I have posted before about the events of October 21, 2009, but these posts were scattered between two websites and took key events out of the context of the day and the day somewhat out of the context of the trajectory of Laura’s illness. Previously I even posted a story on Wattpad with the same title that I’m using for this piece. I’ve incorporated that post into this one because I became so involved in relating my own personal battles at work that I never got to the punch line, Laura’s statement: “But you’re handling everything.”
The MRI for which we were waiting in the last post, La Folia, showed that Laura’s tumor continued to grow after a year of multiple courses of treatment. At the clinic visit where we learned this news, the surgeon and the radiologist gave Laura the first two of what she called their “kiss-offs.” The oncologist wanted to give Avastin one more shot (bad pun intended). Laura started coming to Philadelphia every two weeks for an infusion. Luckily Anne Mei had started taking the school bus every day so we did not have an issue of getting her to school first.
The traffic on I-95 into Philadelphia is always bad, but as the weeks rolled by in September and October 2009 it seemed to get worse and worse. Because we were late for the first two infusions, I left half an hour early on October 21st. We were still half an hour late. (For her last scheduled infusion on November 4, I allowed two and half hours for what should be an hour trip. Because there was a transit strike that morning, we barely made it on time.)
Laura was now down to less than 100 pounds so we were delighted to learn that she had put on 1.5 pounds in the two weeks since her last infusion. Cakes, pies, cookies, and quiches supplied by friends and co-workers had helped.
After the infusion we crossed 10th Street to the Starbucks at the corner of Chestnut Street, where we met Laura’s law school classmate and friend, Jared Garelick, who had taken the train up from Washington, D.C., to see Laura. We then walked the four or five blocks over to the Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Filbert for lunch.
As the name implies the Market occupies an old, downtown railway terminal. The southeast quadrant of the Market is filled with fruit and vegetable stands. On the main aisles transecting the Market there are butchers, bakers, seafood shops, cheese stores, ethnic food shops. Towards the northeast quadrant there are stalls with costume jewelry, ethnic clothes, and other trinkets. Interspersed among these and along the west and north sides of the market are places to buy prepared food to eat. A section in the middle of the Market, running to the west end, has tables to take your food to eat. Finding a seat is not for the faint of heart at lunchtime, which was when we arrived.
Laura, Jared and I entered by the door at the southwest corner, off 12th Street. Before we really had a chance to talk about where to get our food, Laura made a beeline to the Amish chicken place at the north end of the Market. Jared and I followed along. As long as I’d known her, Laura had never been a big eater so I was surprised when she ordered the barbecued half chicken plate, complete with fries and slaw. I forget what Jared and I ordered and ate because I was so fixated on getting Laura and her meal safely through the crowds to a table. I remember the three of us crowding around one of the small, two-person tables next to one of the metal pillars that had been painted with 50 coats of dull brownish paint. Laura immediately unwrapped her chicken and dug in with both hands. She always liked the dark meat best so she started with the thighs and drumsticks, but she went on to finish the breast and every other morsel of meat, along with the skin, the fries and the slaw. Jared and I did our best to keep up with her. By the time she finished, there were only bones and grease on the paper plate. Laura didn’t gobble the food down like a starving person. She just thoroughly enjoyed every single bite. Watching her eat gave me as much pleasure as she was getting from the food.
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Not right, nor orderly.Non-Fiction
The phrase "not right, nor orderly" comes from John Donne's poem, "An Anatomie of the World," written on the first anniversary of "the untimely death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury," the 14 year old daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury. The poet u...