You know it's not real life and that this time will have to end. You'll have to talk to other people, you'll each have to go back to your old lives. Social and professional obligations will start up and somehow you need to fit this new relationship into all that. Compromises will be made, hard things will be decided and done.
“Vadka, if you don’t know how to use the minute, you’ll waste the hour and the day and your whole life.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward, 1966
I'm on my second cup of coffee, sitting in my chair by the window at Camp Comfort. It's overcast but not raining, with bits of sun coming through the sky and patches of blue sky. Every once in awhile wave of real sunlight just pours into this room. It feels lovely. I feel great. Miss Pingu, the sweet pussy cat herself is still upstairs luxuriating in the bed. The two of us. Luxuriating in a shared moment of bliss in the midst of hard times. Yes we are enjoying each other, this moment of comfort and relaxation is magnified by sharing it with another being. And yes, we are each independently enjoying the moment, in the moment, for what it is without thought to the past or the future.
We both had a hard winter, each in our own way.
She was an old cat living out in the barn, unloved through that long, especially cold winter.
She was in such bad shape by the end of winter that our friend who normally rents this cottage out to paying guests doesn't think she will make it through another winter in the barn.
I was an old woman going through harsh chemo, and there were times when I didn't feel like I would make it either.
And neither of us has a guaranteed future. Both of us for sure have some more hard times ahead. This summer I will be going through radiation and Pingu will be back to being a barn cat. They won't let her in the house, and she won't have humans to love her and get her purring and content on a warm lap. She will have to survive this one summer as a mostly wild animal. And I will get my boob burnt, and maybe, probably my lymph nodes too. Then at the end of it Pingu and I can come together again and heal up and be love buddies through the next winter.
For now we are in this magic moment of just being together and bonding. It's a bit like a new romance. You never want this moment to end. You know it's not real life and that it will have to end. You'll have to talk to other people, you'll each have to go back to work. Social and professional obligations will start up and somehow you need to fit the new relationship into all that. Compromises will be made, hard things will be decided and done.
But for the moment you don't have to do any of that, you can have this night, day, weekend, week together, apart from all the rest of the world, just being the two of you, bonding emotionally and physically. That is really what Pingu and I are doing now.
I am ready for a new pet, I am ready to have a cat in my life again. And she is perfect, an older cat that does need a home. And me, an older woman who does need at cat. I have a physical, purring companion for this part of the recovery, and I'll have one for the next part, after the radiation too. That is the plan. Tom has agreed I can take her home with me before the next winter sets in.
Hopefully. I don't know if I will have time. Literally I don't know. I don't know if I will have time.
I may be full of cancer right now, that sucker may have spread in small ways, under the radar. While the big old, 'war of the roses', building castles of calcium, cancer was being beaten down by the chemo, and we were all happy dappy about that, perhaps the warrior, Mongol horde cancer cells were out and about, ignoring the chemo and setting up little invasion camps all through my body. Still too small for me to feel, but there, everywhere. That could've happened too. And who knows they could still be too small to detect. A clean bill of health next Wednesday when we get the surgery/tumour results does not guarantee that it will still be a clean bill of health in three months, six months or a year.
But it gets better. After the first year you start to move past the really aggressive dangers, you start to move into the slow moving cancer dangers. But I don't know. I don't know if I have time. I will never really know. Not anymore. Each day will be its own thing now. From now on that's the way it will be. Day by day.
"As time and mass in a body approaching the speed of light differ from time and mass in other bodies, so these properties became different for him than for other people; time became greater in volume, mass became more porous and more easily penetrated. He squeezed years into weeks, days into minutes."
Alexander Solzhenitsyn,Cancer Ward, 1966
I am getting stronger for sure. But sometimes it does almost feel as if I am, "stirring" up dormant chemo, that there are bits of chemo in me, and when I exercise deeply I 'stir' them up, release them into circulation again and I feel a bit sick. Not full chemo sick, but also more than just sore muscles sick. It's an all over malaise that I feel. It passes as soon as I take a break, get a rest from the exercise. And after that then I feel better, even better, because I feel the additional strength that I'm regaining from doing the exercise. But it's like an extra one step back that I have to go through now, that all over sick body feeling a day after exercise, to build myself back up again.
If I don't exercise now, I feel like I will carry this lingering chemo feeling around in my body for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, and I will stay weak. Better to get right in there and deal with it now. Now while I have time to do it for one thing. I have time to do an hour's exercise every day. Plus take a nap for an hour every day too. When I go off of disability and have to start really working again I won't have this time to both work harder physically and to rest up more. Two hours, that's two hours out of every day.
So. I don't feel well today. I'm glad I had my core exercise routine on Monday. Glad I got out of the building and took my railroad walk yesterday. But I did feel a bit sick yesterday and I do feel a bit more sick today.
This business of the steroids complicates things too. They say it's six months to a year before the steroids leave my system. So they are still affecting me. Now. Right now. Perhaps I'll build really big muscles doing these exercises?! Would I get kicked out of the Olympics if I took a blood test today? Do I have super powers at the moment? What happens when you add radiation to the mix?
“Out here, everything hurts. You wanna get through this? Do as I say. Now pick up what you can and run.” Imperator Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015
Who knew that a badass, one-armed character from Mad Max would become my role model for getting through this?
It's almost 9 am. Time to get showered and dressed, time to go for my walk along the tracks.
Then it's putter around the camp. Make a drink from the rhubarb patch. Sit in the sun when it comes out and soak up a bit of cancer-curing, bone-saving vitamin D. But not too much. Cancer causing melanoma triggered by sun damage is also part of that story. Radiation up next on my cancer cure menu, but let's not think about that just now. Have lunch. Have a nap. Perhaps I'll have a fire tonight? That could be nice. I love to sit around a camp fire at night. Listen to the loons - and howl at the moon?