Written on the Body #47, January 3, 2022: Another Year Begins

This began on Dec. 23: So here I am, back in hospital for the second round of chemo. I had no bad reactions last week, either in the hospital or during the few days at home, and so far feel okay after the second dose on Dec. 23. As before, I have to stay for 36 hours after the infusion finishes, so expect to go home Saturday early afternoon if all is well. I am more relaxed this time, knowing a bit more what to expect — but then (as a friend of mine wrote in another context) it is like the old “Whip” ride in amusement parks: things are going along fast but pretty smoothly and then, zap!, the “Whip” throws you for a loop. We cope and keep on coping.

Being in hospital is a strange experience — feeling detached from everyday life, cared for (and being tested and prodded) but with no ordinary responsibilities. When I got home last Saturday, I found our townhouse so full of stimulation — colours, sounds, smells, more space to walk around in,, even Roger’s comfortable and welcome presence were a bit overwhelming. (I haven’t been overnight in any hospital since 1987, and don’t remember much about that. Zoom, texts, and emails do keep me in touch with the world while here, and I use them often. I have been thinking of Sylvia Plath’s wonderful and , in some ways terrifying, poem “Tulips” about a time she was in the hospital. I am not as far removed from the world and my own identity as the narrator of the poem — but I can understand how she felt.

Meanwhile, the food is still pretty good, my hemoglobin is way up from the transfusion — giving me more energy — I have some books to read (one is an urban fantasy about vampires: interesting when you consider all the blood they are taking for testing, and all the blood I received in the transfusion). Another is Me Sexy, edited by Drew Hayden Taylor, Indigenous playwright and fiction writer, who has compiled several collections of essays by Indigenous people on various subjects: humour, sex and intimacy (fighting both stereotypes and also the Residential school history of abuse), art, and the latest one about “Tomorrow.”

now January 3: Then the Whip hit — I came down with a violent stomach bug (and it is very hard to get to the washroom when you are attached to an IV machine!), I was put into isolation (just a room of my own), given medicine for the bug — which calmed down over the next 24 or so hours, and had to submit to a variety of more tests (which showed this was a bug, not side-effects of treatment). And I survived “making a mess in public” — the thing we all dread since about 3 years old — with the help of a wonderful night nurse named Stephanie, comforting and efficient at the same time.

I was able to be home by around 6:00 on Christmas night, so Roger and I had a good evening together, opening presents and just glad to be together. I have been resting a lot, and start treatment as an out-patient this Thursday, every 3 weeks.

This is certainly not the opening of the new year we hoped it would be, with omicron spreading like the wildfires we’ve seen around the planet. Another lash of the Whip in this ride of life. I wish you all peace, good health, time with loved ones, safety, and the good sense to take care of ourselves and others. And governments that provide firm and effective leadership during this crisis — which has shown us gaps in the social network that need fixing, far beyond covid itself. Thanks again to family and friends, near and far, for being part of my life. We are all interconnected — people, animals and plants, land and ocean and air.

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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