Thursday, March 25, 2004

Forgiveness: Letting go of the Past

Healing not only includes self-love and self-acceptance, but perhaps more importantly, forgiveness. Clinging to old hurts and grudges and harboring resentful feelings toward people who’ve wronged us are destructive behaviors. We do great harm to ourselves by not forgiving. Much illness we suffer is caused by the inability to forgive and the retention of resentments.

I thought I had forgiven many people (mostly men) from my past, but as I continued to examine my history, I realized that I had not. Too much of my identity has been invested in holding onto the memory of past relationships and scrutinizing how those relationships were beneficial, or detrimental, to my personal growth. In addition to discovering that I had not forgiven my transgressors, I discovered I had not even forgiven myself. Actions that have proved harmful to myself include: reliving past relationships, analyzing the reasons they failed, convincing myself of all the positive aspects regardless of the negative ones, and then, either repeatedly falling for the same type of guy or shunning the dating scene altogether. I finally reached the point where I didn’t trust my judgment when it came to men.

As I wrote in the I’m Enough essay, there have been many people from my past whom I allowed to hurt me and to inject—consciously or unconsciously—their toxic actions or words into my psyche, thus eroding my self-esteem. I am encouraged, however, because I have forgiven the little girl who abandoned our friendship once she was a cheerleader, I’ve forgiven the old lady who made the “homely child” comment, and I’ve even forgiven the guy who made fun of my nose, which led to a lifetime of obsessing about that facial feature. These people and their actions were relatively easy for me to forgive. It has proved more challenging to forgive those who broke my heart.

For a woman in her late 30’s, there have only been five guys with whom I’ve had a significant romantic involvement, though these were not necessarily relationships. (There have only been two involvements that I would consider “relationships.”) I don’t date much. Okay, I’ll be truthful because I can hear my friends’ voices in my head. I don’t date at all—at least I haven’t for many years. Most of my friends think I am too picky, and part of it is pickiness, I suppose, but if the truth were to be told, I don’t want to get hurt again. As much as I love being in a romantic relationship because it can be so joyful, I’ve been willing to live without that joy in order to escape the pain that inevitably seems to accompany it. Anyway, I was always focused on my acting career, so the last thing I needed were romantic distractions. At least I convinced myself for a while that this was the case.

However, as I have observed more and more people around me dating regularly, getting married, and having children, I’ve begun to realize there is something missing in my life. Many nights I’ve found myself tossing and turning in bed while reliving past relationships and feeling achingly alone. There is one relationship I have idealized over the years, and as a result every now and then, find myself wallowing in self-pity, haunted by the past, unable to move forward.

One day in January, at The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, I was receiving red blood cells, sitting in a comfy, dark, blue, leather reclining chair, and listening to a 70’s CD my sister Karen had burned for me as a Christmas gift. I was writing in my journal when Joe Cocker’s You are so Beautiful started playing. My breath caught and I released it slowly. You are so Beautiful always reminds me of Robert,* whom I consider to be the only real romantic love affair in my past.

We began dating the summer of 1987. While I stayed in Bloomington to attend summer classes, he went home to Detroit to work. One night I had gone to bed early and was nearly asleep when the phone rang. I reached for it, on the nightstand next to my bed, and groggily said, “Hello.” It was Robert. Soon we were talking and flirting. Then he said, “Listen to this, this song reminds me of you.” I could hear You are so Beautiful in the background, and I smiled. To this day when I hear that song, conflicting emotions arise—albeit not as intense as they once were, which is progress after eleven years. I know, pathetic, but I’m a very sentimental person.

When Robert and I fell in love, it was the way I had always imagined it—effortless. It was so easy being around him. We laughed and flirted, there was no second-guessing of motives or game playing. It was merely two people enamored with each other and experiencing the pure joy of falling in love. Since Robert, there has been way too much drama with men. The drama factor is how I’ve come to recognize the wrong man. This is exactly what I tell my friends, too, when they’re involved with someone who’s making them crazy because he or she hasn’t called or they can’t interpret his or her intentions. At the beginning of a relationship, it shouldn’t be difficult, it should be magical. Emotional distress and frustration at this early stage in the game should signal this is not the right person. Of course, this rational thinking is easier when it’s not your own heart entangled in the drama.

Sometimes I wonder how much of the leukemia was caused by my refusal to let go of the past, of certain memories—not only memories of Robert but also memories of other liaisons I’ve held onto. Robert and I were together for six years. The first two years were heavenly, the third was good, but by the fourth I should have said good-bye. I started to have a roving eye, and though Robert and I had discussed marriage, I was never ready to commit. Looking back, if I'm honest with myself, I ended the relationship long before he did.

