Some periods of time are too dense with experiences to narrate. Add in the sharpness of the struggles, their lack of resolution, a heat wave, a chemo cocktail designed to knock you on your ass and a bit of silence might ensue. My focus is on putting one step in front of the other. Surviving.
The good news is we are surviving right now and still imagine August as a calmer month. Perhaps I will have vignettes to share then. I pack for my third trip to NYC since June 21st. This trip I do solo, despite my husband’s protests. With an uncertain travel future looming and mounting costs, I need to know that I can make whatever path I follow sustainable.
The last trip really felt vacation like even if we never got much beyond the infusion suite.
This trip will be down and dirty. I will be late to arrive, early to leave, just getting in my 29 hours of infusion time. Turned away at the deluxe, free cancer housing in midtown Manhattan with a terrace to delight
and a waiting list to match, I got adopted by an old colleague in West Harlem – a touching kindness and a treasured connection to my non-cancer life.
In lieu of truly filling you in on the now, I offer a brilliant short piece written by my first cancer pal, Bev. She has offered me solace as I learned to live with terminal cancer. This week she entered hospice. She will leave this world with a bit of my heart. Enjoy Mystery Bag, a little peak at living with cancer.
Mystery Bag by Bev Lipsitz
I was in a writing group for women with cancer. One day, the facilitator brought in a bunch of paper bags. She told us to pass them around and without looking, feel inside each bag.
Then she gave us each our own bag, and told us to reach inside, and still without looking, write about what we found.
When I felt inside all the bags, there was only one item I could identify. It felt like a swizzle stick. I thought I might write a story about a wonderful vacation in Hawaii.
But I got a different bag, with something I couldn’t identify by feel. Hmmm, what to do next…
Let’s try a CT-Scan. Fill the bag with contrast. Lay it down and slide it in and out of a machine that looks like a giant donut.
Click, click. Breathe. Hold it. Breathe. Hold it. Click, click.
Sorry bag, the pictures show that it’s cancer.
Oh no! Now what do we do?
Surgery! Slice the bag down the middle. Take the damn thing out. When you’re done, staple the bag back together.
Oh this thing is ugly. Can we learn anything more about it? Sure…Slice it up. Send samples to the lab. The report comes back: its OVARIAN cancer. OH NO, everyone says that’s a bad one!!!!
Did we get the whole thing out? Leave any pieces inside? What if there are some crumbs that didn’t get out? How do we get rid of those?
Chemotherapy! That should take care of it. Pour some poison in the bag. What’s that? The poison burned a hole in the bottom. Anybody got any tape?
Oh by the way, even if this works for now, this cancer could come back. We might have to do this all over again…and again…and again…
This bag is a mess. I wish I had gotten a different one, maybe one with some candy in it, or a brownie.
You know what, though? This bag is stronger than I thought. Even with the cancer, and the poison, and the staples and tape, this bag can carry a lot of stuff. Don’t worry, bag. If that thing gets too heavy for you, we’ll bring in reinforcements. Wrap you in a blanket. Make you comfy cozy. Sit with you. Don’t be afraid.
Thank you, Bev, for your clear way of looking at our lives. Dont be afraid. love always, marcy