on memory and other themes

it’s been a while.  i’ve been busy, and, more to the point, uninspired.  after my diagnosis at UCLA, we went to san francisco and saw the head of the neurosurgery program at UCSF.  he basically concurred with everything the UCLA docs said.  he had a slightly different way of presenting the information, which was helpful, just in allowing me to start processing things a little more.  i was ultimately given two choices:  do nothing (the wait-and-watch approach, they call it) or begin chemo.  there didn’t seem to be many advantages to waiting and watching, so i started chemo in november, despite a strong, lifelong dislike for putting poisonous and destructive substances in my body — and a sense that putting my body through two years of extreme toxicity could leave me in the same basic condition as i am now.  (they’re hoping to hold the progress of the tumor at bay, but don’t seem to be particularly hopeful that they’ll achieve significant shrinkage; certainly not remission.)

two good years are two good years, though.  and if those two years of treatment buy me even five or 10 more years without treatment, then we’ll really be getting somewhere.  as cheryl, my cool-headed, perceptive, kind, philosophical social worker reminds me, these are/will be best years i have, so i ought to take the best advantage of them that i can.  (i bragged to my PT that i took stairs instead of an elevator or ramp at every opportunity when I was at UCLA today, despite the difficulty.  carpe stairs, they say.)

on a somewhat tangential note, but still circuitously related to chemo, i’ve been telling everyone who will listen recently about the perils of our society’s collective memory issues in the wake of the recent economic crisis.  we haven’t even begun the process of economic recovery, and, yet, our collective memory seems to have failed such that the american people can’t get behind the idea of erecting and enforcing robust regulatory measures to guard against future schemes by money-hungry thugs in suits to rob us all blind.  not to mention that we have somehow been deluded by wall street, the uber-rich (and now the complacent and spineless congress and white house!) into thinking the the laws and tax codes that are good for them, are good for us.  not so, batman.  unless we make a concerted effort, both personally, and collectively, to remember the bad times, we’ll be right back in the hole before we’ve even climbed out.

which brings me to lord byron:  It is singular how soon we lose the impression of what ceases to be constantly before us.  A year impairs, a luster obliterates.  There is little distinct left without an effort of memory, then indeed the lights are rekindled for a moment — but who can be sure that the Imagination is not the torch-bearer?

so, as i’ve pondered themes of memory over the past several days, i’ve come to recognize that the very human condition i’ve been bemoaning is the one that could, if anything, dull the luster of the metallic taste and the nausea brought on by the chemo — and allow me the needed respite each month to forget, reset, and do it all again next time.  we’ll see if that is, indeed, the case, or if my memory/imagination will be vivid enough to recall the horrors and prevent me from moving forward for as long as the oncology team would like.  walker and my mom told me that some of the patients they heard about in the caregivers support group had to stop after 12 or 14 or 16 months because the sickness and the dread became too compounded to overcome.  byron does allow a year for the obliteration of luster.  21 days might not cut it.  but i’m up for the challenge.