I know this is deeply politically incorrect, and many people have and are and will suffer terribly from chemo nausea making it hard for them to eat.
But I do think it unfair that this one side effect which could have led to me emerging from this intensive treatment with an actual bonus – fantasies of a Jessica Morris morphing into Kerri Russell sortathing – has been denied.
The concrete bunker super-factory known as my stomach is very much alive and, as has been the case since 1963, with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Luckily friends continue to deliver the most fabulous feasts. It’s not all bad, though. I’m a sugar-free zone, as TEF is apparently magnetically attracted to all things glucose, which works as a super-food, enabling TEF to grow. Same with me, which is all the more reason to steer well clear. But once a week I go further, and fast. It seems TEF is clever, but not that clever. 12 hours into a fast it gets confused at the change in routine. I picture it sitting around, complaining ‘where’s my dinner’? And feeling all at odds. Which is exactly why fasting is good, as while TEF is wondering where the next delivery’s coming from, it’s distracted from its normal evil wrong-doing activity, ie causing trouble for me.
I know I’m lucky to have dodged the nausea bullet (for now). But not so sleep. This other, much trailed, side effect from radiotherapy, has now kicked in. I march back from daily zapping to dissolve into afternoons of Cornish clotted-cream consistency sleeps. A rare moment of wisdom saw me arrange to have our bedroom decorated just before treatment started. It is no longer the bedroom. Not even a master bedroom. It is now a zen retreat of triple Michelin-star marvelousness. Fluffy duvets, fur throws, cashmere blankets…. Couldn’t be more perfect.
I really have very little to say other than – all is good, roll on end of zapping (Monday next week), next immunotherapy infusion (Tuesday next week) and then more pills, more medics, and the mad electrodes. I’m doing good. I don’t know why I feel happy, but I do. I was struck by Decca Aitkenhead’s extraordinary piece in The Guardian a few days ago, where she described her partner’s death and her treatment for aggressive breast cancer. This leapt out to me:” When Tony died, no one knew what to say. When I told people I had cancer, everyone knew what I should do… Above all – and under the circumstances, this one felt like a tall order – it was imperative to Think Positive. We all want to believe there is a cure for bad luck.”
The same day I read this, my addictive googling took me to the writings of Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist and educator at Harvard University whose book ‘The Median is the Message’ re-wrote the rule book on how to interpret statistics. Stephen lived with cancer for many years before dying in 2002. He wrote: “Attitude clearly matters in fighting cancer. We don’t know why (from my old-style materialistic perspective, I suspect that mental states feed back upon the immune system). But match people with the same cancer for age, class, health, socioeconomic status, and, in general, those with positive attitudes, with a strong will and purpose for living, with commitment to struggle, with an active response to aiding their own treatment and not just a passive acceptance of anything doctors say, tend to live longer.”
What I love about this is not just that it blesses one of my few, genetic pluses – the ‘Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down’ phenomenon – but that it also squashes the need for evidence. There is no evidence to support his point. There is also no evidence to support what I’m doing with the immunotherapy. But there’s the magic combination of belief, and common sense.
Works for me.