Anne Lamott, in her new book, Grace (Eventually) writes:
“What can you say when people call with a scary or heartbreaking prognosis? You say that we don’t have to live alone with our worries and our losses, that all the people in their tide pool will be there for them. You say that it totally sucks, and that grace abounds.
You can’t say that things will be fine down the road, because that holds the spiritual authority of someone chirping “No worries!” at Starbucks, or my favorite, “It’s all good!” at the market. It’s so not all good. And I’m worried sick.
It’s fine to know, but not to say, that in some inadequate and surprising ways, things will be semi-okay, the way wild flowers spring up at the rocky dirt-line where the open-space meadow meets the road, where the ground is so mean. Just as it’s fine to know but not say that anger is good, a bad attitude excellent, and the medicinal powers of shouting and complaining cannot be overestimated.”
The bold emphasis is mine; it’s this last phrase that speaks to me. So today I’ve decided to shout and complain, in the hopes of a powerful medicinal breakthrough of feeling-better-ness.
Day 5 of chemo was better than day 4, but in the middle of a sleepless night last night after I had torn apart the bedroom looking for the errant piece of dust that smelled, well, moldy, I had this flash of insight: this is what I imagine a bad acid trip must be like. (And no comments from the peanut gallery here – I haven’t been around anything like that for many decades, so don’t go getting any ideas, ‘kay?)
Really: queasy, hypersensitive to smell, feeling outside of myself and all in all, no fun. If one is going to feel that drugged, at least there should be some euphoria, some soft visual enchantments, something interesting going on, right? Well, with chemo, no, it’s just all ick. My skin feels wrong, the world is too bright (photosensitive), things smell funny, food tastes bizarre – it’s like a migraine waiting to happen. 95% of the time.
And this morning I woke up with the insight: I don’t have to do this. Really, I don’t.
Indulge me in this bit of denial, but it may not be so off: The most recent bone scan came up with no metastases – there’s no other cancer that we can see anywhere else in my body. That’s great news! Of course, we can only see spots larger than .5 cm, but still. And some people who do chemo do it to chase down those “mets.” Which I don’t have.
And the stats? The ones that say with chemo and hormone treatment my mortality rate drops from 17% to 6%, well maybe they’re applying to a broad range of women with some worse variables than mine. Maybe my chances are better.
Maybe there’s something to the healing power of prayer? To a raw foods change at the cellular level? Maybe there’s a different way? All I can say is that having these drugs in my body feels wrong, at a level of wrongness I can’t begin to describe. And maybe I am losing on the attitude front, maybe my perky-pinkwashed-sweetness-and-fake-it-till-you-make-it-ness has flown out the window, but there’s something very much “not right” about the way my body feels right now. And the consequence of stripping down my immune system is no small thing either.
Ah well, let’s hope today is a better day. Actually, I feel better already for having told it like it is.