Tuesday, March 4, 2014

4 days

Today was anything but normal, but there were certainly bits of normalcy to which I clung.  The bits that were abnormal were either sad or comical, with very little in between.

I woke up feeling discombobulated.  Ian had already left for work, and I was alone for a few minutes before waking up the girls.  I got up and started my routine, but then at some point realized that I had been standing, immobile, for 4 minutes.  I shook myself out of it and resumed the business of getting two young humans ready for their days.  I assure you that I was henceforth sufficiently occupied to prevent further immobilization.

Until I dropped them off at school.

Uncontrollable tears streamed down my face as soon as I put the car in park in the parking lot at work.  I got out my phone to redirect myself from my inner fears.  This plan backfired, however, when I checked Facebook and saw all of the things my dear friends S and T had started in motion and all of the support that was already blossoming.  Big fluffy peonies of support.  I turned off my phone and sobbed for nearly 15 minutes.

I pulled it together to start my day, round 2.

On the way to my cubicle I passed two 50-gallon drums that were collecting water.  This water was allegedly leaking from a fat drainage pipe that was collecting snowmelt off of the roof.  Since I work in a laboratory, I was pleased to know that it was roof water and not lab water, but I nonetheless took the leak a bit personally.  After everything that is going on with me, the door 10 feet from my office (i.e. MY door) is being blocked by this leak?  Come on.

Then I spent well over an hour hugging folks and trying not to cry.  (I succeeded maybe 2 out of every 5 attempts?  Not bad.)  It's temping to say that the support is overwhelming, but that's not true.  Responding to the support is overwhelming, but receiving it is lovely.  I mostly just feel bad for putting you all through this.  But I can get over that and simply accept a hug.

With a freshly brewed cup of gunpowder green tea, I sat down to start turning off burners.  I opened my email and started emailing collaborators, editors, and colleagues about things that I'll no longer be doing.  Some things were sad, like cancelling a graduate student who I was to host in April.  I still feel terrible about that but do not doubt my decision.  Other things were happy, like the collaborator who responded within minutes to say that he'll get my analyses running right away (nothing like cancer to put a flame under your butt, I guess).  Most were just down-to-business, I-won't-be-here-for-awhile-so-you're-going-to-have-to-wait-or-find-someone-else-to-do-this.

Amidst these decisions and delegations my friend S came to invite me to join her for lunch.  She asked me when I wanted to eat, and I honestly had neither the knowledge nor inclination of lunchtime.  My nervousness has destroyed my appetite.  I was content to follow her and eat my lunch at anytime.  So we ate lunch in a conference room.  Near the end of lunch, my other friend S popped in to tell me that my office was flooded.  And I thought that the my obstructed doorway was personal.  Snort.

Thus began my day, round 3.

I tried to take the main hallway to my cubicle, but there was over an inch of water at least 20 feet before "my" door with the 50-gallon drums.  So I attempted a different route, through the laboratory space.  There was water on the floor of my laboratory.  I kept weaving through labs until I found a dry one through which to reach my cubicle hallway.

I tiptoed through the water to my cubicle.  S was there when the water started rushing, so I am grateful to her for unplugging my computer and picking my bag up off the carpet.  I packed up my laptop, grabbed my belongings, and evacuated my cubicle just as the safety officers were coming to kick us out of the area.  As soon as the water flooded my laboratory, which is directly across the hall from my cubicle, the flooding became a safety hazard.  Oh my.

I took refuge in my friend L's cubicle.  It was delightful to have a cubicle buddy for the day.  My office would have been too lonely for the day, anyway.  We visited a bit, shared a cupcake, and mostly enjoyed a study vortex (nerd salute to my college friends) for the afternoon.

L also reminded me about my neck thingy.  I had forgotten all about my neck thingy!  I called Dr. Oncologist's office and spoke with my treasured nurse.  She said that Dr. Oncologist wants me to start taking a blood thinner.  This will give my body a chance to dissolve the clot on its own.  I took my first coumadin this evening.  That is all there is to say about the neck thingy at this point.  We'll check on it again, I'm sure.  It will be gone when we check on it.  Stupid PET scans.

After many tears and emails it was time to head home where I seemed to begin this day one more time, round 4.

This was by far the best day of my days.  My girls were on fire tonight!  They colored pictures, they told jokes, they whispered secrets like "let's have a tea party" while gripping my head between both of their hands.  I therefore prepared a tea party despite the fact that it was a bath night (baths are yet a time-consuming endeavor in our house).  In their bath they sipped warm honey-water, each blue plastic teacup adorned with a stale cinnamon stick.

Afterwards they rushed upstairs and said that they were preparing a show for us.  The parents were banned from the upstairs for a full 10 minutes.  Ian and I embraced the ceremony of it all by arriving upstairs arm in arm.  Their art easel was relocated to the hallway, and on it they had written, "Princess Drip Drop Ballet     Welcome Mom and Dad    Good Luck", complete with a sketch of Mom and Dad.  They had arranged their play room to accommodate a stage and seating.  The two step stools from the bathroom were wedged in the play room doorway, with matching throw pillows placed on top of each stool.  Ian and I squeezed onto our seats and were treated to a marvelous show of dancing and singing.  Each composition was an original work of art.  There was even an encore.  It was magical.

And now my day of days is over.  With the performance fresh in my mind I am ready for a good night sleep in preparation for whatever tomorrow will bring.  My dad will be here before 9 am, and we'll hit the road for my distant appointment with Dr. Surgical Oncologist and colleagues.  Tomorrow I will get a better idea of what my treatment plan will look like.


  1. I would venture to guess that most people will never experience an impromptu one-act play, performed in their home, by their children, featuring the homeowners themselves. Magical, indeed.

    Your posts are a true gift to anyone fortunate enough to read them. Thanks again, sis.

  2. Your co-workers are wonderful & what a great show to end your day. Snacks packed for road trip. Must have snacks.

  3. Sometimes there are no words . . . . so I won't try to write any. Mmmmmmmmm.

  4. Hang tough Heather. Hopefully Dr. Onc will have positive feedback

  5. I hope Iowa City is still associated with wacky college fun and not serious cancer blah! Say 'hi' to the sloth for me!

  6. Today is going to be a good day. I know it ... kind of because if Uncle Rusty is supplying snacks, it can't be bad at all! xoxoxoxo

  7. I love children, best imaginations ever. <3

  8. You'll go the distance! Fighter. Soul and love

  9. I'm so emotional reading this. Wish I was half as strong as you are. You should not feel terrible about cancelling your rotation graduate student. She definitely understands :) In fact she totally agrees that you made the right decision. Continue to hold on strong and everything will work out. I look forward to more posts.

  10. Your day may not have started well, what with all the things on your mind. Plus, the major roof leak on your office that caused flooding is certainly not a good thing to see first thing in the morning. Thankfully nothing bad happened to all of you and you got home safely; and of course, for having a great family and kids. Your day ended better than you expected it to be. I hope you’re feeling better now.

    Pleasance Faast @ Shelton Roofing