Monday, 25 April 2016

Back in Space Again

Radiation and the first round of chemotherapy finished on Thursday 21 April. I'm sad that I won't see my lovely radiation therapists daily anymore, but here we are, R, K, and myself, cheerfully celebrating the end of my time at Unit 7. Please take careful note of the Sudoku dress...

There's a cowbell at the reception desk (seen here with big ribbon/thule wrapped on top, making it looks like a tiny bouquet of flowers) that everyone is encouraged to ring when their sentence at RT finished. I shook that thing around for ages.

As my mask was un-clamped and lifted off for the final time, I captured a few patient's-eye-view photos of THE MACHINE's face before getting up. I was reflected in its cornea, or perhaps I was already in there, inside its aqueous humor. Wait, no. I wasn't in there. I could not have been zapping myself, could I? Nein, THE MACHINE attempts to fool me yet again with its clever legerdemain.

What did I look like in the eyes of THE MACHINE? Let's take a look.

My first impulse was to put up a link to the evil doings of HAL, for these photos recall, somewhat, sort of, the austere, retro futurist stylings of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddyssey. At least the first one does.

But this whole experience has been so bizarre and enigmatic and scary that I feel it may be just as apt to rip Space Oddity out of ye olde black hole that Major Tom likely got sucked into. *Click the link and let it play in the background before you read on.* 

I have always thought it to be the most terrifying and sad song in the world; I have always been afraid of space and the fullness of its lack (NB this is changing. Star charts up on my walls now). The song still makes my eyes glassy even though I am no longer four, or ten, or twenty five years old. It does, however, retain the the classic Bowie interference of absurdity (the long sliding fart of a tuba at a key moment at the solo's end wtf). That makes me smile. And all the more so now, for within two weeks of Bowie's final departure from this world, Planet 9 was "discovered." (We know it's you, Starman. You and your shameless transformations. Planet 9 is but the latest Bowie character).

Now, imagine floating helplessly away from everything you know. And "planet Earth is blue and there's nothing [you] can do", which could be taken as two separate observations. On the one hand it is noted that the Earth is blue,  and secondly,  it is noted that there's nothing that can be done about the spaceship's circuits frying up and suddenly having to accept that return to said blue Earth is impossible. On the other hand, the line expresses the notion of being helpless in the face of that planet which is blue, as if it were something one might desperately want to change to another colour. As if the blue itself was such an unbearable truth that controls everything we do. It is the home of Ground Control, after all. No matter how you look at it, there's nothing you can do about blue. Until you get so far away from light that you can't see it or the world or anything. The whole universe, your very being, goes black, and even that is not in your control. Oh, Major Tom and your mismatched eyes, one blue, the other a dark opening into another world.

It's a common argument that human beings seem to be discovering and exploring the vast space around and above them, and yet they still know so little about the depths of planet that supports them. Even David Attenborough reminds us that scientists know more about the surface of the moon than they do the depths of the ocean. Speaking of which... Remember The Abyss? The floating that happens therein is not up and away into space, but in the opposite direction, towards the centre of the Earth, down, down into the great blue that also eventually fades into black. Something wrong there. Something.... there's a being there. At one point it stretches long and forward until it becomes a face, a likeness of the humans it approaches.

I thought of The Abyss when I had a face off with my face after my final treatment. I got to take my likeness home. My face from another world. Behold. I think it likes me:

In approximately four weeks' time I will begin the next phase of chemotherapy. I expect tedium, and I do believe that I might miss THE MACHINE just a wee bit. And my friendly neighbourhood radiation therapists.

Friday, 22 April 2016

In other news....

Yesterday the last day of treatment, part one!!! Documentation coming very soon....


I thought I'd share a beautiful piece by a friend who has recently been in hospital in Hastings, East Sussex. It's nothing to do with brain tumours - just his general observations about his surroundings and his own experience of illness. It's here.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Burning They

Chemotherapy may leave a metallic taste in one's mouth, they say.
They also say that the sounds of THE MACHINE as it moves around you is a bit like rushing water.

The reality is that chemotherapy tastes like burnt hair.
And that THE MACHINE sounds like a bunch of mechanical parts moving mechanically - somewhat like a machine.

