Every single morning, no matter how sick I feel, I get up and sit with my little cowboys while they have breakfast and get ready for their day. I want them to understand that they matter more to me than anything that I have going on, including The Sickness. It was not unusual, then, that I sat at the table yesterday with Goliath and Little Middle. I looked a hot mess, after 3 days of a chemo-induced semi-coma. The boys were thrilled to start their Saturday off with bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and some Mom time. At least, until they heard what I had to say. It had to do with my hair. How it is falling out--"thinning" is the term from the oncology literature--and has been for some time now. How I think it's time to do something, but I don't want them to be embarrassed or have to explain to their friends....And before the rest of the thought could make its way out of my mouth, my sweet boys jumped right in: "You can wear your wig when you go to church or to our school!" "I know where your scarves and hats are upstairs. Do you want me to go get them?" "I'm not embarrassed. If anyone asks why you don't have any hair, I'll just tell them it's because you have cancer and they better mind their own business!" (This from my fiercely-protective Goliath, with his eyes flashing--I dare anyone to cross him.) And..."Mom, we think you're pretty."
Oh, my darling boys. I could barely keep the tears in while I hugged them, reminded them to put their cereal bowls in the dishwasher, and fled to the safety of my bedroom.
My bedroom, with its soft gray walls and pretty blue bedding and pictures of happier days gone by, is where I feel safe. Right now, that's my haven. It's where I stay when I'm sick; it's where I go when I'm scared. "Scared" is a feeling I am well acquainted with. It goes along with "overwhelmed" and "lost." The thing with my hair isn't really new; in fact, it's kind of the last straw. It's been the thing that just this week has made me think, "Well. Maybe I really should just hole up here." It's been the latest and scariest thing that makes me want to run and pull the pretty blue covers up over my head. Because in my world, there's all this other stuff...
The pages of my journal are filling up, in spite of myself. Night after night, I write. And I write and I write. How can one person who doesn't even go out much have so much to write about?
That Other Heartache drags on, albeit in a lesser form. There is so much fear wrapped up in it, and it has a powerful grip on me.
Drama. And a tremendous sense of responsibility for other people's well-being and happiness. Oh. My. Goodness. Achieving and maintaining healthy relationships is exhausting work.
I asked Dr. F about a long-term prognosis. It isn't pretty. And you'd think that if you KNOW that you have a limited time to live, that you would proceed like Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dyin'". Only I think that for now, this chemo is the right thing to do, and it might give me more time. But it also keeps me from yanking my kids out of school so we can all jump out of an airplane together. I can't win.
A funny thing about being chronically ill is that you lose your sense of belonging. My life is now measured in treatments and doctor visits, while the rest of the world carries on just as it did before The Sickness. I don't know why it surprises me so much that my friends, my Bible Study class, my volunteer group...whoever! can function without me. But they can, and I remain
This life of mine, it's heavy. And right now, it's really, really dark. It is every moment feeling dragged under, held down, gasping for breath after breath after breath. It is Dory encouraging Nemo to "just keep swimming, just keep swimming," only it isn't funny at all. It is pictures of what used to be or thoughts of what's to come that flash through my head on a never-ending reel, a constant reminder that with or without me, they'll go on. It is the relentless cycle of sunrise to sunset. I dread the dawning of a new day simply because the number of hours it brings to be conquered are overwhelming. How does one start putting one foot in front of the other when she is already so far behind?
"But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. Come near and rescue me." Psalm 69:13-18