Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom

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.

Morning sky
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.

Kitchen window
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.

Previously: Portals

15 comments:

  1. With your energy level up and your cooking levels up sounds like you are turning the ol' corner. Would like to try your recipe for oatmeal except for a 60 year dislike of ginger that won't allow me. (Has something or everything to do with eating too much ginger bread dough and then getting the flu back during my elementary school days, but that is a story for another time)
    Interesting how us old teachers accumulate books but never seem to get rid of any. I am in the process of donating to the local library now also. Also threw away some books, oh how I hate that, decided that textbook samples 40 years old might not be of importance to anyone.

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  2. My wife tells me why spend so much time worrying over what you can't control? I need, need to listen. Btw remember "MIles to Lost Dog Creek?" I'm doing some work on that now. It will be a few months but I should have that out in the early part of 2015.

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  3. Ron, as always, there are many beautiful takeaways in this journal entry. Two stand out for me: "There is a tenseness across the shoulders that’s easing, and I am less in the thrall of worry" (implying the importance of removing years of conditioned behaviour) and " 'Everything’s working out beautifully' — The alternative is to be constantly anticipating the worst" (as my spiritual teacher said, "Everything is exactly as it should be"). I admire the fact that someone in your circumstance can derive strength from those wise old mantras and pass it on to us. I liked the title of this post and I hope you continue to enjoy your cooking. All the best, Ron.

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    1. I like your mantra. Pretty much says it all.

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  4. I fear I'm often the type of person to anticipate the worst. I should work on that, since it's generally not an accurate view of the world. and not helpful either. Lana is much more sanguine than I am, so she helps me a bit

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    1. Good to have someone sanguine around.

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  5. Thee are times when I wish I hadn't given away a certain book or books. I would ask for them back if I knew who had them. Nice pic of the kitchen window with a cactus and a sidewinder (it looks like to me). Have a good week!

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    1. Yeah, right now I'd like to have back a book I apparently gave away. Can't figure out why else it's missing.

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  6. That is a lovely photo of your kitchen window. I met a woman once who said when her husband got cancer, he took up skiing. She said that she went into a depression and he seemed to come out of one, enjoying each day he had for the few years he had left. If found her story unusual. You might ask your psychologist if it is. I thought so.

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    1. Totally possible. Cancer has a way of turning life up on end.

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  7. Terrific video. I haven't heard this version. One of my favorite albums as a kid was The Mamas and the Papas (If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears) so "In Crowd" will always be "their" song.

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    1. The original version, with lyrics, was by Dobie Gray. You can find it at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOWO--z1S8A

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  8. I should go through my books and try to read the ones that I haven't- and get rid of them if I can't stick with the book to the end! Here's a piece of trivia I copied off another blog the other day: How many books is too many books? What makes you a book hoarder? What do you do when you have too many? In Japanese, there’s a word for it: tsundoku [pronunciation | tsUn-dO-kU (tsoon-doh-koo). It’s a noun that describes a person who buys books and doesn’t read them, and then lets them pile up on the floor, on shelves, and assorted pieces of furniture.

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