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Even in a little thing

28th June, 2016. 11:12 am.

I have one chunky deadline today and one smaller one tomorrow and then I get to start on something a bit more substantive that will take me a whole week. By this you can see that I have a lot more energy. It's still hard to work (and I still went back a month too early) but it's no longer weeping-hard. All I need is the discipline and to make sure I do both my stretches and my resting around it. My carrot this week is that I have to see the doctor later in the week and if I look good and feel not-too-bad the visit will be easier. Also, since I will have a 1-3 hour wait to see said doctor, it will be physically easier if I don't push things (I saved the money for an appointment, so's I wouldn't have to wait, but a friend spent half of it by mistake and I thereupon lost my commonsense and the other half is going into gourmet kitkats).

Yesterday I began my new walking program. What was wonderful about it was getting to chat during the walk. I'm learning more about my state and what I should be doing.

Things are still quiet here. One of the things I talked about yesterday was whether the turning recovery from something like this into a full time job makes a difference. It does. It very obviously does. The people who have built up their strength gradually and done all the right things are far less likely to end back in hospital early and are even less likely to die unexpectedly because things didn't quite go right. Getting better is a full time job then, for a bit.

I also learned the history of the amazing cardio-gym program I went to. Apparently one of the cardio doctors at the hospital was worried because people like me left Ward 6B after their operation and everyone just expected them to get well. He delegated two nurses to set up an exercise program, which they did on top of their usual work. At its most funded, it was an eight week program, which would have been much better than the six weeks we have now, because we stopped just a little too soon. From two nurses it grew to a team of nurses and exercise physiologists. It trains students (we had a University of Sydney student while I was there) and it just trained the first Fijian nurse, so that Fijian heart patients also get the program.

What I'm doing now is taking the exercises I can do at home (I was given special coaching in them and a list) and starting to combine it with my stretches and with the exercises I did until the body ceased to permit exercises. It and walking (and hopefully dancing, when I have money) will give me a rounded program. Not as good as a gym, for no way of advancing to the heights, but enough to keep the body slowly improving. There are two really cool aspects of it. The first is that it fits into my very sedentary working pattern: we've sorted it so that I can use it to give me solid breaks from the keyboard without stopping me from doing a solid day's work. The second is that it's preventing my RSI symptoms from returning.

My big news is that I had one whole day pain free this week. Well, most of one day. More pain free time than I've had in years. I used that time and slept, which is why I haven't met all my deadlines quite yet. The sleep helped so very much that I can now actually lie on my side for a little, which is rather wonderful. Sleep can be so very healing!

And that's me up to date.

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26th June, 2016. 9:05 pm. Cards and caring

I was sent so many cards by so many wonderful people while I was in hospital and for the three weeks after I came out. I now have a collection of them... and half are missing. What's worst, the ones that are missing include the group I didn't even get round to opening because they came when I wasn't strong enough to even open the envelope.

If I haven't reacted to your card, it's one of the missing 50%. It meant a great deal to me when I received it. Even on the day I couldn't move, I asked to look at my mail and I read all the address labels on the cards that day and thought "What a lovely friend - I'm so looking forward to reading this as soon as I'm able." I'm more than a bit unhappy that the rescue methods have failed and that there are some I won't get to read.

The trouble is that I was in hospital for 20 days initially and was moved from area to area as my condition changed. A lot of things couldn't go with me. In some areas I had a cupboard, but after the operation, the ward had a cupboard that was blocked off and, honestly, I was too sick to access it anyhow. I sent things home with friends and then other friends tidied my place so that I wasn't coming home to a disaster. Other cards followed me from the hospital to the friend I stayed with straight afterwards, and those have caught up with me. Neither of us realised they were there, but she instituted a search for all the Gillian-possessions other people might have brought her and she found all sorts of useful things, including the card. Inevitably, given the complexity, things went missing.

