The Little Things

Sunday, I went to the clinic’s pharmacy. I received yet another prescription. I now have drugs to protect me against the chemo and drugs to protect me against the drugs protecting me against the chemo. Currently, my multi-colored pillbox houses seven varieties. Some are twice a day, one is four times a day. I also have four backup prescription drugs that I can administer as needed for pain or nausea. I can’t complain too much, for those patients who receive stem cells from a donor triple my numbers. Nonetheless, for someone whose previous medications were limited to one baby aspirin per day, I’ve become quite the pill popper. No doubt, my collection will grow.

Later, Marilyn and I went walking with friends in west Seattle along Alki Beach. We watched beach

Me, Marilyn, Arlene, & Kevin

Me, Marilyn, Arlene, & Kevin

volleyball, drank cappuccinos, and picnicked under a canopy of cedars when rain swept across the bay. Three Seattle families took turns nurturing us this summer. They have made this crazy moment in time memorable, while diverting our attention to the joys of Puget Sound.

Today I spent six hours at the clinic. I gave blood and visited with the team nurse and PA. They scrutinized my toe wound and then sent me to the starting line of the wildest race I’ve ever run. Prior to receiving Amifostine, I was infused with no less than four other drugs to offset side effects of this study’s so called protectant. Among them was my least favorite steroid, Dexamethasone.

It went well until the Amifostine. I received a “push” infusion. No drip, instead, the nurse pushes1500 mg of this investigational drug into my catheter from a large syringe. Nausea was almost

The "push"

The "push"

instantaneous. I lost my lunch; then I lost my breakfast. Five hours later, I am at our apartment resting. I feel much better. I drank ginger ale and ate rice cakes for dinner. Tomorrow I receive the same drugs along with the chemo.

A friend sent me a gift; a tiny bottle filled with sand, shells, and driftwood; a silly, kitschy tourist souvenir. This person had taken a long overdue vacation. During the time away, an epiphany occurred. The delights of her holiday became reminders that the little things in life are important. Buying that bauble for me was her way of sharing the revelation. I loved the thought. Now, I think of it everyday.

As a cancer patient I get to behave a little crazy. Though that’s not a big leap for me, I am operating under a conditional use permit. When I’m well again, my authorization for batty behavior will be void. I’ll return to being the eccentric small town Postmaster who keeps a cat behind the counter. Now, however, like everyone with a serious illness or injury, I have privileges.

One allows me to dip my pen into the ink of taboo. I can login to the sanctuary of Word Press and philosophize. I meditate on dreadful subjects like mortality. Why? Well, I might be running out of the opportunity to do so later. If I’ve anything to say, now is my moment.

Each time we venture beyond the quarantined safety of our home, we roll the dice. Cancer is snake eyes, one of a multitude of calamities out there. What do you feel when it happens to someone else, lucky, angry, empathetic, indifferent…afraid perhaps? What do you say?

My illness distracts me from marveling at the wonders of life. But the dire threat it poses comes with redemptive lessons.

My friend found the right thing to say. Concentrate on the little things. They matter.

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