Mark is nearing the end of his second round of chemo. We won’t know until early January its effect, if any, on the tumors in his pancreas and liver. The chemo treatment is a bruising regimen: Once a week, for three consecutive weeks in a month period, we go to the clinic at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Over a course of several hours two potent chemotherapy agents, gemicitabine and paclitaxel, are pumped into the surgically-implanted port that leads from his chest into his heart. In the days that follow the chemo, Mark fights crushing fatigue and nausea, until close to the end of the week, when he starts to feel normal. Then we start it all again.
We are living in a small furnished apartment in downtown Seattle while our house is being remodeled over the next four months. The decision to remodel (and to do it on the fast track) was a whacky decision but one we haven’t regretted. The architect and construction crew have been wonderful, and seeing the house transforming week to week is a positive experience for us.
Our apartment is cozy and convenient, but it has its faults, the most serious of which (from my perspective) is a dearth of adequate lighting. A small alcove off the living room is designated in “apartment-marketing-speak” as the den. I’ve set up my office there, with a rental desk and chair and a stack of Costco bankers boxes. For weeks now, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of light. I’ve put two study lamps on the desk, but they take up a lot of room and give the alcove a cave-like feeling. Yesterday, in a burst of inspiration and energy, I went on a shopping expedition and bought an inexpensive pole lamp. I took it home, assembled it, and suddenly—lots of light.
But here’s what surprised me: After I stood back and admired the brightness of the alcove, I felt—absolute elation. Not just pleasure, not just satisfaction, but an overwhelming bubble of happiness. Suddenly the world was a better place.
I think I’ve figured out why this simple act of buying and assembling a pole lamp had such a profound effect.
I’ve always thought of myself as a problem-solver. Most of my adult work life has involved tackling problems. But cancer is a problem I can’t solve. Cancer is a brutal whirlwind that sweeps you up and drags you along. Mark and I can make some decisions—yes to this treatment, no to that one—but as we go through this process, our belief that we have some control of our own lives has been ripped away from us. The act of solving this small problem of inadequate light felt incredibly empowering because here, thank goodness, was something I could fix.
Thank you, pole lamp, for making my day.