Thursday, December 24, 2009
Cycle 5, Day 9: Christmas Eve canyon walk
This is a pretty different Christmas for us. For the second year running, Joe and I are not exchanging presents. This is financial in origin, but really, this year, we're so grateful for each other that no other gift matters.
Joe had a rough night last night. Yesterday he started having the lower back pain that is a side effect of a shot that he self-administers the day after chemo to boost his white cell production. This side effect -- sharp pain in his sacrum and femurs, where white cells are produced -- proves that the drug is working, but is excruciating. The first time this happened a couple of cycles ago, we had no idea what was going on, and Joe ended up spending the night in the hospital. It took them 4 hours in the ER and dilaudid, morphine, phentanyl and ativan to knock the pain out. This time, we were ready, so started Joe on vicodin yesterday afternoon. This worked, but every few hours, the pain was back, and we were awake, trying to get him comfortable, out of agony and back to sleep.
We slept in this morning (until 8, which believe me, is late for us), made the lasagne for Christmas Eve dinner, then headed into the woods in Marinwood with Jasper for a little amble. The last time we walked out at Blackstone Canyon, Joe took us up some ridiculous deer-track, straight uphill, breaking trail, sliding down steep slopes in his usual style. What a change today. Joe's red blood cell count is so low that it was pretty slow-going. We turned around long before we would have normally. Joe was really not fine, not fully recovered, and felt each step deep in his poor bones. But we did it anyway, shared the sweetness of that lush, shady canyon, looking forward to the day when we will once more crash with abandon up and down the hills.
Joe now sleeps sweetly on the couch, exhausted by last night and by the last 13 weeks of chemo. I keep watch, treasuring every second of this time together, this Christmas like no other.