I've been thinking about you a lot, imagining how busy life gets at the end of summer and, since so many of you are academics, the fall really kicks into busy mode. In comparison to all that, what I've been up to seems so slow-mo.
The aftermath of treatment number five went just about as expected. Kristi was a quiet wisp of a companion, taking care of me and my home, and spreading her calm energy around. After she left, I had a few more days of feeling bad (punctuated by lovely visits from Shawnessey and Jen). As I've come to expect, 10 days after treatment, the acute side effects had settled and I was left with just this vast fatigue. I'll take it! With fatigue, I can still go for occasional walks and shopping and work some, and even lunch out now and then. By this point in the cycle (end of the third week), I've even felt up to dropping in for a meeting at work.
On Tuesday (10/7), I have my 6th (and last scheduled) chemo treatment. I've spent the few weeks since #5 with my mind on what happens next, and thinking about that has me terrified into silence. The possibilities are stunning. This is stare-silently-at-the-wall/ceiling territory. I actually had a dream last week (after taking a long walk by myself, something I hadn't done yet on my own) that I was making my way down the sidewalk and it ended at this giant pool of darkness - not particularly scary dark, just dark. I wanted to keep walking on the sidewalk, but it didn't go on, so I leapt, wide-armed into the emptiness instead. There's a metaphor for ya. Yikes. Lots of uncertainty around here.
I have a CT scan scheduled for October 30th and the follow up with my doctor on November 4th to see what happens next. In whatever way you pray, please do that for me over this next month.
Right now, I'm sitting in one of my new favorite spots, though I can't take the credit for finding it.
A large part of my junior high English curriculum was memorization of poems; sometimes we had to write them out, punctuation and all, and sometimes we recited them for the class. I guess I was about fourteen when I had to memorize Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers." It's become a sort of life-long touchstone for me - my poem. At 23, I got my first and only tattoo; it was inspired by that poem.
Last week, I had my regular appointment with my assigned counselor at the Cancer Center. (The Oncology Psychology program is endowed so current and former cancer patients get free therapy and other services - it's fantastic). I was trying to describe to my therapist this amorphous yearning I've been having - for something like home or comfort - and after looping around for a while, like you do in therapy, what fell out of my mouth was this, "I just want to know that someone bigger is handling things." Then, "I just want to know that someone bigger is handling things?" After 20 years of mostly skirting the issue, I was pleading to let myself really believe in God or a connected Universe, or Something bigger than just little, frightened me.
I left, sort of stunned and sad and meandery. I didn't want to go right back to my car and on with my day. I wanted to be outside in the sun, under the big sky. I wanted to take a deep breath. I couldn't seem to find a way out of the Cancer Center except into the exhaust-filled pick-up and drop-off area, so I asked the woman at the info desk if there was some way out to nature. She told me to go out the main exit and keep walking for about five minutes and I'd come to a pretty little pond.
It is a pretty little pond, but it's also a monument (designed by Maya Lin, I'm told). The first thing I saw when I walked up to the reflecting pool was that the center piece of the monument is my poem. There, in the metal that lines a circle set into the water, is the whole thing in a string. "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all; and sweetest in the gale is heard, and sore must be the storm that could abash the little bird that kept so many warm; I've heard it in the chillest land and on the strangest sea, yet never, in extremity, it asked a crumb of me. -Emily Dickinson."
Some people see my finding this place, with my poem, on that particular day, after making that particular plea, as a sign. I'm not sure what it is, friends, but the way the light shines through the letters sometimes makes it feel like it's something, and it makes me feel a little more peace while I sit and stare at the wall.
Sending love and hope and thanks to you.