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Letters From Second Peninsula
Photo collage by author
It’s been a tough week with little respite from an assortment of unpleasant side effects that kept me confined to my bed for much of the week with unrelenting exhaustion. My eyes are covered in styes and the neuropathy in my feet had increased to the point where walking was painful and difficult.
There were hours when I was able to be vertical and on Monday I had sufficient strength to walk a few metres down our lane to admire a new vegetable garden our friends were building. By Tuesday I was back in bed all day. My spirits were low, to put it mildly, as I awoke at 4:45 on Wednesday to begin swallowing the many pills I needed to take ahead of treatment that day. I took a moment to notice the sublime beauty of the dawn.
The contrast between this magnificent sunrise over the water and my appearance was striking. Although the finish line for the medication that is causing both the styes and the neuropathy is now in sight, with just nine more treatments to go, the tears flowed as I doubted whether I could find the strength to endure it.
When I arrived at the hospital I tried my best to maintain a positive attitude, but when the nurse began the usual questions about how my week had been, the tears appeared despite my best efforts. The nurse admitted that she had never seen anyone develop so many styes, but her bigger concern was the neuropathy. She said she needed to talk to my hematologist ahead of starting treatment to see if the drug that caused it should be stopped or decreased again as the side effect could result in permanent nerve damage.
After the nurse spoke to him he reduced the amount significantly and prescribed another drug to relieve the neuropathy. I apologized for complaining but the nurse reassured me that this was not complaining and that it was vital information for them to have as the change from occasional bouts of neuropathy to constant neuropathy signalled a level of toxicity that could result in permanent damage. I can only hope that this isn’t already the case. As always, the the actual treatment was painless and the nurses were their usual incredibly kind and compassionate selves. They are true earth angels.
My week was punctuated by moments of beauty, by the kindness and generosity of friends, and when some energy returned, an attempt at a rhubarb tart with the last harvest of my crop. Sadly, the rhubarb didn’t cook and soften sufficiently, and although Tony is determined to eat it, I think it’s headed for the green bin.
I asked Tony to bring up the last of the garlic that he harvested last fall and hung to dry the in what we call the “boat room.” He said that only the small bulbs were left, but I assured him that they would be fine and that I would use them all. There is something thrilling to me about being able to grow food that I love and that the deer dislike.
I’m writing this at 3:45 a.m. on Thursday in my typical steroid-enhanced state where sleep is elusive. I’m happy to report that when I walked to the kitchen for a glass of water, my feet felt better. Is this the power of positive thinking or the new medication? Whatever it is, I’ll take it. The steroids have also reduced the inflammation around my eyes, but they still look pretty awful.
Allow me to end by describing an incident that occurred during a recess that I was supervising at least 25 years ago, when I was teaching Grade Two at an independent school in Hamilton. It always makes me smile each time I recall it and I hope it does the same for you. Otherwise, I would be leaving you with a long tale of woe and little else. The truth is, I still have moments of laughter and joy, much of which is attributable to love, support, gifts of food, flowers, emails, FaceTime, texts, phone calls and porch visits.
While doing outside recess supervision of the students in the elementary school, a Kindergarten student came up to me, her face red with anger and tears welling in her eyes. She was a bossy and overweight little girl and this combination made playtime a constant challenge for her as the other children in her class were reluctant to include her in their games. This is the conversation that followed.
Me: What seems to be the problem, Rebecca?
R: Some kids called me the U word?
Me: The U word? What’s the U word?
At this point Rebecca looked at me as if she had just come across the biggest idiot she had ever encountered.
R: It’s U-asshole. They called me a fuckin’ one of those.
And now you too know the meaning of the “U” word. Feel free to add it to your arsenal of expletives.
Until next time.