I’m scared. I must confess. I am afraid to have surgery and I am afraid to not have surgery. It seems I sit between a rock and a hard place.
I’m consumed by my own thoughts. The mornings and the nights are the worst. I don’t like going to bed, but when I do, I have to make sure I am bone tired.
Monday stares me in the face. I just don’t know yet if the face is smiling or growling. Will I have surgery? Or will I not? If the verdict is that there is not enough healthy liver to operate (too many tumours), then no surgery will be done at all. End of story – end of the line.
A small miracle happened today, however, between 7 am and noon. By the time Kevin and I returned from our walk with our friends, my end of the line thinking had turned a corner and it seemed that I was back on track. What helped me the most to regain faith in my future was nearly 2 1/2 hours of exercise and hell of a climb up a steep hill to a set of railway tracks. Seriously.
It was cold when I woke up. The outside temperature read -17 Celsius with a windchill of -24. But, today is Saturday and I knew that my neighbour Barb would be knocking at my door at 7 am for our regular Saturday morning walk. I no more wanted to walk with Barb than I did a hole in the head. I forced my feet out of the warm blankets and onto the floor and without thinking erected my body in one continuous motion. “Keep going, Stacey and get dressed” I convinced myself. I got dressed and faced the steps that lead to my morning coffee. The dog greeted me at the bottom of the stairs and Kevin popped his head out of the office in preparation to make my coffee. We all moved, almost without thinking. That was a good thing because then I had no time to convince myself about reasons why I should not go walking.
I drank the coffee. I donned my snow pants – one leg and then the other. On went my coat, hat, mitts and then boots. There I was – ready to go. And so was Barb.
Barb and I walk for an hour almost every Saturday. This is a tradition that is nearly six years old. The path we take through the neighbourhood is always the same and that is good. We never have to be distracted from our intense conversation by random interruptions about directions. It has been a great benchmark for me as I go through this cancer journey since I can measure how my fitness levels change each week. Chemo takes a pounding on my pace through the walk and so on days that are close to chemo treatments, we slow down. Today, however, there were no slow-downs. I felt “normal”. I didn’t even notice how good I felt until we arrived back home. Barb and I solve world problems during that one hour of walking. Well, that may be a stretch, but we do solve a few problems and always come home feeling like we have something new to think about.
It was almost “as” I walked through the door to come inside the house that Kevin indicated our friends Anne and Lee wanted to walk with us and wanted to walk sooner than later. “Are you up for that, Stacey?” inquired Kevin. “You have already had a good walk today.”
“Yup. Let’s do it!” I responded. I felt great and I did NOT want to loose myself in my thoughts again. Walking and talking had been a great escape for me.
Off we went to meet our friends on that very cold, cold January morning. Of course, off we went with the addition of Jazz (our dog) who cavorts with Anne and Lee’s little dog!
Kevin and I always look forward to our walks with Anne and Lee. I get to hear all the “gossip” about work from Anne and Kevin gets to be silly with Lee. None of us are fitness crazed, nor in great physical condition and so there is no pressure to walk faster or harder… we just simply enjoy.
The woods were beautiful as always and since deep in the woods, the trees are sheltered more from the wind, the snow remains blanketed on the branches. There is this tranquility that ebbed and flowed through the trees that soothed my soul like a magic elixir. It liberated me from my thoughts of life and death and allowed me to simply “be”. I looked up and purposefully opened my lens wider to capture the sun-drenched hill. I breathed in and noted the crisp air that cleansed my diseased cells. The woods gave me life.
We must have walked for 30 minutes, just chatting about this and that, when we came upon the railway trestle that straddled the Willow Creek. We had decided in September, when these Saturday morning walks had first begun, that we would scale the embankment to reach the top of the trestle as an “ultimate” goal representing my successful victory over cancer. This morning, however, it just seemed to call me. I wonder what it was that made me want to reach the top? It just seemed to me that if I could reach the top and get to the railway tracks, I would be given good news on Monday. I had to try. Of course, this may not have really been what Kevin, Anne, and Lee really wanted to do at that time, but, being such good sports, agreed to tackle the hill.
I went first. I was driven. The path was snow-covered but not deep. Up I went. My footing was sure. I was determined. Up, up, I climbed. I felt my blood begin to surge with an ever increasing heart rate. Up, up, up I went. I did not look back. I did not look ahead. I drove my boot firmly into the snow as I continued. Push, push, push. I was NOT going to stop. I WOULD make it. I knew if I could climb to the top – I would be okay on Monday. Up, up, up… until I could not up anymore. With only one-third of the climb left to go, I stopped to catch my breath. I looked around. There others were there – further behind… but coming. We were all climbing that damned incline. With hardly a glance further, away I went again. Boots in and dig! Up, up, up. I was within 30 seconds of the top, then 15, then 10, then 5, 4, 3, 2….. victory! My heart was pounding in my teeth – but I had done it! I had done it. One by one, the others too, arrived at the top. Maybe it would not have been a great achievement for others, but for us – it was a symbolic climb that forecasted good fortune. There were hoots and hollers and high-fives.. and of course, photos.
Last week I had understood why some of my students had used drugs to escape their troubles. I wondered if that was even an option for me? The only down-side (besides the obvious) was that the crash would be worse than the original burden. And the escape from reality was so temporary! After that walk and scaling of the “mountain” I knew that a much better option was physical fitness and physical challenges. I felt “high” on life. We had walked another hour and had reached a goal we had set months previously! The high lasted all the way home. Monday no longer felt like “the end of the line”. If surgery were not an option, then I would be okay with chemo maintenance program. I knew I would then believe in miracles. And I knew I would wait for a miracle to happen.
I feel like I am back on track. I know there will likely be doubts that return to me before Monday, but today, I feel free. I have things to look forward to. I have faith. I have my health – at least enough that allows me to walk. And I know I “can” climb mountains.