THE MACHINE also causes burning. Hair and skin burn. Cells burn inside, all of them. Necrosis of healthy tissue. Everything is burning and all senses comprehend only this.

In honour of machines and burning, here is one of the classics of ye olde Canadian Heritage Minutes they used to play back in the day. Remember them? I'm pretty sure this one was from sometime in the early nineties - "the burnt toast one", as it is frequently referred to by, well, most of us who had the misfortune of having to watch them between television programs. Definitely a favourite.


So, this was what I did after I couldn't stand fluff and stragglies a few weeks ago.

Now, see this nice dark bit of unaffected hair that comes to a peak at the front? I loved that bit. I was pointing to my second-favourite part of my clipper job in this photo, but now it's a pic that also documents the future: that patch has fallen out as well, all those tiny bits of stubble. Gone. I'm currently pretty much bald from the backs of my ears forward. Every bit of proton beam that enters my skull has to come out somewhere - hence the growing exit area on the opposite side of the target zone. 

The pic below? That's my first-favourite part of the clipper job, the (keeping and) sculpting of the long bit in the back. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Tanks to LUCY BEYNON for This Splendid Poster feat. a Version of Moi

Extended hysterics, constant lolz when this arrived in the post. This is exactly what I am and what my mission in life is and what I am up to now and always. Fuck you, tumour.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Five or so Days of Loss

I'm currently at the end of my sixth of seven weeks of radiation therapy. The photos above are from a few weeks ago - I've just been lazy in posting them.

Right on cue (according to the list and timeline of radiation side effects), I woke up one morning after two weeks of treatment with a burning, tender scalp, and hair on my pillow. Over the next few days it just slid out from the whole target area, with nice clean lines marking where the zapping rays were focused. I even began to fill a Ziploc bag with the hair as it departed, thinking it might make a nice souvenir or something, but I soon gave up and pushed the bag away from me in disgust, mostly due to the peeling scalp that was stuck in there with it. There's only so much I can take when it comes to icky things, and icky peeling scalp and dander bleh all clumped up and tangled in loads of hair is one of those things that makes me recoil slightly. Abjection of own body. I do admit freely that I have always had a smelly scalp anyway, and that my hair basically reeks within a day of shampooing it, but I would always try to not think about it and just let other people deal with it when they brush past or reach in for a hug. Shrug. I don't care. Smell my hair. Take a whiff, if you dare. HA.

But no longer, for about two-thirds have disappeared, and I threw away the baggie.

It was startling, actually, to see how easily it came out, and how it thinned. Thinned. I began to feel uneasy when I looked in the mirror and saw the sparse bits of fluff and increasingly long stretches of incredibly velvety smooth slap-head territory. I never thought that I would be so affected by the process of hair loss. All the support literature I had on hand - it all repeats how devastating the situation is for many cancer people, especially for women, and it encourages wigs and cosmetics and provides general tips for maintaining cultural beauty standards by buying stuff ....... But ....... there's something more to it. A fear that is the fear, I imagine, many men tend to have of baldness. I never truly, fully empathized with that fear. I did not understand it. When your hair glides out of burnt follicles and not even stubble is left behind. I didn't expect. So now genuine solidarity. It was no longer a casual or messy or sloppy boring or intentionally silly look in the ways I usually throw together, but one that was out of my control and almost unbearably hideous. Perhaps that's the bigger issue - the complete lack of control, and for better or for worse I do not like lacking control. That's what this is all about at the core, actually. I don't like that there's something inside my skull that is trying to take over the living organism that is me. Easy to say I should think positively and get on with life and happy and chin up when the reality is that life is getting on with me via a death monster that, frankly, while tedious at best, is mostly a motherfucker and has blades at my throat at all times. So in that sense, relinquishing the need for at least some control is not optional. 

But back, specifically, to the hair. I have always taken charge of my hair and changed it into either fabulous styles, or into outright disasters that I've pretended were intentional because that's just how I roll. I had no fear of shaving the unaffected parts (and leaving a nice lengthy bit in the back), and I'll happily continue if need be. And once the radiation is done (next week - I can't believe it's nearly finished!), it should grow back, even if mutated. I am fortunate.