Beyond Day Six
My sometimes-daily blog of a photograph or two with a few words, celebrating all the days of life that flow through creation into perspiration, inspiration, reflection, sabbath, and resurrection.
Monday's blood test should have been easy. I was cool and calm even when the tech appeared and said she would have to stick me again because there was something wrong with the first sample. No problem. Back to the waiting room until a nurse appeared and said I needed to go to the treatment room. What?!?! Code for something is wrong with your blood scores. Another long wait until another nurse delivers the news that my platelets are very low. No blood transfusion today (not something I had been expecting) but I should call the office if my nose bleeds or if I suffer a cut or bruise because my blood would likely not clot.
I was just beginning to get accustomed to the routine when a new variable rises to the surface. Cancer treatment is a bit like the simulation games we used to play years ago and the leader would announce a new wrinkle that would significantly alter our strategy. A friend had asked me weeks ago about my platelets and while the number bounced around, it hadn't drawn my attention. Now it does.
No playing with sharp things. No tattoos. No flossing! Be careful! Seriously? One more thing to add to my feeling of mortality and vulnerability.
I'm certain the medical team will be watching the numbers and they have a plan for whatever complication shows up.
Just another week to breathe deeply, and be careful.
If it's Monday, I am giving blood for a test. It's a 30 minute drive to the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center. They do offer valet service which I began taking advantage of on my second trip. Yes, I'm old enough for valet service, and some Mondays, I feel like I am the stereotypical cancer patient. I enter the door and sign in. A receptionist aims a thermometer at my forehead (easy task as I have a lot of forehead now!). And I answer the standard Covid exposure questions. I wait until my name is called. The TV is tuned to HG home improvement show reruns. Appropriate, as all of us in the waiting room are renovation projects. Some of the patients must be there frequently as some of the staff greet them by name. How often do you have to be there for that to occur? Today is my ninth trip to these offices. Yeah, I let the valet park my car.
My name is called and I go back to the area where four chairs are located. One of the technicians sticks my finger. And milks my finger for more than enough to measure. I don't watch. She wraps a bandaid around my finger with a small gauze pad, tightly. I will be glad to remove it soon. I go to another chair around the corner to wait for the results. This time I expect to be told that I'm good and I can go home.
Next Monday, the technician will insert a special needle in my port for the blood sample and to be connected for my infusion. I think I am nearly halfway through this process.
I'm looking forward to the Mondays that I will swim in my pool and not have to drive across town.
The epistle lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Easter is 1 John 4:7-21. Portions from this passage include the following:
"Dear friends, let's love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God." (7)
"If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us." (12)
"We love because God first loved us." (19)
The writer makes a bold assertion: Love comes from God. We experience love in many different relationships and find it different in quantitative and qualitative ways. There are countless teachers and methods who claim to help us to learn to love.
I have been reflecting on my pastoral ministry and shared with colleagues this week about my excitement of being appointed as a pastor to a church, and realizing that the fundamental task was to love them. I failed in many ways. But I also experienced being love far beyond what I deserved. It's been 20 years since I was appointed to a church and I am still amazed at the opportunity to love and be loved. Because I am still part of those Christian communities.
I learned to love because I was loved by God, still am, and that love flows from my life, despite my failures. Truly amazing.
I'm a fan of mystery. The kind of mystery that the author reveals an answer at the end.
Or the kind of mystery that is not solved and invites readers to imagine an answer or resolution.
We live in mysteries. Why did that happen? Why didn't the expected happen? Why was I chosen or ignored?
Possibly it's the perspective of years lived to look back and wonder about events and intersections and missed opportunities.
I have sat in rooms of grief and been asked why and I had no answer.
I have questions too.
Sometimes there is no answer.
At least, not yet.
I know this treatment cycle won't last for ever. I think I'm near the midpoint of the chemotherapy if there are four. But it sure feels like a circular process. Infusion. Fatigue. Recover. Approaching normal. Infusion. Fatigue. Recover, etc.
I am eager to get to late June with chemotherapy complete and waiting for radiation to begin. I do want to be rid of the cancer.
It's just that treatment day is no fun. And there are only two more of those. I can do this.
