Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tangled Cords

 The breakers of death rolled over me, and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid. The cords of hell entangled me, and the snares of death were set for me.
Psalm 18: 4, 5, Book of Common Prayer

            I’ve been rolled over by literal breakers. Decades ago, en route to a job in West Palm Beach, I stopped at Daytona, giving in to the pleas of the friend helping me relocate. That afternoon, a life guard ignominously hauled me back to shore, preventing me from drifting all the way to Cuba on my raft. I know the power of the undertow, the pull of the waves.
            This morning when I read of the cords of death entangling me, I think of my chemo IV cords, in which I was always getting tangled. Electricity powers the pumps, so a large cord to the IV pole plugged into the wall. Numerous cords of the IV bags—for saline, cysplatin, or Taxol—attached to an IV pole. Going to the bathroom was a multi-step chore, a complicated two-step with the IV pole and the bags depending from it. Most often, my chemo nurse had to assist me the few steps across the room, and I still managed to get the cords wrapped around the IV pole while I tried not to pull out the IVs.
            I’ve met women who referred to their chemo as love juice or liquid love, women who view the treatment as a way to help them get well. I’ve never been able to reach that level of acceptance, even though I’m sure it’s healthier than referring to chemo as being hygienically poisoned, which was my description of it. I was always being tripped up by both the literal cords and by the metaphorical considerations of both the treatment and the disease.
            Death feels like a snare. I have known people who are ready for death, who are tired of fighting. I am not there yet. I am watching for the snares of death in my path, not willing to be caught. Zigzagging, I’m trying to avoid them by making changes in how I eat and accepting the support of friends. Ultimately, I will fail at this avoidance manuever, will die as we all must, but my life will be enriched along the way.

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