Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Schrödinger Witch

Ten treatments down and ten to go. Half way through. I feel as though the witch inside my bladder is half-dead and half-alive – a true Schrödinger witch, simultaneously in both states that will only be resolved into one state or the other when it is finally looked at.

Waiting with our coffee, we shared a small table with another cancer patient. She has already had both breasts removed, and is in the midst of chemotherapy before starting her own course of RT. She had had her blood test at 12:00 but has to wait until 4:00pm for her next treatment, so was bored with the place and happy to talk. She was eating a chocolate bar and works by refilling the various food slot machines, including the ones in Addenbrooke's, but didn't expect to back as a user of them. A young teenage girl was wheeled by with a drip and nasogastric tube in place, reminding us all of how fortunate we have been to have enjoyed relatively long healthy lives, and how unfortunate are some fellow creatures.
Nimue and Merlin by E. Fortescue-Brickdale

I am reading the wonderful modern version of the Thomas Malory King Arthur legends, The Once and Future King, which is a revelation and pleasure to take my mind away from myself into the mythical land of neverwas. White was such a deep scholar, his use of multiple words from ancient English is overwhelming, and I have begun to read it with the computer switched on to look up meanings, and am pencilling them  in the margins, for future reference. Almost every page has a new word, and they're all wonderful:  kerns were peasant foot soldiers; Nimue was the ancient name for the Lady of the Lake and keeper of the sword. I know little of these Arthurian legends, but they are wonderful stories. The first part of the book, The Sword in the Stone, strongly reminded me of some features in Harry Potter, and it is interesting that J.K. Rowling described White as "her spiritual ancestor".

Although legend, it is surprising how much overlaps even present day life. "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity", as Merlyn says. How truely prophetic of the current impasse in extricating ourselves from Europe! Ireland seems to be the one difficulty that cannot be overcome. How cursed we are to have taken Ireland, and left a land divided. Now we must reap that which are ancestors have sown.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Some family history

Ann has been researching her family history, and discovered that, as a McVey, she is related to the McBeth's on her father's side, but her grandmother was Flora Elliot, which is a clan in its own right.  "That's why we're so fierce. We all know what McBeth was like," she said.

"But," I said, "McBeth did the murder, but his wife ordered it. He was trembling with his conscience."

"Yes," said Edwin, "and she didn't start out a McBeth. Before she got married, I bet she was an Elliot."

The Elliots were a great, fierce and rebellious border clan, also known as reivers. Ann said, "they caused so much trouble, they were cursed by the Biship of Glasgow. In 1525 he put a curse on the whole clan."

Ann looked it up; the curse is substantial and comprehensive. “I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain, their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without.”

It runs to three pages in 1,100 words, and concludes:  “And, finally, I condemn them perpetually to the deep pit of hell, there to remain with Lucifer and all his fellows, and their bodies to the gallows of Burrow moor, first to be hanged, then ripped and torn by dogs, swine, and other wild beasts, abominable to all the world. And their candle  goes from your sight, as may their souls go from the face of God, and their good reputation from the world, until they forebear their open sins, aforesaid, and rise from this terrible cursing and make satisfaction and penance.”
(The Curse of the Elliot Clan)

I could only comment that I hoped their penance had been finally made and the curse lifted, but I do sometimes wonder that there maybe something witch-like about the Elliots and their line.

Ann loves to play her favourite tunes on her Apple HomePod. She keeps it in the kitchen, so it is often playing through the day, but it does have an independent mind. She told it once, "Siri, stop playing!"

Siri answered, "I'm not playing anything!"

In the meantime, I continue by resting, and dosing myself with antiemetics and antidiarrhoeals. Eight days done, twelve more treatment days to go.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Finding Zillian

Another day, another treatment. Yesterday continued much the same, with Edwin taking me to hospital. This time, they told me my bladder isn't emptying properly, and will have to be sorted out. So yet another hiccup to add to the diarrhoea and nausea. I just hope they don't need to recatheterise me.

There are two treatment rooms through the door I entered, and as I came out of mine to go back to the waiting room, I was pushed back and a crash team came hurtling past, so fast they misjudged the turn into their room and crashed into the door, sending equipment flying! When I finally got back out, poor Edwin had been sure it was being sent in for me, and was thinking how to tell his mum that I wouldn't be coming home with him! Even as we waited, two more teams raced past challenging each other to run faster. Then a trolley bed was rushed in, complete with drip, until there must have been a dozen or more people rushing past in total. Addenbrooke's is certainly the right place to be, if you must have a heart attack.
Me with Zillian the first table-tennis robot

Ann had a ghostly experience, looking for an old picture of me with my robot Zillian. She spent the evening looking through all 78 albums, representing thousands of pictures collecting a lifetime of memories, without finding it. She finally gave up and put the last album away when she saw a picture on the floor that had fallen out of one of them. It was the very same picture she had been searching for. She went cold like there was a creepy spirit in the room. Alas, poor Zillian is no more - only his ghost remains.

