We encourage you to find more of Teisha’s writing at the blog http://betterthansleepingalone.typepad.com/my_weblog/Comment
“I don’t want to die right now” I said with my head curled up in my mother’s arms “I’m not in the mood, I’ll do it later.” I tearfully lamented this morning about the unknown future and the taxing task of going back into treatment. And then I took a deep breath and mom laughed and said “that sounds like a song, would you write that down.”
This morning I was having a not so teeny tiny cup of feeling sorry for myself. Despite reading in the Sunday paper about oil spills and immigration woes and a brief but studied walk with my eyes across the obituaries, I lay on my side, hands by my head in the cozy upstairs room of mom’s house and had a good solid cry. I let it all out.
Earlier today, I looked at one of the only blogs I’ve ever seen that belongs to a friend of a friend. She is remarkably talented, viciously productive, a charming writer who takes wonderful pictures, writes books and is happily married to a male nurse I’ve met in the hospital who is extremely kind and enjoys making movies about Keiko. I kid you not. Her blog is beautiful and well made and a happy read. I wondered as I sat in the bed with itchy red skin how my new blog about cancer land during early midlife would resound. Would it make people feel crummy maybe or depressed and/or sorry for me and my situation. Be that as it may, I just need to write things down as I brave (with the help of my family,friends and dogs), the path of the unknown that lies ahead.
Chemotherapy starts this week for two days, and then I have a month off before the next treatment. They can’t say how long I’ll be in this routine because it depends on how I respond. Word is that this is not a terribly hard round of chemo - that my hair most likely won’t fall out and it is administered to me as an outpatient so I won’t have to shack up at the hospital. Good news.
For today the plan includes playing the guitar for at least one full hour and going out into mom’s garden to see the number of slugs that climbed into the empty tuna cans of beer she left for them overnight. When I was a kid she used to take out slugs with salt but letting them slurp their way to a happy ending with a six pack of bad beer seems to make her happy. Yesterday for the first time in many years I helped pull some weeds in the garden with a mask on my face and gloves on my hand and it was fan-fuc&ingtastic. I had forgotten how centering it is to dig in the dirt, how good it feels to work in the yard.
If you want a little pick-me-up go see my friend’s friend’s really amazing work at: http://www.rosylittlethings.typepad.com
Down slippery steps made semi-professionally of Home Depot wood many years ago now. Repaired and repainted several times so that as the freshest layer peels away and other color preferences are revealed. In this case Pink.
The pair of Korean style slippers gifted to her by her most gifting giving gifted friend would remain gently splayed and clearly abandoned at the bottom of the step. No breath is making it in or out and this moment in time feels like the body on pause, or stop. Remembering as she is a similar experience when she was a small child is a form of self-talk geared toward keeping her from racing panic. She crawls along the wet cement driveway on her hands and knees and wills the body to take a breath. Sullenly, it does. She groans, loudly as she winds her way back up the stairs and into the house.
Mom is the first call. “Really?” she says, “I’m on my way.”
“I’m alright I just scared myself” she replies, but the strangled loud and painful delivery of these words explains that there is real pain and the brevity of the conversation reveals that it will be an hour or more before it feels funny.
She is and has always been of the frame of mind that falling is always, sooner or later, a laughing matter. In this case it will come once call number to Judee B arrives to check out the five paramedics announcing “cute!” as if either one of them could make hay with this information. By the time third call Spider has crossed the crisis line, noting to himself that the slippers seemed to have been drilled into their casual placement, there cannot help but be humor. She laughs and rolls into her fetal ball again and stays like that until she has to wave him away or allow her midriff to be ravaged by jags of laughter and not enough air.
There would be x-rays and a phone call to explain the new term “compression fracture” of the 7th vertebrae — aka in the care-giving circle as a “broken back.” In my own limited The Learning Channel education a broken back does not allow for much movement. There is traction, pain, immobility. This is a new era then, for me at least. Everything moves. The body has remained bandage free. No bruises save the one cursory emblem on the mid right arm.