About a year before we broke up, I was in my hometown for Schweitzer Fest, the annual festival that celebrates the town’s Swiss heritage. Imagine a quaint little town, population 8,000. The city is laid out in mostly blocks separated by wide streets and well-manicured curbs. During the second weekend every August, there are four days of festive reverie around the old city hall building and grounds. A carnival company sets up rides for both adults and children and local organizations organize food and game booths. But the best—especially when I was not of age to consume alcoholic beverages—was the beer garden, or brau garten as the Swiss-Germans refer to it. A city street spanning the length of a block is fenced off to prevent minors from entering. The beer and ticket booths and numerous tables are set up inside this enclosure. Port-a-lets are stationed at each end of the block. A stage for the bands is erected on the city hall grounds, outside of the fence, overlooking the beer garden.

By 1992 I was of legal age and no longer required a fake ID. Robert had decided to go to Ann Arbor, Michigan to see a friend. Once my Tell City weekend was over, I was heading to Cincinnati for a couple days, and then on to Ann Arbor. From there the plan was to drive to Traverse City to visit his parents.

I went to the beer garden with a couple of girlfriends and ran into my ex-boyfriend, Scott.* Robert and Scott were complete opposites. During our two years together, Scott was emotionally unavailable, would neither hold my hand nor kiss me in public, always kept me guessing about our relationship, and never once said I love you. I never truly felt secure in that relationship. Robert, on the other hand, was attentive, unafraid of public displays of affection, held my hand all the time, and expressed to me exactly how he felt. Even before we were officially a couple he told me he loved me. I was astonished by his openness.

At this point in the story I must digress for a moment to provide some necessary background. Scott and I dated on and off during my last two years of high school, which were his first two years of college. It wasn’t until I was a freshman at Indiana University that he realized he wanted our relationship to be exclusive. He arrived at this conclusion after a jealous tiff one night.

It was a Friday night in the fall of 1984. All my girlfriends had gone out for the night. I had decided to stay in because I didn’t feel like partying—I needed a bit of alone-time. So I was sitting in a chair in my dorm room, watching MTV, when there was a knock on my door. I opened it, and standing there were three guys I had befriended, stopping by on their way to a party. I invited them in for a while. We were hanging out and talking when the phone rang. It was Scott. I asked him if I could call him back because Nick and a couple of other guys were visiting. He said okay. The guys stayed for only about fifteen more minutes and then I returned Scott’s call.

“Who’s Nick?” he snidely asked.

“He’s a friend,” I replied somewhat offended by the insinuation in his voice.

“Yeah, right,” he responded accusingly.

“Hold on. Where is this attitude coming from? You’re the one who insisted we see other people,” I challenged.

There was a pause, and he sheepishly admitted, “Well…maybe I’ve changed my mind.”

Woo-hoo, victory for me! So, at that moment we agreed that our relationship would be exclusive. After hanging up, I jubilantly leapt around the room. I had been so in love with this guy for years, and now he was finally feeling the same about me.

We dated exclusively until the end of my sophomore year, when, due to his suspicion and jealousy (which was unwarranted, by the way), the relationship disintegrated. However, for several years afterward, it was always a boost to my ego when he saw me in public with Robert, or he would flatter me with compliments such as “there aren’t many women like you.” I felt quite smug knowing that I was in a relationship and he wasn’t and that he’d finally realized how wonderful I was. This was his loss, right?

Okay, back to the beer garden. Scott and I talked and after leaving the beer garden, a group of us proceeded to Braunie’s (a little dive bar on Main Street pronounced ‘Brownie’s). I drove with Scott in his red jeep. He had taken the top off the jeep, so the summer breeze caressed my skin and blew through my long hair. It felt heavenly. At Braunie’s we had one drink and then decided to go for a drive in the country. We ended up on the bank of the Ohio River. We sat on a picnic table, talking for a long time and then he leaned over and kissed me. I kissed him back. I must tell the truth: it was very exciting. All we did was kiss, though, it went no further than that, but I had betrayed Robert with this action. The next day I left for Cincinnati.

There is one more bit of background information that needs to be provided at this point in the story. In June 1992, I began journal writing. The journal writing was inspired by my being cast as Aurelia Plath in the play, Letters Home, adapted from the book, Letters Home. The book was based on the letters Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother, Aurelia, from the time she entered Smith College in 1950 until her suicide in 1963.

