Is there a better feeling than waking up to the quietness of a beautiful morning? When the eyes are still closed, but inside you feel full of gratitude and love for all that is in your life? Think I am full of shit? Few years ago, I would have agreed and perhaps even said that I was just trying to be a creative writer. Yet, last year around this time is when I was still recovering from my brain surgery and prior to that, my wife’s illness and then before that a stroke around the time a loss of a dear dear friend reverberated through my soul. So I could say life was not fair. I could have whined, and been angry. And honestly, I did. I cannot even read some of the stuff I wrote around that time because the stench of self-pity suffocates me. I felt so sorry for myself that I engaged in soul deadening behaviors like avoidance, and pretending all was well. I stopped reading, writing or really doing anything that gave me true joy. I fought with people in my life with such a vengeance as if it was their fault my life was where it was.
I probably would have continued if some of the strangest things came together to salvage who I used to be. It began with a subscription to The New Yorker. I have been buying books all my life, and there are always piles of unread books surrounding my homes, but subscribing to the New Yorker was a new commitment for me. I had no idea that each week, a magazine that was extremely well written with VERY long articles would come to my doorstep. Each and every single fucking week. So I began reading. Around the same time, a forwarded You Tube link of BK Shivani’s “Healer Within” caught my eye. At first, I was uncomfortable with the Indian accents, but her words struck me into submission with their clarity and accuracy. I also began doing Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way as well as doing Lumosity brain games while trying to learn Spanish (still struggling).
I didn’t realize at the time, but I had begun constructing a new me….
Today, I drove in silence from Artesia to Torrance because the cacophony in my head just wouldn’t allow for any outside noise? A sample: When should I do www.lumosity.com and www.babbel.com? When should I edit my final essay for UCLA Extension writing class? What should we do this week (I really want to take my wife somewhere nice, new and romantic)? How can I save more money? Why won’t XYZ take my advice, and on and on the noise went until I realized that this internal dialogue I was having was only making me feel inadequate. As much as I want to accomplish more in my life, and be better for the ones around me. I have to take pause and congratulate myself for the things I do accomplish. Take today for example. I had a friend call me and thank for me supporting him while he was unemployed. Now he had a job. That’s a real cause for celebration, and shows that people do care.
I had another friend whose mom passed away from cancer. He was with her when she took her last breath. I cannot love this guy enough for his selflessness, and the genuine love he showed me recently when I was in the hospital. In fact, his entire family has shown me nothing but kindness, and love. I will never forget that. So I took a moment to thank both these friends for being in my life. And then I was blessed with a best friend who not only listens to me whine and complain, but also keeps giving me solid advice (which I normally fail to take). Finally. I have a dear friend whose wonderful father is fighting (and I know beating) pancreatic cancer. So what’s my point in all this? That instead of all the random worries I have, I need to take a moment and appreciate and thank for who and what I have in my life. It’s easy enough to say, but quite hard to do, so today I want to say THANK YOU to all those who have done so much for me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
A beautiful morning, sun bathing the room so much so that I wonder if I have ever seen it like this before. Then it hits that the sun is lighting up what’s inside me, and I smile. And I smile some more because the external radiation and chemo are done. Gone is the not knowing, the fear, the constant ache of “will she be ok?” Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking past the fact that she has internal coming up, but Cancer cannot make us ignorant or scared anymore. The big bad wolf has turned out to be a mere shadow that we magnified in our mind.
I cannot help but soak in the sun, letting it breath into me more strength for her. The burden has gotten lighter, we are beginning to see the end of this trial, and for once can actually discuss the future rather than future appointments, can actually look forward to the weekends as a real break rather just something to give her some breathing room, can plan to run a household rather than worry if the house is poisoning her somehow.
Still, I cannot get rid of some of my hurts, while looking forward to the new joys. I miss some greatly while others with a tinge of regret wondering where it all went wrong, and others just not ready to be there for us, and that’s fine. I love them all, but I am also cautious, I know now that some were unfairly put on high pedestals and some pushed off too swiftly. So I sit here and learn while the sun continues to fuel me, make appreciate what I have and love, and I know of only one certainty and that is today. What is it that I can do today that represents, us, and our family. What is it that I can do in the next moments to just make it a little easier or fun for us. So I sit here, smile and feed hungrily off the sun waiting for inspiration, oh wait, the better word would be knowledge or perhaps just accept that it was meant to be that my car came back the same day the major part of the treatment ended.
