Liz's colonic journey

Archive for November, 2011

Visiting with the Endorphin Family

Forgot to put a title in yesterday. That’s what comes of hitting reply all in emails! Titles are important. Karen K taught me that – we met online in 1995, over our common fascination with the Xena Warrior Princess series, and the associated fanfic that grew up around it. We’ve have been emailing almost daily ever since. I need to mention this because people often diss the value of internet friendships, yet Karen has been there for me as staunchly as anyone. Through fun times and dire she’s always been a voice of reason and an acute observer of the ridiculous. She’s also a gifted comic and producer of three films. And she and her partner, Paris, actually came to visit SA on the strength of that friendship and taught me the what can be achieved with ingenuity and primitive technology in Hluhluwe – the joys of frozen margaritas with ice from a gas powered fridge.

Most of what I know about writing I learned from Karen when she kindly offered to proof-read my M dissertation, when I couldn’t make sense of my supervisors comments – largely red ink lines diagonally scratched through pages and pages of my painstaking work with no explanation. To be fair it was rather horrible, now that I think about it – my writing, I mean.  I was trying to sound clever and stringing words together that sounded what I thought was academic. Just one comment Karen made changed everything for me – she identified one sentence in a screed, and said, “This is the power sentence – this is the attention grabber – this will make your audience curious.”  Since then I’ve used that notion often in commenting on written work. It talked to audience, structure and moving my reader. Such a succinct point yet carrying lots of questions to me about what I wanted to really say and why. Don’t ask me why I never got that message through my undergrad years, it’s a mystery.

To give you an idea about the fun of emails with interesting topic lines,  her last 4 have been “moxie mixture” (keeping your chin up in tough times and life ups and downs), “sir prize” (authority figures and windfalls), “sin kro” (we hit send at exactly the same time), “lo kee” (twin themes – low key and chemo).

Which all goes to show that there’s always something funny, wierd, alternative happening. Pat and I have been enjoying the re-runs of Keeping Up Appearances:

This one from today’s episode (The Candlelight Supper) gave me a good endorphin rush. Hyacinth, played by Patricia Routledge is so the snob. Poor old Richard her husband is roped in to polish the silverware for the candlelight supper…

Hyacinth: Don’t grunt when you polish, Richard. I can hear you breathing, dear. I don’t think it’s quite nice to hear people breathing. You’d think by now evolution would have replaced our unfortunate bodily functions with something a little more tasteful. I suppose it was perfectly adequate for primitive peoples, but really.
Richard: Well, we are merely mammals, after all.
Hyacinth: Richard! What a thing to say to somebody with a solid silver self-cleaning sauce separator.

The body functions comment was very appropo. After three or four days of constipation, this primitive person gets really excited when something happens down below, even though it feels like I’m laying an egg. It calls for high fives at number 32. Unlike Hyacinth, I like the sound of people breathing – particularly me!

Another laugh was this one from my sister, Louise – I think that it got the old belly working. I did a clean out of my clothes today, passing on lots of clothes that I don’t really like and won’t wear, lots of t-shirts from walking races. You already understand that ‘getting the t-shirt’ is quite important to me – so I had a lot of them. I’m down to the 15 that I like the best. I actually finally chucked out a yellow and pink flowered midriff tying top  that I bought in 1982 – and which still fitted, may I say. Yellow was never my colour though I love it to look at – thank goodness the yellow and blue polka dotted bikini  that I used to wear under it got lost along the way!

The cartoon made me think that Pat and I need to arrange a couple of days at the beach and to go fishing if not sunbathing, and reminded me of the very funny link that Chrissie sent to a UK tabloid story,

about a woman diagnosed with cancer who spent all the insurance money on enjoying her time with her family, then discovered she was cured and had gained 4 stone – so she was broke and fat. Isn’t it strange what tabloids think is important?  Pat and I have a running joke, for 20 years, when we have financial worries, I always say “We have a tent and there’s a nice flat patch at the bottom of Cowies Hill”. The real joke is that Pat doesn’t like camping and the one and only time I tried to surprise her by organising a camping weekend at Winklespruit (we were really broke then). I managed to leave the key to the car boot at home. (Which tells you how old the car was – my dad’s old 316 BMW – the boot key was different from the ignition key. Which meant that we had to trek back to Morningside and ended up trying to put the tent up in the gathering dark.  

