Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anniversary Retrospective--Oops, a long one


Ear update: Yesterday's trip to the pediatrician turned up normal blood counts in every category, including a hemoglobin of 12.0 (slipping back into the normal category for the first time since Thanksgiving). One ear had cleared of infection, but the other merited a fourth round of antibiotics. What's up on the hit parade? Omnicef. I made an appointment with the ENT for next week to see what is going on.

How do you celebrate anniversaries? A night out on the town? A quiet dinner at home? A gathering of your forty closest friends? A daring trip? A silent soliloquy to yourself in your journal?

That question leads to the next. Why do we mark them at all? Perhaps we want to celebrate how long we’ve been at something or to note that it’s been so long we can’t possibly be at it for that much longer. Sometimes we use them to reflect on what is past and to hope for the future. Sometimes we just marvel at the unlikelihood of it all.

I can remember going steady for the first time as a young girl. I think we marked anniversaries by the week (this was before we knew what the “anni-“ in anniversary actually meant). No one expected those early boy/girl things to last long, so if you were going to celebrate, you had to do it by the week. Later, it was a Special Occasion if we actually reached A Year together. When I married Walter (1984), I changed my perspective. At first I was sort of bummed that our anniversary number from dating zeroed out and we had to start the count over. But from Day One we had an agreement. We weren’t counting on staying married forever. We contracted for sixty-four years. After that we gave each other permission to re-evaluate and either sign up for more or withdraw from the contract. We made jokes after a year. . .”And they said it wouldn’t last.” Last October we hit 22 years. Still a decade before we reach halfway, but so far, so good. I’m withholding judgment about whether to re-enlist until we get a lot closer to 64 (like 63 and a half).

This week anniversary mean something different. We are celebrating three rather different anniversaries in the Buenger household: one year since Luke overdid on a beautiful spring day like yesterday and found himself the unwilling butt of many I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up jokes, one year since Willie chose our house as his personal teething ring, and two years since Erin relapsed with neuroblastoma.

We still have Luke. He is no longer spry. In fact, he’s beyond pokey. But, he eats heartily every morning, can “hold it” until he gets outside, and will still hobble up the stairs for a treat and a pet. Luke is on the way to fifteen years old, ancient for a yellow lab. When we think back over the last year (which included high dollar, synthetic drugs and doggie water aerobics), we celebrate how long we’ve enjoyed this pup and note how few grains he has left in his hourglass.

Willie’s one-year anniversary as a member of the household means so much more. Given the longevity of the Buenger pets, I can only wonder what (if anything) he will leave behind. I mean, we only have so much stuff. For an incomplete (yet growing) list of items eaten by Willie click here. Place your bets on whether we will run out of “things” before Willie needs dentures, and join us in marveling at the unlikelihood of it all.

Some of you know how joyous (and unlikely) celebrating two-year post relapse for neuroblastoma is. I guarantee it deserves more than a mention in the website update. It deserves a party, with floaty balloons and confetti. When you reach such a milestone, you should drink deep of the spirit of life all around you. Instead, Erin will walk the same path she does every day. She will wake and make the most of what she encounters, whether it is a spelling test, a chance to get together with Nico and company, a cozy book, or a rousing game of soccer.

I will watch her as she glides through her day and count the milestones: another class picture to add to the scrapbook, another pair of new Easter shoes (For a while my children marveled at how the Easter bunny knew their size and what would perfectly match their Easter outfit. Later they just assumed the bunny cobbled shoes on the side). I collect the moments and hold them like a talisman against a future I don’t want and probably can’t prevent. I sneak peaks at her when she won’t notice. She works in front of her mirror to get her hair up into tiny, toddler-sized pigtails. She faces the pitcher, no longer batting off a tee, smacks a grounder, and almost beats it out. I wonder what the next year will bring. None of us know, but we all want our full measure.

Now on to more lighthearted fare. Thanks to Michelle Braden for alerting me to the Starlight, Starbright Children’s Foundation contest. If you click on this link:

you can vote for Texas Children’s Hospital to win a FunCenter. The five hospitals with the most votes will receive a FunCenter mobile entertainment system for patients use. This takes less than a minute, maybe less than ten seconds.

Another opportunity for you to help comes from George Stuart who plays with me in the Carter Creek Brass. He has traveled to Odessa (Ukraine, not Texas) on mission trips over the last year and has given special attention to an orphanage there. He hopes to go back before the end of the school year and would like to take musical instruments with him for the boys and girls (read more here). If you have a leftover band instrument sitting around your house, give him a call (979.229.4954) or an e-mail (gstuart2001@ and help him out. Consider it part of your spring cleaning.

In the meantime, Erin is thriving. She finished her ranch project (see the map below) and got it to school Monday. The gang celebrated PPR Day on Monday with a full crew (perfect attendance). We have not heard if the affiliated chapter at Rice had an equally good turn out. Maybe not. Yesterday Erin rode, and Napoleon did much better than he had lately. I think they switched back to the bit they had used earlier and he responded much more eagerly to her commands.

The only question mark continues to be her ears. She does not have ear pain, but they remain congested, with muffling. She completed the course of amoxicillin last Friday (3/16), which is, as you may recall, the third sequential course of antibiotics (along with cefzil and Z-pack) for her ears since the last week of January. She reports that her ears seem somewhat improved, in that she can clear them momentarily by holding her nose while blowing out, but they do not remain open. Related (possibly?) to that is a weird thing I saw when I was watching the Weather Channel night before last. An ad for Singulair came on, and as part of its disclaimers noted the mild side effects of taking it, INCLUDING EAR INFECTIONS. We’ll run this past Jesse Parr when we are in for blood counts this afternoon.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. As you metaphorically celebrate Erin’s extra measure with us today, remember those children (and their families) whose time ran out too soon. We are thinking especially about Vince Lopez, who we met doing chemo for relapsed Ewing’s Sarcoma when Erin was doing outpatient chemo summer before last. He died night before last, too late to receive the honorary degree from Blinn College that had been given him by the faculty and administrators. His family will receive it for him at his memorial tomorrow. You can also browse Angel Warriors to learn the stories of children no longer in the earthly fight against neuroblastoma.

No comments:

Post a Comment