It's the last of my demon days and I'm off to a poor start.
Day 2: I wake to a sunny morning. I am utterly exhausted after waking at 3 am. I was startled awake by a noise outside my bedroom.
I am woken by Al with some bad news. My friend, Jossy has taken her own life. You know how it is? When your whole body is so unwell you actually don't compute some things?
Jossy is my age. We went to Uni together. I can't get my head around the fact that this beautiful, vibrant and interesting girl has done the unthinkable.
It's the great conundrum isn't it? Me fighting for my life; she ending it. I feel a little angry. Here is one of the few good pictures I have of her and me:
Today I have arranged to go to see what I suspect will be a fairly awful movie with Lee. We go to see "A Few Best Men" and don't laugh once. It stereotypes men behaving badly we reckon, and we can't work out why Olivia Newton John would have wanted to do a movie where she snorts cocaine and gets totally plastered.
Afterwards, and perhaps in keeping with the generally tawdry tone of the movie, we go into the toilets to 'shoot up'. It's novel I must say. It's not quite a scene from 'Trainspotters' but Lee gives me my injection and we cheer the last prick. You know, it barely hurts these days.
Then we go to Harvest to have some lunch. It's about now I notice I have the start of a sniffle.
When I get home I find a home-cooked meal delivered by Pam, Craig's sister. I really appreciate this timely gesture because it's been a hectic day for Al and he gets home late. (George is at the Wesley Hospital for some tests).
Janet rings as usual to check on me. People are still being so kind.
Day 3: Last night was again, terrible, I woke at 1.30 am after taking my knock-me-out anti nausea. I had terrible heartburn and thanked God I'd got Al to get me some Quick Eze. It works so I was able to doze off.
It is a warm, humid day today and I wake suffused in the funny pains I've described before - where my skin hurts to touch.
We have an inspection at 12.30 pm and though I feel vile, I get up, make my bed and before you know it, I'm vacuuming the house. Mind over matter I suppose.
I drop Ben at golf and go to the shops to cool down. When I get home, Al and I go for a short walk. He has to pull me up the hill as I'm barely coping.
I know the symptoms have hit harder and faster this time.
After Ben gets home we all go for a swim. I know I shouldn't because it's supposed to make you vulnerable to bugs. But it's so bloody hot.
In the evening, we order take away. I'm feeling pretty vile so I take my knock-me out anti nausea.
Day 4: I wake relatively early to another hot day. In fact, it's blistering I reach for the anti nauseas first thing.
Today, once again, we have an inspection so I don't have the luxury of lolling in bed.
I find I am physically gagging. It helps to keep moving I think.
In the afternoon we go to my Mum's for lunch. My Aunty Ethel is heading back to Sri Lanka on Friday and Mum has invited my sisters and I over to say our farewells.
After we get home, I notice I'm gagging again. I am also lathered in sweat so I can report, it is entirely unpleasant.
I lie in bed. Al snoozes on the couch. The afternoon has cooled a little and it's not quite so bad.
I text Dr Choo to ask her if I should be concerned. She replies that if a fever develops I'll need antibiotics.
In the late afternoon Jan and Dave pop by. Jan is bearing four little pink-iced 'boobie cakes', left over from a cancer fundraiser she was involved. That, and a memoir written by a local guy who was kidnapped in Somalia. They are such a lovely couple.
We discuss the side effects of my drugs and Dave says: "What a shame the side effects are always so bad. Why can't they be something, like, multiple orgasms." A friend of mine sent me an email to that effect, I say. Why isn't one side effect extreme sexiness?
Craig pops by. (He's poisoning our weeds for us as well and I must say, has done an amazing job. It looks like the aftermath of the Apocalypse in the mess that is our back garden).
After our guests leave, I prepare the surface for my art lesson on Tuesday. I do a drawing. My sniffle has worsened. In fact I can't breathe.
I take a sleeping pill and an anti nausea this evening. I'm feeling miserable.
Al brings me dinner and I vaguely remember eating it but just roll over into a dead sleep.
Day 5: It's sweltering and today I find myself at home alone. Al and Harry have gone to work in town, Ben is at school. My nose is runny and it seems I have developed a cough.
In fact, I feel quite unwell. I lie in bed, suffused in aches, blowing my nose and hacking.
I feel very sorry for myself. I think about all my friends who are at work and off doing things that are important or interesting.
I ponder the fact that, this time, as I enter the home strait of my chemo sessions, people seem to have lost interest in my plight. Alas.
I ring Louisa and leave a message.
