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

April 28, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 8:16 am on Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today we met with the oncologist to hear what had been found in the bone marrow draw of last week, and the news was mixed. On Sunday the doctor called and gave me the first reading and in that conversation was not too optimistic because the count of “blasts” in the blood hadn’t changed much. Today he had the results from the Med Center where the marrow was closely analyzed, and these showed some improvements in several areas giving us reason to hope that the chemotherapy may have brought about some change for the better in the condition. The doctor also said that the effects of the three rounds of treatments are still being unveiled, and we have a very concrete measure that can be taken in the next three weeks. If the white and red blood cell numbers begin to increase, then we will know that my body is still receptive to treatment, and we can plan how to go forward accordingly. We are all cautiously optimistic and have high hopes of enjoying another summer together.

Last week, I wrote about leaping into hot summer, which we did for a day or so, then cool weather returned, including a light frost this morning. Charles had already put out beautiful tomato plants, and we are hoping that they will not become depressed through this experience and lay down and die. Many of our songbirds have come back to Sanctuary to raise their families, with the thresher returning with a whole new set of melodies. The wrens, orioles, rose-breasted grosbeak and warblers are not yet here, but should arrive any day. Alphie and I are out at dawn as our world awakens, and it is always a great pleasure to the senses because I see additional layers of growth and hear more bird song every morning.

May arrives on Friday, and it bring flowers, soft days and good skies. It is a blessing for me to have such a fine place to celebrate God’s creation – in this peculiar season of my life, I see everything anew once more and I am delighted and thankful in equal measure.

April 22, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 2:56 pm on Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yesterday I had my sixth bone marrow draw. It was highly unpleasant, even if I was drugged and had Charles holding my hand and telling stories in an attempt to distract. It is always good to be on the other side of such procedures. This morning, my hip feels as though I have fallen hard, muscles grumbling with every step that I take. The analysis of the marrow is done at the Med Center in Omaha, and we will hear results next Tuesday. Depending on that, perhaps a clearer picture of the future may be revealed.

Nebraska has a capacity of continuing winter far past the proposed beginning of spring, and then, in a day or two, moving right into summer with ticks, mosquitoes, and hot winds from the south. This may be what is happening this year, with today the chosen one of delightful spring. Each window frames a perfectly beautiful blue sky, the plums and pears are blooming and scenting the air, the birds are in transports of delight and the frogs are singing loudly in the wetlands. Tomorrow’s forecast includes temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s with increasing wind velocities.

At this moment, I am not interested in any more medical interventions – since January of this year, the several hospitalizations and introduction to new levels of pain have moved me to a place where I am content to sit quietly to enjoy what the moment has to offer. Thousands of words have been spoken and written on the subjects of living with chronic pain, suffering, living in the “now”, and how to die well. Each of these topics is ultimately so subjective that one can pick and choose whatever wisdoms one might wish to direct one’s own perceptions. I find that discourses on suffering which indicate that somehow this improves one’s character, or understanding, or sainthood, annoy me the most. My experiences with pain have left me checking off “none of the above”. Often these commentaries are made to explain God’s intent because it is so difficult to imagine a powerful and loving God permitting all the pain in the world. It eludes my comprehension, and I fling it into the compartment with all the others of the same ilk…i.e., why me, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the like. Living life day by day, sometimes hour by hour, is the best lesson learned about how to do this, and as for dying, it remains a fact that at the moment when one’s earthly journey concludes, there is just you and God. If you hold to that tenet of faith that once past the door of death, you continue living, whole, happy, and delighted in the presence of God, its truly the only way to go.

PS: John-paul is returning to the states this very day, so I am hopeful that the winter illustrations will be replaced by spring sights, and that his touch will return very soon!

April 13, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 11:56 am on Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This morning I read the April entries in this Blog from the previous years. Life does seem to move in a large circular pattern, with the same “first tick” sightings, daffodils blooming, and concerns about blood readings, cancer progression, treatments, and physical changes all remarked upon. A longer, slower decline is difficult to imagine.

A cool, damp morning begins this April day which has me looking in the mirror and saying with dismay, “Whence my Crowning Glory?” (translated, “My hair is falling out.”) Why would those sturdy follicles loose their grip now, after all this time? The hair is thinning rapidly, but I have not yet reached the comb-over stage. I can’t decide whether it might be better to have it all fall out and then have one of those re-hairing events that one reads about, where the next crop comes in thick and curly or in splendid red tresses or the like, or hope that this present shedding is a sympathetic occurrence with Alphie. His winter coat is removing itself hair by hair in gentle sprinkles everywhere he goes.

I am nearing the end of my last red blood transfusion’s boost in energy, so I walk more slowly, breathe more heavily, and think more deeply about end times. The Neupogen shots did move the white blood cell count up slightly, but not enough to elicit much hope of a triumphant return of bone marrow output. A week from today one more marrow draw is scheduled – this to show whether the last months’ efforts with chemotherapy have accomplished anything. So we move onward in the circle of life, grateful always for the good things and blessings that embellish our progress and smooth out the path ahead.

PS: John-paul, this Blog’s illustrator, is traveling “across the waters” in the next weeks, so his additions will come as he is able to find time and access.

April 7, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 12:16 pm on Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Neupogen (which is the product name for Filgrastim, a human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor produced by recombinant DNA technology) is used to force the bone marrow to produce white blood cells. It makes me think of sending out the Mafia’s collection agents. . . the material enters the body via an injection into the sub-cutaneous flesh (the fat around the navel, or those hanging bits on the upper arms) and from there marches forth to make its demands. The marrow does all that it can, though not without complaint. . . the presence of the enforcer is made known by pain in all sorts of places including the jawbone, the back, hips, etc., wherever there might be some marrow capable of flinging out some more white blood cells. So far, there has not been a leap upward in the population of the latter, but it is hoped that this is because of the remaining presence of the chemotherapy. Today I get my last of eight injections, and on Friday, there may be a sign that improvement has come.

I am better now, with a settled digestive system. At the height of misery, I vowed that I would never eat again, but I am already cooking and baking and enjoying many foods. Charles has resumed his cooking lessons, and we are having a good time making things together in the kitchen.

Marc Chagall                         William Blake

This is Holy Week, when we remember and celebrate with the wonderful services that review Christianity’s long told story of redemption that takes life through death and back to life again. In this strange existence of such awareness of approaching death because of an illness that has no other outcome, the thoughts of heaven, or life after dying, are many. “We are all dying, you know” friends will say, and I consider why and how it is different for me. Perhaps it is because my physical being is always a little less than it had been not so long ago. Anyway, when the joyful cries of “Christ is Risen!” rise up from churches around the world, none will be more delighted than those that come from here. “He is risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia!”