As a Jewish person (by choice, by conversion, the hard way, over a year, in NYC) I feel connected to the white haired, angry yet helpful G-d of the Old Testament.
As a person who was raised in the Presbyterian church, I do also love me some Jesus. (And a good old-fashioned Protestant hymn.)
As a dyed in the wool, former- Dead-following, ecstatic dancing, sage burning hippie, I feel connected to the earth and the stars and the turning of the wheel. I believe in magic and fairies and elemental forces.
I know to some people, these things are mutually exclusive, but this is just my way. I know there is something bigger than us.
And while I might not always know what to call it, I do talk to it every day.
In times of trouble or doubt, I ask for direction and most importantly, I ask for my answers to be delivered in ways that I can easily understand. Then I go and do mountains of research and tap every human resource possible; all the while looking and watching and listening for signs.
And I always get them.
Taking time off chemo to undergo that pesky brain radiation had the expected result. My disease has advanced. Again, I landed in the hospital and now I am two steps back. On oxygen again, weak, behind the eight ball. Now the question I faced was this: would my current treatment still be effective, or had the time off given the cancer an edge? If so, what would my next treatment be and would it even work? I had just sent off a fresh biopsy to Paradigm for analysis and the results were disappointing. The sample taken was too small, there was nothing to report.
That left me in a tricky spot. Should I just go for the next thing and hope for the best? This would mean I could never go back to my old treatment regimen and would never know if I could have gotten more mileage from it. On the other hand, I could give my old protocol another week to see if it would finally kick back into gear— but in doing so, would risk further advancement of my disease in the case it was really tapped out.
So, I asked. “Help me out here. Show me in ways I can understand.”
When I woke up, this was the first thing in my inbox:
Okay. I guess I can see how a decision making app created to help a person select a vacation destination or a new expensive camera might also aid a chick in pursuing various chemo options. I download the thing, run the numbers and sticking with the current treatment comes out ahead. Barely.
I send an email to my favorite witch, Paige Zaferiou. I ask her to throw some cards on my behalf. Here, in part, is what she reports:
The short-term outcome of staying the course is the Daughter of Swords. This indicates a potential need for study, schooling, learning of some kind. . . This card can also indicate that a message is coming to you, and it will contain important information you do not yet possess . . . Finally, the card I pulled to determine whether you should truly stay the course is the 10 of Cups. That is the card of YES, of happiness, and wishes come true. . .
Okay. If I’m smelling what she’s stepping in, I keep going with the old stuff, but keep an eye out for some new info. Mmm hmmm . . .
Lastly, I hit up my favorite random bible quote generator and here’s what it kicks out:
Old Testament, natch. I see you, YHVH. (But also, Christians sometimes refer to the Book of Isaiah as “The Fifth Gospel”, so I see you, too, Jesus!) I take this one to mean I should listen to my gut. Which I do. I tell my oncologist I want to give the old stuff one more chance. Just to be sure.
Fast forward to yesterday’s chemo.
I am focused, determined to make the most of this. I go alone and I don’t even read. I rest quietly, imagining the great General Patton standing in front of an ginormous American flag, like the opening scene of the movie “Patton.”
Just like in the movie, he yells,
“I don’t want any messages saying ‘I’m holding my position.’ We’re not holding a goddamned thing. We’re advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding anything except the enemy’s balls. We’re going to hold him by his balls and we’re going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We’re going to go through the enemy like shit through a tinhorn.”
I don’t know what a tinhorn is, but in my mind I see a tiny Patton step off the edge of the stage and into my IV tube. As he gets sucked in, another mini general takes his place and does the same. They march into my bloodstream. Kicking cancer’s ass.
Wait. Something is wrong. The back of my head is on fire? I sit up, confused. Itchy. A nurse walks past my door, looks my way, does a double-take, reels back in. I look at my arm, hand, see my veins bulging like snakes. Suddenly, there are six nurses in my room. There is a great deal of rushing around. Someone squirts a huge dose of Benadryl into my line after the generals. I fall over sideways, like a bear shot with a tranquilizer dart. “You could have warned me” I say.
What I didn’t know, is that on or around the sixth dose of Paclitaxel, some patients suddenly display an allergic reaction. For those that do, this signals the end of this course of treatment.
Aha! The missing information!
Nope. There’s something else. Today, from my oncologist:
We looked back at the genomic analysis from early 2014 and it highlighted that TOPO2A is expressed in the cancer cells, which could mean that this is one of the drivers of the cancer. Inhibition of this enzyme could therefore be an effective strategy. Liposomal doxorubicin would be the best drug with which to pursue this.
Now THAT is what I call news I can use. I start my new treatment next Thursday. I am happy I did what I did. I may have lost another week but I know now, with certainty that the treatment had done all it could. I never have to say, “I wonder if . . .”
I am confident the new stuff will do some good for a good long time.
I am grateful to whatever force it is that guides us if only we ask. And listen. And if you haven’t seen it, “Patton” is a really good movie.