It’s been some time since my last post. I have received some very nice compliments from readers and am flattered that you find this blog worth reading. But, it can be difficult to write for several reasons. When I am feeling nauseous and recovering from a treatment writing is not top of my agenda. When I’m feeling good I want to enjoy life in as immediate a way as I can which doesn’t lend itself to introspection. I’m still feeling my way about what I want this blog to “be” which is probably not really something I need worry about. Just putting thoughts on paper(?) is probably best. Many of my thoughts and emotions are explored in previous posts and I’m trying not to be redundant. Finally, I often have many opposing emotions and many ideas swirling around in my head at once and to tease out a coherent whole, or even a way to start, is daunting. Thank you all for bearing with me so far and I hope my posts will continue to be worthwhile to you.
Since our return from California I’ve been busy with performing as much as I can. Moving the chemos to Fridays has worked and I’ve been able to keep up with my symphony schedule. In Conservatory musicians are counseled to imagine every performance as their last. That may be a bit drastic but, I am certainly well aware of the fact that a piece I am playing could quite possibly be the last performance of that particular piece I will be a part of. Each piece calls forth a welter of memories of performances past. I played Brahms 4th Symphony and remember playing it as a student at Chautauqua under the baton of Nathan Gottschalk. I played “Carnival of the Animals” by Saint-Saen and think of all the school concert demonstrations I have done playing “The Elephant”. The pleasure of performing in front of an audience, the fact they have come to hear a live performance and I am part of it, is even more poignant now.
Kristina and I went to Oberlin to hear younger son Eliot’s Senior Cello Recital. We have watched him grow and mature as a musician from “Twinkles” to Britten 2nd Solo Cello Suite. In my predicament I never know if I will make the next event. So I try and savor each milestone, both large and small.
I have made plans to see an Oncologist in Syracuse, NY this Summer. Soon we will leave Shreveport for our annual trek up to Potsdam, Kristina’s hometown and Chautauqua. My good friend Ed tells me to keep my schedule so busy that when the Grim Reaper comes for me I’ll have to reschedule his appointment indefinitely. So far that seems to be working.
But, there is an undertow of sadness, worry and fear, how could there not? As I was working my way through my last treatment I wondered if this is the midway point. My last CT Scan was stable. Not bad, not good but the same. Of course the middle point can only be found in retrospect. Months down the road I will be able to point to a certain period and realize it was the beginning of the end.
Samuel Johnson said, “A sentence to be hanged in a fortnight concentrates the mind wonderfully.” Thinking about this quote I realize that “concentrating” doesn’t necessarily mean wisdom. Some people who find out about my situation assume I have some direct link to wisdom because of my imminent demise. What wisdom I have developed has been a long and lengthy process. Many of my gains have been forced upon me by circumstances I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I sometimes joke that being a survivor of a family members suicide is like being nominated to a club you don’t want to join and then the person who nominated you embezzles the clubs money and skips town. You’re stuck with the aftermath and you have no way of getting out of it. My cancer has many of the same themes.
Sometimes I play a game called “Why Don’t They Get Cancer?” Envying healthy people is an emotion I only allow myself to indulge in in minuscule quantities and only as a joke. It is not an emotion that I am proud of but, if it makes me laugh at my fate I’ll take it. It’s that piece of chocolate you sneak when no one’s looking. It is a part of being in this club I don’t want to be in.
There has been a debate going on recently about cancer patients attitudes. Should we always pose it as a “fight” a “battle”? These words imply some way of “winning”. With the right strategy the cancer will be overcome. It also implies having control over ones fate. For someone like me who is receiving palliative care a realistic attitude, not bereft of hope but accepting the reality of the situation, seems better. I keep repeating to myself the wise words of a fellow cancer sufferer. “Cancer is a marathon, not a sprint.” (Interesting to note that marathon comes from the Battle of Marathon) In any event, talking to people about my health can be frustrating. I don’t resent some of the less tactful comments. No one wants to be reminded of their own death and talking to me people can’t help but be reminded. I choose to understand their discomfort. Once in awhile I give them a big hug and tell them,”It’ll be alright”.
The definition of turmoil is: a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty. I’d say that’s a pretty accurate summation of this post and my present state. But, seriously, what has changed since my diagnosis? With the exception of the great disturbance part I’m not sure I know anyone who’s life doesn’t have some measure of confusion and uncertainty. And I’ve had my share of great disturbances as well.
I will soon be traveling for the Summer. I have no idea how long my health will allow me to work. I can only go along day by day. I am already steeling myself to say goodbye to friends and places that I will probably never see again, that I have loved and cherished more than I can ever express. But you see, I’m part of this club. So are you. We weren’t asked if we wanted to join but, I’d like to make a motion. Let’s not worry too much about the turmoil. Let’s make this the best club we can while we’re still members. Do I hear a second?