Week 25: Slowly bouncing back

It has been a slower recovery than expected. The Prednisone ‘fixed’ my GvHD gut issues, but the short-term side effects hit me, mainly heartburn and headaches. So a fair amount of discomfort but not enough to prevent me from resuming some short walks, seeing and talking to some friends, and getting back into my regular program of reading and the family tree.

And the good news was that by the end of the week, I no longer had to dream about food with flavour but was largely able to eat what I wanted (but in moderation of course) and work on regaining some of my weight.

I will discuss with the medical team when and whether I can start reducing the dose to see if that relieves the side effects. Ideally, I would like to go back to Entecort, the less powerful steroid that only affects the gut, as this worked well for me in the fall (but of course that was also when I was on the immunosuppressant Tacrolimus, and so my situation is different now). Always good to raise the issue and see what they say  – expect I will have to be on Prednisone for another 2 weeks or so before we start playing with the dosage or medication again.

We made it out to see The Iron Lady which, despite the mixed reviews and some of the controversy about portraying her in her old age with her hallucinations, we found to be very sympathetic to her human side. The portrayal of her relationship with Dennis was touching, as was her struggle to make it in a party, and a society, where privilege counted. The compromises she had to make with her kids, and the aftermath, were also sensitively portrayed. A more interesting and successful portrait than I had expected and as usual, Meryl Streep was superb.

We also watched In the Heat of the Night, the Norman Jewison film about 1960s Mississippi and the racial and other tensions between the two leads, Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. Still a classic, for the characters, the story, and how it captures that period and place in America – not pretty.

I also finally got around to reading the Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson (my hints of what I would like for my birthday were answered). Many of you have likely read the main excerpts. It is an easy read, even if Jobs is so frustrating and annoying in many aspects of his professional and personal life. However, his genius in being able to focus and simplify, see ‘where the puck is going’, and be at that intersection point, as he puts it, of liberal arts and technology, is amazing (disclosure: apart from an old PC, all our products are Apple now).

It also made me reflect a bit on leadership in general. The government context is different. ‘Insanely great’ largely does not work as government is intrinsically more consensus-based and cautious, with a focus on stewardship. Strong change leaders are often weeded out and the dynamic between the political and bureaucratic levels also plays out (for American readers, Canadian senior officials are from the public service, not political appointees – think Yes Minister series).

I was lucky enough to work for a change leader, and while not without some of the warts of a Steve Jobs, it was incredibly motivating, and we were able to do really innovative things. But too much so for the government – risk concerns – so a more conventional leader was put in place (and I moved as the excitement was gone). Similarly, having a dynamic Minister changes everything, and I have also been fortunate to have worked for one. So even in my comparatively protected environment, I have some appreciation for how quirks, good and bad, and charisma motivate people.

The latest Leonard Cohen album, Old Ideas, came out this week and I really enjoyed discovering it. Come Healing (click to listen) is my favourite track (has some echoes of Anthemn that also speaks to me). Some sample lyrics:

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above

O let the heavens falter
And let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Had some good visits and chats with friends this week. Along with walking again, it always feels good when one gets out of isolation!

And lastly, on a more mundane level, my January Stats of the most popular page views apart from the Home Page.

  1. Chefs, Butlers and Marble Baths – Not Your Average Hospital Room – NYTimes.com
  2. A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond – NYTimes.com
  3. Really? The Claim: Listening to Music Can Relieve Pain – NYTimes.com
  4. Secrets of Cancerhood Blog: Things Not to Say
  5. Elderly ‘Experts’ Share Life Advice in Cornell Project – NYTimes.com and A doctor’s letter to a patient with newly diagnosed cancer

Should be another recovery week if all goes well. Objective is to gain back some of weight I lost – I now know I should always have a bit of a reserve!