Hope is necessary in every condition — Samuel Johnson
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul — Emily Dickinson
Dear friends and readers,
I’m in a not uncommon position with me of having relied on a very faulty crystal ball this past Wednesday. I defend myself (once again) to myself by saying that I focused on the procedure not the diagnosis because I wanted my guess that the Admiral had a non-serious condition to be validated. That’s not what happened — it’s serious — though to be sure he slept for a longer time than most (so the procedure was not easy for him), and after I saw several people who had come in before us, go in, have their procedures and then be wheeled out, my anxiety reached that pitch-state that I began asking the man at the desk how my husband was doing, when I would hear what was happening, could not someone come and tell me something. The man finally said the doctor was letting him sleep and when he was fully awake, the doctor would speak to both of us.
After what we were told, and what we read on the Internet and surmised over the next day and one half, I decided not to write again until we had more information, and while what we learned to day cannot be called happy news, we have some grounds for hope. The admiral has a cancer in his esophagus caught in an apparently early enough stage to be susceptible of remission and curing. It is not large (whatever that means) and has not spread beyond a point or place in his esophagus which allows for surgery that has a low death rate. (Horrible word I know.) After a CT-scan, biopsy, xrays, endoscopy, colonoscopy (I think I’ve covered all that was done since Wednesday), everything else in his body was declared normal, including the important lymph nodes at the top of his stomach (and elsewhere).
So we have been assigned a team of four doctors, oncologist, radiologist, thoracic surgeon (a specialist outside Kaiser) and gastroenterologist, and they will decide whether the Admiral will have surgery first and then chemotherapy and radiation or vice versa, what kind, how deep. We should have a plan by Tuesday. We will proceed from there and as things come up and develop, deal with them as best we can.
I leave it to the interested or concerned reader to find the websites and essays on the public Internet (including much-praised hospital websites) and JStor and elsewhere to read all particulars, with this warning: each case is individual. We read much that was pessimistic, and the Admiral has gotten a much richer vocabulary and grasp of what’s involved than I have been able to take in. We are neither of us inclined to indulge in euphemisms and spare my reader most of our sudden stark dialogues. (Arguing over what options to choose: “Me: We are talking about your death. He: No, it’s how and why I die.”) Let me rather emphasize the Admiral has recovered something of his sense of humor and today was remembering how when a couple of years ago now a doctor proposed as an operation to eliminate his diverticulosis (little pouches that get infected and then hurt like hell) to cut out a part of his lower intestines, and suture what was left back together, and the Admiral objected that the upper part was so much wider than the lower; the doctor replied, “oh don’t worry, we can staple anything together.”
Friends have been very kind, very supportive and I am so grateful for all the well-meant advice. I truly thank all who have written me and expressed sympathy. Caroline has enlisted the aid of someone who knows about where to go for help (Cancer centers), and has plans like buying a blender, making easily digestible food when needed; coming over and helping to cheer us; one of my friends proposed a juicer. Yvette has been her sensible self, as ever showing an ability to understand for real what she reads and is told and she and I have now cooked several meals for the three of us. During this time, she & I went to Kaiser for an eye-examination, and then (using the Internet 39$ variety of glasses), she was able to pick her first pair of glasses from an wide choice to try to stop the headaches she’s been having and she likes them. They are for all the time, have brownish rims, nice size ovals which flatter her; they make her look more intellectual, older slightly. I’ve certainly gotten more practice driving my new Prius C, and its GPS, both of which now will form a mainstay of our getting about. It’s super-duper on gas: scarcely believable how rarely I’ve had to refill it thus far.
I have actually purchased voice-mail for our land-line phone. The first time ever. I want the doctors to be able to reach us.
It’s May so we have the windows open and there is much in the form of birds’ and other animals and insects’ noise and song to arouse the pussycats. Back and forth they run. Clary has a favorite spot in my room from which she can see two nests of birds, squirrels scampering, and she just yips and yips, twitches her tail, writhes — life at least is not dull. Ian rests a lot and reserves his energy for wary watching, bouts of affection with us, and wresting with and licking her — and eating and drinking. He has his 3 strings which he carries about in his mouth and sits on to keep them to himself. When he can open one, he hides in the back of drawers. Clary defers to him — he gets to eat and drink first. But if he so much as takes any of her toys, or she just doesn’t feel like playing, however sweet she usually is to us, she snarls, lets out high pitched protests, and, when roused beyond patience, growls fiercely, letting him know his place in the scheme of things.
I’m on my sixth Trollope novel! for this year. In the last 6-7 weeks I’ve reread four (He Knew He Was Right alternating with The Way We Live Now, Framley Parsonage, The American Senator); if you count Castle Richmond which I read just after Christmas with two friends on Trollope19thCStudies and now half-way through Phineas Redux (a very fat one), that’s a lot of Trollope. And he stands up to rereading: my respect for him grows while (I admit) I see his flaws again, maybe more sharply because no longer blurred by familiarity. Soon I mean to start one of the two papers I plan to write.
I’ve not neglected to begin rewatching the first season of Upstairs/Downstairs, read on in the scripts of Season One of Downton Abbey and mean to add some Palliser movies this week.
Right now the Admiral’s back is still hurting him. X-rays have suggested that it’s “just” over-strained muscles from the long drive to and from Cleveland but it was so pretty today we almost went for a walk. Tomorrow morning we intend to go to Farmer’s Market.
So we carry on.