Brain cancer journey: Finding comfort in the cycle of the seasons

Richard and I just rolled in from our latest trip over the mountains from Denver, and as the designated driver until Richard recovers, I have to say I don’t even want to see the car for a few days, much less spend any more time in the driver’s seat. The six-hour-round-trip commute, plus dealing with city traffic, wring me out. It’s good to be home where I can walk everywhere, saving my own energy and the planet’s fossil fuel.


The news from this latest peek into Richard’s brain is mixed.

The good: Last night’s CT scan shows no sign of bleeding, which means the cranial cleansing surgery of 15 days ago was successful. And the backwards-question-mark-shaped suture running across the right side of his scalp from front to back and down along his ear has healed so nicely, so his head bling (the 28 stainless-steel staples) was removed. 

The not-so-good: There’s still a lot of cerebro-spinal fluid filling the space between his right brain and his skull. Enough, in fact, that his right hemisphere continues to push against his left. His neurosurgery team is concerned enough to want to see him again in three weeks.

So, we didn’t get the “all clear” from neurosurgery we were hoping for, the “looks great, see you in three months.” But we did get “Well, it’s not worse,” a distinct improvement over how things have been recently, with two crisis trips in one month to the VA Hospital, plus the most recent craniotomy.

As I drove us home, it occurred to me that three weeks before the next trip is longer than we’ve been home at any time since mid-December. Huh. I bet that’ll feel more like a reprieve when I’m not so exhausted.


After spending three hours at the VA Hospital, we spent the next three touring Denver Botanic Gardens with my Dad. There’s nothing like wandering among gardens to restore my spirit. All that life bent on the riotous business of growth and reproduction, just bursting with energy. Although it was an unusually warm afternoon with temperatures in the ’70s, most of the garden was still in winter dress–which is not shabby, as in the beautiful contrast of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Willa Cather’s “wine-colored grass” native to the American prairies, and Mexican feathergrass (Nasella tenuissima) in the photo above.

We wandered the whole gardens, from the formal borders in the front to the woodland areas and the prairie, and then past lily ponds still drained for the winter, rose gardens neatly pruned, and into the orangery and conservatories.

(Hence the photo of Richard finishing the last of his lunch in the orangery at the beginning of the post, the air around him suffused with the sweet scent of citrus blossoms, and the tulips and amaryllis bursting out of the flower boxes.)


Crocus and dwarf iris blossoms popped up everywhere outside. Like the vivid blue clumps of dwarf iris naturalizing in a grass and sedum “lawn” in the photo above. That’s my 82-year-old, legally-blind Dad admiring them, first with one eye and then with the other, since each eye has so little visual field left that the two no longer combine. Still, having to struggle to see something doesn’t dim his enjoyment of it in the least.


Like these starry crocus receiving the energetic pollination attentions of a fly.


Or the snowdrops that reminded Dad and I of the year we spent with Mom in England.

Or the outrageous contrast of these chrome yellow Danford-type dwarf iris with rust and green Sedums.

I wish the news on Richard’s brain was better. I want to see him healed and back to work on his sculpture. I wish the earthquake and tsunami hadn’t devastated northern Japan, sending the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into toxin-spewing death spiral. I wish the world were at peace–everywhere.

That’s not how things are going right now. So I’ll soothe my spirit wherever I can, for instance, spending part of an afternoon with two of my favorite guys searching for splashes of beauty as winter’s spare architecture gives way to the riotous blooms of spring. There is immense comfort in the cycle of the seasons–life continues, despite all.