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Monday, January 06, 2014

The Bald and the Beautiful, Part 2, and Epiphany

When I came in last night from singing, CG was getting Thistle ready for bed.  As I helped corral the little one to get her in jammies, CG said, "You know, your hair really doesn't look THAT bad.  In fact, I think it isn't all that noticeable, and besides, people who don't know what your hair looks like normally won't really are just bald where your hair shouldn't really wrap your head, you should be proud of what you are going through" and so on (I had on a headwrap).  I waited til Thistle had gone to sleep (she wrote a "book" called "Thistle and Grandma" which is comprised of two pages:  on one, she wrote "Thistle" in red crayon,  On the other page, she wrote "Grandma".  This is the bedtime book she wants,every night.  She is a budding minimalist, for sure)--however, I digress.

I pretty much ignored CG's comments on the surface (they boil down to:  You are losing your hair.  This chemotherapy is real.  It is doing chemo things. I notice it. I am trying to reassure you).

This sort of distillation I actually learned from CG himself, who would screen the calls from my sister when she would phone and leave  long, rambling messages (at the end of her life, she had a large measure of dementia).  I was finishing my thesis and teaching my first composition class at the Alma Mater, and asked him to help me with her calls, as they were freaking me out.  At any rate, CG would listen to her seemingly endless messages, hang up, and say, "The Reader's Digest version:  she misses you." 

I am trying to establish tolerance and compassion for the folks who have also helpfully offered spiritual and temporal nostrums for what I am going through now.  The crystal-and-affirmation folks are the most appreciated right now, I think, and the prayerful folks (invoking anyone from Baby Jesus to Ganesha to some sort of Merlin figure, I forget exactly whom). As long as there is no attendant shaming ("your thoughts created your illness" is too akin to my hellfire upbringing of "God will punish you for your sins"), such things at least give me comfort, and I think they can serve as comfort to the other person, too.  It is not easy to watch a loved one go through chemotherapy.  It is nearly as hard to witness this as it is to go though it.

 I have to exercise my greatest patience with are the potion-pushers, who recommend things that "will really strengthen your immune system": frankincense (why not myrrh and gold and make a proper Epiphany out of it, I say), elderberry, megadoses of vitamins, etc etc.  I have learned to smile these days and say thank you.  It is hard to explain to people that the point of my chemo is not to fight a growing tumor, but to level the immune system so it doesn't continue to attack me.  What people seem to be saying when offering such help is "I want you to get better."  Sometimes the underlying emotion is,"I want to control this because I see my mortality in you and it scares me."  Most people have a kind intention behind their helpful suggestions, though.  Kind intention is fine with me, as long as they are not pushing to sell me something.

The people who make the most impact on me are the ones in my inner circle who can really hear my fears and my triumphs during this and not try to rush or minimalize this process.  It is my process of coming to terms with a difficult "what is".   I like cold hard reality sometimes; it's very refreshing to just sometimes be able to say to someone, "This sucks," and have the other person acknowledge just this without trying to change it.  Sometimes people just need a shoulder to rest on for a bit before rushing back out again into the breach.

At any rate, today is Epiphany, when Baby Jesus got presents (no offense to all ye Christian soldiers:  Baby Jesus really DID get presents on Epiphany).  To me, Epiphany symbolizes human acceptance and acknowledgement of hope as symbolized in the Christ Child, and reverence towards that hope in the giving of gifts.

Probably I have more pithy things to say, but Thistle wants to play "restaurant" with me, and so I shall.