Liz's colonic journey

Archive for September, 2012

Whirling Dervishes

The last week has been a whirl of note. We left for Cape Town for Brian’s 60th birthday celebration on the 14th. The rest of the country descended into horrible wet, wind and dreary weather. Cape Town was beauty manifested, warm, sunny, clear, flat sea not a breath of wind. This first pic was us on Sunday, at The Lookout at Hout Bay, recovering from the exertions of the night before.

The party was at a place called Stardust in Rondebosch. The cabaret show is performed by the waiters in between their serving tables. What amazingly talented young people. This was like Fame on speed. All of them are students of some kind, performing arts or music or drama. One was even studying for his MBA. The one lass, Amy, strangely enough, did such a great cover of an Amy Winehouse song that I doubted my eyes and ears. We had a ball. Pat and I were not ready to leave at 12 but I think the Jagermeisters consumed by some of the rest of the party, led to them feeling a little ‘tired’. Hence the need for recovery and sunglasses on Sunday!

Once again, Lou had done a fabulous job with designing the theme – traffic signs. How was the cupcake birthday cake? Each cup cake was iced with a picture of Brian or a rude remark, like this one “Do not resuscitate” and “wheelchair zone”. Guess which one Pat ate? Delicious. The menu was Moroccan tapas and spicy dishes. Lots of vegetables.

I’m going about this backwards because the pics uploaded in a weird order. The chair in the middle was something that intrigued me at the Hout Bay market. What a brilliant way of recycling old tires. And so comfortable.

The pics of the mountain were taken from our unit in the Mount Sierra block of flats in Gardens. See what I mean by excellent weather?









Of course the weekend ended with us being on time for our flight home at 5pm, having left everyone still partying at Hout Bay. Lou kindly drove us. Unfortunately, Mango had a problem, and we had a three hour delay. After an hour of rushing between boarding gates with Pat’s hair being blown back in the wind of her wheelchair’s passing. (The airport’s company lass who was assigned to us for assisted boarding must have been knackered.) We got tired of the stainless steel seats and Pat was going into a wheelchair glaze caused by people looking over her head, so we decided to splurge and pay the entrance into the Bidvest business lounge. It was worth every penny of the R160 each entrance fee. Comfy chairs, drinks and eats on tap and free wireless. Also a fabulous view of the landing strip.
We were quite chirpy even though we only got home at 11pm that night.

I had my blood taken on Monday morning and then fetched Pat to meet Dr Landers about my scan results. There’s been some reduction in the lesions, though not as dramatic as the first chemo round. The good news is that none have grown and there are no new lesions. Dr L seemed very chuffed with the way things are going, so I continue with Folfox 4 plus Avastin until it doesn’t work anymore. I drove Pat back home then went back into work to catch the end part of the workshop that Marian, Shaun, Joan and Martin were running for the Extended Curriculum Project. From the conversations over lunch participants had a lot to think about.

Then Gita (very kindly being shortstop again, deserting her boys in service to DUT!) and I drove the foursome up to the Assagay Hotel. Sadly Gita had to dash back, because we went up to The Pot and Kettle for some light curio shopping and cappucinos. This pic works for me, Martin working hard to solve one of the diabolically difficult wooden puzzles that the owner of The Puzzle Shop has created over 20 years. (Excellent stocking fillers guys!) Note the advice giving by the researchers! A fun end to the day.


Tuesday was a couch day I think – I was pretty tired. Wednesday was the long chemo day, so we’ll skip that, except to say that I saw Wendy there and she was looking good and fairly chipper considering she was back for round number umpteen. Amazing. I also discovered that I’m not supposed to eat grapefruit because of it’s antioxidant properties that apparently counteracts the purpose of the chemo. Who knew?

Thursday, I went in for the morning session of the workshop. I so wish I could have stayed longer because I loved hearing how each person was working with their research questions. It was a stroke of genius by Kathleen to insist that the whole thing be run and managed by our grad students. It was really working well.

I had to leave to get my next dose and my take away bottle, then actually went to work and sorted things out a bit. Told you I rev when I’m actually dripping! After that I shot up to The Pot and Kettle to fetch the pashmina that I’d left there on Monday, and then to the Assagay Hotel to deliver the package that we’d accidentally left behind in Gita’s car on Monday. I also wanted to hear how M, J, S and M had done in finding transport to get out to see PheZulu. Not easy folks – a little business opportunity waiting to be actioned – A mini-shuttle service from hotels and B&Bs.

