i recently rediscovered this passage by khalil gibran, one of my favorite authors: “march on. do not tarry. to go forward is to move toward perfection. march on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.”
both have a newly resonant meaning for me. i’m finishing chemo tomorrow. the needle sticks, blood draws, chemicals, and hours in the infusion chair are plenty and to be put behind me. i’m excited, sure. but i also know that i have to go back to the infusion center for a shot on thursday, and every month hereafter for another 2-3years. while chemo is over, regaining my health and doing everything i can to starve any residual cancer cells is and will be ongoing. frankly, i’m also nervous that graduating from chemotherapy is risky or not aggressive enough. part of me is considering leaving the port in my chest “just in case” my cancer comes back sooner than later and i need more chemo. this is, i’m learning, completely natural. i’ve been operating in crisis mode, and switching to a day to day life without crisis can actually feel wrong. i have more of a heightened sense of vulnerability and a diminished sense of control. the eerie calm after the storm, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
so gibran says it well, and this past year is proof. the future is scary. and i can do nothing to control the number of my days. in fact, none of us can do a thing to add a day to our lives. sit with that for awhile.
maybe that knowledge, that deep awareness can let me, us all, breathe again. experience life with joy, expectation. maybe even gratitude and peace. and possibly, acceptance.
but then hold onto the other half of what gibran says about moving forward. it was reiterated in a letter sent by my favorite soccer coach ray and mail-lady joanne: “this bright, new day…complete with 24hours of opportunities, choices, and attitudes. a perfectly matched set of 1440minutes. this unique gift, this one day, cannot be exchanged, replaced or refunded. handle with care. make the most of it. there is only 1 to a customer.”
i’ve worked throughout my diagnosis in august 2012 and treatment, only taking a month off for surgery and a few days here and there when focus was untenable. it was the right decision for me, to have something constructive to focus on and ground me outside of cancer land. my boss barry, team, grantees, and partners have been incredibly supportive, flexible, and accepted my treatment’s uncertainty from day to day.
recently though, i no longer have the energy or mental capacity to attempt doing it all. this week, i start 3 months of medical leave. it’s unlikely to be long enough but it will scratch the surface of the physical fatigue, mental and emotional processing and well-being, and overall healing (my oncologist suggests it takes twice as long to recover as in treatment). i have plans, like our vacation (destination pictured here, and this was the picture i brought with me into surgery as a motivator of where i could be one day), christmas cookies with family, sleeping, journaling, yoga, and my swap surgery and port removal (yep…gonna do it). but i will go dark for awhile too. be unreachable. forget how to use my electronics. and reset those unrealistic expectations of myself going forward.
i’m not signing off this blog as i have a lot more to say.
for now, thank you. you have been, to us, a gift from the heavens. i’m actually not certain there is a god…but, i am certain there is something holy and a spirit of goodness that you’ve shown us in spades. i pray to that holiness and that spirit that i continue to live, to be there for you, to love you back, to be healed and give me more time on this earth to share in all the riches it has to offer with all of you special people. i need a lifetime to show you what you mean to me.
i’ve paid for my ticket. now, i might as well take the trip.