First, apologies for being offline for so long. To be honest, I really just haven’t felt like writing. Or doing much else for that matter. I think the chemo is finally catching up with me, and the last couple of cycles have been a bit tougher. Nothing dramatic, just an accumulations of minor ailments and irritations, the details of which I wont bore you with, and a general malaise which is debilitating and a little unnerving. Some days I feel quite chipper and energetic, others I just mope from bed to chair to couch.
Any road up. This is the end of a busy week. Assessment with the Oncology Dept. on Tuesday. Round eight of chemo – the last for now I’m pleased to report – on Wednesday, and yesterday?
Well yesterday found me sitting on a bench on busy downtown Queen Street. It’s 11.30am exactly. And I am undertaking a tricky self administered medical procedure according to my precise instructions sheet, prior to having the much anticipated CT scan in exactly two hours time.
Stage One. Add contents to water. I empty what I guess to be 150ml of mineral water out of the plastic bottle we just bought at the convenience store across the street – I need 450mls apparently. No more. No less. I carefully tear the corner of the glossy paper sachet I’ve brought with me, and slowly pour the sweet smelling white powder into the neck of the bottle, carefully shielding the opening with my other hand, as the autumn wind threatens to whip the precious dust away.
Stage Two. Invert bottle and shake vigorously for twenty seconds. As I shake away stupidly like a cocktail waiter I watch over Jo’s shoulder as a guy sidles up to the rubbish bin a few yards up the street and starts rummaging around with a long arm and a practiced precision. He never actually looks into the bin, just standing with his gaze averted across the street at nothing in particular. In a few seconds he has retrieved a McDonnalds paper cup, and a plastic pouch of rolling tobacco, neither entirely empty presumably. He seems satisfied with his score and moves on.
Stage Three. Allow to stand for five minutes. My attention is drawn back to the rubbish bin where I watch in fascination as a smartly dressed chinese (I’m guessing) women in her forties (guessing again) expertly hoiks up a chesty gob of snot and saliva and spits it with military precision into the receptacle. It was done with such elegant timing and accuracy that I’m sure I’m the only person who even noticed her deft maneuver.
One person who certainly didn’t, was vagrant contestant No.2 who quickly moved in for a quick fossick. Bad move. He quickly withdraws his grubby, and now glistening hand as if it’s been bitten and gives it a vigorous shake before wiping it on the rim of the stainless steel. Wary but apparently undeterred he moves in for a second prospect, this time with the delicate touch and steady hand of a surgeon. He threads his way past the muck and mucus and retrieves some small treasure which I can’t identify from where I’m sitting, and slips it into his baggy pocket before sauntering off wiping his hand again on the leg of his crumpled pants.
Stage Four. Drink Barium Meal. The small amount of powder seems to have expanded exponentially. My mineral water has magically congealed into a thick gloopy white emulsion. I unscrew the cap and give it an experimental sniff. It has the unnatural saacharine sweet scent of cheep candy.
I take a small swig. Hmm. Well it’s not terrible. I think they were probably aiming for Banana. Close, but no cigar boys. Actually the texture is more disturbing than the taste. A third Milk-of-Magnesia, a third McDonalds Thick Shake, and a third wallpaper paste.
I chug my way through the rest of the bottle. It slides down in wet lumps like cold gravy.
Two hours later we are at “Starship”. Auckland’s children’s hospital, next door to the main “grown-ups” facility. With the best will in the world, starship is a bit of a stretch, even for the vigorous imaginations of the under twelves. The building is approximately round and has a lot of windows, but there any resemblance ends abruptly. Don’t ask me why I’m here, they have CT scanners, and presumably a vacancy this morning. I feel a bit of an imposter amongst the cheerful bright colors, boxes of toys and cartoon posters. Every conceivable surface is covered with teddy bears and soft toys of every size and species. We’re taken through the paperwork and the inevitable “It-probably-won’t-but-don’t-blame-us-if-it-all-goes-horribly-wrong” speech and I sign at the bottom of the page.
I’m fitted with a lure in my right arm and I’m ushered into a changing cubicle where I drop my clothes and shoes into a plastic shopping basket and rummage through the pile of gowns for one in an adult size. The trick here i’ve discovered by experience is to find the one that still has the necessary tape ties still attached to keep the damn thing done up. Im out of luck today. I emerge in my t-shirt and skiddies, and the open gown flapping in the breeze like a batman cape.
I request a quick comfort stop and slip into the toilet where I make my next tactical blunder. After taking a pee and washing my hands with the antibacterial napalm soap I glance in the mirror to discover with horror a small but unmissable wet stain on the front of my shorts. I have obviously neglected to shake vigorously enough. No way I’m going to pass this off as a careless splash of water. Bugger. Light grey. What was I thinking? I experiment with pulling down the front of my t-shirt as far as it would stretch and try and wrap the useless gown around my waist. Oh fuck it. What the hell. I’m sure they’ve seen worse.
A couple of minutes later I hop up onto the scanner couch with as much dignity as I can muster. “Please open your gown and raise your arms above your head Lindsey” says the operator. Oh great! I can feel my t-shirt ride up to reveal my shame, and I close my eyes as I’m injected with “contrast”, a dye that apparently makes my internal portrait that much more attractive.
I’m helpfully informed that when the dye enters my blood-stream I will feel a hot flush through my body – and might feel like I’ve wet myself. “Although you probably won’t..”
‘Too late for that lady’ I think to myself.