Rebounding from setback one step at a time

Published2/11/2008 12:01 AM

No matter what the weather, the postmen make their appointed rounds -- even if they're delayed, as they must have been, by the recent snowstorms, ice and potholes. Normally columnists have no problem with deadlines unless news is breaking.

My breaking news wasn't headline-making, but it did have me sitting and scooting on the floor of my family room for 3½ hours with no warning.


I was returning to my kitchen from my family room when I sank gently to the floor, totally unable to get up -- not on my own, not by pulling up on couches, chairs, tables or cabinets. Nothing worked.

All I knew was my legs wouldn't hold me.

The tumors had pushed against my spinal cord, impeding the neurological connection that sends signals to walk. What to do?

My friends laugh when I tell them that first things do come first -- in my case, that meant making sure my precious Burmese kitties got to their first mommies, the breeders who fortunately live nearby. Almost 7 years old now, my kitties probably had no idea who these strangers were, but their first mommies scooped them up and took them home.

Only then did I call 911 to get to Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, where, as is typical of all three hospitals in the system -- Evanston, Glenbrook and Highland Park -- the care, commitment and concern shown by everyone on the staff has been exemplary.

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Under the guidance of the head of oncology and his assistant, in collaboration with radiology and my cousin Dan (Dr. Dan Kopans, chief of breast imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and a radiology professor at Harvard Medical School), we have done daily small zaps of radiation to reduce the impingement of the tumors, along with small doses of steroids, augmented by physical therapy, occupational therapy and other methods to get me back on my feet.

So far, some success. I can walk with a walker about 180 feet, take care of personal needs, and in about two weeks, when we begin my new chemo through a brand-new portacath inserted last week, all should move forward even more quickly.

Do I care about rain, ice, snow and potholes? Nope. I just care about returning to my home, getting my kitties back in my lap, where they can open their own e-mails to keep up to date -- and they do. To that end, I even walked three steps up and three steps down today with the assistance of physical therapy.

And thank you to everyone who has been so concerned and helpful. A very, very special thank-you to the Buffalo Grove paramedics who responded so quickly and well.

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