Written On the Body: Good News, and Thought on Private and Public Information

This is the week between chemo treatments, though the side-effects are persisting a bit. I have, however, had good results from a CT scan — no new lesions in my liver, nor in any other part of my body, and those there are getting marginally smaller. This is a sign of hope. Even my doctor smiled broadly as he gave me the news. He’s actually given me a pause of another two weeks between treatments, so my body can rest and be ready for the next round.

So this leads into something I’ve been thinking about — how one’s body, both the visible, felt body and one’s internal organs, become much more public during a time of illness or injury and treatment. Privately, you become more aware of all your symptoms and nuances of feeling and sensation. Is this a side-effect? a new symptom? something completely different? And on the public side, various professional people ask you to monitor all kinds of bodily functions that normally you take for granted or notice only in passing; then they want you to share this information with them — information you normally would keep to yourself, or perhaps mention only to a spouse or partner. Then there are the blood tests, CT scans, and other tests that monitor the interior secrets of the body — things no one, including yourself, can know without these procedures. Things that would have seemed miraculous to people living in previous centuries, or even 50 years ago. Amazing that a test can show, for example, not only the interior of one’s liver and other organs, but measure the change in size of a lesion from 7 millimetres to 5, or define the exact genetic structure of a particular tumour, which helps determine the appropriate medications. “Body language” takes on a whole new meaning, a new vocabulary and grammar.

Friends, too, want to know at least some of these medical details, not in a professional way but interested in how you are doing. And you find, surprisingly, that it is okay to talk about. (Very different from the days of my childhood, when the “C-word” implied shame and secrecy, at least for my family and many others).

And then it is good to take a break, sit in the July sunshine watching the day lilies open their orange hearts, and be grateful for this day, the people in it, the ongoing life around us.

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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1 Response to Written On the Body: Good News, and Thought on Private and Public Information

  1. Pat L. says:

    Ellen I’m glad to hear you’ve gotten good news!!

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