(Bertha, the BMW, often needed a push start to get it going, as those of you who were around then might remember. I’d often have a wagonload of Child Care students going off to work with the juveniles at Westville Prison pushing me down Mansfield Rd! Didn’t think then of the risk I was taking on, and the lack of insurance – we didn’t have a policy to cover those experiential learning issues at Tech then. I don’t know if we have one now. It’s a thought. Life definitely got easier in my 40’s.)

In the event, Pat batted her eyelids at some hunky Vaalies and got them to put the tent up for us – which totally offended my already sulky feminist sensibilities. So the tent has been retired and mouldering for 20 years, I have no idea if it is still operational. Anyone want a tent?


On shopping

Wasn’t it so good to see the sun this morning? Pat tells me that there was a monster storm last night. Godfrey, our IT man (not the pharmacist)  even lost his gutters. I heard not a thing, not a wind-banged blind or a thunderflash.  I did wonder why everything on the porch was soaked this morning.

I think I must have been tired. Pat and I went to the Pavilion yesterday to by some duds for our civil union, which is happening quietly on Saturday. We lasted just on an hour. It truly isn’t a nice place. Maybe it was the weather that sent everyone Christmas shopping, but there wasn’t anywhere to eat that didn’t either involve deep fried food or a long queue. It was noisy and close and the air was stale. I think they’d turned off the air conditioning.

Look, I have to confess that I’ll always prefer street shops to malls, if I really have to shop, so it’s probably sour grapes. We took off through Westville, and found ourselves at Waxy o’Connors. Brian and Andy would approve. Good Irish feel, cosy, and you don’t actually have to drink beer because their coffee is good. Pat had breakfast (it was 2pm) and I had their excellent chicken baguette (and brought half of it home). The music was good and the atmosphere friendly and unhectic.

Now the immediate chemo side- effects are done, tiredness and faint nausea, I’m feeling more lively again. Except for the constipation, which let’s face it can be seen as an advantage, I’m really quite enjoying sitting on the porch and having a non-alcoholic beer in the evenings with Pat. Woollies sells Becks and Heinecken –  and it’s such a treat. I think it’s because it’s not sweet – all the fruit juices etc don’t work the same way, and maybe I’m craving hops.  I’m taking it as the exception to the no fizzy drinks rule.

Today, I headed up to Woollies in Kloof to buy veggies and fruit. I think the folks there thought I was nuts in my 2 jerseys, scarf and boots – but really the aircon in there is extreme. And when I put my walking gloves on to get into the refrigerators, I’m positive there was some confusion! Of course, as I walked out the sun was blinding, and people were arriving in tank tops and slops. I took one of my jerseys off!  I’m quite looking forward to summer really starting, given my new in-built heat resistance.

We repotted the gem squash today. At least I put the potting soil in the trays and Pat transplanted the seedlings. I won’t touch them because seedlings and I have never done well. I think they understand that I expect them to just do their thing naturally, whilst Pat is the essence of care. Mind you she did mutter about them (the gems) not standing up straight (poor suckers are looking for sun also). I distinctly heard her say in a Nazi general accent (or airline stewardess) “You vill stand up straight, Ja?” I swear if they had arms they would have been heiling the sieg!

In terms of the To Do List, I managed to think of a new one.  And I was chuffed at being able to pick out some cute (I think) toys for my nephew, Dougal’s 2nd birthday. He’s a very active little fella. Sam and Hamish might need to hide even more breakables!

I can’t wait to see the pics of the party that was this weekend, and the Thomas the Tank Engine cake that Sam made. My mum said that Dougal handled the whole matter with grace and aplomb. Actually what she said was, “Dougal was so good,no tanties, nice to all kisses and cuddles for old aunties”.  

I’m missing my Oz lot! Thinking about last Christmas and the whole family charging around the SA countryside like a real mob. It was fun, even the tense moments that always happen when families are in close proximity. The love is always there regardless of the foibles. These are happy memories. Here’s one of me in the paddling pool with my nieces, at Lissataba in the Northern Province near Hoedspruit. A very good idea in that heat. Jade is attacking me with a watering can.

It’s these happy thoughts that are buoying me tonight. I’m thinking so much of N going in for her op tomorrow, and the family as they wait. Love you guys! I’m glad you have each other and so much love around.

I promise tomorrow I’ll do the paperwork!


Can’t believe I haven’t blogged since Tuesday. Though actually it makes sense. Chemo 3 went ahead on Wednesday, with Pat choreographing and performing the “Wheatgrass Happy Dance” over my blood results.

