Monday, August 21, 2006

Day -3: Visitors leave, we stay, more to come

It’s Saturday evening, Day -3. Anna is out at dinner with Mason and her sister, Patti, who flew in yesterday from Albany (Mason arrived on Wednesday evening). Jeff and Toni are headed back to Austin; they too came in Friday late in the evening, visited me then hung later with Mason in our suite at Rotary House, then went on to Baytown to celebrate Jeff’s father’s 80th birthday; then they came back to Houston around mid-morning today and visited with me and Mason for several hours.

Today was the last of my pre-transplant chemo, and last was also the end of the “extra” blood draws to monitor busolfan levels in my blood (. Much to our relief, this meant that the “extra” catheter in my right arm could come out, giving me back free use of my right arm and hand. An interesting young woman named Keena did the last two blood draws (all 5 or 6 of the previous ones during the day had been done by Betty, and the catheter—or my vein—had given her a hard time up until the last two). Suzy, last night’s night nurse, took out the catheter, which involved carefully removing what seemed to both of us like miles and miles of tape that had held the catheter in place; Suzy proceeded very carefully and made liberal use of alcohol to help with the tape removal, so that it wouldn’t take the skin off my arm in the process. That was at 10:30 or so. Earlier, when Suzy came in to introduce herself and make her preliminary assessment of my condition, I had gotten her to agree that she would hold the lab the who would be coming to draw my morning blood sample until 5:00 (he had come at 3:30 the previous night), so we reminded each other of that commitment before she went to get me my Ambien; and I had a good sleep until she reappeared at 5:00, accompanied by the lab tech and holding pills in her hand, to get the morning started with a good dose of fludarabine and another of busolfan. Anna was able to sleep through it all on her Murphy bed which is now a permanent “sofa” in our hospital room.

I’m a few days behind in listing the things that have come to us through the 130 Letters project. We’re still at the stage of opening two envelopes a day—there are so many that this will continue, I think, for the whole time I’m in the hospital!

Two of the envelopes contained cards from Colleen, a BodyChoir friend who’s been showing me ways to loosen my back and shoulders since we started going to BodyChoir more than four and a half years ago. The first card showed a pair of cats staring into a goldfish bowl at the fish swimming inside; inside was a message looking forward to the time when we would all be having lunch together at El Sol y la Luna after BodyChoir. The message inside the next card envisioned dancing at BodyChoir again. Maybe we got the sequence backwards! But of course the order doesn’t matter. What matters is that dancing on Sunday mornings and having lunch together afterward go very well together, and most importantly, that envisioning these things gives concreteness to my attempts to imagine Life After Transplant. Thanks so much, Colleen! We also received a CD compiled collaboratively by two more BodyChoir friends, Anna’s sisters in the Facilitators’ Circle, Valerie and another Anna. This Anna works at UT but plays at in drama and writing workshops and various other artistic and spiritual venues. Valerie is a violinist and teacher of young violinists. Both Valerie and Anna love music and putting music together for our dance. All the songs on the CD use the name of one or more colors as their theme.

Christine, a watercolorist, editor, tango dancer, poet (and more) sent another object in the same family as the medicine bag she made and gave to me at the celebration two Sundays ago. It’s beads and bits of cut, shaped paper  mounted on a cardboard wreath, accompanied by a beautiful letter about dancing and circles that illuminates Christine’s chosen title : “The Unbroken Circle.”

It’s Sunday evening now (I wrote the earlier part of this in the morning, while Anna was driving Mason and Dillon to the airport). Since then, the nurse, Rashad, has started me on a drug called Tacrolimus to ward off (as much as possible) Graft vs. Host Disease following the transplant. And we’ve had good news about Dillon: Mason had called earlier from the plane to say that he’d brought Dillon aboard with no fuss or fanfare. He had accomplished this by going straight up to the 1st class line and explaining the need for Dillon to accompany him in bulkhead. He called again a few hours later, after he’d met Dan and Diann at baggage claim in San Francisco (where Mason lives; not too far from Diann and Dan’s home in Richmond) so they could take Dillon—and he reported Dillon’s joyful leaps and bounds when he saw them—a magical moment  I’d been counting on even more than I knew. Dan called just a few minutes ago to say that Dillon is now sleeping in their backyard, having worn himself out racing around the yard, finding all his old puppy toys and scattering them strategically everywhere, and struck at least a temporary truce with the two cats. Oh, it makes Anna and me ridiculously and gladly happy to hear this! And I’m so grateful to Mason for getting him there safely!!!

Patti left this morning, too, back to family in Albany—her husband, Dennis, grown daughters Sarah and Rebecca, and Sarah’s eight-month-old daughter. Anna loved being with her sister here—At one point their brother Rick from Houston was here too and they all went out to dinner with Mason and brought me a lovely peach tart for dessert. Meanwhile, early this afternoon Anna opened another letter, and this one was from Dennis, Patti’s husband of many years. Having sold the last of a small chain of toy-stores several years ago, Dennis is now pursuing his passion, teaching American history to middle school students in a small district near Albany. He sent two audio books—John Stuart’s America, and a collection of Prairie Home Companion broadcasts after 1997. The first 30 minutes of John Stuart had me laughing in that grim way that comes with the Daily Show on Comedy Central. (Note of surprise and dismay: the Comedy Channel isn’t part of the cable package that MD Anderson buys from some vendor or other!)

Today’s second letter was from Toni, again a friend from BodyChoir and a deeply committed environmentalist. She wrote an actual letter! Which turned into a lovely  meditation on the importance of unions—not the labor kind, the spiritual and romantic kind. Of course Anna and I agree!


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