All things become normal after a while. Repeat something often enough and you begin to believe it. So it goes with Chemo.

I remember the trepidation of the first to or three sessions. What to expect? What will happen? You hear such stories from the good to the very bad. He went back to work after four sessions, to lost their hair and retired to the basement. I have indicated many times that my reaction to Chemo has been muted to say the least. I now take public transit to get there. I have taken public transit to come home as well. That will probably happen next week when I go for session 16. Janet and Devin are both working.

Public transit is a pretty good way to go. Takes me from almost the hospital front door to almost my front door. Cannot ask for anything more. Truly a non-event. My immediate reaction to Chemo is watering eyes. Not sure what that is all about. The eyes start watering and don’t stop for 24 hours. Next comes fatigue and the bowel system is thrown off balance. The rest is up in the air as it where. Some things show up and others don’t. Can never tell. We just wait things out. My last bout of Neulasta was not bad. No real pain, no more fatigue than usual. Am I building some sort of immunity to that as well?

I have always had a very strong immune system, which is why the cancer came as a bit of a surprise. That system is now holding me up. I am doing well, I am pretty sure, because my immune system is holding things up. They say the immune system gets compromised by cancer. I am sure mine has been compromised as well. Though my compromised system appears to be behaving very well. I am still forbidden from consuming raw meats. I miss that a lot. Sushi and steak tartar are two of my very favorite meals. Neither has passed these precious lips in over nine months. Sigh.

There I am sitting in the chair at the Chemo Daycare. I have been asked many times why I call it that. The answer is simple. Get off the elevator on the second floor and there are directions that basically say, Chemo Daycare, this way. Once at the end of the corridor, there is another sign that says something like Chemo Daycare reception. Not much left to the imagination.

Back to the story. There are two types chairs at the Chemo Daycare. Both allow you to lie down. The newer chair turns almost into a bed. You keep leaning back expecting to keel over at any minute. The chairs are great for sleeping in. The daycare is moving to the fourth floor in August. A whole new experience awaits us with new airplane like seats. I don’t think anyone will want to leave the place. New seats, new environment, new layout, same old drugs.

I keep digressing. I am lying in my chair, drugs coursing through my veins. Cannot sleep. Lying there watching my nurse go about her duties. I had a new nurse, Celeste. She was very official, as they all are when they do not know you. Check the Blue hospital card against your arm band, check your date of birth, check the drug regimen received against what is in the computer. The list goes on and on. My nurse relaxed when other nurses came by who know me and told her I am a trouble maker and she should give me a hard time.

Really, there is a story of sorts here. I am lying in the chair, failing in all my attempts to sleep. Warm blanket is covering me, pillow under my head. Drugs are coursing through my veins. You knew that already. I decide to look at the chart that the nurses follow in administering the drugs. There are six pages of instructions. Well, only a couple of pages of instructions, most of which is gibberish to me. There is a page that identifies the drugs I am supposed to be getting. Absurd amount of detail in there. Good for them to know, gibberish to me, though I think I might make a copy of it and browse the web for misinformation about what it is that is having a party in my body. I finally arrive at the first page.

There it is in all its glory. You are at the Princess Margaret Hospital. Your number is whatever. I am not giving that out, You might be jealous of the treatment I am receiving and decide to try it out for yourself. No such luck for you today. You will have to suffer through it in some semblance of virtual reality. The first page is also where it says that this is Session 15. On the same line as the session number is another entry which says, Intent: Palliative.

Yeah. There is that word. The end game. That is where it is all headed at some point. Palliative. I knew that. I have been told enough times about how complicated this is, and how advanced I am. That is all talk. Intellectual stuff. This is a bit stark. Sterile. Lifeless. You are headed to palliative, not today, or tomorrow. Sometime in the future. Five years? Ten years? More? Less? Hardly seems to matter. You are headed there at some point. Time to clean up the bedroom.

Death is such a bizarre concept. There is no coming back. No one has been able to put the experience into words. Here we are at the death bed of John Truro. Cameras rolling, microphone on, How does it feel Mr. Truro to be gasping your last breath? It feels like, well, let me put to you this way……. Just like in the movies where dying people talk to the very last minute. I watched a friend die once. It was nothing like that. The final half hour was very quiet. His deep breathing filling the room in the palliative ward. The priest came and went after uttering his blessings. The nurse came and stroked his head until the final breath was uttered. There was little left to say. Mixed emotions and feelings.

The person lives on for a few months. People talk about him. Then nothing. An afterthought. The name comes up in certain situations, but really, nothing vital is left. There is nothing wrong with this. Just the way life comes and goes. My father died in Swaziland. I was first on the scene. My sister joined me shortly after. We were left in charge of taking care of his few possessions. A few articles of clothing, and books. So many books. All in Persian or Arabic. We had no idea what they were about. We shipped them all out to some library somewhere. They would know what to do with them. That was in 1999. We closed his bank account. Buried him. Went back two years later to unveil the stone. Done. Finished. All gone. We obviously talk about him once in a while. He was a man with presence who commanded respect. He had in depth knowledge of the Bible, the Koran, and the Baha’i writings. One of the few who managed to reconcile all the messages in each with the others. But his light is extinguished. His name a mere anecdote in the history of life.

I came to the conclusion a few years ago, that we live through a few generations, then disappear. This explains the number of photographs of people that appear at flea markets all over the world. Piles and piles of pictures. Of no one in particular. Someone at some point. Someone to somebody, but now, no one. A smiling face in a pile of other smiling faces.

My friend Kali, who joins me for lunch every couple of weeks, asked me the other day what I though my legacy would be. What a question. Do we think in those terms? My pictures was the reply. I cannot imagine what my family will do will all the stuff I have that deals with photography. The books, cameras, and other equipment. I keep a lot of it for sentimental reasons. Others I should discard. I just had one of my film cameras repaired. The camera is 40 years old. I will use it again. What will they do with it?

Palliative? Not yet. I still have a lot left to do.

2 Responses to “Chemo – Session 15”

  1. You're right – you are definitely not yet palliative. Tough reading, but so well written – and I'm not sure that people's lights go out entirely, I believe they plant their spirit in other people's hearts and continue to weave their way through the web of life that connects us. We never know what effect we have on others, or who we affect – but a life well lived, such as yours, leaves legacies in the hearts of many people (including mine) in ways that will remain a beautiful mystery. Hugs, my friend. xox Di

  2. thank you for this, for staying with whatever is real, however painful or provocative, and for writing about it with such clarity that you move straight into my heart. am thinking of you, as we ready for our trip. will check this blog while away for the month. big blessings to you, and love, Sharon

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