So 2016 didn’t really turn out to be what I was expecting.
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition”, as they say, but no one expects to get cancer either, so to say that I was stunned by a mammogram result back in May showing I had breast cancer is an understatement. Still, if I hadn’t gone for that mammogram I would have had no idea – it’s a very sneaky illness – so I’m glad I did, and I’m glad that we have amazing treatment that can knock cancer cells on the head. OK, the treatment kind of knocks everything around for a while, but you just cling on to the thought that, no matter how I feel right now, this is making me better!
I’ve made it through surgery and chemotherapy. Just a course of radiotherapy to go and I’ll be ready to tackle 2017!
So did my plans to become a polyglot get put on hold? Are you kidding? What better way to while away the hours in the Chemotherapy Unit than lots of language revision with Duolingo. Yes, while others were doing crosswords or listening to music on their iPods, I was blasting my way through lesson after lesson in French, Spanish and German.
I found my concentration wasn’t good enough to let me learn any new material, but revision was fine – especially languages that I had once been fairly confident in, such as Spanish or French. I doubt if anyone can actually say they enjoyed their chemo sessions, but I came close and felt I was making good use of the time.
All this concentrating on getting well has put my plans to become location independent in terms of work behind though, so that has to be my focus for 2017. I still have to have Herceptin injections every three weeks through to September, so I won’t be going a great deal of travelling this year, but I can certainly get myself in a position where that is more of a possibility.
My language-learning has carried on right through my treatment; in fact, it’s probably done more than anything else to keep me going. I set up several regular Skype conversations through Speaky so I’m gradually improving my conversational skills in German and French, and the people I chat with are starting to feel like friends. I enjoy Esperanto phone conversations from time to time, and I’ve started listening to news and podcasts in French, German and Spanish.
As I suspected, I can understand quite a lot of the French and Spanish, but German is still hard for me. I’ve completed the German ‘tree’ in Duolingo though, and more and more I hear those words being used in the Deutsche Welle Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten (news spoken slowly). I’m also working through a Deutsche Welle interactive online course which is building my everyday vocabulary and adding to my cultural knowledge of Germany.
Did you know that in Cologne you can stand next to a parking machine, pay for the ticket using your mobile phone, and the ticket prints out of the machine? So much better than searching your pockets for the correct change!
But what about Welsh? Have I forgotten about Cymraeg? Of course not! I had just qualified as a Welsh tutor for adult beginners when I received the diagnosis, so no chance for me to leap into working in a classroom. I’m interested in doing online teaching though, or perhaps some translation work in the future so, with the help of a friend in Cardiff, I’m working my way through an old text called Cyflwyno’r Iaith Lenyddol. It gives practice at using the very formal Welsh of traditional literature with translation exercises, and I’m enjoying doing those.
So that’s it. 2016 is behind me, and after the radiotherapy, the cancer will be behind me. 2017 is the year I come a lot closer to my goals. Bring it on!