I have a headache and I do think I have a temperature too which is over 37 degrees but take some Panadol to control it. I can't remember at what temperature I'm supposed to ring the hospital, but I feel so vile, I can't be bothered getting up to find the booklet where it tells you everything. That's my first mistake.
The good thing at least is that the nausea seems to have abated though the foul taste has settled in my mouth once again.
I spend the entire day in bed, dozing intermittently. The fan whirrs at full speed. I think this is the sickest I can remember ever feeling. In my life. Ever!
I try to watch TV but my head is throbbing, I'm sweating like a pig and I have difficulty concentrating.
When I take my temperature, it's over 38 degrees so I take two more Panadol. That's my second mistake.
In the late evening I feel better so I get up to work on a script for Karen. Mark sends me a message to alert me of Jossy's funeral. It's on Thursday. I hope I am well enough to go.
Through the night I ache and sweat. I take two Panadol sometime in the early morning.
Day 6: It's pouring with rain early in the morning. Al jumps up just before 4 am and says he has to waterproof the Manpad. He'll be back at 7am he says.
When I wake I have a headache but I don't want to take any more Panadol in case I poison myself. I wait until 9 o'clock.
Al comes home and leaves for his tennis cardio session and I'm alone again (naturally). The rain has cleared.
I think about ringing Lee and asking her whether I should go to the doctor but I don't. I know she's at work and I don't want to bother her.
About mid-morning Louisa comes over. I lie in bed, flicking at the TV. I am blowing my nose and hacking phlegm (sorry!).
We converse in a desultory fashion. I tell her that I have been reliving the experience of having injections in my skin all morning.
"I think I'll get some hypnotherapy to overwrite that association," I tell her.
I ask her if I should go to the doctor. (Louisa is an EEN. She should know.) Louisa says it would make her happy if I went. I'm thinking I'll just get a script for antibiotics just in case I need them.
Louisa will drive me, she says, and tells me to have a shower and get dressed.
So I get up and I feel kind of okay. After getting into some shorts and a thin top (it's bloody hot and I seem to be sweating profusely), I ring my local GP and make an appointment.
As we are about to exit, Al arrives home.
"You can't just get any antibiotics. Shouldn't you see Poh See?" he says. "I'm happy to drive you."
I'm a bit annoyed, to be honest. I was all primed for this outing with Louisa! But after some argy bargy, I ring Greenslopes Hospital and explain the situation.
They say I have to go in to have my blood checked. How inconvenient! I'm thinking they'll give me some oral antibiotics at the Hospital. Such a long way to go. Such a nuisance.
And so Al, Louisa and I drive to the Hospital. (Al is keen as there is still a lot to do at the Manpad). I feel quite okay and think, briefly, that this is all a bit of a waste of time.
At Greenslopes, I am a bit wary when the concierge directs us to the Cyril Gilbert Ward. A girl call Jessica is behind the counter and I gaily advise her I'm here for my antibiotics script.
When she gives me the same sort of paperwork as she does before a chemo session, I'm on alert.
"What's going to happen to me do you think?" I ask her.
"You'll be taken to a chair and they'll put you on a drip," she says. I'm horrified.
"No! No more needles, surely they can just give me some tablets," I say, thinking 'what would this silly girl know, she's only the receptionist'.
Actually, she knows a lot.
I am greeted by Ursula, my favourite nurse and taken to a back room where there's a trolley bed suffused in that blinding neon light.
Ursula directs me to lie in the bed and as the temperature of the air conditioner has been set to "Eskimo", Louisa throws a towel she has found onto my bald head to try and keep me warm. I'm shivering, she's shivering.
Ursula tells us the story of an aged care ward she once worked at. They used to put pillowcases on the bald heads to keep them warm. So they looked like the Ku Klux Klan.
A blanket is procured for Louisa. As I relate the story of my fever and the Panadol, Ursula makes notes. Then I get a lecture about forgetting my initial instructions which SHE gave to me.
She explains I could have got septicaemia, how once you hit rock bottom after chemo it's very hard to get back up, about how by taking the Panadol I may have gone to sleep and never woken up. She makes cooing noises about how I'm in the right place. (Later I discover, really, Ursula is a bit of a hypocrite because SHE got pneumonia when she had breast cancer. So there).
Still, I feel sheepish. I grab Louisa's hand and say: "Oh, so I guess you may have saved my life."
Ursula explains I'm to be on IV antibiotics. Yes, another cannula. That's all I need to hear because it's like a button has been switched. All that retained memory. Immediately, I am gagging like a seal, spitting into a sick bag and saying "excuse me" in between.
At one stage I miss the sickbag entirely. It's so disgusting, phlegm everywhere, I'm actually laughing.
