Friday, 13 January 2012


At 4:30 a.m., the sound of a large truck crunching over ice-covered snow. The beep-beep-beep and crash of dumpsters being hoisted, emptied and dropped back onto the ground. At 5:30, I give up on sleep, throw on my gray robe and fill the kettle. 

I have a feeling of anticipation like its Christmas morning or the first day of vacation. It’s my last day of radiation treatment and after today, there are no hospital appointments for almost two months. In two weeks, the radiation oncologist says, I’ll have a working immune system. In three weeks, he says I can join a gym. He advises me to start back onto my anti-oxidant supplements right away.

It’s an encouraging consultation. Although he keeps me waiting for nearly an hour, he apologizes and I tell him that one of his qualities as a doctor is that he doesn’t make his patients feel rushed. I say that the nurse has informed me he’s in a first meeting with a new patient – and I remember how kind and patient he was with me when we first met. He tells me he’s enjoyed having me as a patient and he knows it’s hard to get through treatment. “You’ve done well,” he says.  I feel like a kid getting a gold star from a favorite teacher. 

I’ve done well. This is to say, I showed up even when the dread of chemo was so strong that, days before a scheduled treatment, I would begin to doubt that I could walk through those doors and endure it one more time. 

An empty schedule stretches out ahead of me. I am not well yet. Some days begin with a burst of energy which fizzles and dies by afternoon, and there is still the possibility that I’ll be hit with worse exhaustion or skin problems from the radiation. I’m trying not to expect too much of myself. It’s a common pitfall after cancer treatment – expecting to be back to normal when treatment ends, only to find that you are still debilitated. And I don’t have any answers yet. It will be two months before they can tell how well the treatment worked.

Other than having signed up to a Pay It Forward event on Facebook and committed to making five handmade gifts, I have no plans. It seems like years since I’ve had any plans at all and I feel a little dumbfounded. I hope that I won’t find myself wandering listlessly around the apartment, starting and abandoning projects, ghosting around the place like a lost soul. And I’m hoping my muse hasn’t lost my address. 

One more day staring up at the big machine with its worn “Elmo loves you” sticker. One more day of joking with the techs about their freezing hands. One more time changing in and out of Johnny shirts and green housecoats.  

I’m remembering a quote of Mary Oliver’s:
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Good things, I hope….


VanBeads said...

Congratulations on completing your treatment, Linda! And just so you know: Elmo DOES love you.

Patty said...

You are doing it, Linda, and have always done it - lived that one life with everything you have.
Thinking about you every day.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

good things, I know. Wild and precious, indeed.