I felt the perception shift like a seismic rumble, the effect so powerful that it rattled my bones. That description might be a little too dramatic, even for me, but I can say that I woke suddenly at 3 a.m. shortly after starting this new treatment, the one that is kicking my butt into next week, with a renewed sense of urgency about my life. When you spend your days battling the laundry list of side effects from chemotherapy (and I will spare you the details here), you tend to look at life differently. The sands are running through the hourglass faster than I’d like, and I no longer have the luxury of time to wait until tomorrow or next Thursday to do what makes me happy. I tell you all this because it is one of the most important lessons that having cancer has taught me. I don’t want for you to wait for some life-altering event for you to figure this out. You’re welcome.
I seem to spend much of my time with the medical folks, my dance card filled with various appointments. This is my seventh different kind of treatment, the seventh time I have signed the permission-to-treat form, along with the one that describes the potential harm that might happen as a result. The Bible is rife with positive references to the number, which symbolizes completeness. So is Vegas, but I digress. I take it as a sign that lucky number seven will bring this cancer monster to its knees.
But I have to get through it first. I rest more than I would like to, saving my energy for important things like cleaning the house. (That was meant to be sarcastic.) It is easy to fall into the rhythm that sickness demands, the all-too-familiar tune playing continuously as I dance along. It has been over four years. I know the steps all too well.
I often wonder what’s going on in the world, trying not to be envious of the big fun that I imagine everybody else is having. Isn’t it funny how at pivotal moments we are once again kids on a playground, hoping that we get a turn on the merry-go-round? I don’t’ want to be the one sidelined, watching the action from afar. Like The Little Mermaid, I want to be where the people are. It’s time to adjust my sails and focus on what brings me joy.
The bucket that holds my proverbial list is more like a small pail, the realities of my current situation keeping me tethered to home. But what about a shorter trip? I have 6 days of freedom before I start the next round of treatment. That’s 144 hours filled with potential.
I want to eat a big stack of pancakes from the cheesiest tourist restaurant I can find. I want to go high into the mountains and see the beauty that God created. I want to be removed from the distractions and busy-ness of life, even if for just a moment. I need to disconnect and reconnect. Yeah, I even want to go chasing waterfalls. (My regards to TLC.) I’ve got lofty plans, although I will probably just enjoy the scenery from the passenger’s seat of the car. Fine with me; it beats being in a sickbed.
So here I sit, writing this while sitting in the infusion center, a bright yellow bag of platelets being pumped into my body. It was a non-negotiable from my medical team after yesterday’s bloodwork proved me unfit for travel (and handling sharp objects.) But tomorrow, I will be on my way to the Smoky Mountains for a few days, and I am as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.
And that 3 a.m. wake up? It was to the sound of Kelly Clarkston singing “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Chemo had not yet been discovered when Nietzsche penned the aphorism, unaware that someday it would be set to music, but it is the perfect theme song for cancer patients everywhere. I am stronger, and wiser, I might add, although some days I am convinced that treatment is trying to hasten my demise.
As I concentrate on beating this thing, I promise myself to plan a few well-needed getaways. My soul must be recharged if my body is going to be strong enough to fight. As for now I see Tennessee bar-b- que in my future, and I will enjoy every bite, even if I have to chase it with anti-nausea meds. Life is for living, my friends, and today is the first day of the rest of my life.