Never Bury the Lead

January 5, 2006

…so goes journalistic wisdom, and so I tell you right up front, O Best Beloveds, that my tumor markers, that pesky blood test that got me into all this mess in the first place, have fallen. The goop, it is working.

Now, I should explain, when we started this latest fandango, my markers were 125–we pause to recall normal is 0-40–but by the time I got going with it all, they had risen to 250. Or maybe it was 250 after the first round of chemo, which alarmed me, but my analogy happy chemo nurse Lisa, Dr. W. and husband all say it is akin to breaking up a log jam in a river; after you do this, there are, instead of one solid mass, lots and lots of bits of flotsam and jetsam floating about in the stream, and this can make the blood test register higher than is perhaps reality. Still, that 250 is our baseline, the number from which we must tumble, and as of last week, after three rounds, I was at 193, a very nice fall, though I will be a lot happier when it’s to two digits. Then again, I’ve had two more rounds since then, and since it’s falling at precisely the expected rate, that probably means I’ve fallen/am falling farther still.

As for those two rounds themselves, why, I’m writing this very one minutes after coming home and eating some of the most delicious chicken tikka I’ve ever eaten, quite moist and tender, but unfortunately also (to me) fiery hot, and I had to give up on it after two pieces because my lips were on fire. This was purchased from a place with an Arabic name that Steve and I had noticed on our way to chemo land, a place that included a sign indicating they served both lamb and goat. Interest peaked, we investigated today and discovered it was actually part Indian, part Pakistani food (not the Middle Eastern we were expecting) and I was not the only woman in a head covering there. They have fine cheap take out; I only wish my tolerance for heat and my interest in the exotic was higher. (Immediately post chemo I’m not quite as gastronomically curious as at other times.)

Why am I telling you all this? Because I don’t have much else to talk about, so I resort to my fail-safe, food porn. And why is this? Because last week–Chemo Road Trip, as it happened, since Rick joined us and drove–when I finally met with Dr. W. (“I’m so happy to see you, I’ve missed you!” he said, and I muttered something about how we really could just meet for coffee if that’s the case, he needn’t go to all the cancer trouble, and all), he asked me how the treatment was going. When I said I was only semi-good for anything for about three plus days following infusion, he frowned. “Huh. I don’t like to hear that. You should only be losing half a day. I have a lady who has been doing this for eleven months, and she goes skiing every day.” Is this the gal who water skis on the weekend? we asked. Because her legend appears to be growing. Plus, way to put Martha Stewart-like perfection pressure on me. All I wanted was a free pass to lie down for a couple of hours, and now I’ve got to go run a marathon, or risk being a disappointing cancer patient. Anyway, he figured that it might be the IV Ativan I get on chemo day–being a notorious lightweight, it takes a bit for it to get out of my system. Consequently, we tried chemo last time without Ativan, which meant I stayed awake instead of napping, but Rick and Steve regaled me with excerpts from Al Franken’s latest and Jon Stewart’s “America: The Book,” and apart from a slightly funny post-chemo tummy, which might be chalked up to the Krispy Kreme I had right afterward as much as anything else (oh, hush; the office is moving in two weeks to Manhattan Beach and I won’t have access to it after that; also, Rick totally came along only for the post-chemo snacks, and I had a rep to live up to), the subsequent recovery was nothing at all. That seems to be the case this time, too, based on a whole two hours, and, of course, the lucidity of this email. You be the judge.

So, that leaves us with more food porn! (Well, all right, here’s some physical stuff; otherwise, that bloody nose–I had a bloody nose off and on for two weeks during the last three week session–hasn’t shown up this time, the body aches are slightly greater but nothing bad, energy level is hard to judge given that I hosted Christmas dinner and that could take it out of anyone, hair is gone from most of my body, all my clothes still fit me, and I’ve been taking moderate paced walks a few times a week. That’s it.) New Year’s Day was spent at Carol’s, where she may have gone out of the pro catering business, but you couldn’t tell it, what with the chicken enchiladas, and veggie focaccia sandwiches, and the sausage sauteed with onions and peppers, and Grammy’s chocolate mousse cake and the fluffy English trifle and about six more desserts I didn’t get to try. For Christmas, to help stimulate the New Orleans economy, Robin sent various presents of NOLA food items; to Chuck and Wes a turporken–that’s a chicken wrapped with pork stuffed in a turkey, with cornbread jalepeno stuffing–and us a half lemon/half chocolate doborge cake (a Creole by way of Austrian Hungary specialty; seven layers with frosting between each and ganache frosting over the whole), and Nettie and Dave some crawfish Monica (a Jazz Fest staple, corkscrew pasta with crawfish tails topped with a creamy spicy sauce), enough food for a small country, or, in our case, a few of us. Throw in some Veuve Cliquot Le Grande Dame champagne and we toasted the new year in grand and fatty style.

I was going to try to make a sign-off joke about how “On the whole, I’d rather be in Albania,” which is where Steve and I would have been today, were it not for Dr. Rain On Our Parade. But as both Rick and Steve have reminded me, lower is better than higher, and higher is where those markers would have gone if Dr. W. hadn’t been on top of things. Also, they don’t have turporken in Albania.

On the low down,