Saturday, January 31, 2009

Simple Pleasures

The week has ended on a lovely note, a shining sun warming the winter air.

It was a week filled with simple pleasures...a little office time...a little exercise...some shopping...lunch and even dinner with friends within and without the legal community. Of course there was a doctor visit, but that is now part of the routine.

How nice it felt to chat with colleagues and with friends, to sit at my desk and open a few pieces of mail, to search for just the right piece of furniture for the office, and to cruise the galleries and consignments shops in Roswell with my son. Little things, like sitting at my vanity in the bathroom, now seem pleasurable. Before I got sick, I stood in front of the mirror and put on make up, dryed my hair, applied the usual lotions and creams and was quickly on my way to somewhere else. But then I couldn't stand, so I purchased a nice little stool and sat. At first, it was out of necessity. Then it became a simple pleasure. I take my time and enjoy the pretty bathroom and variety of products, many of which are gifts that came with love, that soothe my skin and brighten my persona.

February will include a trip to MD Anderson for a round of tests to determine how well the Tarceva is working and to consult with Dr. Herbst and his team of health care professionals. It is no accident that I am able to combine a visit with family and medical treatment. I am fortunate that such a superior facility is within a 15 minute drive of my brother's home. I have mixed feelings about the trip. Happy to see family and consult with the MDA team, but anxious knowing that the news may not be want I want to hear. No need to get the worry synapses popping now. I hope to have to get accustomed to facing many more exams over many more years.

What will the coming week bring? Snow, maybe. Bruce Springsteen on TV because of some big football game. More lunches to reconnect with business associates, exercising, another doctor's appointment, medical tests. And, hopefully, more simple pleasures.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have reached a new milestone in this provocative journey.

My doctors don't say it, at least not in my presence, but I know that I was dying. Not in the way that we are all dying, in that we are growing older each day, but as in feeling the life force that is me, slip away. After my surgery in September, these same doctors were telling me that I should be feeling better each day. The days post-surgery turned to weeks, then months, and I was not improving. Instead, it became increasingly more difficult to perform the simplest tasks, beginning with arising each morning. There was no dramatic event; the two trips to the hospital were unpleasant, but there were no ambulances, sirens or melodramatic scenes a la House or ER. Just a feeling of quietly slipping away.

The changes brought on by Tarceva were subtle, until one day I again felt alive. One day I woke up and there I was. That's how I knew that this life-threatening disease had become, in fact, life-threatening.

I can't help but be filled with metaphors for this experience. I am fortunate to have so many fond memories, brought about by the wealth of people and experiences that are the fabric of my life. When I think of where I was in December, and where I am now, I see and feel sunlight. PFS. Since 6th grade, Carole has always been there reminding me to Pray for Sun. I had the feeling, way back then, that she was on to something, but I have now lived that phenomenon. It is winter, and January weather has not been kind to Atlantans, but I am enveloped in my own stream of sunlight. This is the recurring metaphor: from darkness to light.

There is another metaphor prominent in my mind at this point. I went from devastating diagnosis to drawn out staging process to simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation to Emory to MD Anderson (remember Medical Industrial Complex sometimes known as Cancerville?) to suspected metastasis then back to treatment then treatment hiatus then surgery then post surgery recovery that wasn't then back to Emory and back to the hospital (twice) and more consultations then more chemotherapy and more tests then another devastating diagnosis then Tarceva. It was like being squeezed through a very constricted and abrasive tube. Or tossed around in a dryer on a long, hot cycle. I can finally breathe now. Literally. My one lung, if cancer free, will probably provide me with a very decent quality of life, as far as breathing goes. (BTW, last year I bought my first new pair of ski boots in 15 years. I plan to use them.)

More difficult, I think, is coping with the effects, the scars, of where I have been. Even more daunting is knowing there is a high probability that the cancer will recur. Clouds that could restrict or block out the sunlight. Next month I will have the first scan since I began taking Tarceva. And perhaps I will be lucky enough to be able to face more scans over many more years. That would be a good thing. But first I have to prepare for this one.

Know that I am truly thrilled to get out of bed each day. It is a joy that previously went unnoticed and unappreciated. Now sunlight isn't just rays from the sun that I take for granted, and clouds are no longer innocuous vapors that simply come and go. Each precious breath now counts. Of course, each breath always counted. I just didn't know it or appreciate it. Aside from skiing, I am not sure how I will use this new found awareness. I want to be productive, that is a given. And for as long as possible, I will be walking, maybe even running, in sunlight.

If you're coming with me it's time to get a good pair of shades.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Good Days

The week is rolling on and I am continuing to get out and about. I have two more pulmonary rehab sessions under my belt, done some office time, had lunch out, and of course kept up with my MD visits. Given my status a month ago, I couldn't be more pleased with my progress at this point.

Because rust never sleeps, I am thinking ahead. I will need to be rescanned for a more accurate determination of the effect of the Tarceva; and I feel the need to keep my eye on the options if the current treatment fails. The good news is that clinical trials are ongoing, so options are expanding as time goes on. Nevertheless, I am on alert and on guard.

I am still struggling with the side effects of Tarceva. I have not yet found a prescription medication or an over-the-counter skin treatment to relieve the rash and dry skin on my face, which continue to plague me. However, Dr. D prescribed a marvelous antidote for the digestion issues - tincture of opium. That's right. Recreational drugs are making a comeback in my life. And not a moment too soon.

January has traditionally been a difficult month for me. Long, cold and dark. Not this year.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Last night John and I went out for dinner! To a restaurant!
I shared an appetizer, ordered an entree, had a few bites of dessert and even a glass of wine.
Woo hoo!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


With only three days under my belt, the new year looks promising. Since Monday, I have been out of the house each day doing simple tasks but feeling like I have accomplished something. It is a big shift from someone who arose at 6AM, did some combination of cardio/weights/yoga at the gym, worked a full day and then went to a meeting/board meeting/general schmooze and eventually home to family. This is clearly a new reality, but I am thankful for the prospect of returning to a productive life, in whatever form that takes.

There is a prayer giving thanks on special occasions for the opportunity to reach that particular day, which according to Paul Scheinberg, really applies to every day. I have to agree.

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגענו לזמן הזה

Translation: "Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season."