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

March 31, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 4:34 pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I have suffered a setback. As I reported before, I embarked on three separate rounds of five infusions of Vidaza with the hope of delaying or stopping the AML. I completed thirteen of the fifteen when in Thursday’s early morning hours my body shouted “Enough!” It began shortly after midnight with intestinal cramping which increased in intensity to the degree of “On a scale of one to ten” I felt to be at eleven or more and by 2:30 AM we were at the local emergency room with my entire focus narrowed to a desire for release from the pain. Hurry. Please. Soon. Since morphine gives me headaches, Demarol brought blessed oblivion. This time there was internal bleeding and I remained in the hospital until Saturday. Now I move pale and weakly through the hours, swallowing antibiotics, eating bananas, rice, applesauce and toast and healing very slowly. I will receive Aranesp and Neulasta and perhaps another blood transfusion in the coming days. The stress of the Chemotherapy will be at its greatest toward the end of this week, so after a few more days, I hope to be on the other side of this present situation.

And so spring advances – today there are low clouds moving rapidly overhead, and snow showers are accompanied by north winds. Since March did indeed come in like a lamb, all of the above was to be expected as the month exits with lion like roaring and blustering. We do know that these sayings do not become written on the foreheads of our cooperate memories on a whim. The different species of our summer birds are now arriving every other day – yesterday the cowbirds arrived, and the day before that the beautiful ring necked doves sat on top of the principle bird feeder seemingly pleased with what they surveyed. The clamor of the territorial bird song grows and we anticipate more in the days to come. This is the season of wonder at our Creator’s choice of sounds and colors. . . how does the daffodil sit through the iron soil of winter to emerge so bright and yellow and determined? It is always a new lesson in endurance and hope and it is joined by many such signs in the lengthening days of the coming season.

March 24, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 12:17 pm on Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today, I completed the second infusion of Chemotherapy in this third round. So far it has not been dreadful; the present discomforts are nausea and bone and muscle pain. There are plenteous meds to ease all of the above, and I have resolved to rest and make the passage through these next fourteen days as easy as possible. Yesterday, while I was watching a wild sky out of the east windows of the chemo room, the sirens sounded the Tornado Warning and nurses came in and took us all to rooms on the inside that were without windows. They were very calm and took the procession of chemo receivers down the hall, each pushing an IV tree with the dripping medications never missing a drop.

Furious winds have been blowing unusual warmth from the south for several days now, while other winds have been bringing snow to the west and north of us. We had some rain and a bit of hail as these systems engaged in a battle of dominance of the skies; fortunately, the tornadoes moved to the east and south of us, and here at Sanctuary, all was well when we returned from Lincoln. Alphie comes to the city with us, content in the back seat of the car until we get into the 25 miles per hour zone. Then, as we slow for the stoplights, he wishes to stick his head out of the window, and if we do not notice soon enough, he will place his nose as close to the ear as possible and “Woof!” One involuntarily reacts and we try to open the window before this occurs in order to avoid driving up on the sidewalk or bouncing the car into the next lane. These trips with all the new scenes and scents to enjoy appear to be a canine high point. Alphie waits at the top of the stairs, and when we say, “You can come along” his joyful rush to the door always makes us smile.

The hymn that I am trying to memorize this week is “Come Away to the Skies”, a Charles Wesley text set to music found in “A Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony” (the tune is Middlebury). The words seem very compelling to me at this time.

Come away to the skies, my beloved arise
and rejoice in the day you were born.
On this festival day, come exulting away,
And with singing to Zion return.

For thy glory we were first created to share
Both the nature and kingdom divine;
Now created again, that our lives may remain
Throughout time and eternity thine.

We with thanks do approve the design of that love
Which has joined us to Jesus’ name;
So united in heart, let us nevermore part,
Till we meet at the feast of the Lamb.

March 17, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 9:03 pm on Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick’s Day and the willows are beginning to green up; Sanctuary is full of life and plans. . .big family plans for all kinds of birds as they sing out territorial songs all across the forty. It is warm enough to have the windows open so we can hear the joyful noise.

Starting last Wednesday, I began to feel really well. The wonder of that is not unlike getting to see the Taj Mahal for example, or sitting out on an elegant beach on a private island in the ocean. I truly did not expect to feel that fine ever again, so each day has been accompanied with inner admonitions, “Remember this, remember how a whole body feels!” Today that wholeness is beginning to seep away as the red blood count begins to decrease, but I have best intentions toward keeping the feeling alive.

The third and last round of chemotherapy begins next Monday, and after that is complete, a bone marrow reading will be taken in about a month. At that time, it should show whether or not there has been some improvement in the blood, and life will go forward accordingly.

March 9, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 12:48 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I think perhaps the blood transfusion that I got on Saturday was from a youthful chocoholic, because as soon as I recovered from all the Ativan I got to control the Benadryl spastic reactions, I found myself in the kitchen making some brownies. (The recipe is below – I made it up and these are really very good.) As we learned at the first transfusion, I have a strong reaction to a large dose of Benadryl, so the oncologist determined that rather than taking a chance on having an allergic reaction to the blood, I would be given the sedative Ativan up front. When the first two applications didn’t stop the limb spasms, the nurses gave me yet another, saying that I would likely become a zombie. It was the last thing I actually remembered of the day. Charles assured me that I did resemble vegetable matter and it took a while for me to sleep it off.

Now I am nearly human again, with a wide spectrum of emotions that center in a deep sorrow that I cannot feel this way without the use of another person’s blood. How strange is that? When one gets a red blood transfusion, each unit is packed with the red cells, and the white cells and platelets will have been removed to be used separately. White cells apparently are rarely transfused because they don’t last very long, and also can cause fevers and other complications.

Our skies have been blessed by the V shaped chains of thousands of waterfowl flying over in almost endless succession throughout the last several days. Viewing all this movement through the skies, I am relieved that we are not plagued by a compulsion to migrate too. . . just imagining Charles arising one morning, setting his face into the wind and announcing that we must pack up because it is time to return to our place of origin once more keeps me grateful for some things that do not happen.

As for the rest, I pray a lot and reflect on the spirit within that insists upon clinging to earthly life in spite of gathering signs of lessening resources. We live each day trusting that whatever strength we need shall be given to us. Our entire lives have been filled with God’s blessings and care and this knowledge gives us comfort and peace as we move into the future. I’ll conclude with Charles’ favorite sign off: “Onward and Upward!”

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES Oven: 350 degrees
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/ 2 cup dark chocolate chips
scant teaspoon sea salt

Microwave chocolate and butter for two minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add the sugar, mix well, blend in eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Add the almond flour, sift together the other flour, salt and baking powder and add it. Stir in the almonds and cho chips. Put parchment paper on a small baking sheet or on a 9 by 12 baking dish. Spread the dough out, smooth it across the top, and sprinkle on the sea salt. Bake for 14-18 minutes. Do not over bake, should remain moist and chewy. Upon removing from the oven, cool, remove from the cookie sheet, and cut into squares.

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