Tuesday, January 4, 2011

At All Times

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalm 34:1

The verse doesn’t say, I will bless the LORD except on days when my country is at war, or days when my family is in jeopardy, or days when I have a CATscan or am facing chemo.
            A chemo day is not an obvious choice for having the praise of God in my mouth. Receiving chemo can be boring, moderately uncomfortable, and filled with side effects that after a while begin to resemble the plagues of Egypt. And yet reasons remained for blessing God during my four months of chemo.
            Chemo days were different from the rest of my life. They provided time off from being responsible, days when I really knew I couldn’t control anything. Because of the anti-nausea meds, I couldn’t drive, so someone had to take me to the hospital. It wasn’t my job to make sure the car was clean or had gas, to navigate snowy roads or rush hour traffic. At the hospital, I could do nothing. Someone else was in charge of getting me the right meds, finding the best vein to insert the IV, and accessing my port. A pick-ax headache from the meds wasn’t my problem alone, but a concern for my chemo nurse to chart and to remedy. My only task was to keep from going stark mad in my recliner, aimlessly rotating among crossword puzzles, light reading, quilting, and snacking. I didn't even go to the bathroom alone—couldn't, in fact, because of all the cords and IV bags. If I wanted to walk the few feet to the bathroom, a nurse walked with me and my IV pole.
Some women allowed the Benadryl “megadoze” to do its work, and passed the day in a pleasant fog. I was too frightened, especially at the beginning of the treatments, to permit that. Others watched television, but I don’t much care for the medium. One brought a CD player, but doing so felt like one more thing to take care of. Being the only conscious patient gave me the unanticipated pleasure of talking with my chemo nurse, to the extent that her duties allowed it.
After the chemo finished dripping, someone came to drive me home. Occasionally we stopped at a restaurant; at other times, friends provided a meal. No one expected anything of me. I didn’t have to come home and get to work; in fact, my employers preferred that I not work. (After I sent in one manuscript that I had carefully worked over, my editor joked to her boss, “They’re giving Judy really good drugs.”) My only task was to call my priest and report in. Despite baldness, bloating, neuropathy, ringing in my ears, and a headache, chemo days were restful days, each one a day to bless the Lord.

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