Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Wedding, A Death, And Life

My son Ben and my almost daughter-in-law Alise have set a wedding date for this August in Helena, Montana.

I'm thrilled! I'm overjoyed! I love Montana! I love Ben and Alise!

And I'm looking at my budget trying to figure out how on earth to manage it. (Don't worry, you two, we'll be there. Oh, we'll be there!) Earlier today I was running trip estimates and despairing each time a new balance came up on the calculator. Warren could hear it in my voice when we talked on the phone.

In all fairness, it's not just the expense of that trip that is on my mind or in my voice right now. Yesterday I saw Tim, my oncologist, for a quarterly checkup. While I got good reviews, we talked at length about the costs of tests and how far apart I could space them before he started losing vital connections to my health history. I told Tim I needed time to pay off the medical bills that have accumulated since Dr. Bully put me behind on the count and could we delay everything for another six months? I knew from his face and carefully worded response that he was uncomfortable with that option. He had questions of his own. How much did it cost just to see him? What if I saw him in 90 days without any testing? Could I afford that? We compromised by agreeing I would see him in three months - without any labs or other tests - and then repeat the kappa free light chain assay, one of the best tests today for myeloma, when I see him in the fall.

I said to Warren as we drove home, "Tim doesn't like my IgG." It hasn't moved upwards since last July, but it hasn't moved down either.

So that is gnawing at me.

Interlaced with my medical and medical/financial concerns, our household is running on vapors right now. I have taxes bumping aside the medical bills in the next two weeks. Both of us are writing grants for our respective employers. Our weekday schedule has changed now that I drive Sam to and from work every day and we are still all adjusting to the new schedule. Warren has been playing concerts all over, has more coming up, will be playing Easter at Maple Grove, has the May concert and the composer residency bearing down like a steam locomotive on him and the Symphony, and is trying to finalize another food pantry benefit concert, all while trying to finish building a vibraphone for the May concert (as well as have a set of crotales cast so he can machine and finish them in time to play in the same concert).

And our friend and neighbor Tom Prengaman died last week.

Tom was only 57. He had had three bouts with lymphoma over the last 17 years. It sounds as if his death was caused by a recurrence of it, although he didn't live long enough for his oncologist to run definitive tests. If the cause of death wasn't lymphoma, the lymphoma was the major contributor.

I'm sad and upset that Tom died. Besides being a friend (along with his wife Kris and their now adult daughters, who I have known since they were in grade school) and our backyard neighbor, Tom lived in Cancerland. Just like me. When I was facing my first stem cell transplant, Tom sought me out at a barbeque and talked about his own experiences and transplant. He talked directly and bluntly about his illness, which I appreciated deeply.

Tom's death is gnawing at me. I know it is and I know why. Those of us who populate Cancerland live with the reality of the cancer someday coming back with a vengeance. We know it. We don't always face it, but we know it deep in our bones. Tom dying last week made me face that it could happen to me too.

It could happen to me too, but it is today I must be living. And while I pound away at the grant application, or shuttle Sam to and from work, or rework the figures on a trip to Montana, I need to keep that thought - that it is today I must be living - first and foremost in my mind.

Funeral processions have the right of way on our roads. We pull over and let them go by; if we are at a light and it turns green, we sit and wait until the last vehicle in the procession clears the intersection. Besides being the law, it is the remnant of a time when we knew our community well enough to know who was being buried and stood silently by in respect as the procession went by.

In the Jewish tradition, however, the outcome is different in one situation. If a funeral procession meets a wedding procession at a crossroads, the wedding procession has the right of way. The rationale behind this custom is that life always takes precedence over death.

Life takes precedence over death. It is today I must be living.

We've got a wedding to get to in August.

Congratulations, Ben and Alise!


Sharon said...

I'm so happy for you and the upcoming wedding! What a wonderful event to look forward to!

I'm also sad for you that you always have your health status in the back of your mind, stealing away happy moments. And financial worries on top of that. I'm also very sorry for the loss of your neighbor. 57 is too young.

But, my dear April, you also have the uncanny ability to jump right back into life, making sure to enjoy each and every moment. That is truly a gift.

My future son-in-law is a two-time cancer survivor. I worry that it will come back. He "says" he does not worry about that. He gets checked every 6 mos. So far, cancer free. He had testicular cancer, and from what I understand, having children is no longer a possibility. My daughter knows this, and is willing to take a chance with him. And he definitely deserves that chance.

You've given me a new perspective on this disease, and I'm hoping that it will make me much more attune to the needs of my future son-in-law. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject, as I'm sure it's not always easy.

In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful spring, the wonderful music, and the joy of a new union. But most of all, enjoy life each moment of each day, and I will be right there with you! Sending HUGS!!!!

elonjohned said...

Thanks for always speaking openly and honestly about your thoughts/worries/joys. For those of us who are dealing with or have dealt with cancer in our families, you breathe new life and strength into us. I can't help but feel down sometimes when I wish I could call up my dad or spend time with him but I hear him all the time telling me that I need to make the best of things and move on with life. "Life takes precedence over death." You are helping to motivate us all! And of course my heart goes out to the Prengamans. Tom will surely be missed.

Congratulations to Ben and Alise! How exciting!

Oh and thank you so much for posting those DI photos. Such a great laugh and wonderful memories. We always had such a blast, didn't we? =)