i’m going to need to take a bit of an ease off on twitter for a bit: partly because i am super behind on emails, and partly because i need to process the next bit of news. that, and i’m trying to write some stuff which is NOT just about cancer, and one is due on the 11th to submit to The Lifted Brow which i would love to be published in again.
anyhow. liver surgeon appointment this morning. surgery is still going ahead, no date decided yet. the procedure he needs to do has never been done in australia, and has only been done 50 times. it involves something to do with splitting a major artery, cutting bits up to kill the liver, stitching me up again, waiting a week, then going in and getting the right lobe out. Dr McLiver thinks there is probably cancer in my left lobe as well, which, by now, just makes me shrug in a ‘what the hell can i do about it’ kind of way. sort of like the lymph-nodes-surprise. hell, there’s bits of out of control bowel cells all through me. he wants to check my lungs for certain to see what is happening with the tumours/’spots’ in there, and is utterly unconcerned by the primary, as is everyone.
there is a 10-15% mortality rate, which essentially means i have an 85-90% chance of waking up. those are damn good odds, and i am chasing at anything right now to try and not die of liver failure. the lung cancers are my preferred way to go, because liver failure will slowly shut down organ after organ. that sounds right-royally terrible, and the lung option is surely preferable, right? right?
the surgery is My Choice. i get to decide if i should or should not have it. if i don’t, i will die soon. no one knows how long, but it’ll most likely be in the next few years. the surgery should extend my life by at least a few years. and by all accounts, once you get through it, and avoid any deadly complications, the liver regrows, and continues on its merry way. there’s not a great deal of long term terrible things that happen, and my long-term is pretty short term anyway. i’m going to do it.
all this just brings out a sort of fury in me for the weirdest thing: people who waste their lives. by this i mean: people who spend most of their life complaining about how it has gone wrong, bad choices, stuck doing Boring Things and whinging about it. now, this is completely different to people with mental health issues. what i mean here is people who are too lazy, too frightened, too disinterested, to do what they want to do with their lives. so they live a life of half-hearted things, feeling pity for their tough lot. i have no pity for them. i have nothing but resentment that they get a life-span i never get. they get opportunities i am never going to get. i am facing down six months of utter, miserable, life-threatening hell. i am going to come out of this with an abdomen full of scars, an ileostomy bag, a small chunk of liver, and chemotherapy for the rest of my life. on days like this, i don’t want to hear about people’s problems. normally i care. normally, i can state with no hesitation that suffering is relative, and just because i have cancer doesn’t mean other people’s ‘smaller’ issues don’t matter. right now though, i actually don’t care. i am angry, and sad, and my liver hurts because the tumours are either shrinking or growing, and i am tired, and i am sick of this. i am angry that this is the rest of my life. i am angry i can never go to america again. i am angry that i don’t have enough time to read all the books i wanted to read. these are all things that all of us need to face. there are always too many books, too many places to travel; an unimaginably large number of potential experiences, of which we can experience a few, even in a long lifetime. there is always more. and i have had a lot of awesome experiences. i’ve crammed a lot of things in, and i am proud of that, even the life choices people would judge me for. i remained authentic to what i wanted, even when those things were dumb. i regret hurting people, and that’s about it. also: please don’t tell me not to be angry. EVER. about anything. i am taking all of this unreasonably well, and i am allowed to be shitty some days.
on the other hand, the surgery is really cool. part of the reason i want to do it is, even if i do die, my surgeon, and the field of liver surgery, will learn more about how to treat and manage this sort of cancer. if i just don’t get it done, and die soon, i’ve not helped out in the way i could now. my life, and death, will matter because of this surgery. not that it doesn’t matter already, but i can help, by letting Dr McLiver at my rotten right lobe of doom and seeing what happens.
there’s a storm right now. it is beautiful and loud and makes the air smell alive. my plants are bright green, and we were drenched coming up the stairs. we drove home the long way, and it was beautiful too.
we- by which i mean people with access to the internet, people who live with this astonishing technology – live lives of amazing privilege. we have access to so many things that previous generations could never imagine. my toilet flushes. the medical technology exists to do things like radical liver surgery. i am in a position to be able to travel to sydney, able to see the most experienced surgeon at bilateral resections in australia, and able to scrape by and afford it. i have a life that past-me would envy. i have a goddamn fantastic existence, and i am bitter that it is shorter than i had thought it would be. it is always too short. i just get to die of something with time, technology, and excellent healthcare on my side. it is what it is. mortality is what it is. right now, doing what i can to extend my life is easy. the chemo was easy. radiation (though not life extending) is easy. the surgery? well, it will be uncomfortable, but i don’t actually personally have to do anything other than get needles shoved in me, lie in bed, and do what i’m told. there’s very little, in fact, that i have to do through all of this. cancer treatment is uncomfortable, but i still don’t know if the treatment is hard. conceptualising it is hard, and choosing to keep going is, i suppose.
the hard thing is the abstract nature of all of this. if i felt sick, or in pain, or anything at all other than completely healthy (other than exhausted, and anxious, and sick of going to hospitals all the time), maybe i could understand how grave the risk to my life is. but i feel fine. everything feels fine. i have stage IV cancer, i have had 6 months of intense, punch in the face chemotherapy, and i feel fine. i still wonder if it’s just that i have an extreme capacity to tolerate discomfort – i mean, the chemo was uncomfortable, but not painful. i didn’t vomit once, but the nausea was a bit of an irritation. the months of DoomFevers were pretty bad, but not as bad as they could have been. i don’t know. suffering is relative.
i’m sort of not wanting to talk more about the liver surgery at the moment then what i am posting on my blog, which is why i am a bit quiet (sorry, people i email if you are reading this!). this is weirdly hard to say out loud, and i don’t really want to go into it in more detail because i simply don’t HAVE more detail and don’t really understand it enough. conceptualising a risk, a mortality rate, is hard.
my surgeon said to me, with a smile, ‘i have a good feeling about this, elizabeth.’ right now, that’s as good as it gets; my liver surgeon’s good feeling, and my trust in his ability to segment my liver and re-route arteries and try, try, try, to give me a few more years. hopefully i’ll finish everything Patrick White has writte, and get through at least one Murnane book.
if there’s a make-a-wish foundation for adults, let me meet Gerald Murnane. we can talk about yabbies.