Monday, February 1, 2016

Time to Slow Down

For the last four decades I've devoted myself to the creation, exploration, and promotion of community living. Over that time, whenever I talked about the "C" word, I've been invariably referring to community. As of yesterday, however, the "C" word immediately in front of me is cancer.

As readers of this blog will know, I've been battling chronic back pain for 16 months, and acute lower back pain since mid-December. As I have been through previous episodes of this since its first occurrence in October 2014, I've been treating it similarly and expecting it to settle down with the help of prescription medicine and bed rest.

But after 6+ weeks of yo-yoing back and forth between almost functional and can-hardly-get-out-of-bed-to-pee, I finally faced the fact that I needed help beyond what my own body could provide, and went to the ER at St Luke's Hospital in downtown Duluth yesterday afternoon. It turned out to be a good thing that I did.

As soon as we got past the admittance dance (how do you spell that last name again?) and I could lie down in a bed (the pain all but disappears when I'm prone but is excruciating when sitting or standing), things started picking up steam. The ER doc, Scott Wolf, quickly had me relate my history and ordered blood work. My blood pressure was 98/56, which is abnormally low for me, and testing revealed that I was down about a quart. Not good. Further, there was gobs of calcium in the blood and everyone agreed it was time to admit me to the hospital. 

Before I had a room assigned I was whisked off to x-ray and the doc who read the film (Nick) noticed that my bones were thinning and showed the characteristic pattern of calcium leaching—hence the elevated levels floating around in my blood. The preliminary diagnosis is multiple myeloma, a form of cancer in which the body produces abnormal plasma cells. Not only does these cells reduce the number of useful red cells, white cells, and platelets (that help with clotting), they also weaken the bones.

The diagnosis was preliminary and there is much testing to follow—even if the cancer diagnosis is confirmed, it comes in different presentations and the doctors need to know how far long it is before prescribing treatment.

Pin cushion Monday
Today, my first full day in the hospital, they've been drawing more blood, giving me all manner of supplements, queuing up some more x-rays, a CT scan, and who knows what all as the they circle around a diagnosis. With all the adhesive, gauze, and tubes, it looks like I'm trying out for the walking wounded drum and fife corps.

They're also flooding my body with intravenous liquids (two units of blood and all the saline solution they can pump into me) as the standard treatment for pepping up my kidneys. 

In exchange I get cable TV and anything I want to eat between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm.

I'm starting to get the picture that I'm facing a serous health threat. While I don't yet know the full dimensions of it, I've been gradually digging myself a hole for quite a while now and it's time to start working my way out of it.

Mixed feelings
I'm experiencing a perplexing range of emotions:

o  Foremost, it's likely that I have cancer. While the docs have been upbeat, cancer kills and at this point I don't know how close to the edge I am. That's scary.

o  Paradoxically, it's also a relief to finally be getting solid diagnostics abut what's causing my recurring pain, and what I can do to fix it.

o  Over the past month I've been going through a roller coaster of feelings as I attempt to puzzle out why I'm in such pain and the right way to think abut getting through it. It's been bewildering and exhausting. Do I push through the pain or listen to my body?

Right now I feel overwhelmed, and at the same time well taken care of. In a day or two the fog will lift and I should be able to get my first glimpses of the road ahead.


Robert Palusinski said...

I don't know you in person, but I read your blog since few years. Thanks for blogging. May all the helping spirits be with you showing the best way .
Hugs and regards from Poland/Europe :)

Rosemary Wyman said...

This is a huge baseball bat to the head, and one to the gut for you, my friend. You have so many friends in a community that spreads coast to coast who are probably reeling a bit, but you can count on us recovering what wits we have sufficiently to send you all our best wishes for your healing and coming to peace with what is in your life. This I know: We are not the body! lots of hugs.

Lotus Allen said...

Dear Laird, stalwart trooper, may you find and dance with grace upon your healing, higher ground as you learn the challenging lessons our bodies teach us. Glad to hear that you are resting and well cared for in competent hands. You're in my thoughts and prayers. I trust that you will get through this with the flying colors that are inherently part of your courageous core essence. This is a time to be very gentle with yourself and ask for what you need and wish for. Sending you a hug, loving kindness and healing vibrations in this challenging time. Lotus

Catherine Nicosia said...

Much love, Laird

Michael and Kathe

Anonymous said...

As a long time reader of your blog all I can say is that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family right now.

Becca Krantz said...

Whew. I well remember the early days of my own diagnosis last year, and know what a shock and whirlwind it is. My two pieces of advice are, try to take as much time as they will give you to make any decisions before you, and have someone close to you with you at all times if possible. Let me know if you'd like to talk.

Thinking of you with much love,

Anonymous said...

Laird, Ben Zolno here.

Thank you for sharing with us this frightening and trying time. I wish you all the best.

Mary Kranz said...

