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 Spent yesterday doing something I love and haven't done since before I fell ill - I sang, in public!!!, at a Mòd, which is a Gaelic singing competition.  I only took one medal, but I don't mind.  I didn't really go looking to win anyway.  The chemo did a number on my vocal apparatus, and for awhile, I was afraid I'd never sing again as I had before.  But I've been working with a vocal coach and also working on my stamina (singing, believe it or not, is very physical) and I'm pretty pleased with how I did.  I'm not ready to head to Scotland to compete in the Royal National Mòd yet, but I might be, in year or two :-).

Now I need to spend sometime catching up with emails, LJ and fb . . . rumors of internet access at the hotel where I was staying were greatly exaggerated.  It's amazing how a weekend without internet access feels as if I'd been to Mars or something!

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
kellychambliss
Sep. 12th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
That's great news about the singing! But I'm sorry to hear you've been so seriously ill. I know how much of an ordeal any large illness is, let alone one that involves chemo. I'm so happy to hear that you're doing well now.

(singing, believe it or not, is very physical)

Definitely! My best friend from high school is a good (amateur) singer (she did a vocal performance major in college), and watching her in action has shown me that singing is not a skill for the weak.

It's amazing how a weekend without internet access feels as if I'd been to Mars or something!

Ain't it the truth? How did I manage to live all those years when I wasn't checking email and LJ every few nanoseconds? /g/
albalark
Sep. 13th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
Since I'd written about it earlier, I forget that not everyone knows . . . in early February, right after I started rec-ing for KIA, I discovered that the 'flu' that I'd had for a month was, in fact, leukemia. Two days after my diagnosis I was in the hospital, starting chemo for the bone marrow transplant that saved my life. It sounds horrible, and it was, but I've always considered myself a very lucky person, and I was in this, as well.

My mother was an exact match - she gave me life not once, but twice; I have about the best health insurance there is and the best doctors in the biz, I had family and friends come out of the woodwork (some from across the ocean) to help my husband and daughter cope, I had a very capable senior post-doc who carried my lab on her shoulders for the months that I was ill (I didn't go back to work until May), and I had a disease that was curable. All in all, I was very fortunate, indeed.

In such situations, one learns a great deal about oneself, both things large and petty. One of the strongest and, perhaps strangest, emotions I dealt with was guilt. My daughter is only 11, how could I end up with a life threatening illness and cause her and my husband such pain? And my poor DH had to be so strong for our girl and yet had to deal with his own fears or fall apart. What about the people whose careers depend on me as their advisor? And the sacrifices my friends and family made? It's not rational, I guess, to feel guilt over something I couldn't control, but I did. I didn't cry over the pain and nausea and the indignities of being so ill - I cried over losing the long hair I hadn't had cut since I was 8 years old. Great time to find out I am vain. And I cried over the wreckage of my voice by the chemo - a side effect I never knew about but which is not uncommon. Singing is so important to me, that the thought of no longer being able to do it made me give in to despair. My Italian sister-in-law likened it to never being able to talk with her hands again. But I've always been a fighter, and I promised myself that I'd sing again no matter what it took. And I have sung again - in so many ways :-).

I've never been a "why me" person - in most things there really is no 'why'. All we can do in the time we have is make the most of it, and have a sense of humor to buffer the acid life can throw. I'm even happy to go to staff meetings now (but I'm sure *that* will wear off soon)! I never stop being thrilled to still be around to take it all in.
kellychambliss
Sep. 13th, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
Oh, my dear, what a moving story -- I'm so sorry for what you had to go through (happy ending notwithstanding, it sounds like hell) and so impressed by how graciously you have dealt with it. I'm sure you must have had many dark moments, but you've obviously faced them and triumphed.

I think the guilt is a very common feeling, rational or not. When my mother had her first chemo treatment, it lasted for nine hours, and I spent the day with her at the treatment center. It was a pleasant day, considering: the room was as comfortable and cheerful as the staff could make it, all the nurses and workers were kind and funny and helpful, my mom and I had plenty of time for a good talk, but periodically, she would say how bad she felt that I had to "be stuck there" with her. She'd say similar things whenever I'd take her to the doctor or sit with her in waiting rooms or spend time on the phone with insurance people. And of course, I wanted to do it; I was more than glad to help; I would happily have done more if I could. But I think it's only natural to want to spare your loved ones trouble, and so the fact that none of the illness is anyone's "fault" is sort of beside the point. It's all a piece of the disruption.

Nor do I think your feelings about your hair show any vanity. Something like that is so central a part of our sense of identity that losing it is truly like losing a part of oneself -- it's a psychic blow. And your voice: I can only imagine how difficult that would have been, like losing a hand or something. I know that chemo can interfere with one's concentration, and when I think how that might affect my ability to read and write, I find it terrifying, for without those things, I'd fear that I'd end up being a different person, somehow not "me" any longer. Very scary. I admire your determination immensely, and I'm so glad you're singing again, in all your different ways.

