Monday, April 25, 2005

If there is anything positive to be said about being “low in the valley” it is that the only way to change your vertical position is to move UP. The nadir was Tuesday when I almost didn’t make it back intact from a visit to a colleague at Johns Hopkins and then ended up in the ER that night to get an infusion of 3 liters of saline. While not stopping my diarrhea, it rehydrated me sufficiently to lift my spirits and start me on the road to recovery. It was quite a fascinating experience since, due to overcrowding, my bed was positioned right up against the main ER desk, putting me in the middle of the hub of activity for 5 hrs, including observing all of the incoming rescue squad patients. Somehow, through this entire 10 day period of diarrhea I managed to be in the lab every day. When your body is failing, it’s very therapeutic to do something cerebral that takes your mind off your other problems. At least it works for me!

This weekend completed the healing process and the climb out of the valley. We spent the weekend at the beach with Dorrie and Jeff. For me, as always, the combination of the company and the ocean are restorative. The winter beach is so solitary and so hard and flat. And tonight we went for a magical walk after dinner on which I saw two shooting stars (double good luck). Then we watched the golden globe of the full moon rise over the ocean and just counted our blessings for being alive and well. Now finally I feel up to the next chemo in 2 days – whatever it takes to keep me in this game of life!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

There’s a song I like by a Bluegrass group called “Chesapeake” that talks about being “higher than the high Sierras” and “lower than their valleys must be..”. Right now I’m somewhere deep in those valleys. This round of chemo has hit me so hard that it’s difficult to believe that less than two weeks ago I was skiing in the Rockies and running on the beach in La Jolla. Today I can hardly walk from point A to point B without being exhausted and out of breath. Maybe the two-week break de-induced my 5-FU-metabolizing enzymes. Were all the good times simply because I got pumped up with someone else’s blood or am I really OK? Do I truly need to get beaten up every two weeks to survive? I wish someone knew the answer to this. Meanwhile, I still hope for the “New Day” – a better tomorrow- and hope that I can keep my mind on the positive. That’s not always easy.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

“Live like you were dying” (Tim McGraw). Well I didn’t exactly go “skydiving, rocky mountain climbing, or 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu”, but I did my version of it by skiing in the rockies, running on the beach with Bob in San Diego, reveling in excellent science and the interactions with my scientific colleagues, and enjoying all our kids and grandchildren together at the beach.

Rocky Mountain High…..What a memorable week. My Keystone conference was a huge success – lots of people said it was the best ever. Certainly it was like a grand reunion of my “scientific family”. My blood transfusions plus my adrenalin rush from having made it to this conference catapulted me to a mental high that allowed me to handle the altitude with absolutely no problems. I had been worried about whether I would be strong enough to ski, but I think that all our attention to walking/ jogging/ YMCA paid off. On Wednesday I skied with some of my postdocs and simply had a blast. I felt so good that I tingled with happiness from head to toe. God damn… this cancer is not going to stop me from doing the things that I love. Thursday Bob arrived and we skied together just celebrating being alive and able to do something we had thought no longer possible. That was capped by a spectacular “rocky mountain high” day of sunshine and more skiing on Friday that brought us both incredible joy. Then the last night of the conference was simply a love-in. Everyone seemed so bonded and engaged and Bob and I just reveled in the special atmosphere. We even danced with my lab. It was such a special evening – with lots of hugs and pictures. It was truly an event to celebrate and remember.

San Diego….a relaxing pleasurable interlude for Bob and me – really our first since a year ago. The four days were characterized by long walks along the waterfront, relaxing lunches overlooking the water (our favorite was fried calamari with romano cheese and sushi). On Sunday we walked/ jogged over 4 miles on the LaJolla beach and then had lunch in Del Mar overlooking the water. One dinner we had a reunion with one of my colleagues from graduate school and another we had the ASBMB award dinner. I was “outfitted” for these affairs by my sister who declared all of my clothes unsuitable. So she dressed me – down to the jewelry and shoes – in some of her elegant school teaching outfits. To me they’re “scientific cocktail party outfits” – that highlights the differences between scientists’ and school teachers’ idea of fashion. But truly I was dressed better than I ever am. Being more practical than fashion conscious, I wore my ski jacket and running shoes for the mile and a half walk to the awards dinner– but changed to "Cinderella" a block from the restaurant. The award talk went well – I enjoyed giving it – sort of a “journey” through my 25 years of research on TGF-b. Lots of fun.

The “grand finale” is now at our house in Bethany Beach with Greg and Karl and their families. It’s just loud, chaotic fun – Roberts family style. The grandchildren are all growing up and that makes it more fun. All in all it has been a glorious 2 week vacation from chemo, so good that I’ve almost forgotten that I have cancer. Next week will be a reality check as I start back on the Avastin/ leucovorin/5-FU on Tuesday. I’m mentally sky high and have a great appreciation for the modern medicine that made this all possible. I’m ready for anything that helps keep my cancer at bay and allows me to experience life with such joy!!

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