As I mentioned at the end of my last post, Nov. 13, I hoped to “bring you up to date with my current treatments.” However, uncertainty builds upon uncertainty, and I feel that my life is like those old weekly movie serials, like “The Perils of Pauline” — always ending on a note of suspense (the heroine tied to a railroad track, for example — a story my mother remembered and told me about). I am living “The Drug Trials of Ellen,” with a new plot twist each week.
As I think I’ve said, the drug I was on stopped being effective, and also had some harmful side-effects to my eyes. My eyes are now better (yay!) but the doctors are still looking for a new treatment. Another clinical trial drug is available and possible: this one targets the HER2 gene of the cancer and also stimulates the immune system. But there are various standards I have to meet to be eligible. First, my liver enzymes were too high for a week, then came down on their own; next, my hemoglobin level was too low — which accounts for the tiredness and lack of energy I’ve been feeling for the past several weeks, different from my usual way of being. So yesterday (yes, Saturday!) I had an iron infusion — they dilute the iron with saline so it can be given intravenously, similar to a chemotherapy treatment. I am not running marathons yet, or having an effect on magnets, but I hope this does help: especially in feeling better, and also in being considered for the new drug. There is also a more standard chemotherapy if the trial doesn’t work out.
So here we are… tune in next time to see what happens next.
Meanwhile, this is a week of important dates. Dec. 5 was the last night of Chanukah (sometimes spelled Hanukkah). Each night for 8 nights we light another candle, adding more light and hope to the world and to our lives. Chanukah celebrates miracles — the return of light after the solstice, and also survival and renewal in dark times. (The story goes that after the desecration of the Temple, around 167 B.C., when the “small band” of Maccabees and their followers defeated the Syrian-Greeks and restored the Temple, there was only enough oil for the holy lamp to burn for one night — yet, by a miracle, it burned for 8 nights, until more oil could be supplied.) It is a time to hope for personal and world-wide renewal and re-spiriting, something we certainly need.
Dec. 6 was the 32nd anniversary of the murder of 14 women at l’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal — murdered because they were women engineering students. (As a male friend of mine wrote in a poem commemorating those young women and the women they might have become, if he had been in the room he could have left because he was not a woman.) Since that time, more men as well as women have supported action against domestic and all anti-women violence, but we need to do much more to protect women and girls, and to educate young men to live in a world of equality, not male/patriarchal privilege.
And Dec. 7 was the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbour…with so many memories of the destructiveness and devastation of World War II, for so many civilians on both sides as well as for those who fought. And still the wars continue.
On a brighter note, on Nov. 28, I read two poems as part of a series of launches for the book 2020, an anthology of poems about that year, with drawings by Bill Liebeskind of people in masks. You can click here to hear my reading (which begins at about 13:00 minutes in with an introduction, and lasts about 6 minutes). https://www.facebook.com/artParrsboro/videos/740265750706498 (copy and paste in browser).
All good wishes for the holiday season. To be continued…