Monday, September 25, 2017

On the road by bike, car, train and foot

With transplant recipient Mary Turnullo in Danvers
Yesterday I was dragging my feet when I walked down to Tailgate Picnic with Maddie early in the morning.

It was already getting hot, but we had a pleasant time sitting at an outside table. I had coffee and a freshly baked blueberry muffin. Maddie had a little of it and some water. A golden Retriever looking a lot like our friend Theo came over with a mother and son. The dog got up on the bench and sat next to the son. It seemed to be part of their morning routine. The two dogs sniffed around.

I wanted to bring my Sunday New York Times, but it hadn't arrived, so I tucked a New Yorker under my arm. Most in my age range will get a kick out the Shouts and Murmurs, "Our Parents are our Future," written from the point of a millennial having to cope with their doddering parents.

On the short walk home I wondered why I was moving so slowly and having trouble doing even that. I attribute it to the increased dose of gabapentin (Neurontin) that my new neurologist recommended. As I wrote in my story about the pain of having and treating neuropathy, fatigue is a common side gabapentin side effect.

When I got home, the paper had arrived. I took all my stuff and put it on my grandmother's coffee table next to my couch. Maddie came in and settled down on the living room floor. I fell asleep and didn't leave the house as the temperature rose. Later when it cooled down, we did the afternoon version of the morning Tailgate expedition, this time going to The Thirsty Mind and sitting outside, me with iced coffee and Maddie with water...and a piece of my cookie.

It was a deeper fatigue than the kind caused by running around doing things, but all my activities in the preceding week probably contributed.

I have been especially busy since last Sunday, when I went with Margaret on a bike ride starting in the town of Danvers to benefit cancer research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The ride through surrounding towns was only 10 miles, but it was hilly and my first time back on the road since my accident. We made light of doing only 10 miles, but with the hills and traffic to contend with, it was challenging enough for me.

I had ridden several times on the bike path though I only took my bike out of the garage late in the summer. Having neglected it, I was glad to hear of Margaret's plan. When I told Katie that I was going to graduate off the bike path, she asked, "Who signed off on that?"

It's good to have kids who watch over you. I laughed and said that Margaret signed off.

The event honored a Beth Israel Deaconess patient who received a successful stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, the same blood cancer that I had. I talked to the patient, Mary Ternullo, and discovered that we have a lot in common, including side effects.

Mary had signed up to walk, as had a friend of hers who also had a transplant. The friend's side effects were among the worst I have heard of. She has ocular Graft vs. Host disease, causing her tears to dry up. I'm not sure of the exact reason for this, but she has also lost her sight.

Yet wearing sunglasses as we talked at the picnic-style lunch after the ride/walk, she cheerfully talked about her grandchildren and asked me about mine. We fell into the same kind of banter that I used to have with my late friend Patricia, comparing numbers of teeth lost and long waiting times for the opthamologist we both see.

The three of us stood together and declared ourselves stem cell sisters happy to be alive on a beautiful day marked by good cheer.

Back home, after a few days doing the usual things, I took off for the "old country," New York, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. This meant driving to Fairfield and taking the Metro North Railroad to Grand Central.

I got in at just about the right time to visit my Aunt Marge, who lives near the United Nations. With the UN in session, the area is filled with Diplomat license plates and police barricades. I brought over a round challah that I picked up in Grand Central. I said, echoing my father, "Here's to a year with no sharp edges."

Later that day I said it again at a family dinner at my cousin Betsy's in Queens. (From the upper east side, easy peasy, the 6 train to 51st and change to the E.) The next day, brunch with another cousin at Tom's Restaurant , (of Seinfeld fame) near where I was staying at a friend's house on the Upper West Side.

My cousin drove me from 112th Street up to 125th Street so I could leave from the Harlem/125th Street station. But she didn't want to go all the way east, so I decided to walk from Riverside Drive to Park Avenue. (2.1 miles, but I didn't know it at the time.) I don't know what came over me. (Well yes, I do.)

One hundred twenty-fifth street was lined with sidewalk vendors, like one big street fair. Dragging my suitcase and wearing my pink baseball cap, I must have looked like I blew in from Oklahoma. Nobody batted an eye. By the time I was so hot and tired that I realized I should have taken a cab, I only had a few blocks left.

I made the next train out by a mere three minutes, dashing up the stairs rather than risk the temperamental elevator. (Good thing I didn't belly flop onto the train like I did in the Paris Metro.)

Once back in Fairfield, I decided to walk to Ben's house from the train station (.08 miles).

It being Friday, I got caught in traffic on my way home. It took almost three hours for a trip that normally takes a little more than half that.

So I guess it's safe to say that all of this contributed to my fatigue.

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