1. Food - For the final week of treatment and the first two post-treatment weeks, it was difficult to eat anything at all. I would sit in the morning in front of a small bowl of Shredded Wheat, slowly maneuvering one biscuit after another past the sorest spots in my mouth; when, with a sense of great accomplishment, I finished the last one, I would find that an hour had passed. Now the mouth pain has largely gone away and I am (sometimes) energetic enough to start cooking for the family again, as well as eating the results - see the photo of this evening's dinner. In place of the pain on eating, I find that my sense of taste is completely muddled up, with some foods tasting extraordinarily bland, and others - especially anything spicy or alcoholic - producing fireworks of flavor at the slightest drop. (I incautiously ordered fish tacos in a restaurant the other day - I doubt they were really that spicy, but it was though I had never experienced chili peppers in my life!)
A couple of years ago, one of the retreats I made with GreenFaith was at a Buddhist community in Ulster County, NY. An abiding memory from that time is of sharing meals with the community. One aspect of Buddhist teaching is "mindfulness" or giving focused attention to what is happening in the present. It was extraordinary to see the focus the community members gave to fully experiencing the food they were enjoying (wonderful food, by the way) and it reminded me how so much of our US food experience is of eating without enjoying, almost without noticing. In a strange way I hope that these weeks, in which eating has been so laborious, will help me more fully remember to enjoy the gift of food even when eating becomes physically easier.
2. Strength - This last week has been one of surprising physical exhaustion - hours of sleep, hard to move, lack of energy. This may have been caused by some kind of infection which I think I am getting over, I am not sure. This kicked in more or less as the radiation and eating issues were receding, so that the pattern of "always something new" seems to be continuing. For days in a row I was unable to do much in the way of writing or mathematical work, and though I have enjoyed reading a lot of books I am feeling like I should be doing more. I think "should" is probably a dangerous word when recuperating in this way, but there are still some things that definitely need to be done!
One consequence of this exhaustion is that I have once again decided to postpone the start of the Math for Sustainability course which I have blogged about many times over the past year. From being planned for this fall, we have now postponed to next semester, Spring 2015. This also has been a story of many postponements, and this last one is the most frustrating of all. But my level of exhaustion was such that I could not imagine teaching an undergraduate class, and it did not seem fair to gamble on recovering my strength before the seemster began. Stay tuned for more...