We encourage you to find more of Teisha’s writing at the blog http://betterthansleepingalone.typepad.com/my_weblog/Comment
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
I’m listening to Patty Griffin, she’s singing the song “Useless Desires” in G. I love this song. It talks about a hopeless situation but it sounds so, groovy. Her voice makes me think she would understand me. “Everyday I take a little pill, that gets me on my way, for the little aches and pains the ones I have from day to day. Help me think a little less, about the things I missed, to help me not to wonder, how I ended up like this” she sings, so smoothly.
I went to Oncologists clinic today up on the hill. Blue sky and Azalea bushes on the way up to the entrance. I saw familiar faces there. Kind eyes, sincere smiles and warm hugs. That place has seen a piece of me.
Truth be told, I came in one morning with the most stubborn bloody nose I’ve ever known. A quick blood test showed my platelets were at 3. Platelets keep your blood together, clots it so it stops running. I think 170 is the low end of the healthy platelet count range. The nurses rolled me in to an isolation booth because of all the blood which a few times I swallowed and then heaved up into a plastic bin held in front of my tired, cranky face. I’m not a morning person.
So, on this spectacularly gross morning, I go to the bathroom and lock myself in, my mom is waiting just outside the door. I shuffle across the room and onto the toilet. What I remember next is waking up with my head on the handrail next to the toilet paper holder looking down on the floor where a little pool of blood the size of a slightly deflated balloon lays between my feet. What happened? I think. Coming back to consciousness and knowing, in that second, that I had lost it makes me leap up. I must have opened the door and then I do recall fainting into mom’s arms, she catches me and sets me gently down onto the floor. I wake up again to see my blood splattered along the leg of the nurse who looks just like (find this name). Just like her. I, thinking I’m funny and clearly, not exactly “with it” I start calling out to the Nurses “platelets! please platelets!” I’m waving my hand in the air and we’re amazed and chuckling a little bit because it had already been such a long morning, taxing morning. I was glad to have experienced fainting though, I have never fainted before so it was telling. Silver linings make their way.
The emergency stretcher comes for me as I lay on the floor. There is a guy whose job it is to move me through the hospital and a woman whose job it is to walk next to us. She is very capable and one of her hands is much smaller than normal and missing a finger I think and they wheel us all around the corridors until we are in the Emergency room. I had to go to the bathroom. The nurse doesn’t think I’ve got the energy so he brings a commode into the room. There is talk of sending me home. We’re unsettled from the long day. I stretch off the hospital bed and use the basin that has been brought in and when the nurse comes back, it is full of blood. I’m admitted to the hospital. The platelets arrive, the nose bleed stops and the satisfaction of being out of misery in so enormous I lose track of time, forget people’s names, fall into a deep sleep while mom is left to relay the details. In the grand theme of things, we call this incident a “set back.”
Many years ago,I had visited this clinic at Christmas time with family. We sang carols. Ignorance is bliss because at the time I had not been diagnosed nor had I ever thought I would be. I felt sorry for the people in those chairs trying to survive, getting blood, feeling quesy, bald heads and long faces. I couldn’t imagine how they did it. How they faced such dire circumstances and so much discomfort but still had smiles on their faces. And then, come to find, I would be one of them.
Sitting in one of those chairs, bald, quesy, and fatigued my perspective changed. I didn’t feel sorry for my cohorts, I understood this circumstance. Get blood drawn, someone brings you soup. Read the paper. Take a nap. Watch bad television. Talk and listen to the nurses who are busy but focused when it’s your turn. Wait for lab results. Nod at the person next to you quietly asking “what you in for?” “what treatment are you doing?” “Oh, you had a transplant, when was that?”” How are you feeling?” and over the hours of waiting for results and donated cellular energy friends are made. Even as you feel a little bit sorry for yourself the companionship of those who are worse and better off than you lends a fine perspective. It could be worse. It could get better. It is a profound experience and, like so many things in life, it was not what I expected.
So today full of familiar faces and fitful memories is how it plays out now in the clinic. Nurse Molly as had her baby boy, nurse Mark is still writing music, building a log cabin, smiling all the way across his face and Dr. M is as calm and open as ever, asking me to share how I feel today and listening to my words but also taking me in on the whole. “I see progress” she says. This feels really good to hear. “progress is made, when progress is made” (Jesse in the band Amelia I sing with, wrote that in a song)
Now Patty is singing the last part of her songs “goodbye, goodbye, goodbye old friend you, won’t be seeing me again. Goodbye to all the window panes, shinning in the sun, like diamonds on a winter day, goodbye, goodbye to everyone”
Life is good.