October 16, 2003

1st Day Home -- The Big Thank You

First: it's a simply beautiful fall day. Crisp blue skies, slight wind riffling the small clouds, shiny thinned-out leaves with the sun coming through them, like the back of an old woman's hand. Gardens still flourishing. People out and about. Healthy people. It's the perfect day to be outside. My grin is wider than my mask. (Actually, thanks to the steroids, my face is wider than my mask.)

Second: people are beyond kind. My "imaginary friends", as Internet best mates sometimes get called, have been anything but imaginary. They've kept up a steady stream of wonderfully witty silly email chatter that has made me laugh enough to hurt a whole series of stitches (lymph node, chest port, Ommaya port successively). Not only that, they have been insanely generous -- I haven't had so many gifts and treats since I was a kid. And on top of all that, many of them have signed up to give blood or become bone marrow donors, one of them has shaved his head in solidarity and another has cut her lovely long hair to donate it to Locks of Love, which provides wigs for kids bald through chemo or other illness.

Jean, from Ottawa, came by for three or four hugely helpful emergency bail-out days, bringing a Care and Feeding Fund she'd raised from Canadian friends. and is returning in a week or so. Luce, from Montreal, is coming in before too long. Kiki from Greece is coming over for a week sometime later this fall. And while I was in hospital, Hilary held it together for me as no one else could have: she was there every day, quiet, undemanding, thoughtful, funny, a reliable presence. Then she'd go home and feed my cats and walk my dog and go to bed, and get up and do a hard day's work at the hospital, and then do the whole thing over. Thanks to her more than I can say. As well, I had such good visits from folks while I was there: Marla and Larry and Chris and David and Jane and Sasha and Anna and Frances and Bob and Cindy and Nancy. Thank you one and all. And finally, thanks to Becca for the messenger service: she's become my own personal version of Mother Christmas and her calm presence was always a treat in itself.

However awful all this is (and I must acknowledge that, in quite a few ways, lymphoma is not the most fun I've ever had), it's made me feel all Sally Field and loved, which means it's brought me no small gift. It's gonna be damn hard to be a stroppy crow and a cranky Ancient Crone when I've gotten all this kindness.

OK. I lied about the last bit.

It's never going to be difficult to be a stroppy cow. Especially a stroppy cow on STEROIDS.

Third, my neighbours rock. People have offered to help and actually meant it. One came in and dealt with cat litter since us types with few white blood cells aren't allowed (thanks, Stephanie). Another came in and took all three cats to the vet to have them checked for toxoplasma (thanks, Pam). A third drove me down to my local tiny supermarket (thanks, Debbie). At the grocery store, when they saw me come in with my mask on and found out what was up, they set up a free delivery system for me then and there (Thanks, Ken Klein). The couple next door, the couple over the road and the woman from the other end of the block all came by to see if there was anything they could do to help (thank you George and Stacey, Thaddeus and Meredith, and Barbara).

Fourth, you know I'm feeling better when I start to sweat the small stuff and get all whiny and fretful about what are basically little issues:

- the paranoia of being home: what's clean? how often do I have to wash my hands? how do I know what it's safe to pick up? how do you get out of the bathroom without touching a Contaminated Surface? what if I fall? is it safe to go into the basement where it's sort of mildewy?

- the exhaustion of being home: where is everything? how on earth do I find the energy to cook everything I need to eat? why can't neutropenics fill up on salad, dammit? why does the dog shed so ferociously?

- the difficulties of finding an adequate diet: chemo makes things taste weird, steroids make your bood sugar go sky high. So I have to limit sugar and carb intake, and steer away from the tempting little snacks of apple sauce and peach bits and jello. I'm not allowed raw fruit or salad stuffs, so WTF am I supposed to eat? And how come every time I eat I have to swill my mouth out with salt water -- is this supposed to *help* keep things down?

Actually, that's really all I can think of to complain about right now. I feel happy, sunny, cosseted and, beyond a slight breathlessness and some tiredness, quite fine. Chemo on the first go-round, even the stuff in my head, was pretty low-key in terms of side-effects. May get worse as things go along, but we'll have to wait and see on that one. Can't say I relish the new rotund moon-faced me, but that is allegedly temporary. Can't say I gleefully anticipate going bald, but it's a whole lot better than dead.

Heigh ho. Life ain't bad, folks. Thanks to my friends for being who you are.

Posted by maddy at October 16, 2003 03:15 PM

Actually, the Russell Stover candy is best described as "chocolate-like," and it's sweetened with maltitol, which can give some folks, um, some ... gastric distress. Yes, that's it, GAStric distress.

Paul and I have no taste at all when it comes to chocolate, we like it all, good stuff through Hershey's, so take that into account if you decide to give it a shot. That said, Russel Stover "Low Carb Toffee Squares" are just really too good for words for someone on a low-carb diet. (That's in the red packets, not the green No Sugar stuff. )

Posted by: Vicki at October 16, 2003 09:57 PM

No sugar? Oops. Well, temptation may be arriving soon: had we but known....

Glad you're home, we want to come visit.

Posted by: Harry at October 16, 2003 05:33 PM

Hey, if you're limiting sugar and carbs, you might like Russell Stover sugar-free chocolates. Vicki and I eat far too many of them, but they're Goooooood. Especially when you don't get much else sweet because of low carbing.

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at October 16, 2003 04:11 PM
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