In one sense things are going well. But it is still difficult
Monday we attended a class to orient us towards chemotherapy, which will begin on Tuesday. The following day was her last day of radiation therapy - as had been scheduled at that time. Because she was doing so well, but also because he saw how much she was walking, her radiation oncologist decided it was important to be aggressive and worked out a schedule with her regular oncologist and she will be doing chemo and radiation in the same time frame. The positive aspect is that we have a better chance of moving more quickly until her underlying cancer is in remission and the surgeons will be able to deal with reinforcing her spine. We remain unsure of the impact upon her of not having several days to rest completely between rounds of chemo, because radiation is every weekday.
And I have to add something - before we headed to the hospital for that last session of radiation, she insisted we stop by a flower shop. She wanted to give a flower arrangement to the people who had been treating her in her radiation therapy. I'll bet that was a first, but it is so much like my loving spouse.
We are hopeful that she will not lose her hair. Friends who have had more modern approaches in chemo have on occasion not, and her oncologist is hopeful she won't. She has decided that even if she does, she does NOT want me to shave my head in solidarity - which is good, since there is a glaringly obvious flat spot in the back of my skull!
There is more, for both of us.
She is walking more. Yesterday as I did our weekly shopping she accompanied me into the supermarket. Of course, that meant she was going to buy things to make her happy even if they were not on my shopping list. I don't know how I can object, do you?
Gregor, her "exoskeleton" as a friend of mine called his similar back brace is now a regular part of the wife's existence. She has gotten used to wearing it and explaining, as this evening she went to the small salon where she gets her very long hair washed.
A good friend on the Hill who herself had back surgery and had to wear a brace has offered to take my beloved shopping for some outfits she can wear OVER her brace. We'll see. It is something to which to look forward.
Tomorrow will be the first time we have told people they can come over to see her. It is important that she reconnect and let people come to affirm her, but starting Monday evening she wants to prepare and the first few days of Chemo, not knowing how she will react, she prefers to maintain her normal state of introversion.
I have left the position where I was teaching, as I wrote previously, when I noted I was not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The decision was somewhat mutual. I will, probably at some point next week, stop by the school to turn in keys, pick up possessions, and say goodbye to the kids. I expect to return to full-time employment if at all possible by the Fall, and am again exploring possible teaching positions, although I will be very selective about where I would be willing to teach.
In the meantime I am still dealing with two separate sets of overwhelming response - my spouse is still getting packages and cards as even more people find out about her condition. And I am still getting emails and requests for interviews in response to the piece I originally wrote for Academe that also appeared here and in the Washington Post.
We have been together close to non-stop since the evening of January 27. Every now and then we get on each other's nerves. In the past, it might have festered, or lead to sulking on one or both of our parts. Now? Usually within a few minutes we are both apologizing, because the time together is simply too precious to waste on petty feelings.
As we go forward, we do so knowing that we cannot know how this will play out, which is one reason it is important to us to listen to one another.
We are hopeful - our friend who is retired from NIH tells us the combination of drugs in her chemo has been shown to be very effective. There are the positive words from her radiation oncologist. She is not feeling back pain any more - the steroids have done wonders for that. Her appetite so far has remained good (although we will have to watch that while on chemo). She has only occasionally needed to inject herself with insulin as a result of the steroids, which means we have found the sweet spot between eating food that gives her pleasure and maintaining a safe level of blood glucose. She is comfortable enough with her brace that she can wear it for extended period, she can sit in a chair without pain for at least 3 hours, she can walk several hundred yards without tiring.
This weekend we may go for a drive in the country, because she very much wants to reconnect with the natural world. It is possible we may go to a movie tomorrow night, now that we are sure she will be able to stay in her seat for the requisite viewing time.
And starting tomorrow afternoon - and Sunday afternoon, and at least part of Monday- she is willing to have people visit.
It is time to start reconnecting beyond the phone and electronically. She knows that.
It is time to let others bear us up in person as well as in prayer.
It is time to let go and let others shower us with their love and caring in person.
As of this Sunday, it will be only 3 weeks since we found out.
That now seems like a different lifetime.
But we are still together.
We can affirm each other. I help with her daily tasks. She points me at places on the internet where people are talking about what I have written. It is still a partnership. We still give to each others.
And we hold our breath, knowing that Tuesday, with chemo, we begin an entirely new phase.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for caring.