April 5, 2015

"On day ten, I turned a corner— I felt awful, as usual, in the morning, but a completely different person in the afternoon."

"This was delightful, and wholly unexpected: there was no intimation, beforehand, that such a transformation was about to happen," writes Oliver Sacks, describing the aftermath of treatment for metastatic liver cancer.
How much of this was a reestablishment of balance in the body; how much an autonomic rebound after a profound autonomic depression; how much other physiological factors; and how much the sheer joy of writing, I do not know. But my transformed state and feeling were, I suspect, very close to what Nietzsche experienced after a period of illness and expressed so lyrically in The Gay Science:
Gratitude pours forth continually, as if the unexpected had just happened — the gratitude of a convalescent — for convalescence was unexpected…. The rejoicing of strength that is returning, of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again.


pious agnostic said...

The joy and gratitude I felt when, after weeks of physical therapy following an injury, I achieved a breakthrough in the movement of my frozen shoulder brought me to tears.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Just imagine how Jesus felt when He got the fuck out of that tomb.

paminwi said...

That feeling of despair in the morning and no despair in the afternoon happened to my husband. And we have felt blessed every day since then!

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

What a beautiful gift.

Both the experience described, and also Oliver Sacks and his body of work itself. I've long been an admirer.

Freeman Hunt said...

Yes--a couple years ago when my son received IVIG in the hospital and seemed to largely recover from Kawasaki Disease in a matter of hours after many days of severe illness and no one knowing what was wrong, definitely this feeling.

Michael K said...

I was working on editing my second book, which is a memoir of 50 years in surgery. I thought I remembered that Sacks is a rare example of a famous syndrome: The melanoma of the eye which shows up many years later as liver metastases. It is a classic Clinical Pathological Conference as a "patient with hepatomegaly and a glass eye."

Embolization was not available when i treated a physician friend with massive melanoma liver metastases. That was in 1974.

I'm glad he is having a good result. Melanoma is resistant to most chemotherapy but is also known for sudden and complete remission.

I wish him luck.

retired said...

This also happens with people who have chronic illnesses.