Tuesday, January 25, 2011

While I’m Waiting

 In 2008, a CATscan discovered my second cancer. I'd been prepared for a recurrence of the ovarian cancer but not for an entirely new cancer. I wrote this piece while waiting for the medical profession to determine whether the mass that had been removed was bladder cancer or a recurrence. Last November was the first time since then that no tumors were observed in the lumen of my bladder, a real point of rejoicing.

 I am waiting, once again, for word on a biopsy. No one has suggested that this might be benign; the second opinion is merely to determine what sort of cancer this is. The latest oncologist disagrees with the pathology report, the surgeon, and the first oncologist. It’s thus too soon to discuss treatment options or for anyone to be giving me projected time lines of where I might be on the actuarial tables.
Many days, the uncertainty has made me a bit crazy. Today, however, I am just crazily happy, realizing that I have today, and that today is all we ever have. In the shower, I played What if? What if this were the last day, no warning? Great thinkers and teachers tell us that we all need to live as if we had only today. Jesus said, “Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for itself.” (Matthew 6) Most days, like everyone else, I still believe I have many days to come, cancer or no cancer. Oncologist Number One says this disease is “manageable.”
Playing What if leads me to consider what constitutes a life well lived. Writer Anne Lamott speaks for me when she says she wants to have eaten chocolate on the day she dies. So I have had a Hershey kiss and an unbaked fudge cookie. I have walked in a spring drizzle to the library for books of and about poetry. I’ve listened to choirs performing on YouTube and to Composer’s Datebook, a public radio show of which I’m very fond. I’ve corresponded with friends on e-mail, and just put a load of sheets and towels into the washing machine, which means fresh sheets on my bed tonight. In a few hours, I will gather with others to practice qigong.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s my life, and I like it, a statement I couldn’t always make. I have cancer worries and cash crunch worries nibbling at me, but try not to give them too much space. Here’s what’s really important: I remembered the words to a choral piece I sang with my high school choir (has it really been forty years ago?!) and found it sung on YouTube, where one song leads to another and I could be lost all day. The best performance of the “Geographical Fugue” I found is by the Lusavoric Choir, which is, I think, from Albania, which gave me an excuse to use the Geographical Dictionary and find out useless trivia about that country. If my mind has something to puzzle about, other than cancer and checkbook balances, it’s happy.
I look out the patio door and there’s the squirrel who’s been clambering about all day, finally enjoying the square of stale cornbread I set out for her. I’ve fed my two cats and the newest stray, too, and so have benefitted the world by my existence. It’s a good day to be alive.

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