I have been thinking about the word “cure” lately. The doctors used this word when Dylan entered round one of chemo and since I have had some mental breathing time between round two and three, I have been wondering about what cure really means. Does cure mean this cancer will be gone? Does cure mean it will never come back? Does cure have a five-year waiting period? These are the questions I haven’t asked.
Here is what I do know. We have two more rounds of chemo. They will probably be like the last round which means Dylan will be knocked down again, but they will be shorter, like round two, if everything goes well. Then, when we finish round four, Dylan will get to ring a bell on the 12th floor at Swedish announcing that he is done with chemo. There will be a moment of joy…and then we will wait…for a month before he gets a CT scan looking for cancer. That is the month I am thinking about these days, it stands out there in the distance ready to embrace us, or to cut our hearts in two.
If Dylan is cancer free after a month we wait for five years. Five years…seems like an eternally long time to wait, but cancer patients are not considered “cured” until they pass through that five-year window. Hopefully those five years will be long and uneventful on the cancer front, but how do we begin to pick up the pieces of our lives and begin building again? I feel a little like those people you see on the evening news who have had some natural disaster hit their homes. Most of them announce bravely that they will rebuild. They will be back. Things will not change for them. What happens if another natural disaster hits again? Then what?
This morning I was reminded (thanks to AhDad) of a poem by either Roy Croft, or Erich Fried titled Love. (The poem’s origin is a bit misty, but I live in a country where the Supreme Court and Mitt Romney think companies and people are the same thing so it doesn’t really matter who gets the millions of dollars this poem has produced. There is a good deal of money to be made in poetry…if you work for an ad agency.) There are many lines I love in this poem, but the one that has always stuck with me is, “I love you because you are helping me to make of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple.” The sticks and lumber left from this cancer thing are left for us to build from. We can rebuild the same life we had before, but we also have the choice to build something new, something better. What that means at this point is something I cannot know.
Dylan and I have spent a little time talking about the future, but not in a concrete and calendared way, most of our discussions have been about the unknown. It wasn’t that long ago that he had a plan, but that has changed. Now, we talk about the future in a more abstract and open way. I don’t know what Dylan is going to do with the lumber of his life; I’m pretty sure he isn’t going to build a bonfire, but he might build something without a clear plan, something he loves, something different. When death reaches out his bony finger and touches your shoulder sticking to human timelines has a pointlessness that seems more absurd than usual. About a month ago, Dylan said, “I want to build a gaming computer.” Of course, I thought this was a complete waste of time and money so I gave him a whole-hearted, “Whatever.” Since that time, he has cobbled together bits and pieces of computer hardware without any financial support from us. I don’t know how he has done it, but it has happened. I don’t know if he knows how to put the bits and pieces together, but, in the end, if it gives him something to do while waiting for the next round, then I guess it is a good thing.
The wait has become a time to fill with distractions (NCAA basketball games, grading papers, and seeing people) but on Wednesday, we head back for round three. Round three is when I will ask, “When you say cure, what do you mean? What are the usual timelines? When can Dylan resume life?”
Two weeks ago, Jared Romberg and other firefighters from around the Pacific Northwest climbed this tower in full gear. The climb was to raise money to find a cure for cancer. Most of the firefighters climbed the stairs in less than 35 minutes. (Which I could do easily if I was allowed to use the elevator.)
I began to wonder if the cure for cancer were the top of the tower, how far has Dylan climbed? Is the top of the tower five years out? Or, is it three or four weeks from now when Dylan will ring the bell on the 12th floor of Swedish? How far up the tower are we when it comes to finding a cure to all cancers? These are the things I think about while waiting for an end to all of this.
Tomorrow I will pack our bags, put together a list of items to bring along, and double-check everything so that our third stay at Swedish is as comfortable as possible. I won’t end up with everything we need, but I will have the essentials: a few books, music, snacks, and clothing. You can’t plan for everything that is going to happen, but knowing that makes all the difference.