Is It All In My Head?

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We are waiting to see if the medicine is working. These things take time. I hate watching, listening, and trying to detect the slightest changes in his voice, eating habits, or outlook. The interplay between life today and the unknown realities of death trying to emerge tomorrow lurks behind every conversation I have with my father, mother, wife, and children. Unspoken yet spoken, their reality is ours. Will the copay be reapproved on January 1st? Despite all this weirdness, did they enjoy our attempt to have a “normal” Christmas? Is this the right medicine, and will it work?

At this moment, all indications are that he feels better; for some reason, it feels awkward and unreal. Things seem to move at either a snail’s pace or at a rate that doesn’t seem reasonable to believe. Do I only have the perception that he feels better? Does he feel better because he’s started the medicine, or is the medication really doing what it should? He’s only been on the treatment for over a week, experienced little or no side effects (that he’s told me about), and admits his latest blood work slows the slightest of changes in the right direction. Since he’s been on the medicine, nothing has gotten worse, and a few of the numbers have improved by a tenth of a decimal point. That’s where we’re finding hope. If a number moves one way at the level of a tenth or hundredth of a decimal place, it’s answered prayer, a reason for hope. If the red blood cells go in the other direction, what is it, despair and apprehension at the impending immediacy of death’s inevitability?

Perspective is everything. If your prayers are being answered and your father’s healing doesn’t seem like a false start but the real deal, you will have a good perspective. So for the moment, I’m holding back on my perspective. I’m grateful for what I’ve got, but I need more results before I need to say anything more than that.

–Richard Bryant

Days Are All We Have

The medicine finally arrived. Duly marked with labels indicating the radioactivity and biohazard contained within, with warnings proclaiming, “Chemotherapy Drug.” It’s a jarring image, a far cry from the friendly paper bag that our neighborhood pharmacy places my statin drug in once a month. Once you open the box and encounter that label, even before you get to the bottle with the medicine, it’s as if the universe is giving you one last warning: do you want to live or die? Do you want to ingest this distilled form of chemical or radioactive poison into your body to kill cancer cells or boost your red blood count? You have one more opportunity, and this is it. You can’t say we didn’t warn you. That’s what a label like this is trying to tell you. If you go down this road, this dance you’re doing with death is about to become more intimate. The label asks, “are you ready for that degree of mortal intimacy?” If you are and you trust your doctor, it’s time to move past the label and live life on a delicately balanced, biologically hazardous chemical edge.   

He may have the medicine in hand, but I’m still scared. When will the side effects start to kick in? Will he tell me? I doubt it. I offered to come and sit with him for the first 48 hours.  He wouldn’t hear of it. His support network there would look after him. Now, I will have to look on from a distance, at scary drug labels, and listen for subtle, desperate changes in his mood, voice, and tone. Or I can roll the dice and show up at this front door bearing groceries and love. I can say, “I’m staying for a few days, and I don’t give a damn what you think.” I do have options. I can be the answer to my prayers.

There are practicalities. We may have won the battle, but the war is not over. The medicine took too long to arrive, and it’s only approved until the end of the calendar year. We’ll have to go through this same struggle with the insurance company, the doctors, and maybe the VA once again in a matter of days.

Days are all we have.

–Richard Bryant

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