Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This is the end of everything...

It's been a momentous week. Left for my mother's a day early due to news that my grandmother was declining quickly. Was able to spend several hours there with her Thursday, and all of Friday. She wasn't looking very well when I arrived. But rallied and had rather a good day on Friday. Lots of lucidity and awake quite a bit, even asked to eat a couple of times. We all ended the day feeling pretty good about things. Unfortunately she had a bad evening and passed in the early afternoon on Saturday. She did pass without any pain and surrounded by all her daughters. I take comfort in her lack of suffering and knowing that she was ready to join her beloved husband in the afterlife. She has always been one of the most beautiful people I know. It was an inner beauty and warmth that pervaded every home she lived in, and was shared with those she loved. I feel lucky to have shared in that warm light for much of my life.

My grandparents (on my mother's side) were a huge part of my childhood, and I spent an accumulation of many years being raised by them. Every summer of my youth was months of time with them, and I have an extensive cache of wonderful memories. My PaPa (pronounced paw paw in the southern way) was the best father figure I had. And MaMa (maw maw) was a solid rock of peace, kindness and love. They are the best people I've ever known.

I have been tremendously lucky not to have had a lot of death close to me throughout my life. I didn't even know about the death of my first pet (Cocoa the Lhasa Apsa puppy) until twenty years after the fact when my mother finally revealed that they found him dead in the street and decided Dad would tump him into a dumpster rather than deal with an 8-year old's heartbreak. They still dealt with heartache though, and a couple of months of tear filled prayers to God every night to keep Cocoa safe. A close family friend died when I was thirteen. And I wasn't taken to the funeral, but was brought to a family gathering at their house. I was so overwhelmed with the emotions of the people around me that I went outside, sat on a hay bale and tried to sort it all out. I tried to empathize with what they may be feeling by imagining if it was my grandmother that died. And I had a really big sob sitting with those thoughts. But then it wasn't until I was much older that I had to deal with death again. That was four summers ago when my PaPa passed from cancer.

So early Friday morning I'll make the journey down to Louisiana again. I will see lots of family that I haven't seen in four years or longer. There will be hugs, tears, smiles, memories shared, good food, warm weather. But I will remain painfully aware that two pillars of my life have fallen.I truly believe that all the goodness I carry within was given to me through my MaMa and PaPa. I thank them for that, and when I look to the stars at night I will always send up a wish and my eternal love.

I don't know how to transition from that. So... on to the medical news. Which is better news. I'm currently on my VERY LAST chemo treatment! My blood counts were actually better this week than before my last treatment. Which surprised my doctor. But then I told him that I used the trick he had mentioned in our last visit. Apparently your body keeps a small cache of white blood cells in reserve. And when you exercise and adrenaline starts moving through your body, that cache is released and can temporarily boost your numbers. They've used this trick before when medical insurance won't cover certain chemo treatments unless a patient's WBC count is in the four thousands or better. Having a patient do a couple trips up and down stairs to raise their heart rate enough can up to double the WBC count. So I made sure to get to the center five minutes early and went down to the fitness room and put in those five minutes on the elliptical machine right before having my blood drawn. Must have worked because my counts have always gone down from one treatment to the next. And they were almost double from two weeks ago. My doctor laughed and said I was a quick study.

But the result is that I was cleared for chemo and am currently carrying around a very obstinate pump. Of course I would run in to issues the last time around. Last night one of the connections to the catheter came off and I awoke with a small puddle of chemo drug and blood on me and the sheets. We quickly cleaned up and got it reconnected. Threw the sheets and mattress liner in the wash (nothing on the mattress luckily) and changed the bed. Kind of freaky. Then was awakened early this morning by the pump beeping with a "high pressure" error. No kinks or other issues to be found. So called the cancer center, got dressed and went in to have it fixed. A couple of quick saline flushes cleared the extra blood that was in the line and slowing things up. They got it started back up and I was out of there within fifteen minutes. Did follow up with a lovely breakfast at my favorite restaurant though. So that was a bonus of an early morning. And napped pretty immediately after getting home.

Feeling tired of course, but not as out of sorts as after the last time. Pump comes off tomorrow and hopefully I won't have to ever have chemo again. Or at least not for many years down the line. Already have my next PET scan scheduled so we can see where things are. My hope is that it is nice and clear and we can finally be done with all of this. Of course there will be regular scans every few months for a while to make sure that I stay clear. And a five year wait of no evidence of disease before they actually call me in remission. But I'm almost that one step closer and am happy for it.

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