Tuesday, 27 December 2011


I am sitting on the couch with a grey and white plaid blanket over my bare knees. My fingernails are painted apple green – a color meant to last only one day but now still remaining on day five since the manicure. I haven’t had the will – or the ability to stand the smell of nail polish remover to change it. The balcony door is open, affording a partial view of the balcony railing covered in a layer of ice. The sky is white. The sun is winter-pale and without warmth.

Inside the apartment, there are great leafy plants, pots and vases of flowers.

Christmas day, I read Lydia Millet’s How the Dead Dream. Boxing day, it was Joan Clark’s, An Audience of Chairs and today, reading in reverse autobiographical order, I finished Augusten Burroughs’ “Running with Scissors.” In-between reading binges, I slept, drank ginger ale and threw up. This is the sickest I’ve been following a chemo session. The tips of my fingers are numb – peripheral neuropathy. I cannot predict how food will taste and almost everything tastes bad. Except, strangely – for cherries. I have discovered today that cherries taste like cherries. It’s a small miracle and I’ll take it.

In addition to gobbling fiction (the only thing I can gobble that doesn’t send me running for the bathroom), I’ve been doing research on whole brain radiation – which, after 12 more chest radiation treatments, is next up on the hit parade.

And it’s occurred to me that I don’t have to submit to it. Lest this seem a little cavalier, I should explain the possible side-effects, which can include (over and above the usual fatigue, temporary hair loss and rashes): hearing loss, eye injury resulting in blindness, mental slowness, behavioral changes, severe damage to normal brain tissue that may require additional surgery, seizure, and permanent hair loss.

So I’m sitting here ever so quietly, with the blanket over my knees. Cold air is streaming in through the open door as a listless sun moves westward across the sky.
My emotions are as numb as my fingertips. There is no one to call. There is no one to ask. There is no right answer. Yet, I must decide.

Yesterday, my elves came. They washed the dishes and swept the floor and let me cry. They brought Ginger ale and threw out the food going bad in the fridge. I am grateful for that. But I wish they didn’t have to see. I wish they didn't have to know.

It splits you from the world, this condition. Who can bear it? What on earth can anyone say?


NEDbeads said...


My heart aches for you.

nangel9 said...

aww honey. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Patty said...

Too Tall Jones. This is a fine pickle you're in. Leave you in Halifax for a few years and look what happens. Email? xxP

Roberta said...

Yes. The brain radiation. You are right to think about the side effects. You are not being cavalier at all.

Sometimes when I read your posts, I cry because it is all I can do.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

Just listening and loving you.

Howpublic said...

Thank you all. From my heart. It helps to talk. And Little P -
jadeonion @ gmail.com - no spaces of course.

Peg said...

Hi, friend of a friend here, and I have gout. Where this connects us is cherries. The purine toxins that accumulate in my joints from time to time are cleared away by eating cherries and drinking cherry juice. I don't know why it helps, but it does. Even my nurse practitioner suggested it, as well as all my other friends who are coping with it too.

Chemo leaves a different set of toxins. But I wonder if cherries have a beneficial effect on that also?

I'm glad there's something you can have that tastes good.

Pat Barber said...

If there is to be separation, let it not be due to any attempt on your part to protect. Only a few may understand or comprehend, but all can, and do, and want to, listen. Listening is a verb, an action, and it helps. Everyone.

Howpublic said...

I like "listening is a verb", Pat.
And it feels like that when the comments are so thoughtful.

Hi Peg...I understand that cherries are higher in antioxidants than blueberries, so maybe that's it. Last night, I was just pathetically grateful for the fact that they tasted right...and I have a suspicion that fresh vegetables and fruit are about the only things I can eat for a while. Which gives me a chance to use my new juicer. A lot.

Elphaine said...

Hang on Linda, have faith. The side-effects are hypothetic and not certain it will happen to you. Your country is one of those where doctors warn even about eventual side effects with asprin... Be as positive as you can.

However I understand how bad you feel. Try mandarins, these also probably won't make your senses lie to you...

Warm and gently hugs.