Friday, May 30, 2008


I feel okay today. Maybe a little spacier, maybe a little more wired (my infusion yesterday included an extra 10 mg of dexamethazone, bringing my total for the day up to a whopping 30 mg), maybe a little more tired. My port placement seems to have gone well—I have some pain, but not too much. One benefit of removing my port last year and replacing it this year is that I now have a “power port,” which will accept even the radioactive contrast from the CTs and MRIs that I’ll probably be getting throughout the remainder of the year. This is excellent news, because it’s all the fewer IVs stuck into my left arm.

There was a bit of a challenge with my port placement—I was pretty dopey and not feeling any pain, but I could hear the process and it sounds like a resident—someone who hadn’t done many placements—was in charge of the surgery. This was perfectly fine—a little slow, perhaps, but careful, with a lot of pressure at the end stitching up the subcutaneous layers and supergluing the skin . . . but at the very end she jabbed herself in the finger with one of my needles.

This is obviously a very scary experience, given all the blood-borne diseases we have today, and my heart ached for her fear, even though I know my blood is clean—that is, no HIV, no Hepatitis, no anything that’s likely to cause her any trouble at all. In fact, if she had to stick herself with someone’s blood, mine was probably pretty good. I did have a social worker come to see me in the recovery room, though, and I did have some (more) blood taken so they could run the necessary tests to set her mind at ease.

I was able to order a lunch while I recovered—a chicken taco salad, a chocolate and strawberry cheesecake dessert and a Coke, and I only had to have a few harsh words with Ian when it arrived and he moved right in, expecting to share my bounty. I reminded him that I had skipped breakfast, and had a surgery, and he’d eaten and had time to snack and/or whatever else he wanted, and he could go get his sandwich out of the car (since I wasn’t there to go with him, he evidently wandered through a couple different aisles, clicking the alarm button, before he actually made contact . . .). I did share my Coke and my dessert.

After my lunch, they discharged me—with perhaps fewer than the usual instructions on how to keep my new port site clean while it heals for the next couple days (but common sense should be enough), and I was over at the SCCA and installed in my bed by around 1:30pm.

My first return chemo went fine. I had a nurse I’ve known for a long time, who I enjoy talking to. The infusion nurses at the SCCA are pretty matter-of-fact, pretty sweet. They are doing their jobs, and I finally don’t see their jobs as these horrible, horrible experiences that they have to drag themselves to every day. I think they enjoy their patients, and they enjoy each other’s company, and they seem to have some flexibility of schedule if they want it (lots of four 10-hour days, for example, with long weekends and whatnot). I was in for about 8 hours, and it could’ve been worse. Also, I had an enjoyable visit from Debra Jarvis, the SCCA chaplain, who in a strange twist of fate was treated for Stage II breast cancer there about 3 years ago and wrote a book about her experiences.

I shared with Debra some of what I’ve been feeling about this 4th time around with cancer—about how I’m not fighting it, about how I’m still not identifying myself as a “cancer patient”, about how I am starting to understand that one’s path, what the Universe wants you to do, is not necessarily what you think you want to do. Yes, a couple short weeks ago, I was strenuously against having cancer again. I was avoiding, to the best of my powers, all chances that I’d find out this news again, that I’d be plunged back into this cycle again, of exhaustion and need and physical ailment, that I’d “lose my autonomy,” that I’d “yet again, not get to be a normal 35-year-old.”

But virtually overnight, I stopped feeling that way. How do I know what a “normal 35-year-old” does experience? All I can know (and that has its limits, I’m discovering) is what I’m experiencing. And if I choose to surf through this experience—if I choose to sleep when I’m tired, ask for assistance when I need it, marvel at the way my brain still works even when I’m dopey and loopy and should sleep again—if I choose to ride the waves and not try to force my way, coughing and choking and paddling hard through pounding salt water, this is okay. In fact, this is right.

This is easy.


Andrienne said...

Calin, wonderful and brilliant as always. I am so proud of the conclusions you draw from these experiences. I'll bop Ian upside the head for you for coming in for the kill on the chicken taco! Funny - I'll bet he'll think twice about that course of action.

I love what you said about being a normal 35 year old. One thing I can assure you is that you are not normal, you are exceptional. It made me reflect on what the hell I was doing at 35. It was not pretty. I had been sober for four years and was just coming to terms with the fact that I had emotionally arrested myself at the age of 15 from substance abuse. So, I woke up at 35 knowing some of me was only 19.

Unifying yourself with your dharma, however, brings many more benefits than anyone can imagine in terms of the speed at which healing occurs. You've got it all over anything I've accomplished, baby, and that's the truth!

allyson said...

for someone who is feeling a bit dopey and loopy and spacey (hey, you're well on your way to the seven dwarfs of cancer treatment), your writing continues to impress and inspire me. Love you. AQ

Chiara said...

I just like the image of surfing through the waves instead of tiring yourself out fighting them uselessly. I think of you swimming in the soft cool sea, letting the swells carry you, watching the seagulls overhead, and wearing a very cute bikini.

sheriab71 said...

Your amazing!

Ian said...

In my defense I would like to say that I had no intention of stealing Calin's tasty looking chicken taco. I just wanted to eat all of the dessert and drink all of the drink.

Gregory said...

Ian, I can picture you just surfing through that dessert. Easier than surfing through a desert, anyway. Actually, that reminds me of something that happened last year, when our friend N and his family were coming over for dinner. He wrote in an e-mail that they would bring "a desert", and his wife and kids found that so funny that they make a cake and decorated it with yellow frosting and little green cactuses and what not. It was great.

Ah, but I was writing to Calin. Calin, as usual, your writing suggests a clearness and a calmness that is both inspiring and hard to believe. I am rooting for you in your surfing. Just remember not to breathe in while your head is under.

Big hug!