|Autumn grasses and blooms|
Cancer has me rather knocked out of orbit, and I’m trying to let go of some old behavior patterns that once offered me some stability. Or I thought they did; now it could well be that they were just holding me back. There is a tenseness across the shoulders that’s easing, and I am less in the thrall of worry when familiar reassurances of health, predictability, and order are no longer handy to lean on.
Still, to keep from awfulizing, I fall back at times on an old mantra: “Everything’s working out beautifully.” The alternative is to be constantly anticipating the worst, which robs the present of the strength it gives to live each day for what it’s worth.
The psychologist at the Cancer Center tells me of her discovery that there is no predicting where cancer patients will “draw the line” between living and dying. While one patient is stricken with dread in spite of a promising prognosis, another will live like there’s no tomorrow, right up to the day there literally is none. She tells of a patient who took a trip to New York the day before she died. Mantras are dandy, but I find I need stories like this to take courage and not get distracted by the shadows.
I talk to her about depression and learn that for cancer patients depression is hard to distinguish from fatigue, which I can expect from my meds, and in particular the adjustments to my steroid intake. While I may not be in need of anti-depressants, she recommends that I think of them as a “safety net” to help me through any rough patches.
She hears me talk about passing through portals and mentions that while I may experience them as one coming after another, they may all open up together again at some point, calling to mind an image that uncomfortably resembles a trap door. Of blue moods and uncomfortable memories, she says, they can be intensified by the meds I’m taking, and I need to remember that my cancer is in my brain, which is mission control for emotions. Don’t take them too seriously.
This week I had my monthly visit with the oncologist, who grins and laughs, pleased that I continue to do well. Blood work shows that my blood counts remain in the desired range to resume chemo. She prescribes the next round of it and keeps me on the current dosage of my other meds. I learn that on a minimal daily amount of steroids, my appetite will wane, which means an unwelcome weight gain will level off.
Also, the fatigue from chemo will be less profound, while generalized tiredness may still prevail instead. Loss of taste for food, she says, may be improved by taking vitamin B complex. After the current round of treatment, I will have three more, finishing up in February 2015.
On my third day of this round of chemo, my energy level remains high. I continue to make soup for dinners, and I’m perfecting an oatmeal recipe for breakfast now that cool autumn weather has arrived. (Tip: soak rolled oats overnight in water and the juice of one lemon; drain and rinse the next morning and season as you cook it with ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.)
Meanwhile, thinning out my crowded bookshelves to make donations to the local library, I’m finding books I never read, and I’ve begun reading them instead of borrowing, buying, or collecting more. Some were gifts that I put on the shelf for another day, and reading them now I feel a stronger connection to the person I received them from. I’m also finding books I intend to box up and send to friends some day down the road. It’s hard to characterize this ritual, but it feels like taking care of unfinished business, of which, alas, I have plenty.
And so life goes on.
I’m closing again with a jazz video suggested by a reader. In response to a request for the Ramsey Lewis Trio, here is the extended version of the 1964 hit, “The ‘In’ Crowd,” recorded live at the Bohemian Caverns club in Washington, D.C. At a time when jazz singles still made it onto the charts, this song reached #5 in the U.S. (Great video, by the way, with vintage photos.)
Any other readers with jazz favorites of their own, links to them are welcome.