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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Third Lap Around the Ward

What fun are hospital stories when there is no thrilling drama to relate? No next-door neighbor begging to be freed from his mortal coil, no Kia babbling in incomprehensible tongues and no bad nurses to complain about?

There was that Spinal Tap. Wednesday morning I believe it was. It happened in my room, and the whole thing took maybe 15 minutes. My friendly and familiar oncologist did the deed. I curled up in a ball facing away from him, and he put some shots of numbing medicine into the spaces between the bones. Then in went what felt like two giant needles. The second one hurt. I cried. Crying during a procedure slows things down a bit because they have to wait for your body to return to normal relaxing rates before they can continue. After that I didn't feel anything. Apparently they took some fluid out, and it was clear as opposed to translucent. A good sign. They also apparently put some methotrexate in, but I didn't feel any of that business either. Then this morning my doc came in and announced that the cancer tests they did on the spinal fluid came back negative. Hooray!
The next step is to go have a meeting with more Stanford Doctors about the possibility of a Stem Cell transplant. My doctor here is in favor of it, as I think I've said before. I'm pretty sure the Stanford Docs are too. At this point, the relevant question may be more about when it happens than if it happens. 
As my cancer tests have been coming back negative since the first big round of chemo, some people are starting to wonder if it's really necessary to go through six whole rounds before getting to the big finale. This week's was the third. Perhaps only a fourth would really be necessary? We'll see. 
As for the stem cell "transplant," it sounds scary but as I am learning is really more of a glorified transfusion. They take the cells out of your blood (which is easier to get at than some other fluids) and then "clean" the blood somehow of whatever cancer cells they find, regrow the stem cells (in like 20 days or so, I'm hearing) then give them back to you. I'm sure I'll know more after that meeting. June 15. Another trip north with the parents. Hopefully nobody passes out before this one.

But, meanwhile. What of me and my existential crisis, my big grapple with the human condition? Well, it continues. But, like a cork in the ocean—or a turd in the toilet—one must just stay try to afloat. 
This hospital stay has been, as I keep mentioning, highly uneventful, which is what you want most hospital stays to be. Orange-sauce goes in the port, comes out into the pee hat, and another day goes by. I've watched some exciting basketball games—go Dallas!—I am reading a good novel, and Annie continues to be an incredibly good-natured, fun, snuggly companion. We have matched each other well at cribbage games on the dingy patio, watched some good TV (what's not to love about Extreme Make Over - Weight Loss Edition? Each episode is like watching a whole season of The Biggest Loser). And we've watched some bad TV (I'm looking at you, Celebrity Fit Club, about which I will only say that it is hosted by Ant, and if you remember who Ant is, that's your own fault. We did). 

In the hospital there is less of a question about what I could or should be doing when. Except, of course, for the times Dr. Dad passes by to mention that Mozart was 27 when he died, and look at all he managed to accomplish! Or when he stops in to find Annie on her iPad and me at a crossword puzzle, and then suggests perhaps it's time to start learning another language. I find these comments incredibly frustrating and counter productive. Because they actually do make me wonder. Is he right? Am I crazy? Is being in the process of surviving cancer just not enough? I have to say, it has crossed my mind—I seem to be in the process of receiving a second chance at life. Doesn't that mean I'm meant to do something terribly significant with all this extra time? Does it?

Anyway. I'll be out of here tomorrow, which is nice enough to know. After that I'll just have to see what I'm in the mood for. I'm looking forward to going back to my new weight-lifting regimen at the Lifestyle Center and have been feeling a little more inspired to start cooking again. (If only I had a basket full of fresh organic veggies from some hearty Pioneer Valley-grown soil!) Still, even though Save Mart is currently standing in for a weekly organic farm-share, I reckon those seem like healthy, happy, manageable goals for now. And I think that's the best I can do.


  1. Ah, girl. Being in the process of surviving cancer is more than enough. It's plenty. You need to allow it to be. And anyway, you are already doing the terribly significant: You're writing your book.



  2. Ah, yes... the terribly significant dilemma. You know I did do something terribly significant in its way and the darn question still wasn't answered. Why? Because there is always something more to be done or be perfected or bested. So instead, the pursuit of happiness/joy/presence/meaning seems a more personal journey. When I am on track (to what I'm not sure yet. in the 61 year old version of "Who am I" "What am I to do next?"...) there is an ease and grace to my days when things just seem to drop in my lap. (And of course the opposite is true when I am not aligned... This seems to come out of a ground of openness. So I am beginning to observe the minutiae of my feelings to see when I shut down/react to something instead of remaining in the inquiry. Your dad is an amazingly passionate, intelligent, interesting human being. So just listen to the idea of a calling instead of comparing yourself, regardless of how he words it/says it. React not to his words but to his desire for you to find and create your highest good. Be curious. And observe when you just want to run away and hide (is your version still go live in the woods on an organic farm and just be happy?). As you have the courage to face the cancer (you're doing awesome in that department) consider that your soul is wanting a wake up call (falling off the Naked Edge caught my attention.... pretty dramatic). You don't "have the answers yet," but you and God/The universe, or whatever you call it, do. Your dad is just there to call you forth and you can interpret that as an enemy or a true friend who doesn't want any less for you than you already are. Remember we all see the power in each other easier than the power inside ourselves. I love you. Auntie C :)

  3. Just now catchin up on your posts. Great writing, again...a rigged gig....liked that one a lot. NH says hi. It has rained all day, and the Robins have been singing...ALL DAY. I am sure they are excited over the rising of the worms from the sodden soupy soil . I look out the bedroom window at the new raised bed, at the pumpkin I planted in a pot in Louisiana that now grows in the thick topsoil of New Hampshire; Transplanted , but keeps on growing, reaching out, because that is what it must do. Be strong. Reach out. Mary

  4. Do what you want...what you're doing is enough. You can learn another language down the road, you can climb mt. everest next summer, you can concentrate on healing and being well and do crossword guilt.