Saturday, January 30, 2016


For somebody who is supposedly so spiritual, I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about my body--being in my body--worriedly scanning the corpus--and generally behaving like a marshall at field parade. "Chin up, troops! Stomach, behave yourself! Fusty brain, get in line! General wooziness not allowed on this parade ground. March!!!"

It kind of works and then it doesn't. You may know I've just started an 18-week course of chemo to scour out and devour any rogue ovarian cancer cells left in my body after the hysterectomy. Having also recently had a bowel resection (is this getting too specific for you?), I have to chow down snacks at 3:00 am and second breakfasts at 10:00 am. Because my body just sucks up the food. So it's always a toss-up in the days after the harshest infusion--carbo and taxol.

Am I nauseous? Maybe food would help...(an intimate scrutiny of the insides ensues...). Perhaps I'd better scarf down another Zofran for nausea. No Chardonnay in sight. No slices of chocolate cake, but by God, we've got rice pudding! And Mary Jane does not have a pain about gobbling comfy pudding in the wee hours of the morning or the day.

Then there's the question of exercise and drinking water. Because these chemicals are so harsh--and I am grateful to them for killing my cancer cells--you have to flush out your kidneys 3 days after this treatment with 3 litres of water. Being an American and somewhat lazy about metrics, I only have a hazy idea of what a litre is. A quart?  3 QUARTS?  Anyway, it is a hell of a lot. I sip throughout the day and then, of course, visit the pee-torium frequently.

Exercise comes next. Keep those legs moving, woman, help get those chemicals out of your body--but not before they work their dark magic.  So every half-hour or so, I stand up from my desk and briskly walk around my study and our bedroom. If it's not too cold, I can stride about our deck while the dog gives me bewildered looks.  What in hell is she doing?

You get the point. Keep track of doctor's appointments; organize the blizzard of pills one takes each day; monitor internal systems--it all takes work and energy which I would rather put into something fun, like Chardonnay, eating meals at Alina's, and being with my loved ones and friends.

But a church friend gave me some sage advice recently. After her hysterectomy she said, "I didn't feel like myself. I couldn't do any of the things which defined me and made me feel useful. A dear woman
told me, 'Honey, you are healing now, and that is the hardest work there is." Such a gift to hear this.

I leave that wisdom with you. We must be gentle with ourselves and "trust in the slow work of God," as Teilhard de Chardin said.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Some angels have wings. Others hang out in train stations waiting to assist weary travelers who don't speak the language and don't know where they are going. Some appear to prevent accidents or lead ships safely back to harbor.

But this particular angel wore comfy loose clothes, rubber-soled shoes, a peace-ring on her right hand, and stood, because her back had just gone out. I didn't realize that angels had backs or that they could go out.

Her official name does not matter, but she is an ER doctor who has become an expert in the uses and therapeutic effects of Medical Marijuana, otherwise known as MM. After a long, informative, and calming consult with her, sharing my medical records of recent back-to-back cancer surgeries, the discovery of three tumor sites, and the possibility of a genetic mutation which would increase the likelihood of my growing more festive tumors--if she'd told me to smoke a joint and that I would then be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I would have believed her. (I am one of those people who, despite their age, never liked marijuana or smoking it. Yes, I tried it twice--yes, I inhaled. I prefer wine and single-malt Scotch.))

This is what my husband and I found out. Because of my recent, lamentable history, I am a good candidate for Medical Marijuana. Once I begin chemo next week (lasting 18 weeks), after I get my official card I can purchase a vaporizer at the dispensary which delivers THC without the "high."  This would help control my nausea, increase my appetite, and help soften my pain level. Unfortunately, it doesn't prevent my hair from falling out.

Then--with the kind of sparkling eyes that true scientists and medical folks have as they contemplate a grand discovery--she told us that the chemicals in cannabinoids actually have anti-tumor properties.  They create apoptosis, which is cell death. Or, as our angel-doctor put it, "They make the cancer cells commit suicide."  I liked the sound of that. I almost did a fist-pump.

After a lengthy and complicated process of registering as a patient with the DPH, I am now in the system and await an official card
which will allow me to access the dispensary in Northampton. (How lucky are we? Only two in the state and one right down the road!)

But even more interesting and heartening is the possibility that after my chemo is finished, I could take some cannabinoid oil nightly to help control future growth of tumors. That gave my husband and I such hope, such a lightness of spirit.

Or, as G.K. Chesterton so aptly put it, "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly."  I am feeling much lighter now than I have in four months, so flight is a definite possibility.

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