Tuesday, March 16, 2010

View from my front door

Before we moved into the house last year, I had determined that these three trees planted in the center of the front yard would be removed. I had several reasons, the first of which being that they're placed relatively close to the house. I was thinking of their root system and how those insidious little roots would be creeping ever closer to my house's foundation. Concrete is not an impediment to the natural order of things. We've all seen plants coming up through cement.

The trees were covered in dull, brittle, dark green leaves that carpeted the lawn and blew out into the street. They blocked the view of the magnolia tree planted on the cul-de-sac. If you asked, I could give you a hundred reasons that the trees needed to go.

Now that I've lived with them for almost a year, I think I know the reason that some long ago homeowner planted them thus. They're visible from four rooms in the house which is covered in windows. There is a certain element of privacy and solitude when the leaves hang thick and lush on gently swaying branches. I can leave the blinds open on the picture window in the kitchen and unless you come into the yard, you wouldn't be able to see me. The cats love watching the multitude of birds darting from the tree to the ground and back. Etsuko and Akiko can often be found sitting on opposite ends of the window ledge chattering quietly in their staccato little meows, beckoning the birds closer.

A few days ago, tiny buds began appearing on the once winter bare trees. Three days ago, tiny white blossoms burst out amongst the three trees. They're lovely to look at and are a nice harbinger of the spring to come. The weather has been mild and sunny these last few days, in very stark contrast to the horrible weather my friends in the northeast have been experiencing.

I would desperately love to be outside, sitting in the shade of those lovely trees, enjoying the light breeze and moderate temperatures. Unfortunately, I'm confounded by a problem that I don't expand on very often. I have a mild case of skin GvHD which is triggered by sunlight. It doesn't have to be direct sunlight and I can wear sunscreen and long-sleeved shirts and hats with brims while sitting in a covered area and still suffer the consequences.

When I volunteered in New Orleans at the bone marrow drive a few weeks ago, I stood in the shadow of a tent. A few days after the event, my face erupted in tiny blisters. My chest was covered in a prickly rash and nearly every inch of me itched. As one cluster of blisters began the inevitable process of scaling over, another cluster would pop up somewhere new. The skin of my nose was constantly inflamed and irritated. At one point, it looked like I was peeling from a sunburn.

I know my friend, Nancy, can relate since she's been dealing with it for far longer than I have. I apply lotions and creams and unguents and they seemed to work for a few weeks. Then the skin around my eyes began peeling. More specifically, my upper and lower lids.

I finally gave in and ordered the pharmaceutical moisturizers the dermatology fellow at MDA recommended to me after the first transplant. They're helping. I still break out into rashes, but they don't flake as badly once they dry out. The lip treatment is the first to make my lips feel supple once again.

I've learned that about five minutes in the sun is what I can tolerate without incurring too much of a reaction the next day. That's about the time it takes me to walk across a parking lot or load groceries into the car. I'd like to start LSU in the fall and for those of you who have never seen the campus, it's very open and very large. Student parking is around the perimeter and it's quite a little hike to get where you're going. I'm considering lobbying for a parking pass that would allow me to park in disabled spots.

The very thought of this makes me feel like a fraud. I can walk under my own power without assistance and those spots really belong to people who need to be closer to the building. I'm going to try to think of an alternative. Most of my classes should be in a tight cluster of buildings closer to student parking, so I may be able to manage. It will all get sorted once the time arrives.

Last week, I started that independent study course I've been talking about. The first assignment has been graded and I think I'm going to be fine. It took me four days to answer five short essay questions because I'm still having trouble with reading comprehension and retention. The true test of my ability will come when I take the first of three tests attached to the course. I have a few more assignments to get through before this happens, so we'll see.

Speaking of which, I need to get started on lesson number two if I have any hope of completing the entire course by May. Honestly, though, I'd much rather sit in my kitchen and admire the view.


Ronni Gordon said...

Glad you kept the trees. They're beautiful.

I can relate to the other topics very well. I also have battled GVHD in the gut, liver and skin. I threw up all the time. Prednisone took care of the gut but I've had side effects. As for the skin, I wear sunscreen and a baseball hat and if I'm in the sun for just a little while, my nose gets red and blistery. I related to you post about chemobrain, which I feel more and more. I told my doctor that I have trouble finding words, and he said I better get an MRI. I am about to write about it on my blog. If it's not one thing, it's another!

Susan C said...

Those flowering trees are magnificent. Are they fruit trees?

Ronni, a friend, who has never had chemo, recently blogged about the word retrieval problem too. A dozen people chimed in that they were having the same issue. So I wonder how much of your difficulty is actually related to the chemo. I'm sure your friends have told you the same thing (and, for all I know, you roll your eyes and think, "but mine is a 100x worse).

PJ said...

Love the trees. I have a big crab apple out front that should bloom in a few weeks.

My brain was definitely changed by chemo, but in unexpected ways. On the plus side, I have more clarity and insight than I used to, maybe because I approach things more slowly. On the other hand, I am denser when it comes to numbers and organizing schedules.

We are handicapped--definitely humbling.

Ann said...

A very big "Thanks!" to a very astute reader who tweeted me with the type of trees pictured in the post. They are Bradford pears. If you think mine look good, you should see a few that belong to neighbors.

Nancy said...

The trees are wonderful! Love the blossoms. I was at City of Hope today and walked the grounds, by myself, after my appointment for the first time ever. I looked at the campus with renewed sense of being. I also spied some blossoming trees and was compelled to take a photo with my phone.

I spent an hour reminiscing of the many days spent there. As I strolled past the "village" units, I was reminded of how hard it was during that time. I didn't think much about it at the time as time was more well spent fighting for my life... but looking back... what an unbelievable journey. Coming up on four years post-transplant. I'm grateful and humbled.

Enjoy the blossoms.. a true sign of spring and fresh beginnings.

love, n