After bragging about how good I felt right after my last treatment, I should have known the worst was yet to come. I am an optimist at heart albeit a worrisome one. Sometimes optimism is real hard and cancer has its own take on things.
Wednesday and Thursday after my third treatment could have never ended as far as I was concerned. I felt so good.
Friday had a different idea in store.
Going from the best days I had since sometime around January and waking up violently ill to the point I felt as if I could in no way be connected to the body that is half of what it used to be really sucks.
Things come around slowly – reminding me of the old saying, “at some point in time you come a long way from minimum wage.” You know you have to get back in the boat – though not before “the big one” takes you all the way down with it, hook, line and sinker.
It’s easy to understand why anyone would choose to not do this over and over again. It is a personal choice. Anyone who ever says a cancer patient gave up because they chose to take a route other than chemo or radiation can kiss my ass. The reason I chose this path is I want a chance for that time with my husband and my dog we have talked about, dreamed about and worked for our whole lives together – nearly forty years now.
When I am in the downs the week after chemo I have very vivid and frightening dreams. The worst I can’t even discuss and they stay in my head as if on picture flash cards.
The second of that morning was so real I had scratch marks on my legs as a result of digging my still mostly nail-less fingers into my own thighs. My pillow was soaked from crying and I can’t recall it without choking on the emotion of it.
I grew up in the rural foothills in a place that knows more about winter than any other season. Not a lot of money was spent on road maintenance so you learned to just drive.
I am not fond of looking over edges – something I have avoided since I can remember.
My Dad was a great driver. I could listen to his stories of driving the Model T (or it might have been an A) backward up hillsides to win bets and other vehicle escapades forever. He was a fearless and natural driver. I never accomplished this ability and I have much respect for those who are homegrown naturals behind the wheel.
There are only three other people I felt that security with while driving. Though those rides on the back roads would have me peering out over the rim of the metal door of whatever piece of crap he had on the road at the time – sewn together by wire clothes hangers and tin cans – if Dad was driving, the passenger seat was the safest place in the world. Ravines, embankments and actual cliffs couldn’t raise a hair on my neck with Alton at the wheel.
So, it was no surprise who came to the rescue in dreamland.
When I got out of the car I had no idea where I was and especially surprised to be driving a red car – which in real life would never happen.
The shock of the bright red car had nothing on the shock of being one step from the edge of a precipice from which I could see a shiny, bizarrely hi-tech city with a red retro-50-ish motif (don’t ask me – I’m just sayin’ – it was a dream after all) far below – I mean far below.
Terror gripped me – I froze – my eyes pulling me toward the city so far…down there.
Just as I was losing my ability to breathe I felt my husband’s hand grab me and pull me hard towards him, clutching me to him as the two familiar figures of my Dad and Liam went to either side of the shiny red car and got in.
The reverse lights popped on and the large red vehicle backed up to turn away from the cliff. Both shooting us a Coyote punk grin, waving, heading down the mountain road with just the tiniest of a burn-out. I could hear their laughter dance, filtering through the dust while the car rolled away as if on rails.
I held onto my husband and cried and that is exactly how I woke up.
I couldn’t do this if it were not for him. Without him, after the diagnosis I would have chosen to eventually enter hospice care and wait for the inevitable already in view out the windshield.
The 5:00 am alarm seemed insurmountable that morning and I just couldn’t let go of him. It was the first morning since all this began that I felt as if I couldn’t do this any more.
“I wish you didn’t have to leave this morning,” I told him.