One June afternoon, I carefully perused the bookstore with the goal of discovering the perfect journal in which to commence my writing adventures. The journal I selected had a hard-back cover decorated with George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It was gorgeous. A red, cloth page marker was attached to facilitate the ease of locating where subsequent entries were to begin. I wrote about the encounter with Scott, without censoring myself. I can’t censor myself in my journal. I’m human and I want to be honest about myself, even when I exercise poor judgment. However, during my travels, the journal was discretely tucked into the bottom of my suitcase. Okay, back to the story…

Robert and I were in Traverse City for about two weeks. Two days into my stay there, I was watching the Republican convention on television. I already knew I’d be voting for Bill Clinton, but I wanted to be informed of both parties’ platforms. Robert wanted to go to bed, so I told him I’d only be a little while longer. About thirty minutes later, I turned off the TV and went down to the basement bedroom. I opened the door and he was sitting up in bed with his back leaning against the wall. In that instant, before one word was uttered, I knew he knew about the Scott incident.

Initially I was furious—how dare he read my private journal?! In his defense, he explained that he’d been looking through my suitcase to see if I’d brought any lingerie with me. He saw the book, it looked interesting, and so he opened it to see what it was. Because of the trusty bookmark, he opened the journal right to the Scott entry. He told me he did not read it, but when he saw the word “Scott” and “exciting” he threw it back into my suitcase. Needless to say, there was an enormous, dark cloud hanging over the remainder of our vacation. Actually, this cloud hung over our relationship for the next year, even after I relented and allowed him to read the entry in its entirety in order to appease his curiosity—which seemed to help for a while. However, when trust is shattered, it is usually impossible to repair. My indiscretion was small, or at least that’s what I told myself, but this indiscretion hurt him deeply. The ego boost I received from my liaison with Scott was short-lived as I watched the man I cared about suffer because of my betrayal.

That last year Robert and I were together, we swiftly began heading down diverging roads, and with the trust issue still smoldering, we broke up June 13, 1993. Actually, he broke up, and in such a gallant fashion. I was in bed when he called from Ann Arbor at 8:30 in the morning. I spent the next four days in Indianapolis with my friend, Maria, crying and trying to determine where my life was headed. I wanted to try to work things out, but Robert was deaf to my pleas.

I returned to Bloomington, where soon, with the help of a new friend, Matthew, I proceeded to get on with living. I’d wasted two months indulging in self-pity, smoking way too much, subsisting on diet cokes because I had no appetite for food, going for long walks to clear my head, and crying. Now I found myself interested in someone else—Matthew. Matthew saved me that summer. I believe God put him in my life because I needed him. His girlfriend was still living in Boston, and had he been a free man, something deeper than friendship may have developed between us. Matthew made me feel good about myself again, reassuring me that I was a good person despite my mistakes. He encouraged me to keep acting, which I’d contemplated giving up because I had the idea that no guy would want to be involved with an actress, dealing with the demands of an acting career.

Yes, Matthew saved me from the darkness of despair, and it was despair. Suddenly my outlook was so sunny. I decided that after summer classes ended I would move to Cincinnati, where both my sisters were residing. Karen was looking for a roommate because she was planning to return to school to pursue a PhD in Political Science, so she and I searched for an apartment. When Robert arrived in Bloomington at the end of August to move his furniture out of the house, he encountered a very different Deborah. I was no longer begging for us to get back together and we had a really good time. I told him about Matthew and my plans to move to Cincinnati.

Shortly after I moved to Cincinnati, Robert wanted to reconcile. I suggested we take it slowly, visit each other, and see how things progressed. I didn’t want to deal with a long-distance relationship. Plus, I had discovered a vibrant social circle with many eligible guys in my new city. I thought my solution was reasonable given the hell I’d gone through that summer. Obviously that wasn’t acceptable to Robert because before I knew it, he was dating someone else, engaged to her five months later, and married six months after the engagement. Talk about a rebound—boing! Do I sound bitter? I was…

There are many aspects of this relationship, and its demise, that I’ve clung to over the years. I didn’t truly realize this until recently when I got sick. I must forgive Robert for the way he broke up with me, forgive him for marrying someone else so soon after our relationship ended, and forgive him for abandoning me. I had been financially dependent on him,even though I did work part-time while studying acting, and when we broke up, I was terrified. How would I survive? I was twenty-seven years old and I’d never been on my own. I’d gone from my parents taking care of me to Robert taking care of me.

More important than Robert forgiving me, I needed to forgive myself for the role I played in the relationship’s demise. Obviously, Robert and I weren’t destined to be together. Although intellectually I know he and I would not have been good in the long-term, I have held up that connection with him as the ideal, all other relationships, or potential ones, paling in comparison. So, I must release the memories of the past, and the idea that Robert was perfect and above reproach, while I was the villain. He is human, too. He was not perfect, and I deserve to stop punishing myself for a foolish action committed over a decade ago.

