Brought to you by the letter P

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter P, as they used to say on Sesame Street. P is for pancreas. Here’s my pancreas Before.
Pancreas before By now I’d meant to alter my suite of crocheted guts to explore how they’ve changed before and after my debulking surgery, but the pancreas is as far as I’ve got. Before surgery I’d crocheted it free-form, without a pattern, learning how to do the bobbly bits on YouTube. This morning I pulled out some of its stuffing, poked the tail in on itself and sewed it off with black wool. And here it is, After.
Pancreas after I’m scared of my pancreas. It apparently disgorges acids that can eat through soft tissue, and if threatened can cause diabetes or make it hard to digest fats (chips!). Pancreatic cancer can carry you off very quickly, as happened with our wonderful local Independent federal member of parliament, Peter Andren. In hospital, before my conclusive diagnosis, Professor P casually said he hoped it wasn’t pancreatic cancer because it wasn’t really treatable and I’d be better off with ovarian cancer. So I was suddenly, bizarrely, hoping like hell I had ovarian cancer. Now, I’m trying to make friends with the remains of my pancreas (Professor P chopped off its tail on May 13) but it’s a hard call. It feels like an angry animal that might turn on me if I relax.

P is also for Pink Pills for Pale People. And for Patricia, my childhood friend from Carnarvon, whose family used to run Fong’s Drapery. She turned up here in Bathurst on Monday, just as I was falling into the ghastliness of a post-surgery blast of chemo. Tricia was asking me if I remembered the day we went into a temporary antique store on Stuart Street, in what used to be an old boarding house, where I bought a tiny bottle stamped with the words Pink Pills for Pale People. I didn’t remember the shop, or the day, or the bottle. Nothing was surfacing from the memory banks, nothing at all. Tricia wondered if we still had the bottle in the family. I said Mum might still have it. Then I remembered that just a few weeks ago, Mum had given me boxes of shells, feathers, rocks, driftwood and old bottles for safekeeping until she was sorted in her new home. I looked over at my display cabinet and saw three tiny bottles. I walked over, picked one up, and there it was: Pink Pills for Pale People.
Pink Pills for Pale People

Yesterday morning, I was a very Pale Person. After a hot shower I was standing there in the bathroom dealing with my weird post-surgery abdomen when I started listing and the world went dark. I hung onto the wall to stay upright and then Steve helped me slide down, slowly, to a position sitting on the floor. I saw myself, bald and miserable on the bathroom tiles, and felt Pissed Off (there’s that letter P) that all this was happening and that it was happening to me. But I didn’t actually faint. After a few minutes, even without a pink pill, I felt my paleness lift. Tricia made tea and toast with Vegemite, which revived me quickly, and a community nurse turned up and took my blood pressure and pronounced me not too badly off considering. Later, we drove up to show Patricia Bathurst from the top of Mt Panorama, and I looked out at the late afternoon sunlight picking out the shapes of the town and felt Peaceful. Really.

16 thoughts on “Brought to you by the letter P

  1. Helen Bergen

    I was wondering how you were travelling by now. Waiting for your paleness to lift into pink, xxx

  2. Deb

    I remember the Pink Pills for Pale People! I remember that bottle in the lounge room in Hill Street. I’m thinking you may need to request some blood taken for a Hb. Is there any plan to do that? Maybe mention it to the community nurse. Hope you feel less PALE and more PINK tomorrow xx

  3. John Kerrison

    Oh Tracy… I read these posts, and feel such a mix of emotions. I want you to know how much I enjoy your powerful and emotional prose: it’s a gift. But my heart also aches knowing a dear friend is going through such a terrible experience. You give me strength and I send all my love.

  4. Wayne

    Hey Tracy, I never quite know what to say to you after reading your posts. Your courage and equanimity in the face of such undeserved hardship and personal pain never fails to amaze and inspire. I hope and pray for your swift and complete recovery. Wayne

  5. Ian

    Hi Tracy, like other people have said you never fail to provide a good read even though we all wish we weren’t reading what we are. Thanks for sharing your journey and wisdom with us.

  6. Bec Bowman

    Tracy, like your friends above have said, I feel unsure of what to say when I read your posts. So amazed by your powerful words and your powerful self but so sad that you are going through such hard times. Take care x

  7. Merrill

    My 86 year old mum, Dorothy, who, as you know, is good at crocheting ‘bobbly bits’, is very impressed by your pancreas, Tracy! She sends her love (as I do) wants to know (again) if you’d like one of her crocheted hats decorated with non-pancreatic ‘bobblies’. Very floral. I’m thinking maybe you could crochet together for the next Bathurst Beanie Show once you’re through all this.

    And all those Carnarvon links …. 🙂

  8. Heidi

    Tracy, your words show such PEP. That’s a ‘p’ I hope stays with you always. I also hope your pink comes back soon. xo

  9. Margaret Jakovac

    Ugh … I felt a flush of pink when reading about you almost blacking out in the shower … youch.
    As someone else who also had body bits removed untimely due to a nasty overgrowth, there’s something liberating about their removal. “TAKE EM OUT”, I told my surgeon after the diagnosis.
    Afterwards, there was a feeling of lightness within and of course that rational knowing that the self-poisoning parts are gone. And hopefully don’t spontaneously re-appear.
    When I heard that the uterus is about the size of a pear – there’s a ‘p’ word again – I acquired ‘signifiers’ of pears, mostly ornaments and even named my then-pup the Croatian word for ‘pear’. Something tangible to make up for the loss of these body bits. I’m seeing some parallels in you creating externalised body parts … but I love how you’re creating them and fashioning them into something so artful. For me holding the jade pear I’d been gifted after my surgery offered me nicely disguised moments to grieve for my missing body bits. i wonder if your creations function for you in this way, too?
    When I asked my surgeon what happened to the bits they’d removed, he told me they’d been incinerated. As weird as it sounds, I got the image of the smoke, the ash melding with the Sydney metropolis air and earth around the hospital (where I presumed the incinerator was), connecting me forever to this state and my fav’ city in Australia, Sydney. (I’m a Melbournian). The take-home message was that part of me will always belong in this city, this state – I’m forever linked to it. I’m ok with that. A gain after a loss.
    Ok back to work for me now! If you’d like to catch up for a cuppa or if I can help out in anyway, lemme know.

  10. Linda Fogg (nee thomas)

    Dear Tracy,
    My P word after reading your blog is PERFECT.
    PERFECTLY Written, PERFECTLY Entertaining along with your PERFECT disposition. Now all we need is a PERFECT recovery and we will really have a PERFECT ending to your wonderfully written blogs. All my love and PRAYERS another P word i thought Id slip in there too. Linda xxxxx

  11. vivchook

    I don’t know why, but I can’t bear to read these Posts on Thursdays – I Procrastinate perversely, but I think it’s because of the pangs of sadness, mixed with awe, that I feel for you, Squawks.
    Regarding your near-faint – it’s to do with Pressure. You’ve had lots of bits in your tummy removed, so the natural pressure in your abdomen has been altered, which then alters the forces controlling the return of blood to your heart & lungs – and brain Perfusion. A long warm shower will cause greater dilation of your blood vessels, & so the blood doesn’t get to your heart & brain as well, making you black-out. If you can fit one in, I would hire a shower chair from the chemist, so you can still enjoy your showers, but are less likely to collapse. Practical advice, I hope.. with love. And Bok-boks.

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