My father was a tolerant man--after all he raised six starkly diverse kids--but he used to caution us about striking a balance between tolerance and open-mindedness. Accepting people with their many differences is important, he said, "but don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out." I have depended on that wisdom many times in my life, and it has served me well.
That's been on my mind while I've been undergoing chemotherapy. My oncologist says I seem to be tolerating the treatment well. Tolerance is crucial when it comes to fighting disease, and right now--more than combating flu bugs or allergens or other foreign influences--my body is a major chemical battleground. I like to think that the aches and pains I experience are evidence that the Hero Paclitaxel (therapy drug) is doing battle with the Villain (mean cancer cells), and that my body is welcoming and accommodating the process of the fight.
One of the side effects of the cancer drug is that it tends to make my body retain water. In other words, I have little tolerance for foods that contain salt and sugar. Even some kinds of bread can be very salty, and it's a trick to balance out the intake of salt and sugar with foods that help pull excess water out of the cells. Ironically, drinking water helps, and I'm challenged to drink half a gallon every day. It keeps my kidneys busy, but that's a different story of toleration.
In other good news, the cellulitis on my legs is healing. When I went to the dermatologist this week, he pronounced the right leg healed enough to not need the zinc oxide wrap (Unna boot) anymore, although it does need a daily application of a topical medication. My left leg is still wrapped for another week or two. We cheer for every little step toward progress. That the cellulitis can heal while the cancer battle is going on is progress indeed.
Last night I heard what I thought was my husband puttering around in the garage, but it turned out to be somebody creating a "heart attack" on our front door. When the doorbell rang, we found several dozen hearts with encouraging words written on them, plastered all over the door. It's just the sort of thing that happens in our neighborhood, and I'm so grateful I live here among these good people.
Plans are also going forward for a summer vacation. Our kids are think it's time for another trip to a beach house on the Oregon coast--our favorite place in the world to be--and they are counting on my ability to tolerate the stresses for a week in July. Having goals and incentives helps me deal with the other limitations imposed on my life right now. I'm even planning a book launch signing event for my new novel, What Took You So Long. If all goes well, it'll be in three weeks at a bookstore in Provo. I'll keep you posted.
It takes a village of the right internal chemical environment to fight this battle, and all I can do is introduce elements of nutrition and positive endorphins to accommodate it. But I have had so many more intangibles that have helped as well--prayers, cards, that "heart attack" on our front door, words of encouragement, music, laughter. Yes, laughter helps. My son and his wife recently gave me a card that reminds me of my need to laugh:
May the light always find you on a dreary day;
when you need to be home, may you find your way.
May you always have courage to take a chance,
and may you never find frogs in your underpants.
Our family motto seems to be "Live well, love much, laugh often," and we certainly do.