A Deer, a Room, a Fridge, a Mexican Shaman... and Food

2010 June - July

Created by Tom on 08/05/2010
. Thursday, July 1, 2010 Dear friends, It SEEMS like Karen's digestive system is more delicate, on average, than it has been -- although there have been so many ups and downs that it is hard to gauge. She FEELS like it is more delicate. She is taking more drugs, but in sufficiently low dosages and with enough conscious timing that fogginess has not been a big problem. But her diet is SO limited: juices, yogurt, smoothies (I make), mashed potatoes (seasoned with soup broth), bisques and strained soups. I just reminded her that she can also do applesauce. Every now and then she breaks out of this to do her "chew and spit", but much more cautiously. We worry that her bowel blockage has renewed itself or shown up elsewhere inside her. She isn't doing as much bowel movement and her meals tend to flow out of her stomach tube pretty quickly, so we're not sure how much is being digested and absorbed. She has lots of gas, which then doesn't seem to pass, just making her belly tight. After eating she ends up feeling either nauseous or hungry or both and occasionally has been reduced to sobbing about how desperately she wants to eat something that will make her feel full and satisfied. The nausea and GERD hang around the edges of her awareness almost always, often held at bay by drugs, homeopathic remedies and distractions (conversations, movies, reading, wheelchair outings), but just as often swoop into her life and take it over. It is all so simultaneously unpredictable (in any given hour or day) and totally predictable (that any day will have some of this). It is much of what life is about right now. This is made more poignant since Karen feels I have a knack for making her smoothies and seasoning her mashed potatoes and discussing with her what she might eat next that she feels tremendously dependent on me. She feels more insecure lately when I leave for a day or more. Which, of course, is harder on me. In general Karen is very happy with the staff at the nursing home, but there are some of them, and some occasions, when certain inadequacies really get to her and she swings into bitterness, anger and grief. I can understand that -- AND understand that there is probably a story behind every one of these instances which, if fully understood, would invoke more compassion than anger. That seems to be pretty broadly true, as far as I can tell. It's just that we usually don't know those stories; we only see the impact on us or those we love. This is in the midst of some really great developments. First of all, she has a new room. One of the nurse's aides came to her about two weeks ago and told her there was a deer eating apples from a tree in the courtyard outside her window -- but it was behind the trees in front of Karen's window. So Karen was invited into the empty room next door to watch, where she sat for about 20 minutes, transfixed. Soon she had fallen in love with the room, which is a mirror image of hers (layout and furniture-wise) and has an uninhibited view of the lovely courtyard and much more natural light. She mentioned it to the social worker and within 24 hours she (we) had been moved into that room. Then her favorite CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and the same social worker arranged for a small refrigerator to be moved into her room. That is a MAJOR convenience, given Karen's odd diet and eating times. It is great for Karen, for me, and for the nursing staff, who as guardians of the nursing staff refrigerator have had to carry our food and drink to and fro many times a day and can now be free of that duty. So the physical set-up is much better, and Karen has now watched the deer (it turns out it is a mother) on several occasions. Also great was a two-day visit from our friend Anna Pendall from the Bay Area. Not only did it give me a couple of days' break, but Anna treated (and took) Karen to a concert by Karen's favorite band, Pink Martini (rock, swing, Latin) at Eugene's premiere event venue, the Hult. The only tickets left were tickets for wheelchair users and their helpers! I wasn't there, but Karen said they were in the back with lots of room and she stood up and danced for half the performance. (Her feet are more swollen this week and I suspect that that delightful activity has something to do with that problem.) Also I found a really green area up the street, with many trees around big houses, paths through woods, flowers, etc. I haven't managed to wheel Karen up there yet, as there is a fairly steep hill going up to it, but I hope to do that in the not too distant future. Lastly, Karen and I last night watched the recently released video of Barbra Streisand's "extended directors cut" of the 1983 movie YENTL, and both really loved it. A very intense experience. Another big development is that I got back in touch with my friends from my dentistry trip to Mexico City two years ago -- Juanita Flores and Jose Miguel Martinez -- who had told me about a shaman who did psychic surgeries, including many successful operations on cancer patients. Karen is again very interested in this option, especially in light of the possible renewed advance of her cancer for which Western medicine offers no cure, only care as she dies. We have learned that the shaman is Don Enrique Ugalde, whose late mother, Donna Barbara Guerrero (who was widely known as Pachita), was also a shaman who performed such surgeries for 50 years (although both mother and son have taken no credit for the healings, claiming they are done by the spirit of the last Aztec emperor who enters them in trance and directs their actions). While I am still agnostic about the whole thing, I've been researching it with as open a mind as I can, and there are numerous signs that Don Enrique is not a charlatan. For example, he only operates on people who are brought in by others who have had successful operations from him, and he charges what patients feel is right to pay. We've read several accounts of medical doctors who have had or witnessed operations by these two people, who had no negative things to say about it, although it is beyond their explanatory powers. There is a video documentary online about Don Enrique in French, made several years ago by France's equivalent of public television, that I've seen part of and our friend Martha Teak in Paris has sent us a transcript/summary of (unfortunately, it has been listed as "unavailable", although I'm not sure whether that is because of the internet filter imposed by the nursing home). People we know who are involved in shamanic practices, including my daughter, have positive first impressions, though further research is clearly needed and underway. We have several hoops to jump through, including Karen getting a passport, contacting Don Enrique or his assistants (since Karen's tumor is diffuse and not easily "cut out" as has happened in other stories we've heard), connecting with a friend-of-a-friend who has had a successful operation, and figuring out how to deal with Karen's very sensitive digestive system needs on such a journey. Assuming we end up making that journey. As usual, many balls are in the air... I'm writing this at the end of a hard day. I woke up very "socked in" and tired and have not gotten a nap. Karen and I have had several arguments, mainly about how to proceed with possible plans for Mexico. Hopefully we will get in better tune before I need to leave for the co-op for a house meeting and some treasurer tasks I need to do there. I'll be back by Friday morning for the long weekend. Thank you all for your ongoing support. Coheartedly, Tom