The accidental journey is never an easy one. Your life becomes a sort of map, the end point of which is the pirate’s treasure, the buried hoard titled health. The problem is that this map is not an easy one to read; there are branches and forks along the way. False leads and dead ends pepper the path; and yet, you push on, towards your goal, with steely determination. This perseverance does not come without cost, for it demands great focus… and the fallout of such focus can be a sort of self-absorption; you see the world through the eyes of cancer. Everything seen, touched, heard, echoes with the whispers of “me.” A friend is pregnant – will I live to see the baby grow? A nephew graduates – will I see him launch his new life, new loves, even children? What will happen to my mother, my brother, my family? Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends… will I bear witness to their lives? Will I grow old with my husband? Will my illness take its toll upon him? And.. what about me?
I chose the road called Modern Medical Treatment. In some ways, it’s still an unpaved way, filled with potholes and littered with debris. My treatments have not been easy; my body doesn’t seem to understand that we’re trying to save it, not kill it. My attempts to reassure and comfort my self have become a clusterfuck of missed communications; everything has been lost in translation and so, with my last treatment, my body waged war. Against the treatment, and against me. I went into a massive auto-immune response. I was punished for allowing such chemical insults and injuries to be injected into my body. I was forced to pull over, and wait out the storm, courtesy of Cedars-Sinai. I was finally released from my
imprisonment room on Wednesday, and am now recovering at home. Everything has slowed down; even the writing of this blog takes a Herculean effort, for my within my joints still linger the last vestiges of this battle.
And this is, I hear, not even the war.
During the days of confinement, I drifted in and out of reality. Though the fog of pain and medication obscured my journey, I still remember much of what happened… and I don’t. I was there, and I wasn’t… and yet, there were moments of great clarity, when something would sound like a foghorn, breaking through the dark veil, giving me something to hold onto, an anchor of reality, a moment of perspective.
For me, this anchor was five words – “Code Blue: Labor and Delivery.”
The ward that I would have normally been housed in is under partial reconstruction, and so, I was placed in an overflow unit, off of Labor and Delivery, next to NICU. Even when my door was closed, the communication center was quite audible, which allowed me to hear and process those five little words.
Code Blue. Labor and Delivery. Bitterly reminiscent of the famed flash fiction novel, often attributed to Hemingway: “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”
When faced with tough times, people say “At least I have my health.” I cannot say that, but I can say at least I have my life, and all I could think about then – and think about now – is that somewhere, on the third floor, was a family’s worst nightmare come true. Either a new mother or a newborn were fighting for their lives. Or worse, both.
Somehow, that realization lingered in my room, and finally, the fog cleared, just a little, as those little words gave me the beam of perspective to cling to, and allowed me the strength to drag my battered body into the shower Wednesday morning. I sat in the chair as the warm water ran in rivulets over me, washing away the pain and tears.
I have my life. I have my family, and friends.
I have perspective.