"You'll never be jealous of me again, Louisa," I say. (Because I know, sometimes she is). Gag. Hack.
But before the IV I need a chest x-ray.
A man arrives with a wheelchair and for some unknown reason, he makes me put on a hospital gown that seems designed for a 7 foot Samoan footballer. As I am wheeled away in fact the gown keeps getting caught in the wheels. I take my sick bag with me,
After the x-ray, I am returned to Ursuala's care. I jump in the bed with the gown still on and there's the towel on my head again with the sick bag at the ready.
"What's that you've got on!" says Ursula. "You look like the flying nun."
"But it's keeping me warm," I say, "I'm freezing." I dutifully get out of my Samoan's gown and get back into bed. Two blankets is barely enough.
And so, eventually, after I've provided samples of sputum and pee, another cannula is inserted into my hand, and okay, it does go in at the first attempt. It doesn't really hurt but it doesn't matter. My stomach churns. I feel really sick now.
Blood samples are taken. Before I'm seen by the registrar, Ursula has started me on fluids. My hand hurts badly. Gagging. Spitting.
Al and Louisa leave at 3 pm. I tell Al to let my Mum and Dad know where I am.
The registrar comes and asks me a hundred questions not including "What is the capital of Colombia". I'm told my chest x-ray is clear, no pneumonia. Hooray.
Ursula wheels me up to Ward 31C, the cancer ward.
I am in room 22 which has a nice view of the City and is really a rather huge room.
My nurse this evening is a lovely looking black man called 'Robbie'.
After a disgusting dinner with enough inedible food to feed two people, I watch TV. I try to sleep. I throw up. Violently.
Then I request a sleeping pill and fall into a dead sleep.
Day 7: I wake to the most horrible experience of my life. At 5.30 am someone barges into my room and switches on the light. She barks that I'm to have my bloods done. I blearily open my eyes as, within minutes, a strange woman from the pathology lab bustles around me, finds a vein, tells me she can't see and she'll need the spotlight.
Bang. I'm blinded by a light and then she's jabbed one vein, then another.
"It's no good. I'm a taker, you have to be a giver," this stranger says loudly. "I'll have to get Kathleen."
It's like being woken by a kind of shorter, chubbieir, curly haired version of 'Bea' from Prisoner. Shit. It's like being in the Gulag!
And then, another softer, kinder lady arrives, "Kathleen". Seeing as Bea has had two goes, only one go is left and the only vein presenting itself is on my hand.
"Unfortunately, this is going to hurt," says Kathleen. Well, that's an understatement.
Cue sound of muffled scream as the hapless prisoner bites on her blanket.
No go. In the end, the blood has to be squeezed from a prick in my finger into some teensy tiny vials.
I watch the news of Kevin Rudd resigning as Foreign Minister.
Al rings and I give him instructions as to what I need. Like pyjamas!
My nurse today is I discover a Russian called Tatiana. Actually she's from Siberia and when I practice a sentence of my chemo-brained Russian on her, she gives me a look that says 'deluded fool'.
I don't have a mobile phone and I can't ring a mobile phone from the hospital, and I only know a few numbers off by heart. I have to tell Al when to come. In the end I ring my Dad who knows I'm in hospital but guess what? He hasn't told my mum! (Well, why would he? I'm only in hospital, Dad!!)
The nurse comes in and says I need an injection of anti-coagulant. But I refuse because frankly (as the prostitute said to the bishop) I've had enough pricks for one day.
Mum rings and I can sense some panic in her voice. She's coming to visit.
I watch an old episode of 'Green Acres' and crack myself when Lisa, Eva Gabor's character discusses 'reincarceration' with Oliver ('reincarceration' as in you come back as someone else'. "You mean reincarnation," says Oliver. "No dear, that's when you come back as a flower.")
Dr Choo arrives and tells me it's not good. My blood counts are low. She emphasises the point with a sweep of her palms toward the floor. It looks very dramatic and for the first time since we started our relationship, she's not smiling. She says I'll have to stay until "at least" Friday. It's "too dangerous" to send me home."
Al rings and I'm able to give him the news.
When he visits he brings everything I told him to bring including my Kindle. I tell him about my Gulag experience and when he leaves, I ask him to make a complaint to the Registrar. (I'll get you, Bea!)
Mum visits bearing magazines and vadays. Almost at once I see she is trying to stop herself bursting into tears so I rally myself. My parents are worried. She tells me Aunty Una has been trying to ring and brings me some fruitcake and Love Cake Aunty has despatched especially for me. (Una is 94 and has glaucoma). I eat a vaday because I know the sight of anyone eating her food is all Mum needs to feel one with the world. We have quite a good conversation.
