Greetings folks and Happy 4th of July.
I am sitting on the porch, drinking coffee, and enjoying the general feeling of freedom that a national holiday provides. Perhaps in a small way it’s also related to what this particular one is about.
I have just finished some time in prayer, and often, as I close my eyes and listen to the sounds of the morning, I remember to be thankful. This morning, the air is heavy with fog, and the songs of the nearby birds seem far off. There’s a Sunday morning stillness like the world is sleeping in.
We have just returned from our biweekly trip to Nashville for my treatment. This one was pleasantly uneventful. We took our youngest, Owen, with us, so now all of our children have experienced the 30 or so hours of fun. There’s about 12 hours of driving, including stops, 4 hours or so of dining in a nice restaurant or hanging out in the hotel lobby, 10 hours of time in our room, including sleep, and around 6 hours at the clinic. This is a typical trip when there are no tests. On test days we lose a couple of hours of fun. But this is our general routine, and it has been good for the kids to experience it and for as to get one-on-one time with them, although when I’m at the clinic, Kim takes the kids for something more exciting than what a hospital has to offer. Yesterday, I received a picture of an arms-outstretched Owen in what must have been the central area of Dave and Buster’s. Because he is looking up, you can’t see it, but I know he’s got his game face on, if you know what I mean. They had fun. The kids have a great mom.
Two brief stories from my time in the chair. First, I reported previously about having to collect a day’s worth of #1 because of an elevated amount of protein that they found in a sample. Well, for the second trip in a row, they saw the same elevated level, but, as the sample was taken in the morning, the nice, but quiet and well-mannered, 50-something research nurse allowed me to consume copious amounts of water and take the test again. And, fortunately, this time as last, the protein level, now diluted, fell to within the acceptable range, allowing me to avoid taking a home a large, orange jug, stealthily carrying it from refrigerator to the bathroom and back, and explaining, “that’s not lemonade.”
Second, part of my treatment regimen, along with the infusion in the clinic, is to take 2 pills a day for 3 consecutive weeks of an experimental drug, followed by a week off. As this medicine is provided through a clinical trial, I have to return the used cartons, along with a log that tracks when I took the pills each day. The drugs come in boxes with 7 days of medicine. For each day, there are 3 pills, each in its own clear plastic blister, sealed with thin foil. When I first began the trial, I was taking all 3 of the pills, but that was making me ill with side effects, so the doctor reduced the dose. So now, I pop out 2 of the 3 pills from the column for each day.
I think subconsciously, and, ok, often consciously, I refuse to accept that this battle with cancer is my routine. I pop out 2 pills a day, yes, but when I do, I send a message to someone by removing them in random fashion; there’s an unused pill each day, but there isn’t a straight row of them at the end of the week. If someone is counting the unused pills, I figure they most likely have to use a finger and count out-loud. Yesterday, when I received my new box of medicine for the next cycle, the aforementioned composed nurse said, with her calm demeanor, “I just love how you pop out the pills in random order. I thought, ‘he’s messing with us,’ and I just smile. ‘That’s his way of being defiant to this whole thing.'” She nailed it. Defiance with a smile. I took special pleasure in hearing that I was the only one who did such a thing.
As we drove home yesterday, we passed through the tree-covered mountains, rolling hills, and sweeping farms from Nashville through the rural South back to Athens. I tried to picture these surroundings in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future. Maybe, with our environment under threat and the reportedly chaotic, if not oppressive, rule of people the world over, it might happen some day. But with the seemingly endless green of the countryside just off the interstate, it’s hard to imagine a “Divergent” reality. But with the news I receive via the emails, texts and phone calls about friends and families hurting, as the houses pass I can’t help but wonder what difficulty is being endured in these homes set in such bucolic surroundings. And when I’m home and I stand at the sink in our mudroom above which is a cork-board of cards from Christmases past and recall how much has happened to too many of those families of then smiling faces, I recognize that the real dystopia is behind doors, hardships with unique addresses. And sometimes the only thing that keeps us going are cookies, casseroles, and conversation. Loving and being loved by our neighbors. Persevering together. Today is a day when a lot of folks get together. Let’s make the best of it. The fireworks blast again!
If you’ll excuse me, I must go pop a couple of pills out of my new box of experimental medicine. Who knows what these drugs will do to me long term. But isn’t that the blessing? Long term? I thank the Lord that I’m still here, because, after all, the odds were against it. This go around, instead of randomly popping the blisters across the columns of days, I’m going to make a picture. I think I can pull off a pretty good smile.
Blessings all. Have a great fourth.