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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reality bites 5b: the sharp edge bluntly

reality 1 | reality 2 | reality 3 | reality 4 | reality 5a | reality 5b

[to finish the story....maybe.]

How does that fit in with my chess game? In chess, as the end of the game itself approaches, the losing player's king is placed in check, and the final trap is sprung when the king is checked and has nowhere to go. That's it. Checkmate.

There is one slim hope for the losing player, and that is a stalemate, but I won't try to explain that here. Well, I did explain it, but it got too complicated and didn't add anything to this story, so a pointless paragraph is gone, and we're all the better for that.

In a stalemate, no-one wins. It's a Get Out of Jail Free card for the player who was going to lose. (Ah, sorry – I've just Monopolised my chess game....)

In my game, there will be no stalemate. Mr C won't fall for it. I may evade his attack for as long as I can, but a stalemate won't happen. I know this because of the signs that are constantly increasing in number. The return of seizures, the headaches, loss of balance and increased difficulty in walking and swallowing, the strange, apparently random tremors in other parts of my body when I'm sitting or lying down; the increasing failure to remember something that was in my mind a minute ago, whether a word or an idea. Some of these symptoms of accelerated tumour activity are not completely new, but the permutations and combinations tells their own story.

It seems the king is rapidly getting boxed in.

♖     ♖     ♖     ♖     ♖

In a real game, the losing player will see defeat coming, shake hands with the opponent, and resign the game before having to play it out to an inevitable and perhaps humiliating conclusion.

Mr C doesn't like that ending. He may play a mean game of chess, but he only seeks growth at the expense of dependency, and the great irony is that his win is his own death. He will refuse to accept the resignation of his host and he will demand that the game be played out to the bitter end.

It may well be that he's more subtle than a mere biological cell-cloning program, and is capable of tiny mutations that render yesterday's treatments ineffective, or less effective than they were. His only intelligence is to find ways past the barriers that contain him and his influence. Don't be fooled; he may well be better at that game than many give him credit for, and this means researchers can be trapped in relying on outdated remedies or approaches and faith in faulty data. But that too is another story and takes me away from this one.

Here's the blunt bit. There is no honorable resignation for me. Our society, for all its multiplicity of reasons, some logical and some idiotic, decrees that the game must be played out to the last gasp. It allows no right for the player to decide just when the game should end, and thus, on grounds of higher purpose, denies the last shred of dignity in the process. And this is specially true in the sequence of events in dying from brain cancer, or other neurological calamities for the organism, where the invasion is into the core and very centre of our being. We are no longer who we were.

I've always accepted that life, by its very nature, is not fair. I go along with that. But opposed to what you might think I'm saying, life has been unfair in a good way for me, compared with the lives of so many on this planet. In the natural world, fairness is not an issue; for humans, fairness is a rather simplistic idea constructed by the mind, and exists only there. If you believe in fairness or unfairness in such cases, then you have the sticky moral question of explaining why they happen – and most of the answers I've seen to that question are far from convincing. In fact, I'll go so far as to say they usually insult my intelligence.

So to me there is a terrible cruelty, with no redeeming feature, in cloaking the right to a dignified ending to the game in platitudes, specious arguments and blind dogma. None, including bishops and those new knights of the realm, our politicians, have any right to impose this nonsense upon those who do not accept their views. They play their games with our lives; but not content with that, with our deaths as well.

This didn't end up quite as you expected, did it? Me neither.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I always think it's more about accepting the things you're certain are beyond your control and having a good go at tackling the others. You know - the AA slogan paraphrased, which to me is one of the wisest general pieces of advice in all the world.

    2. I echo Jackie K's words, wishing you all the comfort and love possible during this game.

  2. I wish I had better words, but can only say wishing you all the comfort and love possible during this game. I am sure, frustratingly, that 90% of people agree on your comments on the right to a dignified ending.

    1. Thanks, Jackie... which raises the question; why do the 10% hold that power over the rest?

      I know the answer, and so, I'm sure, do you.

  3. Well said Denis. While I agree with Jackie in wishing you love and comfort, I'd add the word 'control' to the wishlist. It seems to me that the most undignified treatment society accords to the individual is the arbitrary denial of the right to control one's life, including the ending thereof. It's a very hard subject to deal with, but I think you've expressed it well.

    Today is one day short of seven years since my wife's death from the exact same cause that you are fighting. I remain happy for her that except for 10 days in hospital for the initial surgery she spent her time at home in my and our childrens' care. But the last three of the sixteen months since diagnosis it took to play the game was not something something I would have wished my wife to have to bear.

    A month after her death I took our enfeebled best old dog to my vet, to put him down because he was no longer in charge of his body, no longer the beautiful dignified companion of many years. To this day I still feel my love for him was so much better respected than my love for my wife.


    1. Control. Exactly. Thank you for sharing your experience, a traumatic one that I am very, very sorry that you and your wife had to go through. Sadly, it must be being repeated many times every day all over the country.

      You have hit the nail on the head. Three months of enforced hell for a terminally ill patient and their loved ones is terrible cruelty, probably believed by the perpetrators to be loving kindness. I have no patience with this misplaced intrusion.

      Palliative care is set up so that it does everything within the law to make the process as comfortable as possible, but it lacks the one thing that would make me fully at peace with dying. You can see why this distresses me. That fundamental human right was available in the NT and then taken away not on compassionate grounds but pure political expediency. [And please, no-one put up the proposition that it stops uncaring family from getting rid of unwanted relatives. That can be avoided, if it were ever an issue, as can determining the sanity of a person to make a decision about themselves.

      Those who disagree might look into their hearts and ask themselves, 'Who is this really about? Me or the dying person?' Selfishness can be incredibly deceptive and all the more brutal for being disguised [maybe unrecognised as such by the 'other'] as compassion.

      The dog is treated with far greater compassion by the system than the human, and his/her loved ones. Take me to the vet when I ask. That'll do nicely. I trust everyone concerned with that process. [OK, I'm speaking figuratively, but what peace and solace that would bring.]

      And we jail a spouse/family member who out of incredible love and compassion assists in what they know that person wants. Not 'wants' - needs! More than anything else in the world

      Enough. This is an immediate response and not a carefully drafted one. I reserve the right to change it. Thanks, kvd. Thank you so much.

  4. Denis, please allow me to correct a possible misunderstanding of my interest. I came to your blog maybe twelve months ago via a reference from Jim Belshaw's Personal Reflections. He referred to a piece of yours about childhood, and so I read it, and was delighted to find someone who could describe thoughts and feelings and experiences so close to my own - but better than I ever could.

    So I continued to read, and enjoy, and it was not till some time after that that I actually read your bio - and what you were facing. Dread is a word I know how to fully conjugate; and GBM I can spell correctly, every time.

    Now I just want to say simply: thank you. For the memories you have stirred, and the "poke in the eye" truths you have written about. And the thing is, if you were touched-by-miracle-cured-tomorrow I would still take great enjoyment (and instruction) from reading this blog.

    Thats all. With thanks.


    1. Thanks for your explanation, which I indeed did think that under your circumstances would have come from the medical side of the blog, even though I hope you can consign it to sad history. I mean no disrespect in talking about putting it behind you, as you will understand. When you go through such an experience you try to avoid reliving it if you can. I would hate family to dwell on such things after I'm dead.

      It's pleasing in fact that you came to the blog for quite a different reason, and a joyful one. I have got a few things out of my system now that I know would have been painful for family and some friends to read, and I intend to return to the list of some twenty items relating to childhood events. We all need a breather from the dark side from time to time and I have almost infinite ammunition in this respect!


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