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​Off Side Effects

Kim Graham StudiosNEXT WEDNESDAY, with my eighth chemotherapy cycle, I shall finish the course of treatment begun last September and, hopefully, never have cancer darken my door again.

And now it’s all over, bar the testing (fingers, toes, eyes, all appendages and extremities crossed,) I’ll list, in descending order, for your entertainment, the side effects I’ve liked least of ingesting copious amounts of toxic chemicals.
The best was my finger and toenails turning jet black, as if painted with nail polish. (I was trendy for a few months there.) The worst is difficult to pick from a crowded field.
My oncological nurse, Rhonda, eg, warned against drinking anything cold after chemo, because it would be like swallowing glass splinters. I had to prove her wrong and I did, and she was: drinking cold water was like swallowing a whole Julie mango-sized shard of broken glass.
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​The Rhythm of the Science

To overcome an obstacle or an enemy/ To glide away from the razor or a knife/ To dominate the impossible in your life – Paul Simon, from the song The Rhythm of the Saints

THE BEAT of chemotherapy is not so much four-four as fortnightly. There are different toxic chemical strokes for different cancer folks but my oesophageal ardenocarcinoma (cancer of the gullet) required eight cycles of chemotherapy, four pre-surgery (which went off without too many hitches between September and November) and four post-surgery, all spaced two weeks apart.
Post-surgery chemo should have resumed on 24 January but only began on 24 March, because I had so many complications after surgery in December, I lost almost 50lbs and was too frail to withstand even a single 24-hour infusion of poisonous chemicals.
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​Naked as He Born for the Stage

Picture courtesy Abigail HadeedWITHOUT BOOKS, I would not be myself. Time and again, great books – 1984, Catch-22, Love in the Time of Cholera, Miguel Street, Slaughterhouse Five, Waiting for Godot, Crime and Punishment, 15 Dogs Absalom, Absalom! – have brought me back from the very edge. If I hadn’t read The Catcher in the Rye, I’d likely be in a straitjacket in a padded cell today.

Just like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Without film, I would have been much less of myself. How can a body (and mind) not be substantially improved by watching The Godfather, The 400 Blows, Funny Games, Aguirre Wrath of God and Incendies?
Without literature and cinema, I’d be either catatonic or locked up or both.
But, without music, I may not have been here at all.
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​SEA How They Run

TWO WEDNESDAYS ago, our 11-year-olds sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment, hoping to pass for a “prestige school” which, in Trinidad, means one where more teachers will fight over the school curriculum than teenaged girl gangs will fight over boys in the schoolyard.

In sympathy with people who may have been consigned for life to washing cars rather than owning them, I began my Senility Entrance Assessment exam last week, with a Newsday maths practice test. Today, I attempt what we now call, not English but “Language Arts,” to signify that “dem oppressor did oppress we but now we go oppress they mother grammar, on’stan’?” I have edited the questions for space.
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SEA Trouble Now

ON WEDNESDAY, 18,000-plus 11-year-olds sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment, all hoping to pass for a “prestige school” which, in Trinidad, means one where there are more boys on the U-14 football team than there are on the mortuary slab.

In sympathy, then, with children whose adult lives may have been forever sealed in misery in three hours two days ago, I begin my Senility Entrance Assessment exam, with a Newsday practice test, maths today and, next Friday, “language arts”, the Trinidadian academic pidgin for what used to be called “English” back when we at least used to try to speak it formally. I’ve shortened the questions considerably; often, the language of the SEA is not particularly artful.
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