On Friday, thanks to Joan C, who really knows places to see and be in KZN, she and I took a slow wander, with our guests, from the hotel to King Shaka airport.

Monteseel was beautiful, with a 35 degree C Berg Wind howling. As Shaun put it – “feel the energy!”.

We stopped by Kloof Gorge and then went on to a lovely fruit and muffin lunch in the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, where I paddled in the very cold stream! What a beautiful day. Full of beauty and great company.


So in spite of chemo taking a chunk out of the week’s time, it was a fabulous seven days. Pat even managed to drive herself to her client on Friday morning with no bad effects – she’s moved from shuffle to totter to stiff legged care so quickly.

I confess that I was really glad we had the Heritage Day holiday weekend because I needed to platz!

Now living in the moment needs to go on hold for a few time slices while we get organised for our fab trip to Mauritius – leaving next week Thursday! My word I have such a hard life! Ag shame.








A Human Mind pretending to be a Human Being

Did that get your attention? I’ve been thinking about this all week. It’s Eckard Tolle’s fault. As you know I’m listening to The Power of Now, thanks to my brother Andy. Funny, Pat’s brother, Richard gave us a copy when we were in Paul Roux. I really did try to read it, but found it too heavy or maybe I was ‘heavy’ and couldn’t hear it at that point.

The essence of Tolle’s argument,as I hear it, is that our egos take on a life of their own and are, like all living things, very invested in survival. In defining ourselves by things, places, relationships, culture, achievements we strengthen this identity and it gets very threatened very often. He says that the source of our anger, resistance, avoidance and negative emotion is the ego’s fear of not surviving. (I’m using ego because it feels vaguely Freudian to me, he uses the term ‘the pain-body’, which actually works better because it is something one acquires through life rather than something that is a ‘natural’ development like Freud proposed.)
It is the ego/pain-body’s concern about survival that rushes into play whenever we stop thinking and just are for a second.

That’s the meaning of my header which is a quotation from Tolle. The ego or mind is not who we are. Our beingness is who we are. At least this theory, if it is a theory and not a truth, explains a couple of things to me.

a) My road rage – not extreme enough to involve baseball bats but certainly carries a lot of invective. Sometimes it is a reaction to real threats to survival but often, I observe, it’s more to do with my perception of another driver’s unconsciousness, arrogance, lack of consideration, dominating behaviour. My life is not at stake, but my sense of who I am and how I deserve to be treated, is.

b) Another thing it sort of explains is this sense of living in two places, that I have had since the diagnosis. The living dyingly idea that I posted before. One place is the daily issues of dogfood and actual work. The other is the a much bigger and peaceful place of knowing that it’s all OK, and a sense of a vast aliveness beyond my understanding that is highly trustable. Now I’ll come out as areligious/agnostic. I’m sceptical of religious dogma that seems to stop people from thinking for themselves (mind?) yet all my life I have felt connected to something more. I like Richard Bach’s term “The Is”. It’s not parental in anyway, at least in my experience. It’s more like pure energy and aliveness. Tolle calls it the “Unmanifested”.

c) The other bit that kind of makes sense is as a sort of explanation for why for e.g. a cancer diagnosis or any other completely unpredictable tragic event happens. Basically something like that throws one into a place where thought as a mechanism to manage one’s life and identity is impossible. It forces one into the space of just being and experiencing the Now, which is maybe why there is this weird ambiguity of experiencing Blessing/Grace/Love in the midst of what seems should be Terror/Pain/Fear.

Ag I don’t know whether this makes sense at all, and even if it is supposed to. Maybe the hope of making sense is the ultimate “magical thinking”.

It does raise some issues for me about the value of having studied the shaping of identity for so many years, and now wondering if it is inimical to ubuntu or whether there is a middle space where social fear/pain/anger are not daily experiences.

Anyway, I thought I’d try to capture it. It certainly has made the time fly as I sip my ‘breakfast’ dye before the CT scan this morning. I’ll only get the results next Monday when I see Dr Landers and find out whether I continue with the current chemo regime or he changes it.
Would love to be able to be in the self-study workshop with Joan Walton and Marian Naidu, along with my students and colleagues. Maybe this is a kind of self-study also!

Rude fruit

Terry Pratchett talks about “amusingly shaped vegetables” in his book The Truth.  We found this pomelo fallen in the garden after the torrent of the last days.
I’m taking it as a message from the universe that I’m perhaps too preoccupied with certain things!


