Day Four – Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dear ones~ (forward this email as you like)

Sunday afternoon, and although part of me cannot fathom this fact – we’re actually settling in here. How can that be? And how bizarre is that? At any rate, it’s true.

Today we received the definitive diagnosis of Acute Myelo Leukemia. There are seven types of AML – and which type Reid will be beating is still a question that waits for the lab to answer. The type is based on chromosome differences, and may steer the direction of treatment along this journey. (For more details about AML, please research online – Carolyn offered up a useful website in one of her earlier emails. And, I am reminded by a dear friend in the medical profession, to offer that you remember that the internet is a great tool – AND – it’s the docs who have been through the years of training that answer our questions and know Reid and his particulars – who are our strongest resources).

He will start chemotherapy tonight. It lasts for seven days and, as I understand so far, it involves two medicines – one that is given for the first three days, and one that is continuous for all seven days. Chemo will essentially kill all the cells in Reid’s bone marrow (where cells are produced). We’re going to wipe the slate clean so that beautiful, mature, healthy cells can come back and take up residence in Reid’s strong body. I have this image – for Reid – of a big, steep ski slope covered in several feet of freshly fallen snow – powdery and glittering on a very cold and “bluebird” bright January morning. The snow has wiped away all traces of other skiers tracks, and now Reid gets to make fresh grooves – alone, with the wind on his face and nothing to consider except the feel of his body on the skis and the energy and strength of his body as he gracefully flies down the mountain. This is what he and his new cells will be doing when the AML goes into remission after this course of chemotherapy. And for those of you who have ever seen him race, I know you can close your eyes and see him too. He’s such a physically beautiful skier – moving more like a classical dancer – agile, smooth and moving as though without effort.

Tomorrow Reid will move up to “unit” 14K. The 14th floor is the bone marrow oncology center, and – it has a youth center, where Reid can play WII and ride a stationary bike, among other things. He sniveled a bit about how he can’t expect to meet anyone interesting there – because all they’re going to have in common is cancer, and then the nurse told him that Lance Armstrong was treated here. Boy, that stopped the sniveling in a hurry! So, now he’s looking forward to the move. These two floors of homotological oncology are VERY infection careful. When you come of go from the sealed unit, you hand sanitize. Then to get into Reid’s room, you do it again – as well as put in a thin papery gown, a surgical mask, and latex gloves. Yesterday, Jarrett and Daria (Davidson cousins), Stefan (Ransom cousin), Bethany (big sis), and Uncle Dennis were all lined up along the couch in Reid’s room looking like the biohazard easter egg team, with their pastel colored gowns on. We thought a little glitter glue and some colored sharpies might be in order for the masks, too. Although – I’ll tell you that one gets pretty good at seeing the smile on someone’s face in their eyes – when a mask is covering their mouth.

This process is both describable and indescribable. I can report the nuts and bolts easily (though it’s challenging to relay the medical terms – there is such a HUGE volume of information being thrown at us all the time). Our thoughts and feelings are harder to pin down. There’s overwhelm, sadness, anxiety, frustration, shock, a sense of injustice – while nearly simultaneously, there is determination, hope, focus, positive intention, tenderness, forgiveness, patience, courage, love and gratitude. We here – feel all of you with us in some way. I know I will be saying thank you to you all over and over for the rest of my life, and I’m deeply honored to do so. While Reid is appropriately focused on and engaged in his main job – healing and moving forward with his incredible life, all of our family (I believe I can speak for them) and I are focused on standing next to him while he does his job. Your love is a source of strength to each of us.

The girls are resiliently doing their thing. Pete’s home with them now, and thanks to all of you and the amazing schedule Carolyn has created for us, we will trade off being in Portland and Ashland. I miss them very much, and can’t wait to gather them into my arms for a few days this next week when I head south for a short break.

Other than all this – what I can tell you too – is that your emails are fantastic! I love getting them. It’s wonderful when I get to peel away to get internet (we can’t get it in the room, I have to go to the 9th floor to cut/paste/and send this) ,and I open my gmail account – and there are all these tidbits of loving kindness -short or long, they’re appreciated. I also have found text messaging to be incredible (you can thank Sarah for talking me into that two months ago!) It’s much easier to receive and read a text than go through the voice mail steps. This information age certainly helps in cases such as this….whew. If you want to send something to Reid, I’m fairly sure OSHU has a website with mailing address info. and contact instructions. He can’t have flowers or plants in his room, but he loves funny cards and interesting pictures and images of all types. He doesn’t want folks to spend money on him.

I’ll stop back by sometime soon and fill you in on how the treatment is progressing. I love and respect and celebrate each of you – yours, Martha

About Martha Phelps Studio ~ creative on purpose

...a meandering journal of a changing life and the unexpected graces it brings. Earlier posts may provide some history, but this series of writings aren't likely to follow a straight line as I explore topics such as raising kids, making choices, self discovery, the impact of change on a family and how to (hopefully) live with balance and purpose.
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