There is pain, though encumbered by excellent medication, it remains there. A dull and deep attention getter. Providing a persistent canopy under which remembering not to fall becomes a matter of fact. Cautiousness where there had been none. An understandable, possibly temporary, loss of ignorance. Another peek into a world where things can happen to you. This is what casts the illumination on a character of person who consistently remembers not to dwell too whole heartedly on those ghosts under the bed, nor the wicked stings they bring. This is what the laughter is for. Rendering the unexpected, the daunting, the unpredictable a gas, a hoot something to celebrate instead a stake through the heart of lighthearted movement about the world. Be unafraid, not because you don’t have reason to be. Be unafraid anyway.Comment
On the way home from the park where the dogs chased each other and Cierra asked if I would push her on the swing, I decided to tell Sydney and Cierra that in a few weeks I would be going to the hospital for a little while.
“Are you going to die?” Cierra asked as we stepped off the curb to cross the street. She did not sound upset at all which I thought was good.
“No, not right now” I replied wishing I hadn’t skipped the part in the How to Survive a Bone Marrow Transplant Guide that tells you how to tell kids….
“I’m going to lose my hair” I said and I think I must have raised my eyebrows in that (universal?) expression of “Wow!”
“…and then you’ll feel better?” Sydney asks; eyes hopeful.
“Yes, then- pretty soon, I’ll feel better.”
“Good” she said.
And then Cierra was asking to stomp her little black boots into a small crusty island of snow left over from our two snow days this year and we were all watching her crush it under her tiny foot.
And that was that.
This morning I received the consent form from OHSU. It has nothing good to say. Think of anything short of your eyeballs falling from their sockets onto your lap and this form includes it. Death is actually one of the least frightening things outlined in the “what might happen column.” It makes no promise of anything but the likelihood of pain, suffering, swollen faces, ruined internal organs, barren wombs and broke down bones.
The feelings I have while reviewing it reminds me of the day I signed a Skydiving consent form.
On the 4th of July, sometime in the late 90′s Dave and I decided to go skydiving. It was a hot, brightly sunny summer day. We had made reservations. We drove to Estacada, out in the country, far away from the city – from reality. I remember the cold hands of fear gripping my stomach even before we got in the car, long before I sat cradling a clipboard in my hand looking at page after page of paragraphs that ended “and could result in your death.”
If we hadn’t driven so far, spent so much time planning and pumping each other up and if we weren’t looking out at a hanger full of eager-beaver veterans giddy with anticipation, I would have kept mumbling “fuck this” and gotten back in the car. Instead, I mumbled those most sincere words, but kept on signing.
We strapped on the jumping-out-of-the-plane attire. We had a “lesson” that lasted like five minutes…kick your head back when leaving the plane, look up- not down. Swing, One, Two, Three and then fling your arms as far back as you can. Arch your back. Yes, there would be an instructor strapped to my back as well. No, that didn’t make me feel any better. It was a painful, gut aching ride in a tiny and loud plane up into the sky. I was not elated. I was pissed off. What was I thinking? How stupid am I? Goddamnit, if I die, I am going to be so mad at myself. I wanted to puke.
And then the adreneline kicks in. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t hear anything. I see the door of the plane open and two by two the novices and their Saviors, bound together at the seams, begin flinging themselves out into the blue sky. Unbelievable. And then it is me. I see the floor of the plane and then I see blue sky and no earth to speak of. And One. And Two. We’re rocking back and forth like someone about to shot-put. On Three we flale. Outward and Beyond.
I can hear again but the world is silent. The plane is gone. We swivel and turn and then right our selves facing, belly first, toward the great and curving earth. It’s different than looking from the relative safety of a jet-powered plane. We are moving through space all on our own. We are falling but it feels, I guess, like flying.
I’ve forgotten to be afraid. I’m in awe….and so impressed with myself that I just jumped out of a fucking plane.
The guy covering my “six” pulls the chord, and the parachute opens. Big sound. We slow down. Like a slow swing. We cradle our way through the summer heat. I am smiling, smiling, smiling. I think I’m hollering too. Unforced elation. Unbridled rush. Unbelievable.
We were on a natural high all that day and all that night and all the next day. We understood the eager-beavers now. We felt we had conquered our fear and talked with the sky. We had not a care in the world.
I doubt I’m going to feel like a million bucks immediately after this transplant but I am grateful for the experience of signing my life away, as afraid as I’ve ever been…only to watch as something really good comes from it.Comment