Tuesday, October 19, 2010
View from the Ground: October Oncology
Playwright Tennessee Williams, asked what he wanted for his birthday, supposedly said he wanted "what every writer wants: a day when the muse is with you and you're hot."
That quote came back to me as I walked home from the library today, because what came to me was not that the muse was with me but that very occasionally I write a great sentence, sometimes I write okay, ordinary sentences, and the rest of the time I just write pure drek. I hope the okay, ordinary sentences outweigh the drek, but given that I delete almost as many sentences as I type (except on those exceedingly rare days when the muse is with me), I'd say I'm probably about par for the course.
I am starting this post on Monday afternoon, knowing it won't go up until I finish my oncology appointment Tuesday afternoon. Although my visible markers (energy level, activity level, stamina, weight) are all excellent, myeloma lives not on the surface but inside my bones. The outward measures start changing only after the cancer has had a healthy head start deep in my marrow. My oncologist and I agreed last June that October would be a good time to repeat the major labs, including the kappa free light chain assay, to give us both the best look-see into my marrow and my true state of health.
So tomorrow is weighing on me. I love my oncologist, I feel good physically, I am expecting (hoping for) neutral results, and I am walking around with the appointment pressing down hard upon my shoulders.
No wonder my muse isn't here. She is out dancing through the blaze of leaves carpeting the sidewalks while I am sitting here kicking at the floor.
October is the most beautiful month in Ohio, but it is also the month where winter starts blowing kisses to us, promising more to come. This morning, there was a light ice on the windshield (our car had been parked on the street all night). Close behind the house, my garden was chilly but not icy. I'm glad: there are still some tomatoes ripening and I am not quite ready to give them up until next summer.
Today's oncology visit is weighing even more heavily on me than yesterday. Despite all the good signs I keep ticking off, I am edgy and anxious to see the numbers. I had trouble falling asleep last night, my mind running through various "what if" scenarios, and when I finally slept, I dreamt of my boys. They were not in harm's way, but I had a long, tangled, and complex dream about Sam switching schools and Ben restarting his undergraduate education, both at colleges and in programs I had never heard of before.
All this morning (it is midmorning) I have been restless. I start something, then set it aside. My only real accomplishment is finishing baking for tonight's legal clinic.
In this morning's paper was an obituary for a friend who had been struggling with lung and bone cancer for the last three years. Sheryl's obituary was deftly penned, I am sure, by her husband Jesse; his love for her was laced through the words. My first reaction, after the hurt of the news, was "I want Jesse to write my obituary." My second reaction was "I can write my own obituary." I shared that thought with Warren; I did not look at his face when I said it because I did not think I could bear to see his expression.
Warren knows today's appointment is hanging over me; he also knows that losing a friend to cancer is an uncomfortably close experience for me. Warren is lovingly patient on oncology days. Over the years, he has learned (at my insistence) to stand back just a little bit. This is a river I wade in alone each time while he watches from the shore. I need and want his hand when I come back up on the bank, but I have to struggle through the current alone.
My labs were the best they have been in months, even years. Yes, the myeloma is there, it will always be there. I will never be cured. But my kappa free light chain assay results were even better than they were back in December.
Tim grinned. Warren beamed. I about fell over as a million pounds rolled off my shoulders and sank right out of sight through the floor. I don't have to see Tim again until April.
April! Six months from now!
I was all but skipping as Warren and I left the oncology clinic. I squeezed his hand, bounced up and down in the elevator, gave him a huge kiss when he dropped me off. I am now typing these words quickly so I can get to Legal Clinic.
I'm out of the river, back on the shore, embracing the world.