And before my next infusion on May 10, I have a week of near-normal with friends coming to visit us.
I may even make it to the Picasso exhibit at the Frist. Weeks ago I got some of the last tickets before they were sold out.
And Saturday is the beginning of May. Closer every day.
This is one of those days where I felt better yesterday than I do today. Tenth day after chemotherapy. Tired. My digestive system is out of whack. And it has rained all day with a forecast of more rain tomorrow.
But I am grateful that my treatment season is the spring. And it will last into summer with radiation yet to be scheduled.
I have watched greenness grow in my backyard. Judy has spent two days scrubbing the green from our deck. The grass needs mowed.
Peonies have erupted from the ground and color is showing on their marble-sized buds. The dogwoods lost many petals in today's downpour.
The oaks are the last trees to leaf out and will soon obscure the western sky. We can even open our windows and enjoy fresh air.
So I am glad to be distracted from how I feel by what I can see and touch and smell. I even wandered around my cul-de-sac to see what my neighbors have blooming in their yards. The slow, bald man with his camera and tripod.
I do want the treatments to end, and take all the side effects with them. But I want the season to embrace me with green.
One of the enduring mysteries this spring has been "what happened to the 71st egg?"
The Hideaway hosts an annual Easter Egg Hunt. Careful preparation is taken. Some plastic eggs even contain cash!
The organizers take great care in counting how many of the plastic eggs have been distributed throughout the premises.
Last year, because of the pandemic, the hunt was postponed.
But this year, the anticipation had been building for some time since the hosts had received their vaccinations and were eager to hold the heralded event.
Easter arrived and the solitary teenager searched the yard. Plastic eggs were counted. One was missing. The pair that had hid them knew it contained a chocolate Cadbury egg. But it was nowhere to be discovered.
23 days passed. And lo, in a bush next to the pool there it was. And the Cadbury egg appeared fine. We are awaiting the test taste to see how it survived within the plastic egg and the foil wrapping.
I'll let you know.
Ah, but it's not art! Hmmm, have you ever seen a contemporary photo exhibit? Okay, it's not art. Just a simple photo at dinner last night on our deck as I saw these two empty chairs...
We have lots of outside seating! Five reclining lounges, six dining chairs, four bar height chairs, 2 aluminum chairs with the round table, four other chairs (2 of which are in the photo), 2 laid back chairs (down in Judy's secret garden), and an Adirondack chair that I built! Plus all the seat boxes around the deck, and the half-dozen places in the pool spa. Not many takers during the pandemic isolation. But that's about to change. Because...
All the places are...
Waiting for friends
Waiting for conversation
Hoping to catch up on stories and travels
Sharing a joke
Celebrating that my white blood count is high enough that there is no need for antibiotics this week!
Heading for a cure.
I'm not a painter. I had to take Art Appreciation in college twice. That's another story.
But I do enjoy a feature on my camera that transforms a photograph into a watercolor. And the reason I like to do that is that it allows me to see something different that a highly detailed image. The color flows in wide swatches and the form comes to the front and the texture becomes brush strokes, and I find a different appreciation for what I am seeing.
I need that for my cancer.
I'm not halfway yet through the treatments. Oh, I have had 2 of the four scheduled chemotherapy infusions but the effects last far longer than the one day at the oncology center. Today is another blood test to determine how low my white blood count has gone. I suspect it will be lower than three weeks ago, after the first test. My energy was lower all last week and there were a couple of challenging days to summon any strength. It would be terrific if I could blur those days to see the beauty instead of the details.
Dr. Thompson raised my stage to 3 last week. A technical adjustment he said which doesn't affect my treatment schedule nor his intention to cure my cancer. But muted brush strokes would have been helpful there.
Summer doesn't officially begin until around June 21. I should have recovered from my fourth chemotherapy by then. And summer will just be beginning. Radiation will follow. Maybe it will lend itself to more watercolor than chemo.
The week after chemotherapy depletes my energy enormously. Saturday was especially difficult.
But the Psalm Lesson for Fourth Sunday of Easter is the familiar 23rd.
Here it is as Eugene Peterson voiced it in "The Message":
God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I am not afraid when you walk by my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head, my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.