Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

I suspect that's the longest gap between postings since I began the blog. It's partly a result of the busyness of Christmas; partly the increasing need for naps and sleep-ins as the radiotherapy comes to the pointy end. Something new, and not altogether pleasant seems to be happening in the relationship between work and living and reading and writing, too.

A quick health update, first: I have five more big radiotherapy sessions to go, then eight shorter, lighter doses to be directed along the scar line. I was measured up for these before Christmas. I feared going into the CT tunnel again (I always forget till it's too late that I hate enclosed spaces and low ceilings), but this was more low tech. Lie on your side, Michael will draw on you with blue pencil, and then Andy will come in and make a tracing onto a transparent sheet then take a photo (I almost said polaroid, but it looked suspiciously like my own digital camera).

My breast is starting to resemble a roasted beetroot: pink and brown in patches, within a sharply delineated area which probably looks square on the infra-red grid when I'm lying down, but which on the body is curved into odd angles. I'm assured this will all start to fade as soon as the treatment ends, but right now it feels pretty much like sunburn. I woke in the middle of the night last night saying to myself, 'I don't know what to do with it!', where to put it in the bed, as if it were a detachable appendage. I had also been dreaming that Kylie Minogue paid me a visitation and delivered some wise words I was not able to remember. So I got up, had a chamomile tea, then went back to bed and slept in till 10.00. We had breakfast in bed (cereal, raspberries and blackberries) and made a plan for the day. Paul went to work in the garden and at his computer; Joel set to work on his new animation; and I lingered on reading Garrison Keilor's Love Me, about a Minnesota man who moves to New York and fulfils his dream working at the New Yorker until he develops writer's block and the magazine is taken over by the Mafia.

I'm sometimes asked what I'm doing, how my own writing is going, how much trash TV I'm watching. In fact, I spend a lot of time in the garden, feeding the goldfish and admiring their babies, and talking to Mima, my fifteen-year-old tabby. We have become very close over the last few months and have had many happy conversations on the couch in the afternoon sun or walking around the new garden and its fishponds. No trash TV: we are working our way through the West Wing on DVD in the evenings, and watching some very short cricket matches in the afternoon. I'm as keen for a 5-0 Ashes victory as the next woman, but it'd be good to see the English team defer their inevitable implosion till they get on the plane to go home, so that they could at least take the game into the fourth day.

But there's no real reason why I shouldn't be writing. I'm alert and sprightly enough for good portions of each day, and can find energy to blog, and read, and chat (and cook: Siena cakes, florentines and chocolate brandy balls for Christmas). But we have eaten dinner the last two nights with dear friends, all of whom are scholars and writers, and I listened with a kind of detached interest about their various writing projects. My own writing seems miles away. As far as work is concerned, I am just able to keep up with the little tasks that need to be done: ask Maria to organise a little seminar in honour of David Wallace for late February; arrange my travel plans to get to Adelaide earlier in the month; set aside some time for a meeting of our grant team next weekend to start re-writing our application for the ARC.

I guess the energy for writing will return when the current radiation fatigue recedes. When I think about it though, I didn't actually do much writing in 2006. I finished a big essay in February, and wrote a conference paper in July that I was very pleased with, but the rest of the year seemed to disappear in committees, the Headstart training program, and then the flurry of starting work on the NCS program committee then handing it over to Ruth and David and John when I became ill. I don't think I'm too worried about not writing. It's normally a source of great pleasure for me, and I have several projects on the boil, individual and collaborative, that I'm still intrigued by. Fortunately, I had lots of things in the pipeline (I've corrected three sets of proofs since I've been sick), so I'll still look ok on paper for a while yet, in terms of the research productivity that is such a preoccupation for us all now.

It's just the nature of academic life, that you can never let it go completely. I'm far from complaining: this is the other side of the coin that makes it possible to take time out for daily treatment and comprehensive sick leave without any threat to my job security or income. I'll just have to trust my own instincts, that the desire to write will return when I have something to say, and when I can read anything other than fiction for more than half an hour before falling asleep.

It's New Year's Eve today. We would normally be in the third day of cooking and cleaning and preparing for a big party, but prudently decided not to go ahead this year. We're going to open a special bottle of wine, climb up on the roof to watch the fireworks, and have an early night. Health and Happiness in the New Year to all.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mima is fifteen? Just excuse me while I go look for my Zimmer frame.

It is true that one can never let the academic life go completely. Here I am, nine years on, and looking sadly at two PhD theses and an MA dissertation all of which I should have been examined and reported back on by now.

I will think of you on the roof, and see you in the New Year. Love to all chez Researcher.

Anonymous said...

Best for your health in the New Year Stephanie, and thank you for this lovely blog... lather on the sorbolene - wet cold face washers are good too.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Dear Cat, Yes, indeed; Mima is fifteen, but in good health; and a most faithful companion. I'll work on posting a photo of her and the fish...

Hi Meredith; face washer is a good idea. I've not much experience with sunburn and the nurses are ferocious about not using anything they haven't approved themselves. I'll see if I'm brave enough to mention paw-paw cream to Celia tomorrow: I've heard it's miraculous.