The END of Hospital Chemo and the Old Ones


Round 3B, you did NOT almost kill me. Thank you. Part of it is that the doctor dialed down the dose a bit; and my gratitude for that favor, small in gesture, huge in effect, is boundless. Thus far, I have had no fevers, kept the nausea in check and generally have felt as good as I could expect to feel. What a relief to feel good enough to enjoy the height of summer. Bright flowers adorn the Maple Leaf yards, summer bees gather and distribute pollen, mornings and evenings are full of birdsong. That I can experience these things is a miracle I do not take for granted.

Now, if I can get through the next few dangerous days of Neutropenia  without infection, and my white blood cells return to protect me, I should be able to arrive at the transplant date (Aug. 20) in good shape.


Something happened the other night that I am still trying to make sense of: the death of tree. This has nothing to do with leukemia and everything to do with just trying to come to terms with how things happen. I take it as a good sign that my mind is working on this instead of just trying to survive.

Let me say this: I don’t take tree deaths easily, especially if they are big and/or old.  When the fine old leaning tree in front of the Office Supply store in Friday Harbor was abruptly taken down (sudden to me, and all who did not expect it), I was devastated. I had to change plans and go sit by Ben White’s grave for an hour before I could pull myself back together (for those who don’t know him, he was a nature activist who died far too early. But Ben would understand tree grief. Many people don’t.). I know trees have a natural life span and that rot can make them dangerous and kill them. I just take it hard.

IMG_7583It seems to me trees are so heroic, innocent and brave all at the same time. They root and grow, competing for sunshine and nutrients until one prevails. The Old Ones are full of sentience, with years of supporting other life forms, from raccoons to birds to moss and lichens and countless insects; providing shade and oxygen without demanding anything in return. Perhaps it’s their vulnerability that touches me so, that they are so big and stately and grand and they can’t run away when danger threatens.

We have certain tree-friends we especially love in a neighborhood that is old fashioned enough to allow and/or still have big trees. One of our favorites was a magnificent old weeping willow, one of my special tees. We went out of our way to sit on the little bench provided beneath this beauty and we felt rich and at peace. When I could barely walk around the block, this tree nurtured and fed my soul like a baby bird. On a still night, a week ago, the 70 year-old cracked from its heart rot and fell apart in a way that the grieving owners had no choice to take down the remaining section.  And there is no replacing it, except in another 70 years.


I am not sure why I have chosen to blog about this. There is just empty sky and a naked view of other houses where once a splendid life flourished. And because of shifting baselines, it is too easy to forget about it, and begin to take the tree-less view as “normal”. I can’t come up with a snappy philosophical turn-around about it.  I don’t even want to try, as it would be callous and disrespectful. I would rather grieve with neighbors I don’t know for a tree we loved for our own reasons.


I do think we are on this earth partly to witness. I want to notice and feel, pause and absorb the circle of life, even when it is hard. It puts my own aging and death into perspective. Life doesn’t last forever. Savor. Be an activist. Save. When you spot an Old One, lay your hand on it, and give gratitude and appreciation for its life energy.

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy; if the world were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I wake up each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.” — E. B. White


7 comments on “The END of Hospital Chemo and the Old Ones

  1. E.B. White and you share that special ability to see further and more deeply than most and to then to express in words so well that others can get a glimpse. I’m grateful that you have such a beautiful summer to work through all of these challenges.and so glad you can see beauty so powerfully. I’m smiling and send happy thoughts your way.

    Take care,



  2. I too grieve with you for your tree friend! I have loved and lost some very dear tree friends in my life and it is always hard! Hugs to you and to the trees! Blessings Be Beth

  3. Shann,
    Here are more thoughts of trees from another friend you know:

    I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as
    though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel
    about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all
    directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves,
    traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and
    through space heaven knows how fast and far!
    —John Muir

  4. Just a note to let you know how much both Henry Cole and I are thinking about you – every day – and wishing you the best of health and recovery. Your ordeal sounds really tough and incredibly unpleasant, not to mention scary. I wanted to send you something special, so have attached pictures I took while drawing birch leaves in a field sketching class I am taking. A grasshopper totally ‘made my day’ – well, my month; maybe my year, in truth!

    Hang in there – so many are rooting and chanting and praying and wishing for you Shann!

    Susan Logue Fairbanks

  5. thanks for the card and thoughts on our much loved willow tree. It was a sad sad day. No more swaying of the branches, that produced a beautiful rippling effect on the walls in our living room. It was privacy, it was shade, it was art, it was home to birds, and raccoon families. It is really missed. Best of wishes to you in what your going through. I hope you will be back in good health soon.

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