Impossibility and Grace

My working knowledge of poetry would fit inside the period at the end of this sentence. But, recently, when I heard someone sing the praises of a book called Ten Poems to Change Your Life I was intrigued. So, I requested it from my local library, and I am savoring it. Of course, some of the poems speak to me more than others, but I’m hugely enjoying the thoughtful deconstruction given by the book’s author, Roger Housden.

Last Saturday, during a failed nap attempt, I opened the book to the poem “Zero Circle” by Rumi, the 13th Century Turkish poet. The following stanza and Housden’s commentary so perfectly summed up my chemo experience thus far that I felt compelled to post it. From now on, if anyone asks me what chemo feels like, I will point them to this poem.

Be helpless, dumbfounded,

Unable to say yes or no,

Then a stretcher will come from grace

to gather us up.

Housden writes:

When we fall utterly, something gathers us up. But our falling must be without reservation, without expectation, without hope, though not hopeless. You can’t plan for that kind of falling. When you abandon yourself utterly to life, the river will flow and the log jam will free. Impossible is another word for grace. Who would have thought it, life takes another turn, and you are gathered up into a whole different way of seeing and being.

You are, I am, that we can be sure of, and only that. Falling without either inflation or false humility into our own light.

Day 6: Round 1

Finally. A comprehensible sentence. A complete thought. An ability to stand without tipping over. Oh, yeah baby, it’s day six!

Last Friday, Mary and I strode into the hospital fully prepared for either a 7.0 earthquake or an adult daycare outing to the zoo. We had a canvas tote, a messenger bag, a backpack, and a large Playmate cooler. Among our stockpile was People Magazine, cubed watermelon, lemon drops, flushable wipes, goldfish crackers, homeopathic remedies and a four-pack of ginger beer, which turned out to be my saving grace.

After being told the chemo package would take two-to-three hours, we were nonplussed when it took six. Who cares when you have an endless supply of artificial tears and free Wi-Fi? My “power port” was everything I wanted and more. The company’s 3-D, four-color brochure hadn’t lied. (Like plugging in a toaster.)

The drive home felt almost giddy. Me in my steroidal glow and Mary in the blush of her denial. A pink-ribbon miracle maybe? Perhaps. Not. No matter. During that 60-minute blur through Indiana farmland, we almost believed we’d gotten away with something.

Off to Chemoland

Ouch. That hurt.

Well, 48 hours after port surgery, I’m all accessorized with nowhere to go. The port is a huge wake-up call. Nothing quite says you’ve arrived at destination sicko like a medical device surgically implanted under your skin and snaked into your jugular for the sole purpose of dumping vast quantities of toxic drugs into your bloodstream.

(Shoot, I was REALLY going to work on my sunny-side attitude for this post! sorry honey)

I guess this means I’m really going through with this crazy “chemo-thing.” I mean now that I have a cool port, I might as well use it. Shopping for Friday’s first infusion felt much like back-to-school shopping when I was a kid. I pushed the cart around Target with a mile-long list as Mary chucked things into the basket with a spare-no-expense attitude. Ginger lozenges? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Dry-mouth gum? Check. (Jeez, gum to ward off dry mouth. I mean, who knew? Not me if it weren’t for the lovely cancer ladies who went online and posted all of their horrible chemo side effects and fix-it tips. Thank you cancer ladies!)

So, after Mary and I spent the morning paying medical bills and the afternoon buying special lotions, eye drops, and mouth rinses, it hit me. What if cancer is all that’s keeping our economy afloat these days? Sheesh, if the 200,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer this year, plus millions of other Americans with dozens of other cancers, are out at CVS dropping cash like me and Mary. Well, hot damn—I think I found the sunny side!

God love America.

Out of Luck

This time last year I felt pretty darn lucky. I’d tiptoed through my breast cancer treatment without awakening its two snarling monsters: chemotherapy and radiation. Now I find myself facing both head on. This coming Monday I’ll have surgery to install a port. Most likely, the following week, the first of 4 rounds of chemo. The decision to move forward with chemotherapy wasn’t easy. The genetic test was decisively vague. After much deliberation, the pros seemed to outweigh the cons (barely). Then again, as my oncologist freely admits, no one knows if chemo will help or not. Basically, it’s a crapshoot. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

The Chemo Verdict

Good news: the oncologist says no chemo!!!  I’m not one to indulge in triple exclamation points (okay, I sort of am), but who cares? Wahoo!!! I won’t bore you with the details of my first encounter with the big-wig oncologist (at least not yet…I’m sure I’ll get around to it) but suffice it to say that Mary and I both felt confident in his assessment that chemo, in my case, would be WAY over the top. So, I get to skip it. Yippee!!! 

Off to celebrate.