Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Dark and the Light

Last Friday afternoon I received some wonderful news: my donor is confirmed and I will receive a transplant in May! Elated as I was to hear and share this wonder of fortune and generosity, there was someone I couldn't tell, and it cast a shadow over my own celebration. My friend Dave, who had received a transplant as part of his treatment for AML last September and has been a source of advice and encouragement for me since my relapse, was in a coma. Saturday he died; his own leukemia had relapsed and the subsequent chemotherapy was too much for his weakened body.

When I checked myself into the hospital three and a half years ago, I made a conscious choice not to think about any aspect of my treatment that was beyond my control, not to study relapse rates or side effects. I didn't join patient forums where people chat about what's going wrong. I could talk to Dave because he wasn't like that; no matter how bad he was feeling he was confident that he would feel better, and I could look to him as someone who was chugging along, ahead of me in the process. Now here I am, despite my better efforts, confronted with the reality of where things can go wrong. It is not that I have ever pretended they can't, but I haven't had to face the dark quite so dramatically.

Trying to will away the truth of suffering only makes it meaner and stronger. I'm working on taking my own advice; lying awake at night concentrating on what is happening right now, knowing that I am breathing, that I am warm and safe, that my family is near. Focusing on not constructing scary fantasies, and on mourning a loss as what it is rather than making it representative of something larger. I won't dishonor Dave's death by making it a source of fear for me; it is a terrible loss and one that demands no deconstruction. 

I am grateful that Dave was a gifted musician who left a wonderful recorded legacy through his band Brown Bird. Even though I'll never be able to give him another hug or send him another text, I can hear his voice and his art.
This smile makes me smile. Travel light, Dave.

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