Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paging Pollyanna, you're required in the basement

I used to share house with a woman who had a constant naiive faith that everything would turn out just fine.

"People used to call me Pollyanna," she'd say, as though it was a badge of honour. (For those of you who are too young to be familiar with the children's novel 'Pollyanna' - well, it was written in 1913- the child heroine was the sort of terminal optimist whom one might accidentally drown in a barrel, in the hope of washing the platitudes out of her mouth.)

And then my housemate would continue on her merry way, talking her way out of thoroughly well-deserved speeding fines and letting others clean up the mess when she got hammered. (Which was often.)

The speeding fines used to get right up my nose. (Well, so did the other in a more literal way, but perhaps we won't go there.) I mean, I was never able to talk my way out of a fine, even if I had a damn good reason for exceeding the limit and even though in 33 years of driving I have never- never- damaged my or anyone else's car or person by driving like an idiot.

I put my failure to escape penalty down to the pretty face and generous cleavage. No cop ever listened to what I was saying, for fear of people assuming something compromising had happened between us. Despite popular rhetoric, the cops I've known have been decent, honest and hard-working people.

Meanwhile, the modern day 'Pollyanna' would see the flashing lights in the rear vision mirror and immediately concoct some tale of cock and bull to explain why she was driving like a scalded cat- and get away with it, despite constantly managing to ding and scrape her own and other people's vehicles. The time she flew backwards out of her car park bay at about 70 kph, and turned before she cleared the concrete post. The time she backed the old ute out of the garage without looking, and ran it straight into the side of my completely virginal Subaru.

But her faith in good fortune was unscathed by these mishaps. And I thought of that today as I went in to an urgently-made appointment with Dr Goodguy, thinking cheerfully that my latest glitch would all be resolved in about half an hour. Hell, the Freeloader's turned me into Pollyanna too. I have such unshakeable optimism about my prognosis, and about my ability to get up and punch again after each setback.

I came out that half-hour later still on the canvas, and sadly disappointed.

Screw you, Pollyanna. Not everything has a happy ending.


Of course, the story began while we were still flooded in. During those ghastly days when I'd been flat on my back or playing the Game of Thrones, I'd been too sick to do my shoulder exercises without hurling. My lymph massages had gone to hell too. I thought I was just paying the penalty for that when the lump in my armpit started to appear, and so I madly thumped it and massaged it and tried to pull the liquid away from it with the flat of my hand the moment I was able to sit up without retching.

But the lump just kept getting bigger. By two nights ago I needed narcotics to get to sleep, because the pain was stretching all the way to my wrist. By yesterday the lump was approaching the size of a peach, and I was back to taking two doses of Targin a day.

I rang Miss Sunshine, who gladly talked me through the prospect of having the seroma drained by Dr Goodguy as soon as I could get to town.

"In the meantime, massage every two hours and don't do any vigorous exercise- go for the yoga-like movements instead. Slow it down."

So I did.

Nothing changed.


But yesterday afternoon I found that the water had gone down at the far end of the road, and I thought my luck had returned. It's a long way to Lismore via Casino, but it can be done. I got on the blower to Dr Goodguy, and discovered to my delight that there was a cancellation this morning.

Paging Pollyanna! It's all WIN!

Except it wasn't. Dr Goodguy looked at the offending armpit and got out the horse needle.

"This might be uncomfortable," he warned.

It wasn't. My whole armpit is as numb as a dead lab rat.

WIN, Pollyanna!

He poked and prodded in several directions, and then sighed.

"I'm afraid I'm not getting much fluid out," he informed me, showing me about half a centimetre of reddish liquid in the syringe. "I think it's gathered throughout the tissue rather than in a central location, which suggests you've got an infection."

My eyes popped.

"How can I possibly have an infection?" I spluttered. "I've been on three different courses of antibiotics over the last month, each one stronger than the last."

"But you're immunosuppressed," he explained patiently. "These things take hold so easily, and then it's really hard to get rid of them. All it would have taken is one little dot on the scar to open enough to let a germ in. I'll give you a different antibiotic, but you might well find you don't really shake this off till after you finish the chemo."

Cue shattered dreams music. Pollyanna, you're so sacked.


Dr Goodguy's going to send the fluid off to be cultured, in the hope of getting a definite yes or no about the infection, but he warned me that it was entirely possible that nothing would grow even if infection was present.

"Because of the antibiotics you've already been taking, it's completely possible that we'll get a false negative."

And wrote me another damned script.



So here I am, back home and sulking. Yes, the arm feels a little better for having that small amount of fluid removed, but my shoulder is still aching like crazy. I feel much more like sour-faced Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden than bloody Pollyanna.

I don't want to be a pessimist. But honestly, the Freeloader makes it so damn hard sometimes to keep my chin up and a quip on my lips. He's good at this game. He's an expert.

Paging Pollyanna. You'd better come rescue me soon.

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