One of my all-time favorite blessings turns out to be a traditional Gaelic blessing. The images fill my heart and lift my spirits. I’m not sure why I connect to it so much, but I guess some things speak to us more clearly than others. And there are particular times, too, when it has its own sort of ebb and flow coming in and out of my perspective.
This morning, as I walked our dog Jazz along our usual path, the wind was most notable. It was a cold Arctic wind that bit at my cheeks and nibbled at my knees. Jazz, of course, didn’t mind that at all. She was thrilled with the prospect of being let loose of the leash when we reached the wet-land, just around the corner. This was not the gentle wind that I had wished was, as the Gaelic blessing conveyed, always at my back. I converted my neck scarf into a head band to protect my ears. I hadn’t really noticed, nor cared, that it projected my hair into a somewhat elongated “bun” which rose extensively in a backwards motion like a beehive style from the 1060’s. It didn’t matter. There were bigger fish to fry than the fashion flounder that morning. I was thinking how I would say thank-you to Dr. Jessica Singh, my oncologist for the past three years.
She is a tiny little thing. When I first met her I was under the impression that she couldn’t have been more than 16. She was in the room when Dr. Dodge shared the news of my “extensive” cancer with me. I remember her looking at the floor. I wondered what was going through her head at the time. It couldn’t have been good, I concluded. And it wasn’t. Stage 4 ovarian cancer. This diagnosis was not the kind of news anyone would want to deliver. I couldn’t have done it – without experiencing some collateral damage. She, was the road that rose to meet me. I was never to stumble alone on my journey again.
She may be tiny, but over the years, I have learned she is pretty damned mighty. Bang on in her treatment. She created the elixir that would successfully shrink my tumors to the degree whereby they could be operated on to be removed – then again a year later to render them “less hazardous” shall we say? What’s more is that “she” introduced me to the miracle drug I am currently taking: Lynparza. This drug, although not without side-effects, has kept me alive. It keeps my cancer in check. For now. That’s all any of us can hope for though, is the here and now.
It is “she” who gives me hope. It is “she” who has given me quality of life. With hope and quality of life, I can LIVE my life. Here I am, nearing the end of 2017, and looking forward to experiencing 2018. I never imagined it possible. I find myself, on occasion, making plans for the future. I have to remember to slow down, on occasion, to live each moment and to not get ahead of myself.
I pace myself when I am tired.
I console myself – on the days when I get down.
I treat myself to something new when something needs to be celebrated.
I try to be kind to myself when I forget things I have known all my life – when my memory fails me.
I feel the sun warm upon my face.
Jessica is my optimist. She is my rock. She sees the miracle of life. She holds the candle of hope on my normalized life. She pushes me to get back to the land of living. She encourages me to appreciate what I have – to be positive, but pragmatic at the same time.
It is a balancing act – this life between living with cancer and dying from cancer. One must be confident of one’s footing to move forward along that tightrope. One must know there is a net – in case of a fall. One must know one’s limits: to do but to not too much, to take risks but not too many, to find joy but not be able to let it go, to be afraid and act anyway. There are some days I find more balance than others. I sometimes feel blown off kilter. I feel a pang here and there, I feel a bump here or there, I have a dull ache … All these symptoms remind me that I am diseased. Even diseased, though, I can find that balance. I don’t find it alone. I need others to help me – my family, my friends, my medical team.
So – to all of you who walk my journey with me – I say thank-you. I am grateful to you. This is my wish for you:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand