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

November 25, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 3:26 pm on Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Janna is singing the 25th psalm of the Lisbon Psalms and Charles is playing the piano accompaniment which he wrote sitting in a tent in the city camp at Lisbon, Portugal; “Turn thee unto me and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. . . ” and “Show me thy ways O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day”. The sun is shining through the south bay window with its winter landscape of bare trees out beyond – the African Grey parrot sits on the back of a chair in front of the window seeming to listen intently to the music. This time of sight and sound makes everything within this trip to Lake Bluff worthwhile whatever the outcomes.

We began on Sunday afternoon, and we arrived here on Monday morning after having a good and uneventful car trip across Iowa. We are going forward with plans put in place several months ago. This evening we will go to a Chicago Symphony presentation of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony (the Resurrection) complete with the symphony chorus and soloist, etc. It should be very grand and wonderful. We will take Janna and Todd as our guests, and I will wear my bright blue aqua medical mask wrapped under a fine silk scarf.
All are agreed that this is likely not the wisest, however, leading up to this, I heard my mother’s voice again in an oft told story in the family.

Charles and I took the children and my parents along on a summer weekend to Spirit Lake in northern Iowa. Charles determined to rent a motor boat so we could all do a tour of the lake, and enjoy the sights from the water. We were delighted to embark on the adventure with the exception of my Dad. He adamantly refused to go saying that Mom would not go either, as they were not swimmers, and therefore would NOT be taking a boat out on the water. My mother, always adventurous and delighted with the concept of going boating, looked at my father and said with great intensity, spacing her words out, “What are we saving ourselves for??” With that she picked up her hat and sweater and headed for the boat. Dad said no more and came also, having no reply to the query. Since then, the question she asked has been used more than once as an aid in decision making. So in this last week, I heard “What are you saving yourself for?” and it was easy to pack my bags.

November 18, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 6:53 pm on Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Warm sunlight again today – we are in a pattern of cold, grey days with lovely warm ones interspersed. The hunting season began on Saturday, so there are bewildered deer standing in the pasture even during the daylight hours. Usually, they are tucked into their hiding places awaiting the evening so they can begin their nocturnal lives, but rifles are sounding off around Sanctuary in every direction at sunrise and sunset, and the more fortunate deer select to come into our well protected “No Hunting” area. Alphie throws up his nose and sorts out scents but usually continues his happy trot on the paths rather than rushing into the trees and tall grasses.

This week I am once again contemplating end times. We are all dying incrementally every day, of course, but I must say, very few of us make a career out of it. My own experience since the cancer diagnosis seems to be giving me serial opportunities to view end times, and truthfully, I would just as soon try a different approach. This week, the blood readings show that I am losing ground in the red blood with the white count already decimated. When you have two out of the three blood systems (white cells, red cells, and platelets) in trouble, you are indeed in trouble. The disease appears to have moved off of the “suspended animation” phase, and is moving on. The antibiotic that I am taking for the wicked lung thing is helping that to slowly improve, but the energy level is diminishing at the same time. When the red blood counts move down far enough, I will begin to get blood transfusions. There is a chemotherapy that I can also try as a last resort to buy more time, but it has the usual caveats which place all on a scale weighing out benefits vs. trials. The benefits from the red blood transfusions last three weeks or so the first time, then perhaps two weeks, then one week, and finally, just a few days. This is what we were told by the oncologist, whom we presume speaks from experience.

Meanwhile, I have taken myself out with the bright aqua mask on. At first, I felt as though everyone must be looking, and many did give me a quick glance. Sadly, my smile is hidden and human interaction is curtailed since the signal is clear that you wish to keep your distance. The advantage is that I feel more secure and other than appearing as though I have grown a very large and snug beak, it’s all right.

Charles and I deal with life in this setting by placing ourselves into God’s care. Since the actual transfer from earth to heaven has not yet occurred as humanly predicted more than once, we have cause to “watch and pray” and hope for continued miracles. Of course, this isn’t instant or easy, but it is the only way to hold back the darkness. . . everything else is unthinkable.

November 12, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 4:55 pm on Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yesterday was given over to two projects; the first was going to Heidi’s house where we made foods together since she had the holiday off from work. This happy time resulted in excellent chicken soup, apple pies, and trying out a new biscuit recipe.