1987 was a beautiful year, and at least for that brief moment in time I’d experienced the type of love I’d dreamed of as a girl. That was a gift. I haven’t experience romantic love like it since, but I do hope to again at some point in my life. Every man that I consider significant in my romantic repertoire is married and has at least one child.

It’s time for me to move on, too. So, Robert, Scott, John*, and Dean,* enjoy your lives, your wives, your families. You all touched my life in some way for good and for bad, and now I am absolving you of any negative influence you’ve had in my life and on my self-esteem. You served your purpose—to make me sick. (I’m just kidding, but that made me laugh.) You entered my life for better or for worse and now I am ready to release you. Be free, I love you, you are no longer a detriment to my mental or physical well-being. The possibilities are endless now and I can let that special person into my life without reservation.

In truth, I’m not quite there yet, but at least this frame of mind is what I’m working to achieve. It’s a process of letting go, which will take time, but by being aware of the process, the necessary first step has been taken.

A friend of mine recently said that romantic relationships get in the way of your career. I half-heartedly agreed with him. Later as I remembered what he’d said, I thought to myself, ‘So what if my career is interfered with? It has been so long since I’ve been in love. While I lived in Cincinnati I declared I didn’t want to be seriously involved with anyone because I wasn’t planning to stay. But romantic love is an exhilarating experience. To be intimately connected mind, body, and soul to another human being, to me, is about as close as one can get to paradise. I want to feel that exhilaration and connection again, including all its messiness. I want the messiness—I want to wallow in it!’

I feel that I am now ready to take the leap and give myself unconditionally to another person. Though it’s been years, I still remember how wonderful it can be to be part of a couple, and I long for that connection. When I was first diagnosed with leukemia, I thought, ‘Thank God I don’t have a husband or children to worry about or them to worry about me.’ But as time passed I felt differently. During my fight against cancer, there were many nights, while lying in bed alone in the dark, I would’ve loved to have had someone next to me, to hold and comfort me, to make me feel safe and unafraid. But I don’t have a significant other, so I find comfort in God’s love, in the support and care of family and friends, and in my own inner strength.

I’ve made a long list of activities I want to do, places I want to travel, and goals I want to achieve. That list also includes falling in love again. True love has only happened once for me, but now I’m willing to take a chance. Part of that willingness requires letting go of and forgiving past injuries. The other part is forgiving myself and opening my heart enough to permit myself to fall in love again.

* Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Monday, March 22, 2004


March 16 - Tuesday

I just finished breakfast and the methotrexate drip has started. There is the two-hour primer drip and then the 24 hour one begins, so it is really a 26-hour methotrexate drip. I must be vigilant about drinking cold beverages (hot ones are not allowed) and rinsing with my sodium bicarbonate mix. Hopefully, I will be successful, as in the last B cycle, and avoid stomach or mouth sores.

At 8:09AM my vitals were taken – my blood pressure was 110 over 64 and my temp was 98.7. I weighed in yesterday and today at 111.

Hero card: Each time you stand up for an ideal, you send forth a tiny ripple of hope.
—Robert Kennedy

11:40AM – I’ve read three chapters in The Crimson Petal and the White; I have four to go until the book is finished, so I should be able to complete it today. It is a compelling story rife with interesting, fascinating, and (mostly) deeply flawed or disturbed characters. Descriptions of places and people are elaborately and vividly detailed—even crude images are explicitly depicted. This book was such a lovely gift—a treasure from an acting teacher whom I love.

Mom called to check in around 11:00am, but our conversation was cut short because a priest came into my room to see if I wanted to receive Communion. Of course, I did, so Mom will call back this afternoon, and again this evening, I'm sure.

Jeff called about 11:40am and we talked for about twenty minutes. He greeted me with, “hello, Princess!” (Dan started that long ago before I got sick when I first moved to the northeast, was living with him and Barbara, and wasn't employed—ha, ha.) Jeff was telling me about the neighbor issue. Somehow a surveyor or a contractor screwed up and built the neighbor’s driveway on Karen and Jeff’s property. Now the parties are trying to resolve this issue amicably but the neighbor is being a jerk - basically wanting Karen and Jeff to give him the property. They were discussing the possibility of an easement, but I told Karen that I didn't think that was a good idea because if I were house hunting, I would not purchase a home that had an easement attached to it.

