adventure · fear · friends · laughter · sobriety

Both/And.

Tonight I go back into Kaiser hospital for my second round
of chemo. According to my current understanding, this is round 2 of 5.
However, I don’t really know. I went to Stanford on Friday
for what the Kaiser folks had told me (I have it in writing!) was a
“consultation” about bone marrow transplant (Can we all pass a moment of
silence for my even having to use the phrase “bone marrow transplant?). But,
when I arrived at Stanford, they seemed raring to go – ready, set, destroy your
immune system & hope the new one takes!
I was not so prepared for that. The doctor spoke for about
an hour and a half about what’s involved, and used the term “mortality rate”
much too often for me to feel at all like this was something I want to do. Then, they want you to talk to a social worker about
relocating down into the Stanford area for anywhere from 3-6 months. That
conversation, they said, would take another hour and a half.
At that point, I was too emotional – I mean, come on, doctors, this isn’t a theory – This is MY
LIFE
, and I told them that I wasn’t able to
speak to the social worker then. They seemed all shocked and surprised that
someone couldn’t sit through 3 hours of people telling them how they may die,
and even if they don’t here are all these lovely
other side effects, then also sit through someone
telling them how they need to up-end their entire lives to live somewhere alone
and foreign and away from all the trappings of normalcy they’re trying so
desperately to hold on to.
Really? You don’t get
that I need to leave now?
But, leave I did. And have had a few days of overwhelming,
What the Fuck – Now What?
I spoke with my friend who’s an oncology nurse at Kaiser –
actually we met when she started taking care of me last round, and is coming
this afternoon to pick up and foster my cat while I’m inpatient – so, we’re, like, friends
now. 🙂 But, she also knows about all this stuff.
Not all the facts are in, and I emailed my doctor last night
to say, Um, so, Stanford seems to think I need a transplant NOW, and you have
told me that we can wait to see if I have a recurrence of the cancer, and then
do a transplant THEN – so, Uh, what’s the story here? However, my nurse friend
said that with Leukemia, it can simply be a waiting game if you don’t go the
transplant route.
As I was talking to her yesterday, I was waiting for my
friend to come pick me up so we could go to Ocean Beach in SF. I said to her, yes, I have a good chance IF I make it through. She said, Well,
have a good time at Ocean Beach, IF you make it through. …
I got some info in the mail from a cancer society, and they
have a pamphlet about coping. In the back, they have a sort of daily inventory
– how did you feel today, did you laugh today.
With all of this hyper serious stuff happening, it’s hard to
find balance. I hadn’t laughed in days – certainly not after the Stanford
“You’re gonna live if you don’t die” visit.
But, yesterday, I did laugh. My nurse friend ended up coming
with us too. And off we were to Ocean Beach, laughing, silly, poking fun at
ourselves and each other.
And, oh, the beach. I’ve been wanting to go to the beach
since I got out of the hospital. Something about that massive body of water,
this uncontained thing, this thing that is totally out of my control, but is
working anyway – I wanted to witness it. I wanted to splash in it and squish my
toes in the sand of it. To breathe in it. And I did. We did.
We were there for a few hours, walking, sitting on a
towel, poking at things with our toes, crumbling sand in our fists. Laughing at children and dogs; admiring some very Ryan Gosling-esque abs on the surfers. It was a gorgeous day.
There was some cancer talk, but not too much. We went to
Java Beach for coffee re-ups, and I ran into a friend there. I remembered how I
used to spend my Saturday midnights there with a group of people who came to be friends –
What else do you do on a Saturday night at midnight when you’re young and not
at the bar? You drink coffee and eat left-over pastries by candelight and talk
about how awesome it is we’re alive and getting better. And sometimes how hard it is to be alive and getting better.
We went down to the Bayview where a friend of mine was
having an open studios art show. The whole warehouse was sculpture. Each artist
a sculptor. It’s rare that I see so much sculpture – usually the museums I’m at
are paintings or photographs. To see all this metalwork. It was amazing. So creative, and alive. And my
friend’s marble sculptures, as if melted out of the unhewn block.
We walked around out back and took in the Bay from that
angle. We saw the city from West to East, and we came home tiredly satisfied.
I sat for a few minutes, emboldened from my day of levity,
sunshine, the taste of salt on my teeth, and read some of the binder Stanford
gave me the day before. But I didn’t sit long with it.
I went to go meet up with some fellows for an hour, spoke a
little of what’s going on with me, and then had burgers and a movie with a
friend from SF. We saw that Seven Psychopaths movie, and it was really great – startling, gruesome in the
over-the-top meant-to-be-funny way, and just creative tongue-in-cheek
storytelling. For those hours, I didn’t think about myself or my cancer at all.
I laughed, gasped, sat in the dark with strangers doing the
same normal thing on a Saturday night.
I guess it’s going to be like this for now. The pendulum
from normal to not taking some very quick strokes. But last night, I got to note
that I did laugh that day. The reality of my situation was just the same
as the day before, but yesterday, I got to laugh, and reality became just an iota different. 

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