January 13th, 2009: Chemo is daunting, and every time I go in for another course, I hit a bottom where nausea and fatigue meet. My descent usually starts on the fourth day, and by the fifth day, I am in full misery. In spite of all the anti-nausea medication, I am being given nausea inducing drugs—the chemo—that eclipses all the remedies. So it was this time as well. I had increased my likelihood of eating better food by having Eileen Lemus bring me Italian and Mediterranean dishes from to restaurants in the Haight. And the final day of eating, Tim Patriarca brought me food from Maitri. This was a wonderful change from hospital food until it wasn’t anymore.
I should say that I had a primo view; the North side of the hospital which looks out across the peninsula—great views of the de Young and the Academy of Sciences—and up across the Bay to Marin. Since the weather was uniformly great during my stay, the views were maximum. Because there is so much sky, you feel like you are being taken care of in the air which, in a way, is true.
Rather than start my stay with scans, it was decided to do the PT—chest, abdomen and pelvis—as well as the pelvic MRI on the final day. The PT scans are pretty easy; it’s a large ring of a machine, but it’s thin, maybe three feet, which lessens the feeling of being swallowed up. The MRI however, lasted for almost two hours. I am not claustrophobic, but after the first hour plus, I had to squeeze the emergency bulb just to be taken out for a respite. The MRI is excessively noisy when it is imaging. Sometimes it sounds like a lot of machine guns, but other times, I was able to morph it into something interesting. Yesterday, in the middle of this beast of a machine, I found myself choreographing dance finales to Bollywood musicals. I had seen “Slumdog Millionaire” recently which has an extravagant dance conclusion, so I took off from there and used the MRI drumming to drive my insta-movie: close-ups of people stepping to the MRI rhythm, aerial shots, green scarves waving, fuchsia scarves waving, lemon scarves, small groups, head-on, etc. It helped pass the time.
Gaetano picked my up at the hospital and I have to say, it was an effort to get into my apartment; my fatigue was at its peak. Then, I basically slept for fourteen hours; got up to drink water and take anti-nausea meds, minimal activity. This morning, after a slow start, I realized that I felt well enough to go into work for a bit, pick up my medications and stop at the infusion clinic for a shot that will stimulate my white blood cells. Plus a trip to the store.
When I got home this evening, I lay down to meditate. I gave myself total permission to fall asleep after such a busy day, but no: my imagination was calm and clear. When I went into my healing center, I added a couple of handfuls of white sage from the Taos mesa top to the water in the turquoise tub. A problem with chemo is that the smells are dreadful, they ooze out of the pores, and I wanted to improve my body aroma. While in my light sage brine, I felt big cat energy. Once I had stepped out of my bath and onto the marble mattress where I get healed by whomever, the gates opened to the garden and a truly large tiger came roaring up to my face. There have been other occasions—the cobra, especially—when the healers have initially frightened me even though I know that their intentions are to cause no harm. Still, I carry the imprint of fearing them. This tiger was clearly about transmitting energy that was meaty and bold. At one point, he stood up on his hind legs which requires effort for a tiger. I stood up on my marble slab and my hands connected with his open paws (which were huge). Through my spread fingers and palms the tiger sent me a major surge of life force. To seal the delivery, he or she rubbed the side of his head against my face to mark me, the way that felines mark a territory with the scent glands in the heads. I was blessed by a big critter, and I can still feel the push to live with intensity.