We also talked about my visiting in September and Jeff said my room would be ready. Jokingly I said, “Well, I need a TV, a phone, internet connection…”

He replied, “I’ve already thought of that.” Apparently he had wanted these things in every bedroom to increase the resale value, but after talking to the builder and finding out the additional cost he nixed that idea—though not entirely, he’s decided to do it himself. He had asked Karen wouldn’t it be nice for Deborah to be able to pick up the phone or get on-line without having to leave her room? Very thoughtful! I’ve got a wonderful family. I need to call Barbara and Dan and give them my room number—forgot to do that.

12:15PM – vitals: blood pressure 101 over 67, temp 98.9, oxygen – 100, heart rate – 85. My view of the city is obstructed by the snow and clouds. I’m listening to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and right now the song “Diamond Dogs” sung by Beck is playing. It’s a funky, raunchy kind of tune but very fun.

3:05PM – I finished the first draft of my next blog—Forgiveness—Letting go of the Past. It’s a very personal piece of writing, but I feel the need to share this story.

Lena brought the results of my daily blood tests in—everything is low. Platelets went from 129,000 yesterday to 109,000 today, WBC went from 5.4 to 4.9 (still within the normal range), but HGB is low 7.9 from 8.7 (Dr. Goldberg will be giving me red blood cells later in the week), and my glucose is high, but that’s due to all the steroids and decadron being given to me with the chemo. I will be getting Potassium later today because that is low as well.

I finally asked Dr. Goldberg how we track my progress. He said that at the end of this cycle he will do another bone marrow extraction, it’ll be sent to the lab, and we should be able to see if any cancer cells are still present. I’ll be half-way through the chemotherapy regimen after this cycle. I need many prayers this week. I feel good, so that has to count for something, right? I would love to be able to tell my family and friends that I’m in remission—it’s the gift I want to give them.

I’ve been listening to my CD from Prince Hal. Right now “To Sir, With Love” is playing. That is the song I want to dance a father/daughter dance if I ever get married. I know it is meant to be sung to a very special high school teacher, but what better teacher is there than a father. I love mine so much. Great, now I’m crying.

OK— now “Can’t Buy me Love” is playing—that helps dry the tears!

3:40PM – vitals look good: blood pressure 107/69, temp – 98.9, Oxygen – 100, heart rate – 85. I’ve been talking with Elsie, my roommate, and an aid came into the room to take our vitals, so I rushed over to my bed to record the results. After penning them to paper, I returned to Elsie. She’s so cute, but I can tell that she’s scared and frustrated. Only a week ago she went to her doctor for a follow-up appointment (like I did back in December), blood tests were taken, and she was sent to Union Memorial. She stayed there for five days before being transferred to Hackensack. She has been diagnosed with leukemia also.

Elsie is 84, a widow (her husband died fifteen years ago), she has three children (two sons and a daughter), five grandchildren, and she lives in a four bedroom Cape Cod by herself. She likes to needlepoint. She was in the process of selling her home and now she doesn’t know what she’s going to do. Her daughter is sarching for apartments close to where she lives in the Trenton area. Elsie is scared and frustrated. A permanent catheter was placed into her arm, and she’s fretting over how to care for it over the next six months. I shared with her my experience taking care of my own catheter: how a nurse came out twice to train me and how supplies of bandages and injections of saline and heparin are delivered. The bandages and antiseptics are for changing the dressing around the catheter insertion area, while injections of saline and heparin clean out the lines and prevent clogging, respectively.

She will need a nurse to come out and change dressing and flush her lines—being 84 and the catheter being in her arm. I couldn’t change my own dressing if I only had one free arm available to do the job. She’s not helpless, but when you’re not feeling well and you don’t have a lot of freedom of movement, it can be difficult caring for the catheter. I hope I can help her while I’m here—at least be someone with whom she can talk. We chatted for about an hour and then my phone rang—it was my always dependable, loving mother checking in on me.

Now I’m listening to Ricky Martin's Sound Loaded CD. The song playing is “She Bangs.” It’s an extremely fast tempo, and I can remember Nelson and me turbo salsa-ing to this song at Viva’s in Cincinnati a few years back. It was the fastest salsa I’ve ever danced. One is forced to take tiny steps so as not to lose one’s balance when dancing at this speed ;-) It was such a blast!! I danced last weekend in NYC at Babalu; it felt so wonderful to move again and I hardly missed a step! Of course, Nelson is an awesome dance partner.