After that, it was off to the hospital into the day’s second project which was going to the pulmonarist to continue the conversation about my lungs. The inhalants had helped somewhat, but the dreadful coughing spasms and lung pain had not been addressed, and by now, he had studied my medical history and was ready to go on in the search of the problem. I had two Cat Scans, one of my sinuses without dye, and another with dye injected into the blood stream to make sure there was not a blood clot in a lung and also to study the lungs more completely. Because the reason for the arterial blood clot in my kidney had never been found, he said that even with the blood thinners, he needed to make sure clotting wasn’t happening and we were to stay until the Scan had been read before we returned home. (We spent the afternoon “killing time”, a phrase that always sends up exclamation points in my brain since one doesn’t wound time, or birth time, but one can kill it. I counted the fish in the salt water aquarium and watched them doing their lives in that small space. They seemed to be into repetitive behavior, big time.) No blood clotting was found, so we were sent home with that good news at the end of the day.

Sometime later this week, we will be given a more complete readout of the findings of the scan, and I was told to cease using the Advair inhalant and begin one called Symbicort 80/4.5. This one has possible side effects that include “immune system effects and a higher chance for infections” so I will follow up on that; the reason for the change was the hope that it would be more effective in controlling the symptoms. When I used it the first time, it did bring relief very quickly, and I said to Charles, “Perhaps you could write a little song like, “Oh Symbicort, you bring such peace to my bosom . . .” After a short pause he looked over the top of his glasses and said, “and is there a second line to that?” I have been trying to think of a good rhyme word to “bosom” ever since, but to no avail.

As Judith recommended, I ordered some face masks that our doctor friend found on the Internet for me; they should relieve anxiety about going out because they apparently stop 99% of the bad microorganisms. I just have to mentally prepare myself to appear in public with this over my face; another friend said that she thought there would be a business in designing arty and seasonal face masks. . . I could go forth in masked mystery rather than with this blue thing that cries out, “Oh dear, sick!” Ah well, life goes on, ever changing, ever challenging and not “business as usual” but we will enjoy our chicken soup and apple pie and biscuits and give thanks for another day.

November 5, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 10:06 am on Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A day passes, and change comes. The election has finally taken place and the shift in the sounds of the media brings relief with it. In the sky above Sanctuary a more timeless change takes place as large groups of birds fly overhead. They seem to be telling the gatherings of robins that it is time to move on since there is now snow predicted in the west and north, and these very unseasonable and warm days are almost history. Most of our trees are bare and the grasses and harvested fields cry out, “Winter!” because they are now in shades of dark gold and brown.

Change is also coming into our lives since the cold that came to reside in my lungs at the beginning of October has refused to move on, so I have begun the next chapter of my life called, “Learning how to pronounce “pulmonarist” and becoming acquainted with another set of side effects that accompany my new Advair Diskus 250/50 inhaler. Three days ago I went to take tests to see how much lung capacity I had, and after about an hour of “breath deeply, push out!” (cough violently, wheeze, drink water, wipe eyes) “take deep pants” (cough violently, wheeze, drink water, wipe eyes) and so forth, I was scheduled to see the pulmonarist the next morning. He said the x-Ray and tests indicated that I have asthma or a condition that looks a lot like asthma. I am to use the Advair inhaler twice a day and I also have a quick-relief inhaler (albuteral) to use in between times for instant relief when coughing and such begin. The Advair contains a form of steroids and also cortisone and the side effect possibilities include headache, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, upset stomach and mouth sores. Ingestion of drugs into the body will change the inner landscape, and sometimes this is not achieved without a cost, but I am very grateful for the opportunity to try to improve my quality of life. I am to return next week and if there has not been an improvement, then the pulmonarist said he would “take more aggressive steps” beginning with a Cat Scan, etc.

Throughout these times, as I walk through field and forest and consider ultimate verities, I find that it is always the words and sounds of the spiritual songs and hymns that comfort me most. Usually, I have only fragments of the words, so when I get back, I will find them and sing them beautifully and loudly, all within my head where my voice resembles Renee Fleming at her finest. Here is the first verse of this day’s walk.
“Thy holy wings, O Savior, spread gently over me,
and let me rest securely through good and ill in thee.
Oh, be my strength and portion, my rock and hiding place,
and let my ev’ry moment be lived within thy grace.”

(“Thy holy wings” – St. Olaf Choir)music.jpg

Tune: Swedish folk tune, “Bred Dina Vida Vinegar”