Liz's colonic journey

“Living dyingly”

That’s what Christopher Hitchens called it as he lived with throat cancer

I wondered whether it was dying livingly instead.  In which case, the phrase applies to everyone. It does feel weird to be constantly on the border as it were. It’s surreal to get up in the middle of the night and see one’s self in the mirror and to find oneself asking if this is what dying looks like?

I always fancied myself as a “hedge witch” as Terry Pratchett describes people who work on the fringes of realities, but I’m not sure I like being a  walking reminder of mortality.

Which all goes to the happenings this week, since I last posted. My friend Karen comforted me by saying that I was probably having a couch week, which is apparently well documented in accounts of early chemo experience. It was a couch week for sure. Going in to have the Ct scan on Monday with it’s good news was very hard . I could barely put one foot in front of another when Pat  and I went to that lovely cafe opposite Mitchell Park for coffee, between the scan and the consult. I couldn’t face coffee which was very disturbing. I managed an hour of shopping, and the two hours getting to and talking to the psychologist on Tuesday, though I worked hard to get up the stairs. Wednesday I was a wreck, with cramps, nausea, constipation and the scariest of all the ‘sulphur burps’. (Excuse the graphic details but I did warn you with the title of this post!) I’ve worked out that the burps are part of the chemo general build up of gasses. They become sulphurous when the tummy isn’t processing food fast enough and stuff in there starts fermenting. It made me feel like I was breathing death,which is certainly in the antisocial category of human behaviour.

Needless to say I didn’t want to inflict myself on others (Pat is the hero here) and I didn’t want to eat – not even Ensure or juices – fruit juice or anything sweet like carrots or beetroot just made me feel sick. Probably because sugars contribute to fermentation! So I pretty much didn’t eat for 3 days, and was totally surprised to find that I couldn’t walk to the gate. Strange that!Rocky and Pepper were extremely solicitous with one or another of them practically sitting on my feet throughout. Rocky gets night duty it seems, because he goes to school and gets a break in between. Must ask Cindy if he’s sleeping more at school!

I confess that there were moments when I wished it were over with the least amount of worry, trauma and unpleasant bodily fluids to deal with. My heart wanted to be able to go for lunch with the TES crew on Thursday, but even if someone had fetched me, sitting up was an effort. I put my breaking out of this down to Sharon B visiting on Thursday with the lovely goodie bag that the Cowies Hill Run Walk for Life team put together for me. Liz B was I believe, the creator of the very lovely cushioned lap table. And the nuts and dried fruit became appealing on Friday. Just talking to Sharon made me feel again like I could connect again to the real world and get outside watching every bubble and burble that my body was making. (By this stage I’d decided to take a probiotic and Buscupan for the cramps -thanks to advice from Anisha, the onco sister – which led to extreme diarrhoea). Who knew that a general painkiller like Genpayne doesn’t address gas induced stomach pain, and in fact makes it worse?

The one goal in my mind was to get to the PaperHeaDs Christmas breakfast. On Thursday night I was thinking of crying off if my legs were still so wobbly. But lo! I had suddenly an appetite enough to eat a cup of potato and leak cupasoup and half a piece of toast. The relief in Pat’s eyes made me want to cry. What we’ve learned is that we need to have little tubs of frozen soups ready for these times where sweet,acidic, difficult to process grub is not an option.

And so it was that Pat and I sallied forth to the Freedom Cafe yesterday morning, in sunshine and light, to a morning of laughing and talking about anything andeverything’s in a lovely space. I can’t express how much I owe to this amazing group of scholars and strong women – my PhD, and understanding of what care means are just two. Paulette’s framed picture of our wedding day, Ruth’s beautiful and hand made crackers and carefully chosen books, Nicky’s thoughtful and community aware scarf in a tin, the book exchanges are a artefacts of a much deeper caring.

Most exciting for me, was being able and willing to wrap myself around a plate of organic scrambled eggs, mushrooms and sour dough bread. I’m pretty sensitive to salt at the moment and often find bought food too salty, but this was perfect.

It’s true that I was very tired when we got home, and that we both slept for two hours,a difference  to the spirits?! Dinner last night was a couple of sips of ” Spicy Hot ” v8 veggie juice – we decided that the Tabasco in it might bedangerous. Pity because without the pepper it would be the perfect end to a day of balancing food nutrients. I had freshlyjuiced apples and a piece of Andrea’s delicious homemade Christmas cake gift.

