Wednesday, September 21, 2011

looking a little more deeply

This glorious variegated rose belongs to my gifted Marin Master Gardener Landlady Nanette, also a Master Rosarian (U.S.). It symbolizes yesterday's hospital visit of Tuesday, September 20th... with intricacy, complexity and ultimately beauty.

I had not a small amount of anxiety for this particular visit. One, it had been a month since my prior checkup jaunt, which I now have learned is not all that unusual. As my blessed friends from Scotland were here in Marin County for a WEEK of joys (woo!), I had not the slightest intention to commit any of that time to getting my blood drawn and having the other oncologist give me the once over before shoo'ing me off. "You seem to be doing well. See you in a few weeks or a month..."

This time I saw Dr. Wolf. Hot shot in the joint, a zillion years of experience. This is the man who had walked into my ICU room in July and given me my "terminal" diagnosis. He's not a wretch - he simply had demonstrated a bedside manner that I would not have chosen. "There, there now" - how many oncologists do YOU know who have that in their back pocket? He and I had gotten off on a really rough footing back in July and he was on my "you keep your distance, buster" list. In fact, since having been sprung on August 3rd, I had not seen him. He had been out walking the forests of Laos. ("I work hard and I play hard."). Dr. Olin - the other oncologist - was a dear. I like dears.

So my anxiety levels were up a bit. I was asking and begging for prayer. I was RECEIVING prayer! And I had asked a friend's mother, a retired cardiac nurse, to accompany me as advocate. Two sets of listening ears in that tiny office were better than one.

The drive in was interminable. Note to self: No more appointments after 8am or much before Noon. I had a page-full of questions. I KNEW he'd be kicking my butt - that was his job, wasn't it? There she is, the little "I won't do chemo this time" refusenik. In spite of prayer, my own and others, my friend the brain was having a field day with me.

Surprise: It was a great visit. Here are the three chunks of good news delivered by Dr. Wolf in a surprisingly warm manner:

1. The Dexamethasone HAS shrunk the main tumor slightly. This brutish oral steroid that has been sending me through a tilt-a-whirl carnival ride every morning since late July has in fact had an effect on the little monsters in my lung/chest area.

2. The fluid in my lungs - both the left working and right "non-working" one - has lessened as noted on a recent CT scan of Sept 2nd.

3. The best news of all for me personally - Dr. Wolf and I are going to experiment with me taking LESS DEX. I almost cried when I heard this news. I had almost begged, frankly. I've been shattered on this steroid, from hand shakes to all-morning disorientation to my bulbous face. We're going from 20mg to 12mg/day. (In the hospital I was on 40/mg day). Twelve!

This morning I cried as I pulled out THREE 4mg/pills rather than my five. Placebo effect or no, I can already feel a difference.

I do not live my life between hospital visits, of course. I pray for the discerning grace to integrate levels of guided wholesomeness. This Friday, for example, after weeks of fiddling with getting an actual prescription for the priviledge, I will meet privately with a licensed physical therapist at the Osher Marin JCC for an evaluation for their hydrotherapy program. No, it ain't free or part of my membership costs! However it'll help get my somewhat resistant heinie back to the gym for gentle and even FUN use. Woo! In the meantime I take walks.

My priest Fr. Thomas is a source of great Godly wisdom. I am reminded to stay "...bigger than my vital statistics," as any fixation on them can rob me of the present which is where CHRIST MY GOD lives. "The present is jam packed with myriad of clouds of witnesses... who are never separate, no matter what the facts are... CHRIST IS THE LAST WORD."

I go back to UCSF on October 18th. In the meantime, I am given the grace to say to my True Great Physician, "Lord, here I am."

Your prayers have blessed me!


  1. This news, on top of your wonderful visit, is truly blessed! We are all out here, cheering you on, praying every day for your recovery. I truly do not think that the Divine is done with you here yet. And so we pray through this latest and on to the next challenge. You are stronger than you know.

    There is strength in numbers and joy in good news. May every day find you stronger and more yourself.

    Hugs and blessings.

  2. Your medical and spiritual teams are functioning together. Such a joy to read and feel. Thank you for the blog and your expression.

    Much love from your sister.

  3. Oh, that's some stuff to celebrate! I like the advice of Fr. Thomas about being "bigger than your vital statistics." So many numbers, numbers, numbers... That amazing rose with it's complex delicate fragile beauty is so much richer than a bunch of digits. I'd rather be a rose than a calculator ... at least I fight to try to live that way, anyway. You are so resiiient, Diane... physically emotionally and spiritually - when you get down you keep bouncing back. I dont know how you do it, but it inspires me!


  4. My dear friend... I am quietly joyous that your prognosis is improving... I know with your strong spirit and allies that you have a better than even chance of negating the terminal diagnosis... and thank you for the lovely medical status report given with such AN OPEN HEART ... as for me, I just returned from a week long cruise to Glacier Bay Alaska and a south run down the Inner Passage (pics and narrative are forthcoming)... in relation to your challenging situation, I met several couples on the MS Oosterdam (Holland America Cruise Lines) who were taking "one last trip" because of terminal diagnosis or untreatable illness... these encounters truly opened my heart and mind to know this suffering with more compassion and willingness to support those in need... and finally I hope we will have a phone call soon... hang-in sweetie .. you inspire and guide my attentions more than it appears... yours in peace and hope .... RB