Tag Archives: healing

Chemotherapy

My first days of cancer treatment were tender and profound. I had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which necessitated hospital stays to deliver the medication. I got through these treatments by being with my body and noticing what it had to say to me. This post is about one of my earliest experiences with this process.

…Night. I wake to pee and look toward the bathroom, the light left on so I can spot the fluorescent glow of it from under the closed door. I swing my legs to the floor. My bare feet feel around for shoes. I slide them into the plastic Crocs then look for the two IV lines that lead to the PIC line in my right arm. I lift both lines and carefully hold them away from my body so that I can stand and grab ahold of the IV pole. I turn and unplug the pumps from the wall. The extension cords are thick and I have to tug hard. I pull them free and secure them across the top of the pump. I grab the metal pole and walk. As I walk, I smell a faint acridness.

I stop and check the tubing for leaks but there are none. It is coming from me, this new smell. It is like sweat. But sharper.

I get to the bathroom, which is overbright. I make sure the tubing doesn’t touch the floor or get caught on anything. After I’m done, I roll the IV pole over the door jam back into the darkness of my room. I close the door and plug the cords back into their socket. I release myself onto the bed, into the navy blue flannel sheets my wife bought me, their softness her caress.

I’m not in any pain and sleep for several hours. Whenever I turn over, I follow the tubing with my fingers, eyes closed, gently threading it away from my body so that it rests above me, far from my twisting arms.

In the morning, I sit by the window and listen to the sing-song of the pump that delivers my healing. It is like an old windy accordion pushing the liquid toward my heart. Over-sized clouds stretch across thin ribbons of blue sky. A square of sun falls onto my lap. I am with you, I say to myself. I am here.

 

Our Beautiful Buried Selves

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how submerged I felt growing up – the fact that I was gay but not ready to be out, that my father had a secret job we never talked about (he was in the CIA), and the trauma of losing my mother to breast cancer in my junior year. It all left me numb and lost. I had a huge backlog of feelings that I needed to get to but no idea how to get to them. When I look back on this submerged girl self, I see someone waiting to heal, waiting to find the shore of wholeness. A few years into college, I started to see a therapist, someone who helped me learn the strange language of naming feelings and understanding myself. As I get ready to go to my high school reunion, I know it may feel strange to be back at the place I felt so lost. As l step onto campus with its manicured lawns, I’ll think of  the girl who labored beneath her mask of “everything is fine.” She got past this mask eventually, got to her real feelings and named them, but she is the one who got me through those hard times and who got me to the beauty and gift of now. In fact, I use her strength and fortitude everyday. And everyday I’m grateful.