“We’re not curing this.”
No Hello. No, I’m Doctor So-n-So.
He looked dusty and ready for departure, in his tweed with the elbow patches. Later we would watch him stare blankly at spreadsheets and delight in taking notes about your chemo side effects.
But when he “introduced himself” he set the bar. I wanted to slap him across the face and say harsh things. But this was your monkey. Behind the scenes – after the appointment – I began context gathering from my science friends. There are two types of chemotherapy, I learned, curative and palliative. Hearing this, I wasn’t sure just who I wanted to slap. Can you slap science? I mean really. Behind door A or behind door B. What about door C? Managing?
I swallowed my “autoimmune opinion” at that appointment. I loathe the word cure. It’s cocky and definitive and life is not either. Cure and cause, two words that so many have heard me rant about. I prefer manage and triggers. But I’m not writing about being a bald woman. That monkey rides joyously with me, most days.
He couldn’t have kicked your harder. You had just endured days in the hospital, with an arguably unnecessary abdominal drain that made you feel like a sick man, long hours laying about, and the icing on the cake – your wallet and clothes were stolen while you were having a colonoscopy. You awoke to a ring of doctors, the diagnosis and discharge, and a return to someone else in your hospital bed. I will never forget the rage that poured from you as I walked you to the car in your PJs.
So we weren’t curing this. Ok. The dusty doctor then spewed a load of medical terms, pharmaceuticals and procedures and side effects. He told us you had up to two years with chemo, 6 months to a year without. Well you made your own rules on that, didn’t you. Eleven months, with some chemo.
Chemotheraphy never made sense to your body. But you had a body that could heal, like nobody’s business. When I met you it was only a few years before that you had blown open your heel, and there was not a hint of a limp in your step. When you finally said, “I’m done!” with chemo, you were on five anti-nausea drugs and still flat on your back in bed, dizzy as could be.
I’m not a big fan of the Fuck Cancer motto. Yes, you want it out of your body and for your immune system to do its job again most fully. But cancer is a part of you, and I saw that in . . . You. When off chemo – and even at times during – you were so very much alive. We did many of the same things that were a part of life “before.” Success seems to be marked by being cancer free, but when it’s stage four – spreading – cancer, being black and white about things felt like it took away the possibilities for life that still existed.
You’re gone now – your body is gone – and much of this tale is not to be told because it is so deeply personal. But I think I can pull out the bits that make your life shine as something more, in its pain and its joy. I miss you Beardo. Thank you for this peace that surrounds me.