Monday, 21 March 2011

New studies, encouragement and mouthwash misery

On Monday 11 October 2010 some more of the books I had ordered from Amazon arrived. A little while back, before my diagnosis, I had made a resolution (ha!) not to purchase any more books before I had finished the numerous ones already in the house either half-read or (to my shame) largely unopened. While not averse to the odd bit of comfort eating, a more persistent vice with me is comfort book-acquisition. One of the reasons I doubt e-books will ever completely take over from the printed variety is the fact that the smell of a bookshop is as potently aromatic as roasting coffee or unburnt tobacco. All of these aromas envelop our eager brains in cosiness and I dare you to resist their allure. I nevertheless made a further vow not to buy any more books after this latest order was fulfilled (with the exception, of course, of those needed for participation in the—mercifully informal—book club of which we have been members for many years).

Later in the day I received an email from a kind and thoughtful person who had attended the percussion workshop I referred to in an earlier entry. In it was this little fable:

A daughter is telling her mother how everything is going wrong: she's failing algebra, her
boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her mother is baking a cake and asks her if she would like a snack, and
the daughter says, "Absolutely Mum, I love your food.”
Here, have some cooking oil," her Mother offers. "Yuck" says the daughter.
“How about a couple of raw eggs?" “Uuurgh, Mum!”
"Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?" “Mum, those are
all yucky!"
The mother replies: "Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves but when they
are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!”

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad
and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always
work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something

Christmas cake, fresh from the oven.
Oh my!

 I learned of another nice thing today and a welcome resource in the form of an occasional blog by Dr Chris Dowrick, well becoming : “a blog about being well, becoming well, staying well - and flourishing. Written by a professor and family doctor living in Liverpool, UK”. I particularly like Dr Dowrick’s thoughts on the banyan tree (entry for 20 February 2011).

It was a beautiful autumn day, if a trifle chilly and blowy, and my wife and I enjoyed a walk in the afternoon. Supper was delicious and wholesome: trout with herbs (including fennel, so perfect with fish), accompanied by couscous and roasted vegetables. It tasted so wonderful that, even though subtle in flavour, it overcame the bluntness inflicted on my tastebuds by the blitzkrieg combination of chemotherapy and mouthwash.

The effects of these two could not however be kept at bay for long, as I realised when I woke from a good sleep on Tuesday 12 October to the now familiar bitterness at the back of my throat, the concomitant of the cardboard taste that had settled on my meals. I cursed the drugs and mouthwash even as they battled within me for my ultimate good.

Harpies, winged spirits sent by Zeus (the Saddam Hussein of Mount Olympus) to torment King Phineas of Thrace for using his prophetic gift to reveal the secrets of the gods.
Zeus blinded the unfortunate king and placed a banquet in front of him at regular intervals, which the Harpies proceeded to snatch away or befoul,  rendering it either unreachable or inedible.

I felt a bit shaky, which I attributed particularly to vincristine, a chemotherapy drug that I have since discovered the Americans now rather frown on because of its tendency to cause damage to the nerves. In spite of this and of the gustatory issues already mentioned, I enjoyed my usual fibre-rich breakfast. I also managed 20 press ups: somewhat below my personal best of 30, but an Olympic performance when compared to what was to succeed it over the subsequent weeks and months of treatment.

I was considerably buoyed up later in the day by a visit from my good friend P, with whom I always enjoy wide-ranging conversations, typically touching on music, film, philosophy, spirituality, the London Underground, food and many more. He had recently developed an enthusiasm for white and green teas—not least as a result of an increased number of business trips to the Far East in recent months—and he brought a green variety for me to try. Even before I tasted the healing brew I was entranced by the sight of the dried leaves uncurling in the boiled water and sinking to the bottom of the mug, where they swayed gently like the fronds of an undersea plantation. The taste was subtle but very refreshing and I welcomed the antioxidants into my needy frame.

For a reason it now irritates me to have forgotten I wanted to show my friend there and then one of my most prized possessions, an ebony walking cane with a decorated silver handle that my paternal grandmother had bought in Iraq (or, as it was then, Mesopotamia) in the years after the First World War. Unfortunately it was buried so deep in a cupboard that it eluded me that day; of such minor frustrations does life so often consist.

My friend's legs.
Note mug of green tea on table.
A further oriental note is struck by the abandoning of shoes inside the front door of the house (not pictured).

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