Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the Shadow of the Moon

There’s dying from cancer and there’s living with cancer. There are two worlds, or more specifically, there are two sides of a single moon. It is out there, orbiting, changing our tides, causing domestic battles and inspiring young children. This moon lights my night. It darkens all my days.

Cancer is that strong: planetary, cold and omnipresent. I see its reflection in my morning coffee, in the face of my daughter, in the voice of my husband. Cancer exerts its own pull. These two sides, the living and the dying are in constant concert. They dance so closely you cannot tell one step from the other. They sway across the sky of my life, locked together, locking me in their pull.

Willa, today, is living with cancer. Willa, tomorrow, may be dying from it. We do not yet know which way balances will tip. I still do not know if there is a tip, if there is a balance. I think in my deepest places that cancer will do its work. That the moon is, in the end, uninhabitable.

But this is not defeat. This is life. This is the business of living with a power that you have absolutely no control over. We seek treatment, we pray, we bargain with the universe but the universe is not talking back. It keeps its secrets.

Willa has just completed her seventh week of treatment. In a month we will do another CT scan. We will assess the tumor once more, prod its corners, learn its secrets, face the damage done and ask one question. Can it be removed? If it can then we use a very particular language. We use words like, “cure.”

If the tumor cannot be removed, if it is wrapped around the vessels, if it has invaded Willa’s abdomen like a mass of snakes then we use another dictionary altogether. We do not use words like “cure.” No, that will not be made available to us. We will use words like “prolonging life,” like “palliative care.”

I had been making my adjustments. We drive into the city every Friday. Willa takes her medicine. Through the port they pour the poison and we pray. We wait. We laugh, we read stories, we play with toys. Because we make every minute count. I had found a new rhythm. I had worn a new path in the ground for my steps to follow. It was getting easier after discovering my own orbit. I could find it in the dark.

But the moon switched face. We learned this new fact. That in one month’s time we will be shown one of two faces. The living, or the dead. Only the universe knows, and again, the same stubborn silence.

This is what cancer does.

It is not the disease. It’s the surprises. It’s the cruelty in hope, in thinking, “well, we’ve got this figured out. It’s hard but we’ll get through it.” Because really, you may not. At least, not altogether.

Tonight the wind blows so cold the house moans. Lacking arms it cannot wrap its limbs around to warm itself. I feel that way too. Something has been taken from me that I needed. We live with cancer but cancer kills. We live with cancer but cancer changes. We live with cancer but cancer will exact its price.

The moon hovers in the frozen sky. Diamond-hard and winking its one eye. All my life has been frozen and smashed to shards.

But I still believe in the sun.


Anonymous said...

a very eloquent description of one of the few things in life I can flatly say that I hate.

I hate cancer. With a passion. And yet, so many people live with it, and the uncertainty it exacts on them and their families, with such grace.

May you continue to walk in grace...

Anonymous said...

"There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer. There is no disease that enough love will not heal. No door that enough love will not open. No gulf that enough love will not bridge. No wall that enough love will not throw down. And no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated may the trouble. How hopeless the outlook. How muddled the tangle. How great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. And if you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful in the world." Emmett Fox

Many blessings

Chrystal said...

I never stop thinking about you all.

I want only the best for your sweet Willa.

claire said...

may the mystery power of words,words shared and words given to make his way in the dark,help to confort you and your family. many thoughts and forgive my poor english

Dovic said...

reading your words leaves me lost for words. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts with all the layers of honesty, hope and love as you do.

TUC said...

I am so moved by your words, and left speechless.

Tiffany said...

You are incredible. Your writing is some of the most beautiful I have ever read, anywhere. I wish that it was about a different subject. Since I learned about you, and since I have begun reading, you and your family has not left my thoughts. God (or whatever higher power you believe in, with whatever name) bless Willa, and you, and Willa's dad.