Barbara rang about 5:40, while on her way home from work. We talked for about twenty minutes. I could hear Aidan fussing in the car but he soon fell asleep. She talked to me as she maneuvered the SUV home in the snow. We talked about my chemo, her work, and her conference in Miami this weekend. Dan is flying down to join her, and she’s extending her time there so that they can have some couple time. It’ll do them a world of good to spend time together without Aidan or me. Saturday Russ is staying with Aidan and me, and Sunday Natalie will be here. Tuesday Barbara and Dan return.

6:35PM – vitals: blood pressure is 114/70; temp – 99.2; Oxygen – 99; heart rate - 91.

Yes, it’s been snowing since 10:00am. Yesterday it was sunny and in the 50’s—crazy weather. And of course, the snow and clouds have obstructed my view—I see no NYC skyline—even with my glasses on it is invisible. However, I can still see the lights of Hackensack, so the snow on the buildings and the streets looks beautiful, and the myriad of city lights look like diamonds sparkling on a black backdrop. I like being in the bed by the window much better than by the door.

Mom made her final call of the day around 8:00pm and Karen called around 8:25. At least my family is keeping me company by phone—I’ve only heard from Joseph, but none of my other friends have touched base with me. I’m sure they will, though…

9:05PM – Katie called! We talked for about twenty-five minutes and she said she’d call again Thursday or Friday. I told her that she and Joseph were the only two friends who’ve called, and she replied, “Well, you did say Wednesday in your e-mail.” “You’re right,” I replied, recalling that I had written that I start getting lonely around day three. OkayI’m a spoiled brat and a whiner—ha, ha!

I have been reading Seeds of Light by Elizabeth K. Stratton, M.S—trying to commit to memory some of the meditations that seem most relevant to my situation. The chapter "Healing Your Body" focuses on the seven chakras of the body. I was reading the meditation ‘Self Healing’ and came across the following:

On the count of three, you will receive a symbol of healing—one, two, three. Breathe. Accept this symbol of healing. Visualize it in the area of your body that is now healing, and trust that it will continue to generate healing energy and new life.

As I read this, I didn’t receive a symbol, but instead felt a jolt of energy to the fourth chakra, which is the chest area where the heart is located, and I began to cry. This is the area of love and compassion. There is no mention of blood or the circulatory system being associated with any of the charkas (at least not in the books I've read about chakras), but the heart pumps blood throughout the body, and wouldn’t it make sense that if one is heartsick that the blood being pumped through the body would be sick too?

When I review much of what I’ve been exploring about my past, so much of it has dealt with matters of the heart. That is what I most need to heal—I am sure of it now, and I feel that I am on my way.

11:20pm –vitals: blood pressure – 111/70, temp- 98.8, heart rate – 73, oxygen – 98

March 17 - Wednesday (St. Patrick’s Day)
8:15AM – vitals: blood pressure – 111/58, temp – 98.6, heart rate – 81, oxygen – 100%; weighed in at 110

I’m flushed today but that happens after several days of chemo.

“God Calling” - No Greater Joy
Withdraw into the calm of communion with Me. Rest--rest, rest in the calm and Peace. Life knows no greater joy than you will find in converse and companionship with Me.

You are Mine. When the soul finds its home of rest in Me, then it is that its real Life begins.

Do not fear. You need to trust Me for everything.

—A.J. Russell, ed

I’ve been chatting with Elsie. She is being tended to by a nurse, so I thought I’d record my blood count results I received a few minutes ago. All counts are from yesterday (16th) to today (17th) : wbc – from 4.9 to 8.0, rbc – from 2.32 to 2.52, hgb – from 7.9 – 9.0, platelets – from 109,000 to 117,000. Everything except the wbc count is still low but they’ve come up since yesterday. The wbc is within the normal range. However the glucose level is down—from 212 to 123 – still high but at least down.

Susan called around 11:30am. She’s planning to call again later in the week.

The methotrexate drip is finished, and they drew a blood sample so that they can know how much is in my system. The four bags of cytarabine will begin shortly. I will definitely be here until Friday because the last cytarabine drip won’t happen until at least Thursday at midnight.

11:55AM – vitals – blood pressure – 113/64, temp, 98.8, oxygen – 99%, heart rate – 93

Dream card: Do not pray for dreams equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your dreams.
—Phillip Brooks

I love this one! I have always been a dreamer and one of my favorite sayings is: “If you can’t dream it, you can’t do it.”

I’ve been spending more time with Elsie. I think she needs the company, and this is a good opportunity for me to start giving back. When I begin volunteering, I’ll basically be talking to other cancer patients, and this is valuable practice getting me started in that direction. It makes me feel good to know that I may be helping someone who is lonely, frustrated, or scared.

