It's an overcast day and slightly drizzly when I leave for my fourth chemo session this morning.
I need to pick up Nim from Cleveland and get there in good time to reach the hospital for T-Time (Toxin Time).
I'm 66% of the way through this series of frankly unpleasant experiences, and I've been channelling the spirits of the Anzacs. Each new phase is a new attack on that dark Gallipoli beach, out of one trench, across the bullet drenched landscape, ducking and weaving the potential shells, the barbed wire lines, bayonets fixed at the ready until the safety of the next trench.
I'm now just two trenches away from safety, having so far withstood the enemy fire by Adriomyacin, Taxotere and Cyclophosphomide (the Axis of Evil).
Just think what the Anzacs did for Australia? That is what true courage is. This business of beating cancer is nothing in the scheme of things.
Today, only Harry is able to accompany me in with Nim, where we meet Lindar and Tracey and once again, I am embarrassed by the orgy of gift giving. Do my friends ever stop?
Nim has also brought food including a Belgian Chocolate Cake especially for the nurses. This woman knows how to win friends because later, we will discover the cake has gone down a treat :)
As I am called into my suite, I feel nauseous already and before I sit down, I can feel the burn of reflux in my gullet.
What's going on? You see, I'm told the brain when routinely exposed to experiences - good or bad - begins to engineer itself to predict your responses. It's really amazing. If only we could channel this capacity to other parts of our lives. Lacking motivation? Feeling anxious? Then retrain your brain!
Today my toxicologist is a pretty Korean nurse called Sun Yee. She is young and sweet. I learn that her mother and brother still live in Seoul. She has been here four years. Her father died at 61 of a heart attack. Kim Jong's Death has unsettled the people of Seoul. Any day now they could go from Shreddies for breakfast to Shrapnel.
I told you already: different shit, different mountain. We all have a hill to climb sooner or later.
Nim has made chicken rolls and delicious fruit salads in enormous proportions. There are also ginger bread cookies.
Later Janet arrives bearing coffees and with her, some memorabilia to help take my mind off things.
I decide to give out the belated Chrismas presents that I have bought. I give Lindar a bracelet and scarf, Tracey a recipe book, and for Janet, some earrings plus a book called "Naughty Origami". (There's a story there but basically, now Janet and her husband Bob can enjoy hours of fun making origami boobs, vaginas, 'French Ticklers' (illustrated with the use of a banana) and I believe, even what looks like a threesome. It's appropriate. Trust me.
To oversee my cannula insertion, I have a nurse I've had before, Mel, and I have to say it hurts rather badly when it is inserted.
At one point she observes my tiny veins and says: "It's not size that matters."
"I tell my husband that all the time," I say.
"Well we won't tell him and embarrass him," Mel laughs, getting my lame attempt at innuendo.
"Aah no, it's the other way round for me, Mel," I say, "You know he eats a lot of hay."
With such banter, some anxiety lifts. The good thing is that it takes just one go with the cannula and eventually the pain subsides as I practice some brain reengineering muttering "It doesn't hurt, It doesn't hurt." It seems to work.
The girls chat sweetly around me. Janet has brought some photos to show us of the many, many good times we've shared over the years.
One is a photo taken on my 41st birthday. There is Lindar, Tracey, me and Janet and dammit, we all looked so hot! Time, that incompetent fool has left us with someone else's saggy jowls.
Janet has also brought some unusual memorabilia to share. Some ancient artefacts, 2000 years old, gouged from an archaeological site in Rhodes, and courtesy of some drunken archeologists she and her husband Bob befriended by bibulous banter behind a bar. What an unusual experience, one I could really dig! (boom tish).
As it happens today's conversation does graze over a wide array of topics: beginning as you do in ladies' circles with the vexing issue of vaginal dryness - at some stage ladies, I will have to discuss this subject with you - one of the several and somewhat disconcerting effects of menopause, one of the side effects of my treatment which will be discussed in depth in a later blog.
