Exquisitely Sensitive

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Can it be? A redness along the bridge of his nose? Mid-sentence (mine) Dave said “My skin feels rough on my nose!”  Get out the eyeglasses. Yes, I see it. Just a few small patches of redness on the bridge, the thinnest skin on his nose. Wow. Really?  I look again. Yep. Like an area of patchy sunburn almost. Anywhere else? Aw, no. My prediction was that it would be at least a week before we could even think about this symptom. Hope in a rash.

Dave did not go to class yesterday. That’s no surprise. Still fatigued and some pain areas, a bit headachy off and on, shaky. He did check in with the oncologist nurse by phone. Yes, his reaction was unusually strong, but that’s a good sign. He told her about the red patches. That’s “exquisitely sensitive” she said. “Precocious.” What a great choice of words! She’d check with Dr. L about his response. Yes, he did get the highest dosage of Tarceva to start. A lower 100 mg dose has been ordered and can be picked up at the pharmacy. (These pills can’t be cut) He can choose to start that now, or keep on the 150 mg dosage. Or, he can stop taking the Tarceva for 5-7 days and let it clear out, then begin the 100 mg. Then, again, the drug seems to be on board so maybe just the lower dose will help him get back on his feet.

Here’s the first real choice on his own care, aside from accepting treatment itself. I’m sure one of many decisions to come. Most of us aren’t trained to figure out chemically the “best” decision. This is emotional, and just downright subjective: his body; his decision.   But I suspect that this is just as much a guess for doctors and nurses as patients. The cancers, the patients, the response; there are so many factors to the art of treatment.

The plan is to keep the momentum and lower the dose. We’ll increase his activity, wakefulness slightly each day toward getting back to teaching on Thursday. Patience is required, however. I hope that’s not too ambitious, but I know he is anxious to get back to his program. Maybe he can attend just half the classes on Thursday. I can drive and pick him us anytime. Driving doesn’t sound like a good idea yet. It’s likely that the recent radiation combined with chemo was what took him for this ride. That’s a good news, bad news story. Regardless, clearly, the Tarceva has found some cells to mess with!

* * *

Leah was over last night for our Monday night dinner and TV. OK, so the final season show on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that set me off yesterday had a bit more substance to the drama. Drama nonetheless; some of it was simply over-the-top reaction.

I’ve had a convergence of seemingly unrelated events bring me insight this morning:

  • Conversation with Leah about my blog posts last night, particularly on hospice and funeral planning and my desire to make this an open process with her and the entire family. Understandably, she is not actively considering this in respect to her Dad.
  • A  Facebook page quote I posted in which the author responded how strange it seemed to read the quote “out of context.”
  • How catching five minutes of the Housewives prompted my sense of judgment on what their entire argumentative exchange had been. Ironically, their argument was exacerbated by the same type of filter I used on them. Aka, each was carrying baggage of those relationships unrelated to the subject at hand resulting in lack of understanding and communication.
  • Journaling itself means that each day is a unique picture, a snapshot of the present. What may seem negative and dire is relative to the day, week, or months of illness and health.

What is clear this morning in these examples is that we are all in a very different headspace for the same illness. We have our own context at very different rates of delivery. This is the “You can’t really understand what I’m going through” moment. Our person to person relationship, our backgrounds, our roles in the illness all play into our individual journey.

Maybe this doesn’t sound so “aha” or profound. On one level acknowledging our differences is a logical observation.  But it is the same deep understanding I’ve come to recognize as wisdom and unfolding of life. We want so bad to have someone make the path easier, better. To warn us. To be honest and open. To tell us what to expect. But human experience is the only way to travel. We can’t force a lesson on someone else much less on our schedule. We can’t have the other person ready to receive in our timeline.

So how did these bullet points converge for me to be thinking about how we traverse our paths together, separately? It’s the “out of context” connection. What seems to be our own context is often out of line with another. Watching the Real Housewives I see that they appear to be talking but not communicating.  I am wondering if most of our exchanges in human interactions are out of context to the other person, when so much goes on inside our heads each day. I’m often guilty of starting mid-sentence or mid-thought in conversation.

My philosophical thoughts are hard to articulate. I’ll have to keep trying to explain as I know them. I feel like I get the right answer to the math problem, but I can’t show my work as to how I arrived at the answer. I see that I have intuitively included exercises to help draw out insights for personal context into the SFH workbook. But you have to experience the cathartic journey for yourself. Trust the process.

Trust the process.

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