Taking the lesson from the pomelo and Eckard Tolle’s Power of Now. I tried to return the wheelchair that Paulette hired for Pat three weeks ago. I had to go to Broadway Pharmacy in Broadway Rd. Unfortunately my GPS didn’t know that Broadway Ave used to exist, and I didn’t remember that it’s now SWAPO  Rd. This miscommunication lead to a long though interesting tour of the back of Res Hills and Redhill, with me arguing with the silly ‘Recalculate woman”. I got to a point where I wanted her to debate with me about where Durban North is. The wheelchair is still in the back of Squashy. I’ll try again at another time without the GPS.

Happily our MPR session today was filled with laughter and good thinking. I was again incredibly grateful that I work with such amazing unique people with the most astonishing range of knowledge and experience. I hope we succeed in the projects’ goal to codify some of this knowing into useful theory.

Thoroughly energised by the mirth and story telling, we left at 4.30 (Campus closes at 3pm on Fridays). I dropped Bwalya off and managed to try and drive over what had been a tree but is now a tree stump. Squashy didn’t like it. Another lesson in living in the now and seeing what is now, not what used to be! I didn’t get it.

I got stuck in a traffic jam in Sparks Estate, and realising that Pat might be worried, tried to text her. Ooops, numb tingly foot slid off the clutch which I was riding (mea culpa) and I crunched into the car in front of me. Her car is two weeks old – she was very understanding but wanted the chip next to her number plate sorted. Understandably. Happily she works for Hollard Insurance and knows panelbeaters. She’s going to look for a good quote so we can sort things asap. I hope it’s not going to be a sour experience. I get that we both wanted the quickest most effective solution with the minimum of legal hassle. I hope it works.

Ain’t life interesting?

Lots of love and revs!






Off we go again

Well today’s bloods were good, which means chemo tomorrow. Last week was weird. I felt pretty good all week but couldn’t go to work in case I got exposed to some infection. It left me with a major case of the grumps and cabin fever. Going to work on Monday, before I had my blood results, and Friday because I’d promised to be there, saved me from descending into blahness.
To be honest I wasn’t 100% but I put the headaches and occasional feverishness down to hot flashes rather than an infection. I just slept when I felt tired. Because fresh and raw food is not recommended while you have a low white count, we ate a lot of chicken soup and veggie stew with lots of beans and lentils.

My eyes started playing up though, I couldn’t read package labelling, or the numbers on my Codewords/Crossword puzzles. They started getting blurry when I watched TV. I’ve noticed for a while that I can see better when reading or working on a computer or my ipad, without my glasses. It seems like the headaches are related to eye strain. I had my eyes tested on Saturday and it turns out that my eyesight has improved! I can see better long distance and short distance. My multifocals (new last year at vast expense) were now completely wrong and interacting badly with my perception. So is this an age-related benefit or is this an unreported side-effect of chemo?

I still had to do the grocery shopping and whatnot so we were not completely isolated for 4 days! I’ve rediscovered online grocery shopping. The new Pick ‘n Pay site is so much easier to use than it was 4-5 years ago, and it automatically adds your loyalty points. The delivery charge is sixty bucks, for which you get someone else carrying your shopping and don’t have to worry about bags, because everything comes in crates. What’s not to like?

Pat is desperate to get driving again, but she’s just about tottering at this point. I’m completely fulfilling my role as a legal wife – I nag her about putting the boot on and using the wheelchair when her feet are tired. I dropped her at work on Friday and today, but the result is a swollen feet that are quite sore. Her left foot – the one that was sprained has to work doubly hard to accommodate the broken right foot with the boot on it, so I think it’s taking strain. These recliners were a very good buy.

I’m really enjoying Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw”, which Sioux got me for my birthday. The pieces are short enough to read in the bath or while visiting the throne regularly. It’s provocative and keeps my grey cells moving.

It was great to see the MPR group on Friday, their energy and curiosity probably did more for me than my presence did for them. Thanks guys.

I’m quite looking forward to seeing Tania, my oldest friend, if it works out that she can visit on her trip out from the UK, in the week following our Cape Town weekend. Ja, we have history!

Thanks to everybody who is out there, sending funnies, emails and other distractors. I can’t name everybody, but please just know that every one is appreciated and got us through our week of isolation.

So tomorrow we do chemo – not nearly as exciting as the Addo Elephant trail that Kathy’s doing or preparing to climb Kilimanjaro like Joan, but it is always interesting. Take care of yourselves, you guys.