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.