Yesterday, my youngest son, Isaac, proposed to his girlfriend Nikki.
Meanwhile, I am being the model patient. I limit my socializing; my outings to shop are brief. I wipe clean the handle of the grocery cart before using. I’m careful about not shaking hands or hugging friends. This aspect of recovery comes easy for me. I would make a good hermit were it not for my wife and sons.
My boys no longer live at home; they are 26 and 28. The oldest attends graduate school out-of-state. The youngest lives just a few miles away. He dotes on me as I recuperate, taking me for walks with the excuse that his dogs need exercise. Of course, it is good for me to have someone to walk with and I enjoy his company immensely.
A friend suggested yoga might be a healing activity. I accepted the person’s offer to practice this unique discipline. The high dose chemotherapy seems to have bound my body up tightly. Now, after several sessions, I am regaining flexibility. Yoga may also be good medicine for chemo brain. The poses help me to think clearly. I am more relaxed about my excessive free time. I’ve dropped the idea that I need to be productive during my absence from work. Restoring my mind and body and spirit to health is all that matters.
Life goes on outside the grim trajectory of cancer. Aside from walking and yoga, I’ve been raking leaves. This undertaking is no small matter. Our property has numerous large deciduous trees. We
planted them years ago to commemorate my son’s births and to honor my wife each Mother’s Day. The leaves fall; the seasons change. Children grow up and find partners. No doubt before long I’ll be shoveling snow. These activities reduce the myeloma to a detail of my life that accents the whole. It’s not all about me and it’s not all bad. Along with the cancer’s intrusion there is also a journey of discovery.
Recently, my yoga teacher and I talked about how compassion cannot exist without suffering. The hardship of others gives us an opportunity to serve. It’s counter intuitive but true. I’ve been the recipient of giving beyond measure. Yet, all I really want is to be normal.
Normal, however, is something of a moving target after a cancer diagnosis. Under “normal” circumstances, my body’s immune system would attack the rogue cells causing all the problems. Unfortunately, it is the malignant plasma cells that should be responding. But their mutated condition makes them ineffective. Hence, “normal” may become a drug combo standing in for the useless cells. Such an intervention, or “new normal”, can have uncomfortable side effects.
Nonetheless, several promising drugs, called novel agents, give hope to patients with multiple myeloma. Clinical trials report high percentages of disease management with these combos. In fact, prominent researchers dare to suggest that this particular cancer is transitioning from incurable to chronic. As individuals expand the orbit of the three to five year life expectancy, doctors may have to alter their prognoses.
I plan on adding a positive note to those statistics. After all, I’ve got a wedding to attend and perhaps some grandchildren to meet; Nikki said, “Yes!”