This past week presented a range of emotions, pure joy alongside waves of grief. I’m riding these waves as they come and managing not to wallow too far under the surface.
After a challenging first treatment followed by four days of feeling less than wonderful, the fog lifted. The following two Tuesdays went well; that part of the regimen only delivers one chemical and is much kinder on the body. The only real side effects were fatigue and achey bones. I slept a lot, which I didn’t mind especially with sweet Polly by my side. The silver lining on days like this, is feeling five years old again, with hours consisting of naps, snacks, markers and coloring books. (Thank you Carol for the creative outlet.) Each of these comforts would mean very little were it not for Annell Mook’s special brand of love and care.
The more difficult part of the week consisted of lab results revealing a very low white count, which means my immune system went on vacation. The chemo kills the bad cells, but also the good I’m told. I was asked to stay away from crowds, children, and to wear a paper yellow mask. I was less than agreeable with the mask, but avoided anyone with even a hint of a sniffle.
My hair began falling out about a week and a half ago. My kind and always encouraging aunt escorted me to get a pixie cut in order to ease the transition. I loved the cut and it lasted three glorious days before I started to look like I was inflicted with male pattern baldness. 🙂 It occurred to me how easily surface appearance can masquerade as part of identity. When I found the first clumps of hair on my pillow, I cried.
The doctor gave me permission me to take last week off of chemo and to return to New Mexico in order to grade my student’s final performance projects. Words can’t express the joy I felt at seeing their faces in person again…Skype is a poor substitute. The students had little guidance in their out of class rehearsals, so I was proud of what they were able to achieve under the circumstances.
Midway through my visit to Farmington, the hair fall had became so apparent that my colleague Linann offered to shave my head in the costume shop at the college. It seemed appropriate that I was among racks of costumes: letting go of one role for a time, replacing it with one stripped down and primed for healing.
After visiting with students and lovely friends, Dave and I set off for my parent’s cabin to break up the trip back to Denver. We sang songs while he accompanied on the ukulele. It was sweet and easy time with him and reminders of my father loomed large in the house he built years ago.
We entered this week prepared for the double-punch that comes at the start of each cycle. Each treatment begins with a blood draw. The good news was: the chemo seems to be taking effect again, as the cancer markers have gone down. The bad news: my white blood cell count is still so compromised that they had to delay chemo yet another week. I trust my doctor and will do all I can to rebuild my strength for next Tuesday. Fingers crossed.
Again, the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. We have received many gifts, cards, prayer shawls, quilts, flowers, charms, and words of comfort. This love and good feeling is felt and it has formed a powerful protection around us.
I’ve been asked more than once how I know so many wonderful people. A life in theatre seems to be at the center so many friendships near and far. Many of you have been collaborators, teachers, or students. This speaks to the powerful bonds that are formed amidst the intimacy and vulnerability of the creative process, what a gift that part of my life has been. My extended family, godparents, and childhood friends are also right there at the ready and I don’t know what I would do without their love and support. That’s all for now. I’ll check in again in a week or two.
Pray for white blood cells to play Barry White, make love, and multiply!