Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Complaining Song

"It's a very funny thought that if Bears were Bees,
They'd build their nests at the bottom of trees.
And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),
We shouldn't have to climb up all these stairs."
                                                          A.A. Milne
This is Winnie-the-Pooh's Complaining Song, shortly after which he falls out of the tree and lands in a gorse-bush.  I think that, if I can express the challenges of my recent illness in as gentle a form, I may consider it a triumph.

This is a PICC line (not mine):
This is a bone marrow biopsy needle:

The PICC line is a catheter that goes from the arm into the superior vena cava, which is immediately above the heart.  During my chemotherapy, I received two drugs: daunarubicin and cytarabine.  These drugs are so toxic that the nurses wear gowns, eye shields and double or triple gloves to hang them, and they are so caustic that they cannot be put into the veins in the arm.  Due to my infection risk, I had to get a new PICC put in each time I went to the hospital, which is a minor surgical procedure requiring lidocaine.  No big deal.  Nor is the daily blood draw, typically taken between 5:30 and 6am, or the draws between treatments, or the pee-collecting hat in the hospital bathroom for measuring intake/output (chemo is very hard on the kidneys).  The biopsy hurts like hell, but only for about half a second; I get a shot of lidocaine before that, too.  During my first stay in the hospital, I received a daily shot of nupogen, too.

It's the little stuff that wears.  I can easily handle all of this; certainly there are many people in the world who endure much more for much longer, without complaint.  And I don't have much to complain about, given the rewards of going through this treatment.  Nonetheless, you wouldn't believe me if I said it was all fun and games, so I thought I should indulge in a brief Complaining Song.  

How is this part of the nourishing path?  It's an amazing opportunity for returning to center.  Again and again.  There were mornings when I was able to genuinely welcome the blood draw as part of my healing process.  I have already made it through three biopsies, so I know I can manage one more.  The regularity of these inconveniences has helped me to realize how little of my time is taken up with them; most of the time no one is sticking a needle into me, most of the time I don't have to pee in a plastic collection basin!  The actual discomfort is very brief; I can relive it all the time or I can be grateful for the chance to see how easy it is to dwell in the negative, and how unnecessary and self-destructive. 

When I say that I feel good, when I said that every day of my treatment (except for the afternoon that I ended up in intensive care with a septic infection - that day I felt bad), it is the truth.  I DO feel good; indeed, I was anticipating feeling much worse on the chemo than I ever did.  Sure, when this is all done I am likely to feel better than I felt in the hospital, than I feel now, with the exhaustion and the head-rushes and the lack of oxygen.  Considering that I was dying when I entered the hospital (my osteopath, the amazing Magili Quinn of True North, said that she could feel me slipping away when she did a treatment immediately prior to my hospitalization, whereas now she says I feel heavy and present), I feel really good.

Winnie-the-Pooh is frustrated in his first attempt to steal honey from the bees, so he devises a complicated scheme for deceiving them.  When this effort also appears to be failing, he realizes that he doesn't want the honey after all, at least not from that sort of bee!  I had planned to be healthy this past fall, had planned to enjoy the smoke-scented amber air of autumn in New England.  It turned out that what I needed even more than that was to spend a lot of it in a hospital bed, enjoying the HVAC in a room with sealed windows.  Our plans only seem disrupted if we are attached to what we thought we would be doing with the time; in fact, what's happening is the beautiful reality, if we can see it.

I will leave you with my mantra, which I would recite to myself as I walked the hospital halls in the evening, pushing my IV pump:

I am rooted in the earth
The salt of my blood is the salt of the sea
I am whole
I am well
I am on a journey to my higher self
I am healing
I am weak like the water; I flow