Cancer and the Fox Trot
Lately, I have been pondering the dance that is cancer. It is a bit like a fox trot, a ballroom dance slow-slow-quick-quick-slow-slow-quick-quick. Somewhat like a rollercoaster up and down, twisting and turning. Often like a car hijacking out of control and terrifying never knowing what will happen with the next breath, next moment, next day. With every circumstance there is a loss of control, sometimes it is a painful drip that you can see yourself losing but can’t stop no matter how much or how hard you try. That is the slow-slow of the dance. Other times this loss of control is as fast as the ground opening up and swallowing you whole, quick-quick. At times you can recall what life was like BC (before cancer) but you have no idea what sort of life will become after. Then there are the even harder periods that leave you confused, frustrated, and scared about the reality of life in the moment. Both require a surrender of control to the unknown that at times can be graceful but most of the time it resembles tripping, falling and bumping into things all along the way. In other words it looks a bit like learning to dance with two left feet, in a dark room blind-folded after being spun around piñata-style.
Let me explain further, life BC was pretty damn good. We were a happy family, a comfortable, active, tight knit, social, busy family. We had our good times and our tough times but really we had it good… I realize this now more than ever. I think about some of my complaints BC; kid worries, dirty house, laundry, crazy duck neighbors, expenses, work issues, car troubles, too much to do too little time etc. The solutions, though at time bothersome were simple and straight-forward. I could clean, do the laundry, craft a concerned-citizen email to the city urging them that 20+ farm fowl should not be raised in a neighborhood… all these things I could control with time and a little energy. We still have those things going on our life (minus the ducks, thank God!) but they no longer seem as important, as big, as dire. I know this sounds so cliché, and I am sorry for that, but life was easier, simpler, more controlled. Slow-slow.
Like anyone else we still suffer from the standard old daily complaints. The change now is that I see these complaints as things I can count on, something I can somewhat control. Now, however we have a host of new complaints, all revolving around trying to get Kaycee healthy and cancer free. All out of our control. We can’t organize our way out of cancer. We can’t clean the cancer away. We can’t write the city as a concerned citizen and ask them to address the “cancer-problem” living inside my husband. All of this cancer stuff is out of our control and spinning at a frenetic pace. The loss of control felt BC vs. DWC (dealing with cancer) seeps slowly under the door. It is staggering at times and so we have learned to surrender, most of the time to this uncontrollable situation. We try to right ourselves in the whirling, try to find balance. Quick-quick.
We are learning, or at least beginning a surrender, to help. This is easier said than done. This requires a figurative leap off a cliff screaming, “I/We can’t do this on our own!”. The overwhelming support from community, family, and friends is AMAZING. At times I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it but I now welcome it with open arms. I/we have, over time, surrendered to support though often awkwardly. Slow-slow.
This cancer fight of Kaycee’s has been a very public one. This was not so much by choice but more by storm; as he is such an active, tightly woven thread in the fabric of this community… it was a bit unavoidable. Once the word was out, the lightning speed that troops gathered, took up arms, began the fight with us was incredible. Quick-quick.
This tremendous outpouring of support has turned an amazing gift, a life raft, during this wicked uncontrollable storm. And now I/we cannot imagine having to brave this storm without it.
Things have changed in the socializing department, too. We no longer get to answer YES on the evites but hit the MAYBE button and add the cancer clause (**this is the opt-out excuse that covers any not showing up, leaving early or showing up late, to a party due to …yes…cancer). It takes a lot of time to get up and go, at least an hour to an hour and a half, there are no spontaneous adventures but carefully planned and time limited trips. Our biggest outing happens every other week when we head to Seattle for all-day chemo and blood work that takes 5-7 hours followed 46 hours later by a port disconnect that takes about 5 minutes to do but 3 hours round trip. This bi-weekly adventure comes with a 5-7day recovery rate which is like hanging out with the worst hung-over person that didn’t touch a drop of alcohol. Slow-slow.
