Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pain Management

Willa and I share pain like a stone. Hers is a boulder of tumor, all nervy sharp edges and colored like the ugly part of deepest mines. Mine was once jagged as well: the pain of fear, the sadness of diagnosis. It settled in my heart. It sank down to the bottom. Over the past two years I have worried it constantly so that now my stone is worn smooth, glossy, oval, almost polished into a gem.

Willa’s continues to grow, it conquers new territories, it takes on her whole body, turning her entire being to marble. It is as if the cancer were some mythological creature, if you look into its eyes it will turn you to stone.

The pain in my heart has almost become another heart, one that sits next to the heart I once had. This new one beats heavier, faster, with more purpose. It hurts, all the time. But it gives me the strength of new blood in the veins, more blood, more ache that tells me my body is still alive.

This past week we discovered that Willa’s tumor is growing again. The chemotherapy is no longer working. Her pain is increasing. Her pain is growing over the back of her head, arching forward over her face, shrouding her in its final awful act.

We have stopped treatment. We met with hospice yesterday. Willa is home and here she will remain. We will do everything we can to dull the edges of her rocky last weeks. We will smooth the path, pushing away the pebbles and gravel, making slick shiny slate out of this last part of her journey.

I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. I can see the blood filling my eyes. I can feel the blood pooling in my organs, overflowing, drowning me in pain. The gem heart splinters, sending off shards to every corner, constant reminder, constant hurt.

Willa and I have shared everything and now, in this new place, I realize she must go forward without me, without her father she adores. She must emerge from her shroud of cancer, hurt, and fear into a place where she will finally be free of all that. A place where she will have nothing to anchor her to the earth. She will be chiseled loose from her limitations and can join the stars, those rocks in the sky, those hopeful far off worlds upon which we gaze at night, in cool air, in hopeful dreams.

Her pain will end but mine will become a forever part of me. I will wear it always, on my face, in my hands, across the years and into the deepest folds of my life. I will wear it like an anchor around my neck, the largest granite boulder possible. But I pray that the effect of this weight is that I may never forget anything of Willa, not her smell, her expressions, her laugh, the color of her hair, the way she uses her fingers to touch, her fight, her grit, her incredible transformative power. Her pain will be shattered so that I may bear it for her and make something of it, use it to remember all the beauty that existed because she was here.