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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Demon Days 3

Day 2: I wake to a houseful of teenagers, feeling surprisingly good. Al is still asleep so I can't help myself. The kitchen is littered with the usual detritus of a party. I start tidying up but soon Harry and his friends are lending a hand.

For the first time in months, I take Al a cup of tea in bed. I'm very lucky because I have been used to breakfast in bed for ages, long before I got sick. It's long been the quid pro quo in our house. Al does brekky and lunch, I do dinner. Seems fair, right?

Today I have to go to the school as Ben is changing uniforms next year and this is the last day for arranging some things. By the time I return home I'm exhausted and have a wee nap, fully clothed, on top of my bed.

Unfortunately, today Lee is away and I have had to arrange an appointment at my doctor's. So I drag myself from bed. There is some stuffing around as staff are away so I find myself chatting to the nurse while things are sorted.

She tells me her mother had breast cancer. She got it in the 1950s when things were rather rough. Without the benefit of the knowledge we have today, ALL her lymph glands were removed, she had radiation, and then a complete hysterectomy including the removal of her ovaries. She was 37 and had two kids aged 3 and 7. She died of a heart attack at 63. Apparently a weakened heart is a side effect of a complete hysterectomy. Not for the first time, I think about how shitty it is to be a woman.

The injection she gives hurts for hours. I miss Lee's gentle technique.

In the early afternoon, I go for a 6 km walk. I spot a fox on the run on my way home and wonder what significance that might have. (We Sri Lankans are terribly superstitious.)

The nausea starts in the evening. It is so bad I keep the bucket by my bed. I take a sleeping pill in the hope it will write-over the nausea. But it doesn't. I am doped up but I am aware of feeling sick all night.

Day 3: I wake feeling positively vile. I have to get up early to go back to Greenslopes hospital for an 8 am appointment. I am to have a saline drip and another nausea injection. On the way I make an emergency call to my mum...I am nauseous and need your spicy fish balls!

When I get there, the hospital is operating with a skeleton staff and the Cyril Gilbert wing is partly suffused in darkness. There are 4 people sitting in the waiting room. The cheerful lady across from me says this unusual. I find out she has a Saturday appointment every 2 weeks and has been having chemo for 12 months! OMG. How awful would that be? Later I find out she has bowel cancer. So everyone, if you want to avoid her fate, check your bums!

Eventually I find myself back in the chemo chair. My nurse is called Bronwyn. That's got to be lucky! She is gentle, kind and efficient. The procedure goes off without a hitch but yep, it hurts like crap. It is in fact a very long hour. Al and me, sitting quietly in a half-empty cancer ward. I realize more than ever how I value the friends who usually keep me company... Lindar, Janet, Tracey and Nim.

Unfortunately,the whole procedure proves to be a waste of time. I feel sick all the way home. I put myself miserably to bed.

At lunch time my mum arrives bearing fish balls, vadays (a spicy Sri Lankan savory bite) and some curry meat rolls. How is that for service. We end up playing Ipad Scrabble on the bed. My Mum is computer illiterate - once I tried to teach her how to turn on a computer, yes, just turn it on, and gave up after half an hour - so this is a minor feat. She is like a Polynesian Indian with beads, mesmerised.

I am in bed still when my sister Nicky, dogs and kids arrive for the walk I had promised her. Nearly 6 kilometers we walk, chatting amicably. I feel sick but the fresh air and cool afternoon are therapeutic.

When I get home, Al has made a Thai chicken curry,integrating my own super hot Jalopeno chillies. It's delicious and I manage to keep it down.

Harry has gone to his girlfriend's place for her father's 50th birthday party. Al and Ben are watching 'The Green Lantern' in bed next to me. Up the road, the neighbours are partying at the annual community Christmas Party. Miles away in Ashgrove, Tracey is having our annual Christmas get together with Janet and Lindar. And Vlad is at the Roar game he offered to take me to. Life goes on.

I take a sleeping pill and drift off to sleep.

Day 4: I lie in bed all morning like a beached limpet. Thankfully it is a cool day. Harry is away nearly all day. Al bustles around, taking Ben to tennis next door. Later we play iPad Scrabble - he thrashes me with two early 50 word scores. Afterwards, he takes Ben to golf. Nim texts and offers to drop off some food. Maddy texts to see how I am.

My mouth tastes disgusting. I feel greener than Bob Brown. Thank god for my mum's little bites which I rely on to stop retching.

