There is really nothing much left to the imagination now. I’ve seen it – I’ve read it – I’ve processed it. Yesterday – I received a copy of the doctor’s report: Stage IV cancer. So, what does that change?
How much information does an individual really need about their own health prognosis? Knowing I have Stage IV cancer doesn’t really change anything.
Yet, somehow it changes everything. This has never been a game – nor is it now. I am reminded of my own mortality. I am reminded that I am human and that I am in trouble. I need help from the medical community, my family, my community of supporters. It reminded me that I am home from work for a reason… and I need to remember that reason. It was a bit surreal to see someone else observe my body and report on its progress – in ink. Seeing the words in black and white made my condition more real.
I have come to a point where I could pretend I don’t have cancer. I can sometimes go about my day stressing about things that normal people stress about like what to wear to dress for the weather, what to get for Christmas, and whether I should bag the leaves or dump them in my garden. I have been so very lucky that my chemo has been quite kind to me and my side-effects have been negligible – so far.
Katya and I have fallen into the habit of playing Scrabble and drinking tea together. I love this tradition. I am not asleep when she comes home from work – which allows her to come into my room and share her day with me. It is this normal kind of routine that fills my life and makes me happy. It is this type of routine that allows me to forget the beast that lurks inside my liver and my abdomen.
I guess seeing the words, “Stage IV”, remind me that the beast exists. “And don’t you forget it!” I am home because I have a disease that I need to fight.
But seeing the words really don’t change anything – I still know I need to fight. Stage IV means I need to fight.
I still need to eat well. That hasn’t changed.
I still need to be a Mom. That hasn’t changed.
I still need to be a wife. That hasn’t changed.
I still need to exercise. That hasn’t changed.
I still need encouragement from family and friends. That hasn’t changed.
I still travel the emotional roller coaster between chemo sessions and doctors visits. That hasn’t changed either.
Why does it seem that the term itself is so much like a death sentence? What follows Stage IV is Stage V. I wish the term did not exist. Maybe there should be a better term for it like, “Level 4”. That reminds me of video-gaming when the level becomes more challenging and the player has to be much more “savvy” and more “en guard” to fight the level. What if the doctor’s report read, “Level 4 Power Up! – Extra bonus” or something like that. Honestly, words carry such power. I wish there were different words for Stage IV. Essentially, however, the words don’t change anything.
Yesterday, I read the words. I cried. I breathed. I wrapped myself in my friendship quilt and read the beautiful wishes that were hand-written on squares of fabric spread throughout the quilt. The words stage IV faded away as I read the messages:
“Love is everywhere because of you.” (Heather)
“Strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination.” – Maya Angelou “… and you’ve got it.” (Joanne)
“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway!” – Emory Austin (Barbara)
“Dear friend – stay strong, live long, let love support you. Lean on us when you need to. All my love, Helene”.
Stage IV is not a game changer. The game has not changed. And with the love and support from my colleagues, friends, and family… I am ‘in’ the game.
This post is dedicated to my staff at the Barrie Learning Centre for their loving words of support – and to Helene Kerr for the beautiful craftsmanship that put everything together to form my beautiful “Game-Changing Quilt”. Power up!