8 a.m. I wake to a text from CC. This becomes routine as each of us are sleeping and waking at wonky hours with our minds racing or discovering pertinent information we must share with the other at that very moment lest we forget it. Times stamped texts from the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s of the morning are common.
“G’morning. Bad night with stomachache but got tips from bc* discussion board. My username is liked—sickofpink. DD called and texted, worried, so sweet”
“Good morning! Changing out of my hot flash sweaty clothes yuk. So glad you found that discussion board! Love that DD J”
Noon We’re (still) sitting in bed working. CC is determined to teach her novel writing class tonight so she’s editing her students’ papers while I edit a script (this one has great potential). I’m also, now that I’m staying longer, rescheduling South Bend appointments, answering emails and other domestic necessities.
“My dad’s going to remember you in his evening prayers and he sends a virtual hug,” I announced to CC as I read through my emails.
“Awww that’s so sweet. Tell him to include my tummy…to lay virtual hands on it: the fucking wasteland of hell.”
1:15 Suffering from ChemoButt and still in bed, we start rattling off ideas for a new line of products only chemo patients would appreciate and deem it, The Chemo Kit. Hemmoroid cream. The wedge pillow from The Company Store. Pot pills. Purified water. Earplugs. Fuzzy blankies. Brainless gossip magazines. Fresh, clean, rust and soap scum free shower organizer. Heating pad. Laxative tea….we’re super proud of ourselves.
1:20 CC announces she needs to walk. At this point the only walking she’s tolerated is to the bathroom and kitchen. Today she gets wild. Desperate. She shuffles to the back yard. From my perch in bed, I look out (dear gawd it’s filthy!) the master bedroom’s big picture window and watch CC, in her granny nightgown and fuzzy slippers, gingerly yet deliberately walk a circle around the back yard. It’s chilly but sunny and dry in Chemo Canyon today. Through the filtered shadows and rays of sunshine escaping through the apple, cedar and willowy trees, CC’s walk takes on the magnitude of the first moon walk. I am at once moved with sadness and respect. I’ve spun many a walks in my yard in my pj’s (ask my neighbors) but even saving a child’s day by running their forgotten permission slip up the corner bus stop was never, like CC’s walk now, a source of liberation, power and sanity. And dignity. She looked so damn frail yet dignified.
After a nap, it’s time for CC to get ready to teach her novel writing class. I’m still in awe she has the will to do this…but she loves this particular group of students and their stories. She wants to be there for them. She still has her hair and her great figure, so after applying her new organic, no dangerous ingredients make up, it’s hard to peg CC for the exhausted, physically assaulted woman she is.
It’s a slow walk to class. Despite parking in a closer lot than usual, CC’s still winded from the walk. Every concrete step and courtyard had me holding my breath. I mean, she’s one lithe gal but could I carry her?
When CC sat down in the classroom and began to address her students, I witness a transfiguration of biblical proportions–CC’s illuminated inside and out. Her fast, brilliant speech returns clear, coherent and strong. She’s in charge. She’s the award-winning screenplay writer and novelist from those glossy color head shots on the back of books.
I sit two chairs down from her, dutifully armed with sanitizing wipes, water bottles and my laptop. Trying to be inconspicuous, I watch her for signs of distress while ordering remaining items from our Chemo Check List (God bless free delivery).
The class is a huge triumph for CC. Once home though, the bush stops burning, the rainbow fades into the clouds and alas, the maiden’s lamp runs out oil. It’s going to be a long time before it’s fueled and lit again.
*bc= Breast Cancer. CC has found the discussion forums on BreastCancer.org to be both a life line and life saver. It’s good to see monetary donations going to a very tangible and helpful service.