Sunday, September 25, 2011

Back on chemo offer

Lio by Mark Tatulli

This comic captures a part of my life lately. Thank you for being my safety net, especially when I am hit into a hole. 

The events of the past few weeks highlighted, for me, how important it is to have someone present in your life. Your notes and passing conversations mean so much. I couldn't answer from the dark place I was in, but I really appreciated them and read and re-read them. 

Even if you didn't reach out, please don't worry about it. Before I entered this crazy cancer world, I had no idea of what to say, how to say it, etc. I still don't know what to say when I encounter this with someone else.

Thank you also for signing up to bring dinners to us. We initially put two months of dates on the calendar, just to see what works. Unfortunately, we will need dinners past then, so once we figure out the routine (you'd think I'd know this by now!), we'll send out more dates. Stay tuned if you are interested!

I was initially relieved to start chemo this week. When the surgery was cancelled, I found myself in the odd position of actually hoping that I could get chemo. How ironic is that?

In spite of my gratitude for it, the treatment hit me with a bang. Chemo is cumulative so I understand, for example, the 10th treatment feels harder than the first. But, I thought that after taking such a long break, this first treatment back might feel more like my 20th. 

No -- it was more like my last treatment in January, picking up exactly where I left off.

I was sick, didn't feel like myself, couldn't think clearly, and didn't even get out of bed for almost three days. Once again I found myself with the familiar runny nose, the inability to clear my throat, the chemo taste in my mouth and the smell on my skin. On top of that, my tumors are painful and I have an almost constant stomachache. Those last two are new experiences for me. 

The kids seemed to deal with it well; they needed to be near me and played around me and were generally well-behaved and easy-going in my presence. It didn't matter if I could actually participate or even move - they dealt a hand for me in games of Uno and laid my cards on my belly. I was a grateful recipient of their spa treatments (Aidan's newest business idea), and their captive audience as they read books. They were calm and sweet and kind. 

When they weren't with me, I could hear their stress. They didn't want to leave me to go to school, they didn't want to play anywhere but near my bed. They would fight with each other and with Tiron over the smallest detail. 

This whole situation stunk. After four days, I decided that I couldn't do it again. I just couldn't do any more chemo. It was taking too much of a toll on me and on everyone around me.

I started to think: Everyone dies. Maybe it is better to just get it over with. There is something to be said about living your life without the pain and sickness of chemo or other treatments.

During my three trips to the hospital this week, I saw people in various stages of physical distress. Some were in wheelchairs, some on stretchers, others sitting silently with their discomfort. I tried to see what made them continue on each day, but I couldn't uncover anything

Yesterday, Thursday, I pulled my sorry butt out of bed and dragged it to yoga class. I spent the day forcing myself to consciously pay attention to and be thankful for specific things in my life, trying to find reasons to move forward. My yoga instructor was back. My acupuncturist offered to treat me while on her maternity leave. I am immensely grateful for these things, but they weren't reasons for living.

I went completely off my diet. I ate cheese, wheat crackers, watermelon, chocolate. I had a glass of wine. Those were good, but not as satisfying as I remembered. That night, I attended Curriculum Night for parents (also known as Back to School Night) at the boys' school, primarily in search of brownies.

Our two boys attend the school, one in third grade and one in Beginners (pre-K). Tiron and I split to cover both classes. Tiron suggested that I attend the third grade class discussion because I am usually the one to help with any academics. I told him that I wanted to go to the Beginners class tonight. I thought, but didn't say, that maybe he soon would be the one primarily helping with third-grade homework.

Once in the Beginner classroom, it was good to see the children's work and connect with the other parents. The teachers did an amazing job of presenting the Beginners class information. It was calming to hear their warm description of what the kids learn as they play with blocks or devise a dress-up scenario. We learned how the children will begin to collect and graph information, how they will write a story with their own made-up character, and how they will typically navigate friendships as the year progresses. 

I read Julian's description of himself: He lives with his brother, Aidan, his momma and daddy. He wants to be a race car driver when he grows up. The teacher explained, "He initially said that he just wants to be a grown-up." Me, too, honey. Me too.

To conclude the evening, the teachers ran a slide show of photos from the first couple of weeks. They played songs that, combined with the photos, make me teary (like, These are the Days to Remember by Natalie Merchant). I enjoyed the photos of Julian interacting with his new friends, swinging on the monkey bars, having a snack, reading a book, building a tower. I got to see the joyful faces of his classmates and realized that I totally love so many of them and am falling in love with the rest, as they are slowly making their own way in this new environment with joy and pride.

And that brought me back. For me, life is so much about experiencing these unchoreographed, unexpected moments, filled with love and shared with others I don't yet even know but who somehow become major part of our lives -- these surprise connections in each and every day. There is no way to know what is ahead of us, so we forge on and are often so fortunate to be bathed in joy and love.

I am happy for whatever circumstances allow us to connect. Your presence in my life brings me strength and joy. Please don't ever underestimate the power of that.

I am very self-conscious about taking more than I give lately. But I can offer this to you:

On Saturday night,  Tiron and I return to Lourdes. There is a spot where I can tuck a note: a request, a blessing, a prayer -- whatever you like. If you want, I would be honored to bring that for you or for someone you care about. 
I know this is last-minute, but if you can get it to me before Saturday afternoon, I will bring it with me. I promise that I won't read it!
Or, you can email it to me while we are there, though it would be more difficult for me not to read that if you want it to be private.

In the meantime, take good care, enjoy the day, and please know how powerful your presence really is.

Much love and many blessings,

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