The actual chemo process of sitting comfortably and being dripped into – was fine. Apart from the burn when they stick the needle through the skin in the port, it isn’t uncomfortable. (The onco nurses ask me whether I have a ‘long’ or a ‘short’ needle, but I’m still unclear on what this actually means. I do know that I’m really glad that I don’t have to have the administration into my hands or arms. That looks really sore.)

The anti-nausea meds always make me feel sleepy, so when Lou phoned to wish me well I was quite dopy. It’s weird because half an hour later when they change the bag to the FU5 (whatever that is – appropriately named I think) or Avastin I’m perky again.

The three onco nurses took it in turns adjusting the speed of the flow: Kulsoom favoured a medium-steady pace, then Tasmin would come up and accelerate, then Anisha would come back and set it somewhere in the middle. It was quite funny watching them. They are off on Friday, for a Christmas long weekend, I think. They deserve it, but it did mean Pat and I having to get hold of Marissa, my GP to see if she wouldn’t mind removing and flushing the last bubble, else I’d have had to walk around with it dangling empty all weekend.  I don’t have that many button up shirts! I wore the Hawaiian shirt my LA buddy, Karen sent. It breathes, it’s button-up, I can wear it without a bra, and most importantly it’s bright and funny! My Mickey Mouse socks ensured that nothing matched and everything said “Hello!”.

 My feet and hands were zinging as I left, and the mofo zapping was definitely happening – the shooting pains are definitely more intense. It helps to move around, so I think part of the tweaks was gas build-up.

Anyway I was out of the OTC by 2.30, having spent most of the time fiddling with my iPad, trying to get it to talk to Eluminate/Collaborate, so that I could at least listen in on the first webinar of the e-Learning Festival. No luck we obviously need the license for the mobile platform module before people will be able to participate via smartphone or tablet. At least I’ll be able to watch the recording.

I was able to pop on line for an hour or so of the second day’s webinar on Thursday, before having to dash off to get my ‘take-away’ chemo bubble. I drove myself in to the centre and really enjoyed driving Squashy, mud stains and all. Then Pat and I went off to our 2pm appointment with the counselling psychologist who specialises in working with cancer patients and their families. We thought we should make the most of whatever support is available and DUT offers this service as part of it’s Employee Assistance Programme. Neither of us really thought that we needed counselling, but that it was a Good Thing to do, because there were things that I could talk through with the psychologist without imposing them on the people I love. My takeaway from that consultation was her very pragmatic take that “you are either alive or dead – and it seems to me that you are alive.” She seemed to think that was a Good Thing, which I took as a Good Sign.

When the sun shone on Friday morning, I took it  that I needed to be at the e-Learning Graduation. This is where academics who’ve put lots of extra hours on top of their usual workload, are acknowledged for having created a virtual learning space that takes the principles of e-Learning and applies it to their particular subject area. Whilst there is a lot of information on the ‘net, and there are international examples, it doesn’t take away the fact that they are working with a specific group of students in KwaZulu Natal towards a specific purpose. So translating research learning, homoeopathy, materials science, accounting, paper and pulp engineering, horticulture etc, etc into an online space is very challenging. They deserve the acknowledgement. I hope I get a copy of the pics.

Probably the most important part of this is to “get the T-shirt”. Everyone who has earned and owns one of these t-shirts takes great pride in their achievement. I think it’s better than the certificate. This year’s vibrant design is lovely – Bwalya did it.

It was good to see everyone and to watch them get their certificates, knowing all the stories and the struggles that lay behind the smiling faces. Prof Ahmed Bawa’s enthusiasm for the teaching and learning potential of online technology for the real world of the 21st Century was infectious, and more importantly gave validation to the Pioneers’ work. I think HESA (Higher Education South Africa) has done well to appoint him as Chair.

I was only able to stay for an hour and a half, partly because I got quite tired, and partly because I had to get to Marissa to get the bubble taken off. It’s amazing how having a network of medical caretakers help – Godfrey the Pharmacist, Marissa the GP, the Onco team and the psychologist, Shaahida, all give support as they can and so generously. Again I thank the lucky stars I was born under.

Marissa was incredibly kind and supportive. Her mum still has her ‘port’ after 9 years in remission. Seems there are a lot of us wandering around with them (though why they are inserted in the breast tissue – which sags so some of us end up with them in our armpits – I don’t know). I think my advice to anyone dealing with a chronic health issue like this is to let everyone know what’s going on with you,  and to get them talking to each other.

