Mark’s parents paid me a lovely lunchtime visit last week. In honour of the occasion, I had changed out of my everyday recovery-wear into my Company’s Coming recovery-wear.
At the end of the visit, Mark’s mom motioned to my T-shirt and asked “Who went to Nepal?” and I responded, “My friend Bill. Twenty-some years ago.”
I realized afterward that not only do I recall the source and story (however banal) behind each item in my recovery wardrobe but the memories flit through my mind each and every time I put the clothes on. Which, for one outfit or the other, is at some point of every single day.
So, for the record and without the full details which flit at lightning speed through my mind each time, here they are.
Today I had a complicated morning/afternoon. First I went to IKEA, then I tried to call my friend, then my Bubbie & Zaidie came and then I went outside to play my violin. When I was playing my violin I saw my other friend and I went to play on my bike with her and then I went back inside and now I am here writing this post.
Two nights ago, mom suggested to me that “tomorrow you could draw a face around my port-a-cath, because it kind of looks like a nose”. So, last night I drew the person. I was going to put 2 GIANT hairy nostrils on the bottom of the port-a-cath but mom wouldn’t let me. I can’t believe I did the person without hurting mom. Today I woke up and the port-a-cath person was smudged.
Mom has had two surgerys, one portocath surgery, four chemo treatments, two radio active scans: one heart scan, one bone scan, MRIs, a mamagram, ultra sounds and a biopsy. Dad has dealt with the insurance company, he has taken mom to all of her appiontments, scheduled playdates etc. for Bayla and me and done a special project for his work as well as going to Calgary. In my opinion, my parents are as courageous as they come.
In the weeks after the discovery of my cancer, I dashed from one appointment to another. At the end of a rainy afternoon, I was awaiting my turn in a fifteenth-floor waiting room. I stood in front of a plate glass window and watched the small figures in the street below scampering around like ants. I was no longer part of their world. They were alive; they had errands to run, plans for the future. As for me, my future was death. I had left the ant heap and I was frightened. I remembered the poem “Limited” quoted by the psychiatrist Scott Peck.
The poem’s narrator writes about a train barreling at top speed across the endless expanse of the Great Plains. He knows the final destination of these steel coaches — the scrap heap; and the fate of the men and women laughing in the compartments — dust. He asks a fellow passenger where he’s going. The man answers: “Omaha”.
In the end, even if the other ants didn’t know it, we were all going to the same place. Not to Omaha, but to dust. The last stop was going to be the same for everyone.
The only difference was that the others weren’t thinking about it, whereas I was.
We’re having a glorious taste of spring this week. The sun is shining, Snow Drops are blooming and once empty sidewalks are full of smiling, sauntering humans.
Where in winter’s grip I could roam the neighbourhood with my chemo-cocoon in tact, outings this week have been much more social.
And chance meetings with acquaintances have introduced the challenge of responding to pitying looks and casual/earnest inquiries of “Oh, Andrea! How are you doing?”
What can I say?
I’m actually doing fabulously, all things considered. I’ve made it through the initial horror, the decisions, the surgeries, the injections, scans, x-rays, potions and two-thirds of the chemo. I’ve faced the loss of my occupation and income, insurance theft, my own mortality and a huge wallop of uncertainty — and I’ve stayed pretty sane.
But standing on a street corner in the sunshine, no response does this journey justice.
I’m thinking I’ll stick with, “Fine thank you, how are you?”
I’ve been meaning to do this post for the last few days. Alas, it took being alone in a hotel room in Calgary to finally get around to making good on the idea.
If you walk into our local Kardish bulk and health food store, chances are you’ll be greeted by Ryan, a young staff member who’s immersed himself in learning about healthy eating and the medicinal value of various natural foods, spices and supplements. His greetings are chipper and his service is enthusiastic, usually coming with a detailed explanation of how I happened to select the best version of the product I’m purchasing.
In my most recent visit, Ryan told me about his cancer fighting acronym — CANCER.
C – vitamin C
A – beta carotene (pro-vitamin A)
N – niacin (vitamin B3)
C – chlorophyll
E – pancreatic enzymes
R – red clover (and other red veggies including beets)
Ryan explained that a cancer fighting diet includes all of the above and he plans to include this and other advice in a book he hopes to write — a book that will include recipes for healthy smoothies.
You can follow Ryan’s blog about healthy eating, inspiration and his new bachelor pad at ryansleigh.com.