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Saturday, February 5, 2011

A king, commoners, and a tortoise [Part 2]

Yes, this is real, folks!

8.30 pm Tuesday 1 Feb 2011

Wow! What a wonderful experience, and you don't realise exactly how much you're missing until you have it back, even for a little while.

   I’m talking about the sensation that I have normal use of my arms and legs. The only way I could do that was to go into the pool. We needed all three of us to get me into the swimming pool, going down one step at a time - a rather tortuous process.

   I don't know what sort of getting-wet person you are. I tend to prefer the sudden shock method rather than the centimetre-by-centimetre one. But today I had no choice. It was to go in a step at a time. They’re long steps by the way, and that was the problem.

   But that first shock of pool-chill was nothing compared to the elation of feeling whole again, for the first time in about a year. It wasn't like I could just swim freely - my right leg and arm were pushing weakly through the water - but they felt like they were doing the same work as the left limbs.

   There’s probably no real point in trying to explain it to you, that feeling of faux-symmetry and effortlessness, because most people have never experienced anything BUT symmetry. Doing a sort of sidestroke/dog paddle, and with fairly equal power from both legs, I could actually swim half the length of the pool. About five metres, i.e. Whoo hoo!

   You may wonder why I haven't used hydrotherapy before. While I was on chemo, my resistance to infection was low. I didn’t want to share with others our collective infections. I think I have built up some reasonable immunity by now. I have some problems with strong chlorine and naturally hospitals have to use enough to ensure that the pool is as free of germs as possible. But this pool has the perfect amount of cleaning agents, not to mention a very limited clientele.

   I have had so little sun in the past year that although half the pool was shaded by the time I got in it, there was enough reflected sunlight to give me slight sunburn on the face.

   I blame my mother for this delicate facial skin. She was exactly the same. Fifteen minutes in direct sunlight for her face and it would burn, even though the rest of her skin would be fine - and she lived most of her life in the tropics.

   Not a problem. Some natural vitamin D instead of from a capsule can do nothing but good. With the weather being as perfect as it is, I’ll surely be in the pool again tomorrow. Good exercise too. Much more satisfying than what I’ve been doing in past weeks. Hopefully Kaylene the physiotherapist will approve!

   Getting out of the pool was a bit of a challenge though. Each step up added kilos to my weight and by the time I got to the last step before the edge, I was as heavy as lead - and the last step was a very high one. But with help from Tracey and Christian, we dragged me out, pretty unceremoniously. Back to the gravity of Jupiter. ** sigh **

   I have definitely got to lose excess weight somehow. I feel like that guy on TV recently who weighed a grotesque 1000 lbs. He couldn't even sit up unaided. That was scary. But you know, I think some evil spirit has slipped a soccer ball into my stomach cavity and is sneaking in when I am asleep and pumping a cup full of water into it every night.

   Oh no. There’s a full-length mirror in the bathroom where I’m showering! The whole horrible truth is revealed there. That wretched football for a start. And now I can see all the bruises from the Clexane injections as well, right across the lower half of my stomach.

   By the way, the bruises are NOT from faulty injecting method on Tracey’s part. Over the past year she has given me hundreds of them. The bruises up till fairly recently have been minor or non-existent.

   But in the past few months, my stomach seems to have rebelled. At times the injection hurts like hell, and the technique and the position don’t seem to be a factor. It just happens. Poor Tracey – she feels so bad when she sees me wince, but there’s not a thing she can do any differently.

   Oh well, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a mere bagatelle. But it looks pretty disgusting in the mirror.

   Stephen Fry is describing in his autobiography (I’m reading it now, how’d you guess?) how during his addiction to sweets, he accidentally looked in a full length mirror thinking he was seeing some obese person in the distance and then becoming aware of the ghastly truth that he was observing himself. I had a somewhat similar yet different experience in a shop that I described in another story, but weight wasn’t the real issue at that time. Looking at that bathroom mirror image when I was showering, I know exactly how Stephen Fry felt. Appalled. Beached whale. Vain to the last.

   It happens all the time when you film people. They see the footage and are aghast. 'I can’t really look like that,' they say. 'I don’t in my mirror.'

   'The camera puts on 10 kilos,' I reply.

   But it doesn’t. I’m lying. It’s simply that self-perception is always more deludedly optimistic than brutal reality until you are suddenly confronted with it. It’s devastating. I know.

   Maybe full-length mirrors put on 10 kgs. They should be banned. Smashed. Even if it brings me seven years of bad luck.

   For some reason that amuses me mightily, in a macabre sort of way.


  1. Would the avastin contribute to the bruising? That might be it. So, what about the hydrotherapy pool at the hospital now? More effort to go out of the house just to get there, of course. Probably wouldn't have the steps difficulty though.

    Photos? I can become quite depressed by them and always try to avoid being photographed :) Some people really are just naturally more photogenic, it is true,and mirrors can also be more cruel than truthful, depending on the lighting. Even handsome film stars are bothered by this sort of thing!

    Self perception doesn't take into account how other people 'read' one's appearance.I can be utterly unmoved and unimpressed by some people of 'perfect' beauty.

    Well, I've taken to saying these comforting things to myself while simultaneously also avoiding the sight of (self) full frontal or any other angle nudity!!! Isn't this why clothes were invented? As for looking at the face while wearing glasses -forget it! Aaargh!

    Beautiful place you went, Sapphire Beach. We stayed in cabins there once and loved seeing the whales playing around the islands quite nearby. The beach was not good for swimming though as it was very stony and very steeply shelving. If you didn't drown by current you'd be pounded to death by pebbles (then they'd call it Ruby Beach. Uhoh, too much Dexter again). Unusual to have stones in northern NSW, with its pale, soft sands. So we drove to lovely Emerald Beach just north, to swim.

  2. It’s possible that the Avastin may have some such effect, but the very long period on Clexane itself may also. Or hidden veins and clusters of nerve endings that the needles pass through start protesting after a while. I’ve given up trying to work it out!

    As I said elsewhere, I’m not keen to use the Hospital pool for hydrotherapy. If it were purely physical I wouldn’t concern myself.

    Handsome film stars are often so self-obsessed that one zit becomes a tragedy! It really is all about ego and vanity in the end, isn’t it? I just wish I had more to be vain about! ☺

    You’re right about Sapphire Beach itself. The view is lovely but there are several other far nicer beaches nearby.


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