Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tracy--Bone Marrow Unit Entry

I want, on this blog, to access journals from my various treatments. Here is an entry from my bone marrow unit journal.

November 1, 1994. Midwestern Regional Medical Center.
Day 14 in the unit, 6:45 a.m.

It looks like 8 a.m., it is so bright. I'm studying the movement of the sun in here. Tracy, the other woman in the bone marrow unit, died last night. Her parents and husband were there, and her sisters had flown in to see her last weekend. We weren't friends, but we were friendly. She was the same age as me, give or take a year. I liked her; she had attitude; a sharp sense of humor; an edge. She was my shadow because she was my age, and I liked her. But I cannot let myself compare myself with her.

This is the seventh day I can't leave the room; the beginning of my third week at the hospital. Tracy just died. She had been fighting her Hodgkin's disease for over ten years, her longest remission only lasting nine months. Her fight had been pretty constant: Hodgkin's, chemo, blood tests, hospitals.

I spent one year in heavy duty chemotherapy, thirteen, five-day, in-hospital treatments. At home, my husband John gave me Interferon shots (a drug supposed to build up my immune system) two nights a week. After each shot, at about four in the morning, I would wake up, freezing, though actually hot with fevers. The fevers gave me mouth sores; the mouth sores made it so painful to eat, I eventually dropped to under one hundred pounds, and could only eat with gums numbed by medications. My meals consisted of frozen yogurt or high calorie vitamin shakes. I was tired from chemo, tired from teaching over thirty hours a week at the university to keep my health insurance. (My benefits soon got cut anyway. May God bless the COBRA program. May God not bless the administrators who cut my benefits knowing I was in the middle of cancer treatments. So much for treating your part-timers like human beings.) I was too weak to carry my books to my classes, so my parents bought me a rolling bag lady cart for Christmas. Other professors helped me cover the one or two days a month when I was out-of-state having chemotherapy treatments.

It was a very bad year, August 1992 to August 1993. I slept a lot. I would sit in one spot of the couch, very still, to lessen my nausea. Can I imagine the year I spend in heavy duty chemotherapy multiplied by ten? All those shots and mouth sores. All that weight and strength and breath loss. All that time in survival mode. After that first year, I got a nine month break and an easy three month chemo tour. I was all fattened up from my wedding (which was very curative.) All rested up because I was no longer working. Also, the second time around, there was no Interferon, so there were no shots, no fevers and no mouth sores. Yes, a much easier run.

I think of Tracy. I heard she had to have her lungs drained a week back. I stopped by her room twelve days ago, before I was put in isolation. She was in such pain that it hurt her to talk. Her marriage had been struggling a long time, and that, too, was getting her down.

Bless Tracy's spirit. May it be in a good place without the suffering of her last decade.
Bless Tracy's family. Her mom, her sisters, her dad.
Bless Tracy's husband. Help him with his grief. Let heaven, not humanity judge whether his leaving her pushed her to her death. It wouldn't be the first time illness ended a marriage. Please don't let it happen to my John and me.
Let me live a long and happy life with my new husband. Let my cancer be cured. Let us have a baby even.
Bless Tracy, one more time. We only met four or five times, but I liked her. She is, was, sharp-edged, funny and determined. Take her to the place where there is no pain. Amen.


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