In the evening, we went for our annual Christmas Dinner to the Swan in Clare. This has become a tradition over the last few years, and was booked some time ago, before these treatments started, so we didn't want to cancel it. I managed to survive quite well, albeit without alcohol, and dosed up with antiemetics, but it was enlivened by the chatter of our granddaughters, who are a delight. One told us how she loves to cut off the heads of old photos, usually of her mum. When the photo is pulled from the album, the head stays behind, and they just get the shoulders coming out. She says it's fun to mix them up, and she has a bag of heads, like some psychopath. If someone annoys her at school, she can cut the head off their picture, and post it through their locker.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Br-exit blocked at the barrier

Another kindness today, this time from Mary-Anne who took a turn to take me in for treatment. Addenbrooke's car park is expensive; it cost me £6.80 on the first visit, when I was over the two hours. But they do have a valuable concession, with a week's parking ticket for £3.90 when one is on constant treatment like RT. Coming into the car park, the machine took my ticket and returned it, but on the way out, the barrier refused to rise. The ticket had expired! I had to wait at the ticket office to get it renewed, as a queue rapidly built behind Mary-Anne's car. The other drivers glared at her as though it was her fault, and horns sounded, but the only way she could have moved would have been to  reverse into them, until I reappeared with the new ticket. She remained as calm and uncaring as usual.

Only one quarter through, but already I feel like death. The day was bright and sunny, but I was too weak to walk the dogs. The nausea is terrible, and I travel in the car with a towel across my knee and a sickness bowel beneath my chin. My head is bursting, and I dare not even drink a glass of wine, let alone a good malt. The last couple of nights, I can manage no more than toast. Oh the agony of abstinence. But I live in hope that it will be for a good result. I dread the approach of Christmas and New Year, for I fear these side effects can only worsen. Even mid-winter, normally my favourite day, is something I will be unable to celebrate this year. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Trinken den Wein

Although it sounds a contradiction, Edwin visited a German market in Cambridge last night. He said he intended to "trinken den Wein", so I told him not to "trinken too muchen den Wein!" but he's never paid much attention to advice.

For myself, I haven't "den Wein getrunken"since I started this treatment last week. Not from any reason of virtue, but in case booze of any sort clashes with my stomach and makes me feel even worse than I already do. Matthew and Rosie came over today to take me in, and I carried a towel and sick bowl in case I vomited again. I spread the tablets out over a longer period today, and that seemed to help a bit. Though still nauseous, I avoided embarrassing myself or messing their car.

Radiographers wanted
There were delays for us all on treatments this morning, and the waiting area was full. One small child with no hair was wheeled in by her parents. Several women had scarves to cover their hair loss, and one woman had a large bald area over a depression over her skull, where probably she was being treated for a skin cancer. A man next to me, also with a cap on, told me he had surgery for a brain tumour followed by chemo and now radiotherapy. He was still in his 50's, and said he'd expected to have much longer to live. Now he was going to work through his money and get things he really wanted, starting with a set of Beat headphones, then taking his family on holiday early next year for which he'd rented a holiday home in Norfolk.

We are all at the point in our lives where cancer is the signpost to change, usually degenerate change. It served to point to the variety of people getting radiotherapy treatments, although a poster in the waiting area pointed to another reason for the delays: a shortage of radiographers. My radiographer explained that most people have never heard of therapeutic radiography as a career option, though it is so rewarding a career and full training offered. Anyone interested can contact their nearest hospital training group.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Chasing Dreams

Our conscious hours are so filled with existing and coping with reality that we ignore the underlying patterns of mind. We read, we converse, we cook, or eat, or watch TV.  We distract ourselves from our own being. Only in dreams do the elements combine in diverse ways to give presence to new thoughts. But for most of us, these thoughts vanish again in the bright glare of living.


now as always
fighting new and menacing demons
wearing their black cloaks
and carrying winter scythes,
while battling petty minds
sweating stuff that is so small
not even a magnifier could find
its worth.
The subconscious behaves like an abstract mathematical construct. As in mathematics, where the ordinals are abstract concepts when unspecified until we give them specific form, such as two pens or three oranges, so too are our ideas like life or death or love. We can specify specific instances but in our subconscious being they are complete abstractions that can only present themselves to our conscious selves as concrete representations, such as the image of a broken car, or a pen that will not write, or an empty, dark room. This may be death of a life, or death of a relationship, or leaving a home that is loved.

Like the Fourier representation of a waveform, the components seethe in the brain like separate harmonics that can come together to build something new. Our mental knowledge is fragmented into tiny components joined by some algorithm of mind or memory. The elements are almost like coherent or entangled quantum waveforms. It is the conscious expression of them that 'collapses the waveform'.

The artist may seize these elements and recombine them as a new picture, a poem, an architectural construct, or a new mathematical theorem. But their underlying components are mere abstractions, and conscious striving to grab them leaves us but grasping air.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The ending of a bad year.

The year looks like ending as it's been all through. The company I work for is transferring my project for development in Japan, so I may be redundant before the year's end. And now the main sewerage drain is blocked with a tail back of filthy sludge, so we'll have to call the drain men out.

On only the third day of my radiotherapy treatment, scheduled for 6:30 last night, I was already dreading taking the huge doses of Vitamin B3. Edwin took me to Addenbrooke's, but I was right about the tablets, He had to stop on the way home to let me out, when I was repeatedly sick, and I have spent most of today in bed or shivering in a blanket.

One bright spot was a letter from my grandson, Luke. It is two full pages of beautifully written and interesting items, spelling out his hopes for A-levels and university, and quite unlike what one reads about messaging by today's youth, with their texted emphasis on Emojis and weird abbreviations. The art of letter writing is clearly not dead, and I was hugely moved to get the letter. Now I shall lie back and have another sleep, to gather strength of my next treatment on Monday. Only 17 more to go.