Before the State of the Union, one of the local news programs showed a montage of photos illustrating how much Obama has aged during his presidency. My reaction was “yep, that job would do it to you” and “he still looks good”. It got me thinking about aging ,and I quietly congratulated myself for holding up reasonably well during the last few years.
Then yesterday I noticed this in the rearview mirror.
Are you seeing those cavernous crevices in my forehead?! And around the eyes. And….
Definitely caused by doing this.
I make this face when I am thinking hard or when I am confused or concerned about something. In other words, I make this face A LOT. Sam is coming off of a pretty rough string of stressful events. A few of them I mentioned previously. Her week was capped off when someone hit her parked car and then drove off. Luckily some students witnessed the accident and called campus police who handled things beautifully – from guiding Sam through the accident report to locating the other car and its owner. As Sam has been dealing with things, I have been doing my parenting from afar. Making her laugh when she is feeling down. Boosting her up when she is feeling stressed. Giving her the tools she needs to deal with the insurance company and collision shop. And being the person she gets frustrated with because the situation is so exasperating. Wrinkle, wrinkle, wrinkle, crease, crease, crease.
Tomorrow Dave heads back up to Hopkins for his next infusion of Irinotecan. He did really well this week overall with fatigue and some nausea being his biggest obstacles. He was even able to go into work a few days and catch up a bit which I know he was very happy about. If history repeats, the next two weeks are likely to be more challenging with lots of resting and staying home.
In the meantime, I am off to look for some sort of anti aging serum. Or maybe a headband. A tight one.
I share this for your information only. It would be good form and much appreciated if you didn’t bring this up with Dave until he mentions it to you. He is feeling a little anxious. Scan is scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon and should give us a better idea of what (if anything) is happening.
Subject: RE: CEA results
dave, i know youre here today getting chemo. THe number is 39. Obviously up and trending but not the be all and end all. Lets repeat the CT scan (c/a/p amy w iv) and see what it shows. Lets stay positive and see what the scan shows. Amy, can you please arrange. thanks
I have this theory that I call “transference”. It is likely not an original theory, and I imagine has a much better name out there in the world. You know when you have a song stuck in your head and can’t shake it? If you sing that song in front of someone else, and they start to sing it, it is no longer in your head (but quite likely in theirs). The key is that the other person has to sing the song and lock it in. I don’t know why it works, but it does.
I believe that transference also works with stress. Last night as I was happily drifting off to sleep, Dave told me that he was feeling anxious about his cancer. Apparently at this last blood test, his CEA level was up to 22. I did not know this. While I went with him to his last appointment, the results had not yet been posted. At some point, Dave accessed his patient information and saw it. His scan a few weeks ago was completely stable so I reminded him that information was much more useful than the blood test. With that he was able to fall asleep. Meanwhile, I lay up next to him trying to figure out the lyrics for “Fishing in the Dark” which is now completely stuck in my head. So if I sing to you later…..
xoxo (and sleepily yours),
Most mornings I wake up at 5AM give or take a few minutes. The cause might be a dog whining to go out, or Dave shuffling around. There is a critical moment (I know you know what I am talking about) when I can either shut off my brain or a tiny worry plants itself and won’t let go. Lots of mornings I hush up my brain and send stressful thoughts packing. But on lots of mornings, that first thought about Dave’s health or Sammi heading off to school or money or stuff that needs to get done starts the snowball effect of other worries. It is THE WORST. Tomorrow we head to South Carolina where I sleep soundly and can keep stress at bay. Which is perfect timing because Dave has a scan on Tuesday. And depending on what that scan reveals, he would really like to take a break from chemo for a bit. While I understand that he wants and definitely needs a break, this induces panic in me on so many levels. I’ll check back in with you all on Tuesday. In the meantime, if you are up in the wee hours, I’ll be up. We can play Words with Friends. : )
Hi, this is Robyn Tremaine. I am calling in regard to a bill I received from you all.
Okay. Let me look up your bill. Can I get the account number please?
click, click, clackety, clack
Yes, your insurance company says they don’t cover this type of service.
What?! Oh, I know what the problem is. We have a new insurance member number.
Okay. What is the new number? Group number? That is what we have on file.
(heart racing, sweating, am i having a heart attack?) uh…..em…..
click, click, clackety, clack
Oh. It looks like we just recently updated your insurance information.
Erg. Does that mean you are resubmitting the bill?
Yes. You are all set. You can throw that bill away.
We were barreling around the beltway. It was late, too late to be out, and we were tired. We were heading to the retreat which I was dreading and tensions were a little high. The discussion was centered around a variety of topics, most of which would have been better tackled at a different time and place. I suddenly realized that I was all but holding my breath. I was aware of my lungs filling but not fully and of my hands gripping the steering wheel in tight J shapes. I started to wonder how often I walk around like that – taking half a breath. The great thing about awareness is that you can then do something about it. And sometimes you literally have to remind yourself to breathe.
