December 3rd is an anniversary. Two years ago on this day, after 5 months of chemotherapy for Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a surgeon removed my left breast and all of the lymph nodes in my armpit—23 to be precise.
After dissecting Appy and the nameless nodes, the pathologist declared that all removed tissue had no cancer remaining, except for in 2 nodes. This was considered a pretty good “response” to the chemotherapy. Not “complete,” but close to it. I plan to share the Scheherazade files complete with pictures in another place TBD.
I’ve gone for follow-up visits several times in the last two years, even though there are no tests or images to be done to see if Scheherazade (the name I gave to the cancer) is back. I’m told PET scans tend not to show much, until it is too late. I’ve had occupational therapy patients in years past who had PET scans, and the results prompted clinicians to say, “She lit up like a Christmas tree”—not really a metaphor you look forward to in that situation.
So, I’m two years out. Yay. I’ve been cautious, knowing my mortality. I have resisted agreeing to jobs and courses of action that assume a long life ahead. When I was immortal I put up with misery, sacrifice, and delayed gratification. The future held out false hope. But after Scheherazade, the future is not certain.
Year one, I traveled and visited family and friends (pictures and narratives also to be shared in another place TBD). Year two? Early this year, I found a rewarding job in a wonderful place. But in August I found another job. I relocated to a big city for the benefit of my son (previously called Bam Bam in this blog—but now looking more kin to a high school version of Legolas in Lord of the Rings). The new job demands watching the clock, logging every minute of “patient care,” and manipulating everything else the employer demands into an impossibly limited time frame. Little room is left for meaning and integrity.
So, I’m dislodging myself. I tried to stick with it, but Scheherazade beckons, as do quotes from three other sources that have crossed my path this fall: a podcast, a patient, and a book.
“Capitalism and the free market don’t care whether you live or die.”
“There’s a little old black woman hiding somewhere in you…”
“You are never free to do as you please when you stay with the familiar.”
I had a craniosacral treatment recently from a woman, Amy Kay who is also an occupational therapist, self-employed. Her treatments assist me into mindfulness—into the moment, bringing me into my neglected body and reminding me to breathe. The longer I spin my wheels in this muddy existence, the less I breathe.
A gentleman in his mid-nineties thanked me the other day for the time we had together. It was close to 90 minutes, you see. That’s too many minutes, but we were enjoying each other so much, I didn’t cut him off. He thought we clicked, as did I. A fall had taken him to the hospital and then to rehab. So often a captive audience, my patients are. He thanked me repeatedly and told me to keep up my Spirit. I told him, “You made my day,” to which he replied, “You’re Clint Eastwood.”
Time to let go of the minutes. I have unfinished business with the moment and the unfamiliar.