It’s all about the numbers. My third chemo session is scheduled for next Tuesday, but I doubt it’s going to happen, because my numbers aren’t any good. I’m getting wise to the system. My platelets are 51 (normal is 150-400) and my neutrophils are 0.23 (normal is 2-7). The neutrophils are particularly worrying because they fight infection, so at the moment I’m avoiding public places – anywhere people are likely to be sneezing or snuffling. I’d been feeling fabulous for a week, swanning around in my Look Good Feel Better wigs and makeup, but at lunch time today I felt something start to unravel. That everything-is-too-much-trouble feeling came back. This is, apparently, my nadir. For me, the word nadir suggests despair, hopelessness, darkest moments. But for my nurses it just means “lowest blood count after chemotherapy”. It’s one of those words I’d read but never heard anyone say. I have discovered it’s pronounced nay-deer.

During my feeling-fab week, I went along to a talk by Ray Mjadwesch about kangaroos in a brown wig and hat (I was in the brown wig and hat, not the kangaroos). Kangaroos have been heavily under discussion here in Bathurst, with renewed calls for the kangaroos of Mount Panorama to be shot to keep them off the race track during the V8 car race in October. Kangaroos are said to be in “plague proportions” at the moment, and some residents living near the mountain are said to be anxious about being bashed up by the big bucks. Ecologist Ray Mjadwesch has joined the debate on the side of the kangaroos. In his presentation at the bowling club last Sunday he argued that contrary to the common perception that kangaroo numbers had “exploded” since the arrival of European farming methods (turning swathes of bush into wheat fields to nibble), kangaroo numbers across Australia had actually declined precipitously.

In the nineteenth century, their numbers were deliberately driven down by great culling drives. The process of herding kangaroos into a high-walled corral and killing them in their hundreds – using guns, cudgels, swords and spears – was known as a battue. People would gather from miles around to enjoy the spectacle.

Today, argued Ray, the idea that kangaroo numbers are “exploding”, requiring culling, continues. A key beneficiary of this narrative is the kangaroo meat industry which relies on a steady supply for a growing export market. In New South Wales, the quota for commercial culling is set according to surveys of kangaroo numbers. These surveys are carried out by means of fly-over observations. Ray argued that the numbers were flawed, because the fly-overs emphasised national park areas, where kangaroo numbers are relatively high, rather than focusing on agricultural areas, where kangaroo numbers are relatively low. He said the commercial kangaroo industry was facing declining numbers in far western New South Wales, “so they’re coming into this region.”

But back to Bathurst and the car race. Thinking about it afterwards, I’m not sure whether we really need to worry about kangaroo numbers on Mount Panorama. If we just build a kangaroo-proof fence all the way around the track then surely that will solve the problem? Meanwhile, here’s my YouTube clip from 2009 showing Ray taking a dead kangaroo up to the council chambers in protest against the 2009 pre-race cull. And here’s a link to Ray’s nomination of kangaroos as a threatened species under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. So, are kangaroo numbers exploding or heading for their nadir? I don’t know, but I certainly think Ray’s critique of kangaroo-counting methodology in New South Wales is worth further investigation.

The other thing I was working on pre-nadir (by the way, my blood counts should start rising again by early next week – they did last time) was my Waste-to-Art exhibition entry. As discussed in previous posts, I’ve been getting rid of years of mental junk mail contained in a pile of exercise books – old journals – mostly by burning them but also by pulping and recycling the paper. I’m planning to create an entry called “Spilling my guts” in which the paper recycled from my old journals is used to tell a new story in pictures and words – about my threatened guts. Here’s some pics of work in progress.

Ready for consigning to the flames…

The burning…

Or maybe soaking and pulping…

Recycling station.

Drying the new pages.

New pages spilling from an old journal.

Detail: The omentum. The omentum hangs like an apron from the bottom of stomach and over the intestines. I’m quite likely to lose my omentum during surgery planned to take place after my third chemo session. Goodbye omentum; I hardly knew you.

Lifting the apron to reveal the guts underneath.

I’ve been restricting myself to red and blue biro – the same as those used to write my original journal entries. But I’m longing for a bit of colour. I’m feeling the need to jazz it all up, so I just might.

10 thoughts on “Nadir

  1. Julia Manning

    the back yard was colonised by Traces (pink and grey galahs) today. You are a funny, whimsical individual. A delightfully original thinker. You are just you, Tracy, and thank God for that. Always a delight.

