last minute packing: sydney: surgery

i was going to write an entry about my lungs. in summary, there are either secondaries, fungus, or TB, and there’s no way of telling without a biopsy. if they aren’t cancer, there’s a chance, if they can somehow get it all out of my liver, that i’ll come out the other side of this. this is unlikely.

i was going to write about the experience of writing my will, of trying to find places for all my objects. as it stands, i have a spreadsheet that i need to print out, and there is no way i can work out a way to make sure everyone i love gets a part of my belongings. in essence, if i die, i’ll be asking everyone to take a book or two to remember me by. my books contain the best of me.

i’m not really sure what i should write about though.

late last week i had an article published on Overland, here. it’s about how the decisions people with cancer make are complicated. right now, i’m in the position of being about to act on a decision i made – to go ahead with the risky surgery that gives me a greater chance of extending my life, if it is successful. this is my choice, and i am under a week off the operation.

it’s still unclear how it will go, and i’m not sure of most of the details. all i know is, at some point, i will wake up in the ICU with tubes running out of me. if i wake up.

i’ve had to work on mentally battling what it means to perhaps be dead in under a week. is this my last sunday with a cat sleeping next to me, as i talk on the internet with friends? is this the last time i will lie in bed, late at night, staring at the roof as i can’t sleep? is this the last autumn i will see the leaves change? is this the last birthday i will have, in early april, while i am probably still intubated?

by now, i almost feel more comfortable about what it will mean if i die, rather than what it will mean if i don’t. there is no way i can understand what will happen when i wake up – how bad it will be, how much it will hurt, how uncomfortable i will be. will i have an anxiety attack because i’m on assisted breathing? will i remember anything?

the whole idea of losing a stack of time scares me as well. they will put in a cannula in the back of my hand, numbing the area first, and they will put in a pre-anaesthetic sedative. i will likely not remember anything after this, until i am out of the ICU. or just fragments. how do i exist in that space which i can’t remember? i know i’ll be there, and i know things will happen to me, but i’ll have no way of piecing together the sequence or the meaning of events.

it is this huge gaping unknown. preparing for life is harder for me in this instance than preparing for death. because if i die, i die. if i live, there is a whole new set of things, a whole new set of risks, and a whole lot of pain.

i’ve been reassured that the pain will be minimised. but even the process of this frightens me. an epidural will be painful to insert. the invasion of my body with tubes will be unavoidable. i need these things to live. and i am afraid. the fear isn’t crippling though – it is, in fact, far less than i expected.

at breakfast this morning i saw my psychiatrist. she gave me a hug, and said she would see me on the other side. i trust her. my oncologist set up my appointment for when i return from sydney, with no real concern that i’ll be dead. i trust him. my nurses all are amazingly reassuring, and help me remember that this is risky, it is major, major surgery, and it is ok to be afraid. but more likely than not, i will be on the other side of it soon. not just yet, but soon.

i am afraid of the changes this will mean for my body. more internally than externally. but i guess, there are weird, weird things happening in there anyhow – i mean, i’ve had a liver full of tumours for years, and a little pain in the butt (HAHAH) rectal tumour for god knows how long. so, there are changes, but there always were changes to how i perceived my body. how impaired will i be? what will i be missing? again, i just don’t know what it will mean.

i just finished packing. i’ve got about 20 books – a lot of which i have no real intention of reading – i just want them there for emotional support, if that makes any sense at all? Phillip Larkin’s works – not the huge bound edition, but the slimmer green one, one book of Yates, a stack of poetry, and a few newer novels. i sort of just want them stacked up next to me. it’s hard to distill what will comfort me down to a small stack: my books are important, and the thought of leaving them terrifies me.

there’s also a collection of various things: a wooden box that i’ve kept keepsakes in, with things from highschool to the last few years – photos, and letters, and little bits and bobs. cards people have made me. i can’t fit everything in there that i wish i could. i might ask people to send cards, just so i have something to hold onto. i am taking four stuffed toys, and a blanket with cats on it. these are my security blankets. my toy liver, and Gender Non-Specific Bat will look over men.

i am picking songs for my potential funeral service.

asleep: the smiths is about the first i’ve come up with, and then i get stuck. i want bits of my life, my scattered strange past, all through it.


anyhow. there’s a picture of me i took earlier today. this is the last night in canberra before the surgery.


About elizabeth

various things.
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2 Responses to last minute packing: sydney: surgery

  1. I’m glad you’ll have your books with you. I feel safe with my word friends nearby too.

    A friend and workmate of mine chose some heavy metal, a piece of opera, and “Always look on the bright side of life” (that was the song for us to take a moment to think about her) to sum up some of the things she liked. They fitted surprisingly well together.

  2. Wozza says:

    I’ll be thinking of you, and be mentally sending strength to both you and your wombie.
    I expect you will continue being the exception to the rule, and startle your Drs with remarkable resilience and rapid improvement.

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