September 22, 2011

What Day Is This Again?

When I haven’t been working, I’ve been sleeping. More than a week has passed by, and I’ve slept it away. A friend pointed out that actually I’ve been fighting cancer. So yeah, I’ll own that.

I have been waiting to post something that doesn’t sound like a whinefest. Waiting hasn’t worked, so here it is.

I lost most of my hair on Friday, so on Saturday Abe lovingly and gently shaved my head, cleaned it up with his electric razor and finished it off with a Three Stooges buffing. I thought I would look like Mrs. Potato Head, but really I look like Elmer Fudd.

Now I have to fuss with scarves and hats. Do you know you have to iron those scarves every time you use them?! I’m getting advice from a number of my gay buds to ramp it up with operatic eyebrows and saturated lip colors. Me? I’m a beach bum! My eyebrows are disappearing, though, so I’m using brown shadow to fill them in. At least you can see them now. I do have two fedoras and a bunch of scarves to mess with when I have to go out in public.

I can’t get rid of this fool cold. In a coughing fit that scared my colleagues, I apparently cracked or broke a rib. (The sixteen-year-old physician’s assistant wasn’t sure.) Now I have codeine to stop the cough—and put me back to sleep. I’ve got a brand new batch of white blood cells, courtesy of a booster shot, that just might take care of this cold before next Monday’s chemo.

I still have cards, emails and meals on a regular basis that make me laugh, cry and be grateful for such good friends. (Wait. The meals do not make me cry.) With my colleagues’ and volunteers’ patience and help, I have been able to maintain my duties at work. Two big annual events this weekend will continue the busy “season” of the year at church, and they’re coming together well.

So in spite of all my whining, I’m still coming out way ahead. I remain so grateful for all of your wonderful wishes, prayers, and acts of kindness. It is the stuff of dreams.

Cross-posted on

September 15, 2011

Hope And Expectations

I’ve learned to distinguish between hope and expectations. While both feelings anticipate an outcome, hope is the one to which I must cling because it embodies faith in a desirable conclusion. Hope is amorphous and resilient, adapting to moments, emotions and setbacks with renewing energy; it is the essence of God’s grace made present in everyday events. Expectations have definitive boundaries, and if they are not met, they shatter. Expectations at best offer satisfaction but more often can lead to sorrow, while hope remains uplifting even in the hardest of times. Keep those good wishes, prayers and laughter coming! They bring hope.

Cross-posted on

September 13, 2011

Genuinely Good News

I had my second chemo yesterday; two down, two to go of this particular regimen. (Then more of a different kind.) Before I sat for my infusion, I went through all the status tests: blood, weight, tumor check.

Everything looked good, so in spite of my cold and very low fever (99.2°), I was given the go-ahead. But the GREAT news is that my tumors were significantly smaller than when I had my first chemo two weeks ago. It's working! Good news too, that they gave me a different anti-nausea drug that really works. I'm somewhat flaky—two martinis—and tired, but this is such an improvement that I feel almost like dancing. It's those martinis.

Last night I checked the shower drain as I have every night this week. Uh oh. Lots of extra hair. It won't be long—literally. So I went online and ordered a hoodie that reads "I fight like a girl."

Damn straight.

September 8, 2011

Almost Normal

I have a cold. No big deal; every fall the germs filter down like leaves. Except THIS cold sent me to the emergency room last night. My immune system is compromised, and whenever I have a temperature of 100.4° or higher, I must go to the ER and get IV antibiotics.

I spent three hours getting poked, infused and tested. I am thrilled to report my white blood cell count was very high, enough that I could go back home with my new antibiotics. Now that I’m home, it’s an almost normal treatment.

I am feeling less flaky these past few days, more like having had one martini than three. This is a good thing since I have few enough filters anyway. A little off-balance: almost normal.

My house is coming together after being ignored for a long time. I was talking to a longtime friend about my sudden unease with circumstances that didn’t bother me so much a month ago.

“It’s control,” she said. “Your life is out of control, and you want to have something you can manage. You’re aiming in on your house.” She nailed it. Fixing up the house seems like such a mundane thing; but it is bringing me a sort of peace amid the chaos. It feels almost normal.

Do you have any idea how wonderful “normal” is? The commonplace, tedious details of everyday living are beautiful markers of normalcy when the usual becomes unusual. To know what to anticipate, to be able to take things for granted, to have expectations met in an ordinary, typical way: ignorant bliss.

But there’s another side to this unusual situation: the outpouring of simple acts of kindness is an overwhelming balance on the scale against chaos. It is my privilege to be in a position of service, helping others. Now it is my turn to allow that privilege to others, that they may express the grace that awaits circumstances such as these. There is no true balancing of the scale when it comes to grace; it simply is. And the glorious part of it with these remarkable people stepping up in my life: it’s almost normal.

Cross-posted on

September 6, 2011

Overheard: Staff Meeting

We had a big staff meeting today. About thirty people were listening to our new pastoral residents talk about what they anticipated as they begin their two year residency program. A loud cell phone pierced the quiet conversation. Our senior pastor was not amused. As the offending party wrestled with the ringer and looked at the screen, pastor drawled dryly in his southern twang.

"That had better be Jesus."

September 2, 2011

The Music Is Back

Thanks to the urging of kind friends, I took your advice to try the music again, and it's working. My choices are more low-key, but then that's always been my bent anyway.

I'm feeling better, thank you.

Monday afternoon, the chemo infusion was relatively benign, and I had my "chemo buddy" there to chat about possible reactions and how she dealt with them. Ben was working that evening, so my next-door neighbor Dee came to babysit and grade her math papers. She was wonderful. My reactions changed hourly, and it was very strange. Ultimately I had to hit the vomitorium, but she didn't blink—she had the cold cloth ready before I was. It was a rough night, but I've had worse with food poisoning; so while it was unpleasant it wasn't too scary. Dee didn't leave until after I had gone to sleep.

Things calmed down as the hours passed, and I was able to eat on Wednesday. I've had five meals in a row now—all from loving friends who cooked up some wonderful food—and I'm feeling SO much better now. I'm told the flaky feeling that lingers only gets worse, but who's going to notice? I was pretty flaky before this started, so I don't think I can count this as a side effect.

I had my hair cut very, very short yesterday. I can expect to lose it all within a week or two, and experienced friends tell me it's less traumatic to lose short hair. Now I'll be sharing a fashion look similar to many of my gay buds. Just call me "sir." :) As I experiment with headgear, I might share some of the dressing room delights.

I write more freely here, but I do have a web page that has been set up by a loving and very organized friend of mine. If you want access to those posts, please email me at birdoparadise AT sbcglobal DOT net and I'll give you the details. It has more of the day-to-day info that isn't as revealing but gives the ongoing process.

The music is back, dear friends, and you never left. I continue to receive life-giving messages of love, concern and support—and laughter. Keeps those laughs coming! I love every one of them.

Big hugs to all of you.