Life at 810 A Street with Kirby and Cancer

by Judith M. Capen

The thing about being sick like this is that every day can be different from the one before, or following. One of the unhelpful things the doctors and nurses keep saying is, “Everyone is different.”

While unhelpful, the unpredictability of this illness is a fact.

Most of us have experiences with being sick or recovering from surgery. As the data-driven people in our house like to say: there’s a nice curve to it. Downward as the flu develops, scratchy throat, to ache-y, fever, hit by a truck to a nadir. Then steady progress upward, feeling a little better every day.

We are denied those nice curves with this illness. There doesn’t seem to be much pattern.

(Although, thank G-d, since the first chemo we have seen overall improvement: less pain, less nausea, more strength…)

But even as we celebrate all the good hours, days, times, we’ll have a bad day, for no apparent reason.

Like today: Saturday, November 26.

She said in the morning she just didn’t feel well. Considering that she has been infused with toxic chemicals three times now; that she has cancer; that she had surgery three months ago; that she spent 25 days in the hospital in awful pain and vomiting; that she has pulmonary embolisms; and is on substantial amounts of powerful meds daily, it’s no wonder. But strong Kirby has adapted to this not-at-all-normal. She even did a little dance the other day celebrating something or another…

So, when she says she just doesn’t feel well, it’s a pretty bad sign. The pain was worse, then she threw up. She had a BAD headache. We called the on-call doc line and were told she couldn’t take the miracle headache med: Extra Strength Excedrin. Duh: she has Oxycodone she can take as needed. And, if it didn’t go away, hie (Hie: to go quickly; hasten. From Middle English) ourselves to the Emergency Room. (Headache is new. Emergency room? A clot finding its way to her brain? Or bleeding from the blood thinner? CANCER finding its way there? Oy vey.)

So, she took more Oxycodone and anti-nausea med, a nap and felt well enough to eat some blue berries (and ice cream), climb the stairs, and work at her jewelry work station for a bit. Then the blueberries came up; and pain was  back. Oxycodone to the rescue for a while longer then she said she didn’t feel good.

To bed at 6 pm, sleeping until 10:30 pm. Roused for the 10-11 pm round of meds, smiled sweetly, and ate a four course meal: Saturday night pizza dropped off by friends, green food from another friend, a salad made with love and artistry by her father, and the last piece of Mississippi Mud pie. All tiny portions but nicely balanced, we thought.

Havdalah and asleep again by midnight.

Total awake time today maybe five hours.

Plans to go the market to look at a particular vendor’s silver jewelry with a friend cancelled. Only a little time with Mark before he goes back to Switzerland on Monday.

Kirby said, “Cancer sucks. Today SHOULD have been a good day. Nice weather. Toward the end of the chemo cycle so it SEEMS like energy should at best. Instead, this.”

So: the day. Hopes and plans dashed. Alarums re Emergency Room: if necessary, who will take her? Is the Emergency Room bag packed? Owen put gas in the Prius, running low, just in case.

But as of 12:36 am, Sunday morning, magical thinking is back in place. She’s sleeping but it’s night so she should. She smiled at Robert’s antics over stage 3 jeans. Another day survived.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Becca
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 16:26:58

    *hugs.* Robert’s update was timely as I am working on statistics homework. Sending thoughts, love and prayers that Kirby’s schedule and recovery will soon do the “nice curve upwards!.” And amen for those mini victory dances! -Becca


    • robert
      Dec 04, 2011 @ 12:50:53

      this post was composed by Judith and Edited by Kirby


      • Nanette
        Dec 06, 2011 @ 01:53:35

        Our wish for you to be better and better each day. We loved our visit and time with you. Kirby, your smile is a precious gift to us. love, m, n, and mostly A!

  2. Eva Jacob
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 16:49:48

    In my own magical thinking, I am holding all your hands on the bad days, looking ahead to more and more good ones! Hugs, prayers, and cheers!



  3. Gail Benjamin
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 14:57:29

    I can think of nothing helpful to say, but we do like getting even news like this. Hang in there, all of you, as though there were anything else you could do.

    love to all of you. Gail
    (Dave is in San Antonio, delivering a semi full of meat)


  4. Giang Tran
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 17:46:59

    My dear Kirby, I’m holding prayers in my heart for you. By the way, my little sister asked about her sister Kirby this morning 🙂 Please remember you still owe us a visit in Vietnam.



  5. Anna Liebowitz
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 19:59:55

    Hey Kirby,

    I’ve been thinking of you a lot. I wanted to come visit when I was home for Thanksgiving, but everyone came down with variations on a cold, which I figured was the last thing you needed. I’m sorry I missed you though. You’re in my thoughts (redundant but true).



  6. judi van gorder
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 22:31:11

    Kirby, thinking of you all the time. Hope you are feeling better. Our love and prayers go out to you.


  7. Roberta Meizlik
    Dec 18, 2011 @ 17:23:37

    Dear Kirby,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. I wish you a Happy Holiday Season.
    Cousin Roberta


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