Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I feel like I'm living in a Dickinson poem

My days are so quiet. For some reason, I find this almost impossible to adjust to. I went from being a woman with cancer who was trying to work full time to a retired woman who has finished treatment for cancer.

I am noticing ducks. I go to the pond daily to bring cracked corn to the ducks. At first, none of them knew me, so kept their distance. Little by little, the braver ones came to nosh on the small piles of cracked corn that I would make in the grass next to my bench.

I love the way they walk. Or waddle, I guess. Mostly ducks. Some geese. The ducklings are terribly shy and have yet to venture near me but the bigger ones now see me walking (or waddling, I guess!) with my cane and bag of cracked corn and they have begun to meet me halfway. They are polite, like I am the guest who always brings Godiva chocolates. They push each other to be closest to me, actually to the cracked corn.

I settle into my bench and reach down with the empty yogurt cup to scoop up the cracked corn. There is rustling and shuttling as they strive to reach the goodies but still stay out of touching range of me. I make three piles and they lower their heads, the baby ducklings watching from the water, one or two larger ducks standing resentful guard, wondering why they are stuck babysitting instead of cracked corn gorging.

There is a pecking order. I see that. I grew up on a farm and we had chickens so I am familiar with pecking orders. The biggest duck with the dark ring around his neck looks up casually at the smaller one trying to look invisible as she meanders up to the corn. With a sharp grunt he nips at her underbelly and she walks away, pretending that really she had no interest, what's the fuss? I watch keenly, my fingers ache to touch their smooth heads, but I don't dare.

I sometimes sit for an hour on that bench, reading or writing. The ducks stay with me even after the corn is gone, being polite, not wanting to eat and run. They sit within a foot of me, settle down and even doze a little if the sun is out.

Sometimes, I go to a different park, the one closer to our home so that I can take Socks with me. We walk slowly, noting the difference in the tree colors as the days get cooler. I sit on a bench and Socks sits companionably with me, his head on my foot. We are lazy.

At home, I go outside a lot and water the remaining hardier flowers, the roses who look like bedraggled transvestites after a night of partying. The mint that I won't pick until right before the first freeze, their tang will be charged the longer I wait. The sunflowers that have lost their deep golden colors and now are just a pale yellow, their dark centers devoid of seeds, either pecked out by birds or Liv's intrepid fingers. I watch the birds taking their baths in our deep blue birdbath. The lusty bluejays who are the garden bullies, they don't take turns. When they swoop down, the other birds leave like Tony Soprano has just shown up. The cardinals enjoy the birdbath in the early morning hours, the females waiting patiently while their mates splash and canter and make noise. Then, daintily, they step in and, with precision and care, clean themselves, careful to avoid the splashes of their racous mates. The robins are more evolved, it's a free-for-all, males and females. They all perch around the rim of the birdbath and then one will jump in followed by one or two more. They will clean and splash and jump a little, like humans putting their first foot into that cold pool water, exclaim a bit, telling the others that my, it's chilly in here today! And then, they take their turns sitting while others have a turn. Unless a bluejay comes....and then, well....the party is over. Time to get back to reinforcing their nests, working on their wings, getting ready to fly south soon. The bluejays and the cardinals usually stay over the Winter, not the robins. They move to sunnier climes.

Sometimes, I try to read, sometimes not. Sometimes I doze, sometimes I sleep deeply, only awakening when I feel Socks sit up when he hears a car in the driveway, either Bing or Liv home from school or work.

My body is trying to heal. I feel it's need, it's ache for the norm. But, acknowledging it is hard for me. I had gone so long just enduring. I had envisioned myself as that little engine that could and would. Puffing along, never stopping. Dropping into bed at night so exhausted that I was asleep before my head hit the pillow, groggily reaching for the alarm 9 hours later, astonished that it was morning already.

My mind misses the clop clop of work. I open my closet and look at all the business suits, the dresses. the skirts. The trousers. Three fourths of my closet is full of those. Now, I pull on jeans, sweat pants, capris and after applying silver cream to my radiation burns, slather on Miaderm over the rest of my blowtorched chest, shivering with pain at the contact of my own hand. I slide on a long sleeved loose tee shirt, then and brush my teeth. My day is ready to be started.

