General

Five senses and five wits

The five senses are of course the five natural powers which give a person or animal information about the world outside. They are sight, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. The deprivation or impairment of any one of the senses would cause serious inconvenience to the subject in question on the one hand, and have generated so much research and literature in the human world on the consequences including its restoration, in part or in whole, on the other. Collectively, they reflect but one of the characteristics of living things, namely irritability. Plants are of course living things too. However, we often classified plants separately from animals as if they are not living things. They certainly are; and many plants, certainly trees, have more feeling than some humans.

Plants do not react though in the way animals would, but many representatives of their species have lasted longer than their counterparts in the animal world. We often speak of dinosaurs being old and ancient. They lasted a very long time very long ago, but plants preceded them. The earliest living things were probably plants, and phytons probably preceded planktons, even though the two are often mentioned in the same breath as the smallest early organisms providing food in the air, land and sea for higher forms of life. It is facts such as this that support theories that plants would still be around on Earth long after animals, certainly humans, have gone. And I cannot remember the author or composer of Tree or Trees, but I would always remember the signature line, “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” Drop me a line if you do.

The five senses touched me because they are often amiss in some form when one is ill. Patients under medication often complain of losses or impairment of one or all of the five senses. When Rosita was under chemotherapy, there were days when her taste and smell faculties were suspended. Looking on the bright side, her conditions have been much better than most other cancer patients. She completed the second course of chemotherapy towards the end of July and went for tests in August. To prepare for the scanning, mainly of the liver, she had to take in radioactive tracers overnight and so on. Very unluckily, the machine was out of order on the first appointment, so that she had to go through the process the following week and the accompanying inconvenience, waiting and anxiety.

Meanwhile, she went through some minor surgeries, including one on the kidney, which was not related to breast cancer and a tumour on the left shoulder, which was. The tumour turned out to be bigger than we thought and tests confirmed that it was malignant, which is bad news, meaning that the earlier treatment failed to arrest the spread of the cancer cells. The good news is that it was somehow contained. The scanning showed that the numerous nodules in the liver were still there. Once again, the good news is that they have not enlarged. The consultant doctor then concluded that the efficacy of the second course of chemo was inconclusive, but that it would be reasonable to assume that the cancer cells had mutated. More tests were carried out on the tumour excised from the shoulder. The object was to ascertain whether a new treatment would be appropriate. The result proved negative. The doctors then recommended irradiation of the ovaries as a means to minimize or remove potential risks. We had some reservations on this initially, but in the end agreed to go ahead with the treatment. The actual operation was over in seconds, but in the next few days, Rosita suffered from some disorders in bowel movements.

Now, we had planned to go on some overseas trips after the second course of chemo. The doctors had advised against traveling because she was required to report twice each week to the hospital to have her tubing examined and cleansed. Although no chemo is being contemplated, the doctors said that her condition was not sufficiently stable to rule out more chemo. This means the tubes attached to the heart could not be removed for the time being. In the meanwhile, she would take drugs to suppress her hormone levels.

Apart from all these, Rosita has been fine. Indeed she is quite mobile and rather active on many days. Friends often say that she looks better and healthier than her husband. They could be correct.

Back to the five senses, some lexicographers believe they were known as five wits in the last century. The five wits were common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation and memory. We are all familiar with common wit or common sense, which we all know is so commonly wrong. When we choose not to believe in the stories of others, we say these people have imagination. We describe individuals with uncommon logic and behaviour as people living in fantasy. We often dismiss estimation as a pastime of those working on the budgets of others. Memory? What memory? RAM or ROM? But let me leave you with Tennyson’s Owl, “Alone and warming his five wits, the white owl in the belfry sits.”

Talk to you again next week.

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