Sunday, February 12, 2006
February 12, 2006 - Whiteout
(Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church this morning, from the front porch of the Manse)
This morning the blizzard conditions continue. It seems that today there are other reasons to miss church besides chemotherapy!
Early this morning I’m on the phone to Robin, and – after consulting the latest weather predictions – we make the decision to cancel worship services. We decide who’s going to call which staff member, and we do so. When I call Donna, our church school coordinator, I learn from her husband Bob that their home is without electricity (we’re hoping for their sake the outage won’t last long, because the only other heat they have is from a couple of gas heaters). Claire bundles up and slogs across the snowy street in the dark, to record an announcement on the church answering machine that everything’s been cancelled.
Nothing to do now but wait. The heavy snowfall continues, and is likely to keep up through the afternoon.
I’ve been thinking lately about what a slow process cancer treatment is, and how so much of my life is in a sort of holding pattern right now. The most important dates on my calendar are not classes, meetings or counseling appointments, but medical treatments. I show up for those things with as much diligence and punctuality – if not more – as any other appointment I’ve ever kept.
This morning I swallow my last five, bitter-tasting prednisone tablets, mindfully downing each one with a huge gulp of water so as not to gag. OK, that’s over with, I tell myself. The dregs of chemo treatment #2.
It’s like one of those board games we used to play as children. You move your counter around a sort of winding, circular track, space by space, eventually hoping to break through to the place in the center where you’re home free. In the Chemotherapy Game, though, there are no dice to roll. You don’t dash ahead in irregular spurts – two spaces one turn, six spaces the next. In this game, your counter must pause on each and every square. On the morning and evening of each day, as you arrive at and depart from each space, there are pills to swallow.
There are twenty-one spaces on this game board, one for each day of the three-week chemo cycle. Chemo Day is Space #1. The next four spaces are Prednisone Days (still part of the chemo cocktail, just more spread-out over time than the other drugs). Besides being a Prednisone Day, Space #3 is also a Neulasta shot. Spaces #8, 15 and 21 are blood tests. Certain spaces towards the beginning are colored sickly green for nausea, while the five or six in the home stretch are white for normal. Space #5 is bright orange and decorated with flames: the Prednisone Rush (that’s today; I’ll see if the last cycle’s history repeats itself). Eventually you reach Space #21, passing “Go” and starting the cycle all over again. As I’ve rounded the starting point and begun my second go-round, I’m learning there’s a certain degree of predictability to this game.
Occasionally the game rules require you to draw a card that could introduce a new and unexpected element: a low blood count, perhaps, or an infection, or some other problem. These could influence the way the game goes – whether new medications are introduced, or even whether the chemo dosage or treatment schedule must be altered.
The most important card – even better than “Get Out of Jail Free” from Monopoly – is the “Favorable CT Scan” card. I’ll try my hand at drawing this card just after going round the board three times, and again after the sixth time. In the Chemo Game, you can’t break through to the goal of the game – the “Remission” space at the center of the board – without holding this card in your hand.
For now, though, I’m doggedly circling the board, one space at a time. It’s not a very amusing game, but it sure does hold my attention. Even on a snowy day.