Monday, 16 January 2012


It’s a bright winter day. Real winter – north wind bringing us “feels like” temperatures of -15C. I walk a block to the corner store with a scarf tied over my face and think about how handy a ski mask would be. Only problem being, I’d likely scare the nice Chinese lady who owns the store half to death if I showed up with only eyes and mouth in evidence. In my area of town, ski masks are rarely about staying warm – or skiing. 

Returning home, I sit down to wrangle the dollars allotted to my 2012 budget. In estimates, I increase the cost of everything. Government pension laws allow a loophole for “shortened life expectancy” and I am permitted to withdraw a lump sum from my pension, so I need to plan carefully for the year. I feel sorry for my G.P. when I have to ask her to sign the form, verifying my truncated life span but I’m grateful that I don’t have to accept a small dole-out of my own money from now until the mythical expected age of 99. 

I move money around from chequing to savings, so I can track my spending monthly. And then I pray that somehow, I will stick to the budget. I’m glad to have it done – and happy that my head is clear enough now to accomplish something requiring this much attention. My energy is increasing a little. In the mornings, at any rate, I have my old energy back. 

Yesterday, I got up at 5:30 and steamed through the house, cleaning and tidying. I made split pea & red lentil soup, brown rice and quinoa before exhaustion hit and I crawled back into bed. The rest of the day was less than active but at least I got to laze in a cleaner apartment. 

I have hours now when I don’t think about having cancer. I live my life. I take care of the daily business of living. I’ve even begun to feel the presence of my muse hovering nearby. 

During my last radiation appointment, I met another patient with lung cancer. He looked young – maybe in his mid-thirties. Thin and haggard, slumped in his chair, he was the picture of defeat. He was introduced to me by a caregiver who first referred to him in the third person invisible. “He has lung cancer. He didn’t have chemo. It was too late.” I disliked her enormously for saying that. She asked me a lot of personal questions about my treatment – ending with, “What is your prognosis?” I was beginning to feel like it was a catastrophe competition and so, for shock value, I answered, “Statistically, eight months.” 

Later, I wrote an entry about this for the blog but saved the file without publishing. Much as I suspected that her care-giving had more to do with placing herself at the center of a drama, I felt wormy and wrong about being so judgemental, so I saved the file and walked away. I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know her. I don’t know what she’s sacrificed to leave her home province to care for her friend or how difficult it is for her and I have no right to condemn on the basis of one short meeting. Goddess knows, she could have been sad and exhausted – and just needed to talk a little. 

And my heart broke for him. He’d been diagnosed two months ago and shortly afterwards, had to place his mother in a home. She suffers from dementia. He said, “I told her about the cancer and she cried and said she’d pray for me and I’d be better in the morning.” I cannot begin to imagine the pain of that. He said, “You go through so many things, don’t you?” 

Yes, you do. You can't escape your terrified mind as it scrambles from one thought to the next. You go from panic to grief to hope to resignation in a split second. And then you do it all over. Again and again. 

On my way out, I went back to the waiting room and took his hand. I told him I was glad to meet him and wished him good days without pain, days of feeling well. He smiled at me. I nodded to his caregiver.

I wish him what I have now, days when I don’t think about cancer for hours at a time. Days when I am not a disease. 

I wish I had taken his phone number.


Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

today, there is only today.

NEDbeads said...

Your anger must have been incandescent. I wish the same things for him, now that I know of him. And more and more of them for you, Linda.

Roberta said...

My mom was just diagnosed with colon cancer. Last week we met with the oncologist. It was my first trip to an oncology department. It was a shock to my system. The room was filled. And I mean filled. Does everyone have cancer? Are we all going to have it sooner or later? We were there for hours. I had a lot of time to think. My heart broke just to see that many people. And that was only one hospital. In one city of many hospitals.......
My moms surgery is this Friday. She is 87 and I am scared for her.

Howpublic said...

Ned..I'm sorry I got angry. We never know what another's story is. I have a temper and a quick sense about underlying motives but even if I was right, how sad is it that someone needs attention so desperately?

Roberta - I'd trust that your mother is in good hands. And I know how shocking it is to see cancer clinics overflowing with people. I hope that your mom comes through with flying colors. She's tough enough to have made it to 87, so that's a good sign. I wish both of you the strength you need to get through this. Much love. L.

Pat said...

(0) ... just another stone offering. Sometimes it's better to say nothing, other times there's just too much to actually say.