Sunday, 6 November 2011

HERE I AM FLOATING IN MY TIN CAN


Sunday morning:
Next to the coffee table - a small wastebasket overflowing with balled-up tissues. On the table, an assortment of empty mugs and water glasses, a flat of Nicotine gum, my inhaler and nasal spray and the latest issue of a bead work magazine – which looks, from a short perusal, exactly like every issue of every other bead work magazine I’ve ever seen.

In the kitchen, dishes are floating in cold soapy water. The counters need wiping.

Thursday night, when the cold hits in earnest, my temperature is 101.5F - a degree and a half past the point where I am supposed to report directly to the hospital and present the plasticized yellow sheet of procedures from the Cancer Center. The sheet states that I must be seen in under two hours. A mere two hour wait is light-speed for the emergency room.  But my nose is running and I feel like I'm trying to swallow razor blades. My chest burns when I cough.

I consider the dire warnings about raised temperatures and infection but my body feels like it's filled with cement. And it’s always cold in the hospital and I have chills. I can’t help believing that sitting in emergency for two hours will actually kill me. All I want to do is crawl under the covers and sleep. In the morning then – if my temperature is still high in the morning, I’ll go. First thing. But right now, I’m swallowing two Adivan and two Melatonin and crawling into bed.

Friday morning, the thermometer reads 99.1F. Although I require a tissue to be propped under my nose at all times, my throat and chest don’t hurt. I congratulate myself on following my own instincts thereby avoiding 5 or 6 hours of hospital emergency hell.

And I taxi down to the Dixon Center for a scheduled chest X-ray, then come straight home.

The plan is: Get Well By Monday Morning. The plan is to have the medical oncologist not lecture me for failing to report to emergency – and most of all not to have my chemo sessions delayed. I stop answering mail and the phone. I leave the computer turned off. I read and sleep and live on Ensure. My temperature gradually sinks down to my normal of 97.5F.

People ask me what I’m doing with my time, what my plans are. The only plan I have is to get through treatment, preferably alive. And treatment could go on until Spring – not including the time to recover from chemotherapy and radiation. I don’t make my schedule – the hospital does and they specialize in short notice. So I’m here in this state of suspended animation, floating. My job right now is to beat a rhino virus with the disadvantage of an impaired immune system. The next job is getting to the hospital on Monday, 7:30 a.m. for blood work, so the doctor can make an assessment at 9:00 a.m. I don’t know how tired I will be on any given day, or how sick, or for how long. I don’t know if chemo will work, or if I’ll need surgery. It’s the perfect Zen setup. I cannot attach to anything but the present.

It's as if I’m living in a parallel universe and sometimes, that makes it very hard to talk to people.

9 comments:

Pat Barber said...

Awww, hugs Linda. You do realize you don't have to talk to anyone until/unless you're good and ready to, right? If it helps at all, I broke nearly all the cancer patient rules too, including not running to the ER if my temp spiked a bit. No one knows your body like you do - listen to your instincts. You'll intuitively know when it's a hurdle your body can't clear on its own. In the meantime, huge hugs to you - you're doing brilliantly. Truly. May not seem like it, may not mean much, but it's true nonetheless.

Howpublic said...

Pat - thanks, that means a lot. I wasn't being stubborn...I really would have gone in the morning if my temp stayed up. I just had such a strong instinct that I'd be better in the morning.
And thanks for setting the "brilliant" bar at a lower level.:)

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

On the other hand Linda, thank you for sharing. For those of us who have never fought your fight, you give us an understanding and a hope. And if it helps you to write it down for whatever purpose, you go girl. Better by Monday sounds lovely!!! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you.

Howpublic said...

Marsha..It helps me to record this stuff. And it would be great if it helps someone who might be facing it (although all of us respond in our own way). Best of all, would be that through reading, this takes some of the scare out of talking to people with cancer...
There is still a tiny bit of that old element of it being unspeakable..people still say the "c" word - or skirt around it. It's kind of a bogey man.

Roberta said...

I am sorry that you have to go through all this. Just know we are all out here. Reading. Listening. Hearing you, for what it is worth.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

I'm so glad that you're feeling better. I think cancer is hard to talk about for many reasons - it does whittle down your focus to a single point when you are dealing with it, and that's understandable. Nothing else could possibly be more important or more urgent than staying alive. Speaking from the position of someone who is on the other side of the continent from you, I waver between wanting to smother you with attention and questions, asking for reassurance that you are okay today - and wanting to follow your lead, give you what you need, and not drive you crazy. I shall, do doubt, fail on both counts. It's not so much that cancer is unspeakable for me - what is unbearable is not knowing what to do. Knowing there is really nothing I can do - but wanting to do something anyway. Knowing that I can't know what to do - and trying to do it anyway. And I'm probably not making much sense in trying to explain it, either.

Howpublic said...

Roberta, Cynthia...all...
I appreciate your comments here on the blog. Somehow, it feels more like dialogue than Facebook does...and it cheers me every time you respond. Cyn...there's no right or wrong thing to do. The comments mean a lot.
Roberta...sometimes being heard is the best thing. How often do you feel like someone really listens? Think about it and you'll realize that it's a real gift.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I know you are under a heavy weight. I keep checking this thing to see how you are, to hear your voice. Thinking of you. Coyo

Howpublic said...

Love you, Coyo.