I am still sleeping more than not. I rouse myself to small tasks. I take and pick up books from the library. I take Socks for a short walk. But, then I get home and sink into a chair, the sofa and sleep. My doctors tell me that it may take months to feel "normal" again. I hope not. I miss being a doer. One day I want to look forward to going to a movie again instead of worrying that I will fall asleep during it. I want to have the stamina to drive somewhere besides a doctor's office.

The radiation is finished, although my trusty radiation brochure tells me that the radiation will trill through my body for a few weeks, that my burned crispy skin will not really begin to heal until then, So, I try to be patient. After I am healed, I will get my port removed and then move on to see about getting a hysterectomy. My type of breast cancer does not bode well for non-recurrence. It will typically show up next in my ovaries or uterus. I plan to be pro-active and remove them before cancer can strike. I do not think that I can survive another round of chemotherapy and radiation. And hey...I don't need those ovaries anymore. Or the uterus. I'm already through menopause. Plus, I am trying to be financially savvy. My new deductible starts up again in January.  I need to get this done before then.

I feel badly for my body. It must feel so betrayed by me. First I pour poison into it and then subject it to daily burnings for 5 1/2 weeks and now....well...I will let it be cut open and have parts removed. Sometimes, I talk soothingly to it, apologizing. I make hot green tea for it and try to balm it.

But, mostly....I am just sitting quietly looking at the birds and the ducks. And feeling like I'm living inside of a Dickinson poem.


Kass said...

...and now you're writing like a poet, if not Emily, someone equally as expressive.

"The ducks stay with me even after the corn is gone, being polite, not wanting to eat and run."

Jacquelineand.... said...

It is a difficult transition Maria and I won't try to tell you otherwise, but it is also a time to re-focus, appreciate, and cultivate.

You'll create another clop clop in your life... now you have the gift of space enough, and time, to determine what that will be. There are so many things now I can do, and explore (and sometimes deplore) which I wouldn't have time for otherwise. Who would you help, if you could? What new skill would you tackle? Where would you travel? Well now you can find out.

A Dickinson poem is a peculiarly peaceful thing... like a tranquil ocean with unusual currents beneath the surface. Just call me Saint Nobody, lol.

Huzzah for the end of treatments!

Vapid Vixen said...

This made me feel calm and soothed and like I wanted to burst into tears at the same time. Your writing style is lovely.

Joanne Noragon said...

I've been reading your posts with a new set of eyes recently. A dear friend recently had the doctor not be able to make the turn during a colonoscopy, and sent her down the hall for the virtual version. The good news, he had the balls to tell her, was no polyps. The bad news, advanced lymphoma. More exams yielded stage four for progression, but stage one for symptoms. A decent combo, her oncologist said, and she's in treatment. As an old psychiatric nurse, she's a bit of a tough patient. Most ironical, she's a ten year breast cancer survivor. I can only root for her, as I do for you.

Jocelyn said...

I so love the Dickinson comparison. In recent years, I've become in awe of her genius; I had never much paid attention to her but then read some books about her and went "WHOA, bitch was fierce." She is amazing. Ah, to be able to do so much with a well-placed dash.

And, of course, with milking seclusion for all its worth.

So a hysterectomy yet and still? Oh, honey.

Fenstar de Luxe said...

Oh I love ducks.

This post made me cry, I can empathise. My body and I have been through an awful lot and I apologise to it, willing it to keep doing its thing. That's all we can do, treat it well and love it despite its flaws.

Colette said...

After all you have been through a hysterectomy will seem like a piece of cake.

e said...

A hysterectomy??? OMG! Hugs!

Karen Peterson said...

Your day-to-day sounds beautiful and frustrating at the same time. I know it'll take time, but I hope it helps to know that you WILL feel normal again sometime soon.

Steph Lovelady said...

What a challenging time of life for you. But there are worse places to be than a Dickinson poem. (Dante's Inferno perhaps?)

8thday said...

I remember being on an oral chemo and lying on the bathroom floor in a cold sweat, having shat myself, and just crying that I will never, ever be "normal" again. But here I am, feeling great and stronger than I have in a long time.

Of course, patience was never my strong suit when it came to healing, so I get your frustration. But it will come, perhaps so slowly that you may not even notice until one day you wake up and realize you're feeling pretty damned good.

But it will come.