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

August 31, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 11:07 am on Friday, August 31, 2007

nebraska garden spideWhen I did the morning walk today I had to think about the first time I saw the spider webs outlined with dew at sunrise. At that time, I felt as though I had stepped into an enchanted place, and perhaps I would never see such a sight again. This season, there have been many mornings when the scene is repeated, and I still greatly enjoy it; I am starting to note which spiders make the largest webs, or weave most symmetrically, or place their webs most creatively and so forth. The one that seems to speak a moral lesson is the very tightly woven web that lays out over the grasses like a handkerchief with an entrance funneling downward into a mysterious center. The creator of the web must place some irresistible lure in there and wait for hapless takers. Obviously, the method has success, because there are hundreds such webs tucked in between the myriad species of grasses residing in the meadow.

breakfast menu with cancerMany things in my new life that were beyond my imagination have become routine, and I now can call myself “an old hand” at the lifestyle of the cancer patient. Last week, I came into the oncologist’s waiting area and watched a woman come from the treatment rooms and begin to cry. The receptionist moved out from behind the desk very quickly and hugged her while handing her a tissue. Words of comfort were offered, and my first time came back to me clearly – entering the room and seeing all those very sick people and thinking with shock that I was one of them. Now it is as much a part of my life as breakfast. Today’s routine, for example, included the injection of Neupogen – daily injections of anything at all were unthinkable in my former life, now, they go on and on because the bone marrow is unwilling to manufacture white blood cells without the insistence of the chemical. The battle is waged there in the core of my physical self and the bones hurt. . . but so far the pattern is one of eventual victory, the shots conclude and a time of good days arrives.

swarm of bees on tree limb
Something not previously experienced at Sanctuary is a swarm of bees that have gathered on a branch near our neighbor’s house. It is a large group that seems to be in search of a new home, and we are beginning to realize how little we know about the nature of bees and what they need at this time of the year. I will report the outcomes when they are made clear.

Nebraska prairie grassesSince we live in the grasslands, our meadow is a beautiful place filled with many kinds of grasses in many shades of color. All those childhood instructions to color the grass green simply do not apply to what we see here. This sight changes day by day as the season moves onward; now many species are heavy with seed as they reach the conclusion of their life cycle. The privilege of walking amidst God’s plans and patterns is a grand one – it helps to have the daily reminder that life moves onward toward endings and new beginnings. While not all of it is beautiful, or tidy, or gentle, or kind, it remains a joy to participate in and I do so, with ongoing delight and thanksgiving.

August 26, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 7:05 pm on Sunday, August 26, 2007

A good friend in Santa Barbara remarked that Nebraskans seem to obsess about the weather – since Santa Barbara resembles paradise to a far greater degree than our own Sanctuary, it seems logical that here, the weather topic would provide much fodder for chewing through. As this week begins, the storms seem to be resting and our hot and humid summer days have eased up a bit. Trees seem to hold a stillness within them as they begin to retract their essences from the leaves in preparation for the coming winter; their formerly dark green foliage is starting to show yellow hues in the afternoon sun. The cricket chorus is a constant background accompaniment to the rising and falling cadences of the cicadas and the sound of recurring blue jay squabbles. In the mornings, I see birds that are strangers to our place, pausing in their travels southward. How very fortunate Charles and I are that we don’t awaken to a given slant of the sun’s rays and feel compelled to hit the road for other climes no matter what the obstacles!

I have had “down” days since coming back into the Chemotherapy cycle, with its sickness, etc. Now autumn is advancing with all the plans and changes in the air, and I am contemplating my life – the breaking back over and over again, climbing back up toward feeling well only to be flattened and having to start again. Then, on a morning, I sat on the edge of the bed and imagined that my legs were gone. . . or my hand, or arm or other bodily parts as is now the reality for thousands of the young people returning from Iraq, and I thought about being young, and having THAT until death does part, and I got over my sorry feelings. These young people do have their moments of communal gratitude as they return, but then, life goes on. They must return to the fabric of their towns and villages and become a part of it, and that means every day, they sit on the edge of a bed and have to either strap into some device to walk, or brush their teeth, or whatever, and manage. I know it is an oft used mental exercise, to think of all the lives that are not as fine as one’s own, but it does help to stiffen the upper lip. (There’s another of those sayings. . . I have never heard commentary about people’s upper lips being floppy, or twitching, or unstiff in any manner – more to think about while viewing the morning mirror.)

