From one immunity nadir to the next: Yes, that would make it three weeks since I wrote the last entry. There have been many instances since then when I ordered myself to sit down and start writing: After the gathering of old Peace Corps friends to celebrate the life of one who had recently died, after my final chemo infusion a little over a week ago, after a visit from the same childhood friend who came to see me in the hospital a few days after my surgery, and a few other times when I felt inspired by a catchy theme or thought which has since escaped the confines of my chemo-wired brain.
But ordering myself to do anything has never been very effective. I had self-issued orders to go into town today with Marc, to pick up some medications and dry food for the cats, among other errands, because I thought it was time for me to get off my chemo butt and resume a responsible demeanor. But Marc thought better of it, as did I when I took time to think about it. Three days ago I was coming down with something like a head cold and, although it never succeeded in getting past a scratchy throat and flu-like headache, this is technically the point where I’m most vulnerable to catching a disease, and I don’t want to mess with that any more than I want to mess with Mother Nature. So I’m going to avoid the unseasonably blustery chill of this early May day and play inside instead.
Down to business: I’ve donned my fingerless gloves, which allow me to type on my laptop without the static electricity in my hands fooling my poorly-grounded computer into thinking I’ve pressed the ctrl button. Without the gloves (which are no fun to wear on a warm day but are a comfy addition today), I’m always at risk of hitting “i” only to have the sentence I’m typing end in italics or, in the midst of typing “addition” or “instead”, have everything I’ve typed so far suddenly highlighted and deleted. All I can say is thank goodness for undo.
My ex-husband called me today and we got onto a subject akin to “undo” as it might relate to our lives. He was pondering his reluctance to quit smoking, and his continuing to smoke even after it contributed to circulation problems which resulted in one of his legs being amputated above the knee, and it was more like why do we allow our lives to continue on in italics even when we realize our mistake, or a short-circuit of fate, whichever. Deviating a bit from his flow of thought, I meandered into my current dilemma: how to structure or define my life from this point on. Although it’s a stretch to say that, while I was typing “glad” at the end of my treatment, something wiped out all my prior life and left me with a blank screen, that’s a little how it’s appeared to me. I seem to have the option of hitting “undo” and carrying on as before, half retired and half not, loosely following a healthy lifestyle, cooling my creative jets to allow more time for cuddling with cats, playing at writing while filling the bulk of my time with busywork. Or, I can put on my gloves and try to put new meaning to the old 60s platitude we thought was so clever and inspirational: Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Because, well, besides it being an annoying truism, it can’t be denied. That I even have a “rest of my life” to speak of should certainly set that adage off in bold (as might happen were I to take my gloves off and type at its onset “Fabulous!”) and give it special meaning.
Has it become clear yet that I’m floundering in the turbid tide of a teal green sea? There’s a recurring dream I have, which I had again this morning before waking: that I’m swimming (or watching others swim and getting ready to join them) in the calm and balmy, usually greenish waters of a high tide, always near some town on the Pacific coast. This morning’s dream was in Berkeley, near a dock at the end of a row of quaint, colorful beach apartments where (only in other recurring dreams) a friend of mine has a small, weekend retreat. I had no hesitation jumping into the warm water, and was dog-paddling, floating peacefully and gazing at the yellowed bunch grasses on the shore, when I awoke to the sound of Marc peeking in to see if I was awake. There is never any obvious threat in these dreams, although sometimes there’s a splash of intuition that the tepid, rising water could eventually become ominous. In spite of that, I always experience a sense of awe at how inviting the deepening waters are right near the shore, how swimmable, how safe. I’ve wondered if it’s a symbol for death, as the ocean is sometimes thought to be. It seems more, in my case, to reflect the drift of my life – benign worldview, profound belief that I can jump in and it’ll be worthwhile as well as okay. (That’s of course ignoring the possibility that the recurring dream could be informed premonition of climate change, warming and rising of the oceans, accepting and making the best of the changes.)
This is what the end of my treatment for ovarian cancer has brought me to. I’ve felt like I’ve been floating in doldrums, wondering what gust of inspiration would move me to the transition between being a cancer patient and being a cancer survivor. I’ve weathered six + months of treatment, and have glided through this last couple of weeks with little more than fatigue, the threat of a cold, and the usual intestinal rebellion. It’s seemed anti-climactic, to tell the truth; I’m still waiting for fireworks. Like I need a grand finale to bring it all home.
That lacking, I’m letting vague thoughts of what I might do next seep in: Write a story, publish my memoir, buy a new potter’s wheel, throw a party, weed the yard. I visited the website of a writer who mentors writers, edits work, provides support through transition and inspires connection to nature, among other things. The name of her website is TEALarbor Stories, with—true to its name—a teal colored border and image of trees. I’ve been drawn to teal since way before I learned it was the official color for ovarian cancer – I can safely say it’s my favorite color, although certain shades of cinnabar come in a close second. So I don’t mind letting teal, with its double significance, guide me in seeking someone to keep me on track with my writing. Whatever floats my boat, huh?
This is a somewhat incomprehensible ramble, I know. But since I started this blog with the intention of letting my experience guide my expression, I think it’s only fair that at the end of treatment—with over six months’ worth of powerful, life-altering drugs and body-altering surgery under my belt, so to speak—I be given the leeway to be tossed about a bit in my mind’s innocuous turbulence. My work has been to stay focused, track my course, and full-steam-ahead my way through treatment. That accomplished, may I please now indulge myself in the foggy vistas of chemo brain?
Maybe then I’ll be able to move on to whatever’s next.