We are enjoying a respite from clinic-and-hospital life, in the California desert. The sun shines every day, and early in the morning the nearby mountains are immense and crystal clear. Here, it’s hard to believe it’s February. Mark is getting stronger, definitely benefitting from the extra week away from chemotherapy, though his strength gain has been slower than he anticipated. Three months of pouring poison into his body has taken its toll, and he’s struggling to build up his endurance. He walks and goes to the gym, though he has to push himself. Some friends gave us two bicycles, so he's adding riding a bike to his routine.
This time feels like a pause, a small breathing space in the difficult world we now inhabit, before we return to treatment. Lately I find that my thoughts about the future are all over the map. If one more person tells me to “live in the present moment” I think I might scream. Not that it isn’t solid, loving advice—it’s just that it’s darn difficult. When I wake up at 3:00 am (as I’m convinced all women over 50 do, every night), I have to climb out of the murky chambers of my brain, which spew the most awful and tortured scenarios for the future.
Living in a world superimposed with survival rate charts isn’t helpful. The five year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is usually listed as 1-6%.
But…that means that although the historical odds are bad, not everyone lost the battle. A few people did survive, and why shouldn’t Mark be one of them?
I wonder if I’m a bit crazy to be this optimistic. Those late night horror imaginings aside, I really think Mark can best this. There are new treatments every day. We are getting excellent treatment. Mark is strong and determined.
It’s not that we haven’t prepared. We’ve redone our wills, our powers of attorney, our health directives. We’ve modified some property arrangements to simplify our lives. The threat that looms over our life together is always present, and it colors our decisions about travel, property, and commitments to future events.
But the truth is, moment to moment, I don’t think much about the future, at least not the long-term future. When I do think about it, I am optimistic. I simply cannot visualize my world without Mark in it, and so I don't. If that means that I’m setting myself up for a hard fall, so be it. And I’ve gone beyond cautious optimism; I’m all in. Perhaps it’s denial, but who cares.
Miracles happen every day.