Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beginning to land

Gently, though. It’s really okay.

I’m going to say something that might disturb some people. I don’t know. People tell me to fight like hell, and they’re right, and I do things that fit that description. I ask everyone who’s breathing to pray for me. (Community support is really, really big.) I’m going down to Riverside tomorrow so I can be admitted on Thursday, to get my body pumped full of chemicals that will make me feel unprintable so I can have a shot at getting rid of cancer. I’d rather not have to do that, but I’m going willingly.

I know what the odds of it working are. This treatment works very well for a very small percentage of people. And I’d rather be happily surprised if it works, than crushed if it doesn’t. So I’m not holding on to anything, even hope.

Do I hope it works? Of course. But I’m not investing my emotional energy in that possibility. A friend who’s an oncology nurse was telling me something to the effect that the mind and the emotions have an effect on the body’s ability to fight cancer. What she said makes sense. But I’m not in that rah-rah-warrior place. I have my sword out. But I’m curiously calm about it.

I already was more than hopeful, once. I was sure that interferon was working, and had worked. We had every reason to think I was clean. And I so wasn’t—I had this crap growing in me, even as we were attempting to prevent the possibility of it ever coming back. It didn’t spread through my palpable, detectable lymph nodes. It snuck in through my bloodstream.

I already didn’t respond to one treatment, which I fervently hoped and wanted to respond to. I know I have no control over my body’s (or the cancer cells’) response to this round either. A is hopeful, because that’s her way of coping. I’d rather be happy than devastated. So I’m more reserved, emotionally, than I ever am. That’s probably part of why I’m still so much in my head about everything.

All I did at the Ranch was walk and write. I am so grateful for that time. I never had to look at my watch—I just responded to mealtime bells when I heard them. And I spent most evenings with the Swifts, just hanging out. It was so amazingly restorative. By the time I left, I was genuinely happy, back in my own skin, and I’d come to some measure of peace.

I had breakfast Sunday morning with Caroline, the director’s wife. She gave me a rock on my way out. It’s a triangular piece of serpentine, about as tall as the palm of my hand. It’s shaped like a mountain. She found it, hiking in the Sierras. And she wrote a blessing on it for me.

I will have a little altar of spiritual homes, when I’m 400 miles from mine. And even that can be holy. One of my priests is calling my hospital room a hermitage. She’s right, really. I am going places spiritually that I never would if I were well. There is life here, and water, and I will not be truly alone.

I had a dream Sunday morning. (I usually wake really early, am up for a couple hours, and go back to sleep.) I was having some kind of medical test to see if the treatment was working. I could see my organs on a TV monitor, with red dots that needed to be measured—those were the tumors. I woke up before I knew what the results were. And it was really okay.

I left the Ranch on Sunday so I could go to church in Sacramento. I always watch the procession going by. I looked up from my hymnal, and caught my priest’s eye. She gave me a look of such absolute love. Her eyes said, “You can do this.” I locked my eyes on hers as long as I could, just drinking it in.

Her metaphor in her sermon was “scary field trips.” I got up at the time people usually go forward with birthdays and thanksgivings, and said, “If this is a thanksgiving, it’s for my community and my health care team.” I told them all what was up, and asked them to come with me in prayer. I know they are. She did the summation prayer that they always do, thanking God for all of us, the gifts we bring, and the gifts given to us. And she prayed especially for me, that I would feel the community’s prayers with me. I already do.

I went back and sat down. My friend held me for awhile.

I put my faith in love and modern medicine. I know what’s in the medical toolbox to fight the cancer I have. I am trusting medical science because I have no choice. I don’t do the faith-healer thing. But the only thing that heals my soul is love. And I’m being bathed in that right now.

I went home after church. A and I hadn’t seen each other in several days. We ate lunch. I reached around and touched my right shoulder—I don’t remember why; I must have had an itch. And I found another tumor.

Here was the thought process: “Oh. I bet I know what that is. Wait, is there a bump on the other side? No, the left side feels normal. Hmm, definitely not a knotted muscle. Damn. It’s real, then.”

The tumor I found is not a friend—it’s an enemy alien. Its presence signals disease that can kill me. But the tumor is also part of me. Finding it was almost a reassurance: you’re not living in a dream world, your body really does throw these.

I know that whatever happens to my body, the intrinsic me will be really okay. I know that like I have never known it before. And so I am genuinely not afraid. This second tumor is just a confirmation: this is life now. I am living where many people don’t go. And I have time now, while I feel well, to stand here with my eyes open.

