I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I'm ten days out from surgery, now, and yesterday had my first day without a long nap in the middle of the day. It's been up and down over the last week, as my wounds heal. Numbness and pain come and go somewhat unpredictably as the nerve endings gradually reconnect. Nothing that a little paracetemol can't lighten, however. There was good news from the surgeon, too, when we went to see her on Tuesday: the surgical margin around the carcinoma was "clear", and there was no sign of cancer in the lymph nodes they examined. This was the best possible result from the surgery, though in a week or so's time I'll start several months of chemotherapy, before tackling a combination of radiotherapy and hormone therapy. I will meet the oncologist next week to plan out the first stage, along with Suzanne, my surgeon, and either Rose or Irene, one of the nurses. I like very much this sense that my case is still being managed by the team, rather than being referred along a chain. My own doctor, Barbara, also went along to the team meeting about my case last week.

I have also made an appointment with my hairdresser to pre-empt some of the difficulties of hair loss by starting out the chemotherapy with something a little shorter and more manageable. The breast cancer book suggests you choose a wig before you start treatment, too, but I can't get my head around that idea yet. I did check out a website that had a rather fetching Cleopatra-style number with plaits and gold beads.... We'll see about that later, perhaps.

This is a period of hiatus, then. It is odd to be starting to feel a bit stronger, but knowing I will become a lot sicker before the end of my treatment. I do need to think a little about what I can commit to for next year in terms of teaching, some visitors I had invited to Melbourne for February, the conference I'd planned to attend in Adelaide, the seminar I'd planned to organise in Melbourne, the grant I'd planned to apply for, and the writing I'd planned to do, to say nothing of the many administrative tasks that need to be done in my newly formed school and the re-structured Arts Faculty over the next few years. Of course I want to be well enough, eventually, to pick up most of my normal load, but it really does seem premature to be making too many confident plans at this stage. All the advice I am receiving, from colleagues, friends, and the medical team, in particular, says I should take things slowly, but I seem to have internalised some very powerful imperatives about service to the university that sit uncomfortably with the idea of concentrating on the immediate needs of my treatment and my long-term health.

It is also normally my job to make two enormous Christmas puddings, for my own family, and for Paul's, but the thought of chopping and stirring the piles of dried fruit and wielding the wooden spoon through all the eggs and butter just sets those nerve endings in my upper arm tingling unbearably. This task, being more immediate, is easier to set aside.

One of the good things about the timing of this hiatus is that I hope to be well enough to attend some of the Cultural Translations conference this week. This is a two-day seminar of papers for the ARC Network for Early European Research, and will be the first conference to put a bunch of medievalists, early modernists and Australian cultural historians in a room together for two days. It feels awkward to have set up a conference with colleagues and then leave them and others to do all the hard work in the weeks before the event. However, it turns out that I am not, in fact, indispensable: the seminar, like so many other projects, will proceed perfectly well without me, thanks to the generosity and willingness of friends and colleagues to step into the breach. Here's one lesson learned, perhaps.

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