Saturday, October 1, 2011

first week of treatment

"October takes everything as usual," Eileen Myles writes in her wonderful novel Inferno. Usually I'd place the stress on "usual" in that sentence; this year I want to stress everything. It's been an exhausting and, in some ways, a dispiriting week; rhythmically oddly reminiscent of the German film Das Boot. Long periods of down time where not much is happening, followed by suddenly intense red alerts. Das Boot takes place during World War II, so the red alerts take the form of water pouring into the submarine. In our life, the red alerts all turn on drugs-- needing them and not having them (at least not having the right ones), or having them and Skip reacting badly. It's been a little of both this week-- not having and having-with-reaction.

After days of being left to our own medical devices (one appointment, no treatments) last week, this week has been intense. Monday there was a consultation with the radiation oncologist to see about reducing the carcinoma mass in Skip's spine. Tuesday, Skip went to the hospital to have a port (for chemo treatments) installed. Wednesday was the first chemo treatment. Thursday he had a CT scan to do the radiation treatment "map" and his body was marked (presumably so they can always find the right spot). Friday we dealt with some of the more painful side effects of chemo and the drugs he's taking for pain: constipation and abdominal cramps so severe, all I could think to do (besides running to the drugstore to find yet another med) was to coach him in Lamaze breathing. At one point, I really did think he'd pass out. At another, he asked me to hold his head. Such a thin voice I didn't recognize it as his. By that time I was supporting his whole upper body, so he wouldn't fall. Tamar phoned, wanting to bring soup. "Can't talk," I said. Then she phoned back to see if we needed to go to the hospital. "No."

Finally, the meds worked. He went to the bathroom and then slept the rest of the day. I cleaned up the Milk of Magnesia we had managed to spill all over the floor. Wrote a course description for the class I'm teaching next term-- "Intro to Cultural Studies"-- subtopic, the body, I'm sure-- and pain. Called Tamar back. Made dinner. Read, read, read all night.

Artforum book review (Bookforum) mainly. Joan Didion has written another book about death, Her adopted daughter died shortly after her husband (The Year of Magical Thinking) did, and Blue Nights is about that-- Didion's relationship with Quintana and her response to her daughter's death. Struck by the way the reviewer stressed that Quintana was Didion's adopted daughter. My "son" is really my stepson, the child of Skip's first wife. But if he died, I know how I'd feel it in my own body-- huge dull ache of pain that takes breath and appetite away. The "step" doesn't matter in my feelings about him, just as I don't believe the "adopted" matters in the way adoptive parents feel about their children. But Gary Indiana's review was terrific, "adopted" notwithstanding, and it made me want to read the book. Blue Nights for my own white nights of no sleep.

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