Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Year Ago

The sun is finally pushing us into the shade. The heat of it is true; it sinks into our bones, even though the last two hours have been overcast, threatening a change for the worse. The laundry will dry before the thunderstorms move in, and the idea of predicted thunderstorms is less believable after a few minutes under the burning sun and blue sky, dotted with just a few puffy, white clouds.

Our space here has been cold with winter stored in stone, but today the door is open and the stones soak up the warmth of the sunlight. Another new home where we have our desks for work and our bedroom for sleep. Once in a while one of us lies on the couch and reads a book, because it's a luxury and it feels like one. 

Today after lunch I walked around the garden and collected flowers. A small green-brown bud vase is full of pure orange California poppies. Another has a single, tall red poppy that is already losing petals. A white asymmetrical vase holds a long, tall stalk of a back-garden bush whose white flowers have many petals each and grow in bunches atop long, dark green leaves. 

We were here one year ago and it was a different life. Spring was late. Some flowers were venturing forth, but just the green of fresh leaves on the trees was new and satisfying. Walking on tiny, poorly maintained roads was a luxury. Last year it was a time when we could breathe again, gladly released from a few months of brutal treatment in a cold, hard city. We relished the quiet and the stillness and the rainy days when staying inside all day meant much-needed quiet and a bit of extra sleep. We both needed to sleep. 

I'm not even surprised that it feels like a lifetime ago at the same time as it feels close. Just one year?

Check-up number 4, a year after completing all treatment, was the reverse train trip of last year's SW France recovery trip. And Berlin in May this year was hot and green, with crowds of young, hip picnickers cycling to spots along the canals and lining up for outdoor seating at fantastic, exotic restaurants. Korean food. Vietnamese food. Did I mention that Berlin has a large population of people from former friends of the Soviet Union? We actually benefitted from that this time, going out for meals and enjoying the warmth. What a difference a shorter winter makes.

Dr. Halwani didn't bother with biopsies. Everything looks fine. The big deal fertility doctor also said there was no sign of recurrence. He'll be sending a letter next week with his recommendations vis-a-vis hormone therapy and the possibility of pregnancy. Sounds complicated, way more complicated than it should be. But we're supposed to think about it, mull it over, until September or so. I think we're mulling.

In the meantime, we've been welcomed into the family of our friends, newborn baby and 2-year-old included. And we're grateful. Grateful to be here, now, with this warm and growing family. Grateful that we can go for bike rides together, that we can walk and run on poorly maintained roads through fields and forests exploding with green life. Grateful for bright flowers, the variety of which bloom in overlapping waves, keeping the bees and bugs happy and serving as a reminder of the self-renewing beauty of life, despite deep, dark, cold winters.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Another Good News Update

Yet another set of biopsies has come and gone and I'm still given the all-clear. In fact, the next steps are to get me pregnant, if that's even possible. It still feels so soon. It hasn't been a year since my last treatment of any kind. Rushing it feels like a bad idea. But I haven't had my period in over a year, so hormone therapy is on the horizon anyway. And the fertility doctor happens to be on vacation when I'm next in Berlin (for biopsies) - sigh. It could take some time for my body to get back to something like normal, and then it's maybe, kind of possible that I could get pregnant. But it seems like a long shot, no matter how you slice it. I'm better adjusted to the prospect than I was a year ago, but it's still heartbreaking.

I've kind of got the edema under control. Edema is the last thing side effect remaining. I've found that the biggest trouble-makers are nights when I don't stay in bed for at least 8 hours (and preferably 9 or even 10) and hot showers. Ugh. I love hot showers. But I can count on them to make the edema flair up so I have to kind of take it easy. I wear compression stockings every day and I'm still having weekly lymph drainage physical therapy massage, which is very nice and I think it really helps. After a couple more sessions I'm taking a break for a few months to see how I do.

Spring feels good.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Staying Alive

It's been just over a year since I received the diagnosis, and nearly exactly a year since surgery. I feel almost normal, physically. There are reminders, like lymphedema. I'm frustrated by the guilt I saddle myself with about drinking alcohol or eating sugar, and somewhere deep down I know that I am still just barely out of the physical and psychological trauma of cancer treatments. But what can you do? Keep moving forward. I've got another check-up next week. I've hardly thought beyond the logistics of a quick trip to Berlin. No big deal? I guess we'll find out soon.

A confluence of music and curiosity brought me to an article about surviving cancer treatment and moving on. The choices people make when they face down the threat of a slow, painful, inevitable death, and then the slow, painful treatment and recovery. What then? The cliches hold. People can do amazing things, from enjoying their day-to-day lives completely to learning to fly airplanes.

Then the Guardian posted this article, also about cancer and survival. I like this one in particular because it helps remind me that taking care of myself is important, but it's not the whole story. If a guy can be in peak physical shape and still get cancer three times, I guess I don't have to guilt trip myself about relaxing with my husband over a beer after a 2 hour walk with the dog. As much as I wish I could save myself through action, I may have no control whatsoever.

Happy music anyone?