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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Demon Days 5

Day 2: It's the first time through my treatment that I've managed to take my medicines in the right way so I wake feeling quite normal.

It's raining, with my own forecast: lightly squeamish with a chance of hot flushes.

It's a bleak kind of day, so I opt to stay in bed all day. Motivation is a bit low.

I get up when I hear Lee at the door, my angel bearing her caring nursey touch. The injection doesn't hurt much at all these days. I really must have got used to it.

Lee and I sit on the couch with a cup of tea and a piece of love cake. We talk about our trip to India, Nepal and Tibet. We are booking the first part of this on Tuesday. It's something to look forward to although I guess it's a bit of a bet. We are planning to go in October later this year and who knows what my story will be by then? Still, what is life without dreams.

After Lee leaves, Janet rings to see how I am. Nim phones too.

I go back to bed and watch "One Day" on Foxtel; Al and I play iPad Scrabble; We watch "Mean Girls 2" of all things. I take my medications and fall asleep.

Day 3: We have our house on the market and there's an inspection today. So I don't really have an option. I have to get up. It's raining on and off outside.

I tidy up what I can but I must say, it's a lot of effort for just half an hour. Two families look through.

Afterwards, Al and I decide to go to see the movie 'Hugo'. I meet Louisa there. The theatre is packed and all the while, my stomach is churning.

The nausea is pretty chronic today and frankly, I feel pretty vile.

I nearly doze of during the film which has some incredible sets but it's a bit like watching a very nice piece of paint dry, in my opinion - Moulin Rouge without the music.

Louisa comes home with me for a catch up. She's basically my 'regular hang-out buddy': someone I can be myself with without worrying about being particularly anything much. Someone I can be honest with and happily be completely unconstructive with. While we chat, I have a cup of hot 'rasam, a traditional Ceylonese tonic made from herbs and spices. My mum has recommended it to me to help tame the nausea. Alas, it's only a temporary relief.

What's different this time, seeing I'm upright, is that I actually cook dinner. I'm sure it's tasty but not for me.

I lie in bed afterwards watching the Nadal v Djokovic tennis final. But I am disinterested. I just want to sleep.

I drift off but am woken by Al offering me a banana and strawberry smoothie. I imagine it's nutritious and slowly sip it but it's a bad move as soon, I'm battling some bad heartburn.

Bugger. Still, with some effort, it settles and I drift off into a dreamless sleep.

Day 4: It's still overcast and I wonder if this is affecting my mood. I don't know how to explain it. I feel 'reduced'. There are bleak thoughts running around my head as I lounge in bed in the morning.

What gets me up is the gift I've made for Clodagh, my Facebook friend who lives in Dublin. I want to post it to her before the project gets completely old.

I go to the post office with a parcel that involved enough bubble wrap and sticky tape to satisfy a bondage queen's ultimate fantasy. I send it off with a prayer that it will arrive in one piece.

Then I go to the shops to buy a dress I saw for Karen. We are more or less the same size (my widening girth not withstanding) so if it looks good on me, I figure it'll look good on her. It was on special and I can imagine her wearing it. I also buy myself a couple of things. I know it's naughty but these days I keep thinking too often, that life is short. I've always thought that, actually. But somehow, these days, there's an element of truth to that idea.

Today I just keep thinking: "I just don't know. Whether any of this shit is really working. Who knows when my number's going to be up?" Maybe it's the weather? Maybe I'm just really tired of it all. Already. And I'm not even half way through the whole onerous process of what this seemingly endless treatment entails.

What to do but go for a walk. I walk for 8.5 kilometres, enjoying the fact that the sky is clearing and with it, my mood.

In the evening, Harry invites his girlfriend, Robyn, over for dinner and what's more, he cooks! We take the meal (san soy boy) to Ethel and George's to share. We have to make an effort to eat as a family these days, especially as George is so unwell.

Day 5: One thing I've decided with this illness is that I won't let it entirely shape my days. So today, I'm off to an art lesson. I'm really into my mixed media work and art has become a therapy for me.

My lesson is held at the local gallery, Yurara and on my way, I'm daydreaming so I overshoot the turnoff and have to hang a youie. It's typical these days. Planet La-La is the land I seem to frequent.

