I just went six weeks between tests and seeing my oncologist, which is the longest since I’ve been sick. I was getting labs every other day, then once a week, then every six hours (after my bone marrow transplant) then weekly, biweekly and now this long jump. The space between was defined by the fact that I’m now doing chemo at home and that my kidneys have been stable, horrible, but stable.
I only have a preliminary report from yesterday and it seems my kidneys and anemia (or lack of) are still stable. I will have those numbers tomorrow. We also got tests to measure my cancer. Things are going much better with this new chemo from a side effect perspective, but if it is not controlling my cancer, then it is a losing situation. This first group of tests will not be definitive, but will start to look for a trend. If they are getting worse, then I will need to move to a new chemo by summer.
Speaking of summer, I was due to go back to Seattle for a 1 week comprehensive workup at the one year mark since my bone marrow transplant. However, they called Monday and canceled that (due to COVID). So I will need to try and get those tests done in Anacortes.
So, please pray for good numbers on my tests.
I got my first communication back from my editor yesterday, regarding my novel Ristretto Rain. I was hoping so much that he would have nothing but praise and it could go straight to the presses. However, he was impressed with the story but suggested that I do yet another rewrite to eliminate some of the expository narrative. This was profoundly discouraging, but typical. It isn’t just for me and my writing. I know that I’m still a lightweight and learning.
One of my favorite authors, John Updike, in his last book, Endpoint, described the brutal process he went through when he submitted his books to his editors. He described the back and forth until they had rewritten every sentence he had written into a strange language that they only speak on Mars (my paraphrase). He was a great writer and the winner of many prizes including two Pulitzers yet he had to endure this process.
At first I was discouraged and was tempted to throw in the towel on not only Ristretto Rain, but all my endeavors at writing, even this blog. But then I thought of how much I enjoy the creativity of it and to loose it would mean me losing the few parts of me that are left.
I want to be humble and I want to be a learner even at my old age so I decided to endure. In a rebellious moment, rather than throwing in the pen, I decided to start my next novel (which had been lurking in the back of my mind). It is a novel, with a strong autobiographical thread about a man my age with a new diagnosis of cancer. Haven’t decided to make it Multiple Myeloma or something else. He takes a course in his life that . . . well, you will have to wait and see. But I started with the following rough draft while I was sitting the the Merle Cancer Center waiting to see my doctor. Remember it is only a rough draft
Before I post this piece, I want to say something briefly about this space of my blog. I may say more later. I have a strong desire for honesty and candor. I come here to write about reality, not idealism, whether it is Christian idealism or human idealism. From my experience, I know that some people, I would assume with good intentions, come here with a critical eye into my private world (which I open for them). I haven’t had many such communications, but several that suggest that I’m not handling my cancer well, especially for a Christian, or the most common, I’m not a real Christian based on what I’ve written, or I don’t have a good relationship with God.You get the drift. My atheist and pantheist friends (or whatever philosophy of life that you follow) are kind and silent. But I want to have the freedom to write honestly without this second guessing. I did the same when I was an evangelical. Now I call it unorthodoxaphobia, or the fear that I may not be the ideal Christian that they had hoped for. But understand, that is not my goal or agenda. My goal is candor. If you can’t come here without feeling sorry for me, or feel that you must warn me that I’m going to hell, please go away. My life is too short for such strife.
I will keep writing here as long as people are coming. For some reason that I cannot explain I’m still having about a thousand visitors per week. I know it isn’t the quality. Maybe it is is the pity (wink).
Rough Draft, Opening Paragraph of Narrow Places
The air of the cancer ward was gelatinous; thickened, and barely penetrable. It took an effort to cut through it, to push it back and to the sides in order to create space through which I could walk, live, or breathe. The gravity in the waiting room there was stronger than elsewhere, for it pulled me into the hard-plastic seat making it difficult to stand to follow the nurse when my name would be called. The gravity was continuously tugging at me there, pulling me down as to lure me back into the earth.
The essence of the air was fear. It was an all-encompassing worry, thickened, yet isolating and deeply personal. I could see others within this gelatinous mass, but their images were distorted within the periphery of my isolating concern. But they too must share this dread as I could see it in their eyes, blurred through the thick hanging air and my lack of focus on them. The people were also talking as I could see their lips moving through the viscous air and at the boundary of my field of vision. Were they talking to me? I didn’t know, nor in that moment did I care.
The only thing I thought about was the meeting with the oncologist. He would soon walk into the exam room, me seated on the exam table, with his imaginary sack slung across his shoulder full of numbers… somewhat like Johnny Appleseed. He would pull a handful out of the burlap sack and toss them to me, and the seeds would take root in my heart as relief, elation, or the early sprouts of a coming nightmare. Those numbers would decide my fate or tell me how fate has decided me. Will I continue to recover or will I start this march into unbearable suffering once more and a certain death. But this is just one of a thousand such visits and I wonder at times, how much can the human heart bear?