Sometimes I think I’m getting the hang of the pattern of how the chemo goes and then suddenly it seems all new and different. I don’t remember feeling this tired on the first two rounds, but Pat assures me that on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday I usually feel knocked out. This time the neuropathy in my fingers has made typing a bit uncomfortable. I’m very glad that my laptop has a pointing stick rather than a touch pad, because it means I can wear gloves and keep my fingers warm as I type. iPads don’t work with gloves.  My toes have also been hit this time round so I need to walk very carefully. I nearly did myself in tripping over my ADSL cable the other day. The dangers of modern technology!

Recent excellent juices have been Carrot, Beetroot, Red apple and green apple with a squeeze of lemon. Grapefruit and apple are good to. And this morning I had a blueberry, banana, youghurt smoothie with a couple of cashews and some bran, thanks to Joan C’s donation to my vitamin intake yesterday.

It was so lekker to see Bwalya and Liza yesterday, to show them around our garden and to eat cheesecake over some laughs and catching up with how their research is going. Liza spoiled me with some gorgeous succulents that definitely raise the beauty stakes on our porch. I am always so envious of people who have a natural eye for beauty, they make life a delicious experience! I probably should have scattered the jelly beans around before I took this pic on my Nokia.

She also found a seriously clever piece of clothing called a Magic Scarf. Whilst I’ll not be attempting the more daring ways of wearing it (see the pic below that doesn’t allow for wrinkly necks)- it is amazingly warm and comforting, and I can pull it over my exposed ears when they get cold – intensely practical and beautiful at the same time. Perfect for this rainy weather and funny cold spells, that set the zinging going. 

The veggie patch is loving all the rain and so far monkeys and noo-noos have more or less stayed away. I’ve sowed marigold seeds all around it. Pat’s gems, kale, chard and carrot seedlings are doing very well and need repotting into deeper troughs.

All these blessings are fun and bring joy, though not so much as the embodied specialness of the people who bring them. I do want to say very Happy Birthday for yesterday to two special PaperHeaD Saggs, Ruth and Sioux, who each in their unique ways make life an adventure worth living, as they jump into things because they think they can and it might be fun, challenging, interesting. And you know what? It always is. They always make amazing things happen for themselves and for the people they believe in – very special.


Glad to have caught up with you all – sorry it was so quiet for a while!



No guys – this is not a swear word, though it should be an anti-swear word. It comes, I believe, from GK Chesterton, the poet who wrote The Donkey:

 G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked 
And figs grew upon thorn, 
Some moment when the moon was blood 
Then surely I was born; 

With monstrous head and sickening cry 
And ears like errant wings, 
The devil’s walking parody 
On all four-footed things. 

The tattered outlaw of the earth, 
Of ancient crooked will; 
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, 
I keep my secret still. 

Fools! For I also had my hour; 
One far fierce hour and sweet: 
There was a shout about my ears, 
And palms before my feet. 


And he also apparently wrote a book called “Man Alive”, which I really must get hold of. Apparently it tells the tale of a man who courts and marries his wife six times under different names. That appeals to me as a soppy romantic. It’s like Richard Bach’s love story “Bridge Across Forever” – where choices, serendipity and chance, coincidence or synchronicity change his whole world and path in life.


So what is MOOREEFFOC? Chesterton described walking down a street and seeing this sign and spending engaging moments wondering what it could mean, what it was and then had that moment of enlightenment, where he realised that he was looking at the back side of the sign on a glass door – it said Coffee Room. So mundane and ordinary, hardly worth a glance, yet because his perspective changed he was able to take flight into his imagination.


The Great Terry Pratchett says in “Thief of Time” that the 5 elements of the world are Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Surprise!


You can tell that the sun came out for a couple of hours yesterday, can’t you? I didn’t budge from the porch from 6 till 10 when the clouds came up and it got miz. So much to look at – the rose bushes, the busy thrush who hops down alongside the wall every day at 9, checking for insects, the pair of bronze mannikins feeding their baby outside Pat’s office window, the leaves and the light. Mooreeffoc indeed.(Remember the Martian game, Sioux? Driving back from the Polokwane SAAADA conference in that ghastly fog? Martians would love this word.)


