Cancer

Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

THE BLEEDING EDGE

Do you have a road you take frequently, but hate deeply? I do. La Cienega Blvd. It’s all gray, ugly-looking, and predictably choked every single time! I am on my way to get yet another scan at the hospital – this one needed for this new experimental treatment for my unyielding stage 4 cancer. I badly need to distract myself. I call my nurse.

Here’s the news: As of this morning, this treatment has failed to work in 2 out of the 3 people in the world that have tried it so far. I will be number 4.

I have to sit with that for a moment.

 You know how they talk about how great it is to be on “the leading edge of science”? In my case, it feels a lot more like the bleeding edge. I am now living my life on the bleeding edge of science.

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Photo by Hans Moerman on Unsplash

Frankfurt

Her name was Maron. I met her in the Frankfurt airport while in transit from LA to Athens.

There was something about her that was inviting and open. So, as she was going to be my companion for a couple of hours pushing my wheelchair through the airport maze, I asked her. Maron, I learned, was from Senegal. She was living in Frankfurt for 20 years, married to a German. Her house was very close to the airport, so she could easily commute to work. But now, her kids all grown, they bought a house further away, and she was going to have a 40-minute train ride to get to work, a prospect that troubled her somewhat.

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Photo by Alex Alvarez on Unsplash

You must get on the path

You start somewhere, pretty much like everyone else, sometime in your budding adulthood.

You may set out with a bang, thinking you’ll conquer this thing called life, or opt for a stroll. It may feel like you’re standing in a field of possibilities, filled with thrill; or it may be tinged with a dose of fear and anxiety – will you make it? Will you be safe? Will you reach the promised peak?

It doesn’t really matter. You must get on the path. This is the rule of life.

You may wind your way up a gentle hill, or yours may be a steep mountain. You may run along lush riverbanks, or rugged coast, through a thick forest, or along the sandy beach. You may run into thunderstorms, or gentle rain, smell the musty air, the breezy sea.

You keep going. That is the rule of life.

Others may join you, some lock hands and walk with you. Some carry you a part of the way, some drop you to the ground like a bulky log and run. You keep going.

Your heart swells with love, shrinks in pain. Your legs get weary, your hair turns grey. You may speed up, or slow down.

It doesn’t really matter. You keep going.

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Photo by Kat Love on Unsplash

WAITING

I am sitting in my living room chair, my laptop wide open in front of me and anxious to swallow my words. But none are coming. I can’t focus. My mind is scattered like mist over my head, and none of it wants to flow onto the page.   I recognize this madness; I’ve been here before. It’s just another week-in-hell, of waiting for test results that will decide my life. I have zero ways of knowing which direction it will go – life or death.

There is no relief from this pile of uncertainty. I constantly scan my body for signs of disease, aches and pains. Suddenly, I get this feeling in my legs – like there are steel rods running inside each of them, so they feel simultaneously completely stiff and completely paralyzed. Bitter fear fills my mouth. It grows until I am gagging.

I can’t do this. I can’t live with my fearful heart in my mouth all the time. I can’t.  No. The answer is no. There must be another way. My way.

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Photo by Shubham Bochiwal on Unsplash

 

My life has been wild.

It’s been a ride on the arrow of ancient time, and all space on the planet, and deep into the passions of mind and heart, all wrapped in bows of raptures and disasters. And here I am, bruised, broken, and patched together, still craving more.

Disaster, resisted.

It was just when I thought the chaos in my life would finally give way to sanity when it happened. My younger son had just graduated from Berkeley physics, and I was driving home on the 5 Fwy when I got the call. I had cancer – really bad cancer. It was stage 4 aggressive, with awfully bad statistics. It recurred two years later and now, after all the chemo, my hair has grown back, but so much of me has changed.
I resisted making cancer the center of my life, but there is no helping it anymore. I was not supposed to have survived – even this little much. And I may not. It changed everything. And it’s time to share the lessons. I’ll start you at the top. (more…)