First, thank you all for your recent comments.
I haven't had the energy or focus to answer them in the timely manner to which I'm accustomed. I just haven't been at the computer much these past few days.
I'm not going to try to describe all of the recent events and feelings in perfect chronological order.
It has been a mishmash of emotions, and I suppose this post will reflect that ...
On Thursday, I met with one of my surgeons -- my first surgeon, actually. We were discussing palliative care as my illness enters its final stages. He joined in consensus with my other surgeons and doctors that I have just months at this point.
I have been experiencing excruciating pain recently in both legs, from just below the knees down to the ankles. The pain, tolerable during the day for the most part, hurt so much that I had been unable to sleep for several nights and was suffering for it. The surgeon on Thursday prescribed Percoset, which helps a lot but sometimes takes longer than I would like to take effect. I don't think I would be able to cope without it.
The painkiller prescription brought me face to face with an issue I had been reluctant to confront. I want to preserve my natural state of mind, such as it is, to the greatest extent possible. That is, I want to be aware of what's going on around me and inside me. I was worried that narcotic painkillers would dull this awareness, and this nearly lifelong fear was keeping me from doing the right thing. But I don't want to be in pain, and I need my sleep. So, I'm taking Percoset without hesitation.
A dear friend in Kyoto admonished me during a visit there four years ago that I should let flexibility become my most important weapon. She said it would help me confront this illness and adapt to it, rather than become mentally, spiritually and physically rigid to the breaking point. I see that she is right.
Given that toxic levels of calcium in the bloodstream can have far-reaching effects on a person's brain chemistry, I consider myself pretty blessed to have my faculties at this point. So, I think I should try to enjoy them pain-free.
As my aches and pains increase, it's amazing how quickly stoicism flees my body.
There are no brownie points in being a martyr.
I'm finding it difficult to live on my own now -- coping with the stairway to my apartment while carrying laundry or groceries, trying to keep the place clean and so on. My doctors are imploring me to be careful because a fall could be catastrophic.
Soon, I'll be moving in with my brother in New York. I'll have my own room, the tremendous help and comfort that he'll provide, a visiting hospice service, an instant circle of new friends (my brother has lots) and a simplified lifestyle.
He graciously is allowing me to bring my two cats with me. I've declined the offer and instead have found a new home for them. My brother isn't a cat person. And frankly, it's time for me to let go. If I wouldn't be seeing to the cats' future now, then it would have to be done for me soon enough and the timing won't be the same.
I'm going through my possessions now -- books, to start -- and am earmarking things for family and friends. The trash and treasures I have accumulated over a lifetime have given me much joy, and I want to share that joy now. I think it would be a great emotional burden on my family to try to distribute things the way they think I would've liked.
I am taking indescribable pleasure in this process of giving. Truly, I want for nothing.
On Wednesday, I called my karate teacher to tell him that I can no longer study my beloved martial art. I told a friend of my decision. "Sure, you need to stop if you're no longer getting anything out of it," she said. I corrected her: It's not that I'm no longer getting anything out of it. It's just that I can't bring any more into it. Classes were leaving me feeling as if I were coming apart at the seams.
I visited the dojo Saturday with bags of books for my teacher. The morning's class had just ended and most of the students had gone home.
Sensei invited me out onto the floor. "Just follow me as I do these moves," he said. "We'll do them slowly. Don't do what you can't."
He led me in very slow, measured, gentle steps through three kata. I knew these were advanced, black-belt-level kata but I can't recall seeing them performed in the dojo and I'm not even sure of their names. I am a brown belt. Were I to continue studying karate, I wouldn't have been taught these kata for several years to come.
I was overcome with emotion at the profound emotional and spiritual meaning of his gesture of symbolic instruction.
Words won't work.
Thursday, I visited my mom.
Of course it was great to see her, but I was arriving just two days after my eldest sister and her husband told her of my medical situation. I'm sure my physical appearance when I walked in the door provided all the details she needed to know.
The lighting in my apartment is very forgiving, very flattering. Facial shadows and lines are softened. Harsh angles are mitigated.
It's photographer's light.
The lighting in my mom's house is bright, all-revealing, unsparing. When I undressed to shower, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror as if for the first time. I was shocked. Frightened.
My ribs are painfully well-defined.
There's very little meat on my bones.
Muscle tone is nearly vanished.
I weighed about 155 pounds when my fight with this illness began six years ago.
I'm 116 now.
But, the day before I went to my mom's, I had a massage of my legs, neck and shoulders, which really helps with the pain, at least while the massage is being done.
I asked the masseur -- a genius of intuition and healing -- if my energy level felt as low to him as it does to me.
"No," he said. "It's actually quite strong."
He went on to relate a story about one of his clients, a woman in the final throes of lung cancer. "It made me want to cry," he said, "because when I placed my hands on her body I felt nothing. No energy. It was as if she was hollow inside."
So, I suppose I'm luckier than I think.
And finally, I have learned that my blog has been linked to the Tricycle magazine editors' blog. In the brief blurb about me, I'm described as a Zen practitioner. How ironic: A Zen practitioner without a sitting practice to speak of. I don't know whether to laugh or cry and, in fact, I did both.
I'm not sure what the hell I am anymore.
And I want to work on accepting that.
You know, my blog posts these days add increasing levels of doom and gloom.
It reminds me of a Daffy Duck cartoon that I particularly enjoy.
Bugs Bunny and Daffy are in the circus and are pitting their talents against each other.
Bugs, the consummate showman, repeatedly towers above Daffy's attempts to outdo him.
Daffy gets desperate.
He devises an act he's sure will outshine Bugs'.
He begins swallowing every explosive, every flammable substance he can lay his hands on.
Then he lights a match, swallows it and is blown to smithereens.
"You were excellent!" raves Bugs Bunny. "That was great! They want an encore!"
As Daffy's spirit ascends to heaven, he says ruefully, "Sorry, but I can only do that trick once."