I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to take that daily little pill to help my body avoid a recurrence of breast cancer. I am not just being a whiny baby about this. The side effects are killing me. My whole body hurts, my feet and hips the most, but now my hands are joining in. Gordy and I have been researching and mostly, the information makes me angry. Yes, the drug lessens cancer recurrence rates, but it does not change overall 5-year survival rates. Why? Because the side effects kill you instead. Seriously. The drug has a corrosive effect on your bones and heart, leading to increased risks of death from bone-related injuries or from heart disease. What a deal. The indicated length of time for this treatment is 5 years. My first six months weren’t so bad, but the effects have been cumulative. Now, creeping up to my one year mark, that little beast of a pill has taken my quality of life and completely thrown it under a bus. That is an apt metaphor; I feel like I have been run over by a bus and every day I wake up and it happens again.
This is not an easy thing to get our heads around. How can you say that between two choices, you choose cancer? I don’t find hope in that choice, but I am finding hope in myself. I have spent the last year researching and exploring evidence-based best practices for taking care of myself, taking care of my health, especially in light of cancer and also my c. diff. infection of last November. There is a vast body of information out there and I would like to share more about that, but later. I meet with my oncologist this Friday and will arrive armed with evidence and determination. I am hopeful we will come up with a plan that lets me wean off of drugs as prevention. This is no way to live. This is no way to die. I am working on creating a different choice for myself, one that relies on my own caretaking skills. I am caretaking hope for myself.
In the meantime, life goes on. Animals must be fed, manure picked up, dogs groomed, vet visits scheduled – the list is long. These daily rituals of animal caretaking are the better part of my day. They are the better part of me. I show up the best when I am in the company of animals. I wish I had the words for this. I wish I could explain how it feels to “Be With” and what it means to me. I spend most of my days within the confines of the farm tending to animals, trying to keep the house clean, and quilting. It is a small and unimpressive life. But you would only think that because you haven’t met Legs, for just one example. The presence of Legs makes my life large. He is the sweetest, most gentle soul. Today he had a mild eye infection, warranting some one-on-one time in a stall to wipe his eyes and face with a cool cloth and put medicine under his eyelid. It is hard for him to give over his head, especially his eyes, to be fussed with, but he works so hard at being good about it and I take my time. Whatever he needs. When we were good and done and walking out to the big pasture, he turned around and buried his head in my belly. Touching a horse’s ears is a very intimate thing and giving me this after I had fussed with his sore eyes made me feel such joy.
I got Belle a new raincoat. This was important to me. She doesn’t have one for herself; only an extra one of Boo’s which is too small for her and makes her look like she is bursting at the seams (which, sadly, she is). Her new one came today and I was so excited to try it on! It is ridiculously pink and perfect in every way. If a horse could smile, I think she would have. I think she knows it was just for her and makes her look special.
Augustus is not with the big herd, but he shares a lot of fence line with them; a fence line that took a lot of beating up the first weeks following his arrival. It seems the herd has worked through its opinion of him. This morning, post-feeding I found them holding space together under the shade of the play ground oak tree. They stood this way for quite a long time and I knew then that everything was going to be okay. He is one of us, because they have said so.
And always, always, there is the company of the pups. I am never alone. If you knew each of them, you would know how crammed full of magic my small life is. They are a tribe of their own, taking care of and watching out for each other, but I get to belong, too, and that makes me very happy.
And then there is this: The smile on my face because I’ve just gotten done riding the cutest little pony in the Universe.
We are creating a shared language, Augustus and me, and he surprises me every day with what he has pieced together. We surely did not “need” another horse, but he has filled a void in my life in such a way I am left gasping for air. Letting him happen in our lives was another big lesson to me in caretaking hope.
So I want to know what you do. How do you caretake hope in your own life? How do you bring in and cultivate hope and promise and love sufficient to heal yourself, to make yourself whole? Mine walks around on four legs, but I am also learning to cultivate other acts of hope and caring for myself. Please tell me yours.