Thursday, June 16, 2011

Memoir - I Choose Life

I cried for the first time in the shower, while my long hair fell out and curled around my feet, wet and dead. Somehow, I thought I would be spared this, but that was an unrealistic expectation. How silly and egotistical. The neurosurgeon had been so careful not to shave too much hair from my skull during the biopsy, and now his carefulness seemed wasted. He left a very expensive piece of metal in my head; titanium will not set off alarms at any airports. The scar of the operation and the dent made by the metal piece became exposed. It seemed, my disease could no longer be hidden.

My cancer is called oligodendroglioma, “the second worst kind of brain tumour one can have,” my oncologist said. I'm not sure if that was supposed to make me feel better, or more fearful, or if she was just stating the facts. I started calling the tumour, Mr. Ollie, trying to become friends with it, you know, so it will treat me kindly. But, it didn't last long. Once the radiation treatment started, and my hair started falling out, the name changed to that fucking tumour, or freaking tumour out loud.

During a radiation treatment, I would close my eyes and imagine a queen (The Queen of Life, I called her) who directed the rays to my tumour to burn it away, then sink into my veins (rivers) and destroy the tiniest of cancer cells.  She had knights who guarded my healthy cells, and would drive away any monstrous growths, hacking at them.  It sure helps to have a lively imagination.

I told the doctor that I didn't want to know the odds on surviving, or how long I had to live, or stuff like that. “Just treat me, and we'll see what happens,” I said. In other words, I chose life and being limited by numbers and percentages was just too negative for me. If it was my time to go, then it would be so, but I chose to fight for my life. I had things to do, places to go, grandchildren to see who are yet to be born. Life is just too exciting to just passively leave without raging a war against death. Yes, I know that day will come, but until then, I live. I sure learned the lesson of living in the moment, that life is fun, and joyous, spiked with the odd pain so we might know the difference. As the Tao Te Ching says, “to live till you die is to live long enough.”

I had children for which I was trying to set an example, so I tried to show my strength, which I gained from them. They were my rock, and took good care of me, since my husband had to travel a lot on business, and I was unable to drive due to the seizures. We hugged a lot, watched funny movies, talked and even had an argument or two. No-one can keep up the pressure of being nice all the time. 

My Visualization Picture
I disliked it when people said, “I'm so sorry,” in that voice of dripping pity, as if you're on your death bed already. Not everyone had that tone, but there was the rare one. Or, “you are so brave,” as if I had a choice. I knew they were just being kind, but it irked me, nonetheless. They couldn't see the days where I was so tired, all I could do was sleep for hours, drink copious amounts of water and juice because my mouth was so dry. Sometimes, I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating with fear. And then, gratefully fell asleep because the drugs made me that tired. I learned the power of prayer during those dark, lonely nights. My friends knew the struggle I had and they added their prayers and positive thoughts to mine.

Once out of the radiation treatment, I had a month break, then onto chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drug was in capsule form, which I could swallow at home. I was fortunate that my blood had the markers that would give this form of chemotherapy a good chance to work. I still had to go for MRI's every six months, and the first one after the end of chemotherapy, showed the cancer was clear, and still clear after the next MRI six months later. My doctor informed me in June 2010 that henceforth, I would only have them annually. And I can drive after more than a year of taking the bus or relying on someone to drive me. Life is good. Yeeeesssss!

“I had better not get run over by a bus now,” I said to my husband, as we walked out of the cancer centre building. 

[Note: I am due for my next MRI and oncological appointment at the end of this month.  And, my hair has grown back thick and irritatingly curly.  :)]

1 comment:

  1. Saw the onc doc ... my brain is still clear. Woohee! Prayers are answered.


Yellow daisies

Yellow daisies
taken in Nanaimo

White daisies

White daisies
field of daisies taken in Nanaimo