I am a cancer destroyer.
I am a cancer obliterator.
I am the Cancer-nator!!!
I am Cancer-free!
I am a cancer destroyer.
I am a cancer obliterator.
I am the Cancer-nator!!!
I am Cancer-free!
… and another polite euphemism.
This one is ‘a shadow’ … where no shadows ought to be.
It could be something.
It could be nothing at all.
I have wrestled since coming home,
To find an emotion that rings true.
Then I watched this video.
It makes sense now.
“Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language” – Lucille Clifton, 1936-1010, writer, educator, poet.
The last phase of my cancer treatment is over. Everything is looking good, but I’m not really going to celebrate until I see the results of the final scan, which won’t be until 4th December – talk about your hurry-up-and-wait!
It’s been a very interesting and intense week-and-a-half for all three of us here on Widder Island. First came daily visits to the hospital for shots and tests to prepare my body for ‘the deed’, then the ‘deed’ itself, wherein I voluntarily ingest poison.
Segue: When I was growing up and as a young adult, the world shivered on the brink of nuclear annihilation. It’s a daunting thought even now to remember that many of us didn’t think we would live through those times. That U.S. and U.S.S.R’s pissing contest prompted my younger self to learn about nuclear radiation and what, if anything, she could do about it. Turned out, not a lot, but she did gain a very vivid understanding of the effects of radiation on the human body.
Fast forward to last Friday: I’m looking at this plastic cup encased in layers of lead sheeting with a huge white pill in it. This is my radiated iodine. This is what will kill any last remaining cancerous thyroid cells in my body. The irony does not escape me.
Nor did the fact that the technician who delivered this contraption backed off almost to the other side of the room once he’d put it in front of me. A slight exaggeration, the room was small. I felt like saying, “Yeah, this stuff is poisonous to healthy people, what do you think it’s gonna do to me!” But I didn’t. I swallowed my horse pill and got out of there too.
Then we came home to our separated life. Separate bathroom, separate bedroom, separate food. Separated from any contact by a 1 meter buffer zone between me and all that I am used to touching. We knew it would be an inconvenience, possibly a logistical conundrum, and Widdercat would certainly not approve.
But it turned out to be more than that. It challenged how we, I, lived.
Try this for a moment. Everything you touch or come near will be poisoned by your presence. You must pay attention to how far away you are from your family, and it is your responsibility to keep that distance. Flip a light switch. Turn on a tap. Open the door to go outside. Do you do these things, knowing your touch is poisonous, or ask someone to do them for you? Or don’t do them at all? – also a choice.
By late Saturday my tongue felt like it’d been scorched, and my throat, in the empty place where my thyroid gland used to reside, felt swollen and sore to touch.
My stomach wasn’t too happy either. In fact my entire digestive system … well, you can imagine the rest of that sentence. I was surrounded by my life, but almost completely isolated from it.
Thankfully I could use my computer (the radioactive isotope used has a very short half life) so long as no-one else (of any species) used it, but I had the attention span of a gnat on speed, so I read a lot (my TBR pile is significantly smaller) and slept in three-hour bursts.
Now I’m trying to get my brain out of neutral and engage the think gears. I have high hopes that tomorrow I’ll be able to NaNo my allotted span of words. With what I’ve already written I’ll need to hit 2500+ words per day to make the finish line on time.
And Widdercat? … She didn’t come near me. It was only last night (Wednesday) that she approached me for cuddles. Try and tell me she didn’t know what was what!
“There’s an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses it’s wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention” – Chris Baty, accidental founder of NaNoWriMo
I actually woke up with some energy this morning. I was so shocked I had to lay down and rest for half an hour!
A while ago I decided to use this years NaNoWriMo to kick my brain/Muse/typing skillz, back into high gear, then, last week I get news that my radiation therapy is scheduled for the first week of … you guessed it … November!
I won’t be able to go anywhere near short people, pregnant people and four-legged people for about two weeks, or touch anything that isn’t disposable or washable. I don’t think my keyboard is included in either of those categories, but pen and paper might.
This reduces my NaNo time down to two weeks-ish and a daily word count of 3500.
So, all this is a convoluted reference to the topic at hand. The things we have to clear out of the way just to get to the starting line, which I call, getting back to zero.
Sometimes it’s something as simple as wanting to go for a walk in this chilly Autumn afternoon. first I have to stick my nose out of my Hobbit House in order to determine how many layers to put on, find my shoes, keys, notepad and pen in case I get an ‘idea.’ etc, etc, just to get back to zero – walking out the door.
The same with writing. Because of the reduced time-frame I need to really get my outline nice and tight, check out all the shinies on the NaNo website – I’m ‘Widder’ if you’re playing there this year – then get through the fun time that is my radiation treatment (it’s called an ‘ablation’ for reasons that are unfathomable).
Yep, November’s looking like a walk in the park, once I get back to zero.
“Two fundamental literary qualities: supernaturalism and irony” – Charles Baudelaire, 1821 – 1867, poet, essayist, art critic, and translator of Edgar Allen Poe into French
P.S. Does anyone else think of Robin Williams as Mork from ‘Mork and Mindy‘ whenever they say ‘NaNo’ out loud?
One of the (many, I’m discovering) downsides of this combination of healing from thyroid cancer and menopause, is vaginal dryness. It’s uncomfortable, annoying, irritating, time-consuming, frustrating, and on occasions downright hilarious. (nope, not going to give any examples of that last one)
So like any citizen of the 21st century, my first port of call was to ‘google’ possible remedies. Among the tens of thousands of results, was this gem, (unfortunately the link doesn’t work anymore so you’ll just have to take my word for it)from which a wonderful sentence stood out like a sore thumb.
