Saturday, April 27, 2013


Back in my younger days, a lifetime ago, I sometimes went whitewater rafting with my then husband and other like-minded friends. (This was paddle rafting, not guided tours.)

Even as a rank amateur, I learned some basics about running a river. I learned about scouting rapids. I learned the importance of getting your feet out in front of you if you fell out of the raft. (An important corollary to that basic rule is don't hang onto the raft if you fall out.)

And I learned about eddies.

Eddies are those pools of water over to the side, out of the rapids, out of the current. They often have their own self-contained current, typically an internal circular motion as some water enters the eddy, washes up against the rock that typically creates the eddy, and then washes around as more water enters the eddy. Water pools and circles in the eddy because there is not enough current to push the water through and back into the main channel.

When you are whitewater rafting, eddies can be two things. They can be places you can get stuck in or they can be places wherein you get saved.

The first type of eddy, the one you get stuck in, is the type rafters work hard to avoid. My ex, who usually captained the raft from the rear tube, would yell out orders if the raft looked as if it were headed into an eddy. "Right side PADDLE!" he'd bellow. "Left side, push HARD off that boulder. PADDLE HARD NOW!"

You didn't want to get stuck in an eddy because it took so much energy and effort to break out of one. The raft could get damaged being shoved into the rocks or boulders that were part of the eddy. An eddy could be a safety risk for the rafters as well.

The other type of eddy I experienced only once, the very last time I went rafting. There were just four of us on that trip: my now ex husband, my dad, my son Ben, and me. For the only time in my rafting years, the raft flipped and we all went into the river.

We turned over at a rapid where, had the water been higher, we possibly would have drowned. My ex managed to get out on the far shore. Ben, dad, and I were swept along and downstream. Although it was high summer and the water levels were low, the current was strong enough that we were all tumbled along for more than a mile, with no way to get out of the river.

Then I got shoved into an eddy. I still remember, years later, pulling myself onto the riverbank, cold, wet, banged up, and grateful to be out of the water.

A few minutes later, my dad washed into the same eddy and I helped him out of the river. Ben did not appear for several more minutes, an interval that grew more ominous and harrowing with each passing minute until he finally popped up and we were reunited.

That eddy is what saved us from the next series of rapids, which started with a small drop (i.e., a waterfall). If we had not washed into the eddy, we were facing several miles of current and rapids too strong to swim out of, and possibly more severe injuries or worse.

Eddies are on my mind because I am in one right now and I am not sure which kind it is. Maybe I'm stuck in it. Maybe I'm saved in it. Maybe I am both stuck and saved.

At my April oncology appointment, Tim and I looked at lab reports and assessed where I was as a patient. As a cancer patient, I'm doing well. The Velcade chemo is suppressing the myeloma, and my numbers are good. All good news.

As a medical patient with a full range of concerns, I'm doing, ennnhh, okay. Shoulder shrug okay. That kind of okay. I spent an inordinate amount of early April sick at home, taking various prescriptions for maladies of unknown origin. I am better but, ennnhh, shoulder shrug.

My immune system is raggedy, my adrenal glands are battered, and I am just tired, tired, tired way too much of the time. When I talked to Tim about this aspect of my life, he listened quietly, looked at my numbers again to be sure, and then proposed I take a break from chemo so my body could recuperate.

So that's what I am doing for now. When Warren or a close friend asks me how it is going or how I feel, I reflect a moment and then say, "it's like being in an eddy." By that I mean I feel as I am kinda sorta floating around somewhat circularly, not in the current, and not enough energy to get into the current. I know the current is right there, but I am not ready or able or even sure I want to paddle, let alone PADDLE HARD NOW.

Being in the eddy means a variety of things in my day-to-day life. I haven't been writing much. Writing takes a lot of energy, both mental and physical. I think about writing, but then I float around a little more in the eddy and tell myself I'll get back to it. Instead, I have read even more than usual this winter and spring. I keep up with some of the household tasks, but when we had guests over for dinner last weekend I told Warren we had hit the "it's clean enough" level before I would have if I were not in the eddy. It took me three (four?) weeks to get the seeds started for this summer's garden. They are just starting to pop now. Fortunately, it has been a cold spring, so I really haven't lost (too) much time, or so I tell myself.

On the other hand, I walked home from work three days out of four this week. That's a first in a long, long time. I wrote this post and I started my May column for The Myeloma Beacon today. That's the first time in a long time I have done that much writing all at once. With the increasing numbers of days away from the chemo, I feel wisps of energy returning. It is not a steady accrual, but there are small gains.

So am I stuck in an eddy? Or saved in it? Am I there because I didn't paddle hard enough? Or am I there because in the midst of all the tumbling and gasping, I got washed into one and could finally catch my breath?

I suspect the nature of the eddy will change as I change, assuming my Velcade vacation continues. For now, the eddy is sheltering me, keeping me in the water but comfortably out of the current. Assuming (all these assumptions!) I will continue to improve overall and my energy levels will gradually come back online, I might start to feel stuck in this eddy. When that day comes, I may have to pick up my paddle and start digging deep into the water to propel myself back into the current.

But for now? I'm okay. I'm, ennnhh, shoulder shrug, okay. But I'm okay as I make my little orbit around my eddy. The sun is shining, the air is mild. There's a concert tonight and the apple pie I always bake for our conductor is cooling in the kitchen. And for today that might just be enough.


see you there! said...

Interesting analogy. I hope you are able to continue with the vacation from chemo and that your energy levels keep rising.


Sharon said...

Oh April. You've been through so much. I would take this time to rest. I like that you doctor gave you a break from the meds. I think your body needed it. Spring has been cold, we finally bought the plants for our garden, but have not yet planted them. Soon. Maybe this weekend. Perhaps we are in that eddy with you!

Jackie said...

Stopped by today to check on you and see how things are going. Hope all is well and that your energy has returned.