Time and Cancer

Sunday afternoon I was sitting on the back porch when Emma called to me and said a friend had dropped by with a gift.  I went inside and was presented with a copy of the Garden Log Book: A 5-Year Planner.  The contents include worksheets to plan and record 5 years worth of planting, chores, goals, projects, pests, harvesting and more for gardens.  The book is perfect and incorporates much more than notes I had begun in a Word document earlier this season.  I look forward to using the worksheets.

But . . . the “five year planner” got me to thinking.  I have stage 4 stomach cancer, and in fact, I was supposed to be dead over one year ago.  In that respect, planning for things five years down the road seems a bit overly ambitious.

But . . . then too, particularly since the first of the year I have been thinking more that, one day at a time, I will continue to wake up every morning, make my cup of tea, feed Grace, go through my morning rituals, and live my day with no end in sight.  I have noted before that gardening is such a life affirming activity, I cannot imagine dying while I still have crops in the ground that need to be tended and harvested – and given our near year-round growing season here in New Orleans, that mindset ensures life in perpetuity.

And . . . this year I increased the effort put into planning our gardens, expanding space and crops, and starting plants from seeds.  This year too I started twice the number of seeds for each plant type than I planned to grow, intending to give away the extras.  So now there are folks in my neighborhood and as far away as Memphis who have planted seedlings of tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers, and squash that started on our back porch.  And just yesterday a friend dropped off some plants for me as my basil seeds had not produced.  I feel totally enmeshed in growth and thoroughly enjoy engaging with others in the process.

If I reflect back over the last year, today some things I do more efficiently and some things a bit slower.  But today I feel more alive and living into my true self more than ever before.  I am leaning more into an understanding that none of us gets out of this thing alive, cancer or not.  There is no guarantee I will even get half-way through the five-year garden log book, but neither would anyone else who received the book.  I am grateful for the gift not just for the practical use of recording my garden activities but for providing me the opportunity to reflect on and live a more full life today.

I am truly blessed.

A Health Update

Cucumbers, Acorn Squash, and String Beans in full bloom!

The past couple of months have not been my best physically, but the future looks good.  Specifically:

  • The last few rounds of chemotherapy have brought me face-to-face with some of the worst effects “chemo brain” and fatigue.  In reality, I don’t think the effects were a lot worse than the first rounds, but there was something distressing this time in checking out from many normal activities for the two months of the treatment regimen.  The good news is that I have finished my chemo regimens, and pending insurance approval, in the next couple of weeks I will start on immunotherapy with KEYTRUDA.  This treatment should have far fewer side effects and be just as effective, if not more than my chemotherapy to date.  All very good news.
  • This past Sunday evening, after being on the road for one week visiting family and friends, I sort of limped back into New Orleans, completely exhausted and severely short of breath.  I could not walk from one end of our house to the other without sitting down midway to rest.  The shortness of breath results from the battle with fluid on my lungs since this past October.  On April 1st, three liters of fluids were drained from both lungs.  Thanks to the excellent care I receive at Touro Infirmary, this past Monday within just a couple of hours of making the phone call, two liters were drained from just my left lung, which brought immediate relief.  I could take Grace for a walk as soon as we returned home from Touro.  The cause of the fluid accumulation is the cancer and the chemo used for treatment.  My pulmonologist convincingly argued that it was time to install a catheter tube so that I could drain the fluid at home every few days as needed.  He installed the tube this past Monday as well.  Today, with Emma’s assistance, I drained another liter of fluid here at home. The ability to keep the fluid regularly drained will be a huge enhancement to my daily life in everything from gardening, bicycle riding, and just walking around the block.

So although my last couple of months have had ups and downs, I am optimistic for the future.  Over the past few months, the likely need for a catheter and switching to immunotherapy were raised by and discussed with the medical team at Touro Infirmary.  I simply cannot say enough about the excellent care they have provided me over the past two years of cancer treatment.

I remain grateful for my life today and the support of my best friend Emma, and all of my family and friends.  My plans are filled with travel, projects, and lots of gardening.

Life is good and I am blessed.