Thursday, November 26, 2015

How many words is a picture worth, exactly?

“I think we should take that photo down,” Sheri called from some unidentified part of the house the other day. “I think it's time.”

I wasn't sure where she was calling from, and I probably should have wondered, “What photo?,” but I knew. It had been on our fridge door- the only thing on our fridge door except for the “We can fight cancer together” magnet that held it in place- since a couple of weeks after I got home from having my stem cell transplant; so, let's say it had been there since early June 2014.

Truth is, that since it had been in the same spot without really being moved in all that time, it had pretty much disappeared from my view. It was there. I knew it was there. I knew what it was. I looked at it, but I no longer saw it. Know what I mean?

It was a photo Sheri had taken in my hospital room during my recovery from the aforementioned transplant. I was standing (in itself a photo-worthy event at that point in time), leaning against my IV pole. I looked... unkempt... bedraggled... sadly cheerful. I'm not a big smiler for photos at the best of times and this was hardly that..

My hair had begun falling out and what was left presented itself in clumps. I wouldn't say I looked like “Alfalfa” from the Little Rascals, but I could have been taken for blood kin. There were five or six bags of fluids hanging from the IV pole, in various stages of distribution. Since I had a Hickman line, I was never quite sure what was going in at any given point, but the number of bags looked impressive. There may have been a day when I had one more, but I don't really think so. This was a... highlight?... low light?... sad moment?... hopeful point? Probably all of those. It certainly was dramatic, even if I, myself, looked at least a little lost and overwhelmed.

We put it on the fridge as a reminder of where we had been; that as the recovery process dragged on, at least we weren't... there.

So, sure enough; that was the photo and down it came. It went into a box along with numerous other reminders of moments of our transplant process: the first day visit to the cancer clinic here at home; traveling to Boston for the transplant; my room in the hospital; various shots of me not sleeping; the transplant itself where the blood was being IV'd back into my system; the slow steady climb of my white blood cell count till it reached the point we could go home; and on and on.

These things aren't in a box in a closet to be forgotten, obviously. It's sort of the same thing I do with my brain. I can't have all those bits and pieces pinned to the front of my brain where I have to deal with them every day- there lurks madness (haha). No, they're there... Well, I can't say carefully filed away because, yes, they are in one basic location, but, if you think of it as a file cabinet... some are on top waiting to be put away, some are on the floor where they fell. It's untidy, but they are somewhat put away. So this one went on the pile.

The magnet is still there, but right now it isn't holding anything. You might wonder if there was any emotion to putting the last visible trace of my experience out of sight and I would have to say, “Not really.” Or, at least, “I don't think so.” It was time. Simple as that really.

Interestingly enough we made a truly significant change to my treatment this past week as well. Since a few months before the transplant, and just about every month since, I've been receiving a once-a-month treatment with an IV fluid designed to repair damage to my bones cased by multiple myeloma.

When I was meeting with my oncologist prior to this month's treatment, we were talking, again, about my stomach issues. They have always bothered him because he is a conscientious person and doesn't like to see one of his favorite patients in pain, being unable to do anything about it. (Actually, I don't know if I'm one of his favorites, but, for dramatic effect, I'm going to claim that status, earned or not.)

As we talked, he wondered if it might be this bone fixing chemical that lurks at the heart of my stomach issues. It can cause those symptoms, evidently, and as he did some quick research while I was there, we decided it would be well worth stopping the treatment for at least a month to see what happened. We have tried so many other things, I couldn't see any reason why not.

So, two constants of my post-cell plant treatment changed this week. One put the transplant experience one step deeper into my memory, while the other opened a door to perhaps getting rid of this lingering pain that is severely affecting my quality of life.

All in all, I'd say that's quite a week. Stay tuned.

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.”