Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Update

Well, so many folks have been asking...

We had a very auspicious return home March 6. On the way, we received a text message with a picture of our brand-new nephew, Liam. Moments later, spotted the first of this year's bluebonnets. And our dear friend Carolyn had secretly put "Welcome Home" balloons on our lantern. A great day!

We had a quiet week readjusting, followed by a sweet, low-key spring break with the kids.

I am tired, but if I stay shy of hitting the wall energy-wise, life seems quite normal. Still have creaky knees, but they're much better.

Our other recent family news was the loss of our precious elderly guinea pig. He lasted 10 days after our return, then died in my lap one morning. He was quite the personality and is greatly missed. The kitchen seems unnaturally quiet without "The Pig" whistling for room service!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Home, James! (Plus a Closing Story)

For a week, I've been humming The Band's line: "Any day, now, any day now, I shall be released." Well, the day has come and we're driving home today!

This will be my last blog entry until May, when we return to Houston for the first of many followup scans, that over time, will tell the tale as to the success of the trial. Uncertainty will rule the day, and a long time will have to pass before anyone
dares to use the R word (remission).

Before we go, I have two important things to say to all of you:

1. A thousand thank-you's
(complete with electronic hugs) to all of you who've read m
y blog, sent cards, visited, kept me in your thoughts, plied me with goodies, fed, drove, or cared for my children, called--and prayed. I would never have dreamed there would be so many of you rooting for little old me.

2. I must tell you a story
about why I know this trial was the right thing to do. You skeptics will roll your eyes, but bear with me.

Back in October before I was serious about the trial, the hospital began the insurance paperwork, fully expecting months of haggling over payment for this $150,000 experimental procedure. The approval came through in TWO days. Suddenly a huge decision was upon me.

It just so happened that this coincided with my departure on a retreat into the beautiful Hill Country with women of my church for a weekend of meditation and yoga. I was looking forward to some gloriously quiet hours in my treetop room and had brought along a 400-page, very intellectual book on stem cell science. I was looking forward to a thoughtful weekend to start weighing the pro's and con's in earnest.

To kick off the weekend, my dear friend the Rev. (or rather, the Really Cool Rev.
) Cathy Boyd led us in a 15-minute meditation. To keep us focused, Cathy suggested we think of a word to concentrate on, a word summarizing our intention for the weekend. Thinking of my weighty tome and my upcoming brain workout, out of a hat I picked "clarity."

Breathing deeply in and out, I repeated "clarity" over and over.
Then suddenly, ALL BY ITSELF, the word changed. I know with absolute certainty that some force outside myself (the Holy Spirit, the universe, an angel in the form of my late stepmother?) changed the word. This was not a simple upwelling from my unconscious. It was like thinking you're alone in a room, minding your own business, and then someone comes up and taps you on the shoulder.

The word "clarity" was wiped away and became "courage." Suddenly I was weeping.

For two weeks I contemplated this message: Did it mean I should
take a leap of faith and do the trial? Or, was it telling me to follow the conservative standard of care and face whatever came my way? I finally decided I was being led to bold action.

This thought, that someone or something loves me enough to inform me that I can be brave has taken a while to sink in. I can think of no greater honor.

Since then, say, having a huge needle inserted into my hip, feeling blood run down my shoulder, seeing a lesion impeding on my spinal fluid, I've started to panic then told myself, "Hold on, Somebody thinks you can be brave. You, Sally the Wimp, who white-knuckles every plane takeoff." And we'll see how I do during the inevitable "scan-xiety" whenever it's time for diagnostic imaging to see how things are going.

In my spiritual life, I've always been a searcher, never a witnesser (Episcopalians are just that way), and certainly I'd never felt "called." But now I know that feeling.

Well, skeptics, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
And isn't it entirely fitting that I, the lifelong lover of words, should have my life changed with a word?

Amen. (Photos follow.)

I found this on-campus banner to fit the theme of my own adventure into the unknown. Those who've known me 'forever' know that I actually was a Mustang Sally in college, so it's true that (with a tip of the hat to our country's very first female astronaut, Sally Ride): "All you want to do is ride around Sally. Ride, Sally, ride!"

Words to the wise as I get ready to leave the clinic.

Samarium Babes, Unite!

As we're getting ready to leave Houston, we were glad to be able to spend more time with our new buddy, Marcia Steele, who was #5 in the clinical trial. Marcia is a retired Navy chief and recruiter and avid disco dancer. Would you ever guess from looking at this picture what hers and my mutual "secret" is? (Harem mask aside.) As I keep telling folks, "I feel fine. It's just the radiologists and pathologists who disagree."

Plus we have our very own Breast Cancer Babe groupie!