Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Morning Musings

So this is where the rubber meets the road..the point throughout high school and my sporadic 17 year span of college attempts where my spirit becomes restless. The first tests are finished and I have, I hope, done reasonably well. Algebra yielded a 91%, which my head wants to be discontented with but logic tells me an A is an A on my transcript and if I go through Algebra making As I have what I want. But I also tell myself anything below a 90 is a failing grade. And it honestly is. There are 40 slots in the nursing program and over 250 applicants each semester. It leaves little wiggle room.

But I have discovered my natural inclination in life is for short, lively, exciting bursts of energetic effort that yields tangible results. I used to think I was just lazy. I don't believe that is true anymore. I am just not particularly tenacious when it comes to physical or mental sweat unless I can see where it is paying off. Usually about this point in a term I start to resent the time I must spend studying and not getting to read for pleasure or I see I am making pretty good grades and get a little egotistical about my ability to pass without really studying. But that won't cut it now. I honestly need to know this stuff for my career. Everything is pertinent to other things yet to come that I also must learn. I think often of Joseph locked up in his hospital room for weeks on end without visitors or change in scenery undergoing a tremendous lack of privacy and often a great deal of pain, frustration and humiliation....all without any real lack of control over what the end result would be. We were shooting for a cure..we had to get 100% or we would fail. But much of it was beyond our ability to affect. I remind myself that is not the case any longer. I only have to get 90%. And whether I attain that magic number (or hopefully beyond it) is completely within my power.

I admit I have to remind myself of this daily. Everything in me cries out "Unfair!" I read so often of other parents who have suffered a loss who have not returned to work at this point, who some days don't get out of bed, who leave work early regularly, who don't leave the house. I can bring myself to envy that and worry I am not taking enough time to feel the misery of my loss. But the truth is, I carry it with me. It is perhaps the most portable emotion I have ever felt. It sits in my chair beside me when one would assume there is no room. I set it on my desk in Biology class and reference it regularly throughout the lectures as we discuss the structure of a cell, its various functions, the fact that one small molecule substituted for another, even if they are tremendously similar, can yield disasterous results for the human body. It makes my pulse quicken, my breathing more shallow, stirs within me a restless need to explain to whomever might listen how this small gem of information applies to my life. But it is a lecture and so I sit, squirming mentally as ideas and memories link with new information and clearer knowledge, tangent after pertinent tangent stirring powerful emotions into the task of learning. Tidbits Joseph's doctors taught me mingle with basic biological concepts until soon I am formulating more questions, turning molecules and cells over and over in my mind, constructing the whys and the hows, all the while marveling at the incredible miracle that is the human body and that it ever works properly at all.

We discussed apoptosis, the death of a cell, usually programmed to happen by mother nature. Ah ha! This is a word I know well. It is one of the key components that made Joseph's leukemia so virulent. Apoptosis malfunctioned in the abnormal white blood cells, the leukemia, the malignancy. They did not die. They replicated themselves over and over and over, each new replica as flawed and unable to function as its parent cell was, stuck in an immature state where it could not do its job, could not fight off disease or carry out any of the duties white blood cells have. It just misbehaved, recklessly reproducing, eventually so numerous and crowded that it squeezed out the bone marrow's ability to produce any new blood cells at all, until by the time Joseph was first diagnosed, he had no white blood cells in his body. His marrow was 100% cancer cells, his blood stream filled with them circulating, squeezing out red cells as well, making him feel terrible, making his organs start to shut down. All because when his particular kind of cancer forms, this notion of apoptosis, programmed cell death, was turned off. Of course this is not the only property that makes a leukemia cell. But it is one of the distinct characteristics that make it so aggressive and dangerous..and perhaps one of the main doorways that in time will let us find a cure or at least get a leg up on it and slow it down.

I'll find out today what I got on my biology exam. I dreamed I got an 80. I was so relieved to wake up and it was just a dream. I sincerely hope it is at least 80+10.