  2. karen woodhall

    Hmmm, “nadir” it sounds Arabic, will have to investigate.
    Yes, I know what they feel like! The “Dark nights of the Soul”
    Unfortunately, they have to be endured. Hold onto the things that make you happy, or make you laugh!
    Love the “momentous omentum” (or is it un-momentous, since nobody knows it’s there?)
    Come on goodly platelets and neutrophils; multiply, fight! xxxx

  3. Louise Mustard

    Wow. The things you learn! Who’d have thought we all had an omentum. I love the ‘Spilling my guts’ project. Sounds like such a lovely cleansing and renewing process. Makes me think about all the boxes in my studio full of papers and exercise books and diaries. Afraid to let go of them because they define me. I love the idea of just making them into something new. The old stuff is still there in some form or another, but has evolved! How liberating! Here’s to a very brief Nadir followed by a swift increase in vitality and wellbeing. Lou x

  4. Tony

    Ahhhhh, the nay-deer, the rock bottom off which we bounce or upon which we splat. What an enjoyable piece, Tracy.

    Pulping old journals is not an idea that would have ocurred to me on its own. I have this worship of my old journals, even the early, embarrassing ones, that has made me hang onto them even as I’ve zapped pretty much everything else that didnt fit in a backpack. When my journal was stolen with my daypack in a café during my travels I wept for the lost narrative of my adventures, the maps and drawings and all those words I had taken such pains to craft. Years later I came back to Sydney to find that all the drawings and journals I had kept – twenty years’ worth or so – that I had left in a fabulous suitcase with a prestigious brand name up high on a shelf where nothing would touch it, had been placed on the ground during a furniture shift and been turned to topsoil when the basement flooded. I thought I would mourn for years but I intead felt nothing, or at least not much, for a few minutes before placing the suitcase in a dumpster in the back lane. I bicycled off feeling, somehow, light.

    Your recycling effort – burn, pulp, I find much more poetic, much more deliberate, much more in keeping with the chracter of a person who will both take responsibility for her fate and play a defining role in shaping it.

    Kangaroo culling. What is it about Australia that causes us to make such gigantic scientific, social, technological strides on one hand, to innovate and lead the world on moment and behave so abysmally as soon as the following breath is drawn? The spurious and self-serving arguments favouring the kangaroo meat export sector seem to reflect all that is wrong today with applied democracies round the planet. They are far too easily purchased by the private sector. Sinking great heaping slimy bucketfulls of their filthy money into the res publica, non-democratic and even anti-democratic corporations purchase media and decision-makers and shape a public opinion too weak to defend itself and too unprotected by the corporatised State to mount any sort of opposition beyond an underresourced and underfunded community sector response. Democracy has revealed its primary weakness: it is cheaply purchased when it is inadequately defended against the predators of the corporate sector and the legislators they buy who sit in Parliament. I wish Ray the best with his campaign. I fear a shitty outcome while our schizoid nation decides to behave more like some third-rate banana republic than like the country that contributed the pace maker, the female vote and the hills hoist to civilisation.

    Omentum sounds like it should mean something like “the energy that comes from collectively shutting our eyes and humming during group meditation sessions.” I’m sorry to hear it is something we can only lose, and not gain. I’ll be curious to read Spilling My Guts.

    Thank you, great big hugs from all the way out here, and good night.

  5. Helen Bergen

    It occurred to me that my constant use now of black pens – felt pens – would end up turning my mental junk mail into shades of grey. Nothing like the mauve/pale blue shades of your transformed mental meanderings. What does that say about my headspace?

    May your nay-deer pass quickly and climb into the light as soon as it can. This sounds a repeat of your body’s reaction last time?

    oh – and a Japanese journalist rang Ray yesterday (nothing to do with the kangaroo talk – referred by UTS) to talk about how similar the Japanese acceptance of whaling as scientifically sustainable is to Australia’s continuing acceptance of commercial kangaroo slaughter as scientifically sustainable. Interesting comparison huh.

  6. Barry Healy

    The more I read your blogs the more I think that you are acquiring material for a very interesting fantasy novel.

    All this terminology. It’s so otherworldly, yet cries out to be twisted into some shape that narrates reality.

    Those names of the chemo drugs sound like sprites combining both good and evil.

    Then there’s Dr D. Bulking who lives in Douglas Pocket. The list goes on.

    What is the omen to be revealed in your tum when they intrude past your Omentum?

    Who dares to say “Nay, dear you aren’t allowed to feel well this week”?

    I feel sorry for that medical researcher called Douglas who laboured so long and all he ended up with was a measly pocket named after him.

    Who would have thought that such a strange universe would be hidden in our intestines all this time without us being aware of it. Thanks for leading us into it.

  7. Dawn Nusa

    And I thought ‘pulp fiction’ was creative….
    On my way! (On my way! rum – is how omentum comes out in predictive test on my iPhone).
    What I’m trying to say is: love the craft work , Dawn xx
    PS: hope nadir is negligible and neutrophils numerous!!

  8. Larissa

    Love the poiple paper. Peg says keep up the momentum omentum… Harry says pulping early words has a certain semiotic poignancy… Finn says wish Harry would share his rawhide with me…

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