It’s kind of surreal to be back in daily life after a week in Hawaii. Hawaii is where a lot of my waking thoughts are at present (soon to be Colorado when my dad flies there for rehabilitation). But I also appreciate where I am and what I have, and my Thanksgiving was very relaxed. We ate a lot of my aunt’s good cooking and my husband’s too (you can see his leftover Brunswick stew above); I mulled wine and cider; we made gingerbread; we played games; we enjoyed a lot of soothing traditions and bright cool air.

After the past fortnight of bewildering journeys I’m left with this question: Does the modern world and our ability to travel rapidly from place to place shatter our reality so that we feel more divorced from things happening far away? Or does the bending of space via the internet help us feel closer to distant places and people? I don’t know. Maybe a little of both.

I’m back in the chair on Thursday. Three more rounds of chemotherapy in my future. I’m not very scared, I’ve got my books and my snacks, and I know what I’m in for. But please, O my body, this is the second holiday season I’m spending full of drugs. Can I have a break next year?

To end on a high note, I am happy to report that despite my dad’s infirmity he’s pressing on. Turns out the mind really does directly influence our body, and dad’s hard visualization work is paying off. In his words:

“Hurray, Caloo, Calay, I did it, moved the toes of my left foot in the tendu forward and back, then the whole foot. Our therapy worked. Debbie was here, and is sending a video, plus the physiotherapist.”

I give thanks for that!


What makes us stronger?

Last week I had a journey to make. It was to fulfill an ancient duty, the duty of filial love. Cordelia from King Lear said it best, “According to my bond; nor more nor less.” Someone tried to thank me for the journey, and I still don’t understand why: it was my father’s life at stake, there was no choice in the matter of my trip, I was always going to be there. (Those of you who know your Shakespeare know that Cordelia loved her father best.)

My father injured himself. I’ll speak of that more in a moment. As soon as my health was properly examined to make sure my blood count was fit for travel, I headed to the airport and was on the plane. (How I got to him is another story entirely, and I had a lot of help on the journey. Thanks, you guys.)

Chemotherapy last week went just fine. I’ve been dwelling on it too much, I think. Faced with a larger issue, it dwindled down to nothing but an annoyance that slowed me down. It’s amazing how something that seemed so large a month ago found its place nice and quickly. In short, chemotherapy was just fine, my body afterwards felt the puffiness and bloatedness that I knew it would, and in time everything settled back into place. It’s been almost two weeks since my first treatment, and my next will be next week, and for the next three. My body will hurt for a bit, and then it will be over.

Unlike the current issue facing my family now.

My father injured himself: he was climbing down a cable ladder into a cave entrance, and did not belay himself. He fell from thirteen feet onto his head, fractured his spine in two places, broke four ribs, and had a concussion. In the hospital last week he fought off pneumonia and began to recover himself. The first few days I saw him, he was so weak as to be unable to move. By the end of my visit he was moving into a wheelchair and back to sit up, and his mind as active as ever.

He has lost the use of his legs at present. He will be going into rehabilitation at the best possible facility in order to work hard on knitting his body and learning it again, focusing on reforging the connection between his legs and his mind.

I’ll be writing about his growing and learning process in here too, from now on. He’d like me to write this about his past week:

He’s been using visioning techniques to think about motion while someone helps move his legs and feet. He’s been controling breath with yoga and yogic breathing learned from years of meditation and buddhist practices. He’s maintaining as good nutrition as he can on a hospital diet. And he is going to focus on yoga, the connection between mind and body, to assist his recovery.

He’s also been using an iPad, and quite enjoying the connection it gives him, to good music and good thoughts and other people and a larger world.

I’m there with him mentally today, although I had to fly back and attend to the rest of my life.

But that doesn’t answer the question posed in the title to this post: What makes us stronger?

When I returned home early yesterday morning, I looked around my house and saw my answer: all of the creative projects that I write about here sustain me, and seeing the fruits of my labor (a few crocheted hats, a photo book about my daughter’s year for her grandparents, a set of eraser stamps that I’d carved, other small bright things) helped me feel great peace. As long as I am able to create, I am able to feel connected to joy, and dark times are not nearly as dark.

This is about the connection between the mind and body too. I’m planning to carve more stamps this week, and maybe crochet another hat. I eagerly await my dad’s next decision about where he will go for rehabilitation.

What makes you stronger?

Chemo land!

I have chemotherapy tomorrow, for the first time in very nearly a year. I remember the Rituxan (b-cell slaying) treatment clearly from last time, and it felt like this: first I fell into a chemical sleep; next I was hit by steroid-induced mood swings; then I felt a caffeinated restless high from some other drug; and finally I sat through a slow day of watching the drip-drip-drip from the IV as the drug slid into my veins. The needle gets pretty damned uncomfortable, especially if there is scar tissue in the vein, but now I know to tell the nurse to change the vein if it hurts too much. These are long days of sitting around, and toward the afternoon I’d feel mounting claustrophobia and a sense of enormous accomplishment when they finally unplugged the needle from my arm.

I’m so happy to be on the way toward getting rid of cancer again. I’m keeping my thoughts positive because we caught it so early. I know exactly what to expect, which is very different from the fear I felt last time. Last time was much more like this. This time I’m going to consider chemotherapy a much-needed rest day to focus on the health of my body and mind.

I’m letting myself rely on more people this time. My mother is funding my unpaid time off from work (thank you so much, mom!). Friends (thank you, Cris and Theresa) are babysitting my child when D. is at class tomorrow night, after treatment. And I’m taking the next day off from work instead of trying to be a hero. I also have a big bag of snacks and crafts all prepared, and I’m ready to face the comfy chair and the roomful of other people quietly fighting for their health. I’m even letting my husband join me for lunch in the chemo room this time — last time I didn’t want anyone to see me there, being so weak.

Four treatments. Tomorrow at this time, I’ll be able to happily say, One down!

Let’s go kick some a$$!