Fight or flight? If I am being honest (why stop now!), I am definitely more the “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. The tower has cleared us for take off” type. When the going gets tough, I get going. I can overcome this innate instinct, face my anxieties, and hunker down for the fight, but I don’t like it.
My natural avian tendencies have not kicked in when you think they might have. When Dave was diagnosed, during both surgeries, and after the recurrence of tumors, I was a rock. It is during other times that I find my mind wandering wondering how the weather might be in the south of France.
Those of you who know Dave well won’t be surprised to learn that his natural tendency is fight. Fight, fight, fight. This comes in handy when facing a daunting diagnosis like metastatic colon cancer. However, it becomes a liability when asking your family how a home project is coming along.
Having two such opposing personalities can be a huge asset. We balance each other out for the most part. But we both struggle with it too. This weekend Dave wasn’t feeling especially well. His sister got married so he was determined to suck it up and have a good time. This worked marvelously well when we were around other people. But when we were alone, and he could let his hair down, so to speak, it was armageddon. I believe most people are like this – you show your true emotions to your “safe” people. So, I listened, TRIED not to take things personally, and kept my big mouth shut. But it was hard. So so hard. And this morning I’ve been wondering how far I can get on a couple of tanks of gas….
From the first conversation, I knew that Saturday was going to be a rough day. Saturdays before chemo weeks are hard. Saturdays before chemo and scan weeks are the worst. I started my day being peppered with questions about how I had handled assorted issues during the week. None of my responses were adequate. I kept reminding myself that Dave is anxious. I turned the other cheek. I remained calm. I even identified the elephant in the room. “I understand that you are stressed about Tuesday, but let’s try not to let it ruin the weekend.”
It was such a beautiful day that Dave asked what I wanted to do. I mentioned that I would really like to go to the National Book Festival. This idea was met with utter silence. So, I came up with alternatives. There was the Dulles Plane Pull or a multicultural festival in Reston. But the reality is that I was frustrated. I wanted to go to the Book Festival. I took a deep breath and swallowed down my words. We ended up taking the dogs to the dog park and then headed to the multicultural festival and had a great time.
For weeks, we had a dinner on the calendar. I asked Dave to run to the store to grab something that I needed to bring with us while I took a shower. When he got back he had hundreds of dollars of groceries and a full trunk load of bags. Everything except the very thing I had asked him to get. So after a day of tongue biting, repressing feelings and being understanding, I snapped. Honestly, I told him that I felt like my thoughts, ideas and needs were completely ignored. This went over well as you can imagine. So, Dave headed off to the dinner, and I stayed home with Parker and Grant for a marathon of Tanked. I was sad to miss an evening that I know was full of interesting conversation, laughter and intellectual topics. But I was relieved to have a break from the stress.
For those of you who have said I am strong, supportive, loving, giving. I am. Except when I am not.
Today will be a better day.
I am not a huge fan of the unknown. I avoid watching super suspenseful movies because I can’t handle the stress. It wouldn’t be particularly unusual for me to skim the end of a book if I am worried about a character’s fate. Uncertainty makes me twitchy.
Dave had a scan mid-August. The doctor said that nothing had changed and that was good news (https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/more-not-bad-news). After I got home, I read the scan report that was given to us. Words like cavitary, renal, and hypodensity jumped off of the page. Certainly none of these words had been mentioned at the appointment. A quick Google search revealed nothing. I could read the definitions, but I certainly couldn’t understand what the implications were for Dave.
So I waited patiently for Dave to decide if he wanted to discuss this with his regular doctor who had been out of town. I tried not to seem overly concerned which is part of my job as supportive wife. A week later, he sent the report and scan to the doctor he had seen at Johns Hopkins. Today, he FINALLY discussed it with Dr. Spira. We learned that “cavitary” could be a good thing. It could indicate that one of the pulmonary metastases is dying. Unfortunately, Dr. Spira didn’t want to weigh in on the renal hypodensity. He feels that we will know more after the next scan. More waiting and wondering.
“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. I said to my soul, be still…..”
There have been two prevalent emotions over the last year – stress and hope. I have become an equal opportunity stresser giving equal anxiety to our deck construction, starting a new job, Sam’s college searches, Dave’s test results, and the US gymnastics team. What keeps the stress in check is hope. I am almost always able to redirect my thoughts to something more positive. Almost always.
I came across a T.S. Eliot quote recently that has become my new mantra “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing.” I will never be without hope, but I love the freedom from hoping for something specific. After all, there are so many possibilities.
So mark your calendars, Dave’s next scan is next Tuesday (8.14). Dave and I will be stressing and hoping. Feel free to join us.