We learned on Friday that Kim’s bone scan showed that her cancer status is “unchanged,” with “no new sites of disease.” Splendid news, to be sure. And yet her pain in her knees, legs and feet also remains unchanged. Thanks to exercises suggested by her physical therapist, and by Genne’, her mobility has improved, but the pain, along with the fatigue that accompanies it, continues. It’s been seven months with this pain. She has had two doctors, a nurse, and two physical therapists suggest that she get an MRI, but she can’t get anyone to order one. The best hope on the horizon is that her primary care physician scheduled a telephone appointment in two weeks to talk about it. That two weeks elapsed, she made her request, and now we wait, probably from our insurance, to hear about an appointment. Indeed, time moves slowly when the pain is so extreme.
We are considering the possibility that this pain, probably a consequence of arthritis along with whatever the MRI will reveal, will be with Kim for as long as she lives. It may get worse. With that in mind, we are looking into lifestyle adjustments in the near future. Kim’s pain is accompanied by fatigue, and the combination makes it hard for her to exercise her creativity, or even to go for walks in pursuit of birds and butterflies. We have had a lot of conversations beginning with, “If I get worse . . . “ or, “If living here becomes too much . . .,” or, “When I die . . ..”
The first thing to go may be my new Jeep. It sits high off the ground, and Kim has to struggle to get into it using the grips we had installed along with the running board. She has lost about three inches in height in the last year or two. I trust we will be able to work something out with our Jeep dealer. I like my Jeep, but I have never loved a car, so this will not be difficult for me – if it is necessary.
Then there is the issue of where we will live. We would love to stay here in the Bark House, of course, but that involves a lot of work, in the house and garden/woods/landscape. We know there are resources available, and we do have someone helping with the cleaning, but our outdoor work involves much more than mowing a lawn and raking leaves. Besides, Kim and I both enjoy working outside, and we try to limit ourselves to one hour per day, but if you know Kim (and me, to a lesser extent), you know how that goes. It’s the pain that makes her stop.
And it would be appealing, especially in the winter, to have a place in Traverse City where we do most of our grocery and medical errands. Driving home at night in the winter is not appealing, and our sense of isolation is intense when all of our neighbors have fled to warmer climates. We enjoy visits from family and friends, but we also enjoy it when it’s just the two of us. An in-town option would be nice. The condos we have visited online are uninspiring, though we are spoiled by where we live now.
So, last week we visited Cordia, an assisted living facility located in the former mental institution where we used to own a condo. The place featured some very appealing things, such as two meals a day in their almost-gourmet restaurant, housekeeping services, laundering bed linens, local transportation, use of a gym, library, art room and salon, etc. But a quick tour made it clear that we could not come close to affording what it would cost to rent a unit that was anywhere near big enough for us. Cordia might be a possibility if and when we sold our house on Torch Lake, but we aren’t ready to do that – at least, not yet. So, we are planning on living here, with whatever help we need and can find.
Whatever the near future brings, we know we will need less stuff, so we are running a pretty much full-time garage sale, hauling more things out there daily. It feels good, and we know we will never run out of stuff.
Our plans are up in the air because of uncertainties of Kim’s health and the certainties of our aging. Amid all the uncertainties, amid the dark conversations about death, I keep returning to my favorite poem, one I have loved (I can love a poem, but not a car.) since I discovered it in high school: Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach.” Especially heartening is the opening of the last stanza: “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!” This, despite whatever is going on in the larger world and the uncertainties of our own little world.