Today for several hundred million Eastern Christian, Orthodox and Oriental, is Pascha, Easter, the Day of Resurrection, the most important day on their religious calendar. Last week was Holy Week, full of services of preparation. My wife is a serious Orthodox Christian, singing in her choir, serving in some services as a reader of the Epistle or other texts, serving on one national committee and representing the Orthodox Church in America to the National Council of Churches' working group on environmental justice. We were married at St. Mark Orthodox Church in late 1985, and although I have since moved on to my current status as a Quaker, I fully support my wife's participation in that church.
Which is why this week has been somewhat sad. Because my beloved missed most of the services, including the Paschal service last night.
While in general her recovery has been good, this was not a great week, in large part because she developed a cold. That might not be a major issue did she not have a compromised immune system from her chemotherapy. It is bad enough that it interrupted the sleep cycle she had developed. When it spread into her chest, and she became hoarse, we saw medical advice which was that she should stay in bed and not attempt the service last night/this morning.
She was able to find a service online from a Greek church in Toms River NJ, so she was not totally cut off. But she missed hearing - and singing - the familiar music of the feast, which is full of joy. She missed exchanging the paschal greeting with friends, the breaking of the fast with the joyful meal (although St. Mark Church was kind enough to send a blessed basket with goodies for her to enjoy).
If this is as bad as we have to confront during her recovery, we will be grateful.
Especially as we learned that I also have some health issues that means I may well be dealing with a chronic condition as well.
Let me explain.
For a while I had occasional red spots that I simply assumed were insect bites I had not noticed as the time - mosquitos and spiders think my blood is particularly delectable. I also occasionally get rashes in various places as a result of mild allergic reactions to things I eat or drink. Thus when i began to develop itchy redness in my armpits at first I did not think much of it, especially as under the right arm was a raised area that seemed to be a spider bite.
But it did not fade. When my beloved happened to glance at it towards the end of last week, she was somewhat shocked, and insistent that I get an appointment. She was sure it was something she had wrestled with, and a quick glance at internet material seemed to confirm what she was saying.
I finally saw a dermatologist on Wednesday and the diagnosis seems clear, although a biopsy was taken to ensure it was nothing worse.
I have psoriasis. By the time I saw the doctor the itching was so severe I was having trouble sleeping, and it was breaking out in other areas of my body as well.
Our good friend who was Jurretta's college roommate remind me that outbreaks of psoriasis often occur during periods of stress. Realizing that, it is more than likely that this is far from my first outbreak, as I have in the past often wondered when I had been bitten, particularly not having seen any spiders or mosquitos.
Fortunately it is responding very well to the treatment of a skin ointment.
But that means both of us now are living with chronic medical conditions. Certainly, assuming the biopsy returns any additional information, what I live with - a lifelong disease of the immune system - is of far lesser severity than my wife's blood cancer,which can be beaten into remission but will part of her for the rest of her earthly life.
When I was young I used to scoff at advertisements geared at people with psoriasis, whether a shampoo that mentioned it as one possible cause of itching or flaking, or an advertisement at which I used to scoff, the lead with the line "The heartbreak of psoriasis."
I have no familial history of the disease.
I do have high blood pressure and cholesterol, for which I am being treated. These can be associated with psoriasis. I probably also have some degree of atherosclerosis.
It is nice knowing the cause, and that it is treatable.
I need some help with my treatment. I have not been able to put on the bandage over the stitch for the biopsy. I have needed my wife's help. I also would be unable to point the ointment on any patches on my back.
So now our caring for illness is a mutual thing. She depends on me for some things, as I will now have to depend on her.
I have a pretty high tolerance for physical pain and discomfort, or else I probably would have seen the dermatologist earlier.
I assert again how lucky we are. First we have superb doctors and the insurance to pay for their care of us, including prescriptions. Second, we have each other, and a commitment that has only become stronger since she was diagnosed with her cancer. By now we know we belong to multiple communities ready and willing to give us support.
This will be a difficult week in some ways. Tomorrow is the last day of her 2 weeks on chemo. We know that the next few days tend to be the toughest in the 3-week cycle of two weeks on, one week off. I will face some unavoidable stress in dealing with prospective employment issues.
But we will manage.
I am making this weekly update early, which I will explain anon. It should be seen as more about my wife than about me. Unless the biopsy reveals something totally unexpected, there will be little more to say about me. We still have an appointment with the neurosurgeon in a bit more than 3 weeks, which will be the next major review point in her treatment.
Normally I would post/email this weekly update in the evening.
But today is Pascha.
i have promised my wife that today is hers to do with as she wants. At a minimum, that will mean a drive in the country. We had planned to go to a favorite restaurant, although with the cold she is not sure. Also, she knows her sense of taste is off from the chemo, and worries that she might not be able to enjoy the food there, as much as she loves the setting and the ambiance. I have told her it is strictly up to her: if she wants to go, we will.
We continue to be grateful for the prayers, holding in the Light, messages of support,etc. we continue to receive from so many.
We also continue to be blessed by four felines who will insist there is nothing more important than allowing them to curl up next to or on top of either of us, cuddle, and purr.
We thank you again.
We love you.