I spend a pleasant morning, preparing a canvass. I discover that my teacher, Gloria, had breast cancer 20 years before. She just had a one centimetre lump, discovered by accident, and had four perfectly good lymph nodes ripped out for no good reason. She suffered with lymph oedema for three years she said, and still has no feeling on one side of that arm. Cruel isn't it?

I leave a bit early because Janet comes down to visit. We have a simple chicken and salad on the back deck but I admit, it tastes a bit like eating packaging. The sun is out. There's a little breeze and Janet and I pass a lovely couple of hours.

It's actually really great because I learn some things about Janet's youth that I didn't know before. I have at least this to thank my illness for: that I am unpeeling some heretofore undiscovered layers in the people who so genuinely care about me that they will give me that most precious, wonderful thing that is 'time'.

Let me emphasise this. Janet lives in Bellbowrie. It's a good hour and a half by car in traffic I reckon. You know someone loves you when they will take the time, make the time.

As some guy called Syrus once said: "Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them." It's true.

Not for the first time, I think about Chrissy and Jan and my other friends who have battled or ceded to disease and illness and how crap I was at it: being the friend they needed.

My friends are showing me how to express my compassion in ways that go beyond the words I so easily (perhaps too easily?) wield. It's never too late to learn.

When she leaves, I'm feeling quite squeamish so I lie down under the fan. I realise that my heart rate is quite rapid and I notice that the bruise from my episode on Friday is still quite dark on my arm.

I feel very green and there's that dark mood, palpating on the edges of my consciousness, like that rogue ember in the woodpile.

I rouse myself and go for a 6 km walk. I can't say it lifts my mood. People who know me well will be surprised at the kind of thoughts I have. Once again, I think about curling up in a ball. In fact, half way through the walk, I feel tired and I just want to sit down and cry.

But I don't.

I miss my old body. I miss feeling well.

In the evening I start a Rosamunde Pilcher novel I picked up from the Op Shop but my eyes have become quite bad with this treatment so I find it hard to actually physically read.

Ben comes in and watches 'Spongebob Squarepants' next to me and ends up falling asleep.

I feel sick so, once I get him off to bed, I take an anti nausea and go to bed early. Hey, I'm living the high life!

Day 6: It's humid today and my mouth tastes utterly disgusting still. When Al asks me what I want for breakfast, I order my usual scrambled eggs but ask him to season it heavily so I can taste something. No joy. It's tasteless!

Afterwards, I am rewarded with more heartburn. Is there no end to my pleasures.

Everyone leaves the house today, Al and Harry off to work on the Manpad in town, Ben off to school.

I know I have some work to do and make a half hearted start on the corporate profile I'm writing. But it's hard work in my condition.

I lie in bed and watch a bit of 'Red Dog' on Foxtel. But it's really bad. Dear God. Tell me that "Australian Comedy" hasn't become an irretrievable oxymoron.

Louisa rings and I decide to abort the movie. We go out for a coffee and cake at 'Harvest'. (Fuck it, life is short). It turns into a good outing because we bump into Lyndal and Maria.

Afterwards, let me come clean with my dirty little secret... Louisa and I go and see 'The Muppets' because that's the only thing she hasn't seen. (The girl lives at the movies). It's lame, okay I admit it, but it's so innocent, it's strangely uplifting.

In fact, 'The Muppets' is the first and only movie I ever watched on my own (back in the days when the Regent Theatre was still around). I figure that if there was ever a metaphor for LOSER it has to be someone watching 'The Muppets' on their own. Except maybe, watching reruns on 'Baywatch', in slow motion, on your own.

It's today that I start thinking about the big 'what if'... what if I skip the final treatment and wing it?

I don't know if it's the bruise on my arm, but I feel sick about going back to the Cyril Gilbert Centre. It's as if my experiences so far have so graphically informed my memory that I still feel the needle in my arm.

It's like not being able to wake up from a bad dream.

In the late afternoon, though I'm tired and a bit over it, I coax myself to go for a walk and am surprised to find myself completing 6km.

On the way, there's a sun shower and strangely, the smell of the rain on the hot pavement makes me feel better. Maybe it's because it makes me feel as if I'm still a part of it. This life.

Day 7: Would you believe I'm still feeling quite sickly and green? I've had a few tiny pains too but nothing I would complain about.

It's actually a lovely morning with a pleasant cool breeze wafting through my house. From my window I can see the bay. It looks a little murky and choppy out there.

This morning I have a meeting with Karen. I'm helping her with her Mayoral Campaign and things have got pretty nasty of late.

