This afternoon we received word my uncle ‘arrested’ during his new chemo treatment today and is now on a ventilator in the ICU. A short conversation with my aunt was a frustrating exercise in trying to provide support from 3000+ miles away with only half the information. And a similar exercise has been going on for six months.
Seemingly simple questions like “What type of chemo is he on?” are met with, “I don’t know.”
Originally I made the case that stress causes temporary amnesia but, in reality, my aunt and uncle are unfamiliar with medical terminology and there really hasn’t been anyone to help get them up to speed. They are in the unenviable position of being overwhelmed and under informed.
After my mother and I discussed our respective experiences with oncologists, radiologists and surgeons, I felt certain that my gratitude today would be focused on my ability to gain, retain and process medical knowledge – my own as well as that of my children and my parents.
Then I picked my son up from school.
Newly eleven, tall and lanky, he enjoys running almost as much as he enjoys making jokes.
He needed to time himself in a quarter mile run and asked if I would walk him over to the local track. With his new watch securely tethered to his wrist, he engaged the stopwatch feature and took off in a sprint. Halfway around the track, he was still going strong with light footfalls and a smile plastered on his face.
He finished the quarter mile in 1:24.
When we returned home he asked me to count his push-ups, sit ups and pull-ups. I did and, while his form was at times comical, his body seemed almost indefatigable and his breathing was always controlled.
While my son and I counted laps and calisthenics, my daughter was hanging by her hands and feet on a fake rock, at times 10-12 feet off the ground. She competes at the regional level in a USAClimbing event two weeks from yesterday.
As night falls, I know my uncle is breathing only with the help of a machine. And that makes me sad and very angry at a disease that claims approximately 160,000 people a year.
The dichotomy between imagining my uncle's assisted breathing and watching my own children play and compete with healthy lungs simplifies and clarifies my perspective.
Both of my children are active, healthy and strong. And for that, I am mindfully, profoundly and perpetually grateful.