Sunday, May 11, 2008

FRUIT FLIES, INTELLIGENCE, AND THE TREE OF LIFE



Greetings, Dear Ones,


Wednesday was a rather long day at the Huntsman. Dennis had his weekly labs drawn to determine if and how much chemo he could receive. For some reason, there was a little trouble locating a cooperative vessel (a vein in vain, so to speak), and there were several “dummy pokes” that looked promising but yielded nothing. Dennis never winced, but I was just short of moistening my tutu. However, when things looked bleakest, the nurse hit the mother lode, and was able to harvest multiple vials, which provided a lot of “Dennis information.” I won’t list every result, but the numbers were good enough to qualify him for a full bag of gemcitobene. This was very good. His blood pressure was a little low, although I think that’s par for Dennis. Apparently when they suck out the blood, they suck down the pressure simultaneously. But we have discovered that looking at recent bank statements significantly increases the level of his blood pressure, (not to mention pulse, oxygen, and white blood cell count), so I always carry an extra copy of our finances in case of emergency.



There were a couple of numbers that are particularly exciting: Dennis’ weight is 125, which prompted us to go right out and buy some larger pants to compensate for the increased body mass. And, his tumor markers are 39, which is within the range of normal. This is all very good.


We also met with Dr. Jones for an evaluation and board meeting/planning session. She had done some research on the latest studies concerning the efficacy of continued chemo, and it was decided that three more months of therapy would be a good thing. Dennis and I concur with this plan, so we racked it. Dr. Jones said we could read her copy of the latest findings of these studies, and I thought it would be a good idea if I read it over. But then she thought better of it, saying that it probably contained more information than I actually needed to know…numbers, statistics, stuff. Hmmmm. Actually, there was a certain perverted logic to Dr. Jones’ reasoning that didn’t escape my notice. I think they call it “debilitating intelligence,” and I’m not sure the perilous pursuit of knowledge is always a good thing. One can obtain so much “smarts,” that there is a point of diminishing returns. It’s the “irksome competence” syndrome (from the Latin term “smartus horribilus”) and can result in mental spasms, decreased sphincter control and loss of friends. Besides, I read an article in the paper (so you know it must be true) just the other day that cited a fruit fly experiment showing smarter is not always better. Quote: “Scientists found that flies developed to learn faster fared worse than dumber counterparts.” “If it’s so great to be smart,” Kawecki asks, “why have most animals remained dumb?” I ask myself that question all the time. And I’m not really sure that an assumption of competence is efficacious. Stupid has its privileges. Think about it. Smart has no refuge. You’re stuck with cold, hard merciless information. There is no retreat, no sanctuary. You are a candidate for information burnout. Not so for the morbidly vacuous. When you experience the misty-eyed nostalgia for the good old days of being among the criminally deluded, you can always insert your head in the sand, where it is cool and dark and quiet…and the only drawback is granules in your ears. It is wise to play to our strengths, and to keep a tight control on “knowledge glut.” There is wisdom in the technique of the “under-think.” I have been wildly successful in my efforts. In fact, last week I purchased a pair of new pink sunglasses, and everything looks sunny and rosey. Dr. Jones ran interference. Dr. Jones is very wise.


And finally, Dennis got his final nose-hose replacement. The technicians have it down to a science. They were able to switch the old one out and the new one in with efficiency that would evoke envy and respect in the Indy 5oo! When this tube shuts down, we will have it removed…and bronzed…as a trophy of his remarkable perseverance. We will jump-start his gut, and from now on, all nutrition will gain entry orally. He is working diligently on the second “hunka,” and I suspect we will soon be shopping for larger pants.


He is really morphing into a veritable “hottie!”


On the way home from a morning walk recently, I was struck by the sight of our neighbor’s tree. Every autumn, Joe (“The Chainsaw”) Checchio whacks this tree back so severely that it is borderline arbor atrocity, and the neighborhood takes bets on whether it will survive the recent surgery. And every year, without fail, it is restored to its full beauty. So I have been watching for signs of life on my daily outings. And today, sure enough, against seeming evidence to the contrary, there is growth returning, and the tree will not only revive, but be more beautiful than ever. It is an inspiring vision of hope. Sometimes things that are reduced to the essentials, rebuild to greater strength. This is a good thing. Joe is also very wise.


How grateful we are for the return of Spring, and for the hope you have all so generously provided with your love and prayers. Our lives have been so blessed.


Happy Mother's Day, and our love to all,


The Clot



2 comments:

cristie said...

thrilled that the numbers all look so good for Dennis. loving the photos of your beautiful family.

i am still reading...
caring...
praying...
and, vacuous :)

1 : emptied of or lacking content 2 : marked by lack of ideas or intelligence : stupid, inane 3 : devoid of serious occupation : idle

kate o said...

If 3 more months of chemo is going to close the deal then I'm good with it. I just don't know what I can do for the next 12 weeks of chemo to top the LOTOJA. Hope the Ashtons will ride along as crew for the trip! Love, Kate O