I think, at this stage, I have to assume I will never get to enjoy the last 50%. They mean so much to me, even if I only got to see them for a few hours. Hospital was more difficult than I mostly say and it left me in a highly anxious state. The cards and the flowers and the presents helped so very much (and they still do). They reminded me that the world outside still existed and that it was full of caring people who were thinking about me. I wish I still had everything, but the cards and perishable gifts were with me when it counted most.

Thank you, everyone, whether your card survived the various migrations or not. Without you, those weeks would have been even more difficult. I haven't talked about that side of things, but it was there, and everything that helped me get through it emotionally was so very important.

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26th June, 2016. 12:12 am.

Between what's happening in Europe and our own elections and the general slowness of recovering from a major operation, I'm feeling under the weather tonight. The weather is under the weather, too, for it's around -3 outside already. My poor Perth friends keep apologising to me because they complain it's cold then realise that cold is comparative.

Because of all this, I'm not going to the market tomorrow (alas), but a friend is picking me up things and then we're watching superhero TV most of the morning. We will have fruit toast and hot 18th century style cocoa to accompany the TV. My friend decided it was wise not to subject me to the market - and he was right. Best way of dealing...

I have all kinds of ducks in a row, workwise and will knock them all over neatly by Monday. This will result in pay, which is a lovely thing. I now have to do my current equivalent of walking through the raindrops ie find the hour when things don't hurt and people don't need me for other things. Today, for instance, I meant to do 3 hours work, but I unexpectedly went shopping with a friend and also (not unexpectedly) saw another friend in the afternoon. That and the shift to cold weather obliterated two hours of work and I'm just making inroads into hour three now. I can't do many hours in a week still, but I'm doing enough so that I have enough money to live on, which is a very big thing. I shall spend a chunk of that money seeing the doctor next week...

And now, for my next trick, I shall knock over one (and, if I have the energy, maybe two) of the ducks. The weather is stable outside and I've just done my stretching, so I can do a half hour more on the computer. Every duck I cross off the list of ducks is one I don't have to worry about.

And in other news... is there any? Did I tell you about my postMedieval article?

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21st June, 2016. 11:59 am.

Every time I get a bit too miserable for comfort, something extraordinary and wonderful happens.

This time, it was a parcel. The Continuum people gave me a get well soon card (signed by so many friends!), a con bag (it has a gorgeous picture by Queenie Chan, and I'm very happy to have it) and chocolate. The card is full of messages and of drawings of dragons. Two of my friends added something special to the package: a large quantity of Haigh's chocolate.

People are amazing and wonderful. I was sorry to miss Continuum - and it means a great deal that Continuum missed me! I shall save the Haigh's for bad moments. That way, when I get too down, I will think of Lauren and of Julia and I will eat some of the best chocolate Australia produces and I will know that the world isn't as bad as it feels.

The giant card, with all its wonderful messages, is in pride of place in my loungeroom.

Thank you, all my friends at Continuum!

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20th June, 2016. 2:14 pm.

My triggeriness is PMT, I think. PMT is insult to injury. I should be allowed six months off it, after the operation.

At least I'm getting work done. I have a small stack of paper in between my keyboard and monitor. On each is a 2 word summary of a task followed by a completion date. If I can get through all these tasks by the due dates, I'll have enough money to live on until the end of July. Ideally, I finish things early and get the money that much sooner. The big thing is that I have the opportunity to earn my way out of the financial situation, doing work I love. The trick is going to be not pushing myself too far - I have to continue healing. Nothing is straightforward right now. It's possible, however. I can get through things if I'm careful. Possible is important. I keep getting more bills thrown at me, so I really need 'possible' to translate into 'of course this will happen.'

I ought to be finished with my first manuscript (out of four before the end of July) this afternoon. I'm taking notes as I go and will think about it and re-read if necessary during the week then finalise it on Friday. If I have enough capacity, I'll also move on my tax this week, but it all depends on what else gets thrown at me (besides bills and various aches).

