Absolutely Late, Lately: Adding up the Moment(s) of Terminal Cancer

Everyone’s got the right to question the respectfulness of someone who’s perpetually late. Or do they?

I recently commented on a blog post with regards to feeling disrespected by people who don’t respect his time because they cannot arrive on time. Ignorance of individual consideration for specific situations never whispered beneath his indignation. My question back to him: perhaps there’s a few reasons that have nothing at all to do with you at all. Some people have limitations and one of those may be effecting someone very close to you either now or in your future: people with metastatic cancer.

Time Stand Still

In several blog posts, I raise points about what changes with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. My self inquiry never ends with the conclusions of the posts. I still question the change from (t) time=unknown to t=0 (death=0) due to the incredible number of factors associated with our mortality. The factors are further confused by the many interpersonal relationships in our lives. It’s in those intersections between people one question stands out. It’s a question that no self respecting breast cancer blogger won’t eventually ask themselves publicly.

Probably more self deprecating than self respecting, looking back on my four years here on WordPress reveals a number of mentions of this particular affectation. The most well- meaning of us with metastatic breast cancer finds themselves running behind the clock more than we’d like. I think I may have come up with a couple of reasons, not excuses, as to why we’d get sent to the principal’s office for our tardiness.

1.”It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (Lewis Carroll, Alices Adventures in Wonderland)

Most people enjoy the freedom to make plans. Normally everyone lives without having to think much about plans they make day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year. With terminal cancer, one lives on less than 24 hour notice. If you have a diagnosis of MBC or another metastasized cancer, you’ve probably had plans for the the day, and for which you have had to send the dreaded text or make the embarrassing call to say, ” I’m sorry I can’t make it, ” or “I’ll be two hours late.”

Why? There’s no time to catch up with yourself, looking at the current moment wondering how I got here and wanting to drink in all of what’s surrounding me. I can’t quench a thirst that’s infinite yet has an absolute end somewhere in sight. Trying to grab ahold of everything I drop my minutes like rain in a thunderstorm and I cannot get them gathered back up around me into a reasonable explanation. Not a satisfying one to the party receiving my lame cancellation.

  1. Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-Day. And yesterday things went on just as usual.” (Ibid.)

Nothing being the same yet all things being equal, you’ll find out just how strange life can get in a split second. People disappear who you held dear and you’ll have no reason why. People who you never thought would come through in a pinch, do. And over the fullness of time new people will find a place in your life.

For me, many of those people are either ethereal online support friends, people who are older and for whom age has presented the question of death many times, people who have similar prognoses, and those who have also brushed up against death. Aside from my older friends and not knowing the lateness of my online friends, everyone else who has stayed the course with me forgives my lateness.

If the attention you have ran at a deficit prior to a cancer diagnosis, post diagnosis you’re probably in for a special treat. If you also suffer from fatigue, this seems like a dichotomy.

  1. We’ve no time to wash the things between whiles.” (Ibid.)

Theres now the phenomenal time travel that happens while I take entirely too long in the bathroom.

I spend hours on end with good reason in the brightest room in the house: the potty. I am engaged with the toilet straining against constipation, trying to stop it’s devilish alter ego – diarrhea, vomiting from chemo or any number of reasons, or for the more pleasurable bathing to relieve pain and taking time to relax and practice self care. Additionally finding better ways to wear my bizarre post chemo hair or to cover your my of hair; and, doing my makeup and drawing in missing eyebrows can take up hours of my life, however limited my time may be.

No one wants to look sick. But the less sick you look the more people doubt your level of illness. It’s a catch 22, but a fact.

  1. I forgot.

  2. I remember!

6.”Not all who wander are lost. If you don’t know where you’re going any road can take you there.” (Ibid.)

Wanting more time before it’s all over leads me down the rabbit hole into a place where I get lost. Lost inside a book, a song, a sunrise, a hug, a poem I’m writing, a memory, or a hope for something in a future that can at any moment be cut like a scene in an editors office from a films final print. I’m not lost on my path, though. It’s winding and it’s convoluted and full of time that I’ve somehow let slip by.

Measuring the importance of what I’m up to at one moment versus doing something pedantic like the dishes or the laundry. Writing my next sentence rather than sitting in the living room where my friends are and not having any reason to sit out there with four guys who love me and take me seriously although I’ve been late or a no show on many occasions to appointments with all of them.

One gets where I’m coming from because his constant pain keeps him pinned to the bed for days on end. One has attention deficit that’d knock any 5th grader off his Ritalin. One suffers the continual strain against depression. Ones seen too much to care about time as a concept but cares so much about the people in his life you can count on him in any situation with a one word text message, “help.”

  1. “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” (Ibid.)

I’ve come to realize it’s so simple. If those who cannot understand make a little room to fit the different senses of what time we have to expend and not take it so personally, they may even learn something. My life before cancer was so filled with the stress of time and being punctual I have to wonder if it didn’t contribute in some way to my metastatic diagnosis.

