“How are you feeling, Stacey”, Candy (my oncology nurse who is more like a friend at this point) asked me yesterday as she cleared me for my fifth chemo treatment today.
“I feel well, Candy” I replied with enthusiasm and honesty. I don’t know how to measure “wellness” as I’ve never really yet seen what it feels like to bottom-out. I’ve been close and that was during my first chemo session – oddly enough my last chemo. I do know what it feels like to feel well, though. Once again, “Life of Pi” comes back to stare me in the face. Martell is brilliant. I forget a lot of the specific words but the message goes something like, “To appreciate food, you must first experience hunger. To appreciate happiness, you must first suffer”. In any case, I think my life continues to reflect the marked contrasts between good and not so good.
Good: Two more chemos to go! (Yipee)
Bad: Two more chemos to go! (Oh, boy)
Good: I only have slight neuropathy in my fingers and feet! (Blessing)
Bad: I have neuropathy… (oh that continued tingling feeling and numbness)
Good: The tumors in my liver are not growing (Thank God!)
Bad: The tumors in my liver are not shrinking (Hmm – should I be concerned)
Good: I am a candidate to start a new drug that is likely to keep the cancer at bay (Wow!)
Bad: I will be taking 8 pills (big ‘uns) twice a day for … the rest of my life. (no comment)
Eight pills. The rest of my life. Or until they stop working. If they do. But maybe they won’t stop working? Maybe there will be a cure before my kidneys tank?
Good: I don’t have to brush or cut my hair. (Yup)
Bad: I have no hair (sigh)
Good: I am alive.
Bad: There is no bad. There is no bad about that at all. I am alive. I am a mother, a wife, a friend. I am a cook. I am a caregiver. I am a teacher… can’t get that out of my blood. I can watch Ben turn 23 and fly off to school to continue his education. (Good and bad – I miss him). I can watch Katya begin her new job(s) and education so that she may live a rich life of travel and friends (good and bad for the same reasons). I can watch David continue to grow tall, love life, enter grade 8 and graduate (thank goodness he stays home for that). Maybe, just maybe, Kevin and I can travel to Iceland, to Cuba, to Germany to see the world. Will I have hair by then? I don’t know. Will I have hair ever? I don’t know.
Black and White. Hunger and satiety. Life and death. It is these marked contrasts in life which make life so special. Without rain, there can be no growth.
And, in my case, without those pills – there can be no future.
So – bring them on. Let me indulge. Let the party begin. They are my elixir of life. Sixteen morsels of joy that will allow me to live. How can I be anything but grateful?
“Three months ago, I would not have had any other option for you, Stacey” explained Dr. Singh. “Now, you have an option.”
Three months ago, no other options. Now that, would have been a hard pill to swallow!