Friday, August 15, 2008

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?

August 15, 2008

Erin had the kind of week that left me puzzling over a variety of possibilities.
She had a most excellent day on Monday, starting with her chemo bright (actually dark) and early, followed by a full morning orientation for a new GT program at her school, then two hours of swimming and cypress ball antics (see The Davis Report for details). She topped the day off with hours upon hours of playing with Nico and Adam. Tuesday wasn't nearly as fine.

She had a persistent headache (this is a common complaint during temador week), her right shoulder and upper arm ached (probably from throwing cypress balls), her back hurt (I can always think of a million reasons why her back might hurt, none of them as convincing to my deepest fears as tumor progression), and her chest was sore when she breathed deeply. She also ran a small fever. By noon she felt better, although I canceled her planned putt putt golf outing and made her stick close to home all day. Her temperature crept back up above normal in the evening.

She felt better on Wednesday than Tuesday. No fever; milder aches and pains. She did, however, fall asleep for about an hour in the afternoon. That night
she slept rather fitfully and claimed to have bad dreams during the night and during the nap.

Her headache was worse on Thursday. Her chest continued to cause pain when she breathed deeply. Her back was no better, but her shoulder seemed less tender. She is quite tired, but claimed she couldn't sleep. Our best beloved daughter (how can I put this delicately?) was WHINY AND NEGATIVE. She felt crummy enough to suggest a trip to the pediatrician to see if he had any ideas that would explain the way she felt.

Normal counts in every category and clear chest, ears, and throat eliminated most of the illnesses I was hoping for.

[Aside: Is it only cancer parents who start quizzing their children when they feel bad and are delighted when they have a constellation of symptoms that suggest childhood illness? I heard myself asking Erin leading questions, hoping I could piece together enough symptoms that I could conclude she had the flu or an upper respiratory infection or something:

Mom: Does your head hurt?

Erin: Yes, a lot.

Mom (hopefully): What about your chest? Does that still hurt when you breathe in?

Erin: Yes.

Mom: Good, baby. What about your throat? Does your throat hurt?

Erin: No (mom apparently looks disappointed). . .well maybe a little.

And so on.]

So there I was, contemplating Erin's complaints of pain and fatigue this week. It is so hard to sort it all out. How much of it can I attribute to some sort of virus? Certainly, headaches and fatigue come as a constant, if uninvited, companion to irinotecan and temador. Could she need more attention from the already unraveling mom and dad, who dedicated the week to launching Davis on his intercontinental adventure? Had asking her to clean her room after Ayesha's visit led to an elaborate work avoidance scheme? Maybe it was just an imaginative ploy to trick me into letting her watch more of the Olympics. Yet the answer that Pat Lacey calls the 500 Pound Man, (that is, will our scans in two weeks show Erin's cancer spreading?), kept rattling around in my head.

That's why when Erin came out of her room this morning singing that famous traditional sea shanty, "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor" I didn't stop to think about why my daughter had chosen to regale me with a song that begins with the indiscreet imbibing on the part of someone I have never met and whose subsequent verses each
suggest a method of sobering--or castigating, or simply abusing--the hypothetical sailor. All I could think of was that she was singing instead of grumbling. I joined in the "earl-eye in the morning" refrain and fetched her a little breakfast.

Erin ate a modest amount, mainly peaches and yogurt, and decided she wanted to go to Camp Lobo, an all-day program at her new middle school. It's almost 2:00, and I haven't gotten a call from her or anyone else at the school asking me to come and fetch her. I hope that means she's feeling well and enjoying herself and that I can move on to other worries (like whether Davis will wake up from his layover nap in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to board his flight to Budapest).


  1. Do you think Erin would want to come watch the Cinderella auditions with me Sunday night at 7 pm? Maybe she and Katie could come and see if they agree on who should be Cinderella. Call me and let me know! 777-0303

  2. Hoping for some mystery virus that has moved along!

    When do you have to go back to TCH? Chances are we might be there too!

  3. Christine H. in Columbia, SCAugust 17, 2008 at 8:54 AM

    "Shave his belly with a rusty razor"--that's my favorite answer to the question about the drunken sailor. We bought a used piano this month, and "Drunken Sailor" is the first song Steve taught Ana Sofia to play.

    Love to the Buenger family. Ana Sofia starts first grade tomorrow. Do you remember our visiting you on the day Davis started first grade?