February 26, 2010

All cooped up with snow place to go

Has it snowed more this winter than last? I have no way to judge. Since my surgery, December 2, I haven't been out much at all. Since chemo began, I've been afraid of public petrie dishes. Most of the time, I don't notice -- but today, while it snowed and I couldn't go out, I felt like a little kid sick on a snow day -- a do-nothing day that I couldn't fully enjoy.

Instead, my mom was here: we toiled together in the kitchen, making comfort food from scratch. My comfort food -- not something she has ever eaten. I called it mac & cheese day, but neither of us had ever made a white sauce. It takes a village when we attempt domestic competence.

We made two phone calls to consult with my friend who gave me the recipe, my friend who is upstate taking care of her mom, who has also lymphoma. It is, apparently, the disease of the season. Her mom and mine are drinking buddies: she and I think it's cute, we who stay away from the bottle, for reasons too complex to detail here.

This winter, I am ill. Last winter, I met The Artist, with whom I am in love. Our anniversary -- that is, in real life, not via email or telephone, is January 29, a Thursday. I had picked the restaurant, my favorite French bistro not 100 steps from my home. It is where I had auditioned, so to speak, many a real life rendez-vous. La Boite closed suddenly in May last year. All I could think was, I hope I never have to go on another first date.

The Artist is sweet and witty and compassionate, and I am grateful beyond measure that she is in my life. This is a hard patch we are going through: no matter how "garden variety" my cancer may be considered, she is stuck going to work, and tending to me while I am home.

I am tired, and sometimes achy, but the largest part of my physical pain has been healing from the five-inch incision in my chest. Chemo has not, thus far, proved the tribulation that made me so nervous.

A winter snow- and germ-bound in my apartment, however, is making me twitchy. I cannot remember the last period of time I was Wonderland-bound for so many months. Last year, January was Alabama, for my niece's birthday; February, my belated JYA in Buenos Aires; and March, my two weeks down in Mexico.

This year, I travel by taxi to the oncologist, five minutes from my house. Last year the heat was turned low, but this year, it is not. This year, my house is awash in Purell, Kleenex, pain pills, and tranquilizers. The freezer is stocked with food other people have cooked. The Artist makes our dinners, each with a reduction sauce she improvises and that impresses me. My mom's friends, most of whom live outside of Wonderland, send flowers, chocolates, books, skin cream.

Most of my social life, except for The Artist, TBF, and one of The Three Sisters, is conducted via electronic means. Certainly it is the season for Facebook. Alas, it is not the season for great writing, given the limits of my concentration if not any other impediments. It is mostly a time for arts and crafts, and I feel kinship with my 5-year-old neighbor, who received finger paints for her birthday.

I have paint (by numbers), coloring books, crayons, glitter crayons, markers, glitter, modeling and baking clay, and a needlepoint kit. I have also designed my own tiara, courtesy of The Artist's dabbling in the children's crafts department at a local store. She herself paints for real, and creates beautiful photographs. What I hope I do with words, she succeeds with art.

One of the Three Sisters has been down this road before: I am her fourth patient in the chemo wars. She keeps me hydrated and laughing and is great, loving company. We have known each other for 25 years, and we are family. We are better than family: we don't have the built-in stress of childhood competition and don't share buttons installed by the same mother.

Most winters I spend time in bathing suits. Now, I wonder how the sun will affect my scars, and whether my sun days are over. I dress oddly, as if in the throws of menopause: hot, cold, hot, cold: my internal thermostat is askew.

I used to wear flannel nightgowns; now my nighttime attire is improvised layered pajamas. Cotton elasticized-waist pants; a long-sleeved, tunic-length cotton T-shirt; a button-down, flannel shirt worn open to be taken on and off as needed; athletic socks; and a cotton cap, to cover my head. The cap is striped; the shirt is plaid, but mismatched clothing seems symbolic.

As a teenager, per my journals, I hoped my life would look seamless, that it would not be all manner of patchwork. Patchwork, however, is the story of how it goes, never more so than now.

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2 Comments:

Blogger the only daughter said...

What I hope I do with words, she succeeds with art. Your words are art.

Stay comfy.

12:29 AM  
Blogger sweet rose said...

My husband had chemo for hairy cell leukemia 8 years ago Feb. He is fine and passed his blood tests again this year. Better days ahead. I have a mantra, "all I have to do is breathe in and breathe out." It is very freeing so many things I don't need to worry about. You are getting stronger every day. I will bless your health, it will improve.

8:40 AM  

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