Two years and two months ago? Not on your life. I was so afraid of everything, before cancer put it all in perspective. I don’t like having cancer that’s resistant to treatment. I don’t want to watch myself get progressively sicker. I don’t want to die. But these clear eyes are a gift of the disease.

UPDATE:  A read this over my shoulder.  She was holding me, and found another tumor, on my rib.  I touched it and it's definitely there.  (It can explain why my bra has felt tight.)  We both just said, "Damn."  I wonder why these are all showing up now?

I'm really not angry with my body anymore.  That prayer has been answered.  Mostly I feel sad for it--I know my body really tried.

I still feel so ridiculously well.  I'll start feeling sick probably Friday morning.  (I'll be admitted Thursday afternoon.)  I wonder if it's reasonable to ask... can I please have more time to feel healthy?  If this doesn't work, can we stop it before the disease itself makes me miserable?


Joan Calvin said...

My prayers are with you.

Lisa Fox said...

Kirstin, to me, that sounds like a good place to be -- in a place of reasonable hope, knowing that no matter what, you are going to be ok. I'm reminded of one my favorite hymns, It is Well with My Soul. It has a rather elegiac, but firmly trusting, tone about it. I often sing it to myself when I'm in the rough places.

My prayers are flying with you.

LKT said...

Your response seems reasonable to me. You feel what you feel. To try and fake positivity isn't going to fool your body one whit.

Prayers continue.

word verification: wines! Perhaps a hint?

Grandmère Mimi said...

I wonder if it's reasonable to ask... can I please have more time to feel healthy?

Kirstin, of course, it is reasonable to ask. I'll join with you to pray that you will have more feeling healthy time.

Much love and many blessings.

Caminante said...

Last week I taught the clergy from Haiti my translation of the song 'All will be well,' and they sang it back with gusto in short order. I will channel their singing in my prayers for you. We don't know what 'well' means; that is God's call. But we can pray.

Meanwhile, may you feel our prayers and love as you continue on the next stage on this 'scary field trip.'

Anonymous said...

There are no words that I can offer about your situation, but there are so many prayers.

It is me fran - but I am at work so not in my normal ID.

Jim said...

My prayers also ascend. I am not sure anyone who has not faced cancer can fully understand it, we who have face our own mortality in a special way. You have chosen the warrior path -- confronting the reality and living the day. That is a good road.

Luck in the shadows!


Ann said...

Prayers continuing - bearing you through these days.

PJ DeGenaro said...

Hey lady -- just want you to know I'm still out here keeping tabs on you. (You know what I mean.)

Big love.

Mary Beth said...

Continuing to lift you up in prayer.

Two Auntees said...

Of course it is okay to ask for more time to feel healthy. I, too, will pray for that for you.

One of the things that I believe is that you can be healed without being cured. It seems that you are in the process of being healed.

Please know that my prayers will be with you

Kirstin said...

Thank you all for being here. Kay, you're exactly right. And I don't know what "wellness" is. But I'm being bathed in healing, right now.

Laura: yes to wines! :-)

Lisa Fox said...

YIPPEE! I'm glad you are (for now) able to connect!

Kirstin said...

I won't be at the hospital until Thursday. But we are working on solutions...

Lisa Fox said...

Kirstin, you are probably too young to remember when Walter Cronkite talked with us during the "black-out period" when the Apollo missions returned to earth. ... But that's what I'm feeling, and what I'm preparing myself for.

Kirstin said...

I really appreciate that I'm this big in your life. A has my login info, so she'll post if I can't.

Thank you for being so present here.

Lisa Fox said...

I'll be listening.
But that's not the point now.
The point now is that you're on your way into treatment, ... and that's where I'm going to focus my prayers.

Caminante said...

Prayers coming your way... candles, too, though virtually. I will keep checking here with hopes that A will keep us posted.

We've got your back... having spent a week in March doing so with Bishop Barahona, I understand a little better what that means so I hope these are not perceived as empty words. Most of all, thoughts and thoughts and thoughts.

Kayko said...

My dad's chemo taught me not to be so afraid of mentioning the word death that the important things get left unsaid. So, in case death is on your very near horizon, I want to say that I am thinking about you, you are an inspiration to me, and the peace of God that shines through you moves me to prayer. Peace and blessings (in whatever form they come) be with you.

Kirstin said...

Thank you, Kayko. (And good to see you here!) I do think about death, and it's hard for me to imagine dying. I'm so alive now.

I'm too ridiculously well to be this sick. And I feel like my body is sprouting tumors. Very strange place to be in.

claire said...

Kirstin, a priest friend of mine has told me it is good to ask for Everything. We can ask Godde for the moon...