Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Multi-Chapter Story


So much time and so many events have passed since my last entry that I have to do this in chapters. . .

Chapter 1: Alabama Folly

Walter and I got away for a long weekend before Thanksgiving--the first time together and alone since Erin relapsed in March 2005. Our prime time, A-list destination? Birmingham, Alabama. . . to a history convention. Does the man love me, or what? We traveled uneventfully, and only tempted fate once. That was the night we decided to walk twenty blocks from our hotel to a restaurant, when it looked like waiting for a taxi would take too long. Did I mention we had walk through (poorly lit) industrial Birmingham? Did I mention we had to cross a bridge over an impressive set of railroad tracks (designed to carry iron ore into the city and steel products out, and perhaps to serve as a hobo outpost)? Did I mention how stupid we thought our choice was upon later reflection? Oh well, at least we had the brains to have a taxi ride home.

After that, we had no place to go but up. And up we went. . .to Walter's college roommate's house in Tuscaloosa. Moses Mortimer "Mort" Swaim and his lovely wife, Minunie, and their daughter Monnish live within blocks of the University of Alabama ("ROLL TIDE") in an 1835 plantation mansion that takes up most of a full block of the city. The whole Swaim family were gracious and lively hosts. Friday night we hung out in the ballroom (how many folks do you know that hang out in their very own ballroom), fully equipped with deluxe sound system with three pedestal mikes, Peavey speakers, a sound board, a full trap set plus a variety of other rhythm instruments for the less rhythmically gifted (tambourine worked for me). Mort played along on the drums with the oldies (I'm sorry. . .classic rock tunes) on the sound system, while the rest of us kept time, danced, and sometimes sang into the microphones. A life-sized Elvis statue accompanied us on guitar in the background (and if I ever get pictures, I promise I will post them). If I remembered any of the rest of our trip, I would tell you about it.

Well, I do remember one thing. Mort picked us up in Birmingham, and we made it home before Minunie did. When she walked in, she had spent the day at Silver City gambling the slots. She walked in (I'm not making this up) a $16,000 winner. The kitchen had signs that this was not the first time this had happened to her!

Chapter 2--While the (Gumby) Cats Are Away

Erin had an extremely big time with the mom and dad unit out of the way. She hung out with her buddy Noah on Thursday and Saturday and spent the night with the Tjoelkers Thursday and Friday night. She was completely amazed (and I might add impressed) with the lifestyle differences at her friends' houses. The Tjoelkers, for instance, did not make her eat oatmeal either morning for breakfast, and apparently made her a lunchbox lunch without her having to find the school menu and prove that what was being served was inedible.

The biggest news was that her parents chose the weekend of the Bryan school district's UIL championship to leave town. Erin was competing in a new event this year, Oral Reading. She chose "The Gumby Cat" by T.S. Eliot and "The Mischievous Dog" by Dylan Thomas. According to Erin, she barely made it to the finals because she forgot to do her introduction and busted headlong into the poems. In the end she took first place and was happy to celebrate with her friends Aaron Wunneburger and Tori Saenz who tied for first in Music Memory. Considering there are sixteen elementary schools in Bryan, with three students competing in each event and only four events for fourth graders, I would say that Mary Branch did really well. They may even have done better than those three mentioned, but I didn't get any more out of Erin on the topic.

Chapter 3--Our Return

Our return trip to Bryan went off smoothly, though we arrived to find Erin suffering from a pretty crummy head cold. She had had the sniffles due to seasonal allergies for at least a couple of weeks before that. I was not excited about having blood work done, knowing full well that a cold could take her white count down far enough so that we would have to go off chemo (perhaps for as long as a week). There was also the added disadvantage that she would have to get a venal puncture this time rather than a finger stick, because we needed to measure BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine to see if the celebrex was still causing problems. Erin squeaked by with an ANC of 700 (below 500 was the trigger). The BUN was still elevated, but had not gotten higher, so we (Erin's doctor and I) have decided on waitful watching (or is it watchful waiting?) to see if it will come on back down over the next round or so.

The head cold has continued on, with the addition of nightly fevers. Davis explained this process to me. When the body doesn't have a strong enough immune system to fight off a virus, it heats up (runs a fever) in hopes of burning up the viruses that it can't clobber with lymphocytes. Erin and I both celebrated especially hard last week about the decision to have her port removed last March. The port would have solved the problem of the vein stick on Wednesday, but would have landed us in the hospital for at least a three day stay over Thanksgiving. Talk about something to be thankful for!

I'm not through yet, but I have to leave the office for the second shift, which starts soon. I haven't decided whether to add Chapter 4 here or in the Davis Report. Whichever it is, it probably won't be until tomorrow or Thursday.

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