Saturday, January 30, 2010
First Regular Week of Playing
I am on the couch again for the day, horizontal and resting, by executive command from Nurse MJ. This week I returned to work in a regular subscription concert, playing principal oboe for Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light” which accompanies the 1928 silent film “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.” I have played two of these concerts, and there is one more tonight. Returning on this particular piece has special meaning because eleven years ago I suffered a hernia injury and had to withdraw from the same concert. The years in between have been a test—six years of chronic pain followed by a second hernia surgery followed by cough-variant asthma, and now this tumor business with two trips inside my head to scrape it out. Everything seems designed to derail my dreams of continuing my life on stage, but—with a little help—I have found a way to persevere. The past eleven years have been wrought with physical issues, but I don’t complain because they have also been the happiest years of my life.
Here is a summary of my return this past week:
TUESDAY – An hour into the first rehearsal, blood came out my nose. I left the stage, called my doctor, and returned to the rehearsal sans oboe, just listening. The doctor visit was inconclusive. He advised “taking it easy for a few days.” I played parts of the second rehearsal that evening. No more blood.
WEDNESDAY – I took it easy all day, then went in for the evening dress. The screen was up, the movie played and we were joined by our Youth Chorus. I felt comfortable. I sounded good.
THURSDAY – I rested all day. On stage for the concert, I warmed up and felt wonderful. Five minutes before the concert I walked a few feet to MJ’s viola chair. I tapped her on the shoulder, leaned close to her ear and whispered, “Thanks for nursing me back to health.” Feeling a little misty, I sat back down to check my reeds one more time. I was ready. A minute later the chorus filed on stage. Several of them wore perfume, which is the most lethal irritant for my asthma. I hacked and choked my way through the performance, playing everything on a quarter tank of air or less. I chewed on cough drops between phrases. I don’t remember anything but MJ said I sounded fine.
FRIDAY – The endocrinologist called with my results. My testosterone is up 9,000%. I felt good about that and opened every jar of pickles in the house. He also advised me on my ongoing water retention. I have diabetes insipidus, a condition where I have uncontrollable fluid loss. I counter this with a powerful nasal spray, but I have been over-using the spray, which has led to the water retention. So instead of taking the spray on an exact schedule, I should wait every day until my body achieves “breakthrough urination” and then keep going and going until I get thirsty. THEN do the spray. But since he used the term “breakthrough urination” all I can think of are old Kool-Aid ads where the giant pitcher breaks through a wall. (“Hey, Kool-Aid!” “Oh, yeahhhhh!”)
Later in the day—and after several errands—my head feels weird. Pressure. My eyes hurt. My ears are ringing. My scalp is tingly. These are all things I felt before both surgeries and I haven’t felt these things in over a month. Late in the afternoon, I go to bed with a large bag of ice on my head, determined to play again that night.
On stage the chorus is fragrance-free, and I am grateful for that. But two minutes before the concert I slice my thumb with a razor blade from my reed-making kit. It bled freely into a tissue I grabbed, and the other oboist handed me a band-aid just in time for the tuning note. My head continued to swell during the concert and my ears rang like it was dinnertime after a barn-raising, but I was able to lay out of enough tutti sections to keep going.
I slept solidly (though with some strange nightmares) and this morning I feel better. But Nurse MJ has ordered me down for the day. She is in another part of the house right now so I could risk it and get up, but she patrols this area occasionally and I don’t want to get in trouble.