Days 17 -23
Everyday Blessings – Blessings Everyday
There are four topical applications of the Chemotherapy drug Fluorouracil in each day. The first and fourth are the easiest.
Waking up in the morning reminds me that overnight, a stiff flannel sheet has shrunken in the dryer and then been forced over the pillow top mattress of my face. My cheeks have continued to swell, forcing me to look over the hill to see, and my nose is runny. Surprisingly my spirits remain high, because just as each of those meters back in January led to one million, each of these treatments brings me one step closer to completion.
Washing my face, even with mild cleanser and lukewarm water burns, yet momentarily eases the tightness. Drying my skin is another matter, for even the softest towel with the lightest pressure reminds me that I have just washed away any possible guardian of raw flesh. Administering the harmless looking emulsion, is similar to the surprise you experience when you have worked with green chili peppers and forgotten to wash your hands before rubbing your eye.
The second process is a little less pleasant. I know I can’t wash my face again, because I need the cushion the cream has provided. Tightness, itching, and burning, escalate alarmingly, but are over quickly, due to the distraction of heading out to attend to what ever errands the day requires. Being in public is a good antidote, although people really are stopping to stare, with reactions that range from interesting at best to a kind of slow motion dawning of something that looks a lot like disgust. My reply is always the same, I force myself to hold my head up higher and remind myself they don’t have to look.
The third disbursement is the worst. It seems that sometime during the afternoon, my skin develops these small white dots, roughly the consistency of Kosher salt granules. Before Fluorouracil re-application, I buff them all off along with any dead skin. As you know, I am a big believer in the power of shedding what is no longer useful, however this feels like someone has replaced the micro beads in an exfoliating scrub with broken glass and forced me to spread it over badly inflamed skin. When I look in the mirror and find there is a residue of cream, I pretend it is Vernix and force myself to rub it in.
Fortunately, the third application coincides with the time of day when both Molly and mom’s needs require the highest degree of my patience. Which is probably a good use of those invisible helping hands from the universe.
Today, mom misplaced one of her hearing aids. To give you a sense of what that meant, her distress level rises in severity, exponentially, to the monetary value she places on missing or lost items. Hearing aids ARE expensive so you can imagine. Responding to her sense of urgency as best I could before taking her to an appointment, meant lying on the floor poking at random dust under her heavy dresser with a yardstick. Attempting to ask questions only resulted in an escalation of the looping responses, “they were both here this morning”, and “we have to find it, do you have any idea what it will cost to replace it?” I tried to reassure her as best I could that they couldn’t have gone far and that we would resume the search after her appointment.
Returning home, we were clearly in need of a different strategy, so as we entered the house I sang mom a couple of lines of the chart climbing hit – On the Mango side of the street. (I read all the blog postings to her before publishing, she particularly liked the concept of “Mango Lesson”) Once the atmosphere was re-charged with playfulness, her emotional security rose and she was able to answer questions, which were probably also asked with more curiosity, and less frustration. With laughter and a sense of adventure we resumed our quest.
We retraced each step taken, which eventually led to looking in every drawer she had opened with a Christmas present expectancy, until we did indeed find the missing aid. “There it is.” My mother said this in the rarely heard, but most tender enduring voice of my childhood. That same tone, had once reassured me that life would continue, when I had lost my best sleeping companion, Morgan. It was such a peace infused sweetness, that I immediately imagined passing it along, to all the mothers, fathers, and children of the world, in need of healing from things far more complex than a single missing item.
The successful hearing aid recovery, and subsequent reconnection to the rest of the world, provided a temporary restorative boost to my usually high energy state. I felt so good that I anchored my wide brimmed hat securely to my head and set out on an adventure with Molly, and her best friend, Thunder.
Thunder inspires Molly to remember the younger dog she once was. Molly reminds Thunder to take the time to smell every smell. The antics of these two are an infinite source of delight for me. Today a holiday atmosphere prevailed. At one point they were pressed so close together they became one dog with two heads trying to outdo each other, making this hilarious snuffling sound at the base of a fire hydrant.
Entering the bathroom for treatment number four, I found myself thinking – perhaps this is the easiest because it’s the last of the day. Once again, the water burned, and the towel stung. I looked in the mirror hoping for something, even a shred of positive reframe for the extensive damage, finding none, I did the only sensible thing, and started to laugh.
I laughed at myself under the dresser trying not to swear, at mom sitting close as we went through the drawers like kids looking for treats, at the sight of my silly four legged friends, accompanied by the character in the funny hat who talks to them, and laughs out loud, as they walk her down the street. Laughing hurts, and as my face cracked in response, I laughed harder. The more I laughed the worse it hurt, but at least it felt like healing pain, rather than wounding. The thought of healing reminded me of the strong confident woman I know. As I be me, I am set free.
Until we meet again…