In the early afternoon, Louisa comes over. I have a shower and change. Then we lie in bed, watching 'Prom' on Foxtel - movie I swore I'd never watch.

Later, I find myself sitting at the kitchen table with Louisa, Gabby her daughter, David and Craig. (Craig had a knee operation just a few days ago - I can't believe he's walking). They have a glass of wine and I have a glass of lime juice and water (good for nausea).

After they leave, Chucky, Nim's husband, drops off the food she has cooked. He looks tanned and well. I eat a little then decide to attempt my ritual stroll.

These days, I walk so slowly I have to let Spunky off the leash. He is often way ahead of em. This time, I manage nearly 3 km but I am aching in a different way. My body is sore to the touch. I put myself straight to bed and am vaguely aware of other visitors.

Later, I am lying there when Harry comes in, on his way to gym. He wants to know when my chemo will be over, when I will be feeling good again. I say, I don't know, maybe April. He says he wants to do a fun run with me when I am better. The way I feel, he may as well be asking me to sing the Greek National Anthem (all 158 verses).

I ask Al to make me a salad. I eat in bed. We watch 'Mr Popper's Penguins.'. I take a sleeping pill and fall asleep.

Day 5: I ache like a bastard and wake at 5.30 am. I ask Al to find me the Panadeine Forte. He rustles through a growing pile of boxes on my side table, bleary eyed, but can't locate it so in the end, I satisfy myself with Panadol. My eyes feel strange, kind of sore, and I am still green around the gills. My mouth tastes like mud.

I lie there feeling god awful. I say to Al: "If this wasn't the effects of chemo, if this is what it feels like to die a slow, horrible death, I'd take a cyanide pill." It's true.

The day warms up and I stay in bed until the early afternoon watching one B-Grade Movie after another. "It Takes Two", "Baby's Big Day Out". If I were Margaret Pomeranz, I'd be taking that pill around now I think.

In the afternoon I am feeling a bit better so I get up to clean the kitchen which looks like the aftermath of a night with Matthew Newton. It actually feels good to be doing something vaguely constructive.

Margot, the real estate agent comes around as we are listing our place on the market. I lie like Lady Muck in bed in a surreal situation: a relative stranger in my bedroom and me blithely bald as a badger. (Who is Lady Muck BTW? And I thought badgers had hair).

By the evening, I am still green around the gills but at least I'm no longer sore. I opt not to walk today as I feel a little dodgy.

I watch 'The Big Lebowski', cack myself. I decide to try and weather the night without a sleeping pill. It's not that bad. I wake up in the middle of the night feeling bilious but take an anti nausea to drift off again.

Day 6: I'm feeling vomitish still, but it's a lovely morning. I feel quite compos mentis so do a tiny bit of writing work in the morning.

In the afternoon, Janet and the kids come by, bearing a freshly baked quiche, salad and Georgia's fantastic banana cream pie. We pass a couple of pleasant hours on the back deck, enjoying the brisk afternoon breeze.

I go for a 4 km stroll, tempted to aim for 5 but I can feel that edge of exhaustion. For the first time in my life, I have a concept of 'overdoing it'. I don't know if this is good or bad. Rightly or wrongly, I've never been a person with a concept of limits to what I could or could not do. Already I can see that I have changed.

Al brings me a light soup and goes to tennis. I have a long chat with Karen on the phone. I put Ben to bed.

At 11.15pm I am wide awake, still feeling green. I Google 'anti nausea'. I opt to take my rescue remedy homeopathic drops and drift off into an unsatisfying sleep.

Today is Day 7. I'll tell you what I've discovered. Every person's illness smells different. Mine is some combination of Dettol and the Alpha Keri Oil Chris sent me - to moisten my increasingly dry skin. It makes me gag just thinking about it.

It's fairly still and muggy in the morning. Al coaxes me - even offers to drive me - to my breathing and meditation class. I go half heartedly and find it difficult to concentrate as I'm still gagging a bit.

Later I have to load up my car with some boxes to drop off at a local printer (finishing off a last-minute job).

I play Christmas carols in the car. When my favourite, "The Little Drummer Boy" starts, inexplicably, I find myself crying, not buckets. But I feel sad.

In the paper this morning, there was a story about the 28 year old 2000 Miss Venezuela who has just died after a long battle with breast cancer.

What is there to say? These demon days, they are a small price to pay in the greater scheme of things.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm... I must find something else to send you that will fill your nostrils with 'niceness'.
    Keep up the good work Bronny. Always thinking of you. XOXOXOXOX