Friday, May 30, 2008

Adventures in an Elephant

Yesterday was not nearly as awful as the day before.

I woke up in better spirits, to begin with. IM’ed with a friend, as we’ve often been doing in the early mornings, and made plans to go to the Thursday healing Eucharist at her church (which I ended up not doing). Played around online for longer than I should have. Got up, got dressed, had breakfast.

Went over to the admin building to find out what I needed to keep my health coverage. (Linda, if you’re checking this, you were right.) The person in charge of these things is a friend. She was explaining to me: you can do this; you can do that; you can do COBRA (which God knows I can’t pay for), and I was getting more and more stressed—as all I’d needed was her first sentence. (“You have Kaiser, you need six credits.”) She must have sensed something was wrong; she asked if I was having a good day.

Uh, no. And I felt like I kind of went off on her a little. I probably need to go apologize, later. She means well, absolutely; we were just working at different paces, yesterday.

Got talking with someone who works for the School for Deacons (which was why I didn’t go to church). She approached me, already knowing where I was. Told me about her own health scare, and we talked about listening to our bodies. She has a gentle, healing presence that’s really good for me right now. I left that conversation feeling less afraid of statistics, and more trusting in my own body’s wisdom.

Went home and set myself to organizing/packing my bedroom. My next-door neighbor had given me four bags of clothes back in February, right about the time I got the flu. I’d never gone through them. I finally did.

There were two pairs of capri pants that I really like, that I can’t close right now. But I know they’ll fit me later in the summer, because I’m not going to want to eat. (Aside from the expected flulike symptoms, one of the possible side effects of interferon is anorexia.) I’m not going to starve myself—I’ve never been much of a dieter—but I know that for the most intense phase of this, at least, all I’ll probably want is crackers.

Damn curious weight-loss plan. (Yes, I know enough to keep myself fed, and to keep my electrolytes up.)

I posted the prayer call for Max and L, and got some really nice e-mails from friends of all of us. Thank you.

Went to coffee with a friend. Socializing is a different deal right now. She was her usual self; I knew I was really hard to pull out of me. I tried, but it took me awhile to connect with her, or to easily let her connect with me.

We have barbecues in the courtyard on Thursdays in the summer, so I went. This was the only one I’ll be able to go to; though I have permission to be here through next Friday, I won’t be. It was good to catch up with friends. Someone asked me a question, and I ended up educating my table about melanoma. They were really thankful to me for talking.

Guys, that’s what this blog’s been about for a month. I may not be able to answer if you ask me how I am, but I can talk about what’s happened to me. And I really, really appreciate you being there for me.

I came upstairs, answered some e-mails, got chatting over e-mail with Padre Mickey for awhile. Two of my friends are going to do the Panama Project. He wanted to help them have a good experience.

I love summer evenings. Even in CA, it’s light late. I walked down to Elephant Pharmacy in almost full daylight, and back up the hill as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful walk; the colors were really out, in the flowers. The jasmine was heavy; I love that smell.

I needed some vitamin E cream for my scar, and sunblock I can wear every day (forever, now). I asked someone in the skin-care section, what she’d recommend. She was really helpful. She told me what she’s heard of that works, and what mainstream drugstores carry. And she told me about when she was little, how her mom used to break open a vit E capsule to rub on her sunburns.

She told me her own family history; her mom had a melanoma removed from her back. I told her what I think I’m going to be saying to everybody, forever: GET CHECKED. My oncologist assumed that I have a genetic predilection to this, and I don’t: skin cancer is nowhere in my family history. (My grandfather died at age 77 of a heart attack, in 1993. He had some things on his head that he was in the process of checking, if I remember right. Still, I’m a good deal younger than that.) My genetic risks are fair Northern European skin, and lots of moles. That was enough.

We talked for awhile, and she took me to the herbalist a few rows down, and we talked too. I didn’t really want to rub oil all over me; I hate the feel of that. So she walked me back to skin care, and I picked up some vitamin E cream. That was what I’d originally been seeking; the conversations were gifts. I asked her where sunblock was; she showed me, and left me to my own choosing.

I was muttering to myself, rather loudly, about prices. Another shopper came by, and we got talking. I told her why I was looking: I just had a melanoma removed; need something I can wear all the time. We got talking, I don’t know how, about health insurance. I told her, I’m at the GTU; we’re required to carry it, otherwise I wouldn’t have known. She hadn’t had that requirement, in her own grad program. I got to tell her what I keep saying, over and over: school has been wonderful.

