Year 1, Week 8: Life Goes On


Life goes on, as we follow the predictable chemo cycle as it moves into the recovery phase, and yet have time for nice walks and the like.

Some further observations on Swiss cancer care, following a post-chemo clinic follow-up:

  • An interesting mix of thoroughness and sloppiness. Blood counts are taken but weight and blood pressure are not, even though weight loss is an important indicator;
  • Different advice between the oncologist and the dietician, the oncologist basically saying no restrictions (apart from raw foods given low immunity) and the dietician taking a more nuanced approach, saying within reason as long as your body can tolerate any changes (e.g., richer food);
  • The ongoing lack of standard follow-up med sheets to provide clarity – learning from this round has enabled us to be better equipped for the next round, but this really should already be in place (in addition to the table I have prepared!);
  • No electronic file integration between the hospital and the oncologist (essentially like a private practice) but the oncologist keeps all his patient notes on his computer, and essentially types them while reading them out loud to the patient, a good practice; and,
  • We have warmed up to the oncologist who is proving to be generous with his time and explanations, open to our concerns and questions, and has the right degree of directness and frankness to inspire confidence, even when discussing some of the uncertainties.

I finished Joseph Anton and the second half is more about Rushdie’s campaign to have greater personal freedom (some wonderful security vignettes populate the book, as he ‘claws back’ his right to a more normal life) as well as the broader campaign for freedom of thought and speech, and how he had to learn how to play that role. He in particular treasures his time in the US where security restrictions, after the first few visits, were essentially dropped and he was able to have a normal life.

The messiness of his personal life continues, as he suffers from ‘old rich man’ disease of falling for a model, and a bitter but eventually reconciled divorce with the mother of his second child. If some of Adele’s lyrics on failed romances and break-ups are harsh, some of Rushdie’s make these appear gentle in comparison, although not with the women with whom he had children.

As a sadly ironic backdrop, is the man of the fatwa lives, as far too many of his friends are struck by cancer, including the wife of his first son, who bore the brunt of raising Zafar when his movements were most constrained.

The one quote is when he notes his ‘little battle’ coming to an end, as prologue to 9/11:

…. And he too refused anger. Rage made you the creature of those who enraged you, it gave them too much power. Rage killed the mind, and now more than ever the mind needed to live, to find a way of rising above the mindlessness.

He chose to believe in human nature, and in the universality of its rights and ethics and freedoms, and to stand against the fallacies of relativism that were at the heart of the invective of the armies of the religious (we hate you because we aren’t like you) and of their fellow travellers in the West, too, many of whom, disappointingly, were on the left. If the art of the novel revealed anything, it was that human nature was the great constant, in any culture, in any place, in any time, and that, as Heraclitus had said two thousand years earlier, a man’s ethos, his way of being in the world, was his daimon, the guiding principle that shaped his life – or, in the pithier, more familiar formulation of the idea, that character was destiny. It was hard to hold on to that idea while the smoke of death stood in the sky over Ground Zero and the murders of thousands of men and women whose characters had not determined their fates were on everyone’s mind, it hadn’t mattered if they were hard workers or generous friends or loving parents or great romantics, the planes hadn’t cared about their ethos; and yes, now terrorism could be destiny, war could be destiny, our lives were no longer wholly ours to control; but still our sovereign natures needed to be insisted on, perhaps more than ever amid the horror, it was important to speak up for individual human responsibility, to say that the murderers were morally responsible for their crimes, and neither their faith nor their rage at America was any excuse; it was important, at a time of gargantuan, inflated ideologies, not to forget the human scale, to continue to insist on our essential humanity, to go on making love, so to speak, in a combat zone.

It ends on an anti-climactic note, appropriately enough, as his restrictions in the UK are dropped at long last.

I also read Christopher Hitchens short book, Mortality. Not too much new, as much of the material comes from earlier pieces in Vanity Fair (some which have been removed from their website – to help sales of the book?). My earlier post Christopher Hitchens on Mortality | Brain Pickings has some of the better ones, with this one on cancer etiquette  that I liked:

But it’s not really possible to adopt a stance of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ either. Like its original, this is a prescription for hypocrisy and double standards. Friends and relatives, obviously, don’t really have the option of not making kind inquiries. One way of trying to put them at their ease is to be as candid as possible and not to adopt any sort of euphemism or denial. the swiftest way of doing this is to note that the thing about Stage Four is that there is no such thing as Stage Five. Quite rightly, some take me up on it….

So my proposed etiquette handbook would impose duties on me as well as upon those who say too much, or too little, in an attempt to cover the inevitable awkwardness in diplomatic relations between Tumortown and its neighbours. If you want an instance of exactly how not to be an envoy from the former, I would offer you both the book and the video of The Last Lecture…. It should bear its own health warning: so sugary that you may need an insulin shot to withstand it. Pausch used to work for Disney and it shows….

I hit over 100,000 total page views last month which sounds like a lot but of course is not in the blogosphere and my most popular posts in September were (apart from weekly updates and pages):

  1. Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent 50% of Common Cancers
  2. MD Anderson ‘Moon Shots’ Program Streaming Advisory
  3. ‘You Learn’ – Poem by Borges
  4. I am a physician and guns are a disease
  5. Really? Using a Computer Before Bed Can Disrupt Sleep –

And lastly, I have essentially completed the publishing process for my book, having uploaded the contents to the Amazon and Kobo, and working out the last few glitches on iBookstore for the iPad edition. Kind of amusing in a way the amount of work required to ‘dumb-down’ the formatting and graphics for the Amazon and Kindle editions, and seeing just how basic it looks on the Amazon devices (Kobo does not yet have a previewer!). But it is done, with the iPad edition the richest in layout, graphics, and visuals. I will do a soft launch a few days before the hard launch to make sure everything is working as it should.

Weather has been good here, and so we have discovered some new walks and parks that are most enjoyable.

A somewhat mixed Thanksgiving for us, being here in Switzerland while our kids are back in Canada, the first time we have not celebrated together. But so it is, and we Skype.

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers.


3 thoughts on “Year 1, Week 8: Life Goes On

  1. 100000 views…absolutely amazing! I am sitting on 7900…long way to go!! Switzerland is one of my favorite countries in the world. It is so beautiful, the air is so fresh and it is such an efficient nation. Love their punctuality! Good luck with the chemo. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  2. Andrew my IPad is primed and waiting! Spoke to a techie guy from Vancouver on Sat nite at a wedding and he works for an outfit that will contact you (along with about 5 others or so) after your You Tube hits have surpassed 100k or so. They will launch you with ads etc and he has clients making over 100k a year on this. Very low tech explaination but fascinating…..a new world out there just waiting for you! How fortunate your Consuegra has to have you with her. V/B

    • Hi Vicky, love to see your entrepreneurial drive and enthusiasm! Thank you so much – now I just have to finish the Youtube version :). Best, Andrew

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