I never left but I’ve been busy. Committing my flesh one place while my mind goes somewhere else.
Like yesterday. Critiquing another hospital drop ceiling, while a radioactive marker circulates in my blood. Par example. Why are ceilings not more user friendly? Or counting to three and going to that tranquil pasture in my head while a Quinton Line is yanked out of chest.
No wonder I’m feeling fractured.
I am not feeling whole.
So I’ve been forging a smile. Then I show up. Friends help me cross thresholds and while we laugh and my mind is otherwise engaged, my body can quietly blubber away. I sit on the floor of Ted and Tara’s kitchen and hug Flora. Contact with a small, vital body is the antidote. My body unshrivels. Arm move without fear of IV reflux. Fuck the self-pity. Mental smack upside the face. We do what we are meant to do.
What we need to do is play.
Everyday has been playtime. More or less.
And we all know that playtime ends with fist shakes and tears.
That just about sums up my last two weeks.
Oh yeah- and I still have hair.
It’s growing, dammit.
But you wanna hear about the stem cell collection, right?
First, there’s a laminated painting in the stem cell collection suite in PMH, right next to the washroom when you first walk in. It caught my eye cause I have a thing for lamination. Under the painting, words. My next favourite thing is a laminated parable:
An Analogy for an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant
During my stem cell reinfusion, a casual observer had asked for a description of the process. Dr Franke’s response, directed at me was, ‘You are a lawn’
My lawn had weeds, so weed killer (chemotherapy) was applied. The results of the weed killer were not seen for a number of days but the weeds slowly started to wither and finally died. Because the weed killer was so strong it also wiped out some of my lawn (bone marrow) as well! Then the rains (saline IV) came and washed all the weed killer away.
‘Today I’m planting your new seeds which will take time to germinate. In about a week we’ll add fertilizer which will help your newly germinated seeds grow.”
My ’seeds’ responded to the fertilizer (Neupogen) and pushed through the soil into the sunlight. With the light from the sun (nurturing) and all the special care, the new lawn became lush and healthy.
So like, I’m grass.
Yeah, I’m grass.
That’s why I’m feeling trampled.
Day one of harvesting is like any other. I know I’m gonna be hit with an ‘intermediate’ dose of chemo so I show up prepared: with Bobcat and a scrabble board. I am slightly alarmed that today, I get a bed. It feels considerate and ominous at the same time. Yellow quakes.
I haven’t met a PMH nurse yet that doesn’t braise my brisket. They are uniformly engaging and compassionate. In an un-uniform way.
So my nurse explains how the next four hours are going to go.
I am accessed. Port drip. Tube and plastic slide.
We begin a rabid game of scrabble. If scrabble were a contact sport, this would be the bloodiest rugby game on record. Played in the Collesium. With spikes.
Bobcat’s eyes go all scottish loch on me- opaque enough to hide a beast.
We yell. We challenge. I scoff. He snorts. I tug my IV line. A little.
I even forget the liquid siege will burn through me for a while.
I throw down a ‘fez’. He tries to convince that ‘pos’ is a word. Nurse mediates. I want a scrabble dictionary for Christmas.
And then, ‘hitched’ takes my lead.
Dad enters. As we collect the pieces of words, Bobcat grips me with his eyes.
Remember how you felt. I want you to feel angry. And charged. Fight the bitse.
And he left.
Dad and I watched saline drip changed for chemo. Not the Velcade I’d been on for four cycles which was an antipasti pump into vein, but a primi secondi chemo. Acid drip for one hour. And at the end: nausea, fatigue, hair loss and other assorted dolci.
I even get pink ice. Apparently this counteracts the sudden sinus congestion and headgroan when the poison hits your bloodstream. You know, brain freeze fixes just about anything.
Obama want a popsicle?
From what I gathered, this first blitz of chemo helps to mobilize blood stem cells.
Stem cells, of course, are thought to be the origin of all blood cells. They live in bone marrow and are capable of producing red and white blood cells as well as platelets.
They are the thespians of your organism. Eager to morph into something else.
And three days after chemo, Neupogen shots begin.
And then you begin to mobilize.
A very worthy endeavour I’m told.
But before that, my saintly father took me home.
I fell into bed. There I remained. For the next two days.
Later that week, Bobcat had to leave Toronto on work. Before, I had strength not to notice his absence. Now my sight costs me. I’m not sure if we can make it. I hope. But I’m not sure.
Everything is wounding me on this vigil.
If I had to describe a stem cell collection, I’d say it’s like watching a jet refuel.
There’s something significant going on. You can feel it. It’s awe-inspiring and essential. For what will come next.
But truthfully, there’s nothing to see.
It’s downright mundane.
Except, you know, I got the whole spectrum lighting experience. Even threw in a dawn simulator along with a hearty dose of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). So I have tales of Quinton lines, and other assorted drama to share.
It’s damn cold today. I”m not into Toronto just now.
As my log burns low, a Yellow Delivery. News from Andrew Winters, the transplant coordinator.
My Stem Cell Transplant is scheduled for December 21st!!! In Hamilton.
A book recommended by Moira, Grace and Grit. I started working with Moira on healing beyond the body.
Tomorrow a playtime with words. I will be reading at the Small Press of Toronto (SPoT) Winter Fair at the Gladstone Hotel. I am not sure what to do. Many other experienced wordsmiths will be reading too. I will watch them. Then I will breathe in a way which hopefully doesn’t make me light-headed. Like during my Pulmonary Function Test last week. Which I think I failed.
I am frightened in a way which makes me forget the Cancer.
I am frightened in a way which makes me feel alive.
And I will remember:
Exactitude is not truth.
You’ve given me some copy to live by.
And on December 13th, a kirtan for Carrie Lundy’s mom Audree. Audree was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer last year. Recently her doctors sent her home. Audree and her daughter Carrie are fighting off feelings of defeat in Winnipeg. My Moksha yoga sangha will be doing a traditional call and response chant for Audree Saturday evening. Sometimes the best response is to sing.
We’re singing with you Audree.
News from Shamim and Hanan. Enlightenment Productions has raised an additional $5000 online for the David and Molly Bloom Multiple Myeloma Research Chair at PMH.