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.
Today is my eighth radiation treatment, and they are "flying by." So how about some butterfly photos? This is one of the most common butterflies: Tiger Swallowtail. This is the male of the species.
Another view of its wings.
And surprise, this is the female version in its dark form. They were on opposite sides of the garden. Wonder if they will get together.
Another sighting on the butterfly bush, this time by me. This is a Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.
I don't think these are as common as Tiger Swallowtails, large yellow marked butterflies. But the Audubon Guide notes that Zebra Swallowtails "are the most abundant regular North American representative of the kite swallowtails, named for their triangular wings and long sharp tails. Despite a large range, the zebra occurs only near pawpaw trees or its relatives." The host for Tiger Swallowtails are deciduous trees.
We must have pawpaw trees in the nearby woods. "Picking up pawpaws, putting 'em in our pockets..." Catchy tune!
This magic machine is the Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator. Varian True Beam link for YouTube
It sings to me.
This photo is the scene when I enter the room. The white sheet covers my unique mold for my treatment. I lie down on my back, reaching my hands over my head and grasping the white vertical handles. The table raises and moves back into the center of the machine. The large head at the top delivers the beam of radiation and revolves around my body nearly 360 degrees. The square on the right rotates to the uppermost position at the beginning and the team uses the green laser to accurately position my body. The first revolution takes magnetic images that are sent to the radiation oncologist to assure that I am in the right position for treatment. The lymph nodes under my left arm are treated first. Then the team checks the magnetic images for the radiation of my stomach (empty for 4 hours). Upon approval of the doctor, the radiation is administered in the second half of the treatment. It all takes about 15 minutes.
And during the second portion as the TrueBeam revolves around me with blinking lights and whirring noises, it sounds almost like it's singing. Not quite like the musical interlude that signals the end of the cycle of our washer and dryer in our home. But still, it sounds like faint singing. Probably hymns.
Today is treatment #5. 1/3 of the way to the finish line!
After lunch Sunday, Judy asked if I had noticed the hummingbird moth on our butterfly bush. Camera time! Bonus: two photos today! Technical details: 1/1500 second exposure, f/4, iso 800.
These hummingbird moths are members of the sphinx moth family. I believe this specific visitor to our backyard is a male Snowberry Clearwing because of its black legs and black line through its eye. The flared tail indicates that it is a male. It is half the size of a hummingbird.
Hummingbird moths have clear wings, edged in brown or black depending on the species. Unlike typical sphinx moths that fly at night, hummingbird moths are active during daylight hours. The moths lay eggs on plant leaves. The resultant caterpillars feed on the leaves and pupate in leaf litter. We have bunches of leaf litter!
Something to think about on Sunday, different from my health concerns.
Differences. We readily notice differences.
And we make judgments about the differences that we notice, assigning value to our preferences.
Consequently, the people of the world are divided into strangers, friends, aliens, and enemies.
What I understand about scripture is this division is not God's intention.
The epistle lesson for today, the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Ephesians 2:11-22 addresses this separation: "With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace....So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God's people, and you belong to God's household."
God's household is larger than most of us imagine.
"Have a good weekend, " the tech said as she helped me from the radiation table. "I'll see you Monday."
As I thought back on the morning events, I laughed at the interplay of greetings and words. The patient before me, as we passed in the hallway, said, "It's all good!" Not to me necessarily, but maybe as a testament to his treatments. I thought at the time, wait! Have you been checking my website? The parking valet told me to have a great weekend. Possibly, because I over-tipped him. And it is free.
It will be a great weekend. No treatments on Saturday or Sunday. It's a real weekend!
And Judy brought home sweet cherries from the grocery. I fell in love with sweet cherries 50 years ago when we drove around Lake Michigan and discovered sweet cherries at roadside stands. Three treatments complete. It will be a good weekend.
Friday will be my third session of radiation for treating my Large B Cell Lymphoma. There will be fifteen treatments total, with the final one scheduled for August 2. Two weeks ago, the technicians took several x-rays and a scan of my stomach, and made 5 different crosses on my upper body and two straight lines, one over my sternum and the other under my navel. The waterproof stickers protected the intersections but we were encouraged to redraw the lines that washed away with a sharpie. Wednesday's treatment took a long time with x-rays and physician consultations. The techs added red crosses with waterproof stickers over the intersections. But Thursday's treatment was finished in less than 15 minutes. I have not experienced any digestive issues yet with the radiation to my stomach, but I am being careful about what I eat. I do have a powerful need for a nap after the treatment, a substantial nap.
I am continually reminded how serious this cancer is, and how blessed I am that it was discovered early. Even the targets are temporary and will quickly fade. August will be here soon.
The early morning rain woke me up. The rain gauge contains .2 inch. Not much, but enough to soak the grass seed in the front lawn near Judy's newly modified flower garden. Ginger, the ginger cat, has transformed since the disappearance last summer of her sibling, and craves constant attention as soon as we are awake. This past week has been an emotional challenge. Good news from tests did not prevent blue days. Don't know why. Cancer literature notes that emotional downturns are typical. The physical challenges of cancer treatment are sufficient without the addition of blue days. Healing is a slow process. Slower than I prefer.
Radiation treatments begin tomorrow. Judy has re-marked the registration guide marks on my body several times. Physical reminders of the process for the next three weeks. My strength has not returned. I am impatient. But I am closer to the end of cancer treatment than to the beginning. Just a few more weeks.
It rained yesterday. The forecast was for a few tenths of an inch. But between 1:30pm and 4:30pm, it rained a lot. 1.4 inches of rain.
And for some reason, as I watched the rain in my backyard, an old gospel hymn came to mind "Showers of Blessing." I looked through my collection of old hymnbooks and songbooks to find it. As I gazed at the page and sang to myself, I realized the words were deeply planted in my memory and spirit.
"There shall be showers of blessing:" This is the promise of love; There shall be seasons refreshing, Sent from the Saviour above.
And the chorus goes, Showers of blessing, Showers of blessing we need: Mercy drops round us are falling, But for the showers we plead.
And off I went on another internet excursion to see if there was a story behind the song. I didn't find that story but what was curious was who wrote the lyrics. Wikipedia noted that the lyricist was Daniel Webster. "The" Daniel Webster? No. Wikipedia is wrong! That's a whole other issue. Daniel Webster Whittle wrote hymns under several pseudonyms, which leaves me wondering why he would do that. Again, I am wandering in the weeds.
My first reflection, though, was about showers of blessings, and how we long for the abundance of being soaked. With hope and joy and grace and peace and healing.
Purple hints of the future.
I continue to ponder. meditate, ruminate (now there's an old word) on the days beyond the end of treatment. Four weeks from today should be my last radiation treatment and then about two weeks later I'll see Dr. Thompson again as a follow up to all of these months of treatment for lymphoma. That office visit will be far different from the one last March. That first visit was more than scary with so much I didn't know or understand.
Now I'm closer to the conclusion than to the beginning. The cancer appears to be healed, cured.
This dahlia bud is just beginning to unfold and will soon be full of purple like the one behind it. Even though it's just beginning, one can see the hint of purple. I'm seeing the hint of something far different after cancer. I'm going to continue to ponder and meditate and ruminate until I see it.