And they are so wonderful, because I let them be. I didn’t shut my faculty out, as I had done in the past (with laughably minor issues, in perspective). I told them what was up, because there was no getting out of it. They were only too happy—and too ready—to support me. They’ve had my back all through this, and I don’t know what I’d have done without them.

They’ve given me so many gifts: trust, time, their own humanity, talking. My history as an inconsistent student never played into their response to me. They’ve been concerned for me as a person, and they’ve supported me completely through this. I can’t thank them enough.

The other shopper went on her way, and came back to tell me there was a sale on hats. I looked at them, but I already have a perfectly good one. I paid for my stuff, and left.

I walked back up the hill, past the Franciscan brothers (friends of school, and of me). I thought about joining them for Compline, but I was a few minutes late, and I really wanted to be home. So I sang out loud with my iPod, and noticed the flowers, instead. I put the goo on my scar when I got home, and my neck felt so much better.

I don’t care how visible it is, or isn’t. We all have scars, on our skin or on the inside. I wouldn’t be human, or be able to minister to other humans, if I didn’t. But I feel that stiffness every time I turn my head. I’m not going to be allowed to forget.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Kirstin, I have not been here for a few days. I'm trying to cut back on my time on the computer. I'm sorry to hear of the reclassification of your tumor which ups your odds of a recurrence.

What can I do? Continue to pray. I know that. Anything else? I pray your insurance snags get untangled. That's something we should not have to be concerned about when we get sick. That is a scandalous abomination that must be fixed.

Love and prayers continue to flow your way.

susan s. said...

Kirstin, I am sorry to learn about the reclassification of your tumor.

Now I will preach.... I know you said all these things in this post, but please, do not think that vitamin E is going to prevent melanomas, or that applying vitamin E to sunburns is going to heal possible melanomas. Sun block is the one thing that is going to prevent uv rays from getting into your skin. Well that, and a broad brimmed hat and long sleeve shirts. Remember that cloudy days are just as dangerous as sunny ones, usually more so because folks forget about uv rays coming thru the clouds. Always protect your head and ears and arms, etc. with clothing. Cotton would be best. Yes, I know that can get hot, but you must protect yourself. Of course the best way is to not go outside, but I know that is not going to happen! :-)

Love you!

Kirstin said...

Mimi, praying is the most important thing you can do from a distance. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know. Thanks for asking!

Susan dear, I appreciate your loving me enough to preach at me--but the vit E is for the scar from the lymph node biopsy. I know it's not the same as sunblock! I have lots of that too.

Love you back!

Debbie of Boise said...

This comment is for our dear friend Kristin and anyone else reading this blog. I have Lupus - diagnosed 1985. I have to be careful in the sun or else at best I get big red rash on my face that looks weird and itches or I go into a flare. There are three things that help me deal with the sun:

1. Broad brim hat - I think I'm known for my broad brim hats

2. Good UV blocking sunglasses

3. Good sunscreen I can wear all the time. -
The best I've found, that I can wear without knowing I'm wearing it and it doesn't have a fragrance is
Olay Complete, sensitive skin.
It is not greasy, quickly absorbed, doesn't smell. I've used it for years. It is SPF 15, but most experts say anything more than 15 really does not make that much difference.

If I'm going to be in the sun with short sleeves on, I wear SPF 30 sweatproof stuff. I have a couple of very light long sleeve shirts made especially for sun protection in hot weather. I have very light weight pants I wear for hot weather. I love the pants that have zipper legs and can be turned into shorts.

Kristin, you are not condemned to wear long sleeves all the time. I haven't though I am careful. A broad brim hat - well, welcome to the broad brim club. I've found facial skin is the most sensitive to the sun.

Love your blog. I'm going to miss you this summer. When do you leave?

susan s. said...

Well, Sweetie, I have bad reactions to what people tell people in drug stores about what they should be doing! ;-) so you know that I who am the least preachy of all(hah!) and don't know all things(another hah!) was really ranting at the person with all the advice. If I followed all the advice I had received from perfect strangers, I would be on the medical marijuana even today. Hmmmmm....maybe I should have listened?