All that time worrying just really wasted because what was meant to happen, did, and what wasn’t just resided in the endless loop of thoughts in my head. So I breathe out slowly, the worries, the fears, the not knowing, and revel in the moment, just enjoying the day, the moment, the realization that we will get through this, that we already have, that what I needed was always there, I just didn’t want to see it that way.
However, (is there always one) I know that there is much to be done, much for us to do, to travel, perhaps finally get on a plane together, but more than that for me to get back to work. That’s really the strange part, I miss it, and finally know what I am meant do there. I never thought I would say that, but looking at myself through my family’s eyes made me realize that I can be general counsel, and the fears and doubts (particularly the lact of confidence) were my own creations. I was my own hurdle. I had convinced myself that I would never learn but worse that I couldn’t learn, but the previous months of reading and writing made me realize how much I miss the law, and why I fell in love in the first place I also know what kind of lawyer I cant stand, and there are many attorneys who exploit California law to just make money for themselves while claiming to be consumer attorneys. I no longer will let my ignorance be the reason, my business suffers. No more. It’s time to discard the uniform of “I don’t know” and don on “I will get back to you on this.”
Funny, what a few months of cancer can do to you. Instead of sapping us of our energy and will, it has renewed it. So thank you cancer, for making me realize what is truly important. I owe you one but I wont ever like you, and one more thing: fuck you. Sorry, but your just really not forgivable. Besides, it’s you who gets my negative emotions or others, and I choose you. You are my big bad wolf, my enemy, my bad versus good. So deal with it. I will be celebrating when you die, and I will dance on your grave. You maybe “the emperor of all maladies” but you have no clothes.
I sit here after many days, tired from my mind incessantly shouting out different words to spin on to this space, but I resist not due to laziness or indifference but sheer exhaustion. But I fought the urge for far too long so now I sit in front of this blank page of my life, snatching a few precious moments to spit while she battles the life saving drugs they have given her to move forward. The irony is simple but deadly, you need to practically kill yourself to kill the killer inside. In a way, she has to become a murderer of her body parts just so she can live. The traitor must be punished and science has come a long way in battling “This Emperor of All Maladies” (ok so plugging the new book I am reading) but the treatment has victims, not just the one suffering but anyone the patient is close to. I am so used to her smile but glimpses of that are becoming rarer. The dreaded day finally came around when the campaign to save her began. We were told 7 or 9 weeks, depending on which doctor we talked to. So to be quite honest, we are not sure when the campaign will end but one thing was for certain: we had started.
Day 1 not much to report except, she walked in and by the time my mother in law and I sat down to get comfortable, she came out. Only 3 minutes of danger instead of 12 she reported. Instead of coming out in a wheelchair, she walked out confidently, perplexed at our surprised faces. Session 1 out of 28 completed in a mere 90 seconds. The hope that perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad surging in our thoughts and prayers.
“You have such pretty hair” the nurse said, her accent thick from Asia and the smile slightly fake. That made my girl smile, and I brightened up as well since any compliment made her flourish.
“Too bad, you’re going to lose it all.” Our smiles froze, and I don’t think I could have hated a stranger so much so fast. Welcome to Chemotherapy. Where not only will we fill you with toxins, we will try to obliterate your self-esteem as well. Although the word is scary and the side effects well-known, we weren’t prepared with the ease with which they pump the poison and chip away at the cancer.
After a mere 4.5 hours, she was ready to go home and starving. Instead of the stereotypical nausea or vomiting, she was starving and ready to eat Chipotle and she did despite my misgivings (even though I was vastly relieved).