One thing about big operations is that healing isn't like recovering from flu: it's slow and it's not linear. It took a lot of self-discipline to finish my article over the weekend because of this. When I was out of pain I just wanted to sit quietly and let my body relax. I did that (for obviously I need to listen to my body) but I also wrote 2000 words in the interstices. And today I'm more capable than yesterday, so my balancing act worked.

I don't know if the article will be suitable for the journal. it's more than somewhat quirky. I've asked the editor, so we'll see. It includes a recipe, as promised, so if it doesn't work for that journal, it'll work somewhere else. I hope it'll go where it was originally designated, however, for it would make me happy.

And now I have a few minutes stretching to do before I'm back to my manuscript.

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19th June, 2016. 4:16 pm.

This afternoon I'm in the odd emotional position of waiting for triggers (for there are things I'm angry about and comments on any one of them could set me off) and not having the words when the triggers happen.

There are far, far too many horrid things happening in the wider world, and me being quiet about them doesn't mean I don't care. It also means I am very sensitive about small things. My example of the small things in the last few minutes was someone calling a tolerable writer 'brilliant, an international success.' This kind of panegyric is quite normal right now, but helps destroy the sense of writing community in Australia. When a writer is all the amazing things they're called (or the label comes through PR, which is a different situation), that's fine, but Australia's writing scene has got into the habit of privileging a few and ignoring those who are equally good.

This leads to two effects. The first is a lot of wonderful writers are becoming invisible. The second is equally worrying. We have some undeniably superlative writers who deserve all the praise they get and more, but most of the 'genius-writer' tags that fall into my ears are directed to the person in a public place and concern writers who really need to put a little more work in to achieve their potential. They may never have that particular potential (and mostly don't) and may be an entertaining writer who is a sound craftperson. They listen to the praise and decide they're perfect and judge everyone else accordingly and lo, we continue on our merry path to a culture of ordinary storytelling and extraordinary praise.

And it seems I can find words after all. They're not as tactful or as sensitive as my usual words.


I'm about to write a short article. I do wonder how this overflow of emotions will affect it.

I promise that, if anyone drops in this afternoon, I shall not take this mood out on them. In fact, if I write now, maybe I can exorcise it.

PS The overflow of emotions is partly hormonal, partly continuing drowsy rain, but mostly healing having far too much pain these last 24 hours. Sleeping it off helps, but it means I get nothing done. Now that I'm allowed to do things, I find it very frustrating when the best thing for me to actually do is sleep. Healing has to come first, but it's frustrating. I'm allowed just one cup of coffee every day or two, and I'm having it now, just to take the edge off everything.

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18th June, 2016. 11:10 am.

Now that I'm getting better, you get the in-between bits. They're not cheerful, for I wake up worried more days than I wake up optimistic. I worked out (through patience and slow chronicling) that at a significant part of this is the background pain and how far it interferes with my capacity to do things. This means that, now that I can do a bit more, I have a way of digging myself out of the worst of it. What I wanted to do next week, however, was go to the art gallery or a museum or maybe take a walk somewhere rural. Alas, all my friends are busy (and if you aren't and I've misinterpreted, please get in touch) for these things help more with my mood than most other things and I cannot do them alone.

Today I rested and now I'm watching Quatermass documentaries and doing as much work as I can without making the pain worse. I'll feel better when more of the work is complete. I always do. And I've got really interesting work this month and next. if one has to move out of sick leave into work before one is ready, this is the right work to move for.

Another thing that cheers me is a hot cuppa. I shall sort that out forthwith.

On uncheering days I put off getting dressed until I must (it reduces pain) so if anyone plans to see me, you might want to give me a half hour to make myself respectable. My PJs are a very pretty pink though, and worth admiring.

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17th June, 2016. 3:32 pm.

Today is my between-day. I've started a bit of work, and had my last cardio-gym. From here on in I don't have to be checked most days. In fact, I may be down to an appointment a fortnight. It's my day for bringing things together and for starting to move on.

