Thursday, March 14, 2013

This, until The Hepatica Bloom

I once wrote a journal entitled "This until the Hepatica Bloom". By "wrote", I mean that I kept a journal with that overlying theme. The Hepatica are the first wildflowers to bloom in our area and since the species love limestone derived soils, we have great colonies of hepatica. It is a wondrously beautiful bloom in it's own right and when you add that to the fact that it blooms in the barren winter woods, it is down right breathtaking when you happen up on a cluster of the medium-sized blue or white blooms protruding from the winter-dead forest debris. Each year, when I venture out into the woods - into known lairs of the hepatica, I know that when I spot the first bloom, that instant is my own personal "first moment of spring". My first day of spring was Tuesday past, March 12. I kept this journal from November 2001 until February 2002, and over that time, instead of looking for wildflowers and ginseng, I ventured far and wide to frozen, winter waterfalls and explored the winter landscapes of the Daniel Boone and Big South Fork National Forests. This was a time of wellness for me - I was building the cabin at Richards Bend, and I knew I'd soon move in (within a year or less). My Son was nine years old, and was such a joy to me (as he still is). Though life was not easy, and I thought I had things to worry about, at least I was healthy and there was no reason to believe I wouldn't live to be an old man. I went on to have a very nice and perhaps one of the best years of my life. My time with Jonny was simply a gift from God. I finished and moved into the cabin at Richards Bend. I backpacked 130 miles of the Sheltowee Trace, and there wasn't a cause in the world for alarm. Oddly though, I recall and I read throughout my personal journal from that year, I had anxieties and concerns that perplexed me and robbed me of the fullest, richest sense of well being I could have had otherwise. The Hepatica of 2013 bloom in the mists of a great struggle for me. I am engaged in a Great and Brutal War - a fight for my very life. My attitudes with regard to my long-term survival swing literally from hour to hour. Sometimes I believe I will beat this. Sadly, other times I doubt I will live to see the Hepatica bloom again. Fact of the matter is, we simply don't know and while I may have fairly good odds at seeing the next generation of Hepatica, my annual seeking of these lovely first blooms of the year will probably end sooner than they should, and within all that means, there is in me a sadness that defies any attempt to relate it in any meaningful fashion. But as my journal teaches me, this is not the first time I have felt this way. Contemplating the Hepatica past… contemplating the Hepatica present and future, I see that my life-maladies from year to year never really change in magnitude nor in the impact they have upon my sense of well being. They only change in physical nature. And that over my lifetime, the things that diminish a good life are constant and never changing. I simply wish I could trade my current troubles for those I had in earlier times. And it seems to me, it ought to be allowed since they seem equally troubling.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chemotherapy Starts again.

Chemotherapy, at least mine, is something that defies explation or description. Why do I tell you all of this? It isn't because I want your sympathy. It isn't because I want you to know how big and bad I am because I am doing chemo. First of all, I always wondered what chemotherapy was like, and maybe this quenches a curiosity for you. I am also doing it because, since I was a kid, I've documented almost every thing. This documentation has been valuable to me in the past, and I am sure I will need to look back upon this in the future. I have already read what I wrote about last year's chemo, and it helpd me remember a lot of things I had forgotten. I went in to my oncologist yesterday, and I am extremely happy with his facility and his staff. They are so kind, warm professional, and know what they are doing. They took me to my room, accessed my old port, and started a drip of anti-nausea medicine, and some other stuff to prevent unneeded harm to healthy cells. A couple of hours latter, they started the chemo drugs. Two or three medicines to begin KILLING THE NEW CANCER CELLS!! As I watched the drip, I knew, or envisioned that every new drop was going into my artery and finding its way to the tumors on my lung, and choking them off and killing them. Even though I felt fine at the beginning, before it was over, I had to lie down on a bed so I did. After a couple of hours of that, the did a push of the last chemo drug, then put a pump on me to go home with. I was able to leave then, after six hours. I am to keep the pump for 46 hours, a period that ends Wednesday, at 12 noon. (Tomorrow). I felt okay, just woozy and feeling "funky" for whatever that description is worth. I felt disoriented and almost drunk. Mom took me home and I laid down for a while. When I woke up, my legs felt tight and very crampy. I noticed that my pump was dosing me every 30 seconds, and I wondered if that was too high or too frequent. I just felt horrible. So I called the oncologist's office and asked them what the rate should be, and they confirmed what I was seeing. It was normal. They said that if I was feeling really bad, I might be dehydrated and have low electrolytes. They asked that I go to the ER, to have my electrolytes checked which I desperately did not want to do. Peggy was on her way to pick me up and take me for a drive, so when she showed up, I told her about it. She recommended that we get some water, and Gatorade and drive around for a few minutes. We drove to Bradley Chapel, a beautiful, old church on the west bank of Pitman Creek near Grundy - not far east of Somerset. The old church is no longer used, but it is beautiful. The entire churchyard is a lovely cemetery. It is a great place to just walk around, so we did. I was beginning to feel a little better. In about an hour, once home, I went inside, and suddenly had a wave of severe anxiety come over me. I was feeling so desperately horrible; I just knew I couldn't go through with this. I took the pump from the case, and I looked at the stop button. In Pittsburgh, when I was lying in the hospital bed in ICU in indescribable pain, if I had located a stop button, I probably would have pushed it. This time, I had a choice. The stop button was right there, right on the console of the little pump. I cried, praying for the strength to NOT PUSH STOP. I didn't. Rather, I passed out somewhat, and Peggy gathered my things and took me to Mom's at my request. Once there, Mom had gone on a walk, so Peggy took me straight in, and put me in my bed, in the bedroom that I used all last summer. I must have blacked out then, because the next thing I know, I am laying in moms front yard with no idea how I got there. My legs were weak and shaky, but Peggy and Beany, my stepfather assisted me back inside the house and into the bed. Mom got home then. I was in and out of consciousness, but I kept drinking Gatorade. Within a period of time that I think was about an hour, Mom, Peggy and Beany decided that I needed to go to the ER. So we loaded me up. Along the way, and well into my second large Gatorade, I began to come too. When we got to the ER, I could walk under my own effort just fine, and other than just feeling horribly sick, at least I wasn't incoherent. The waiting room was full, and we were sure it would be several hours, or the middle of the night before I was seen. Instead of waiting, we decided to go back home, the Gatorade seemed to have helped. Once home, I feel asleep and slept throughout the night, and into the morning. Of course I was still sick, but at least I wasn't out of my mind. Normally, I feel well enough to at least sew, and do leather works, or write in my journal or paint. I didn't feel like doing anything like that, so I slept on for the entire day. My sister, Carrie came to visit and she ran some errands for me. Early evening, Mom ran some errands as well. It is late evening, nearly 11 pm. This first round of chemo will last another 13 hours. It started out at approximately 72 hours, so I am getting it done. I don't feel completely intolerable. I suppose the worst symptom of the chemo for me is that it takes away peace and ease and any sense of joy. When they remove the pump tomorrow around noon, the medicine will slowly decay in my body, having done its job. If my last round (last winter) is any indication, I will not feel good for a few more days. But there are somewhat different drugs, so I may start to feel better sooner.