Thursday, June 19, 2014

At this rate, I could make the dean's list

Well, look who got another A. Did you study this time, you might ask. Look, I would answer, I didn't flunk out of college twice before finally graduating by studying. Though back-to-back A's may confuse those who repeatedly told me I could really become something if I only applied myself. Oh... Wait a minute. Ummm. They've all passed away. Never mind.

We returned to Boston's Dana Farber Cancer Institute this week for the first time since my transplant. My weekly check-ups had been done here in Augusta, but the folks at Dana Farber, naturally, wanted to take a look for themselves.

Again, my blood work numbers brought raves, even receiving an A from the nurse practitioner who saw me on this visit (I heard she never gives A+s. I made that up.) She identified no worries, as everything seemed to be where it was supposed to be.

We again asked about the myeloma and whether it was in remission She said there was no way to really tell at this point. We would need to wait for the 100-day check-up, when they will actually measure the proteins that tell the story. The appointment for that bit of news is Aug. 4. It's probably a measure of how far I've come that the wait doesn't bother me. After all, the story will be what it will be. My goal, in the meantime, is to enjoy each day as best I can, just as it has been for the rest of this journey.

Some things have changed since my transplant.

First, visitors to the house no longer need to wear a mask and gloves, though on the other hand, the staff doesn't want me to have too many visitors, especially at one time.

Most of the diet restrictions have been lifted, though some will remain in place until the 100-day mark, and some even for a year.

I no longer have to wear a mask when I'm sitting outside at home, unless someone nearby is mowing, or chopping down trees. In an interesting piece of timing, only last week the power company, I believe, came down our fire road and cleared out a bunch of trees to protect power lines; considerable chipping was also performed; exactly the sort of thing I think I'm supposed to avoid, so it's good that was done and out of the way.

I still cannot go amongst crowds of people (reading that back, it sounds very Jesus-y, somehow. Sorry.), not even small ones. So, I'll remain somewhat isolated until that decision is looked at again on Aug. 4.

It's funny that I keep trying to “neaten up” my cancer. It's like collecting all the cards after game of gin rummy, or pinochle, or any other card game. You drag them all to you, push them together into a reasonable facsimile of a stack, and then you tap the edges on the table so that you have a nice, neat deck to play the next hand.

One of the reasons for writing and recording the journey, was to be able to look back and see where I was at any given point. Let's face it- our memories aren't really reliable. One of the first times Sheri met my mother, and after the two of them had spent some time together without me in the room, Sheri said my mother told her many of the same stories I had already told her. The difference was that in my case each story was of some horror my mother had perpetrated, while, with exactly the same story, my mother talked about these wonderful things we did together. Seriously.
So, having written so much down about what was happening, and how I felt, it's hard to put the deck back together in a nice, neat useable form, no matter how often I tap the edges.

There have been so many big moments, so many seeming turning points, that my memory would probably insist on saying, “I didn't make a big deal of that;” or, “I thought I handled that really well;” or who knows how many distortions of what happened.

But, I wrote it down. There are no shades of gray in black and white baby!

As each “big” event- my first visit to determine what state my cancer was in, beginning treatment, finding out if the treatment was working, beginning preparations for my stem cell transplant, the cell harvesting, the transplant itself- was met and dealt with, I tried to gather the cards and take some time before the next deal came along.

This was especially true after the transplant. My future treatment seemed to be a long journey, with no particularly notable stops; nice and neat. Well, no. Now there's this 100-day thing, and common sense tells me that there will be plenty to deal with that one cannot foresee.

I have no doubt that the whole “neat” thing has to do with trying to exercise some control in a situation where I have practically none. The only thing I really have much say in is my attitude. You all have helped me tremendously as far as that goes. I guess as long as you continue to help, I will, as the English are so fond of saying, “be able to keep my pecker up!”

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”