Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wash-and-wear. No-blow-and-go. Call it what you will; I have a chemo perm.

My hairdresser and I decided to just let my hair do its thing. The past couple of mornings, I haven’t known quite what to do with myself in the bathroom when normally I’d be pulling out the hairdryer. I realized I could just. . .leave. I’m liking this hair liberation, for as long as it lasts.

One year ago today, Barbara accompanied me to USC Norris Cancer Hospital, where I underwent my first bone marrow biopsy. In these days of informed consent, procedures can be made to sound worse than they turn out to be for me with a high pain threshold and an ability to tolerate medical indignities. Nevertheless, to describe a BMB, as the jargon goes, is to sound downright medieval. As the pain started to overwhelm me through the anesthesia, I tried to stay calm while thinking, “Uh oh.”

But when my doctor alerted me that the next steps would be the most intense – and “hold very, very still, no matter what” – I was amazed to feel more pressure, but less pain. Could that really be? My doctor kept up encouraging words while carrying on for several more minutes, but the pain I expected did not return. Lying there I knew that because of blessings, prayers, and love from so many, I was being helped in a real and divine way.

That biopsy confirmed my doctor’s suspicions and my bone marrow and the rest of me have been down a long road since that day. I haven’t shared this experience with very many this past year, keeping it close to my heart. I share it now, having pondered upon it a great deal, to acknowledge the many, many times I have been physically and spiritually sustained, even uplifted, beyond reason. These words found in Matthew now have richer meaning for me: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” From the imponderables of Doctrine and Covenants 42:48 to hair style changes, it’s been a scary, stressful, strange, satisfying, and significant year.

I woke up this morning feeling pretty normal for post-chemo day 3. Food tastes funny again but in the coolness of an unseasonably heavy marine layer, I was happy to simmer some garden harvest into tomato chutney. That’s my big project for the day, and now I’m retreating back to bed and my pile of books. Tomorrow morning, I’ll toss my hair like Nellie in “South Pacific” and start Year 2.

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