I don't know if it's the fact that I'm ill, but these days I'm very sensitive to nastiness and venom which, unfortunately, seems to be part of the territory when you're even tangentially involved in politics. It's an environment that doesn't offer the best perspective on human nature.

I'm not kidding you. Some of the people I've encountered so far are like cancer on legs: destructive; life sucking. I often wonder these days how they can find it so important: to live their lives day to day as angry, nasty, vindictive, derogatory, contemptuous, mean, racist and aggressive, bloated with their own self-importance to boot!

Maybe everyone should have an illness. Maybe everyone needs to ponder their mortality. Mostly, it's a good way to learn how to treat other people.

This afternoon we have an inspection so I can't really lie in bed. Later I will go for another walk I'm sure.

Experience so far tells me that I will probably be about 90% by Sunday.

In the meantime I'll rally on.

The only way to go is forward.


  1. Aaaahhhh Bronny...

    Once again - I get to relive my journey at this point (exactly 3 years ago) as you are living yours today. I think the only difference we have is that you have the nausea (mine was ok), whereas I had the constant bone pain (mine was not ok).

    Apart from what I called 'mud mouth', and the fear of the chemo ward, and of chemo day, and needles, and sad/bad/dark thoughts, and the disappointment of waking up still ill on a new day, and the heartburn, and the hot flushes, and the inability to read or concentrate or remember things, and the mood swings, and the frustration of not being 'me' anymore, and the bruises/pain suffered from nurses not being able to find veins, and the lack of feeling human, and living on Plant La La etc etc...
    ... I did however think exactly the same thing as you...
    ... Some people really need to face their own mortality (unfortunately) at some point in their lives to realise how to live their life meaningfully.

    My senses were also heightened in seeing the nastiness, selfishness and pettiness that some people seem to have within themselves. With all the effort and energy that these people put into being this way - just think how different this world would be if their effort and energy was channeled toward something worthwhile.

    I've always tried to do the right thing by people, but since going on my 'journey' I now have my own 10 commandments/mantras by which I live now and will instill in my children as they grow...

    1. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
    2. Put yourself in the other persons shoes before passing comment.
    3. Everyone has a story - some much worse than yours.
    4. Never assume anything about anyone.
    5. There are always 2 sides to a story - you will most likely never know both sides - so don't judge - and don't gossip!
    6. Listen with full attention when spoken to and ask people questions.
    7. Be open to meeting people from 'outside your box' - you learn so much more about life and the universe.
    8. Communicate - people really can't read minds - especially spouses.
    9. Don't put high expectations on your loved ones - they will do their best if they know you're there supporting them - and hence they will never disappoint you.
    10. Ultimately - we have only one life (and it really is short) - make it a damned good happy one.

    I know some of those are a little lame but I am a more content person knowing that I will make this world a better place whilst I'm on it - not in any huge way - but in my own little ways. And I will teach my children the same - sort of like 'paying it forward'.

    I am a different person since my 'journey'. It would be impossible to go through an experience like that and not be changed in some way. Although I hate and still struggle with the damage that the cancer and chemo has done physically and emotionally, I quite like the person I am now - something I couldn't confidently say 3 years ago.

    Apologies Bron - this was just going to be a short post but you hit the nail on the head in regards to how people really should learn how to treat other people.

    Everyone just needs to be a little kinder and more thoughtful towards one another.

  2. Chrissy babes, they are not lame at all! I was telling Al just the other day that something strange has come over me... there is one person waging a fairly ugly campaign against my friend, and, while I dislike what he is doing (and it is my job to shut him down), I actually feel SORRY for him!!! I feel like going over and having a cup of tea with him and saying: "Now Petal, where did this all begin." Because maybe I know now, that life is tougher for some than others. And it can make you bitter and angry if you let it.

    These days I seem to think that the heart of anger and ill feeling is pain and if you follow the thread down the rabbit hole, there will be something brutal that life has delivered to these folk.

    Which doesn't make it easy if they happen to be serial killers :))

    Good thing you and I are nice. Well, you are anyway! Did you get my envelope?

  3. It's just the same as how Bully's start out at school - behind all that meanness and ugliness is usually an unhappy, unfulfilled child with low self esteem and self worth - not knowing how to express himself/herself - this is just the adult version.

    Ad no envelope yet - will be checking post box this arv. xoxoxox