Thank you for writing honestly about what this is like for you. I've found it so hard to talk when I or anyone I know is in that limbo of'what if this is it?'
Wishing you strength and freedom from fear. And community.

SOOZ said...

Sending all kinds of love and healing vibes your're a superhero Laird, but even superheroes need rest time to fight the good fight. As someone above said, you've got community coast to coast, and that's a whole lotta love heading your way in support of you. You're in our thoughts.

Deborah Altus said...

Oh Lairdyloo... Please know that Jerry, Eli and I are sending all our healing energy and big hugs your way!

William Cerf said...

Wow. I very often don't read your blog posts so I skipped this one. Then I saw Ma'Ikwe's post on Facebook. I am in a state of shock. Blessings to you, my friend.

Mac Thomson said...

Laird, my heart goes out to you. I'm devastated to hear this news, but also thankful that you're starting to get answers. You have deeply touched me, my community, and the whole community movement. Just this week at our community meeting, I said I was borrowing a page from Laird's book as I was pulling together threads of agreement in a somewhat contentious issue. Naming that common ground, as you taught us, brought the discussion back from the brink of polarity to one of mutual exploration of solutions acceptable to all and in the best interest of our community. Thank you. Your impact is strong even as you slow down and heal. May your recovery be swift and complete. Much love from Heartwood.

Lion Chavez said...

Prayers up and tobacco down~
Your a strong monkey.
You got this.

Lion Chavez said...

Prayers up and tobacco down~
Your a strong monkey.
You got this.

Unknown said...

Laird, you are in my thoughts and prayers. I know firsthand how relieving it can be to get the diagnosis, but then comes the "what do I do now"? It sounds like your medical team is on it, and I am heartened to hear you are getting the care you need at the moment. Many blessings as you walk your path.

Bucket Von Harmony said...

Good luck on the road ahead.

Hawina Falcon said...

Laird, Thank you for sharing the depths of your life story once again. I don't know if you heard that I am also dancing with cancer (?) For me this has been an incredible journey, which has brought me much fear and terror. (As you said Cancer=Death). It has also brought me a deeper appreciation of life, and helped me make valuable adjustments in re-balancing my daily routines. I now am much more focused on self-love and doing things that nurture me than I have been when it 'didn't matter'. To me the cancer diagnosis has been an immense wake-up call that (odd as it may sound) I feel grateful to have received. I hope you find many blessings and silver linings in your situation and wish you well in walking this terrifying and powerful path. As the pagan saying goes: "Where there is fear, there is power". With love, Hawina

memeticist said...

Other cultures find sentiments that English speakers have not wrapped a single word around. In Dutch the word is "Sterkte" which is poorly translated as "strength" but what it really means, as native speakers have described to me is something closer to "I wish for you the things you need to get through this difficult time." And this is my wish for you.

And if you need anything, let me know.

Appreciation for you tremendous work and spirit.

Paxus at Acorn
3 Iowa Surprises 2016

Tee Bee said...

Dear Laird, We only just met a few months ago at Liberty Village, but that meeting left an impact on me. I saw honesty and compassion in you as you facilitated LV's meeting. I'm wishing you strength and healing for your body so that you are once again free to spread the love!

Bless you!

Tracy Blair

Iraacorn said...

Hi Laird,

I Just want you to know I am thinking about you and hoping that a good diagnosis is the beginning of an effective treatment plan.

Wishing you the best of care and a speedy positive road to recovery.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ward,
You said be hopeful, and I am. I know so many who have survived cancer and are fine. I know you know some, too. Glad Susan is there with you.
Lot of love,

Anonymous said...

Laird, I hope you know how much you mean to us at Shadowlake Village. I send you my best wishes for a healthy outcome and peace of mind.

Claudia Sencer said...

Thinking of you. Wishing you wisdom for those that are guiding you and optimal discernment in you to find the path through this that you want to follow. Much love. Claudia

Unknown said...

Dear Laird,
You are in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing what is taking place for you and how you are feeling and experiencing all of this shocking information about your health.
We are now directly connected to you Blog...Sunward is pulling for you and for the restoration of your health and for your resilience as you face this crisis.

Love, Ruth Carey and Jim Crowfoot

Unknown said...

Dear Laird, I was simultaneously introduced to your blog and to your news as I followed a link Leslie shared on Facebook. I'm glad to know about the blog, and gobsmacked by the news. Your network is not only coast-to-coast, as I for one am sending you the closest I come to prayers from halfway around the world. So many wise words above - I hope they are bringing you solace and lending clarity at such a murky and challenging moment. I so deeply hope you get some good news as you learn more. And I wish you access to a full measure of centeredness, to face whatever's next with a minimum of suffering and plenty of your abundant wisdom and humor. -Tyler KB In Bangkok

Anonymous said...

So sorry Laird. You have already had so much pain.
Hopefully you will get back your mobility and energy.
Thinking of you.

Best wishes,

Jane Saks