I'm going to try to take a leaf from your book and put my own life in better perspective (although I can't promise to enjoy committee meetings /g/).

Thank you for offering this piece of your story, of yourself.
albalark
Sep. 13th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your kind thoughts and compassionate words. I feel pretty close to what passes for normal these days, though there are days when I feel utterly giddy with the joy of being alive, and days when it feels as if I have PTSD and I can still feel the Hickman in my chest, every twinge means I'm sick again or I look in the mirror and don't recognize the woman looking back. I wish I could keep the former and ditch the latter! Happily, the extreme lows are happening less frequently and not lasting as long.

I don't know that I was particularly gracious during the worst of it. I could have given Snape some competition at times. Since you weren't there that day I begged everyone to just leave me alone because I couldn't take the way they were looking at me, or the day I told the hospital minister that I didn't believe any of that religious crap and I'd appreciate it if he'd stop patronizing me, take his bibles and his pamphlets and get the hell out of my room, or the day I let my husband's barber cut my hair in a buzz to "minimize the trauma " of it falling out while I wept hysterically, or witnessed my less than even-tempered frustration with myself when chemo-brain made it impossible even to read, well, I can excuse you being over-generous :-). Like anyone under duress, I just coped the best way I knew how, and tried hard to minimize taking it out on others. I can be a bit sanguine about it now, but I think I was simply in shock, for most of it.

My deepest sympathies at having to watch your dear mother go through this!! About the only thing worse than having to go through it yourself is to watch someone you love suffer and be unable to do a thing to stop it. I read an earlier post which you wrote in memory of your mom, so I know it didn't end well. I am so sorry to have dredged up such awful memories. ::hugs you and offers flowers for your mother::
kellychambliss
Sep. 14th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
I don't know that I was particularly gracious during the worst of it.

I should hope not /g/. Seriously -- I think a goodly amount of damned furious rage is absolutely required. Any graciousness is going to be occasional, not an all-the-time thing. Thus I refuse to be considered over-generous at all /g/ -- just getting through it, and retaining some sense of yourself and the things you love, and, as you say, trying to minimize the damage to others -- being able to do any of that is impressive.

Thanks for your sympathy about my mother. I don't mind at all thinking about her and talking about her experience. She handled things graciously, too (though not all the time, of course, and I was actually pleased when she would get angry and not suffer fools gladly; she wasn't letting the illness change her too much).

I hope that some day you'll post a clip of yourself singing.
dickgloucester
Sep. 13th, 2010 10:42 am (UTC)
Just read this after posting my comment.

Ye gods - what a terrifying diagnosis. I'm glad everything came together to help you beat the leukaemia.

I don't think guilt is a bizarre reaction. We all take on many responsibilities throughout life, some of which we carry gladly, others not, but we have obligations. Most people can't walk away from obligations without a bad conscience, whether they are forced to or it's voluntary. Equally, while we take responsibility for others, it's also perfectly natural to want not to be a burden. Doesn't make sense, but it's normal. *hugs*
dickgloucester
Sep. 13th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
I sing too, though not in Gaelic and not in competition! Choral stuff - though with the choir possibly imploding and much politicking going on, I am taking a step back. :-(

I didn't realise you'd been ill. Sounds as though it must have been serious. Recovery must make you cherish every good thing you achieve.
albalark
Sep. 13th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your lovely kind words! ::hugs you back:: I *do* cherish everything, even some not-so-good things, since I realize that I'm really lucky to be able to be here to experience them :-). The worst of the guilt was watching what my illness did to my daughter. I still catch her watching me sometimes as if she's afraid that if she looks away I'll disappear. Counseling has helped, but I wish that the knowledge that her parents are mortal is something she did not yet have.

A fellow singer - hooray!! What sort of music do you sing? I *am* sorry to hear about the demise of your choir! I was once in one where the director and the principal (male) soloist fought constantly. It was very wearing, so I don't blame you at all for wanting to escape. Singing should be all about joy, even if the song are sad ones. I hope you'll find another musical home soon, if that is your wish, but do keep singing even if you don't. The world isn't so full of beauty yet that we can afford to lose even one voice contributing to it. :-)

librasmile
Sep. 14th, 2010 05:20 am (UTC)
Yaaayyyyy!!! CONGRATULATIONS :^) How blessed must you feel to be getting your voice and music. Yayyyyy!
albalark
Sep. 14th, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
Thank you!! Yes, I do . . . singing is the closest thing to freedom I know. When I get lost in the music it is almost like having wings, so geting to fly again is a thrill, even if my wings are still a little shaky :-) .
librasmile
Sep. 15th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
Well you know the remedy for that - keep singing :^)
librasmile
Sep. 15th, 2010 04:57 am (UTC)
And here's an early Happy Birthday!
albalark
Sep. 16th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
Thanks ::ggg:: . . . I intend to keep singing through many more birthdays to come :-).
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )