To life!
Saturday September 22nd 2007, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Life

Bryan’s photoI miss real green. California tries, but it’s not quite the same. I miss the deep blue-y green of back East and the omnipresence of tall, leafy trees that aren’t struggling for water and dependent on sprinkler systems. The ivy that grows freely up the telephone poles and races down the wires like leafy squirrels, too exuberantly full of life to hold back. Such an abundance of growing in that rainforest climate. I only allow myself to get wistful about it when I know I’m about to go home to Maryland and actually immerse myself in it all, and thank goodness for Stitches East and books to sign as an excuse to go!

Early this past spring, a routine check on my bloodwork showed that all hell had broken suddenly loose, with my white cells crashing and my bilirubin zooming. I had tolerated my chemo just fine for four years, and we didn’t know why I was reacting now. My beloved Dr. R. wanted me to cut my dose.

Now, that is the one doctor whose judgment and intuition I absolutely trust, and yet, that was a hard pill to accept: I have been through what Crohn’s can do. I don’t want to go there again. And steroids do nothing for me, I’ve already done the Remicade, so I’m pretty limited. Eh, a few white cells missing, I’ll just stay home and lay low a bit for awhile, right? To me, 2.2k was just a number.

He called and we discussed it a moment again. I was resisting, and he said, in anguish, “I don’t want anything to happen to you!”

Now, to some, that might have seemed less professional. Less detached. To me, it was doctoring at its purest: he knew what I did not, he had seen consequences I had not, and how I did meant the world to him. I had to change that dose. I couldn’t inflict the suffering and worry on him if I did not. No hedging.

And so I did. Eventually, my white cells climbed, a good news/bad news thing, and my lupus started to creep up on me, landing me in the eye doctor’s first a few months later. There’s always this immune/autoimmune tradeoff. Then, the Crohn’s started waking me up at night. Not bad, not bad yet, but I didn’t like the trajectory. I went to the lab for the latest check, and I made an appointment with Dr. R.

I wanted my dose back up. He was not quite entirely convinced. We compromised at 3/4: but only, he said, if I would go get an expensive test my insurance probably wouldn’t cover, after being on the higher dose for awhile.

I did. We just got those results back.

For the first time in I think three years, my bilirubin count is right in the middle of normal. Look, Ma, no jaundice! My white cell count is where it needs to be. It was the best news I think it could possibly have been.

And there was a note from Dr. R yesterday from the clinic: “Excellent therapeutic range…” And then the part that really spoke to me: “Keep knitting and stay well.”

Indeed I shall. Indeed I shall. And I shall fly home and celebrate amidst family, old friends, my fellow knitters, the trees, and the changing of the seasons.

Till then, as I wait, I am knitting with a large photo my brother Bryan gave me of our old back yard in Maryland, propped up next to me on one side. On the other side–I haven’t been able to make myself ball it up yet, it’s so gorgeous as a hank beaming in happy possibilities–I’ve been keeping a surprise gift next to me, sent by my friend nhknittingmama Amanda, in Blue-faced Leicester she hand-dyed. In just the most exquisite shade of green. A shade that I went all over Stitches West last February specifically searching for. I have been sitting knitting surrounded by the happiest of Amanda’s Blue-Faced Leicester, hand dyeddeep greens on both sides.

Thank you, Bryan. Thank you, Amanda. And thank you, Dr. R, for inscribing my name in the Book of Life for yet another year, and many to come. I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Yom Kippur.

12 Comments so far
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Congratulations! I’m a six year (nearly) cancer survivor and I could so relate to those moments you were describing. The journey is difficult but the hurdles you cross along the way make it interesting.

Hang in there.

Comment by Kathy W 09.22.07 @ 3:54 pm

I know the kind of green you are talking about. The leaves and trees begining to share their colors with us. The Ohio valley is a beautiful place in the Autumn. I am afraid that the lack of water may have doomed the trees to show us only brown.

Comment by Sonya 09.22.07 @ 6:03 pm

Your good news is just wonderful – I am rejoicing for you! What a time you have been through this summer! That is a beautiful shade of green – just what you needed.

Comment by Karen in Oregon 09.22.07 @ 6:30 pm

What wonderful news! I’m so glad you have a doctor who cares and actually listens to your opinions about your own body. I’m still looking for that special doctor.

Comment by Alison 09.23.07 @ 5:34 am

The Baltimore area is just waiting to share its green goodness with you. I tried to pry myself away from it for a few years, and found I just had to come back. I don’t see how you do it 😉

Hooray for good health!

Comment by Amy 09.23.07 @ 5:43 am

Great news…I’m thinking good thoughts for you.

Comment by Tracy J 09.23.07 @ 8:25 am

Oh my goodness, Hallelujah, thank you God for such wonderful news! I’m celebrating with you!

Comment by Renee 09.23.07 @ 12:03 pm

I am so so very glad.

This news makes my day so much better than I can tell you, because mom called today, and Aunt Diane’s platelets are at 2.


That’s not good.

There’s still hope, because they’re still not allowing her to have visitors, but. Yeah.

Much love.

Comment by kristine 09.23.07 @ 3:29 pm

Wow, what a post, Alison. I have had moments like that with my cardiologist, while making treatment decisions together while I was pregnant. Thank GOD for doctors that genuinely give a dam* about their patients. And for ones that will work with patients and take their requests into consideration.

I’m so happy that good news has come out of your story. I desperately wish I could go to see you in MD, but my boy is going on a trip with his grandparents, so I will be at home packing for him to go… So, close your eyes and imagine my cyber hug to you right now.

I’m glad you are enjoying the yarn. I still have some of that exact dye lot in my jar if you have any other yarn that you’d like me to dye for you. Let me know.

Comment by Amanda 09.23.07 @ 6:29 pm

Alison, you’ve heard before about my father in law–what doesn’t kill him really does cure him. About 8 years ago we arrived at his house in preparation for a family reunion to find him in the hospital with the doctors advising us to prepare for a funeral. The medicine for his rhemetoid arthritis had suddenly decided to kill all of his white blood cells. They didn’t expect him to pull out, but in desperation they dosed him on something they give to cancer patients to help them produce white blood cells–and the next thing we knew, he was brimming with them. He made it to the last day of the reunion. They didn’t know how they would treat his rhemetoid arthritis after that–but it turned out that wiping out his white blood cells and rebuilding them had put him in remission. I know he’ll have to go sometime, but it won’t be until he’s good and ready. I think my message is, when your time comes, and God calls, you go. Until then, you have to do what seems wisest, but without worrying too much about what you can’t control anyway. Stopping to knit a few rows won’t put off whatever is coming, but when it comes, at least you’ll have those rows knitted.
From my point of view, though, don’t go anywhere farther than Baltimore for a while yet.

Comment by Laura 09.23.07 @ 6:36 pm

There actually are Level 1 studies going on right now–I’m eight years too old to be admitted in–where they’re killing off the lupus patients’ immune systems and then replacing them with adult blood stem cells from healthy siblings. Those who survive the process they are cautiously beginning to call cured, for the first time ever. There is great hope. Your father-in-law kind of backed into the process, it sounds like, and it worked! Good for him! And thank you, everybody.

Comment by AlisonH 09.23.07 @ 6:58 pm

I sympathize with your need for green. I’m from Virginia and lived in Fairfield, CA when my husband was in the Air Force. I so missed forests lining the roads, the coolness of the shade and the smells of damp earth and leaves. California is beautiful in the spring with the rolling hills but too much open sky for this little southern girl.

I am so glad your levels are good. Your doctor sounds like a real “peach”. We need more like him.

Comment by Judy 09.25.07 @ 10:12 am

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