Thursday, 10 November 2011


I wonder if a day-long crying jag on Sunday has had anything to do with my low immune system on Monday because, by Wednesday’s blood test, I’ve crawled out of the what-is-so-great-about-hanging-around-in-this-life pit and I’m well into the normal range again. Chemo can proceed on schedule and I can stop scaring the crap out of my friends.

This time, it’s the small chemo room. The one with only three chairs. Across from me is a woman of 50. She’s bald and not wearing a head cover. Her face is pretty, but round and flushed red from steroids. We pass about an hour of our time talking. She has cancer in her lungs and lymph nodes and her treatment is simultaneous chemo and radiation. Her name is Joyce.

We chat about our former jobs, about how one or two sentences from a doctor can turn your life upside down in the space of a few seconds. I wonder if anyone is ever really expecting such a diagnosis or if all of us go into shock. Joyce says she spent several months in complete denial. But denial has a short shelf-life, once you head into treatment.

“It’s the perfect Zen trap,” I tell her, “You are stuck in the present whether you want to be or not, with no idea of what happens next…no idea when the hospital will book or change treatment, when your next appointment will be, when you’ll be sick or feeling well, when you’ll feel positive or sink into the abyss. Whether you’ll get well or die.”

I tell her about my black Sunday and she tells me that she lives in a flat with a big old fashioned bathtub. Normally, it’s where she goes to soak and spoil herself – but it’s also where she does her crying. “It happens to all of us,” she says, “out of the blue like that.”

“You know that old saying?...” she asks, “When one door closes, another door opens?”
“Yeah.” She grins.
 “I’m standing in the hallway.” I start to laugh.
“Oh yeah! Me too.”

That’s as close as I can come to answering the questions people ask. What are you doing with your time? Are you doing any bead work? Are you making jewelry?

I’m standing in the hallway. At some point, a door will open. Where it will lead, I have no idea.


Roberta said...

Yes, I suppose it is a hallway isn't it?

I am sure jewelry is the furthest thing from your mind. I can't even make it when I have a cold!

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

I spent five years in the hallway . . . love that image. Doors open, doors close, but the hallway is always there. Mine is painted white and has a light hardwood floor - no rugs. Photos on the wall. Lots of them. Pinpoints of light - sometimes. Many doors, but no pressure to open any of them.

I can sit quietly in there, or I can run and slide the length of it in my socks.

Sandy said...

I went through this with my mother. I can only send prayers and virtual hugs. (( hugs))

Howpublic said...

My hallway is old and shabby...A small window at one end..Lots of doors. All of them shut. I feel like I'm sitting on the floor - an old, scuffed wood floor - and I'm waiting. It's a little prison-like. I can't open the doors - they must open on their own. I can't leave the hallway. I am here until I'm not here anymore. I count dust motes and scratches in the paint.

Pat Barber said...

I used to view my hallway the same as Linda is. Then I decided to Hell with it, and so I started viewing it very similarly to the way Cynthia did (e.g., might as well try to have a bit of fun and get in mischief for however long I'm here). Toward the end I began viewing that hallway, and especially the doors in it, very similarly to that episode in one of the Harry Potter movies where the maid is cleaning rooms all up and down the weird and crooked house/hallway, when she suddenly opens one door and the occupant inside literally blows her curly hair straight, and her right down the hallway as well! That scene always makes me giggle ... still does!