Thursday, February 08, 2007

Musings, Mary Oliver, and Chemo Brain

Patty tells me that a lot of folks have logged on today for 20 seconds or so, to see if I've made a new post, so it must be time for one. Thanks to all of you who responded to my last post; I knew that some of you were reading, and some of you are "new, online friends," and it's good to hear your voice (as it were, on the web).

I'm done traveling to Boston for this week, and I'm so relieved about that. We're having a prolonged cold spell - don't think the temperature has risen to freezing all week - and getting dressed and walking outside takes a lot of time, effort and focus! And I only have so much focus to give!

I haven't had energy to grade papers all week, so I'm way behind (and I apologized to all of my classes about it this week). Grading is number one on my list of things to do this weekend. I got home about an hour ago, and Patty made me poached eggs (my stomach was rocky today), and a little later, I was looking for the tote bag with papers to grade, and convinced myself I'd left them on the commuter train. I was so mad at myself! A few minutes later I wandered in by my favorite chair, to find the bag sitting there, waiting for me. In half an hour, I had completely forgotten I'd brought the bag in and set it down. Chemo brain!

One more day of Xeloda in this cycle, and then I have a week off. Aside from fatigue and a sometimes rocky stomach, I haven't had any real side effects. And I'm grateful for that . . . I've read lots of horror stories about tough times folks have had with the same chemo regimen I'm on.

I've been too tired to grade papers on the train, as I typically do, so I've listened to a lot of the songs, poems, and readings on my iPod (Christmas present!) The other day I heard a poem by my favorite contemporary poet, Mary Oliver. Much of her poetry is grounded in her observations of the natural world in a poignant, unique way. This poem is bittersweet and beautiful and evocative, so I'll share the last few stanzas here. Entitled "Peonies," the poem begins by describing, in detail, the sight of peonies opening in the spring from tight green buds to fragrant, colorful flowers. She concludes:

"...Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?"

from her book New and Selected Poems, Vol. One

Do you love this world? I do, and that line has stayed with me all week.


Anonymous said...

Ah, chemo brain, it really does exist and is totally baffling. I always had a very good memory until the chemo. Now my short term memory is still poor 3 and one half years after treatment. It'll be something else to laugh about. That's what I've learned to do.


Elbow said...

Hi Lynne-
Glad to hear you sound like yourself! My Mom started chemo today, and she and I are both looking to you for inspiration! Keep kicking that booty!
Liana :)

Anonymous said...


Chemo brain and fatigue, I remember it well. It has been 9 months since chemo and blood work and scans look good. We really can kick gallbladder cancer in the butt.
Lynn from BC

Anonymous said...

hi lynne- lexie had chemo brain today, and i had to tell her teacher to call off her testing that has been going on all week- she was not happy(doesn't want to be any different than anyone else), but hopefully she will be able to get the rest done tomorrow- chemo brain- what a pain in the butt phenomenon !!!!!
love ya- and i was one of the ones looking for a post- it's reassuring to see one at regular intervals- otherwise i think you don't feel very good- no pressure !!!!
love, alice

Beverly Lacey said...

Dear Lynne,
Once again, you have created a post that gives joy, hope, and insight. Yes, I love this world, and share your love of Mary Oliver. I treasure my battered old copy of "New and Selected Poems" that you gave me for Christmas in 1994 when you said, "She speaks to my heart. I hope she speaks to yours as well." She does and so do you, dear friend.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, I just wanted to say I've been thinking a lot about you, Patty, and the kids!! You are in my prayers most assuredly every day. I'm impressed by your site - YOU ARE ONE TOUGH COOKIE!!!
See you Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Lynne....I think of you each day. May the feeling of being held up by so many others who love you settle into your bones and bathe you with the a sense of peace. Love, Jamie

Anonymous said...

I loved the family photo and loved your line of "no pressure" as trying to get 4 kids to all look good in one shot has escaped me. My trick- think COLLAGE (cut & paste)!!!

My thoughts are with you and wish you a wonderful family vacation!!!!

I hope to see you at school soon.

-Susan A.