Thursday, April 29, 2010

Free Willy

When I sense my strength coming back and my body coming close to peace again it is an overwhelming feeling. Chemo can have the power to make you feel like you're no longer human, but it also gives you the chance to realize what it is to feel human ... to feel alive. Today the sumo weight is lifted and my heart and chest are so full with happiness and warmth. My white blood cell count is now 22.5, double the high end of normal (10.1) after being just 0.6 on Sunday. I've hit yet another tipping point. I am absolutely certain that I've bounced back from this – in shock and awe, but certain.

Craig and I went out to dinner last night. It was the first time I had been out of the house for anything other than a trip to the cancer center or hospital. I felt like I was a zoo animal that had been held captive and was now being released back into "society" to mingle with my species. We sat in the tavern/bar area – our usual choice seeking a less stuffy atmosphere. I felt like everyone was looking at me and I kept staring at them, marveling at how many business men and women were huddled at the bar clutching their frosted beer glasses or delicate wine goblet stems, gossiping over office blunders. I stared at an older couple leaning in toward each other sharing calamari and field greens salad flirting with not a care in the world. There was so much laughing, chatter, air kisses, glass clinking, waiters bustling around. It struck me that despite how my last two weeks seemed to me like a painful, hellish eternity focused solely on my body's demise, the rest of the world hadn't stopped turning. People have still been going to happy hour, enjoying wood-fired stone pies, getting close in the dark corners of taverns. There is so much happening outside of my little cancer world. When the cancer and its treatment becomes so all-consuming it can be easy to forget that – and even worse, to forget that you're still a part of that greater world – cancer or no cancer.

For me, it was so reassuring to know that all the things I love about life are still happening and will still be there for me – with plenty of new things to try – when I get better. Just because I hit a wall doesn't mean everyone else doesn't keep moving forward. Being reintroduced to society also takes the pressure off. Sometimes you can feel like the whole weight of the world is on your shoulders with pressure to get through the tough times, that fighting cancer is the most important thing on all the Earth. But that is far from the truth. My little battle is just a tiny droplet in the big bucket of battles that every single person on the planet is battling within and for themselves and together as a whole.

Today I drove my car for the first time in a couple of weeks. I love driving my stick with the sunroof open. It's freeing and exhilarating to not be carted around in the passenger seat. I stopped to get gas and the woman on the pump opposite mine kept grunting and would get in and out of her car while she did her transactions. Swipe her credit card, back in the car. Pick the type of gas, back in the car. And she sat in there with such an angry scowl glaring at the pump for not working fast enough for her. She gets out again to pull the nozzle out of her car and says out loud, seemingly to the heavens: "It is soooooo windy out! Ugh! This is awful!" in the most sincere angry tone I've heard in a long time then got back in her car and slammed the door, seething.

Mind you, it is a beautiful day. The sky is a Crayola sky blue with just a few cotton ball clouds and it's close to 70 degrees. In April. In New England. All I could think to myself was 'wow.' Yes, it was very windy, a warm, embracing spring wind. But was that something to be so angry about? Maybe it was because I had just sprung captivity, but I have been relishing in this weather all day. At least I don't have it that bad, , so bad that something like wind whipping my hair (which she should be grateful she even has) could upset me to that degree, I thought as I watched this seemingly crazed woman. I wonder what she would do if I came at her with a needle to stick in a catheter in her chest to draw viles of blood ... the very thing that I had just come from doing for the third time this week. Being pulled from society has helped me to now see how wrapped up we can all get in things that don't matter in the least. Having gotten so close to having nothing so many times now I'm glad that I can have that clarity and know that the good things in life far, far outweigh life's inevitable little inconveniences. I think I've always had my priorities straight, but this experience has solidified their ranking tenfold.


  1. Meghan O'ReillyApril 29, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Karin, your post today made me think of the following quote by Plato:

    "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."

    There have been days in the past weeks and months where I've acted like the woman at the gas station. And then I sit here and read your blog and you bring me back to Earth. Glad you are feeling better!!

  2. If only people that don't appreciate life itself could live in your shoes for 1 day or even a week---the whole world would see things differently--wake up people---Glad to hear you're feeling great and driving your car!!!! I'm with ya Babe--I remember it all as if it were yesterday!!! Soon you will feel great forever--it's such a good feeling to hear--"you're good now" see you in a year!!!

  3. Oh---forgot to sign my name--it's me Bev and---Blake too!!!xoxo

  4. So very happy to read your post today. You sound so great. It made my own heart so much lighter. Love your style in every way. Hope one day you will publish what you have written. If you feel a little tinglely around the shoulders---- that's all of us giving you a great big hug. Irene

  5. Great to hear you're feeling so fabulous! Thanks for the reminder of relative wondrousness!! - Amy

  6. Way to go Karin! Enjoy this beautiful day....


    *Maybe now I'll stop complaining about how wind is my least favorite weather element - lol.

  7. i know this feeling at about 1/1000th of the scale you do, but i know it. happiness found in a branch blowing in the wind with rays of light shining through. simple, but perfect.