I met a woman maybe thirty-five, slender. My memory remembers her as a gym teacher. We met in the waiting room at MD Anderson next to Presbyterian. We were waiting for our turn to have radiation treatment. We had changed into hospital gowns, locked up out personal stuff and prepared to wait. Never long.
MD Anderson had coffee, Keurig. Always a treat after the long drive across town. So, as I sat there sipping, my new friend told me her tale. She had a cancer that had metastasized. She had been treated three times for recurrences. This time it was for cancer in the muscle of her left leg. She knew her time was limited. She was tired.
Her friends suggested she travel. They didn’t understand why she wasn’t going to make the most of her time left. She was tired, she said. She enjoyed being home. She enjoyed talking with her friends. That is all she wanted. That is all she wanted to do. She could see the joy in everyday life.
She was mulling a decision. She just about decided that she was not going to have any more treatment. She was very tired. Chemo and radiation sucks the life out of you. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing left. I understand how she felt. Sometimes its not that a person wants to die, sometimes it is just that life is too hard to do. Even that early in my long road through treatments, I understood. I respected her choice.
I have been treated with varying degrees of success for an autoimmune disease for over nine years. And for variety during that time, I was also treated for three different cancers, major surgeries after three different positive biopsies. Radiation next. And then chemo or drugs. The medication required for the second cancer, caused the third and worst cancer that I had.
Then the methotrexate I had been taking for RA caused necrosis and massive infection in the radiated tissue. It took ten months plus surgery to mend. A hip replacement squeezed itself in there somewhere. Then I spent last summer with foot and ankle wounds due to lymphedema caused by having all my abdominal lymph glands removed for the third cancer. That was the time I stopped working in my garden.
Living in pain every day is not easy. Equally difficult is the loss of mobility that goes along with it. I become discouraged. I admit it. It is a difficult time for me.
But then, like they say, when you are on the bottom, the only way left is up.
So, what did I do? I wanted to wear shorts and be free of compression wraps. So, I did it. Instead of long pants with compression socks and wraps, I wore shorts and a summer tee. All still fit from last summer which was a good thing in itself. I felt released. I even started going barefoot in the house, again.
I made my next batch of English muffins. Bob was happy and ready to work. I remembered to butter the rings. And also remembered the trick is to roll the dough no more than an inch thick.
I like to bake. Recently I made wonderful lemon scones from Martha Stewart and a quick brownie recipe from King Arthur. I like the rituals involved. My kitchen is full of wonderful gadgets that I love. A bain marie to heat cream and melt chocolate. A thermometer that is really an instant read. My old faithful kitchen scale that cost me ten dollars at Bed Bath and Beyond.
I did not turn on CNN once during the day. I had a salad for lunch with my hydroponic greens and an organic cucumber. And I rewatched episodes of the Gilded Age on HBO Max.
Life is good for now. When it isn’t, maybe a break in routine, a small change, is the answer. I would save myself a lot of grief if I were to make a change sooner. I will try to remember.