EXPANDING CIRCLES

Dodd, Francis; Willow in Winter; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/willow-in-winter-204869

Part of the THIS IS THE MOMENT series

December 31st, 2018

2019 will be here tomorrow. Am I happy to turn the page on 2018?

It’s a question that’s come up many times these past few weeks and though the people asking it actually pause and wait to see how I’ll answer, for most of them, it’s really just a statement. There’s no question mark. Good riddance, is what they mean.

Despite the obvious life-changing events of 2018 that dismantled my own existence and transformed it into both nightmare and epiphany, I’m never sure that turning the page on a year is cause for celebration.

There’s something about taking even a second of life for granted that prevents me from wishing time away, but in practice, just like everyone else, my mindfulness is set adrift by the slightest wind or whim.

That’s what’s brought me to this keyboard today.

I should be at the CHUM right now. I was originally scheduled for my bi-weekly pre-chemo tests today, followed by 5-6 hours of chemo on Wednesday. But I’m not going. That’s my decision, made after persuasive prompting from Simon, and a deep, deep fatigue and weariness that has settled in me this December. When Simon and I realized that my next round would require me to travel to the CHUM on New Year’s Eve and then again on the day after New Year’s, we instantly agreed that this mustn’t happen, and that I should ask that my chemo be postponed to next week.

A one week reprieve—that’s all I wanted. But it feels like so much more. My hands aren’t healing enough between bi-weekly rounds of treatment, and so they always hurt; my energy levels barely make it to 7 out of 10 before I’m back in treatment; my morale is being affected by the 14-day box I live in.

The season is icy and dark.

Walsh, Claire Cooper; Realms of Possibility; Art in Healthcare; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/realms-of-possibility-184111

January 2nd, 2019

I had dinner out last night with my Mum, her partner Claude, two of his three grown children, and my sons, plus Anne, my daughter-in-law. We got together on the West Island, as is almost always the case, forcing Claude’s family—city folk—to come to the burbs, which they do, graciously, almost every time we invite them. We were at La Maison Verte, where the food was delicious and the company was, well, family.

I spent New Year’s evening sitting across from my mum and Claude. My mum was in good spirits, so the conversation flowed. They’re both 84 years old, and doing well, but these days, of course, it’s hard to talk about most things without the shadow of my cancer there, poised to dampen everything. Then, somewhat to my surprise, my mum began to talk about the grim reality of growing old, and about the fortitude and the grit required to deal with the hard parts of each and every day. I think she meant the incremental losses that are inescapable: aching joints that lessen mobility and make this winter’s ice even more of a nightmare; eyesight that is not as reliable as it once was and has required cataract surgeries; the lingering side effects of cancers, multiple treatments, illnesses and the surgeries that each of them has dealt with, and which have sapped their resilience.

Beatty, P.; Season of Love #2; Art in Healthcare; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/season-of-love-2-184297

It’s such an interesting perspective from where I sit. I couldn’t help thinking that if the miracle occurs, and my cancer retreats for a good long while, then I may then have the privilege of entering the daily survival zone my mum and Claude inhabit.

What came to mind next was something I’d been thinking about for a few days, something that turned time on its head in an entirely different way. Looking too far ahead, when you have stage 4 cancer, is fraught with painful traps.

I’ve been observing my beautiful grandchildren, Penelope and Graeme, who are like the ocean, or a primeval forest, or a clear night sky in summer, or grand, symphonic music, or perhaps all of these at once. They are sublime creations, impossibly wonderful, painfully lovable and constantly changing into something new, and more, and completely fascinating. And of course, I can’t help but wonder how long I will be able to know them and follow their metamorphosis into adulthood. And I thought of my own mother who has had the immense privilege of seeing her grandchildren—all five of them—reach the ages of thirty-five (three in all), thirty-two and twenty-seven. She knows who they are, who they love, what their professions are, and what sort of humans they have become. She carries this knowledge inside. They have added rings to her life—expansions of love and joy.

