“How long have I been sleeping?” – J.B

The opportunity to reflect is a gift: what was, what could’ve been, what might be, becomes part of a deeply tumultuous swirl of emotion from places within I didn’t even know existed. Because of this cancer I’ve been given this time, this heretofore unwelcome “gift.” And there is nothing like Jackson Browne to reach inside my heart and pull everything right up to the front, like the deep roots of some primeval tree, to unleash a torrent.

There is a Gaelic word “keen” and another, “ululo,” meaning to wail, and in my private moments I have found myself doing just that, “keening,” often loudly late in the night. This website offers a wonderful overview of this tradition though many cultures in lamenting the dead: http://www.winnipegrealtors.ca/Resources/Article/?sysid=1769 and while I am by no means implying that I am in fact no longer here, the emotions that come through the raw fear that occasionally grip me act as both a healing function and a purgative. The way different cultures deal with death and dying is fascinating indeed.

After enduring two weeks of chemo in the hospital and a third to begin Tuesday I’m feeling a little bit like a  punchdrunk boxer in the ring: DeNiro in Raging Bull with fists coming slow, hard and unrelenting. I know I’ve referred to the Native American character in
“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” who in the end ripped the sink from the flooring and smashed through the wall, releasing the patients from the asylum. While certainly my hospital stays are nothing of the sort, the doctors, staff and nurses all being top- rate, being tethered (and often entangled like a fish caught in a driftnet) to an IV pole day after day, having it wrapped around my legs and arms having to unplug every time I have to go to the bathroom trying to get there before it’s too late, having it pull on my PIC-lined arm is not a friend I wish to be attached to. The notion of tossing the entire IV pole through the plateglass window comes to mind quite often. Imagine my excitement when I found out that the Au Bon Pain was open 24 hours and and they served lobster salad sandwiches on a croissant. While the methotrexate sessions last about three hours I’m allowed to move about the cabin after that when they then administer the leucovorin in the ensuing days, designed to bring the levels of methotrexate down to a safe place for my taxed organs. On one journey at three in the morning I somehow managed to detach my entire bag of sodium bicarbonate from my IV pole which then exploded all over everything including my beloved lobster salad sandwich. The nurse said he had never seen anything like it in his 10+ years of nursing. Chalk up another disaster to my restlessness and midnight munchies. Another MRI, more chemotherapy (even though the desired one, a “Mek” inhibitor, has been denied by insurance) as we try to beat this back. The one thing we can’t buy this time is time. But we are trying.

The journey continues. without knowing what’s around the corner. My anger, and tears mix with hope and the strength generously offered from friends, community, family and my daughters.

“How long have I been sleeping
How long have I been drifting alone through the night
How long have I been running for that morning flight
Through the whispered promises and the changing light.” – Jackson Browne

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4 Responses to “How long have I been sleeping?” – J.B

  1. Jen says:

    Thank you, Mark, for sharing this intimate journey. It gives all the quality lyrics and good poetry new meaning to experience them from places of such intense emotional and physical struggle. Three nights ago I went to hear Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem in this beautiful renovated barn in Jaffrey. They ended the show with this song based on Tennyson’s poem “Crossing the Bar”…

    You are loved deeply.

  2. Michael Ruse says:

    Well Mark, you already know how much your writing and strength inspire me and others, so I think this time I’ll be lightly whimsical, and in the spirit of your blog post, I will offer two words: Juicy Fruit.

    Love you Mark –

  3. Sue says:

    Pretty amazing Mark …..still thinking and writing and sharing. Hope you are hearing the cheers from afar… Sonoma, CA in our case. Hopefully your writing will help you and it also helps so many of us as well who attempt to understand. So many thanks for your being such a complete person and telling it like it is for you. We are two of many who are with you in spirit.

  4. Karin says:

    You are one incredible person Mark. You move me to the absolute brink of what it means to be human. Xoxoxo Karin.

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