Thursday, August 7, 2014

Guest room

I am now six days away from heading to Duke.  My mom will be arriving at noon on August 13, and then she and I will hop in the car and head out of town.

Six days away.

On Monday I went to Duke and talked with my neurosurgeon and my oncologist.  Both were actually quite encouraging about priority #2, my language:  they said that I'll forget people's names, even if I've met them multiple times.  The radiation that'll happen after the surgery will mess with my short-term memory, and that won't go away.  But both said that this is about it.  My language won't drop to the level of a fifth grader.  I won't even have to do what Eliza was suggesting:  lose all German!  You don't need Shakespeare anymore, so have him cut it out.  What about childhood songs?  Let them go!

I was really relieved about that news.  I'll still be able to speak, to interact, even to write.  I may have to apologize and explain why I've forgotten what someone just said, but I'll figure out a strategy to make that work.  I can explain this disability (and if you have suggestions, have at it.  Share your thoughts).

Having priority #2 addressed didn't eradicate priority #1, though:  being alive for Maybelle.  Of course no one could explain that one completely.  It's a mystery.  

But I got some frightening answers.  My neurologist doesn't seem to have good interpersonal skills, because he gave me a time frame that wasn't worth celebrating.  After that I met with my oncologist and her nurse practitioner, and they were much more encouraging.  The nurse practitioner seemed to be an expert about coaching, telling me all the things about me that contradicted neurosurgeon thoughts.  My oncologist and her team are the ones dealing with all the post-surgery stuff, so they had hopeful thoughts.

Radiation.  New, more aggressive chemo.  An even more aggressive kind after that, if need be.  All kinds of options.  No need to panic yet.

As if I can simply turn off the panic.

There's so little I have control over, of course.  I'm going to have surgery and do what the surgeon says, and then what the oncologist says.  I have instructions, and I'll follow them.  I have no control over this tumor and what it does.

For that reason, I am going a thousand miles an hour in my house and at work:  cleaning and getting rid of things.  Taking huge piles of things to recycling bins.  Talking with all the people who are supporting me at work:  my dean, Human Resources, the new interim director of Women's and Gender Studies, the chair of the WGS Community Advisory Board.  Aligning all the bits and pieces of my portfolio for full professor, like talking with my editor.  Making plans for who'll take care of Maybelle while I'm gone (trust me, this process took days and days and required me calling and emailing dozens of people.  But thanks for a host of amazing friends and babysitters, Maybelle's plans are now set).

The gorgeous guest room.  Come and visit!  You have
a place to sleep!
I'm in control of these things.

I was really excited to have the realization that my guest room was a piece of shit--full of unpacked boxes, random things that didn't fit into storage, a stapler, clothing that needed to go to other families.  And since several people are moving in in coming months, I decided to make that guest room not only functional but beautiful.  A comfortable, cleared out space to stay, so that when you arrive at my house, you celebrate how comfortable it'll be.  And how attractive.

That's the sort of thing I'm doing right now.  I have control over all of this.  Very good distractions.  While I wait.


  1. xoxo I'm thinking of you with a whole lot of love, Alison

  2. The first thing I thought was "f**k what the neurosurgeon says." While they're indispensable as far as cutting and removing, they are NOT good diagnosticians, and we all know what the interpersonal skills are. That being said, my heart aches for you and I so wish that I lived closer. I'd love to come and take care of Maybelle while you're convalescing even for a couple of hours! I will be lighting a candle for you and dancing naked in the southern California rain. Definitely the first and just kidding on the second. It might sound weird, but we love you out here -- we really do. And like my Italian father says, "Molto forte e corragio" -- in your case, it's continued strength and courage which you already have copious amounts of.

    Love, love, love.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth--it's so interesting that we're friends who've never met in the flesh!

  3. Thinking of you Alison. If there is anything at all I can do from DC please let me know.

  4. Thoughts and prayers in Cookeville for a very courageous person. Having worked nine years at the music store with your mom, I know you have great family support.

  5. A beautiful story. Sending prayers to you and your family.

  6. Housifying is the best procrastination/distraction ever. Keep on...I find furniture rearranging is also super useful.