change · community · friends · gratitude · health · perseverance

Time: in fair and foul

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Oops, I did it again — I changed my clocks on the wrong day! (Last time, I changed them in the wrong direction!) I don’t think I’m cut out for this. 
In speaking of time, tomorrow will mark one year from my
final day of chemo. Last year, today, March 8, I was in Kaiser hospital, 6th
floor, on the “off day.” Since I had Leukemia, the
treatment is different than you hear for outpatient breast cancer treatment or
even lung cancer (not that they don’t go through hell, too). How the treatment
went is that each month I spent a week in the hospital (after the initial first month in),
and would get chemo on days 1, 3, 5, and then on day 6, if I looked healthy
enough, I could go home. 
“Healthy enough.” Sheesh. What a thing.
A year before that, I was probably working on and
procrastinating on my MFA Poetry thesis at Mills College.
There was a moment after my diagnosis during which I was
sitting at this same kitchen table, likely in these same pajamas, when I looked
out this same window at the cypress trees that grow over the roof of the
building next door. I’ve always watched them, since I’ve lived here. They’re
one of the few trees in my area that loses leaves, and then regrows them in
full regalia in the spring and summer.
I sat at this table, and as it was October/November, I
watched it shedding the last of its leaves for the year. And I wondered if I
would see its leaves return. If I would be alive to witness it.
And I was. And I will be when, once again, the brown tree suddenly sports those green buds that never cease to surprise me, like an overnight graffiti
artist.
Perhaps some people think my marking of this time is morbid.
And maybe it is. But, it’s impossible for me to turn away from. I don’t always
think about it; in fact, over the course of these few months, the “this time
last year” thought has become pretty scarce. But sometimes, there are moments to remember, to recall, measure against, and
praise to high bloody heaven and hell and all the imps in between that *I made it,* through all of it — the terror, the loneliness, the unknowing, the isolation of it. I made it through alive, and healthy, my eggs still ticking in my ovaries, my blood producing what it ought to. I made it through the arguments with doctors, through giving myself injections, through Christmas in an inpatient bed. 

I made it through with your soup waiting for me in the hospital fridge, with the cup of coffee you went out of your way to Peet’s to buy, with the fuzzy blanket and the neon socks you brought to keep me warm. 

I made it through with the green shakes you made for me, and the protein drinks you sought out at Whole Foods. With the burritos you bought and the chicken you made. I made it through with our conversations about leaving your store, leaving your soon-to-be ex-wife; about polyamory and the ’89 fire. I made it through when you held my hand as I bawled into your chest, heaving the Ugly Cries because I knew you could take it. 

I made it through when you brought a big book and a 12 and 12, and we sat and talked about other things anyway. But the praying helped. 
A year ago tomorrow, I will have been awoken at 6 in the
morning. I will have had my pee measured, my temperature and blood pressure
taken, and swallowed the pre-medication meant to stave off nausea. I
will then have gotten dressed, eaten whatever plastic-wrapped breakfast they’d
provided, done my morning pages, meditated, and perhaps written my blog if I
could get it in before I got hooked up to the IV pole.
The nurses will have come in in yellow apron suits over their
scrubs, and thick blue gloves and goggles. The two, always two, would call
the numbers of my ID back to each other, the volume of the chemo, confirming
the three hours it was to drip into the port line that entered my chest and
pumped into my heart.
A year ago tomorrow, in the evening, they would do the same
12 hours from the first one. And by the time the bag of clear but ominous
liquid was empty and the machine was beeping loudly for the nurse, I will have tucked into the stiff hospital bed with that fuzzy blanket, curled up maybe with a book, maybe too tired to
read, and they would come back in their yellow suits and thick gloves, and
unhook the tube from my chest. 
And I will have had my last round of chemo. (Ever.)

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