Well, some of you may know that my annual scan in October showed that my pesky little kidney cancer from 2010 metastasised itself, or whatever it’s called when some of the microscopic cancer cells move through the blood stream, find themselves a new organ to play in, and then just decide to stop there and like, grow.
It wasn’t the best news I’d ever gotten, as there were three of them, spots that is, and they had located themselves in my right lung. To cut a long story short, we were referred to another great surgeon, Randall, who booked me in to the same hospital as last time, and promptly performed a lobectomy.
Now of course most people have never heard of a lobectomy. One of my friends was really worried because he assumed it was some kind of mixture of a lobotomy and a vasectomy, and he didn’t really feel that I could spare anything in either area. But a lobectomy is the removal of one of the lobes (the lowest one of three in my case) from one’s lung. And it’s a pretty big and invasive operation, at the end of which I was left with two big drainage tubes sticking out of my back, quite a lot of pain, and a substantial amount of mental and emotional trauma.
But enough of that – I may write about it all another time. It’s now three months later, and I’m starting to feel a little better, not to mention the first of my new scans showed all clear. So I’ve taken on four major projects, which are 1) managing my business at a higher level while my daughter Sarah actually runs it; 2) acting as coach to my wife to support her in her growing business; 3) writing more of my blog, and in particular my series on Growing Up In Carlton; and 4) well four is probably the strangest one – Mathematics.
About six months ago, I got back in touch with my PhD supervisor after not having had any contact for around 30 years. It was great meeting up, and ever since, we’ve carried on a friendship via Facebook, and he even came and visited me in the hospital. This week, he came over and we spent four hours talking about life, the universe, and …….. Mathematics. He brought me some papers he’s recently written, all of which cite some of my work from the early 1980s, we discussed my PhD thesis, and the most unexpected thing of all was that he gave me a problem to solve – one that has needed solving for a while, so it’s important but not urgent.
The first thing I was going to have to do before getting back into mathematical research was to catch up and somehow make up lost ground. So we decided that the best first step was to read my thesis. I took on reading it cover to cover and making notes about anything I don’t understand (ie, anything I’ve forgotten). Now he impressed upon me to not put pressure on myself and not get carried away and do it as slowly as I like, but ….. Hello? Do you know Moshe? At my first session, reading the Preliminaries, I went nuts. “WTF does all this mean?” And it’s gone really slowly since then.
So today, sitting here at my desk, I was feeling a little down and frustrated. Helene asked me what was wrong, and I blurted out “I’m stuck with my writing, I’m stuck with my Mathematics, I’m stuck helping you with your business! I’m just fucking stuck!! That’s what’s wrong.” And yes, I admit that those sentences crescendoed and at the end I was yelling. She gave me the best coaching….. “Write it down”. “Write what down?” “Write all that down. Now’s the time to write! When you’re stuck like this, write”.
And you know what? She was right. I started writing, and as I was writing I started getting clear where I was stuck or where I thought I was stuck. I thought I couldn’t write anything more in my Carlton saga because I couldn’t get anyone at the Brunswick Historical Society to call me back. And I thought I couldn’t do any Mathematics because I couldn’t understand one concept and I couldn’t find one paper online. And I thought I couldn’t help Helene with her business because she was extremely busy and totally focussed on helping our daughter who was making the Mickey Mouse cake for our grandson’s third birthday party (instead of stopping to listen to my brilliant coaching).
It was great. And right in the middle of writing everything down, my good friend Pat called and whatever didn’t make it into this post was blurted out into his willing ears. And by the time I got to the end of it all, the focus was taken off me me me and I had managed to produce a blog post.
So here we go – I’ve created this new category in From the Mosh Pit, and I’ll be writing about this Mathematical journey I’ve just embarked on – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And whenever I get ‘stuck’, I’ll read this post again, and remind myself that there ain’t no such thing as ‘stuck’, there are just thoughts in your head, and anyone who listens to those thoughts and more to the point, acts on them, ought to get their head read.