Thursday, June 24, 2010


I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and started writing. That’s the way of things, these days. Even after an evening hike at the Ranch, and a glass of wine after dinner. I don’t have wireless where I’m staying (in the hermitage), so I’m posting this from the refectory after breakfast.

I’m in one of my favorite places. And I’m with some of my favorite people. The Ranch has always meant healing to me. Now, there’s a part of me that’s subtly desperate for exactly that. And I don’t even mean, physically.

Yesterday, I had a stress test at Kaiser to make sure I’m healthy enough to be poisoned. (I am.) I’d gotten a phone call while I was stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway; I checked the message when I got there. It was the nurse who runs the program in Riverside, giving me a date to start chemo. I’ll fly down on the 30th with A, have my consultation on the 1st at 10 a.m, and be admitted directly thereafter. I’ll be released on the 6th. A will pick me up (I won’t be allowed to leave alone), and we’ll fly home on the 7th. I’ll recover for two weeks, go back down for a week, recover at home for three, go back down. At the end of the third admission, I’ll have a PET scan to evaluate if and how it’s working. And we’ll go from there. (I have no idea yet what my options are, if it does not.)

I had my stress test, which checked out as normal. I called Riverside back, called A to give her that phone number, and called my priest to tell him I’d be late for our appointment.

The cathedral offices are upside-down right now, being recarpeted. So I called Brian again when I got there, and waited for him to show up. The operations manager’s wife is a breast cancer nurse in another health system. He asked how I was doing, and we talked for awhile. Brian picked me up and we walked to a lunch place in the neighborhood.

I was flipping through my notebook, looking for an open page. “Cancer, cancer, cancer, life. Here. I’m ready. Let’s go.”

He was the cheerleader I knew he’d be. It was the wildest conversation, doing math with the calendar and my treatment schedule, talking about when I could meet with the bishop and things I can do in the meantime—interspersed with incredulity that I, who look and act healthy, have this life-threatening illness. He never questioned my desire to take the sacraments to the river. He didn’t rub my face in the obviousness that we have no idea if I have time to do this the official, normal way. It was, “Okay, you want to enter the process. Here’s the usual timeline. Meeting with the bishop is the first step. When can we do that?” And I answered, “I think I’ll be home and feeling less sick... here.” If I guessed the wrong week, we can change it.

We finished our conversation. I went to REI, and then drove out to the Ranch. I got here at dinner. Opened the door, took two steps toward the staff table, and got hugged five times.

They are extended family, and they’ve always felt like that. We didn’t talk about cancer when the guests were around. I noticed right away how my own energy shifted inward, when people I didn’t know came to the table. (I’m not even necessarily hosting this week, which is new for me, and odd. It is completely my time.) But afterward, C took me walking with her old deaf dog. We pulled hitchikers (not people; plants with seedpods that stick to you).  She alerted me to a robin's song.  And she asked me questions, out of her own curiosity, that took me directly to the place I needed to speak from. How the cancer may have spread from two years ago, what I knew might happen from the first time I was diagnosed, how I’m feeling about it all now. Not in a probing into me kind of way; more like, “How does this happen?” I look and act deceptively well. Or I am deceptively ill. But I can do anything you can do, right now. And I’m aware that I feel better right now than I will, possibly ever. Sometimes I’ll notice that my breathing feels thick, and I wonder if it’s stress, me, or cancer. But that’s the only symptom I think I might have.

I still haven’t completely bought in to the fact that this is happening. If understanding facts intellectually, accepting that they apply to you, and not letting yourself feel the weight of them is denial, then denial is where I am. I’ve gotten great at dark humor. Not that I’m hiding there—it’s just the place I am.

I really don’t expect it to hit me emotionally until I’m in Riverside next week, away from everyone I know, with an IV drip in me, feeling like hell. Right now I’m completely in my head about it all.

I’ve been so angry with my body. But I think I might know why my body threw the tumor when it did. I think it was trying to signal me, while I still feel well. It may have been trying to tell me, “You have time right now. You don't know when you won't. Be alive.”

1 comment:

Lisa Fox said...

I am glad you are having that time!

I hope I can do this as gracefully and intentionally as you.