I started this process on Wednesday, in fact. What does one do when there's been a break in teaching? First, one asks what was done in one's absence. It was basic narrative techniques, a single topic in a day. Excellent stuff. My students need a way of hanging it together, however. This Wednesday I brought them back to writing letters. They each wrote a business letter to one M. Turnbull. They don't know it yet, but the letters will be vehicles for bringing their narrative techniques together and will end up as stories. And they'll get handy everyday skills out of it, to boot.

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16th June, 2016. 4:40 pm.

I have 2 1/2 months of LJ to catch up with and it appears I cannot. It frustrates me to not know what happened to everyone between the day I was admitted into hospital and about a week ago. I shall do my best to get a bit further back, but I'd be very happy to be updated by anyone who has had cool things happen or has needed my sympathy or who has a recipe to share.

Speaking of recipes, should I put a recipe into my next article? I will have written it by Saturday night, so the decision is one that must be made now. It will be a pudding recipe. Maybe two pudding recipes. And they will directly relate to the article. (Whether the editor lets them through is a matter for the editor to decide.)

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16th June, 2016. 12:47 pm. Considering...

Each week I am significantly better. I'm now beginning to see just how sick I've been these last few years. I am now more able to do physical activity than any time in the last twelve months and I still have a month of primary healing to get through before I'm fully functional. This means my 'fully functional' is going to be rather more functional than I've been in a long time.

Every day there are moments when the sky opens and I see the world differently. My moment yesterday was when I realised that I'd managed to walk in 2 degrees to teaching, taught for 2 hours and then walk in 6 degrees back home and was still fine for the afternoon's (energetic) hospital stuff. I didn't get much done in the evening, but I'm still new enough out of my operation so that all the nurses remember me (and say 'hi' every time I go in for appointments) so accomplishing that whole day made me smile. The week before I didn't manage the walk home and the second half of cardio-gym was much harder. The week before that we were all surprised I got to teaching at all.

I can still be fragile - I have to have control over what I do and when. This means I miss out on doing stuff in Sydney this weekend, for I can't spend a whole day away from home and not come home at night. Still, considering...

I have more to consider now, for I know the full extent of the operation and I know that it was a complete success. Even by cardiology standards my operation was a major one, for my cardiologist said so. And successful, for they say that, too. And yesterday a nurse gave me a high five because my post-op cholesterol levels are perfect.

I can still only do 8 to 10 hours work a week, but my energy is returning and it won't be long before I can do everything. it's surprising what a difference a fully functioning heart makes to life. What's also surprising is how much one can do when very ill and how many people can tell one, reassuringly, that the problem is with food and exercise and one's self-opinion. I'm still getting advice on these things from people who don't stop and think. I've been very polite to people who give me good advice so far and who assume that all this was my fault and who are far too enthusiastic about telling me so. My tolerance won't last beyond a certain point, however, and as my sarcasm returns it will become less safe for anyone to tell me I should have done.

I'm still getting help with things - I can't do all my housework yet, for instance and I'm reluctant to catch buses until the sternum is fully healed (I have a tendency to grab and hold bars when a bus turns corners too quickly, which is not good for unhealed bone) but, still, considering...

So many people around me are dying of sniffles and want me to hold their hand. If they have other issues in their lives and the sniffles are simply an acceptable public way of dealing, then I shall do so, with pleasure. If they're being self-indulgent then I fear that sarcasm might be forthcoming.

I suspect I'm not as nice a person as I was before I was so curiously misdiagnosed*. I have less time for special petals, especially when the special petals are the very same people who decided I wasn't unwell and didn't need any help, attention or even to be included in social events over the last three years. There are a half dozen people in this category and I simply have less time for them than I did. This makes entire sense, considering...

*I'm referring to being told I had to lose weight last year rather than being seen as unwell, not in having raced to hospital with an asthma attack and coming out with a quadruple bypass.

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