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  • Writer's pictureA. Murphy

Food and fungus

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

My first stay was...interesting to say the least. Infections, x-rays, and physios. But all in all it wasn't too bad. Even the food wasn't as horrible as I expected it to be. Whilst I was there I became neutropenic which meant my low white blood cell count stopped me from eating certain types of food. Luckily this didn't really matter. I wasn't overly fond of the food I was banned from, like nuts or soft cheeses (although I do like cheesecake which I was no longer allowed). However the hospital menu had plenty of choices: chicken and ham pie, vegetable lasagna, chicken goujons. But above all I loved the desserts. If we had dessert at home it was a rare treat (part of why I started hoarding chocolate in my room). There was summer fruit crumble, chocolate sponge, and apple cake, each served with soft vanilla ice cream that I had to ask for specifically. I loved that ice cream. There was food in my fridge too, things my dad had bought for me. Yoghurts and apples mostly. The apples I had to peel before eating as I wasn't allowed the skins as part of my neutropenic diet. I could munch away to my heart's content on crisps, chocolate, and of course the food brought by the catering staff. Additionally I could ask for toast whenever I wanted. I quickly established a routine, ordering rice crispies for breakfast and ham sandwiches for lunch every single day. They knew what I wanted before I even asked for it. Boring maybe, but I don't see anything wrong with knowing what you like.

Revelling in being detached from my drip after five days of wheeling it around with me, I used my time to get on with things I had neglected. Sadly, writing was one of them. I was receiving texts from a family friend who had been reading my work here on the website and was asking for more. At the time, 'So Close' was incomplete, and she wanted to know how it ended. It encouraged me to carry on with it, to test the ideas I had considered for it. I do not tend to write love stories, but I was quite invested in 'So Close' and had imagined many scenarios for it. This blog began whilst I was in hospital after I received a message from my swimming coach. My isolation also meant I could focus on Christmas shopping. Perhaps it was because I was shut in a room with a lot of time to contemplate them, but I thought the gifts I had chosen were pretty good. Even though it was only November it meant I wasn't rushing like I usually was.

As it went on I was expecting all the side effects they had warned me about to hit me, leaving me a weak little thing that couldn't get out of bed. I kept waiting, and waiting, but nothing happened. I was not nauseous, or particularly tired, in fact I was given an exercise bike which I used every morning (I was given a comfy chair too as my mum visited me everyday and didn't like the plastic chairs I had in my room.) However, because I had practically no immune system it was almost guaranteed that something would happen. It could have been worse, but I contracted a fungal infection which was so itchy I was at the point of tears. The worse part was it flared up during the night, so after getting used to sleeping again, I spent almost the entire night pacing up and down. That morning I received a cream that was almost like a godsend. It allowed me to focus on other things rather than how uncomfortable I was. That same day they started me on a medicine called caspofungin, which helped to prevent fungal infections. Better late than never I suppose.

Just in case I was getting bored a chest x-ray was ordered for me. Every morning I was visited by a doctor, sometimes the entire lymphoma team to give me a check-up. It was a complicated affair. I was scheduled for an x-ray, then it was canceled, then after another check-up during which it sounded as if their was fluid in the bottom of my lungs, another x-ray was ordered, the poor doctor was quite exasperated. A mask was guaranteed and, to my surprise, a wheelchair was brought up for me. I didn't need it but it didn't seem to be a choice. It took a minute at most, the wait took the longest. I had to press my chest against a panel and that was it. I was just excited to leave the room, even if it was only twenty minutes.

Time went on, I recovered, spending my time playing video games, reading, writing. If I ignored the fact that I had cancer it was great. Didn't have to work, or look after all our pets, do the dishes, hoover, empty the bin. A cleaner came in every day and the little collection of crockery I had was taken to the dishwasher then returned to me once clean, all without me having to leave my bed.

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Can you still remember the taste of the ice cream? Your senses must have been highly developed. Good material for a writer. i love your style of writing - clear, wry and draws the reader in. More more please !

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