Rocky gave us a mooreeffoc moment on Sunday. The dogs are getting cabin fever with all the ‘wet’. Pepper especially needed to run. So Pat and I packed them into Squashy (my lovely relatively new Qashqai), with the back lined with an ex-Army groundsheet that we acquired somewhere, and took them down to the Lahee Park hockey/rugby field (the one where the PDAC ends). It was fairly deserted because of the grey weather – usually there are at least 3 cars of necking couples parked there. The dogs were completely over-excited to be getting out, slobbering everywhere. The field was waterlogged. Neither Pat nor I could have caught them if they’d decided to take off, so they were relatively good. (I had my poop-scooping plastic bags in my pocket – this is one function a paper bag could not serve well.) They went crazy and were tired within ten minutes running back and forth.


And Rocky got hot (it was humid) so he found the biggest, muddiest puddle in a km radius and parked himself in it. Up to the middle of his back. The bliss on his luck dragon face brought tears of laughter to my eyes. Needless to say, I hadn’t thought of taking a towel with us… So Squashy is covered in mud, on the inside roof, down the sides (dogs shake when they get wet) and all over the seats. (Pepper really feels that she should be in the driving seat or at very least the front passenger seat.) I was covered in mud, because I had to lift Rocky into the car because he’d exhausted himself. The aftermath is shown in these two pics – check out the pool turning into a billabong with Rock’s post mud-spa swim!




The whole experience lasted an hour, yet it was exhilarating. Completely uncontrollable, chaotic and alive-making. I probably shouldn’t have bathed before it, but it was fun – risky in a way, but then it reminded me that nothing is controllable, possibly not even our selves. Certainly not our misbehaving cells!

Other moreeffoc moments have been really noticing the flowers that Joan M,  Paulette and Shirley and Mary brought. The bright orange of the roses has been a great antidote to the grey gloom, and the purples, lavenders, yellows and whites of the dahlias and daisies have been serene in moments of fear and anxiety. And the absolute over-the-top indulgence of  the textures of all those petals. Don’t you just love the candle holder/lamp that Sharon B got for Pat for her birthday?


So begins Tuesday, exam day. I’m heading out to go and get my blood tested, to get new cord for the washing line and some planters for the veggie seedlings. How was there ever time to work before? You guys who are working are amazing. I’m starting to feel a little guilty about my self-indulgence. On the other hand, I will be wearing black today (My Pioneers 2010 t-shirt with Kathy’s pink socks) to support the Stop the Secrecy Bill campaign and I will be calling the Speakers office in line with the AVAAZ campaign.

I will also be checking my systems for online participation in Ed Tech’s e-Learning festival webinars that start tomorrow. I’m going to see if I can participate (silently) from the Treatment Centre – tomorrow is my 6 hour chemo day (if the bloods are good). I’ll definitely be there on Thursday. If I’m feeling strong enough, I’d really like to see the Pioneers get their web-based learning certificates on Friday, in the flesh. They really deserve acknowledgement and kudos for finding those two extra hours a week, for nine months, to work on their online pedagogy/autogogy. Thinking too of Bwalya, who once again has picked up my duty of running the consciousness-raising workshop for DUT staff.

I really wish people would get that online teaching is not just about manipulating the technology. I can’t believe that after 10 years of online teaching at DUT, people in authority are still thinking that you can learn all about online learning in a 3 day workshop! Do they understand nothing about how philosophy and pedagogy have to change? Which means changing attitudes to power relations with students, to hierarchies, to the nature of learning interactions i.e. ontological and epistemological change! If anyone reading this post is in this category of thought (unlikely really) – please, please, please – stop it! Read the literature! (Oy – I’ve got the shakes because I feel so passionately about this issue – I’m so tired of trying to explain how online teaching and learning works to people who should know better. Mari must feel worse, she’s been doing it for more than a decade! Guys – how about trusting the experts, rather than managerialist and stupid notions about training in Higher Ed. It’s easy to schedule multitudes of workshops to show measurable activity, but the fact is behaviour, attitudes and thinking doesn’t change in 2-3 days. Transformation takes working the practice into the reality of academic work – a gradual process.

I hope you get a curious crowd of potential Pioneers,B – you are amazing.

 Gotta get goin’!

The Right Thing

Since Thursday I’ve been tired and had that vague sort of post-chemo nausea which I guess comes from using up my rations of steroids.  Sigh. And N’s news is still haunting me.