Perhaps if I slowed down a little I might have even noticed my physical changes prior to the disease falling like a domino into stage four. But I won’t look back. I’ll simply look at the moment and breathe in all the possibilities right now has to offer. And I hope your time with me was well spent if you have cancer or not. I certainly respect your time as you read and even comment on my blog. It’s your gift and I cherish it.

Look into My Crystal Ball, or The Writer as Telepath

The blank page: at times a writer’s inanimate nemesis. The written output, the writer’s words lend themselves to an infinite life with inasmuch potential. This simple premise suggests a complex hypothesis: a writer’s output can bridge the gap between art and science, alchemy and physics, space and time. The writer becomes a telepath sending messages into the future for a reader to interpret. Somewhat like a clairvoyant or perhaps the act exists in the realm of remote seeing, where one person would send a thought or image across time and space or pick up images from maps or clues designed to lead the seer to a specific area for finding, for instance, another country’s nuclear weapon silo.

Interesting to consider these assumptions imbue alternative meanings to the act of reading. You immediately see the past and derive a picture of the past, or the future in science fiction or fiction generally by interpreting words laid out as clues by the writer.

Extending the conceit of my satirical discourse, astrophysicists might look for wormholes between the covers of a book rather than through the lens of mathematics. A writer collapses the past and future at the every moment in the continuum of time when another person reads their words. Without control over who reads and when they read, the writer interprets and translates physical or imagined information to convey meaning. Recall for a moment any biography you’ve read of a living or once living person. Is it factual or to a degree is it fictionalized through the writer’s mind to the page, still applicable in autobiographies?

Might I suggest that both reader and writer together create a closed circuit to bend the time space continuum. Reading uses clairvoyance and writing, telepathy, to communicate. Both acts indelibly change the past and the future. As the reader becomes a telepath who interprets the messages being sent from another time and place and create meaning that may have an impact on themselves or in some instances one or an infinite many others. I write messages for future others to receive. How far in the future will determine the degree to which my words are interpreted based on several key factors.

First, cultural distance between me and the reader or receiver. I’d bet if you’re reading this now, you’re not too far in time away from me and your physical space is not too different from mine. If you’re a Martian colonist reading this 100 years from relative “now”, I’m no longer alive and my meaning must be left to the receiver to recreate any meaning from my words.

That person can change the past by interpreting my meaning, my words, and something about me that may or may not be true. So I can change history (now) and change the future (tomorrow) by writing something evocative and capturing enough mindshare to get you to think about something.

Just a thought that provoked some lively conversation this Sunday night. Time to give my iPad a rest, wish my husband love and pleasant dreams, give my cat Simon a good petting, and ready myself for another week. A week when I hope to fend off the busyness that would have my attention rather than using my powers of mental telepathy and sending my remote viewers something to chew on from here in the past.

Eventide

Riding passenger side snapping right,
I’m down in front stealing long exposures.
From the back seat our youth sits
Mocking us with instant polaroids.
Destroyed pictures of minutes and memory
Precious and precarious slip a stone
At once here and at once gone.
Right under the driver breaks hard and higher
Up another mile, silently stealing all we pass.
As if it meant nothing, had no value.
Yet we never stop to salute the flowers –
All wilds and yellows and purples.
The foothills’ shoulders grow peonies
Upon sunshine golden with military ranks.

How jagged time?
We spend ours climbing again as
Eventide approaches us.
Stealing the light
Squinting and teasing Every photographer’s eye.
The lens escapes the fight as fists fly
Above us rung the first punch
Headliners: the over-real versus the unbelievable.
Then we drop down tearing around
The Summit dragging the day with us.
With us flat then right over on the side.
Buckshot sprays whitetail from
Underneath the wheels,
My skin and bones chill fast underneath
Blankets just a quarter mile thin –
Count the microclimates in a 14 mile exposure.
My imagined assignment, anyway.

Inertia now driving our ascension
Finally dousing my focus.
Yet I am pacified by
Deep coastal royal blue velvet,
And by the courtly cape
Of dense silver fog.
Trees, reach in and take my attention
Lost in the sky and yet at home.
Away with the little brick foxes
Already started by the drooling hounds,
Running in distant golden broken lines
Shrinking to a pointed index
Finger of bent redwood lumber.
Penciled between the knotted trees
Escaping our eyes
They write letters to us
To one another, to anyone.
I imagine the trees alone love themselves.
Writing in dead languages those
Modern towers of Babylon
Without oral tradition
No monks or followers to take dictation
The mighty ones tie rings around
Paper and papyrus of their own making.
They, like me, can write their own stories.

Distant deamons dance to the music of the eventide,
Whose eardrums thump and pop from slight descents.
Mercies clear the stares and the macabre glances.
And up ahead the night hides just around
The voluptuous Earth’s curves.
Yet she shakes off the road upon her hip
Langushing and lounging
Laughing at all the forsaken highways.

You snap me awake.
My hypnotic state undone
By our quick duel and I, only me –
I roll one window down
With enough sense to know
The party orange of evening presents
A moment for exposure
Showing the night undone
By the simplest flash
As we find a space and stall the motor,
King and queen of the hills
Announced by snare drums and trumpets.
Goodbye, twisted bruised skin of eventide.
Eventide, goodbye.