Almost 3 days now, I can say now with confidence that the only thing I am certain of is my fear and prayers that she get through this as painlessly and quickly as possible. The sad reality is that in this quiet house we are in, just the two of us, I feel so utterly alone, I can hardly breathe. The friends and family have been wonderful but as one of my best friends quite bluntly put it: it’s just the two of us, and whether we like it or not, we are in it for the long run. Truth is, I am just scared and so is she. I can’t even imagine her fear or pain, and I wish I could take it on. But the battle has just begun, fear is just an emotion, something the mind just conjures. Some may say its only Day 3 of 7 or 9 weeks, but to me we are already well on our way to get her getting better. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
Surrounded by books like You are What You Eat to What to Eat Before, During and After Cancer Treatment, it hits me that Cancer has given me a life I thought impossible. Scattered on the bed are various notes and business cards from the dozens we have consulted in the medical field but still we do not and cannot know enough. We are still ignorant as to what is about to come, and in some ways you could say in denial. Shoved aside to the side are the many Christmas presents we bought for our families and friends, but they lay ignored and unwrapped in another room, waiting perhaps for one of my relatives to take pity and finally put then in beautiful wrapping paper. It would appear from all of this that emptiness resides in our lives, but you would be dead wrong.
Along with the horrible, Cancer also gave me the improbable: a wonderful wife. I hadn’t dared to dream that the beautiful person who affected my life and soul would now be my life partner. Strange, how the proliferation of some body cells can melt away 4 years of “hell no’s” and resistance to the idea of us getting married. Funny, how I can be accepted into a household where my name couldn’t even be mentioned, and break bread. You would think I would be filled with resentment or, worse, anger, but neither has a place in my heart. I will not and cannot allow the past to corrupt my present and future. As if by magic, I have allowed the cancer of peace and acceptance to fill our families rather than use it to destroy what’s left. There is only room for love and forgiveness. In a matter of days, we are going to be tied to each other for life, officially that is. I had accepted her in my life a long time ago, something I wish I had told her a while ago. I cannot bear the thought that she thinks it’s because of Cancer but only because it’s is true on the surface. But she needs to know what I mean: Cancer gave me the courage to talk to her family. I finally did what I have not been able to put my foot down and rightfully claim what’s mine.
There are some who would not see this as any victory, and some may even opine that now that’s sick her family agreed just to save face. I would counter that even if that’s true, the victory is still mine. I have her, and in the end that’s all that matters. They say people come into your life for a reason or a season perhaps even to teach a lesson. Preeti is all of the above, she makes the person I want to be, the person I see myself to be. I know the road ahead is potted with long hours, and perhaps fights and definite exhaustion but Cancer needs to know it has fucked with the wrong people. It obviously doesn’t know her anger or my strength. Together, we are unbeatable. You have been warned, Cancer.
It is quiet in here. Wait, that;s not exactly true, let me rephrase. It’s quiet enough that I hear the satisfying click of words being typed on this page. So different type of quiet. If I strain enough, I can hear the dog gently snoring in the next room, moving occasionally to get more comfortable. There’s not enough light in my room or life now to brighten my writing area so I have resorted to turning on all the lights in the house yet 500 watts still seems dim. I may never brighten.
Sat and struggled with the final piece for my writing class, and realized the fight was not based on what to write, or how to write but if I should. Bulb went off in my head, and the words materialized below
The room was quiet except for the noise of cancer in our lives. I opened my eyes, and felt strange and unfamiliar until I realized I was staring at the ceiling. I had been sleeping for over 5 hours. My mind had lied to me. My heart pounded for something selfish and non-existent. I had dreamt not of my love but of myself. The smug clock said 7:16 am. Nothing chirped but it felt like it. The bathroom dripped some watery noises as if digesting a bad meal. Darkness was losing its daily battle to the sun, yet still had strong footholds in the distance. I looked upon her not five feet away, surrounded by confident machines on a bed not meant for resting.
Cancer is the body lying to itself. It is perhaps one of the few illnesses where the body will destroy itself by creating so much of itself that the body cannot contain it. Physically, the cancer had grown in her body, but it had infected our lives. I was no longer disoriented, but disillusionment filled our room. I hoped the room would spin again, and perhaps I could enter the darkness and pretend that it was I lying on the bed and not her but dreaming did not make reality.
I gazed at her, willing her to breathe. Breathe away the anger, the past, the arguments, and the many wasted moments regretting what was not to be. Breathe in the love surrounding her. Breathe in thoughts that would remove the enemy in her. I wanted to take control of her body so it could get angry at the unwanted stranger and calmly ask the perversion to leave. I lasered my thoughts on to her, but the quietness of the cancer had already enveloped our lives. Breath.