Tag Archives: break from treatment

One big party

Oh, how I have enjoyed this break from treatment. In fact, my entire family has benefitted: for the first time since he could likely recall, Peter’s had a mother who felt great and was possessed of sufficient energy to do all sorts of mom things. Staying up late, and watching movies. Cooking and cleaning. Going on walks and having long conversations. Acting as de facto driving and swim instructor. Shopping for school clothes (button down shirts and pastel colored pants—our own little preppy). And, first thing every morning, sneaking in a little snuggle. It’s been grand.

Although not nearly as important as being able to be present for Peter, I’ve taken a lot of pleasure in some of the other perks of non-treatment. Mental clarity but then again, the ability to kick back and de-stress. I’m talking about alcohol. Nothing over the top, but rather the simple, adult pleasure/privilege of an occasional glass of wine or a cocktail. For a year and a half, my liver enzymes made it necessary to completely foresake alcoholic beverages—if I may say so, there is something intrinsically unfair about having cancer and not being able to drink.

I got used to it. Discovered mocktails, and congratulated myself on my ability to abstain. Then, several weeks into this break (having gorged myself on grapefruit, another long term no-no), it occurred to me that I could have a glass of wine. The first sip or two felt a little foreign, but just like riding a bike, you never really forget how. I was, so to speak, back in the saddle.

Again, it’s been fun. On one memorable afternoon, I was shopping at Salvation Army. When I went to pay for my purchases it became apparent that I’d left my wallet at home. I called David and asked if he might consider bringing it to me…and, I added some incentive. I would take him out to dinner. My dime, his choice.

He made it to the store just prior to closing. Treasures in hand, we headed (in our separate vehicles) to Republic, our new favorite hangout. It was a lovely evening and we sat out front on the patio. I ordered a martini and David a margarita. A young man at the table behind us asked about my white circle tattoo. I commented on the shirt the fellow to our right was wearing (adorned with magic 8 balls). The couple to our left soon engaged us in conversation. Before long it was ONE BIG PARTY. I got through two martinis that night, made at least four new best friends and a good time was had by all.

Perhaps a week later, we dropped Peter off at school. David had an appointment in NY the next day and I a CT scan in Boston. After my scan, I should have gone straight home and walked the dog, but I was feeling a little anxious and didn’t really want to be alone. On a whim, I stopped at a local restaurant and sat down at the bar. I ordered a martini, up with an olive and a twist of lemon. After one sip I realized that this was a serious martini, and that I was in over my head. A woman sat down in the empty seat to my left; ordered a glass of wine, an appetizer and began to read from her Kindle. Suddenly she turned to me and asked if I came there often. I confessed that at the age of 53, this was the first time I had ever sat at a bar by myself and ordered a drink.

Well, we got to chatting. Soon she was sharing her appetizer with me and before I knew it, three hours had passed and my new friend and I were convinced we were married to the same person. Thankfully we never got beyond a first name basis.

I followed the yellow line home (I know, I know—I truly just had one drink). Buddy was fed and let out for a quick pee, and I fell straight into bed. I awakened briefly around 11 pm, still under the influence. At 2 am I woke up once again but sober as could be. No hangover, which I attribute to my Swedish heritage but which David says is actually due to the chemical simplicity of vodka (compared to a complex alcohol like wine).

And, I’d had the strangest dream. Anjelina Jolie and a friend of hers were at my house drinking wine. Evidently it wasn’t very good, as they’d mixed themselves another concoction (but thoughtlessly, not one for me). I had to excuse myself to go wait on some tables. Suddenly I was back at Mr. Steak, the restaurant I’d worked in when I was seventeen. I was taking the order for a large family (what we referred to as an ‘eight top’), and they were trying to convince me that they all qualified for a student discount. The mom had a flamboyant scarf on her head, spoke with a german accent, and looked like a drag queen. The children were dressed head to toe in 1970’s style denim. When they asked me to describe an item on the menu I said I’d have to go ask the cook; I’d not worked there in thirty years. The cook was a real old guy—maybe one of my former co-workers was having the same dream.

Anyway, as I lay there thinking, I remembered a review in the NY Times by Dwight Garner concerning Lawrence Osborne’s new book, The Wet and the Dry, as well as a memorable quote from Mr. Osborne:  “Vodka; it’s like an enema for the soul.” Well, I’d certainly just proved that. My mental slate wiped clean, I fell soundly back to sleep.

Finding myself again

I don’t believe I understood how badly I needed this break from chemotherapy. Five straight years of treatment:  I cannot overlook the fact that it represents an enormous luxury for someone with advanced cancer—in terms of options and continuing survival. However, all the positives aside, five years is a hell of a long time to not feel normal.

As my energy levels rise and my head clears, I am embracing this moment to rediscover me. To quote one of my favorite poets, Wallace Stevens (from Tea at the Palaz of Hoon):

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw

Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

A bit adolescent, this new self indulgence; perhaps that is why I feel so rejuvenated. And I am trying to make the most of this opportunity. I’ve been weaning myself off of ativan, and am already eyeing the medicine cabinet to see what can go next. My eating habits have changed as well—daily salads and smoothies (my GI tract is showing its approval by cooperating). Long walks and laps in the pool; sixty lengths yesterday, it will be sixty five today.

Having a ball

Having a ball