It was probably a mistake to dispatch Pat for Steers burgers and chips for dinner tonight, but I’d spent the afternoon watching the cricket and the rain pouring down some more, whilst nibbling sunflower and melon seeds and raisins to stop me chain smoking. This led me to thinking about what I would really like to eat, and it wasn’t vegetables or fruit! (My sister, Sam’s worried that I’m not eating real food.) Well it was veggies in the sense of mash ‘n gravy and veggies in white sauces and so forth, accompanied by something meaty. The grey weather isn’t conducive to feeling active and when one is already feeling flat it doesn’t take much to disappear into a slough of depression (How’s that for a phrase?). I really think 5 days solid is over the top and that someone else might need some now. My interpretation was that I needed some iron, but it was really about comfort food. I enjoyed dinner but it’s now fighting with me – I guess they really mean it when they say stay away from deep fried foods and red meat.

My mum was so worried about Thursday’s blog that she called yesterday morning to find out how I was doing and whether I was still feeling bleak. Also whether I was going loopy. I think I kind of was. It felt like it would be really easy to just give up. We had a laugh though, about  the fact that my Skype page still says that I’m off to have a nap (sorry guys I just get overwhelmed!), exhausting medical appointments and how heavy the doors to medical places are. I felt silly for grumbling. She’s been managing diabetes and osteoparosis and horrible back pain for years now – and yet she still keeps her sense of the ridiculous. Luckily she lives in Australia!

I dashed out this morning, after eggs and toast ‘soldiers’, to get Pepper and Rocky’s fancy Hill’s Joint Support low-cal doggy chunks, and some chewies to stave off their boredom at being inside most of the time. I also stopped by MacPharmacy to get some more painkillers, where Godfrey, the pharmacist, was incredibly caring asking how I am – so nice to have a pharmacist that knows who you are and what’s going on. (He called me last week to find out!) I haven’t needed any painkillers, but I figure I should have them on hand in case something strikes in the middle of the night. The Treatment Centre gave me a prescription for 100 (hopefully they’re not trying to tell me something!) but Godfrey would only let me have 20.

10kgs of dog chunks are 10kgs plus 2kgs of chewies – I was exhausted getting it into the house and conked on the couch for half an hour. When I say conked, I mean out for the count snoring. I woke feeling great and did the juicing thing. I can report that today’s juice: Pineapple, Apple and Carrot was delicious – even Pat said so.

Then we had the fabulous S&M team (Shirley and Mary!) arrive for a visit, with chocolate for Pat and a lovely cheery bouquet of orange roses. I’ve always been an ‘au naturel’ type of flower arrange (translated means stick them in a jam jar and let them be beautiful!) but I find myself quite enjoying thinking about placement and length of stem and container. Pat’s mum would be so proud of me – she did Ikebana and always talked about directing and distracting the eye and disguising the rims of the containers. It was such a lovely visit – talking about adventures walking – the Gaterite 50km that Mary and I finished leaning on each other, and the Soweto half-marathon that Shirley, Sharon and I did – here are pics of us at the shebeen afterwards.


 Too many stories to write here but maybe the walking crew from the old RWFL Pinetown branch (now merged with Westville into the new and Super Cowies Hill branch) can add their stories in the comment section! I never dreamed that when I joined RWFL (to encourage Pat!) that we’d meet such amazing people and share such great memories.  As I said to S&M this blog has kind of taken over from walking as a way of letting out what’s on my mind. It was nice to hear from them how everyone is getting on. I will definitely be at the side of the road cheering on the crew doing the PDAC next year.

I’m starting to think in Blog now – translated this means… Oh that’s interesting, I wonder what that means, that’s quite fun, does this warrant sharing? And these all seem to weave together into what I hope is a theme. Today’s idea of the Right Thing, is my way of thinking about how often we try to norm-reference ourselves. Like what is normal in any of these chronic diseases in any of our lives? How can we possibly try to “fight it” and what does ‘fighting’ look like?

Dee, you were right, natural yoghurt definitely helps the burps and will save Pat the price of a pair of holsters. Thank you. I don’t know if I’ll actually start growing my own – it brings up memories of Horace (my mum’s yoghurt plant) escaping over the stove because we couldn’t eat the yoghurt fast enough!

I had fun getting out of the bath yesterday and just feeling a lovely fluffy white towel under my toes. I spent five minutes chortling about the sensation. Dunno how normal that is!

