Monday, January 19, 2009


On Saturday afternoon, I did something quite extraordinary: sat in bed and listened, really listened, to the entire Metropolitan Opera broadcast of John Adams's amazing "Dr. Atomic." This is his telling of the first atomic test, and of J. Robert Oppenheimer's role, and anguish, about his role in the development of the A-bomb.

I wasn't at all sure that I could listen. I don't like Adams's earlier opera, "Nixon in China," and (like most people, I imagine), I've never sat down and listened to an entire opera broadcast. But "Dr. Atomic" is wonderful, and this was also a trial for something I plan to do a lot of in the months ahead--really listen to music. In fact, as I type, Nate is assembling my new Bose Wave radio/CD changer.

And it also seemed important that I think about the people--from Marie Curie to the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to, yes, me, who have or will succumb to various kinds of radiation. And to think about choice. Because even though Oppenheimer questioned whether he had a choice about working on the bomb, of course he did. We all do.

Tomorrow I will choose between the only alternatives I have left, as far as the cancer is concerned: begin a course of irinotecan, the only chemo for stomach cancer that I haven't tried, or do nothing. There are many problems with the drug: it's the one that's very likely to cause diahrrea; they could only give me a 50% dose; it has a 15-20% chance of working; even if it worked, it would give me only a few months.... Of course, the alternative--do nothing--likely means dying in very few months.

Tomorrow I will see Dr. Holen nd once again talk about this choice. (We, with Nate, also discussed this last Thursday.) Because I know a lot of you will not want to wait a week to hear my decision, I'll post an update tomorrow afternoon.

As Oppenheimer knew, choice is difficult. But it's also important, and good.

Ironically, my appointment with Dr. Holen is scheduled at the exact time of Barack Obama's inauguration. We all made a very good choice!


AA said...

What ever choice you make--will be the right one

Audrey Waitkus said...

In a Word


Radiant - describes her
Radiate - defines her
Radiation determines her

May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob guide you in your choice.