheerful. 

It's still hard for me to ask for help. And maybe this isn't your thing: that's okay. But even if it's not to your taste, or you don't want to give money, maybe link to the site? Tell someone who might like it. I want to give you lot something, and keep my voice around while I'm away, and if you want to give me something back, that's great. Most of all, I just want to tell this story while I still have the chance.

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