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

June 30, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 11:24 pm on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My New Life – Part Three

On May 18th, I entered into the last part of this Blog – that was when I heard that there is no more therapy to be tried for the bone marrow cancer. Since then, I have come six weeks in reasonably good health, including the road trip, and I have no clue about how long I will live. I have entered the land of the “chronic” where I join those thousands of humans near and far who trundle through life in lesser containers.

Perfect days in sunlight and temperature are treasures, and today was one of those events. Our summer migrants who diligently work long hours ridding our near spaces of mosquitoes and other insects are here again with only the stipulation that their housing be right next to the front door to our second floor. Generally this is an amiable arrangement, though their babies do tend to become quite messy just before they leave the nest to seek their own fortunes. Alphie continues his quest for “things under the earth” and his hole repertory is increasing. When I go out to pick mulberries near a lightly traveled path on the west side of the property, I let him dig all he wants, and he is working on a deep trench. He swims in the pond before we return home, and his entire being radiates wet contentment with the whole adventure.

The contemplations about the meaning of life (I have always liked the “42” supplied by the book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) and God’s intentions continue. Where one’s soul goes after the final earthly breath is taken remains a mystery to me. I have greatly enjoyed talking to people about their thoughts on the matter, because heaven (or the afterlife) is a different place to everyone who responds. I asked the young Mennonite woman who comes to assist us in cleaning the house what her church teaches about heaven, and she responded, “Well, it’s going to be one huge banquet, with everyone at the table.” “Eating?” I asked, and she said, “Of course, eating and drinking and having a very good time.” “Who is going to clear away the dishes and where will the trash go?” was my next question. She thought for a bit and then gave me a wonderful, big smile and said, “I figure God can take care of that, since he takes care of everything else, doesn’t he?” I enjoy thinking about that exchange – when one lives by faith, it is fruitless to get tangled up in the details.

June 23, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 6:52 pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For anyone who has wished for a jungle experience, Sanctuary has become such a destination. Everything is very lush and overgrown from the rains, water stands in the pathways on the edge of the west wetlands, and mosquitoes, swarms of gnats and dragonflies are abundant. The high heat and equally high humidity add to the equatorial environment. Once again we can claim that Nebraska has it all – just a bit ago, it was dry and cool and hands were wringing over whether the farmer’s plantings could survive. The upside is the incredible diversity in the bird population – yesterday morning’s walk included the sighting of a wild hen turkey and her chicks. We came upon them around a corner in the path, and the hen began to squawk and flap her wings so that Alphie would notice her above all, and the chicks scattered. It made me consider how differently from us the creatures have had to become hardwired for their survival. In a situation in which danger might be perceived, a human mother will cling to her children and instruct them to stay close, while in nature, all the little ones go in different directions and hide.

After returning from our road trip, the port “irrigation” and the blood testing were done the next day. When one has a port, every month it has to be washed out lest it become blocked. My port has a small tube running under the skin over the collarbone and into the jugular vein. When the saline solution is sent forth, I can feel it coming in. I always think about the trust one must have in all that has led up to this moment – an error in content or application could have most unpleasant outcomes.

The blood counts did not change after a month of happy living, and since the ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count) is still very low, the conclusion can only be that the miracle of life continues. With a white blood cell count of 1.4 and a percentage of neutrophils at 20, the ANC is approximately 280. According to the information about neutropenia and immunities (there is a lot written on the Internet from many sources including Mayo Clinic or Emedicine, etc.,) any count under 500 is considered “severe neutropenia”, so the precautions that we have put into place seem to be helping and must continue. Though the number is abysmal, I do have some immunities, rather than none at all, and that can be compared to wearing a bikini instead of having to go out naked where everyone else is wearing more substantial coverage. It is not entirely comfortable, but it can be done.

(John-Paul is traveling this week)

June 16, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 6:46 pm on Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our road trip is winding down in Mankato, MN with long time friends in their very lovely home in a wooded cul-de-sac near the University. Rains are falling quietly and straight down; no winds, violence, or drama in the skies. This morning we took a fine walk through Rasmussen Woods, an area of natural old growth trees and wetlands that is set aside in the midst of the urban areas. Here we saw a lovely collection of birds that are not often seen at our own Sanctuary.

This whole adventure has been splendid! While with the family at the beginning of last week, there was some illness in the house, but we religiously washed hands, etc., and I did not pick up any sicknesses. I still remain well, with only an uncertain day en route yesterday, but as of now, all is going on as hoped.

On Thursday of last week, we drove northward to spend time with the Dull’s at their home on Lake Michigan in Door County, WI. Here we talked non-stop, walked by the lake and in their woods, played bridge and crafted a life’s experience to remember and cherish for many days to come. As part of that, I determined that Jo and I should get matching “Wellies”. I needed summer weight boots for my morning walks, and since there is a stream that flows into the lake just north of their home, if she wishes to walk on the beach there, she can also make use of a pair. Though the distaff side expressed doubts about how “in” these boots are, we found some that were entirely pleasing and this AM when we were walking, a young woman that we met in the woods commented, “Nice boots”. At that moment, I felt the unique joy that only being “with it” can bring.

Tomorrow we begin our return to Seward with Alphie and Sanctuary on our minds. The unspoken agenda of this trip has been to have wonderful visits with people we cherish while I am still on earth. This has added richness and depth to the conversations, and the whole undertaking has had the blessing of enough good health to make the days splendid and full of joy.

June 10, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 11:32 am on Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We discussed traveling for a long time before embarking on a little road trip because my near isolation in the last weeks has kept me reasonably well. Finally we determined to try a very controlled journey in a car, and armed with an ultraviolet disinfecting wand, Purell, surgical masks, a slew of medications and a very fine letter from the oncologist in which he outlines the illness, the other chronic conditions that have joined in, my medications, and most importantly, the complete information about my insurance coverage, we started off on Sunday afternoon. We had taken Alphie to his usual kennel where he remains “in storage” (as Charles says – I am still not as convinced that dogs live only in the moment and do not feel the passage of time, as is the common claim).

We had been on the road for a little over an hour when we were overtaken by a severe storm with rain, wind and hail – the worst we have ever experienced while driving in a car. We were on the Interstate, and the sides of the road were lined with stopped cars because visibility went to zero. Thankfully, the hail was not so large that it dented the car, or damaged the windshield, but there were small white drifts of it on the sides of the roads, and under trees, there were leaves chopped into fine green bits. We did get to our destination in good shape, and we determined not to regard this beginning to our travels as an omen of things to come. So far, all is well.

Tuesday, we drove to downtown Chicago to revisit “The Bean” at Millennium Park and walk the length of the new bridge from there to the splendid 200+ million dollar addition to the Art Institute, both designed by Renzo Piano, an architect whose work and ability to use natural lighting in spaces that display art are truly remarkable. We went with daughter Janna and family and met dear friends there for lunch. The day was such that when we arrived in Millennium Park, the tops of the tall buildings were wreathed in mists, and everything was magical. It was a grand day. I reflected that no photo or film would be able to replicate what it was like to stand on the bridge and look back at the Frank Gehry band shell, watching the bright colors of groups of school children move through the park and feeling the air blowing in from Lake Michigan across the spaces there. The new part of the Art Institute is truly beautiful, just as splendid as has been reported. So, on this cool June day, we delight in the adventure, look forward to the coming days, and hope for the best!

Next Page »