Saturday, May 03, 2008

Existential brain-dump

I’ve read people’s comments, and you say things that blow me away. What you’re reading, is what I can give. It’s so superficial when I read it over. There’s so much going on that I can’t access words for. This isn’t really processing—there’s no way I can, yet. I’ll get into all of it more deeply later, either in my own private soul or here.

This diagnosis changes you in an instant. It focuses you, and it makes you strong. There are things you have to do, with as much clarity as possible. And so, you do them. When your phone rings, and your caller ID reads “510-752-anything,” you wince, and you pick up. When the receptionist from head and neck surgery calls, you talk to her. You make health appointments, that you know your school has already cleared for you to keep; and you bring friends to every one of them. You call the Kaiser operator and ask for oncology. You brace yourself for intrusions into your life. Later, you decompress and you cope. But you do what you need to do.

What I’m feeling more than anything, is dread. I know I’m not metastatic, and that is a huge source of joy. I don’t want to minimize the knowledge that I will survive this, minus part of an ear and a summer (or a year) of sickness. In a five-minute phone call, eight days ago, I went from being a moderately-flaky, stressed out student, to an oncology patient in fear for her life. I know I’ll live, now. Alleluia. But I’d really rather still be worrying about papers. I got off damn lucky, and I know it. But I’m still whirling from the roller-coaster of this past week, and I still have the tumor on my skin. Cancer in any form, is serious suckitude. My doc gave me Ambien, and that helps me sleep. But I still feel like I’m stretched on a wire.

I’m bearing up because I have to—but I really have been too busy to fall apart much, and when I have, I’ve fallen into my community’s arms. I’m fully “out” at school. There’s no way I could have kept this only between my teachers and me; it would have felt like living with a secret, too awkward to carry. People ask me how I am, and I can see in their eyes that they want to meet me where I am. They’re giving me the space to be honest, and to have real conversations.

My community’s love is one of the gifts in this. My advisor works with her door open. She doesn’t mind me interrupting her. Before I knew my body was clean, we talked for an hour. She gave me the space to ask for what I really wanted: a healing rite at Eucharist. We did it yesterday, and it was wonderful. I was sitting up front, between two friends, so I didn’t see how many people were there until Communion. It was full, for a Friday especially. I felt my community’s strength, with their hands on me. I stood in the midst of their prayers, and soaked it all in. Lizette’s hands on my head left an imprint that I still feel.

Later, we talked about how it wasn’t just I, but the community who needed this. People want to do something. Casseroles are impractical. Prayer, we all can do.

Another gift is the strength I’m finding in myself. I used to blow off deadlines all the time. I don’t know that I would do that, now. I have a seriousness that’s new to me. I’m much more deeply committed to life.

One of my friends mentioned after yesterday’s Eucharist, that I’d seemed really joyful at the Follies (the night before). I was, and am. I appreciate life, so much more. That’s one thing that I want to hold onto. I’m experiencing everything more intensely, more intently, more deeply. I’m not rushing. I’m being, rooted and grounded and alive.

Example: I am loving my body, again. I’ve been a student here for three years; never exercising, eating dorm food. Feeling generally crappy a lot of the time. I don’t know whether it’s a function of moving more (because I have appointments to keep) or what exactly, but I’m eating healthier because I’m hearing my body tell me what it really wants. Molly took me to lunch after chapel. I had a turkey and avocado sandwich, on whole wheat bread, with tomato and sprouts. My body responded to it; I could feel it waking up, and almost hear it telling me, “Thank you.”

My body feels healthy and strong. It feels alive, just walking down the street. Feeling my clothes against my skin, the wind brush my feet in my sandals, the earth underneath me—all feels incredibly, deliciously wonderful.

One thing I really want to do, is go and take a random walk, that is not between a friend’s car (or BART) and any Kaiser anywhere. I think I’ll do that, today—amongst the packing and planning that I need to do, two weeks before I would have.

I reserve the right, later, to grieve for symmetrical ears. I reserve the right to be angry at being sick because of treatment, when the cancer’s been cut off of me. Right now, there is suckitude that could have been a whole lot worse. And there is life.

And life, is good.


Lauralew said...

Hugs to you! I used to work in a radiation oncology clinic and saw some of the things you speak of--a more earthy comfortableness with one's own body, an awareness of the basic needs of that body, a kindness towards that body that wasn't there before. We take our bodies for granted so often, and when something happens, we are re-awakened to our bodies. Interesting how we are more attuned to our bodies as home, instead of exterior decoration.

Thanks for writing so eloquently of your journey through this time, dear Sister. Blessings and peace to you.

Two Auntees said...

When I was in nursing school, I had a serious health scare and a period of time that the outcome for me was very questionable. It was a terrifying time. You are right. You go through making and keeping appointments. Doing things that you could not imagine yourself doing a few days earlier.

You are also right in leaning on friends, taking friends with you to appointments and reaching for spiritual sustenance. These things will help to carry you through.

You will get through this difficult time and life will be fuller, richer in ways you cannot imagine.

You are in my prayers.

You are in my prayers.

Two Auntees said...

Kay's posting took me to your blog. Some on us are so wonderfully lucky to have such strong 'family support' when our greatest trials slap us awake. To have strong friends to support you at each step in the process can't be calculated; and is more nourishing than any casseroles.
It was much easier for me to deal with my breast cancer with my church family and Kay at my side than I would have ever managed if I was alone.
Kay was my nurse and angel and task master (when I needed it)during and in the years since my mastectomy.
Kay and I will most certainly be thinking of you in our prayers this morning.


Kirstin said...

Thank you all, for praying and supporting me.

I hae so much support, from virtual and physical community. I can't even imagine going through tis alone.

Thank you again, for dropping in.