Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Good morning! Surprise!

The phone rang early this morning as I was getting ready for work. It was the manager of the radiation oncology department at the Gray Cancer Center.

I just missed the call, but the message on our answering machine was, "Hi! This is Sue calling from the Radiation Oncology Department. We're ready to start your treatment. We can start today. Can you come in?"

No! No! I need time to prepare! Psychologically, I mean! Besides, John has a toothache and has to go to the dentist!! I can't do this all by myself!! I want my mommy!!!

So, I went to Connecticut Valley Hospital for the holiday meeting of the Keep the Promise Coalition, where I got a small award for entering a card in their 'cards for legislators' contest (that was nice), went home to do some work on the computer, then drove to Hartford and had my first radiation treatment. I'm scheduled for 20, rather than the 25 that Dr. Bertsch, the radiation oncologist, had first proposed. I saw her briefly today, and she said something about how this was the only way she could figure out how to do it without damaging my heart and lungs. Of course, I wasn't prepared to respond, but I'll have to ask: are you trying to say, you wish you could treat it more aggressively, but can't? I suppose, actually, that that's always the to kill the cancer cells without killing the patient.

I have my regular treatment tomorrow, and the radiation department will "squeeze me in" after my appointment with Dr. Schauer, while I'm waiting for the Herceptin to come down from the hospital pharmacy. I'll ask Dr. Schauer my questions. Pat, who is sort of my guru, is meeting me at the hospital, and will stay for the treatment. She wants to meet my oncologist, and see what the whole scene is like. She has committed to seeing me through this whole process--the process of dying, I mean.

A little poem for you, from the wonderful, wonderful Wendell Berry.

...For the Future
Planting trees early in spring,
we make a place for birds to sing
in time to come. How do we know?
They are singing here now.
There is no other guarantee
that singing will ever be.
Wishing you great blessings 'on the eve of the holy night'. Tomorrow, at 7:22 p.m. EST, the light is reborn!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tattoos and other fine things

I got a new tattoo today.

I had a CT scan to plan for the attack on the tumor in my sternum this afternoon. The radiation techs told me that they were going to try to use the five little tattoos I got for radiation to the breast--they're used to precisely aim the x-ray beam--but after they did the scan they decided they needed one more. So now I have six little indigo dots on my chest. And one beautiful vine twining around my right wrist.

I should have asked them to do my eyebrows. They never grew in quite right after chemo.

I expect to hear from Dr. Bertsch toward the end of next week. I have a Herceptin treatment with Dr. Schauer, my medical oncologist, on the 21st (the Solstice, birth of the light!), and he'll probably have talked with her about the plan for radiotherapy. Treatment will probably start right after Christmas, or perhaps they'll have to wait until after New Year's. I imagine the schedule gets tight with people taking time off around the holidays. Anyway, I'll keep posting.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Real life

So, I was on my way to have my body buffed, my nails airbrushed, my feet dipped, my lip waxed, my eyelashes tinted, my brows threaded, my skin exfoliated, my ears candled, and my hair extended when real life intervened.

Darn, darn real life.

It was fun writing that first sentence. It's quite true, though, that I never cease to be amazed at the creative ways in which human beings can waste money, and, more important by far, time.

I was a pretty teenager, after having been a homely child in all my younger years. I enjoyed the attention that being attractive got me, but I never made the mistake of thinking that either the physical attractiveness or the consequent attention meant anything.

This Sunday I will lead the Brooklyn Unitarian Universalist Society's Solstice service for the fifth year. The theme will be paradox.

I don't talk about this much, because it tends to be perceived as a sort of "holier than thou" stance, but about eighteen years ago I had what I came to regard as a mystical experience. It's difficult to explain, but I suddenly--and for a period of months after--"knew" the unity of opposites. Not as "joy in pain", or even just "death as necessary to life", or that kind of thing. In a moment of gnosis, I saw opposites as the same thing.

I wish I could have that knowing back. Intellectually, of course, I can experience yin and yang, but I want to know the circle again. We all need to know, truly know, that we are the seed of our own death. Life gains so much more meaning if we come to that understanding. And so I am left, again, with "ripeness": the moment of perfection is the moment of death.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

That's me in the corner...

Wow! I guess it's been a really long time since I posted.

A huge number of things have happened since then. The biggest is that I had my PET/CT scan, just four months after the last one this time, and it seems the tumor in my sternum is growing.

Of course, I knew this would happen, but I was hoping there'd be more stable time. The good news, however, is that since I started treatment at Hartford Hospital in April of '05, they have acquired a new technology called "intensity modulated" radiotherapy. The reason I couldn't have radiation before is that the older technology would have caused major heart damage, since my heart is right behind the tumor area. With the new technology, the radiation oncologist says she should be able to limit or altogether avoid exposing the heart to radiation.

I have a CT scan scheduled for December 13 to measure the parameters of the tumor. After that, there will be a few appointments to plan the "attack", and I'll probably begin radiation toward the end of this month.

Treatment will be daily for five weeks, which is problematic, especially since the hospital is 35 minutes in the opposite direction from where I work. But I've told the agency board my situation, and they've been very supportive. My concern is that they don't really understand what's at stake if I can't do all my hours. But I'll just have to do the best I can.

So I had a little pity party today. It's the first time I've cried since the doctor told me the news on November 28. So I probably needed to do that.

On another note, above are a couple of pieces I've done recently. The dark one is a sort of 'holiday' piece which will go up on eBay tomorrow night, as well as being part of a collaborative poster created by my Art Squared eBay group. The part that's supposed to look like a group of city buildings is actually a fractal graphic; I've been having fun with a free program called Xaos. The red one is called "I Am Woman", and features, among others, Annie Oakley with a better pair of legs, Angela Davis on a Wanted poster, and me, down in the lower left corner, losing my religion, I guess.

But I always get it back.