After she leaves, I read my magazines. There's a story in "Who" about a Channel 9 entertainment reporter who had breast cancer and went through chemo twice in eight months. And she had a 4-month old baby. I count my blessings.
Al must have put out some information about me because I receive more texts and a couple of phone calls.
In my head I devise a game called "Nationality Bingo" for hospital patients.
Nim arrives in the afternoon bearing lychees, blueberries and raspberries. Unfortunately, the timing of her visit coincides with Tatiana's bed check. Tatiana glares icily at Nim. We are told I can't eat any food that isn't hospital grade.
That's because I'm officially 'neutrapoenic'. Cancer patients who hit rock bottom can become seriously ill from even the smallest paper cut. (They can get even sicker from watching too many close ups of Kevin Rudd licking his lips.)
I can't believe I can't eat this fruit and then remember the vaday I ate. Eek! I hope I don't end up a corpse by 6 o'clock.
When Nim leaves I tell her that if I die, we can blame the fucking lychees.
I send a long text to Mark about Jossy. (It's hard work as I am doing everything with my left hand.) Her funeral is tomorrow. I want to share a couple of stories about her just in case there's an opportunity for other people to contribute.
Lee texts me to say she's on her way, do I need anything. I ask her to bring a small notebook (it ends up being minuscule, designed less for 'War and Peace' (like this blog!!!) and more for, I don't know, alphabet practice? Well, she's a nurse!). She arrives quite late and I wait up until she arrives. We have a long talk.
My nurse in the evening is Mari who is Finnish.
I'm so hyper after all the visitors today I have a terrible night's sleep. All night I think and I think. I think about how people live their lives, the shit they worry about. I think what would happen if I die. I think about the friends who have stood closest to my side through all of this, so far. I think. I think about thinking. I think.
Eventually I must sleep, but not much.
Day 8. I'm woken by Bea again but she seems quieter. She takes one look at me and says she'll go directly to Kathleen. Kathleen fails twice so says she'll fetch Nadine. Nadine does strike it lucky with one vein but unfortunately it coagulates because it takes so long to come out. In other words, it's unuseable. It's like getting blood out of a stone, yet again, and once more, I have to have my fingers milked.
I've had a headache all night. I start imagining I've got brain cancer too.
When I'm offered the needle, at first I say no. But after I ring Lee to see what she thinks, and thinking about my headache and the coagulating blood this morning, I relent.
My nurse this morning is from the Cook Islands. She thinks giving the needle slowly is better but I think it's worse. It stings like crap and buggery all rolled into one. In fact, it stings afterwards for HOURS! From this I think I could never be a spy. If anyone caught me and threatened to torture me, I'd just spill the beans. No, have the damn secrets!
Fiona visits in the morning. I know she's upset but especially because she only found out I was here from some passing Facebook exchange. My family sucks at communication.
Shortly afterwards, Al also arrives so we all have a good chat.
Through the day Lyndal rings, Lindar rings, Tracey rings, Janet texts, Karen texts.
I pass the rest of the time reading, playing 'Chicktionary' on my phone, playing brain training games. Shit, what did hospital patients do before iPhone? It's a shame my Facebook App does not work.
I find out the cleaner is from Brazil (she's very fair!) and she will be starting her MBA in June.
In the afternoon, I call Mark. Jossy's funeral should be over. I find out that she hung herself. Last Wednesday. Such a waste.
I'm so bored I look for the Gideon's bible which is cling-wrapped for cancer patients. (The sheets are also changed daily in the cancer ward. We humans really are putrid).
I watch American Idol. I get into Keith Richard's "Life".
Dr Choo arrives late with the registrar in tow. She says that she will allow blood to be taken from my other arm if it's done by an experience phlebotomist. She says if we don't have blood, I can't go home. She says I should be able to go home on Saturday.
Day 9. My nurse in the morning is from Korea. The blood is taken first time from my good arm with no pain by Bea.
My nurse this morning is Indian.
Not long after breakfast Dr Choo comes down and tells me I can go home today. I have oral antibiotics for the next few days.
When the cannula is taken out it gushes and spurts (thank you anticoagulant). In fact it bleeds so much I briefly wonder if I could bleed to death. It takes a good two minutes of pressure to stem the flow.
I shower, dress and leave the room so quickly, I know how inmates must feel when they're released. That, or trapped ferrets.
Harry picks me up from the lobby and Al drives us home through the thickening traffic.
When I get home there is one freshly washed and fluffy individual who is ecstatic to see me. Spunkeeeeeeeee.
I jump straight into bed. My own!
Aah. I'm glad to be home.