On other weird things and side-effects – my nails are growing like an overenthusiastic yoghurt plant. I don’t know if this is normal, but as a strictly every 10 day nail filer, having to pay attention every second day is quite a demand.

So what is the Right Thing? Can anyone do a postgraduate degree or an article or a marathon or a menu or chronic treatment in an ‘acceptable way’ or is the secret really to do it one’s very own unique way? Quietly or noisily, publically or privately, healthily or unhealthily.

I love that so many of you have said how much you are enjoying my blog. I’m honoured that you are reading along and that you find inspiration and some laughs in my ramblings. I’m loving your comments and for the quiet ones, I love that you want to read it.

I had to tempt Fate

I’m feeling so angry this morning. I’ve been blessed by hearing from so many of you that you’ve screwed up your courage to go and have your innards looked at and delighted that you’ve had all clears. (Ok so I really think all those surgeons should be paying me a percentage for referrals, but the pay-off is the sense of well-being knowing that things are right.) So to hear last night from my precious friend that she got her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, hit me right in the gut.

To try and explain it – I have to ask a rhetorical question. Did you ever have that sense of total recognition, when you met someone for the first time? Where your whole being ‘knows’ this person? There are no boundaries – just knowing? I’m not talking about falling in love, though I think we sometimes put it down to that. It’s more like – “Oh there you are. I missed you. I love seeing you. Now you are here. What are we going to do while we’re here together on the planet?” 

It’s happened to me, maybe two or three times in my 50 years. Meeting Pat was one of these recognitions. N was another. (I’m using initials because for some people this is intensely private experience and my blabbing my processes shouldn’t impact on them.)

 So I’m asking whether it’s really necessary that we do this cancer thing together also. She said it was hard to tell me because I have my own challenges, and thought I might think “what the f* – can’t you have your own unique experience?” It’s easier to deal with my own stuff – doing what comes next. It really is *no known expletive possible to describe* so much harder to deal with a diagnosis of someone you love.

Is this part of the purpose? I love that she went out and bought the chandelier, that she’s been eyeing for years, and rescued a teddy-bear from an uncaring retailer. I hate that her surgeon has gone off to a conference in the US, without referring her or her special family to other knowledgeable support. I hate that G, her hubby, is probably feeling as punchdrunk at Pat was 6 weeks ago, and that her young ‘uns must be terrified. I hate it so much that I want to pound walls and bitch-slap that wet-wipe of a surgeon (thanks for the image T!).

There’s no question that there is a huge spiritual journey in this. I’ve been wondering how to write about a strange experience I had over the weekend.  Just in case I’m giving the impression of a lazy, light-hearted lady of leisure. I woke up at about 3am, and got up to sit in the lounge and drink some filtered, room temperature water (1,5 litres a day recommended). As I sat there in the dark, and heavy silence, I suddenly felt very tiny and insignificant – microscopic – compared to the size of whatever it was that surrounded me.

This is an unusual experience for me. Even though I know intellectually that I’m small in stature – I’ve never felt that way – might be the Leo bit of my Leo/Virgo cusp birthday! Talking to a hall full of angry union members doesn’t faze me. I reckon that after you’ve faced a class of angry 16-19 year olds who were in Grade 9 for the third time – you can face anything. 

Whether what happened next was a drug-reaction, or a sign of the drugs clearing to show reality – I don’t know. I had the sense of looking down a long tunnel (I know, I know, you’re thinking of all those stories of near death experiences – well maybe – though I didn’t feel near-dead, I still don’t feel like a sick person) which was kind of inviting though mysterious – not scary. I thought about it a bit and then decided that I couldn’t make sense of it – so I went back to bed and slept like a log.

As I’d been sitting there before this, I’d been thinking of climate change, the COP conference, the economic meltdown, how a friend lives with chronic asthma knowing in the back of her mind that cause of death might be drowning in the carbon di oxide that she can’t exhale, and the account by Steve Job’s sister of his last day and last words, “Oh Wow! Oh Wow! Oh Wow!” (Read her story at So you could argue that I’d kind of set myself up – thinking about global and personal extinction – and all the weird ideas I’ve explored in my tinker’s life. (This is leading me to ask questions about whether philosophically I’m a physicalist or a dualist in terms of  knowing – see Philosophy Bites podcast –

Frank Jackson is responsible for one of the most famous thought experiments in the philosophy of mind, one that was intended to show that qualia, the ‘feely’ aspects of our exprience can’t be explained by physicalism. This is sometimes known as The Knowledge Argument.

