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no MRI, it turns out

As soon as I got to the MRI unit and I mentioned the stent, from wanting them to check again that it was non-magnetic, I was asked when it was inserted. Two weeks ago. They immediately said that they won't do an MRI until six weeks after any surgery. I argued that just shoving that down my throat was hardly surgery, but they were adamant - the MRI can agitate tissue and shift it, apparently. Clearly the oncology registrar didn't know this rule, but when he talked to them about the stent, or when I checked again about it when they rang to give me the appointment (and the presumably-receptionist ringing did put me on to someone else about this), why did they not bring it up? I'm very annoyed. They did do a CT scan instead, but the registrar had clearly regarded that as a poor substitute. I really hope it reveals the useful things, i.e. if there is a small tumour around the top of the spine trapping a nerve. I need help with this, as it is causing me a lot of pain, ruining my ability to rest and sleep and relax, among other bad effects.

I have no idea why, given that I have been eating and drinking better than for ages, but I am weakening badly the last few days (I imagine my various visitors yesterday could see something of this). It was a major effort just getting into the taxi, for instance, and getting on the table for the scan was really hard and slow. I wasn't sure for a few moments if I could make it up the stairs to my flat without needing to sit down for a while and rest. If this is down to the cancer, and I suppose everything is, directly or indirectly, these days, I can't imagine what new tumours could simply cause such weakness.

I go for an oncology appointment tomorrow. I really hope the scan reveals something treatable (they are talking a one-off radiation zapping if there is a cervical spine tumour), and they can work out something about this weakness.
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book diary: Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly - The Poet

An excellent thriller, unusually fro him not part of his Harry Bosch series. A journalist uncovers a serial killer who has been killing cops and making it look like suicide each time. He gets tied up with the FBI investigation, which is well handled, although a late twist does rather depend on a couple of pretty contrived coincidences. Nonetheless, tense and involving and exciting along the way.
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books before I diary: Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Much as I love the final scenes with Rutger Hauer in the movie, much of what I love in the book is what isn't in the film: the religion, the reason for the interest in animals, the empathy, the mystery around what is reality. The doubts about identity and what it means to be human are fascinating too, and it'san exciting story.
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book diary: Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal - The Hare With Amber Eyes

Thanks to Cis for lending me this. It's a family memoir inspired by the author inheriting a collection of 264 netsuke (those tiny Japanese carvings) and tracing back to 19th C Paris, where they were bought, then forwards through Vienna, England and Tokyo. It's also one of the most upper class books I've ever read - his family were immensely wealthy until the Nazis, and remain upper class and highly cultured. The Parisian section is full of family friends like Proust, Degas and Renoir, and the original family owner of the netsuke was part of the inspiration for Proust's Swann. It's all written with diligent research and serious thought and careful prose, but I had had enough of descriptions of interiors by the end of it, and I wished the netsuke's decades back in Japan got rather more space. It was also odd that inro didn't get a mention at all, given that netsuke were generally made as toggles to hold inro to the sash belt.
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It's been a good day, mostly. The pain has been fairly bad, but nonetheless.

I made it to my first social event this year. A load of my oldest friends were going to the comic mart in central London, which really means some went into the mart for a bit, and all of them spent ages in the adjacent pub. My friend Gerard very kindly chauffeured me both ways, and I had several hours with many of my best friends. It was tiring (despite my exercise being popping outside for a fag a few times, otherwise sitting in a comfy banquette), but I feel so good about making it, and I had a great time. It felt very important because with my recent prognosis, it's surely the last time I will ever see some of these people, who have meant the world to me for, in several cases, three decades. It was also the first time I got to meet Gerard and Liz's daughter, Phoebe - I've basically been ill since she was born. She's a baby and won't remember me, but it meant a lot to me to meet her.

Also, food. Last night I ate some bacon and cheese grills, junk food admittedly, but they were delicious, and I ate as much as I did when I had them before the illness, and they went down pretty easily and quickly. In the months recently when solid food has been impossible or very difficult, with vomiting on nearly every occasion I tried, I've found that I have really been craving certain things, even dreaming about them sometimes, which isn't like me at all. Today I had my first cheeseburger (one of the meals I had dreamed about) in ages, in the pub, and again it went down easily and I really enjoyed it, though I didn't finish the rather large portion of chips with it.

I'm completely fucking exhausted now, and in some pain, but I am happy.
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book diary: Robert Reed

Robert Reed - Beyond the Veil of Stars

I love Reed for the scale of his SF thinking and ambition. This is relatively subdued and personal, which he does very well too, but there are huge concepts behind it, as humanity takes its first steps towards contacting other intelligences, and there are plenty of them. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, which I suspect will be more expansive.
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more bad health news

I've just been at the hospital for another appointment. I have previously mentioned two new recent tumours (side of head, left hip); I discovered another a couple of days ago, just south of my left buttock. The registrar thinks the very bad neck pain (and now my left arm is very weak) is probably due to a nerve trapped by another tumour at the top of my spine. My liver is also swelling due to the tumours there growing.

What this tells us is that the cancer is spreading very quickly and aggressively. They don't have a way of predicting where the next tumours will come. If I am very lucky, I may well have several months left, but if they strike at vital organs, I could die in a week, and some weeks is a more likely prognosis than some months, apparently.

In the meantime they want to scan my neck. He'd prefer an MRI, but that depends on the stent. The records don't show what it's made of - if it's plastic, no problem; if it is ferrous, it can't be done; if it's a non-magnetic metal it can be done, but the stent might get very hot and painful. If the MRI isn't on (I think that is the likely answer), they will try a CT scan, and if there is a tumour trapping the nerve they can try a one-shot radiation attack on that, apparently, to try to remove that very bad pain, which would be nice. In the meantime I am on new morphine-based painkillers.

I've actually been feeling rather better for the last few days - I'm getting some solid food down me (which is still quite hard, for various reasons) and drinking much more, and thereby rehydrating some). I've regained a couple of pounds from my low of 9 stone. All this is helping, but of course the spreading cancer trumps these small benefits. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that vital organs are spared for a while longer.
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book diary: Raymond Queneau

Raymond Queneau - Exercises in Style

Queneau takes a tiny observed incident on a bus, and writes it in 99 different ways. A few are contrived in an irritating way and are tedious, but most are imaginative, more varied than I could have believed, and often funny. A brilliant book that must have been a major translation headache.
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books befiore I diary: China Mieville

China Mieville - The Scar

Having created the magnificent city of New Crobuzon in his previous novel, this starts with a ship leaving there - and eventually getting taken to the equally extraordinary new pirate city of Armada, a huge flotilla of ships tied together into a city. The rest of this 800-page novel is, it turns out, one big plot, with key roles for two captured on that ship: a translator (and translation, deceit, manipulation and secrets are key themes here, almost all passing through her) who regards Armada as a prison, and a Remade (mutilated as punishment: he has two tentacles grafted into his chest) convict freed by this capture. The plot is huge: the city takes scientists and a mobile drilling rig (tapping Rockmilk, a kind of oil that fuels magic) and visiting the deadly moquito people for info, all to summon and capture an avanc, a mile-long other-dimensional creature to tow the city, and they then head for The Scar, a 100-mile wide crack in the ocean, where quantum effects are extremely strange and powerful. Along the way we get perhaps the most spectacular set-piece combat in fiction: the pirates and the world's greatest martial artist, with his quantum Possible Sword, against a large gang of vampires and their mystical sea monster allies. A brilliant novel, unbelievably imaginative, clever and exciting, full of memorable characters and moments.