Tim Jackson


Recoilless Emission

Long ago and far away I remember my student days. I was studying physics and we were doing something to do with lasers. Bear with me for believe it or not this is not off-subject.

Molecules absorb light energy of certain colours, store it for a while and then emit it again. Absorbing and emitting photons (light particles) is like a gun firing bullets, and like the gun, the molecule recoils under the shock. Most of the energy goes into the light, but some goes into moving the molecule.

Now the strange thing is, if you look at the light emitted, you find that most of it, as you would expect, has a slightly lower energy than the light received, but a few photons come out with the full energy, and no reduction for recoil.

By some strange mechanism the molecule emitting the light managed to 'hold hands' with thousands of molecules around it, and they took the impact together. This meant it recoiled much less and absorbed less energy (the same momentum but more mass means less energy).

This has always struck me as a wonderful analogy with the way people cope with shocks. If you take it alone you get upset out of your normal trajectory, and take a while to recover. If you hold hands with everyone else you know, then you withstand the impact much more easily, absorb less of its effect, don't get upset as much and recover more quickly.

The support news groups are like that. They are a group of people holding hands and helping to resist each other's shocks and providing a reference of normality to recover to.

I want to say thank you to everyone who held my hand when things got bad. Judy Bear, Diane Hosking, June Johnson, Pam Rush, Jules, Dana Grace, Shelagh Broughton, Jeff B, Dave 'Baldy Cotton', Catherine Honeyman, and others. All very different people from different parts of the world each with a different take on the subject, survivors and victims and carers.

These people have been absolutely invaluable in my keeping my stability and my ability to provide support to my family. I hope that in a small way I can be part of the same network of support for other people who are hurting from what cancer has done to them and their loved ones, or not-so-loved ones.

The story is not over yet but we seem to have reached the eye of the storm. Lyudmila now only walks with the aid of a Zimmer frame and is mostly confined to bed because her spine is too weak. She is beginning to accept that she probably has less than a year to live, and that she is not going to get a whole lot better in that time. Her drug regime has become stable and effective in controlling pain, constipation, sleep etc.

We have engaged with the Social Services departments, and get a school escort for Natasha, a house cleaner, parking concessions and a cash benefit. We can also buy additional services and equipment as we need.

The real nightmare was the transition to this state. Identifying the problems, finding the services available, getting things set up, maintaining communications with the medical people, while simultaneously single-handedly trying to look after our daughter, keep house and earn a living. At the same time as this Lyudmila's illness and medication made her very dependent and very cantankerous, which multiplied the stresses on me. I got tired with short and interrupted nights and began the slippery slope where as the stress increases the ability to cope with it falls off.

The best advice I got, from several correspondents, was, as Judy Bear put it: "Cut yourself a lot of slack." I had to learn to say no to people who wanted me to do things: customers, Lyudmila, Natasha. I had to learn that, whatever Lyudmila says, I must not feel guilty about taking some time to relax and do nothing. Recently she said "If you spent less time talking to people on the Internet you could ...." and I felt confident enough to tell her in no uncertain terms that if I did, I would be able to do less, not more.

I got lucky in a couple of ways. The whole thing happened at a seasonally quiet time for my business, and a couple of months previously I had done a price review and found I could put up my rates by quite a bit. This meant that I could get away with doing less work without losing either income or customers. And of course I met all those wonderful people at alt.support.cancer.breast.