I have to say that I disagree with Frank, and I do think that there are “more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamed of in our philosophy” (to misquote Hamlet), but it’s quite possible that I’ve missed his point. It makes me feel better to ‘know’ that there are bigger energies and purposes than I can conceive of, and that is what is heartening me in this journey that N and I seem to have decided to take together.

From the Sublime to the Gorblimey – as my mum would say, my latest side-effect is gas of note. To the extent that I’ve asked Pat for a pair of holsters for Christmas, so I can carry around a set of dueling cannisters of air freshener. It wasn’t the asparagus you brought yesterday, Ruth – thanks – we haven’t had that yet!

Now to juice – I’m going to try pineapple and beetroot this morning.

Two days of Joy

Joan C just left after a lovely hour on the porch with a pot of tea on this sunshiny, gently windy day. We had a couple of belly-laughs as we enjoyed being in the now. She – on her 46th day of retirement, working harder than ever for no pay, but on things that she cares about and me – in my temporary drop out from the round of work and reflection on what really counts. We agreed that there is nothing so toxic as sitting in endless, irrelevant and non-purposeful meetings purely for the sake of a) being seen to be seen b) to provide an audience for a visitor or c) to suggest that consultation has actually taken place. For Joan, not being paid means freedom from such summonses. I think it’s probably worth every cent not earned. I get tense and crampy just thinking about it.

I’ll now work back from this morning’s smoothie – Bulgarian yoghurt, 5 strawberries, some Future Life cereal, nuts and raisins and a dash of honey – which Pat had to have also so she can share the experience.

Last night, I was delighted by the arrival of Sharon B, dogwalker extra-ordinaire, with two apprentice walkers in the form of Kathy and Joan M (with gorgeous flowers). Ms Pepper was overjoyed and initially overwhelmed I think, to have an entourage of 4 escorting her round the block (a big block 1,5kms). Then she accomodated to her queenly status and decided to tell that to a young, fortunately well-behaved staffie innocently walking by with her human.  She needs to be reminded that two-legged people are the Alphas. It was nice to stroll (I still got puffed) along and catch up. I’m missing walking and chatting as we walk together.

Paulette came by at lunchtime (I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even think of lunch. Sorry P!) with belly-laugh stories about the real world, flowers and the Future Life Immune Boosting Cereal which featured in today’s smoothie. She diligently reported the detail of product development and the benefits thereof, Caro, including the development for HIV+ people. Good job.

Pat N at DUT’s HR department has been sterling in advising me about Med Aid options. I have to upgrade my plan to get more oncology coverage. She’s always so efficient and really knows what she’s doing. What an absolute pleasure to deal with paperwork only once, with really clear explanations about what and why it’s required. Discovery have also been amazing – friendly, knowledgeable and clear communications. What a delight.

I think I should have prepared my visitors for my new look beforehand. I made Pat shave my head to a number 4 (been there before) because although it was not falling out from the chemo, it was driving me crazy flopping everywhere. The chemo seems to remove body. Also I had ‘roots’ and thought that peroxide on top of the chemo-cocktail etc, might not be a Good Thing. So this is me this morning…


   Told you I was grey! I’m loving feeling the lightness. After the weekend of not      feeling very grand, then Monday feeling mentally OK but physically drained, yesterday and today’s endorphins have been magical. I think the post-chemo anti-nausea is helping. Medrol which I think is cortisone boosts the appetite and gives an energy boost as well. So I’ve been cleaning the kitchen this morning (down to the hinges in the dishwasher). I confess that I’m leaving the oven for another time.

Those of you writing articles, abstracts, Masters and D’s will recognise the academic avoidance symptoms. I need to do my abstract for the QSR conference in Adelaide next April. It’s due on the 27th November I think. You understand that I’m not quite starting from scratch. I have been thinking about it for months – I just need to get it together. I need to remind myself that I’ve got till next Monday feeling fabulous, before blood tests on Tuesday and hopefully starting cycle 3 of round 1 on Wednesday. Apparently the oncologist will be wanting a CT scan after cycle 4 to see if this chemo-combo is working. I think it is because apart from the occasional mofo-zapped pang, things are moving well down below (walking definitely helps this), the tenderness in my midriff seems to be  moving down and I haven’t been having the nasty headaches I’ve had for months.

What’s to complain about?