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!