Portrait of John Keats by his friend Charles Brown, 1819 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was not until his last year of study at the Adelaide Boys’ High School that Pop-Star discovered a love for the English language. He was always a “steady” rather than a “bright” student; until then it was the science subjects, Physics and Chemistry where he gained his best results.
His ambition was to study Medicine, and at that time Latin was a prerequisite for entry to the School of Medicine in South Australia. In his earlier years English, and particularly English poetry had seemed incomprehensible and as lacking in interest and relevance as the study of Latin. English was just another discipline in which Pop-Star had to become proficient.
Pop-Star never fully mastered all grammatical detail, or understood the various structures of poetical expression. Even spelling errors crept into his literary efforts. He never really became as fluent as he would have liked in his writing and in his speech. He did however come to love carefully chosen words and to appreciate the human emotions they expressed.
The poet who most impressed the young Pop-Star was John Keats. You may be surprised to learn that he had no formal literary education. In fact he trained at Guy’s Hospital in London as a surgeon only to die at just 25, of pulmonary tuberculosis. In a few short years, in spite of his illness, he managed to write 54 poems that have brought him the fame and acclaim that he feared he would never achieve. His poem “When I have fears that I may cease to be” expressed this, together with a deeper regret on the loss of experiences of beauty and love, as they faded into insignificance, with his declining health.
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
Pop-Star liked his euphemism for death. “when I may cease to be”.
In our youth, we fear and dread death and shun even its mention.
Age softens our attitude to death, from a topic not to be discussed, to acceptance, and eventually to an event to be welcomed, and planned for.
Indeed it may be that it is “Life’s Last Adventure”
As the rash first appeared,on the left side of the chest.
Early stage of shingles
on back and side
Herpes zoster is commonly known Shingles, the name being derived from the Latin word Cingulum meaning a girdle or band reflecting the band like distribution of the painful rash which encircles one side of the body.
It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which earlier in life causes chicken-pox, but may lie dormant in some nerve roots of the spinal cord for years before being activated when disease, stress or old age lower the body’s immunity.
Pop-Star had chicken-pox when he was 12. “Monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis“, an early asymptomatic form of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia may have affected his immunity.
Since the virus spreads along the nerves damaging them, it causes constant painful sensations which range from a constant ache, sharp stabbing pains, creepy crawly feelings, a painful itch, at times hot boring pain, and intense sensitivity.
Since it is not often life-endangering, it is a condition that is not particularly news-worthy; but it can plague the lives of the elderly for a long time, at a time when their health is already compromised.
In the early stages of the rash when little vesicles or blisters are forming, the patient may pass on the virus to others, but surprisingly, if infected chicken-pox not shingles is the outcome.
Shingles can involve almost any region of the body, but most commonly the chest or the abdomen. Less commonly the trigeminal nerve of the face can be involved. The characteristic features of the condition are that the rash is painful and always confined to just one side of the body.
Fully developed area on the back
Fully blown rash left chest
50 years of marriage! Fancy the old couple still being around together in their mid-seventies, into their second decade of retirement; a decade when the quality of life is increasingly impacted by losses!
Losses such as the big five f’s: friends and family, finances, figure and fitness; not to mention health and memory; but not necessarily their libido and enjoyment of life.
There are some great advantages is still being together at this age, although so often this is not possible e.g.
• Companionship in sharing life’s experiences when many friends have died and other friendships have waned.
• Someone to share love and passion, when safe and intimate relationships are hard or impossible to form.
• Someone with whom one can seek and give support and assistance.
• Someone who understands how one feels, and compensates for one’s own inadequacies.
The wedding vow “In sickness and in health” had real significance for Pop-Star as their anniversary approached.
Just before going to bed ten days before the big event, Pop-Star had an ache in the front of his chest. It was not severe but was still there in the morning. With a prior history of coronary artery disease Pop-Star thought he should be checked out as he might be having a heart attack.
Mrs. Pop-Star took him to hospital where he was admitted for tests. A heart attack was ruled out but it wasn’t until two nights after discharge back home that the diagnosis became evident.
Overnight the pain was worse and an exquisitely sensitive rash in a band three inches wide appeared on only the left side of his chest, just below his left nipple.
A diagnosis of shingles was obvious and he was started on the anti-viral drug (Famcyclovir) and medication for the pain.
Although relieved that it was not a heart attack, he was to find out it is an incredibly painful affliction with neuralgia that can linger for months or even years after the rash disappears in 1-2 months.
The Gold Anniversary that proved to be a Non-event
Mrs. Pop-Star also has medical issues. Foremost is painful disabling osteoarthritis of both knees. Indeed she was booked for knee replacement surgery three days before the Anniversary. It was the earliest appointment she could get with her Orthopaedic Surgeon. Her attitude was “what better present could I have for the occasion than a new knee”?
Disappointingly the Anniversary was a non-event apart from the promised extended cuddle. They were just grateful to still be alive and together.
Selflessly MPS postponed her surgery for the present to look after him.