Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rain on water

What are you doing?


Outwardly nothing.

Inwardly, I'm being with the rain.

Friends ask me what I do at our summer place. I usually give a fairly flippant answer. We swim, drink tea, eat, and sit around and talk about what we are going to eat next.

But it usually takes me about a week to switch into Matinenda time.

It's best explained that my logical brain turns off, and my sensation brain turns on. Perhaps I should say my Apollonian, verbal, digital, planners' brain shuts up, and my Dionysian, artistic, interrelational visionary brain takes over.

At the moment, I'm sitting in beauty. An afternoon thunderstorm is rampaging itself across the lake, and the surface is changing every few minutes. Dark, smoky emerald green with a mirrored surface. Now the downdraft, and it turns to rough steel, light and dark grey with multitudes of tiny cracks and breaks. The cloud's belly opens, and water sluices out.

Fish start to swim up out of the surface of the water, and skate around in the air. The first few do it tentatively, jumping up, not sure if it will really support them. Then a brave fish decides to see of he can soar, and takes off like a bird. Soon all his fishbuddies are following, and they are so unused to swimming amongst trees, that a game of tag ensues. They zip over our wet heads like hummingbirds. Hummingfish? And fish laughter follows the school/flock.

Wait, where was I? Now the lake has changed again. If anything, the sky is pouring even harder, and the lake surface is starting to bubble like a fountain. The sound on the roof tells me it's hail. We dash out, wanting to feel the cold hardness after the spongy hot humidity of earlier.

The hailstones last the longest on patches of moss. The moss elevates the hailstones a few inches into the air, where the are cooler than on the sunwarmed ground. I throw the hailstones into my tin cup, where the vaguely murky remains of a gin and tonic have been gathering pine needles. Anything that ends up in my cup here, I'll drink.

The chipmunks have a discussion, and coming to the same conclusion that I have, they start to grab the hailstones and ferry them down into their dens. They apparently save the hailstones to cool their drinks - or make ice cream? during the hot weather.

Now a shaft of sunlight has cut diagonally underneath the thunderhead. The heat and rain combine to instant fog. The nearest spot at the end of bay, a grey granite cliff, disappears. Avalon, receding into the mist. We are suddenly isolated, presented with a silver grey lake that blends into a curve of dramatic fog and black sky.

The fog shreds, and the world becomes microclimactic. One of the rays hits a patch of moss near me. Steam rises. I'm only the size of a frog, the moss my tree, the lichen my firewood, the toadstool my shelter. I have spent hours on my stomach, living in my imagined miniature home. A bonsai'd tree, flowing down the curve of promontory becomes my treehouse, as my fingers leap from branch to branch.

The storm clears.

I swim the distance from this start to the farthest point, my longest swin this summer. The water is pure silk. I gradually become more mermaid than human. I actually taste a change in the water - there is an edge here, where the water becomes less clear, slightly warmer, with a little bit muskier taste. My intellectual human brain knows that I have have entered the corner of the bay where water is more stagnant, and collects pollutants and heavy metals. Our friends down there filter before drinking. My temporary mermaid self knows just via senses, the texture of the water on my skin and the smell/taste. Getting back out on the rocks is so awkward, having to turn my body back from fluid to solid. My bones feel awkward, stiff, unnecessary. My balance wobbles. Oh, to be made of liquid always.

What are you doing?


Outwardly nothing.

Inwardly, I'm being with the water.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ten down, five to go

I visited my oncologist on Monday, and it's all good news.

The CT scan turned out really well - all 7 lymph nodes have shrunk, and are either undetectable, or "normal", which means smaller than 1 cm. An "optimal" response, according to my doc. The chemotherapy is working very well. After a discussion with my doctor, we've decided to tack on an extra three sessions of chemo after the next two, which mean instead of having two more, I have five more, taking me to March 6.

There's a small hope that the extra chemo will knock the cancer out completely (about 10%, if you like statistics), so I'm trading off feeling like shit now for the hope that it goes away, or I go into remission for longer. I'm shooting for the long tail here, people, the end of the bell curve that either manages to get cured, or lives for a reeeaally long time. 20 or more years.

Fact is, I fall into a little bit of a statistical crack - somewhere between a regional recurrence and a metastatic recurrence. Regional would be confined to the axial lymph nodes, or in the area of the first surgery. A true metastatic recurrence would have shown up in another organ. The further I drill down into the statistics, the less they seem to apply to me. So, truth is, there's no way to predict how I'm going to do. Now, they treat me as if it's metastatic disease, just because I've already used up some treatment options - can't do any more radiation to that are, can't do hormone therapy. But I've dug around, and have found very few discussions of a recurrence like mine. So I think I'll just plan on being an exception to the statistics.

Spirits are good, I think Kevin is more worn down than I am. If you are local, take him out for a beer or a hike.

Love to all,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chemo not in vain....

The CT scan showed that all seven of the lymph nodes have decreased in size. This means that the chemotherapy is effective, and is working to beat this cancer.

I am speechless with delight.

Love to all,

Monday, January 12, 2009

I hate Anthem Health Care!

I'm going to moan for a second -

Chemo sucks! I have horrible side effects! I hate my insurance company! Suck suck suck! Hate hate hate!

Pacificare insurance, which I had when I was originally diagnosed, covers cancer treatment. All of it. Fully covered. No co-pay, no nothing. Chemo was covered, surgery was covered. Pacificare, you rock - or at least then you did.

Then I was hired by Caltrans, and switched to Blue Cross Blue Shield. In order to keep my same group docs, I had to get the PPO - the most expensive health care option - large deductible, etc. Paid out the nose for premiums, payed the deductible, payed the max out of pocket - for four years running, so far. But at least I got all the care my docs recommended.

Now a few months ago, Blue Cross became Anthem Blue Cross - and for the first time drugs and procedures recommended by my doctors have been denied. One of them is an anti-nausea drug that was working really well. "The nausea should be controlled by a more cost-efficient alternative." Well, it isn't, you bastards, and if my appeal doesn't overturn that decision, both Kevin and I are going to get mean. Quickly. We'll see how this appeal process works - WATCH THIS SPACE.

I don't think whoever made this decision has any concept of what weekly chemotherapy is like. "Moderate" nausea? No, that's car sickness. Try severe. Or maybe extreme. Well controlled by the drug which I WAS getting, NOT so well controlled by the "more cost-efficient" alternative. What in the hell are you people thinking?

I trust the decision will be overturned. Otherwise I'm going to start a big tantrum. Big. With reporters. And my union. And nasty letters from all of you.

/end rant

Other than that, I'm not sure if I'm really in the home stretch now, or not. I have a CT scan this week, and HOPEFULLY all those lymph nodes are getting smaller - and if they are, I might do an extra round (three more, taking me into march) or two (six more, going to April) of the same chemo, in the hopes of knocking the cancer out more completely. It would be easier to know that I just have the remaining three, but if it's really working seems like it's worth putting up with the additional chemo. (It'll take 3-5 days after the CT to get the results, so I probably won't know the details until a week from Thursday...) I think I can tolerate six more, not sure about nine more. I think the thing I hate about it the most is how it eats my life - three days mostly sick and with no energy to do anything, and then two or three days of being sort of my normal self - but it gets shorter every week. And last week I had a sinus infection, so I was basically out of commission for 10 days. I feel as though I lost a year the first time around. This time I think (I hope) I will recover faster, but still, I don't feel like I've really gotten to live my life since October.

"Moderate" nausea. Ha ha ha.