August 21, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 8:23 pm on Tuesday, August 21, 2007

High heat and humidity encompass the days at Sanctuary; mosquitoes and spiders flourish and Monarch butterflies are beginning to gather around the thistle and milk weed plants. The spiders are especially active – the paths between trees and tall grasses appear to be prime real estate for fine dining because there are webs at face level every twenty or thirty feet. When we walk after dark we see the various species of spiders in the flashlight beams busily wrapping up the catches of the day. We carefully move around and under the web work, and keep our mouths shut just in case we miss one and find an unwelcome creature trying to get off our teeth.

This is also the season for wildflowers; whenever I see them, I think of the person(s) who first discovered them in the grasses and delighted in their unexpected offerings of beauty in an otherwise treeless and severe landscape. The blooms we see scattered across the pasture right now bear the wonderful names of Partridge Pea, Ironweed, Snow on the Mountain, Goldenrod, Gayfeather and Blazing Star.

I have completed my thirteenth round of Chemotherapy and with the exception of a great deal of soreness at the injection sites, all went better than expected until the sixth day of seven; then the exhaustion, nausea, etc., arrived in a manner which seemed to be my body shouting, “Enough already!” Now I am back into the routine of daily Neupogen shots for ten days and weekly blood draws until October 2, which is the date set for the bone marrow aspiration. It is hard. I do try to recall all the good times so recently enjoyed and give thanks for them, but I think the contrast makes the present reality even more difficult to pick up again. Charles fills the air with encouraging words and reminds me that he still cannot cook at all well – so onward we go. C’est la vie.

August 16, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 1:21 pm on Thursday, August 16, 2007

“The nice thing about rationalizing, it needn’t be rational.” This wonderful statement is lifted from a letter from my sister-in-law, and I wish it could be applied to reality checks. Tuesday afternoon was the latter, with yet another discussion about the nature of MDS and its’ incurability. According to the wisdom accumulated thus far, only a bone marrow transplant has ever effected a cure, and for myself, not even an option. “But I have been feeling so much better” I said, “and the last two rounds of Chemotherapy were morphing into more difficult experiences, so perhaps I was getting toxic.” Not necessarily, said the oncologist; it could mean that the Vidaza is beginning to lose some of its effectiveness. He reiterated that the illness is there, waiting. Thus far, he said, it has been suppressed and instead of life moving forward in a downward manner, it has been held steady on an even plane. We discussed the bone marrow aspiration that would give a new insight into what is happening within, and the decision was reached to do it after one more round of therapy since the bone marrow reading takes at least a week to complete, and the doctor felt strongly that I needed to have the Chemo immediately. Today is the third day of the seven, and it has not been nearly as severe as the past two rounds, and that has been an unexpected gift.

WeGetNoticed.jpgOn Monday, Charles announced that he needed to get an anniversary card, and I said, “Please don’t. . . I haven’t gotten you one this year.” He immediately replied, “Of course I am going to buy a card – Hallmark depends on it! And I’ll just get your card for me at the same time.” I thought, “Now that’s a new approach.” He came back later with a large bouquet of roses and two cards in blue envelopes. On Tuesday morning we opened them, and his card to me had a photo on the front of an older couple pictured from the shoulders down, holding hands, and facing the ocean. They stood on the beach in ample, well-wrinkled and well-worn bodies; he in red shorts with a huge white star on the rear, and she in a floral bikini. The card opened up and inside the message said, “One way or another, we still turn heads. Happy Anniversary!” The card selected for me to give to him had the message on the front that said, “It’s so wonderful being married to the greatest spouse in the world!” Inside, the words were, “Isn’t it, Dear? Happy Anniversary”. Thus we began this 47th year with laughter and renewed delight and thanksgiving for a wonderful life together. The children published one of those “Then and Now” sets of photos in the local Sunday paper, so we were well-remembered. Charles would say, “Onward and Upward” and I will add, “Hallelujah, Amen!”

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