I Don’t Have the Worst Thing!

Yesterday morning I was to start my fourth chemo treatment. Instead, here I sit, on the 4th floor of the hospital, at 4 am, trying to type with an oxygen monitor taped to my finger. They evidently sort patients by their zodiac sign here, and I’m born on July 20, my sign is Cancer, so I’m on the cancer floor. But no chemo for me this week. I came to the ER with pneumonia last Friday and haven’t left yet.

But I’m sure learning a lot about pneumonia! I’ve got ‘atypical pneumonia’.  I always seem to have the ornery diagnosis (Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which started outside my lymph nodes and doesn’t even involve them now.) There are three bacterial types that fall under the category of atypical pneumonia, the worst of which causes Legionnaires Disease, and which they have ruled out. “Well, at least you don’t have the worst thing,” says Laurel, and I say, “Yeah, that’s a good title for my journal post.”

Turns out I don’t have either of the other two bacteria that cause atypical pneumonia. How atypical is that? (How typical is that?) I’ve had a chest x-ray and CT scan, which show the damage to my lungs from the radiation treatment, and a bronchoscopy which appears to show the same. While I’m still awaiting results from the scope that may inform further treatment decisions, they discovered a small infection inside my port (the SuperPort that’s surgically inserted under the skin on my chest) and are treating that so it resolves right where it is and doesn’t spread. That infection has nothing to do with my breathing troubles.

I’ve also gotten a blood transfusion – 2 units, yesterday –since much of my weakness is due to my red cell count. Too few red blood cells trying to carry too little oxygen. Poor guys. I know how they feel.

I know one unit of blood came from Washington, DC, and told Jessica, my nurse’s aide; it must have come from Michelle Obama, because I feel a little stronger already. We had a nice conversation about all the great things I’m going to do when this all kicks in.

Lots of great conversations here in the hospital! I do have the best conversation starters. You know about my chicken hat (Help! There’s a chicken roosting on my head!), and thanks to my friend, Kopana Terry, I don’t have to tell you the story of my Henna Crown. You can read her blog posts about it – first on January 19th and another on the 26th – and you’ll find a few more henna crown pictures scattered about.

The conversation starter I always have with me in hospitals and treatment rooms is my dear Anchal Quilt. I often take it for granted, as there have been few days I haven’t slept with it since I got it five or so years ago. The very short story is that it was made of recycled saris by a woman in India who was able to leave the sex trade to work full-time in designing and making quilts, thanks to The Anchal Project.

This great non-profit had recently gotten off the ground when I met the founder, Colleen Clines, from right here in Louisville, KY. I soon learned (from her mom) that Colleen was struggling with lymphoma, but wearing a wig because she didn’t want her illness to challenge the perception of her new non-profit. So, for three weeks of each month, Colleen was a vibrant and beautiful young woman, working tirelessly to grow this strong organization that would hire dozens of women away from a dismal livelihood.

And for the fourth week of each month, Colleen was in bed sick, recovering from chemo. She bounced back, the chemo is in full remission, and the organization is extremely successful and growing. If you’re among the few friends of mine who don’t already have a quilt or a scarf or a bag, you might want to consider purchasing one for yourself or as a gift. When you wrap it around you, you’ll see how soft it is.

The word “Anchal”, in Hindi, refers to the edge of the sari that is wrapped around a child to comfort them. This child has gotten more comfort from her quilt than she can possibly convey. Now more than a few nurses have left my room with a good story, and AnchalProject.org in their cell phones.

So I, and my Chicken Hat, my Henna Crown, and my Anchal Quilt will be here for a few more days. Even when I’m in the hospital, I’m surrounded by Art and Love.

Thanks again for all your prayers and white light, energy and love. Between now and next journal entry, I’ll go home, get back on track, and be moving along with my last three chemo treatments.


Published on CaringBridge.org — February 8, 2017


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