When I settled into my thoughts, when I finally slowed down for the day and started to process everything I’d experienced since I woke, I washed my face, I looked in the mirror and I stopped. I realized that she hugged me so tight for so long because it was goodbye.
She also knew that I could see things through her eyes in a way that few could.
Her cancer recurred a few months before I knew mine had, also. We have both been playing a metaphorical chess game; us against rogue, proliferating cells in our own bodies.
We get poked with big needles and little needles, they drain clear plastic bags of toxic and expensive drugs into us, we have radioactive scans in rooms with signs that read Nuclear Medicine, we take our clothes off and expose ourselves in ways in which our vulnerability cannot be articulated, we change drugs for as long as drugs can be be exchanged, we see teams of doctors in multiple locations, sitting in waiting rooms (or doing lunges, jumping jacks, push ups and yoga as I usually do) for hours upon hours, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away, weekly or monthly. We think, we anticipate, we worry, we lose sleep and we make decision after decision, the best ones we can, some documented legally for now, some documented for after we’re gone and some just in our heads. Then we live with them for as long as we can.
The stakes of this chess match are not just our lives but our health, our freedom, our happiness, our integrity, our longevity and our ability to LIVE. The stakes are everything that leads up to our lives being snuffed out. The last moment, when life stops, that’s the easy part. It’s living with it up to that point that’s increasingly tough.
I still have the occasional chemo nurse ask me how many more treatments I’m scheduled to have. My response is “that depends on when I’m dead.” That doesn’t phase me. I’m desensitized to those questions, those comments. I’m not desensitized to losing loved ones. I will never get used to that.