Monday, May 24, 2010

Some ups, some downs, and the power of words

Chemo tomorrow (Tuesday). The ball gets rolling at 7 am.

It's been a great two weeks in so many ways: parties to celebrate graduations, reunions, life (literally went to a Celebration of Life party), and the fact that we can dance with our 3 year old. We had a quick but fantastic trip to NYC with the boys, visits with friends....I feel so lucky to be well enough to enjoy all that.

My last chemo went smoothly. Typically, I have chemo on Tuesday, wear my continuous infusion pump on Wed and have it removed on Thursday. Also on Wed and Thursday, I take anti-nausea medications. But on Thursday, I felt so well that I forgot to take them. Woo hoo!

Never fear, though -- life is not without its checks and balances, and I got sick the next week (my non-chemo week), with the same thing that sent me to the ER two weeks prior. Late Monday night, I could feel it coming on, and the stomach pains kept me from moving around. I stayed up all night, trying to keep everything down. I hate getting sick, and I'm a wimp with pain. I also knew that, if my husband caught wind of this, he would insist that I go to the ER, and I preferred to stay home.

At 5:30 a.m., the gig was up. And, my husband heard me.

He was out of bed like a shot, showered and dressed before I was done. He appeared like Superman on the scene, standing over me with his hands on his hips. Since I was alternating between praying to the porcelain gods and being doubled over on the nice, cool, clean bathroom floor, I really wasn't in the best position to argue. Of course, that didn't stop me.

"They will just do tests and observe. It is way easier to be sick at home. I'm not going. And you can observe me here."

"I AM observing you. You need to go to the ER."

I could not imagine laying on the bathroom floor of the ER. I had to stay home. I was convinced that this would run its course. At the same time, the voices from the ER docs, two weeks ago, echoed in my head. "You could have a bowel perforation and die."

I made my choice to stay home, but these words running through my head scared the crap out of me. (Pardon the rectal cancer joke.)

Thankfully, my discomfort ran its course, I avoided the ER, and got to recuperate at home. I felt more relieved than right. And more than a little lucky.

The rest of the week provided lots of opportunities to reflect on the power of words. Mostly, I live in a small circle. When I leave my house, I primarily interact with friends, or friendly people who are affiliated with my sons' schools, or neighbors. When I venture into Harvard Square, I encounter the earthy-crunchy people of Cambridge, who typically like to live and let live. It's all peace, love and rock and roll, most of the time. I admit that I prefer to surround myself with people who I generally like, and, while I think I am open to anyone, I have few random encounters with people much different than my social circle.

Feeling strong one blue-sky day, I went grocery shopping for the first time since January. My parents had a small grocery store when I was growing up and we all worked there. I LOVE shopping for food, and I chose a grocery store outside Cambridge. Walking among all the fresh fruits and vegetables, checking out the olives and cheeses, and smelling the prepared dishes was a completely sensual experience for me.

I was already overjoyed, and it got better: Leaving the store, I ran into two separate friends in the parking lot. So fun!

Then, for about a second, I blocked a woman driving her car. She was clearly angry about it, and I really didn't mean to annoy her, so I apologized. In reply, she screamed, "Would you shut up?" Wow. Suddenly, I marveled that this wonderful shopping and social experience, even the sunny blue sky, could be totally wrecked by one person's strong words. While it still stung, it was, luckily, so out of proportion to the situation that it was hard to take it too personally.

I thought about this for a long time over the next few days and looked at it from lots of angles. Harsh words and feelings transfer strong negative energy, and good words and feelings transfer positive energy. But why do the bad ones have such staying power? Why can they crush the good feelings? I don't know. Maybe the good ones are more fragile, or maybe, when those good feelings come our way, we have a responsibility to protect them and keep them alive and going.

Once I returned my focus to the many good parts of that day, her words started to lose their sting.

On top of the words, I realized that I carry around alot of assumptions I didn't even know I had, like...
...if I am nice, people will be nice to me.
...if I take care of my body, I won't get sick.
...tomorrow will mostly be the same as today.

Well, apparently, I'm not really entering into valid agreements with the universe!

But I'm happy to enter into agreements with you. I admit, you are part of my circle of choice, so it isn't a huge risk. But here is one: I promise to take care and nurture all those good feelings and prayers you send my way, so that any little good thought, prayer or wish has the potential to grow, and I will send those feelings right back to you. They truly carry me along, and I appreciate any you send for good chemo this week!

One short, completely unrelated story:

This morning, the boys asked if they could catch a rabbit in our backyard. I figured that was harmless and said yes. To my astonishment, they returned about five minutes later with joyful expressions and a baby rabbit.

When I asked why they took the baby rabbit, my six-year-old replied, "Because I can't catch the bigger ones."

I love that he knew his limitations and was undaunted by them, figuring out a way to go after what he wanted. I love seeing the happy eyes of both boys, filled with the hope that they would get to keep the rabbit. (They did not - we returned it to its mama.) And I love that both boys worked together to do this, even though it completely freaked me out to see that baby rabbit in my house.

I hope you find a way to catch whatever makes you happy, and that you get to keep it, too.

Love, Marie

P.S. I need to mention that a friend, Andrew, passed away last week from colon cancer. Three of us were diagnosed with colorectal cancer around the same time, though we've each had our own journey. He was younger than I am, and has three small children, around the same ages as mine. It is sobering to think of the ripple effects of this disease.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Marie -- The only response to the woman in the parking lot is to remember she's teaching you (and your readers) how you don't want to live. Some things are so simple, like our need to be kind to one another, since we have no idea what's going on in others' lives. How sad her life must be that she would act like that. In contrast, your insistence on finding joy in your own life teaches me how I do want to live. Love, Ruth