4 weeks ago last night Leaves on the Current and I learned she has cancer.
Four weeks since our lives got turned upside down.
As of now, she is half-way through the ten occasions of her second set of radiation
As of tomorrow, she will get the 3rd injection of chemotherapy out of the four in this cycle of 2 weeks on, 1 week off (she takes a second med by pill for all 14 days of the 2 weeks on).
She still has had no nausea, her appetite holds.
And now we are seeing positive things as well.
Yesterday we went to Tyson's Corner Mall. She was able to do a fair amount of walking on her own - she let me go one way while she went another. By the time we were done she had been to Nordstrom's, to Bare Minerals (for facial makeup) and to a shoe store for a pair of slip-on flats and some new socks.
The walking was positive - Leaves was able to work on her leg muscles, which had seen some atrophying of muscle tissue even before her diagnosis, because the previous pain had been so severe she had not been able to walk significantly.
There is a certain delight in being able to go and get things that will make you look and feel better: the disease is not going to define her, even as she must combat it, even as she knows she will continue to have to wear Gregor, her back brace, every time she gets out of bed.
After today's radiation treatment, we went to get her hair washed. The women who do it noted how good she looked, which of course pleased her. We celebrated by going to a new frozen yogurt site near us.
Next week she will end her radiation therapy, at least for the interim, on Monday. Until the following Tuesday she will be receiving no treatments, and her only medicine will be an aspirin a day, Pepcid when she day (we think - perhaps not, but we will check that), and insulin as needed. We are not sure about the Pepcid, because it was prescribed because she was taking steroids, even before she began the chemo. On days of chemo shots and the day after, she takes 20 MG of her steroid. On other days she has been taking 8 MG. She will take the 20 MG tomorrow and Wednesday and then again Friday and Saturday. Her last day, at least for now, of the 8 MG is Thursday.
And here is the good news. Tentatively she will go into her office this Wednesday for her staff meeting. Next week she plans to be in her office Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for 5 hours or so each day.
We have been able to be out for extended periods. We have gone out to a Chinese dinner, after having gone out to see Silver Linings PLaybook, which we both enjoyed. We plan to try to see another movie this weekend. She may well have dinner out with her college roommate (who is a physician) on Friday.
In other words, as far as we know the treatment is going as well as can be expected.
My beloved is starting to get back into living her life.
She has cancer, but it is treatable. It will be with her for the rest of her life, but it will be a chronic condition, not something that cripples or totally restricts her life.
Which is also why she still plans on Thursday to attend a reception for her mentor on her doctorate and make some remarks.
And we are considering accepting some of the invitations that have been graciously offered by two couples where one person has survive cancer to have us for dinner, in one case in their home a few blocks from us, in the other we wiil probably eat out.
Saturday she received a surprise gift from a Kossack that neither of us know personally, but who had contacted me for my address - it is a piece of clothing that is lovely and very useful.
We continue to receive cards of support and offers of assistance, should we need it.
I am not yet ready to try to find employment, at least not for the near term, but I have sent paperwork off to a couple of teaching situations for the Fall. All are longshots, but at least worth exploring.
In the meantime, I function as the family business manager. As the claims are reviewed by the insurance company, we find out what we will owe to our various providers, who soon thereafter send us the appropriate bills, which I then have to pay. It is not so much as of yet. But then, we have her excellent insurance as a government employee. I cannot imagine how someone without such insurance or perhaps with no insurance.
Radiation and infusion (where she gets her chemo) use the same entrance. Walking to and from radiation we go past the waiting room for chemo. We see some of the other patients being treated with radiation as well. I look at them. Many are older than me, but some are younger, sometimes even than my wife, who is almost 11 years younger than am I.
It would not have been so long ago that for many of the people we see a diagnosis of cancer would have been immediately accompanied by an estimation of how much time was left to the person.
What we have found out in the past four weeks is the impact of modern medicine, of medical research. In her case, we needed both CT scans and MRIs as part of the diagnostics - these are things whose usage dates only from the 1970s. Widespread availability took a while longer.
Similarly, many of the medicines used to treat cancers are relatively new, or else things known about for a while are now finding uses against aspects of cancers and other illnesses that have remarkable success rates.
Here I cannot help but think of the impact of severe cuts to medical research that would be part of the Sequester were it to be in effect on Friday. I look at proposals to slash Medicare and Medicaid and wonder about all the people that would keep from getting the kind of help we are receiving.
We both have had time on our hands recently. I have made some use to work on some issues around the house. Now I have time to fix meals for her. Leaves has decided she likes the way I make something of a taco salad, with various lettuces, beans, crumbled up tortilla chips, shredded cheese and salsa. It is nourishing, it provide some protein and some greens.
I might for breakfast make an oatmeal into which I will mix raisins, honey, perhaps even a little Greek yogurt.
I will buy a loaf from our local bakery, and several slice with a nice marmalade will provide some pleasure but not too many carbs.
Club soda mixed with lemon juice or cranberry juice helps cleanse the palate and provide some of the fluids she needs to take the day before and the day of her chemo.
In the meantime, even triple washed lettuce gets washed again. Bananas get washed before they are peeled. I do all the cat litter work. We have to pay attention to things that can have an effect because of an immune system compromise by chemo.
We are lucky. I have a reasonable income from pension and social security, and I can do the care-giving.
What about an elderly person who lives alone? Who has a cat? Who may be too frail to cook for herself? What if that person has no personal network that can fill in the things I do for my wife? How does that person survive?
We are incredibly grateful for the resources we have.
Because of that, we wonder about others who lack those resources.
Illness can be a great teacher.
For both of us, this illness has already taught us about ourselves as individuals. It has made us recommit as a couple in ways that deepen us, not merely towards one another, but to the world around us.
I do not claim to understand where this will lead us. It must take us beyond ourselves, we know that much.
Perhaps that is part of why I take the time to write these pieces, which appear as posts and the texts of which are sent out to various parts of our network as emails. We hope that what we learn and experience may thereby be of some value to others.
It also a way we can keep those who have expressed concern and offered support informed about what it happening, first and foremost to my beloved spouse, but also to us as a couple.