Sunday, April 28, 2013

Beauty in the Breakdown

At the outset of my diagnosis, a close friend of mine told me about something called “chemo brain.” At the time, it came across as yet another euphemism for “old timer’s,” a “senior moment,” or something along those lines, but it does exist. The more reputable web sites such as The Mayo Clinic will acknowledge it, but in a way that makes it sound more anecdotal rather than factual. In listening to the many, many cancer survivors who report short-term memory problems as well as my own experience, I can say unequivocally that my brain’s short-term memory is working just fine. The only caveat to that is that it’s not getting same-day delivery as often! My long-term memory actually works really well as can be attested by visitors. I think the best way to explain that one is that I can read their minds, but just not my own! How fun is that?!

It can be entertaining when you’re with a group of people who are in the particular age group where it takes a bit of extra cognitive effort to remember things. I feel a little less impaired and we all have a laugh because my particular brain farts are more unpredictable. After all, they weren’t there just a few months ago…a bit like my hair actually was there. I think it just proves that hair does carry brain cells in it and when it falls out because of chemo, well, you do the math.  My ex-wife used to tell me that placenta was another word for brain cells, but it seemed to me she didn’t get any less sharp mentally with the arrival of new kids.  Actually, I think we both got smarter. The older kids got away with much more than younger ones!

I’ve found that after a round of chemo treatment, I have to think a bit harder to express myself or find the right word which, for someone who writes a lot, is frustrating. As the days pass, it seems to alleviate some, but since I go back in for another round every 28 days, there isn’t enough time for it to completely go away. But this will all end at some point and I’m expecting to get all my faculties (and my hair) back in good working order. So, since I had my last treatment in the second round of consolidation chemo last night, you’ll have to cut me some slack if I forget a serial comma, dangle a participle, or am guilty of some other such grammar infraction! This is roughly equivalent to driving on a hangover – nothing too terribly dangerous, but I should be sleeping it off, right? Well, since I haven’t had a hangover since 1983, I’m probably not as qualified to comment on that, but since I have, in fact, had a hangover, I can. Moving on!

I was discharged from my suite at the hospital this morning rather efficiently. I was told initially that I would get my papers between 10:00 am and noon and by 10:20, I had my prescriptions and had signed my discharge papers; by 10:30, I had my PICC line removed and was ready to roll. The VA hospital was remarkably quiet.  It usually is anyway on a Sunday, but I noticed most of the week that many of the rooms were being cleaned since the “census” (patient count) was lower than I remember from my previous two visits. The four walls of my luxury suite gave me a serious case of Cabin Fever this week as the weather has been really nice out and today was no exception.  The temps pushed into the 70s and I was pushing to break out. You know what it looks like on the inside of a hospital room.  I thought I’d actually take a picture of what it looks like on the outside since I don’t see that all too often.

So, we’re back in the waiting game.  I found out two weeks ago that the Veterans Administration had approved my transplant. This past week, the paperwork had been forwarded and now the donor search can actually move forward (the crowd roars).  I’m hoping that I don’t see another round of consolidation chemotherapy before I find out that a donor has been identified, but it is a possibility.  In the meantime, of course, we’re all on hold, waiting for the donor to be identified and to agree to go through the procedure. Thankfully, it’s not as daunting and painful as it used to be.

I did come across a highly publicized story this week about a college athlete named Cameron Lyle who decided to forego his ultimate track and field meet in order to answer the call to be a bone marrow donor and save someone’s life.  It not only gave me hope in my fellow man, but it also gave me hope for my own case. There is someone out there who is also foregoing something significant to give me a second chance at life as well and when that happens, trivial things like ‘chemo brain’ just fall by the wayside. The term that jumped into my head as I was considering what to write today was ‘beauty in the breakdown,’ something I heard from a soundtrack to Garden State some time back, yet it encapsulates everything about what I’ve felt this week and even the comedy of ‘chemo brain.’

You see, there’s something very attractive and special about breaking things down to their essence. And a breakdown in the sense of a failure of some sort is often the only way to get there. It’s a particularly effective and direct way to do so because this part of the battle against cancer I cannot and really should not fight.  This is the transformation that I have to embrace amid the pain of it all; this is the part where I have to let go in order to win the fight. I am fighting to win the battle against cancer of course, but letting go to find something…someone whose essence is emerging through the struggle – and that would be me.
Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all!
 
So, in honor of that beauty in the breakdown is the song I got it from: Let Go by Frou Frou off of the Garden State soundtrack. This link has scenes from the movie.  The 'video' above is the music only.

Drink up baby doll
Mmm are you in or out
Leave your things behind
'Cause it's all going off without you
Excuse me
Too busy
Oh, writing your tragedy
These mishaps
You bubble wrap
When you've no idea what you're like

(So let go) so let go
Jump in
Oh well whatcha waiting for
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown
(So let go) let go
Just get in
Oh it's so amazing here
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown

It gains the more you give
And it rises with the fall
So hand me that remote
Can't you see that all that stuff's a sideshow
Such boundless pleasure
We've no time for later now
You can't await your own arrival
You've twenty seconds to comply

(So let go) so let go
Jump in
Oh well whatcha waiting for
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown
(So let go) yeah let go
Just get in
Oh it's so amazing here
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown

So let go
Jump in
Oh well whatcha waiting for
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown
So let go
Jump in
Oh well whatcha waiting for
It's all right
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown

Mmm the breakdown
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown
Hey, the breakdown
So amazing, yeah
'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown