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

January 26, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 8:58 pm on Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sunlight has returned and dropped upon us amazing restorative qualities. Last week I had an overwhelming urge to flee the cold and relentless winter, and I began to make arrangements to join a friend in Florida. This would require a plane trip – the most commonplace sort of thing for so many of us. Charles met this intent with a stoic silence, but eventually, he said that it seemed a bit odd that after spending several years earth borne because of my lack of immunities, I would determine to “just do it”. He went on to say that while avoiding airplanes and airports might not be the factor in my remaining on the planet, it might possibly be a factor. I realized that I wanted to run away – not only from the cold and grey, but also from myself. Sadly, one cannot pack a bit of luggage and fly away from the reality of ones’ own being. I suppose if that were possible, there would be a lot more traffic in all categories of transport.

Alphie was the consummate dear dog during this time. He didn’t follow his usual pattern of going upstairs to lie down for his morning or afternoon nap, but rather, he remained very near, sometimes with his head on my foot, looking his usual soulful self and sighing hugely. He may have been sending “Bone, think bone” messages, but naturally I took his behavior to mean that he was in complete sympathy with me in my distress.

For now, we wait. John-paul sent a lovely photo of a little cherry tree blooming next to his back door in Seattle, and spoke of “happy rain” falling. “Like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.”* And praise God, in its own good time, spring always comes.
*Kahlel Gibran

January 20, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 5:22 pm on Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who knew that fog could come here to this place so far from the oceans and linger on and on? The trees are outlined with hoarfrost, the air is full of biting moisture, and our world is monochromatic. The day’s forecast is for freezing rain, with more fog and ice forming everywhere. We build up our fire, give thanks again for the warm house and haul more seeds out to the feeders. It surely must be a trial for the creatures now; we see very little of them as we walk.

On Monday my GP and I reviewed the blood reading that came back from the Med Center in Omaha. The “blasts” have advanced quite a bit (The statement reads: “Interpretation:
A CD34-positive blast population. . . This finding is consistent with persistent myelodysplasia/acute myelogenous leukemia”.) When I looked up the term “CD34-positive blast population” I read that the average survival time is 126 days. Since I have never been average, I doubled that number, and that takes me well into next fall. Charles had the lovely idea of making this the year of The Celebration our 50th Wedding Anniversary. The actual date of the anniversary doesn’t arrive until August, so we will commence much earlier, making it up as we go along. I am warm, I am loved, and for this day and life in this time and place, I am filled with gratitude and thanksgiving.

PS: This Blog has been difficult to write because it is such a small subject compared to the horrors of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti. Charles and I have chosen the Red Cross as a first place to donate since they have a presence already in place there, and as time moves on, our churches will likely continue to send aid for years to come.

January 13, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 8:27 pm on Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sunlight in a cloudless sky is beginning to warm up our world at last! Yesterday there were great “plopping” sounds as the piles of snow held on top of the branches of the Austrian pines gave way. The small cedars with their tops almost bent double from the weight of the ice coatings are standing straight again, and that is a pleasing sight. I was afraid that after such a long time, they might be permanently misshapen. The morning’s walk was pure pleasure since I didn’t have to wrap myself up in so many layers, and breathing wasn’t impeded by the dreadful cold. We did the entire path, and I noticed that across the pasture, there are great swaths of snow that remain pristine and unbroken by any creature’s passage. Most of us use the walkway carved by the snow blower, and the deer follow just a few routes across the pasture from the hilltop forest to the streams in the wetlands. Today I saw the tiny tracks of voles on top of the snow, and these went in circles and loops, like very delicate embroidery patterns, beginning and ending at apparent clumps of grasses under the snow.

Yesterday we made a return trip to the Oncologist. These have become infrequent because I am no longer in chemotherapy, and there are no new treatments. It was good to see him again, and to be remembered by all the nurses – everyone greeted us with delight. What was different this time was the presence of another doctor who is in training to become a GP in a town in the middle of the state where doctors are desperately needed. Our oncologist said that this man was seeking out learning about MDS, since the occurrence of the illness is increasing, and therefore, with my permission, would be visiting with me about the whole experience. I am an anomaly – entirely unique in that I went through three courses of Vidaza, never reached remission, live with a white blood cell count that looks terrible, indicating no immunities at all (but I have had illnesses and eventually I do get better again), and am just now beginning to need red blood transfusions. When the oncologist rejoined the conversation, we had a good discussion about the best approach to pain control. A blood sample has been sent to the Med Center in Omaha for analysis to see how far the blasts have increased. With that information, there can be some fine tuning of the medications that will work most effectively.

I have had some depression because of the pain, and no amount of “Get a grip”, “Others have it worse”, “You have a good life”, etc., can keep the darkness from creeping in. The good news is that light returns through faith (The prayer that is as short as “Help!”), Charles (always present with patience and good cheer), Alphie (the great beast that looks at me with woeful yellow eyes and conveys, “Let’s go for a walk now”) and meds (those small bits of material that slip down the throat and in a short while dim the cries of the stem cells in the bone marrow). It is life, and in my case, it is a miracle. Thanks be to God.

January 5, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 9:20 pm on Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two thousand and ten! It’s a beautiful number with balance and beauty. Soon I will begin my fifth year of life inside of the cancer community. I have a blue folder that is fat with the copies of the blood readings taken over the years. . . sometimes they would be taken daily, sometimes twice weekly, and since beginning palliative care at the end of March, 2009, once monthly. The white blood count has been abysmal throughout. The disease moved to AML a year ago, and all of the information says that if one starts with the MDS type of bone/blood cancer, the life span remaining will be less than a year. I have had correspondences with others who have had the same diagnosis as mine, and all of them have died. I really don’t know what to think about this; one doesn’t live on due to a higher level of virtue or blessedness – perhaps within the marrow of my bones, there is a very small cadre of stubborn and hard working stem cells that somehow keep death at bay. Every illness, from mouth sores through coughs, intestinal distresses, bruises or headache stays with me a very long time, but eventually, I recover. I do know that others care for me, and pray for me, but I also know that the other people with whom I visited were cared for and had the gifts of prayers, too.

Sanctuary lies under its blanket of snow, gripped by a relentless cold that does not permit melting to take place. Alphie and I hurry along the paths that Charles has carved with the snow blower, and we see occasional deer, rabbits, and birds. I carry several buckets of food out each day for the wild inhabitants of this place. We see the raptors with greater frequency because they know they can find their dinners near the feeders, too. This afternoon, I saw a scattering of black feathers directly beneath the hanging feeders – a mute witness to a meal recently enjoyed, like an empty plate and a crumpled napkin.

But it is 2010! Life goes on, mysterious and unfathomable but going on. There is hope and promise in this year just begun, and my wish is that it moves forward with blessings, balance and beauty for you, too.