I instinctually and subconsciously put on my “Be Brave” Homage shirt on today after I forced myself to get out of bed. Did I put it on for me? More for them, for the others that I would see and nod to at the James Cancer OSU Hospital today. Be brave dear friends.
My parents are determined to pick me up every day for radiation, even though I am living on campus this week. Shortly after I slip into their van (recall, oh childhood! Where did the time go?) Dad tells me he has something for me, hands me today’s paper. And it’s my dear friend Mary featured on the front of the Life&Arts section! Oh Jesus, you send words of encouragement at just the right time! Reading Mary’s article about her book on life after sarcoma and the impact she is having on fellow young adult cancer survivors like myself brought me so much joy, joy today as I’m in the backseat of the van. And later in the day, Cara delivers a card to me from a fellow survivorship-couple undergoing treatment, expressing gratitude. Oh how I love notes! Courage building in my heart, being knit deeply there somewhere I can’t see but truly do feel. His timing is so incredible indeed. He knows what we need.
The James. James, you win be over by your good looks. This building is incredible in height, reaching 21 floors if I recall correctly, oh my. Tall and handsome, its architecture stunning, a hospitable hospital. Everywhere you turn and look there are articles, magazines, pamphlets on “You and Chemotherapy,” “Life After Cancer,” “Treatment and Nutrition.” Oh my, there is so much to learn still. Cancer seems to be the ultimate university to me.
Walking into the radiation room, it glows, like when water/light reflects from glass aquarium walls. We are underwater in this moment, spotlight on the radiation machine, a steroid x-ray. Lay down, submerge yourself and adjust yourself in the coral that was uniquely molded up against your leg-shape. Line you up against lime green light beams from above you, under you, beside you: you are the intersection of x and y. Cue music. Radiation therapists leave. Doors automatically eerily slide, sealing you into this radiation space. You are the light rays only companion.
Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz against the lyrics of the music. X-ray 1 of 5, I’m informed. Everyday I’m in for radiation, my hip will be x-rayed to see the progress/damage done.
I sometimes wish I had x-ray vision.
The actual radiation therapy starts.
I count to myself. I am radiation’s metronome, keeping and tracking time.
The machine circles me, from hovering over me to now underneath me. These rays are strong enough to go through this hard surface I’m on? Oh my.
Door opens. You’re done! What? That’s it? This might be the most powerful 30 seconds I’ve ever experienced. 30 seconds. Incredible. And yet, I didn’t see anything of these oh-so powerful rays. So strange. Amazing that some of the most powerful things we experience–radiation, wind, love, the Holy Spirit—are invisible yet strong forces we feel.
Even though I didn’t see it or even “feel” anything in that moment, now I am. I’m tired, but its a different tired. Not like a I-wanna-nap tired but a I-wanna-just-lay-here-and-close-my-eyes tired. I feel the tiredness in the tips of my fingers.
And my brain. I’m experiencing the official “chemo-brain” like I’ve never experienced before. (Boy, I can tell that I’m getting old.) I swear I feel a newly constructed white wall in the left side of my brain, drywall without a doorway for neurons and memories and thoughts to freely walk through but instead are now blocked. And in the front of my brain, I swear there is now small creature of some sort that resides and defies thoughts, neuron pathways no longer straight but now obscured, thoughts having to travel over and under and not always making it on its journey against this mountain.
Let me explain:
I look at people, and I forget their names.
I go to speak, and I forget words for things, ideas, concepts.
I start writing, and I misspell and misuse grammar.
I read, and I say/see the wrong word, and, like a mirage, I see it multiple times until it clears.
This is frustrating. And scary. And troubling.
I look at people and instantly I love them.
I want to speak for I’m such a talkative person.
I long to write because its my soul’s communication to myself.
I read in order to understand others and gain insight.
To forget a name is like I’ve forgotten who they are.
To stumble on words or forget words makes me feel like I’m halfway communicating.
To watch errors come from my own hands as an English major unknowingly and automatically is difficult bit even more makes me feel like I’m only halfway communicating with myself.
To misread feels like I’m only halfway hearing and understanding the world.
And when I think about my brain (brain thinking, thinking brain) I see the white wall of blankness, void and blocking thoughts that I want to cry and become distraught. Dear brain, dear self, what is happening to you?
He calls me to think, and I don’t even want to think.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
What good will that do?, my hardened heart wants to think.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
To think, meditate, dwell on these things is hard and harder when your physical brain is behind you while you yourself it seems to be ahead of you. My brain is like my shadow now, a part of me and yet a few moments behind me as a I move in life. Yet while physically I feel the broken synapses, the Spirit is rejoicing.
2 corinthians 12
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I’m not there yet. I don’t see the complete joy yet in being weak in the brain and instead am struggling in frustration. I know there is hope, I know there is strength, but I have yet to give in. I want to and want to see how He can use my brain that is a part of me but yet doesn’t feel like me.
Help me to admit and state and believe that “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Spirit, come and help heal the gaps of the synapses if its in your will. Help me to rely on you if its not.
Dear Jesus, you gave me this mind to think, create, shape thoughts. Help me to be patient with it.