Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Lost and found on the way to the beach
On Sunday, the first day of fall, (and Day+103) I finally got to the beach. I never went last summer, because of my relapse. I didn’t go this summer, because I was still in the early recovery phase after my third transplant.
Since I had a clinic appointment in Boston on Monday, I planned to go to the beach just north of the city with Katryn, a good friend from my Vassar College days. She lives in Portland, Maine; we decided that Plum Island, Mass., (next to Newburyport), was about equidistant for both of us. We’d picnic on the beach and take a walk, and then I would spend the night in Newton, at Diane’s, so I’d only be about half an hour away from Dana-Farber, as opposed to my usual two hours.
One thing I do very well is get lost. Which is, of course, what I did on my way to meet Katryn. In my defense, I have to say that Google Maps sent me via some unmarked streets. When I got off the highway I found myself in Salisbury (Mass.), trying to get directions. I can go inside places now if I wear a mask, but I thought it would be easier to find someone to ask outside. Everyone seemed to be from elsewhere, so I finally went into a convenience store, where a very nice clerk gave me a different set of directions, including, of course, an unmarked road.
Lost again, I pulled up in front of a yard where an older couple stood. When I told them my plight, they said, sympathetically, that it looked like I had been driving around for quite some time. They gave me a new set of directions, but my eyes must have glazed over, because the woman offered to get into her car and drive me to the turn I needed to take. I thanked them profusely, took her up on the offer, and I was on my way. The turn-off to the island was unmarked, so I panicked and thought I was lost again.
I called Katryn, who was already there. “I’m NEVER going to get there,” I said. “Yes, you will,” she said. We stayed on our cell phones until I saw her standing in front of the parking area where we were to meet.
It’s a beautiful beach with a long stretch of shoreline. We walked for a long time, enjoying the breeze and the blue sky and the sun and the boats. We walked with our feet in the cold water, and every now and then a wave snuck up and splashed us.
It was great, and a real adventure for someone like me who for a long time has been nowhere except the hospital and the clinic.
On the drive to Diane’s, I thought about how my little adventure could be a metaphor for times when you're lost. You’re driving along unmarked streets and you feel like you’ll never get anywhere. Then a stranger (I hope I’m not sounding heavy-handed here by possibly even calling her an angel) helps you find your way. And, suddenly, the vista opens up and you arrive at a great spot!
The next day I had my clinic visit. My platelets went up to 148 – almost normal. My WBC was down a little, to 2.7, and my hematocrit was down to 30.9, earning me another shot of Aranesp. I wasn't really concerned about these counts, because they were pretty high for me. And It was not unexpected for my counts to go down, because I am taking Valcyte, an anti-viral which can suppress counts. I'm taking the Valcyte because I tested positive, for the second time, for CMV (cytomegalovirus), which affects people with weakened immune systems.
Before I got the car, I put on my mask and went into the nearby Starbucks to get a coffee for my drive home. It was my second time, and I still got a kick out of it. My counts weren’t normal, but I was doing things that made me feel like a “normal” person.