Tuesday 19 May 2009

we've all been changed from what we were....

I saw this poem in the Guardian the other day, and it struck a chord:

Needle Biopsy 22/12/08 by John Updike

All praise be Valium in Jesus' name:
a CAT-scan needle biopsy sent me
up a happy cul-de-sac, a detour not
detached from consciousness but sweetly part-
I heard machines and experts murmuring about me-
a dulcet tube in which I lay secure and warm
and thought creative thoughts, intensely so,
as in my fading prime. Plans flowered, dreams.

All would be well, I felt, all manner of thing.
The needle, carefully worked, was in me, beyond pain,
aimed at an adrenal gland. I had not hoped
to find, in this bright place, so solvent a peace.
Days later, the results came casually through:
the gland, biopsied, showed metastasis.

Updike died of this cancer on 27th January 2009.

I'm not being melodramatic here, and our situations are very different....it's just that I've spent some time being tested in hospitals recently, and I think I sort of know what he meant. There's a kind of zen-like calm that descends when you are enveloped in an MRI scanner: you're there for a very serious purpose, of course, and the results may have a profound impact on your life, but whilst encased in that tube, I found myself oddly detached from myself and from my problems.

I found out this morning that my appointments for a lumbar puncture and for an evoked potential test are in the post. So it rather looks as though I'll be spending a bit more time yet in the immediate future desperately seeking that same sense of calm and detachment as a large needle is inserted between two vertebrae and into my spinal chord.

I was also contacted today by the company who will become the regular suppliers of the drugs that I'm going to take to try to control and to slow down my condition. At some point tomorrow, I will become the proud owner of my very own injection kit: needles, syringes, drug mix, injector thingie to shoot the needle into my thigh and even my own sharps box.... the works (delivered to my office, no less). I suppose that at some point shortly after that, I'll start the course of weekly injections that are going to become my routine for the foreseeable future.

It's all good, right?


  1. Yes it is, and you will be apples.

    It takes a weirdly short amount of time to adjust to things that, before you get to them, seem immense and insurmountable. The injecting will become as normal as brushing your teeth.

    As for the lumbar puncture... well ow, but hey. This too shall pass.

    You'll be ZenSwiss again in no time flat. I'm sure of it. Keep on keeping on, pickle.

  2. What an evocative poem.

    There is something very peaceful about being in that tube, you're right.

    I hope that Queenie is right, that you're able to adjust to the injections quickly. And I'm sorry to hear about the lumbar puncture. I second her there as well. Because she is so wise. ;0) Hope all goes well!

  3. I've only been told about lumbar punctures. I'm keeping those stories to myself, because your experience will be much better. I'm employing 'thinking makes it so' magic here.


    luv the WV..wirksly

  4. Ha! Aravis has more wisdom in her left knee than I have in my entire body.

    Bless her for being a sweetie anyway. Ignore that lumbar puncture comment, they involves nothing but fairies throwing bluebells at you while you eat ice cream sundaes (actually have no idea what they involve, but just to cancel out the inadvertently ominous tone of comment 3).

  5. Involves? Involve. I dunt know nuffink about grammars.

    OK, OK, I'm going.