Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bottom Land

I sat down in the shower and cried. I guess that constitutes a low point. The first donor is injured and unable to donate for at least two months and the second donor is unable to donate at all. We must restart the search process. I feel like I was within sight of the summit, and then a storm blew in and I have to bivouac for an unknown amount of time. To wait, to hunker down. And also, I have to go through another cycle of chemotherapy, enduring a rainbow of discomforts.

It's pretty amazing to feel so completely good, over and over again, after feeling so completely bad. If ever you feel the need to marvel at the incredible resilience of the human body, take note of the people you know who have recovered from chemotherapy. The depth of the abuse perpetrated by these drugs is unfathomable. They are so caustic they will burn your skin; they are so caustic they will burn through the veins. They have to be administered in such a way as to completely bypass all of the body's defenses, so that they can enter the bloodstream and reconfigure the DNA of any cells that get in their way. It's best not to think too hard about what they do now, and what they do later. 

That's one thing when you feel sick; when the doctors have told you that you will die without treatment and that this is the only option. The pricetag is high, but it's worth it. You look at your family, at the stories you've told your whole life, and get out the checkbook.

But when you don't feel sick, when you are in remission and the doctors say you must keep coming in for more, when it isn't even part of the treatment but just a placeholder because of logistics and banal details completely beyond your control, when you start to doubt the wisdom of it but you don't have an argument and you know in your gut that a lot of this is guesswork on everyone's part, when you don't know the timeline and the goal posts keep moving, and it's going to hurt, the choices don't feel as simple anymore. 

The horizon gets broad and bright when things feel good, and the prospect of having everything shrink again is scary. Thinking that my body has lost a critical defense, that my own cells may begin to mutate and try to kill me at any time and the mechanism that fights that mutation is broken and must be chemically destroyed and replaced, is pretty disconcerting. If my marrow is broken, how can I trust my instincts? What can I possibly know in my bones, if they don't work?

When can I say what feels right in this process, and what feels unnecessary?

Right now, I have no way of answering that question. It seems to me that my work is to take the path of least resistance, and save my energy for the tasks I know only I can do. I don't believe that the doctors are infallible, or that they even know exactly what they are doing right now. But I want to put my energy into the things that I want to grow, and I don't want the cancer to grow. I will let the doctors direct that part of the process, and I will grow in my ability to wait, to hunker down, to just be. I will grow in my ability to find peace and wisdom in the uncertainty of things, to find the still water under the raging tide, to accept that gifts reveal themselves in time and not at my command.

I didn't want to do anything when they called. Not move forward, or backward, or be in the moment. I just wanted to be frustrated and angry and stuck. I told John I felt like I couldn't get any purchase on anything, no feeling of momentum or direction. He said it isn't the year for that type of growth. He's right; it's the year for another type of growth altogether, and I have plenty of that left to do. 

So I'm past that low point. I think. I'm ready to learn to wait.

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