How it all went down

Sandy arrived and I wasn’t particularly concerned: during the war we made light with oil lamps and the antique chandeliers of the Villa, and when nightfall came, it stayed, and silence was only interrupted by the creaking of the ancient furniture. In the evening, around nine o’clock, everything shut off; we lit the few candles we had in the house and comfortably kept chatting. The city was prepared for the worst and I was certain that the power would soon come back.

No such thing occurred. The following day, around eleven our friends Barbara and Allen knocked on our door: they were well informed and had climbed up the eighteen flights of stairs to bring us to their house in a completely different Manhattan, one that was alive, full of people, well stocked stores and packed restaurants. We took as much of the food as we could carry and Micio, whose extraction from the nooks and crannies of the house was at first quite troublesome, but soon, his meowing ceased and he accepted his fate (the confines of a small bag for the duration of the travel).

At our friends’ house we were very comfortable and had none of the problems that afflicted the other Manhattan, the one south of 39th street, of which we were constantly updated through the news, but from where we were, it sounded like we were hearing news from abroad. Up here, everything went smoothly: dinners in excellent company with alternating chefs. For the last evening, I had attempted to make Penne al Coccio, but my porcini mushrooms were a little old and I wasted too much time preparing them carefully. Penne al Coccio is a traditional dish in our family and it was very much appreciated, as always. These ‘penne’ are so named because they are cooked and served in ‘cocci’ or small terracotta bowls.

Our return home was a little gloomy: many stores were closed, the supermarkets were half-empty, houses were dark, a desolate quiet after the storm; but at least we were home. We took the finally functioning elevator, the lights were back on, the heat was working and my plants had survived, but suddenly, I was itching all over, from the top of my head to the tips of my feet. A terrible itch came over me and I couldn’t stop scratching myself; at night I would keep at it until I bled. The itching persisted into the morning and I figured it was food poisoning, maybe the porcini were in fact too old. The next day I went to the doctor; he told me I had to have a small surgery to free my bile ducts, which seemed to have been obstructed. “Nothing too concerning however” we were told, “It would be a small operation lasting a little under an hour”. They had to put me under to get a closer look at what was going on, passing through my mouth to reach the ducts after which they would decide if another small surgery was necessary. When I awoke, the doctors knew everything: my pancreas was putting pressure on the bile ducts, bile was not flowing as it should have been and the bilirubin had entered my blood stream and therefore made me itch like a madman. They placed a stent in the ducts and took a sample of pancreatic tissue. Without giving us the luxury of a little suspense they told Carole: “Cancer – 5 years”. Executed with such polite detachment, it took me a while to understand that they were talking about me and my pancreas and my life!!

I went to bed still itching all over and I kept itching for at least another ten days, when I felt a strong pain in my stomach I assumed it was psychological, after all, the worst was out.

My Pancreas

Artistic Cancer by Paolo Salvi

Com’ è successo

Sandy è arrivato e non mi sono preoccupato per niente: durante la guerra ci siamo fatti luce coi bei lumi a petrolio e gli antichi lumi ad olio della Villa; la notte era notte e il silenzio era interrotto solo dallo scricchiolio dei mobili antichi.

Alle nove di sera tutto si è spento e noi abbiamo acceso i pochi lumi ad olio e siamo stati a chiacchierare tranquillamente. La città era preparata al peggio e certamente la “luce” sarebbe tornata.

Niente di ciò si è verificato: verso le undici i nostri amici Barbara ed Allan hanno bussato alla porta di casa. Loro erano informati e si erano fatti diciotto piani di scale per venirci a prendere e portarci a casa loro in una Manhattan totalmente diversa, viva come sempre, piena di gente, di negozi aperti, ben forniti e di ristoranti gremiti. Abbiamo preso con noi, le vettovaglie di maggior valore e Micio, che si è fatto molto pregare, ma finalmente è entrato in una borsa di fortuna miagolando a più non posso!

Dai nostri amici siamo stati molto bene e senza i problemi dell’altra Manhattan, di quella dalla 39a all’estremo sud della quale avevamo continuamente notizie alla televisione, ma che, da dove eravamo sembravano notizie dall’estero. Da noi tutto era calmo: cene in ottima compagnia e piatti appetitosi preparati un po’ a turno. L’ultima sera ho tentato di preparare le Penne a Coccio ma i miei porcini erano un po’ vecchi ed ho perso molto tempo a pulirli attentamente. E` un vecchio piatto di casa mia ed è piaciuto molto, come sempre. Penne al Coccio perché si cucinano e si servono in cocci di terracotta.

Il ritorno a casa è stato un po’ triste perché molti negozi erano ancora chiusi, case buie e supermercati semivuoti; una triste quiete dopo la tempesta, ma eravamo a casa! Siamo saliti in ascensore, c’erano luce e il riscaldamento; le mie piante erano sopravvissute, ma io pizzicavo tutto dalla testa ai piedi. Un pizzicore tremendo. La notte mi son grattato a sangue e l’indomani ho pensato che forse mi ero beccato un’intossicazione alimentare, forse i porcini non più freschi. Sono andato dal medico, mi sono fatto una serie d’esami e mi hanno detto che dovevano fare una piccola operazione per liberare il canale biliare che appariva ostruito: “Poca cosa, una procedura che durerà un’oretta”. Si, era necessaria una breve anestesia per entrare dalla bocca e vedere da vicino cosa bloccava il fluido biliare; poi, avrebbero inserito un’altra “sonda” e fatto una piccola operazione se necessaria. Quando mi sono svegliato, sapevano tutto: il pancreas premeva sul condotto biliare, la bile non passava e la bilirubina era entrata in circolazione e mi faceva grattare come un pazzo; avevano inserito uno stent nel condotto biliare e fatto un prelievo di tessuto pancreatico. Senza neppure farci godere un po’ di suspence, avevano detto a Carole: “cancro-5 anni di vita”. Tutto con un tale garbato distacco che ho dovuto fare un certo sforzo per rendermi conto, che parlavano di me, del mio pancreas e di quello che mi restava da vivere.

Ho dormito grattandomi alla disperata e ho seguitato a grattarmi per più di dieci giorni e, quando ho sentito dai gran dolori all’altezza dello stomaco, ho pensato che fosse un fatto psicologico perché il peggio lo avevano già scoperto i medici.

 

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