The conversation is candid as we move onto discussing the sex education of our kids, comparing notes of our 'bad mother' moments (the ones you usually have when hidden under that handy cone of silence: the family car - when you can blithely threaten murder and bombard your children with crushing vitriol and sarcasm, possibly scarring them for life, just because you are ready to explode with frustration). We all feel a lot better sharing these stories: just knowing you are not alone in allowing "Psycho Mum" to show her ugly head.
But for all the joviality, when the Adromyacin is being inserted I feel a bit anxious and my friends work really hard on keeping my eyes away from the syringe full of red fluid. If only it weren't coloured red, I'm sure I'd cope a lot better.
However, by the Taxotere I am really felling quite unwell. Nim and Janet stroke my hands. Soo Yin offers me the anti nausea tablet that has a sedative effect and I decide to accept it. I feel hot and vile.
In an effort to perk me up, Nim hand feeds me some home made fruit salad because my hands are in the oven mitts.
"I would hate to be a seal," I observe as the lack of fingers is really quite a handicap.
Then she feeds me a chicken roll she has brought for each of us, with a bit of the chilli both she and I love. What can I say. This friend is just a gem. She was probably Florence Nightingale in a previous life. Of Nim I have discovered she is the Yin to my Yang, a woman who continues to teach me about opening up other parts to the person I am, and vice versa. Nim is open, passionate, competitive, driven, emotional, giving, generous, and operates on about 400,000 KW of energy. She assesses most people from the heart and will lavish love and affection on people without a second thought.
I on the other hand have a Virgoan's natural caution with people. I am an observer and in many cases,gravitate toward those I wish to be friends with based on a fairly cerebral assessment of their personal qualities and how they mesh with mine. As I found myself saying just yesterday: Life is to short for cheap wine, bad coffee and boring conversation. May I emphasise Good Conversation. It really seems to be a dying art and when you find it with someone you meet she or he is a keeper. Good conversationalists are rich in life experiences, many are highly educated and/or well read, they have an ear for listening, they usually have lots of interests, and they show an interest in others. In short, like cancer-free left breasts, they don't grow on trees so if you find them, hang onto them.
I imagine that, as time goes on, Nim and I will adopt the best of each of us in our efforts to some balance in our interactions with the world. From this, who knows what could grow in the future?
The point is, I choose my friends wisely, and I hope that this is one reason I have four such wonderful women by my chair-side today.
So, after being spoon fed, I don't feel as ill and, once the cyclophosphamide is doing its work, I feel kind of okay but a little woozy still.
Janet, Lindar and Tracey finish off Nim's fruit salads and are very thankful.
After we leave, Lindar drives Nim and me to the Manpad under construction in Merivale Street. I manage to get home without falling asleep, dropping Nim home safely.
Today I have managed a few laughs although I can tell that the intensity of my bon homie
I anticipate that over the remaining two sessions, I will find it quite a struggle and I'm hoping my friends will have the energy to see this through with me to the end.
I did not see Dr Choo today as she is on holidays. I will see her later next week.
Dr Choo has said that after Dose 4 is when the true menopause symptoms should start to raise their cheeky little heads from the tundra of my own Antarctica. Global warming it seems has already commenced and I have started to spend most nights lathered in a veil of sweat.
I have also started to notice that I am as sensitive as a hand grenade when dealing with vexatious situations - like not being able to find something unimportant - and the poorly educated halfwits who want to argue politics.
What other unpleasant experiences lie ahead this week time will tell.
All I know is that I'll be ducking and running as fast as possible through the explosions across that battle field until another 3 weeks when my next trench is claimed.
In the meantime, Al is battening down the hatches. And my Mum is making me my favourite spicy fish balls as I speak.
Harry is working on a DJ mix as he's been secured for the launch of a new 'Scooter Magazine' down the Gold Coast next week. (He's quite chuffed about it, actually).
Tonight we are going to Ethel and George's House for dinner.
Everything seems pretty normal.
And I will continue to work as hard as I can to keep things that way.