Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunny days, cloudy days and how to clear the air

Yesterday's quote of the day:

"It's always sunny here in CAT scan, even on a rainy day."

Spoken by a friendly technician when I was getting a scan to check on the status of the lung fungus that kept me hospitalized for two weeks several months ago.

I had been admiring the translucent photo on the ceiling above the scanner. You lie down and look up at a large back-lit photo of cherry blossom branches against blue sky and white clouds. I'd seen it before, but for some reason it really caught my eye yesterday. I told him it was so relaxing, I wanted to stay there for a while after the quick test.

I liked his response after I told him how much I liked the photo. I thought, wouldn't it be nice to always have a sunny mind, even during all the rain? Impossible, of course. But it is possible to achieve inner lightness in the face of dark episodes. Some of us just have to work at it more than others.

Today's New York Times had an interesting story by Natalie Angier headlined, "Brain is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop." Angier reports on new research showing that "the sensation of being highly stressed can rewire the brain in ways that promote its sinister persistence."

If you read the story, beware: Portugese researchers did nasty things to rats to show that when over-stressed, they get stuck in a rut, doing the same thankless things rather than seeking new solutions. Then they gave the rats a "vacation," and they returned to their normal selves, able to innovate and, generally, chill out.

"The stress response," Angier writes, "is one of our oldest possessions. In most animals, a threat provokes the fight or flight response, which dissipates when the the threat disappears... In humans, though, the brain can think too much, extracting phantom threats from every staff meeting or high school dance ..." she writes.

The good news is that like the rats in the study, the human brain should be able to rewire itself when you take a vacation or practice other forms of healthy stress-relief that work for you. Bottom line: The new findings demonstrate a principle that many researchers have been studying: "The brain is a very resilient and plastic organ."

Yesterday's counts: Platelets 12, (still yuk but better than last week); hematocrit, 24 (quite low); white count, 5.9 (normal, yay!). Everything else looked fine.

Basically it meant another whole day at Dana-Farber, what with the CAT scan, a bag of platelets and two bags of blood, plus, while I was waiting for my "products" to arrive, a visit to 6A to say hello to nurses and to PJ, who looks and sounds great.

On the way home, Joe and I got pizza from a Papa Gino's at a Mass Turnpike rest stop. Eating it from a box on my lap, I enjoyed every bite of the two pieces and could have had some more.

We got home around 7:30. It's really hot here. After dark, when it had cooled down, Katie and I took Maddie for a walk. Then we came home, ate Klondike bars, and listened to songs and watched videos from Woodstock on Youtube.

Not a bright and sunny day, but not cloudy either.


walkergirl said...

Ronni, Hi! I discovered your blog from Cat Reid's Facebook page. I'm training for a half marathon with TNT & the LLS again this season. I nearly cried when I read you rblog today and at your strength and optimism. What a role model you are for your children, and for all of us trying to do what we can to help! Keep up the great work. I'll be thinking of you during my training and fundraising. Can I walk in honor of you as well? Colleen

Nelle said...

Sounds like a good day for the most part. I have had three cat scans on my lung in about two months. The conclusion is that there is either scarring or a pneumonia. Since I am not running a fever any longer they think it is scarring but radiologists do not agree on this. I am breathing better and feel I would feel much worse if the pneumonia persisted.

CLL Spouse said...

Thanks for bringing the article to my attention. Lately I've begun to think that no vacation can remedy my stress because being away is as stressful as being present with those whose needs I'm tending. This is a big switch from my usual optimistic tendencies.

I'm glad you mentioned the stressed rats giving up looking for solutions. I see myself. Time to turn it around!


pam said...

Dearest Ronni,
i remember when you were first in hospital, how you imagined the sun shining through the curtains at the beach...poignant memories...making us wistful yet somehow feeling more uplifted...

You Runder-Friend,
are, once again, an elixir --
your voice so strongly heard through your blog,
-- always inspiring to so many...
and you are quite the reporter -- spot-on evocative details --
i pity the poor rats so tested to prove what we already knew!

interesting regarding the brain as plastic...remember, also, that some of us have more of a worry gene than others!

merci, ma chere amie,

Carl said...

Curiously, one of the places I've been to for CT scans has a picture of cherry blossoms on the ceiling, too. It's backlit with some kind of lights.

Wonder if it comes from the same medical supply house or something?