Good News for a Change

Richard and I are home again tonight after a sometime exciting drive over the mountains from Denver, skirting the edge of an approaching snowstorm. (That’s one of several snow showers in the photo below, moving across the high-altitude grasslands of South Park.) Here at home, the waxing crescent moon is high and silver in a black sky, there’s a fire crackling in our woodstove, and I’m stretched out on the couch with my feet up. Life is good.


And we have some good news: Richard’s oncologist, Dr. Klein, said this morning that his latest brain MRI looks “normal.” She flipped through the images on the computer monitor so that we could see his right temporal lobe is folded and creased in a regular dendritic pattern just like the left lobe. The right half of his brain is no longer drastically swollen and featureless; there’s no shadowy circular image of a tumor. It’s the first time in this crazy journey with brain cancer we’ve seen his brain look the way it’s supposed to. Wow!

We’re not dancing in the aisles yet though. As Dr. Klein said, it’s too early to see whether the cancer is gone. And the radiologist who read the MRI images noticed a troubling shiny spot. So Dr. Klein has scheduled Richard for another brain MRI in two months.

(By the way, that’ll be Richard’s seventh brain MRI over eight months, not a pleasant prospect. But necessary. Which reminds me to mention that Richard is being treated by the Veteran’s Administration Healthcare System, a single-payer, government-funded system. They’ve given him skilled, compassionate and very competent care. No one has ever suggested through these past months involving two hospital stays, many kinds of testing–including, among other things, six brain MRIs, several CT scans, and one spinal tap, plus one brain surgery, and a course of daily radiation combined with chemotherapy–that perhaps they’re spending too much money on his care. On the contrary. The VA is focused on returning Richard to good health, and they’re doing that kindly and thoroughly, if a bit bureaucratically. If this is socialized medicine, sign me up!)

The other reason we’re not dancing in the aisles is that tomorrow Richard starts his long-term maintenance course of chemotherapy. He’ll wake before dawn and take 400 mg of temozolomide, a cytotoxin–a drug designed to kill cells by attacking their cytoplasm, along with an anti-nausea drug. (He took the same chemo drug daily throughout his radiation treatments, but at a much lower dose.) This new regimen involves five days of daily doses, and then 23 days to recover, and then another five days of chemo, and so on for many months. We don’t know yet how Richard’s body will tolerate the high doses of this drug.

But still…. It was a good day, made better by a delightful surprise: Molly. Our “kid” had a bit of last-minute business in Denver and ended up flying in last night from San Francisco. She surprised us by reserving a room in the motel where we were staying, which was significantly out of the way of her downtown meetings, but allowed her to have time for breakfast with this this morning before we headed to the VA for Richard’s oncology appointment and she was swallowed by her day of business. The best part: Today is Molly’s 31st birthday, so we got to buy her a bunch of cheery yellow daffodils and give her birthday hugs in person. (That’s a happy Dad with his birthday girl above.) Thanks, Molly–we love you and we’re proud of the person you’ve grown up to be!

A few bits of other good news, on the theory that you can never have too much:

Richard and I have been selected to be part of a show at Denver International Airport organized by Colorado Art Ranch. The show, called “33 Ideas” for the 33 artists and writers represented, will be in the walkway between the main terminal building and Concourse A, and will open in mid-March and run until mid-June. Richard and I are sharing one of the exhibit cases, and our idea is “Terraphilia.” We’re in great company: the show includes artists Sherrie York, Gloria Lamson, and Roberta Smith, and novelist Laura Pritchett, essayist John Calderazzo, and poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, among others. Our case will include a near-life-size photo of “Paula’s Find,” the gorgeous sculptural fire pit Richard carved from a native granite boulder to enliven the backyard of an architect and an interior designer (that’s the fire pit in the photo above), plus one of Richard’s tabletop sculptures, some of my books, and some words. If you’re flying through Denver between mid-March and mid-June, go to the Concourse A walkway to check it out!

And by the way, if you’re longing for spring, join me for some gardening inspiration on Friday, February 26th, when I open the Peak to Prairie Landscape Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado with “Beautiful Resurrection,” the story of why I fell in love with a blighted industrial property and my accidental journey into ecological restoration right at home. The next day, Saturday, February 27th, I’ll be in Fort Collins to teach “Cultivating a Sustainable Kitchen Garden” at the High Plains Landscape Workshop. Take home ideas on how to grow your own delicious and beautiful food, whether your garden is a few pots on a balcony or a whole yard.