Sometimes it depends on whom you listen to.
Two friends told me not to run, in no uncertain terms. I could be putting my life at risk, and that is not acceptable -- not while there's a Connor involved.
My cardiologist, on the other hand, said, "You can run; just don't push yourself."
"I always push myself," I said sweetly.
"Well then, promise you'll start slowly."
My oncologist said, "You can run, as long as there's no bruising afterward, or pain in your joints."
"The only pain I have is in my weak leg muscles," I said.
So I ran for two minutes, after walking for two minutes. Then I did it again. That was the extent of my running ability in December.
But I did it.
I have received six platelet transfusions in the past eight weeks. The third caused an allergic reaction: hives. Yummy. The next day I was in St. Mary's Hospital emergency room for nearly eleven hours, for two blood transfusions and another platelet transfusion.
Whenever I left the cubicle they'd stowed me in, I had to wear my sandals because of the filth on the floor. A trail of smeared blood led to the bathroom.
My mom visited me for about ten minutes, but had to go pick up my sister. I left voice mails at the houses of five other friends in an attempt to be solution-oriented. No one was home.
But Melissa came over with food from California Pizza Kitchen and the movie Miracle, one of my faves. So it was bearable.
Not one medical expert can explain these low platelets. Even the doctors in Switzerland told Dr. Finn, my oncologist, that they were baffled by my weak counts. It has gotten so bad, Dr. Finn has left a standing order for me at the transfusion center of the UCLA oncology department, so he doesn't have to be bothered when I inevitably land in a chair after my weekly blood tests.
Whom will you listen to?
Marcelo's father, Saul, is a cardiologist. He thinks my very existence is amazing. "You do not fall within the canon of pancreatic cancer" as a progressive disease, he said.
And yet on the way home from vacation with Connor, a flight attendant on the plane was talking to a co-worker with whom I'd just had a conversation about my situation. Standing maybe two feet from me, she retorted to the other woman, "There's no cure for pancreatic cancer; she's going to die. I know from my own family. Poor thing."
Boy, that's pretty final, I thought. Maybe I'll just go ahead and not die, you stupid cow.
Fortunately, I can't be jailed for my internal monologue.
Connor and I went on a trip the first week of this year. Everything that appeared to be concrete was upset; everything that had been suspect came through.
During the five-hour train ride, we figured out how to determine the coldness outside from Celsius, the European measuring system. Multiply by nine, divide by five, add thirty-two.
That was the highlight of our first few days, as we arrived in a foreign city to discover our friends were two days late to meet us, and our baggage had stalled somewhere in New York, almost nine hours away. The weather was -7 degrees out. Celsius.
The place we ended up staying had no telephone, no Internet access and no television.
But this caused Connor and me to interact more than we would have. Of course, he remedied this by holding up his Game Boy in front of his face whenever I ventured close.
And yet, we spent an entire day together, wandering through this new city. I took action, calling the airlines and the airport, finally locating our luggage. My body, although unused to the time change, acclimated immediately.
And I found a doctor -- the only one in the city -- who ran a CBC panel which showed my red blood cells were up, my whites were fine, and my platelets at a reasonable level.
We had a great time, despite several setbacks and total uncertainty for me -- not a seasoned traveler.
I could have listened to the old messages in my head, the ones that told me everything depends on thus-and-such going well, and our vacation would be ruined otherwise. This time I chose to act as though I was in control.
And things fell into place.
I am getting weaker rather than stronger. Venturing to the end of the block causes me to pant, while my heart races. For most of December and January, I lay on the red couch, unable to move.
And yet a whole host of people prayed for me at midnight several weeks ago, or sent energy or whatever positive vibes they could summon. At 12:03 a.m., I felt a disparate peace … it was sort of like that scene from the second X-Men movie, where tiny white figures lit up all over the world, illuminated by a common bond.
I could see the spiritual energy. Oddly, however, in my mind's eye it traveled from God to the lighted fragments, and poured into my soul.
You can work out, my friends; I cannot. Dr. Finn performed a bone marrow biopsy the other day, in order to figure out why my platelets continue to bottom out. He cannot treat this cancer until the other matter is taken care of.
I have chosen to continue plodding this path, though my progress is slower, more labored than it has been. Those people in my life who have not yet given up on me -- they are the ones with whom I surround myself.
This is the month of love and presidents, but oh, my friends, a dead lifeguard saves no one.
Please remember to put yourself atop the list of those you love.
And be careful whom you listen to.