This morning you see me, happy that my legs can make it to the gate, enriched by an hour long conversation on Skype with Sam and Hamish on Kangaroo Island, South Australia ( yay iPad!) and ready to set forth to buy a new pressure cooker.

Literally, we’re out of the shadow for the moment and Living. As Hitchens put it, one of the downers of cancer/treatment is becoming “self-involved and solipsistic”. Writing helps. It’s a new day.


Comments on: "“Living dyingly”" (13)

  1. Cary Burnett said:

    Hi Liz,
    I’ve been following your blog and hearing your news via Paulette. Your writing is very valuable as a way of helping a friend (that’s me!) share your experience without intruding. Thank you for writing, even when the going is tough. I’m sending you positive energy for a much better week.
    Lots of love,

    • Thanks Cary, that’s so kind of you. The positive energy definitely helps – and connecting. Don’t know if it’s just me, but I really enjoy seeing glimpses of the people in my life through the blog comments. I’m honoured that people care enough to work out how it works!
      Lots of love to you and Pete and the kids.

  2. Dear Liz..would love to make you both some tubs of homemade soup…what type do you enjoy most?…leek and potato could be good…quite gentle on the tum? Let me know …glad you enjoyed the cake and that you have perked up after what sounds like a really tough time.AA

    • Thanks Andrea, potato and leak sounds delightful. Though it seems like you are feeding the neighbourhood with your good cooking, are you having any time for you?

      Funny how the tough time launches into a high time, with this week of blessings. I feel like I’m having the most special Christmas ever, and last year’s was brilliant in Nelspruit with the whole family. It has erased the discomfort of last week and I’m just feeling really upbeat.

  3. Was hanging on waiting for the next post, well aware that you might be coping with the effects of chemo – nasty stuff, but if you can deal with experiencing it, so can we “rubberneckers” deal with hearing it.

    “…out of the shadow for the moment and Living” – so pleased to hear there are periods of calm/light in between!

    Some irrelevant/irreverant (?)comments:
    “Probably because sugars contribute to fermentation!” (wine, too – damn-it-all!) Fruit too sugary? Yes! Fruit is not an “all time good” – I couldn’t face fruit for over a year after my op. Sometimes your body needs specific things and rejects the “usually healthy” things. You just have to make sure you’re getting the essentials in some form – in some other form, if necessary. “Essentials” also change with changing needs. Just keep remembering that sleep is a healer, not a pathology.

    “Who knew that a general painkiller like Genpayne doesn’t address gas induced stomach pain, and in fact makes it worse?” Yeah. Right. In all fairness (to doctors and pharmaceuticals), there is a wondrous diversity in human physical make-up, so it’s unlikely that everything will agree with everyone at all times.

    The Burps: “It made me feel like I was breathing death,which is certainly in the antisocial category of human behaviour.” Well, yes, but it takes very little to throw complex gastric processes off balance, and you must admit that your guts have had something of a guts-full lately (at least they are trying to deal with it, which is “good”.)

    • And the discoveries about fruit have given me permission to have a couple of Quality Street chocs, and to even eat a bit more protein.
      The old stomach bag must be having a hard time of it as you say, so every now and then I don’t suppose a treat is a bad thing.

  4. Joan Conolly said:

    Dear Liz … and the Watchers, lovely to hear from you again, and I am sad that you had a rotten week, but glad that it ended well at Freedom Cafe, with special friends and food. May the one ahead make up for it! I am sending lots of best vibes, Joan

  5. Thanks for todays writing Liz,I feel really close to you on your journey. You are able to share your thoughts and life at the moment with such honetsy and clarity. It is really wonderful for me the reader.
    Much love and warmth, Bonnie

    • That’s kind of you Bonnie, I wasn’t feeling very clear, so it’s nice to know that I can communicate and hopefully raise a laugh!

  6. Hello dear Liz and Pat – so sorry I couldn’t make the PaperHeaDers brunch yesterday but I was thinking very much of you this week and wondering how the chemo had gone. So glad you are feeling a little bit better than a few days ago. Hugs and love to you both and wishing you a Christmas of togetherness, love and peace.

  7. Liz, you are a gift to us all. We love you so much and our lives are made so much more for knowing you. This one made me cry – but it made me smile too. Love and light to you and Pat and the hounds.

    • And you are all so precious too. Your response made me teary and smiling also – it’s in the air I think. A good thing when tears and smiles can follow each other closely.

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