Whew - what a week.

This has been one very full and busy week.  On Monday, our granddaughter Eliza had brain surgery at Duke Children's Hospital in Durham.  All indications are that the surgery was very successful, although it may take several months before the long term results are more apparent and more readily evaluated.  We leave those healing adjustments to the Lord, and rejoice in the way her body is healing from the surgery itself.  The doctors released her from the hospital ahead of schedule "because she is doing remarkably well, when compared to most post-op neuro kids".  She and her family will be staying with us here in North Carolina, at least through her followup visit next Wednesday, to minimize the travel time back and forth to Duke (1 1/2 hours from our home versus 4 hours from her home in South Carolina).

This week was also my week to return to Duke for the start of Cycle 4 of my chemotherapy.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent visiting with Dr. Beaven, getting the inescapable round of blood tests, and spending far too much time with the staff in the treatment center.  The initial phase of each cycle, as specified in the clinical trial protocol, is spread over three days and involves about 8 hours of being tethered to a very impersonal and disinterested IV pump.  Fortunately, the amazing nurses provide a constant stream of TLC as they treat each patient as if they were part of their immediate family.  Over those three days I receive about 2 liters of drugs, none of which was formulated with my comfort and short term sensibility in mind.  Five days of high dose Prednisone tablets, which cause severe insomnia, and a Neulasta shot to boost my white blood cell count, and the beginning of Cycle 4 is complete.  A break of about 10 days will allow me some recovery time, before starting into the second half of the treatment routine.

With Eliza's surgery on Monday, we have made 4 round trips to Duke, which totalled about 12 hours of driving time.  Thank God for National Public Radio.   Obviously, the main focus of our attention was on Eliza and her condition and status.  Fortunately the Cancer Center and the Children's Hospital are only about a 10 minute walk apart.  So when I wasn't receiving treatments, we were with Eliza and her parents, trying to provide whatever support and assistance we could, yet not wanting to get in the way.  We were able to chase mom and dad away a few times to have some dinner, allow them a little break, and some much needed time together.

Normally, the first week of a new cycle is draining, and I feel a sort of heaviness, both physically and emotionally.  It would seem that the added stress and anxiety, associated with Eliza's surgery, would have made things even more taxing.  But in reality, it seems to have had just the opposite effect.  Spending 3 days in a cancer treatment center, being infused with a couple of quarts of toxic chemicals, does tend to make your thoughts focus on yourself and what is going on in your body.  I believe that is a perfectly normal reaction.  But this past week my focus, and prayers, were on someone else.  My time spent hooked to that IV pump was spent thinking about how someone else was doing, and not about my own situation.  So at the end of what is typically my hardest time, I feel better than ever before.  And I believe that is very strong evidence of the role that the mind plays in how we react to the effects of our cancer treatments.  We can't be totally oblivious to what is happening to our physical being, but we also can not allow it to be our sole focus.  Maintaining some reasonable level of mental balance is critical to our longer term well being.

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