I have to admit that I am not always very adept at letting go of control. I find comport in having some order, some routine that I can count on. To say I have been tested during this new dance routine is an understatement. I, in fact, had a total Mommy Dearest moment. Not with the beating of the children with hangers but I totally lost it one day because of hangers. I was in the laundry room hanging the laundry that needed to dry naturally when the beast came alive and started spewing, “Why couldn’t everyone see that I had a plan for the direction the hangers should face?” and “How come I am the only one who see it as frustrating?” and, “Why can’t they just all do it my way?”… Not graceful at all! It was fast and furious and completely irrational. Quick-quick.
I left the room and deflated. What had I just been so mad about? Was it really the hangers? Honestly, no. It was one more thing that I thought I had control over that I didn’t. And although it is an insignificant thing (hanger direction, I mean come on!) it was something I could count on, something I could control. After this realization and an apology to my loving husband who was witness to the angry beast I realized that even the good old, regular things can’t be controlled. Life happens how it is going to happen whether or not we have our hand in the mix, trying to change it, organize it, control it. The laundry will dry no matter what direction the hangers are facing. Slow-slow.
I guess this cancer-dance is tricky that way. Somethings are learned fast, some take time to perfect and some you have to re-learn, often. I definitely have my good performances and my complete flops. The challenge comes in surrendering to the joy of dancing with cancer. This the hardest part, the oxymoron. The prize is finding the balance between. But if I try to remember the steps slow-slow-quick-quick I can work better to finish the performance, and maybe learn some new moves in the process.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who was able to share the special night at BPA last Friday July 1st for the Laugh for Life benefit. The theater was filled with love and joy. Thank you to all the performers; Mike Derzon and Johnny Bregar, Zach Fluery, and Bridget Young, your beautiful hearts, generous spirits and amazing talents were a gift to all who listened and participated. To Mark Sell thank you for coming all the way from Houston to help produce this event for us. Even though you were flat on your back during the night you organized this night that will not soon be forgotten. To all who continually support our family at the BPA I want to thank you; Alex, Liz, Deirdre and Dominique, this evening was a smooth success because of your efforts, thank you. Furthermore, I want to thank all of the audience members from near and far. Some of you may know our family well, some may only know us a little bit, some of you may know us better than you ever wanted too, but all of you have demonstrated the gift of love and support through this terrible slog.
AND since I don’t lack the gift of gab so I would like to share one more story with you, if you please.
About two months after Kaycee’s diagnosis I went away for a girlfriend’s birthday weekend, planned months before. I was terrified to leave but desperately needed to get away. On the first day, I was on a walk and ran across a statue of a beautiful woman/angel outside the catholic cathedral in LA. She stopped me in my tracks. Perched above a corner wall on a busy LA street she seemed to appear a bit out of place. She was hard on the outside intense, dark amazingly gorgeous. She took my breath away. She had her hands stretched out reaching up, vulnerable, yet strong. I snapped only one picture.
Needless to say, I was captivated by her. I went back to the hotel giddy and shared this beautiful picture with the other women, all new friends to me except the birthday girl. One of my new wise friends said, “She should be your talisman for the weekend, she is telling your to be open, to surrender your control and just receive.”
I thought okay, surrender control…that is all I have but I would try to be open at least for the weekend. It was a fabulous weekend.
A few weeks later Kaycee, the girls and I went to Hawaii to recover from the first rounds of treatment/surgery and to prepare for the upcoming, intense rounds of IV Chemo. Kaycee and I walked every morning and on one of our first long morning walks we walked through one of the huge hotels beautifully manicured gardens. Lo and behold there was my woman/angel statue. This time she was a curvier Hawaiian version, with a great butt… but she had the same outstretched hands surrendering to life and receiving all that is given. No doubt now she was my girl-power guardian-goddess.
When we returned home, I printed a picture of her and have it framed in our bathroom. Over the last few months I have imagined this woman/angel as a warrior. She is a touchpoint, an icon, a talisman for me to focus on even in the darkest times.
Learning to surrender control is not easy… But opening up to receiving the goodness of others, receiving the generosity from all of you, receiving the thoughts, prayers and well-wishes, receiving the financial, culinary, and spiritual support has been an amazing bounty of gifts!
And so the dance continues…