I can tell I’m starting to lose my appetite—I hardly touched my veggie burger, but I did manage to eat the pasta salad and lemon ice.

1:35PM – Lori called. We talked for about fifteen minutes. She is going to call again Friday.

2:30 – Shelley has arrived. She is such a good conversationalist—I feel I could talk with her for hours. She bought me five raffle tickets for the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation. The 1st prize is 30% of the gross proceeds, 2nd prize is 15% of gross proceeds, and 3rd prize is 5% of gross proceeds. I could use the money, and you don’t have to be present to win. She stayed until 4:30. As we were saying good-bye, Cindy called. Lots of phone calls today—I knew I could count on my friends.

Vitals taken at 4:05PM – blood pressure – 108/67, temp – 99.6 (a little high for me), heart rate - 83, Oxygen 97%

Dinner came at 5:15—way too early to eat. I’m not hungry. I ate some of my tomato rice soup, about a third of the salmon, and half of the mashed potatoes. I make myself eat a little bit of food, but I lose my appetite after several bags of chemo. Usually the side effects hit on the third day.

I revised my Forgiveness essay, updated my reading list, and am now going to listen to one of my audio books. I think I’ll start with The DaVinci Code.

Mom called and so did Lani. Lani’s going to try to visit tomorrow. If she comes she’s going to bring me some AA batteries for my portable CD player. I got through the first CD of The DaVinci Code but was dozing in and out during the second one, so I’ll have to listen to it again when I’m more awake.

At 6:00pm tonight there was a Quaker prayer meeting for me in Cincinnati. I tried to stay open to its energy, but I was receiving phone calls and nurses were coming in, and so I was distracted. I’ve found it very difficult to focus on meditation or prayer being here, due to all the interruptions—nurses, aids, the dose rate calculators always beeping for one reason or another. It’s not a conducive environment to solitude. Perhaps I need to concentrate harder, but I always like to acknowledge the people who come in to help me. I want the healing power of the Quaker’s prayers and I hope I was open enough of them to allow the goodness to penetrate my being. That was so kind of Priscilla and her prayer group.

6:50PM – vitals: bp – 100/66, temp – 98.6, hr – 86, Oxygen – 100%

11:15PM – final vitals: blood pressure – 114/75, temp – 99, hr – 85,
Oxygen – 98%

March 19 – Friday

“God Calling” – Courage
I am here. Fear not. Can you really trust Me? I am a God of Power, as well as a Man of Love, so human, yet so divine.

Just trust. I cannot, and will not fail you. All is well. Courage.

Many are praying for you…

—A.J. Russell, ed

It is snowing out. I must say I am so ready for warm weather. The cold and snow make me very melancholy. I desperately need the warmth of the sun and the cheerfulness of azure skies. I’ve felt cold all winter, even in the warmth of a comfortable home. The chill in my bones sometimes feels permanent and it scares me—I long to feel warm and safe.

I leave the hospital this afternoon. The nurses should be working on my release forms and setting up my clinic appointment for Monday. Once I’m sure about my departure time, I’ll give Dan a ring. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my Neulasta shot Monday—that’s a little over forty-eight hours but that’s ok, I think.

8:15AM - My vitals: bp – 115/73, temp – 98.8, O– 99%, hr – 101
weight – 113 (has to water weight—I’ve not eaten much in the past couple days—I’m not going to be vain about it, but that’s the most I’ve weighed in a long time ;-) )

9:40AM- Carol Reynolds called to check in. She didn’t realize I was in the hospital but I told her I was being released today. I told her that I was feeling pretty good but I was definitely ready to be home. She told me to get on-line and google a Dr. Whitaker when I get home because he is not only a doctor but also a practitioner of wholistic foods/healing. And she also told me that Gary Epstein, the author of Healing Visualizations, is giving a free workshop next Saturday on healing cancer. I’d love to go but doubt that I’ll have the energy to trek into the city.

Mr. Rodriguez called and we talked briefly—he’s getting ready for rehearsal. He had two clients this morning, two more scheduled at 4:00 and 5:00, then he is going out with friends. Says he’ll be home by 9:00! (He’s definitely an early bird.) I teased him about being old—of course, he’s so not!

11:45AM – vitals: bp - 118/74, temp – 98.8, hr – 92, O – 100%

Mom called to check in, as did Dan. I told him to be here around 2:00pm. However, the doctor has yet to show up and it’s 12:20pm, so I’ll give him another twenty minutes and then call Dan to come later. It irritates me when they know you’re to be released and yet they make you sit around for freaking ever. I want to go home. I called Shelley and left a message to see if she can take me to get my Neulasta shot tomorrow morning—if she can’t, we’ll need to figure something else out. Maybe Donna or Bob, or one of the neighbors would be other possibilities. Anyway, I have to figure it all out. I’ll have Natalie to take me to Monday's appointment.