Grant, Keith; Sunrise over Spitzbergen; University of Birmingham; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sunrise-over-spitzbergen-34711

I’m not even sure I’ll see Penelope turn ten or Graeme turn eight. Who knows? That’s the thing. I don’t have those years secured away and well-lived in their company. But my mum does—and she has even been able to know and love her grandchildren’s children (once again, all five of them—so far). Another ring added, expanding her life.

One mistake that these thoughts twist me into making is to hold back from Penelope and Graeme, calibrating the expression of my love for them, so that my disappearance from their lives won’t cause them as much pain. Cancer treatment has kept me at the hospital an awful lot, lowered my energy and caused me to be less present anyway. I can’t run around and be the grand-maman that I was. Sometimes, I wonder if they feel the decay emanating from me. Why not recede, ever-so-subtly, from their lives?

These are awful, stupid, self-protecting thoughts that have strong roots, and persist. I struggle with them. I forget that love is a growing, expanding emotion.

Haughton, Benjamin; Dead and Live Tree; Portsmouth Museums and Visitor Services; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/dead-and-live-tree-24321

On Christmas Eve, this theory of love was put to the test when I went to join the Daoust clan, my husband’s family, for our annual bash. This year witnessed the best attendance ever, and we were well over thirty people celebrating. But this was also the first Christmas after my separation from Sylvain–their blood. It says something about my Daoust family that this made no difference to them, and that they were very anxious to see me, as I had disappeared since late June.

I thought I would be skittish, but as the day and hour approached, I found myself so looking forward to seeing each and every one of them, and swore to myself that I would share this feeling every chance I got. And I did. It was so easy to smile and to linger in the long, warm, encircling embraces I was offered, so many of which qualified as bear hugs. My Daoust loved ones smiled and asked me concerned, pointed questions, and then moved on to just being there, all of us together.

McDade, Steven; Network; Southampton Solent University; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/network-17290

I’ve reminded myself many times that I’ve known them since I was barely 17 years old; that I’ve been through so many happy events and tragic moments with them—that we’ve grown up and grown older together, and that our children are reaching further into the future…Ring after glorious ring.

On Christmas Eve and at New Year’s supper, there were so many smiles. There was such sincerity in what was said and how we touched each other.

There’s a lesson here for me. I’m an introverted person and this need of mine to retreat is not always the way to go. Saying “Here I am”, with open arms this year, allowed me to recognize the steadfast circle that surrounds me, to see all that it embraces and to understand just how limitless is its ability to expand.

(I trust in love. I abandon myself to love.)

Farquharson, Joseph; Dawn; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/dawn-97077

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “EXPANDING CIRCLES

  1. Hi!

    I found your blog today. Thank you for sharing your experience. I too have agreed to wander down the chemotherapy road. I want to be well informed about what is coming and your blog contains valuable information. It is quite frightening but other people have come through it and I will do my best to do it as well as I can. But at the same time, I have to try to live in the present as well as I can. Your blog provides information and experience that I feel will be useful as I wander down this scary path.

    It is just three months since I found out that I had cancer. I had an open Right Hemicolectomy eight weeks ago and my first cycle of FOLFOX adjuvant chemo on Monday 7th January 2019. On Friday this week I also got my port-a-cath installed. In a week I will get the second cycle dosed through the port.

    I too have decided to write a blog. It is partly because I have my children and grandchildren in countries on the other side of the world and in this way I can help them feel part of it all. Thank goodness for broadband internet and social media! I also want to be able to look back on it all afterwards and remember the feelings, stages , pain, and hopefully moments of joy I went through during the chemotherapy.

    Like

    1. Hello Gwen,
      I’m very happy that you found my blog.
      I suppose that things seem frightening at first, when we read about the experiences of others, but I try to make my posts honest, but NOT discouraging or frightening, because it hasn’t been my experience. What makes all the difference is the support you get from your family, friends…everyone who lends a hand or just brings more love to you.
      Please let me know when you’ve begun posting your texts…I’d very much like to read them.
      Till then, good luck and please come to the blog regularly. Perhaps we can help each other. xo

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.