And I quote: (the emphasis is mine)
“Exciting movies that keep you in suspense stimulate the central nervous system, increasing blood flow to the gentiles which in turn lubricates the vagina.”
I personally would like to thank all the persons of non-Jewish persuasion who offer this service.
The moral of this story is, of course, check for typos before you publish. (emphasis mine) because the one that gets through (and there will always, always, be ONE) will be the most embarrassing.
“A good editor doesn’t rewrite words, she rewires synapses” – S. Kelly Harrell, author and modern shaman
It’s been a busy time, this healing.
Have you ever had a major illness/accident, and it’s taken up all your energies, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, to overcome?
Then, when you’re at your lowest ebb, you catch a cold, or a paper cut gets infected, or you stub your little toe.
Or you suddenly experience menstrual cramps that you’d forgotten how bad they could be because you haven’t had a period for eighteen months and have no tampons or pads in the house because you never wanted to see one ever again … and it’s the middle of the night and you live on an island in the middle of nowhere … and your voice squeaks through at least three octaves because the swelling from your thyroid cancer surgery is still pressing on your vocal cords … and sneezing hurts … and the hottest of summer days have finally arrived and you hate the heat you came to Canada for the snow for goodness sake … and the family at the end of your road are having a family reunion and there are parties down by the lake and BBQ’s everywhere … and you have no appetite because you now have a bladder infection … and your cat bit you for no reason except that she’s very old and crabby …
July 2013 is a month that I am truly glad to see the rear end of as it heads out across the lake and disappears over the horizon, never to be heard of again.
Bring on August!
My first post-surgery biopsy results are in and it looks like I dodged a bullet … just. The cancer cells were merely using my thyroid as a staging area. An invasion of my lymphatic system was immanent – which has now been terminated with extreme prejudice. One or two cells may have escaped into the hills, but rest assured we will flush the little buggers out and nuke ‘em.
‘For me, writing a novel is like solving a puzzle. But I don’t intend my novels as puzzles. I intend them as invitations to dance’ – Mohsin Hamid, writer.
Hurry to the hospital … wait …
Hurry to fill in the last of the checked and re-re-checked paperwork, and change into a one-size-fits-all (it doesn’t) hospital gown … wait …
Hurry into the operating theatre … wait …
Anesthetic takes effect … Cone of Surrealness finally shatters.
A rodent with razor claws sits at my throat and gnaws at it with poisoned fangs … I’m almost convinced it’s an hallucination.
“What is your pain on a scale of one to ten?” …
“Eleven,” I croak.
The rodent continues its feast. I hurry up and wait for whatever painkiller they’re pumping into me to chase it away … wait some more …
I open my eyes to a large wall clock. Time has no meaning, but the second hand transits smoothly through each minute rather than ticking off each second individually. I am grateful, it saves me from counting each agonising one.
The painkillers kick in. My rodent friend disappears.
Bang! … rumble, rumble, clang, rattle. Elevator doors open, close, open again.
Rumble, swerve, clack, click, side-to-side jiggle. Thud-ump … stillness.
Another room, same clock with the sliding second hand. What is my pain level? Seven, with a twist of lemon, … that shifts gears and feels like a two.
… stop … wait …
THANK YOU, Thank you, to all who called, emailed, and left comments. I am home again, sleeping lots, and healing as I ought. I don’t smell like hospital anymore so Widdercat is speaking to me.
All is well.
My world has narrowed to a singular event. From this rather unique perspective, all that has gone before fades into a rainbow-ish mist. Anything ahead is obscured by the singularity … slated to occur 7.30am tomorrow morning. I wish this was the human/A.I. singularity, that Vernor Vinge, among others has theorised, but alas, mine is a far more mundane and mortal one.
Time has behaved differently these last few days too. It has slowed to a stately halt so that I’ve been tempted to get out and offer to push, and then it has moved so fast I’ve barely been able to hang on to its coat-tails.
All my previous encounters with general anesthetic, although bizarrely fascinating (consciously entering oblivion) have been in order to put something in my body to make it work better. This time we’re taking something out to achieve a similar result. For some reason this offends my sense of propriety.
I will see all of you on the other side, where my horizon will again stretch as far as my minds eye can imagine.
The last word goes to Vernor Vinge, whose Law, I think, applies not only to writing, but to life Herself: (I look forward to the advancement of my plot!)
“All scenes need to accomplish at least two of three things. 1 – Provide background information, 2 – Develop the Characters, and 3 – Advance the plot” – Vernor Vinge, professor, scientist, science fiction writer.
I will admit, I was nervous. This twenty minute interview would have a long lasting effect on the rest of my life. Not something to be taken lightly.
I prepared as best I could, but in these situations most things work best when they happen spontaneously. “Don’t over-think it,” I reminded myself as I sat down in the faded, used-to-be-orange-and-green striped chair across a well organised desk from a large woman in an equally faded green uniform.
My interviewer rattled off the prerequisite yes/no questions like a friendly Gatling gun. Thankfully my answers corresponded with the one’s I’d given earlier in the written part of the interview.
She walked behind me and tinkered with some odd smelling machinery, took some rather personal measurements, and sat back down again.
With one be-ringed hand she handed over a booklet full of detailed instructions, asked me if I had any questions then bade me farewell and pointed me in the direction of the main exit doors.
I blinked away my moment of disorientation and waited for my brain to reconnect and remind me where I’d parked my car. Before I drove away, I paused for another moment, of reflection this time.
I knew I’d aced the questions at this pre-op surgical interview at the hospital, but like all interviewees, I did wonder if I got the job!
“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm” – Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910, social reformer and founder of modern nursing