My blood work came back –
from March 18 to March 19

Wbc 6.5 to 10.4
Rbc 2.45 to 2.61
Hgb 8.4 to 8.9
Pltlt 119,000 to 110,000

Counts are mostly up, except platelets down. Glucose is still high but at least not over 200.

1:15PM – FINALLY my release paperwork has come through. My clinic appointment Monday is at 3:20pm.

2:30PM – Fr. Bob gave me communion and we talked for a while. He was the priest who spent time with Mom, Dad, and me on Christmas Day. I really like him – he is very kind and personable. I am waiting for Dan to get here. Very tired…

3:15PM – I said good-bye to Elsie. I leaned over her bed, kissed her on the cheek, and told her I’d keep her in my thoughts and prayers. She said she’d do the same for me. I hope I made her stay a little more bearable. I spent quite a bit of time with her Tuesday and Wednesday, but yesterday and today I didn’t have the energy. She’s so sweet—I hope she continues to fight.

I told the nurses I wanted to walk out, not be wheeled out, which they agreed to. Dan and I left as everyone at the nurse’s station waved good-bye.

It is always difficult when I leave the hospital. This is the fourth time now and every time I cry. I feel badly because it has been my brother-in-law bringing me home the last three times from the hospital, and he’s had to suffer through my emotional states—just kidding—he’s probably unaware of my tears because I make every effort to hide them. I feel so beat up by the end of the chemo cycle, and I’m so relieved to be going home, but there is such an overwhelming sadness that hangs over me like a menacing dark cloud on these days. Fortunately, we picked up Aidan from daycare and his smile ALWAYS generates a smile on my face. He was so cute—playing on the slide (a small one inside the facility) and then when we were leaving, there was this pool in the hallway with an assortment of colored rubber balls. Aidan took a flying leap face-first into it! It was so funny! I told Dan, “You need to get one of those for home.” He just smirked at me.

Home at last. I took a hot bath and then crawled into bed. Both Mom and Karen Karen called as well as Natalie, who will be here next week to help me out. I can’t wait to see her.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Reading List
Almost all of these books have been gifts I’ve received since Dec 18. This is a list of what I’ve read/am reading, and I can recommend all of them! I’ve included the giver of the gift—my way of saying thanks. I’ll update this list as I complete more books.

Books completed as of 3/21/04:
Biographies - “Cancer Schmancer” by Fran Drescher (Lisa Breithaupt)
“It’s not About the Bike” by Lance Armstrong (Michael Krumnauer)

“Healing Secrets of the Ages” and “The Dynamic Laws of Healing” by Catherine Ponder (William Ludwig - dad)
“Head First, The Biology of Hope” by Norman Cousins (Eleonore McCabe)
“The Creation of Healing” by Carolyn Myss, PhD (Eleonore McCabe)
“Healing Visualizations” by Gerald Epstein, M.D. (Eleonore McCabe)
(Recommended by Carol Reynolds)
“The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
(Donna & Bob Rooney)
“The Miracle of Mindfulness” Thich Nhat Hanh
(A book bought for Carol Reynold’s Body Dynamics Class)
“The Power of NOW” by Eckhart Tolle (Shelley & Dan Devine)
“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz (Michael Shooner)
“Seeds of Light” by Elizabeth K. Stratton M.S. (Donna Dimino)

Fiction - “Good in Bed” by Jennifer Weiner (Laura Lowe Everhart)
“The Crimson Petal and the White” by Michel Faber (Terry Schreiber)

Writing - “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott (Katie Rice)

Cancer-related - “Who Needs Hair…the Flipside of Chemotherapy”
By Sallie Astor Burdine (breast cancer survivor) (Lisa Breithaupt)

Audio books - “Me” The Katherine Hepburn Story – narrated by Ms. Hepburn herself
(Natalie Bauman)
“The Lake House” by James Patterson (Natalie Bauman)
“The DaVinci Code” Dan Brown (Natalie Bauman)

Currently reading:
“God Calling” by Two Witnesses edited by AJ Russell (daily meditations)
(Bobbi Kravis)
“365 Tao” by Deng Ming-Dao (daily meditations) (Bobbi Kravis)
"Insight Meditation" by Sharon Salzberg & Joseph Goldstein (Beckie Wilson & Nelson Miranda)

Audio books: “Snow Falling on Cedars” David Guterson (Natalie Bauman)