Constance Ore is a retired Teacher, Choir Director, and Organist. And a formidable cook.

February 25, 2006

Filed under: — Constance at 4:32 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2006

This morning, after driving in to the hospital for the second of ten injections of Neupogen, I decided to stop by and fill the tank of the car at the local station. The attendant and I know each other well from many such meetings, and when he said, as usual, “How’re ya doin?” I had the absurd urge to say, “Not very well, actually. . . I have cancer now.” But I didn’t. “Fine, and you?” the well worn response. We had the usual exchange about the weather and its possibilities and the cheerful, “Take care, now” to conclude the conversation. I thought about that all the way back to Sanctuary – how we sometimes keep up the facade because we don’t have the energy to put it down.

After I arrived home, it took great energy to get the car door open, and there was a sudden burst of resentment toward a body so dreary and depleted feeling. I determined to walk up the stairs like I used to. I took a deep breath and went up fourteen steps just like that. . . when I arrived at the top, the backs of my legs felt as though they were considering giving way, and my heart commenced to pound enormously. I promptly laid down on the floor and breathed air in with great gasps and waited until the heart calmed. When I got up, it was to walk on very slowly to a chair where I could sit and contemplate how some of life’s lessons need to be relearned upon occasion, even if they are obvious. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: . . . a time to break down, and a time to build up” Ecc. 3:3b. It doesn’t exactly say “a time to schlepp”, but I think you could fit it in.

February 24, 2006

Filed under: — Constance at 7:36 pm on Friday, February 24, 2006

There is something about the weekly blood draw. . . in a way it is a progress report about how the battle between the disease and the therapy is going. Because chemotherapy destroys both the good and the bad cells, there is an expected setback after each round of the treatment, however, it is my understanding that the desired outcome is that the numbers will slowly increase and that the lowest point will begin to rise up off the floor. On the far right side of the laboratory printout is the “Reference Range” which announces what good readings should look like. For example, WBC (white blood cells) should read 4.0-11.0-K/uL. Anything below that count is less than ideal, and as the number decreases, the severity of the illness increases.

I was told that the four most significant markers were WBC, the neutrophils (these are the cells that rush out to meet infections) the Hemoglobin reading (which indicates where one stands in the anemia arena; lowest R. Range number is 12.0, 10 is anemia, 8 and under is blood transfusion time) and the platelet count. My readings yesterday were pathetic, the lowest so far. Most notable were the WBC at 1.0 and the neutrophils at 0.1. These readings indicate that I am virtually without immunities from germs and such both without and within. So far, so good, however, because I have not had infections; my hand washing habits have improved dramatically, and I take the bodily inventory each day to assure myself that some awful bacteria hasn’t decided to do a take over while there are no guards at the door.

Meanwhile. . .
Alphie, our dear chocolate lab came back from the five day event at the kennels a changed dog. He has not jumped up on either Charles or myself since returning home and he hasn’t opened his great mouth to playfully run his large teeth across our wrists or arms once. Prior to this, he would leap up and frequently take a sleeve or glove in his mouth with a bit more vigor than even the most besotted dog owner could call “cute”. No more. Now he still greets us joyfully, but with appropriate decorum; Charles says that he doesn’t know what transpired, but perhaps he was reminded that he is a dog and that we are humans and thus superior.

February 22, 2006

Filed under: — Constance at 3:48 pm on Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This was my last day of the second round of chemotherapy. All those injection spots are sore and the body is under siege, but not quite as badly as the first round. My psyche is peaceful again – I consider the psalmists and their very colorful descriptions of waiting for deliverance and how their final words are always filled with praise and trust. So it is – hope returns and with it a perspective that can see clearly that my own situation is not nearly as bad as it surely must be for many others.

Statistics from the American Cancer Society state that over 1,300,000 people got cancer in 2005. Like all large numbers, that one is hard to grasp until you consider that this is more than the entire populations of Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Seward with a fair number to spare. Think about it. . . each citizen awakening with an ache, a twinge, an undeniable something wrong inside, and then after the testing and the hopes for lesser ills diminish, the meeting of the reality of the disease. Cancer comes from within, cells running amok and like greedy vines wrapping hapless trees, slowly kills the host. It can appear in any part of the body, be it organ, gland, bone, skin, brain or blood. The great good fortune is living now rather than in times past when the word wasn’t even spoken and the person with the sickness frequently wasn’t told because there was no hope. How much better to have the tools to destroy the destroyers, and in many cases, to regain the molecules that house the spirit!

After the first set of more positive readings of white blood cells, while I was still staying in Lincoln, daughter Heidi and granddaughter Zoie appeared at our friend’s door carrying a bouquet of white tulips. . .”for the cells, may they grow and grow!” they announced gaily, and the tulips were placed in a wonderful art glass vase where their display brought smiles each time one came into the room. It is a good thing that spring is advancing with the incredible optimism evident in the shoots pushing through the hard dry earth that frequently defines Nebraska. “We are coming. . . ” they say, and their bright green color speaks once again of new life returning.

February 20, 2006

Filed under: — Constance at 1:44 pm on Monday, February 20, 2006

There is sunlight and warming this morning, and we drove to the oncologist’s office early so I could get the fifth of seven sets of injections of the chemotherapy. Throughout this experience, I have found that tears sit right below the swallowing point in my throat, and occasionally, there they are. This is one of those days; sitting in the car returning home from Lincoln, a terrible longing for the rhythms and activities of my old life came flowing up from the base of my throat and the weeping began. Even knowing that I am like the crying child watching my fine balloon floating away far beyond my reach never to be seen again, it still seems necessary sometimes to grieve.

I visualize the condition like this. My blood is the landscape under siege with the disease (the enemy) entering the terrain and moving inexorably onward. The chemotherapy (Vidaza) meets and does battle, with the Aranesp (red blood cell builder) on the one flank, and the Neupogen (white blood cell builder) on the other. Now the disease is no longer moving freely onward, but is met by resistance and its intended takeover is no longer inevitable; it is not stopped (“The disease remains active” in the words of the doctor) but it no longer is unchallenged. The battleground is becoming littered with aches, night sweats, nausea and others of the fallen, but the cheering voices and sounding prayers support the resistance from all around, and the enemy has none.

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