Time For Pruning


Pain, aching, queasiness, fear, fatigue, lethargy.

These are not typically words I use to describe my state of being, but in the 8 days post-chemotherapy, this is how I feel all the time.

Yes, some of the medications help, but they too have their side effects and issues. I now understand so much better why people do NOT want to take all the meds. How many pills can one put into one’s stomach and not feel worse? I think of all the medicine boxes I have set up for “my patients” and how indignant we nurses/doctors feel when our patients are “non-compliant–” not wanting to take everything that is prescribed!

My feet hurt, my hips hurt, my knees ache terribly this round and sometimes feel like they are going to give out just walking down the hall, and yet I am told I must walk. My mouth has the constant sensation of sucking on strong metal, which makes everything taste quite disgusting, but I am told I must eat protein. And yes, I must rest. I must I must I must.

I find that bodywork helps immensely. Foot rubs, massages, Danielle’s special Reiki treatments. I also find that listening to my guided imagery tapes and really breathing that ole breath into my belly and letting my muscles and joints soften and fill with oxygen helps. ALLOWING my self to just BE and relax and not DO is such a hard lesson but perhaps one of my biggest on this journey. I’ve probably said this before and will again!

This morning all I wanted to do was go back to sleep or lie in bed and stare out the window at the flowering apple tree in the neighbor’s yard—white blossoms lit up against today’s light blue sky and the hint of pink and magenta magnolias that peek out from the other side of the apple tree. The jasmine vines continue to climb up our fence despite the drought and I am so grateful for these little bits of beauty.

And yes, it is President’s weekend, which for me has always meant the time to prune roses. A time to cut off dead branches, trim the living ones so they get the best light and space, cut away that which cannot grow stronger and will not lead to blossoms or fruit. Illness too, allows us time for pruning.

I find small gifts in these days of fatigue and inward journeying, despite the misery! The tears come so easily and melt open my heart and soul to the bigger and deeper worlds and questions that often I put aside in order to be more “productive.” Unlike Woody Allen, it’s not that I don’t want to be there when death comes, I just really would prefer that it not come for quite a while. I hear myself saying to friends over the last years– in my desire to get people to act and be better prepared for our “old age”—“you know, we all think WE are going to be the one who lives to be 90 and then dies in our sleep. But most of us are NOT going to go that way.” Many of us will have chronic pain and illnesses, given the ways of our world. Some will have dementia (50 % of baby boomers once we reach our 80’s). Some will have serious, acute illnesses. Many of us live in a level of stress that is taking huge tolls on us and yet we insist we cannot change this. OHHH….how I must consider this so much more seriously!

Most of us will have “something” physical to deal with, and yet we think we can still go on living our individual lives and not prepare for a time when we are more dependent. HOW can we change this pattern of strong individualism? How can we come together NOW, before it is really too late, to develop places and ways to live and take care of each other that are healing, nurturing and affordable? Who ARE the people in each of our lives, that we see ourselves “depending” on? Who do we know for sure we will be there for, when they are in need? This is way beyond completing an “advance directive” for healthcare. This is about completing a strategic plan for the rest of our lives! (and yes, with built in flexibility clauses since our crystal balls are not always accurate.)

Of course, I never imagined that I would be one of the first of my friends to have a serious, or chronic or potentially life-limiting illness! I am the one with the strong constitution, the will to always do a little more, work more hours, stay up singing all night, hike a bit farther on the steep trail, swim in the coldest of rivers. Plus, I am the one who teaches about palliative care and death and dying!!!

So, yes, I am now hoping that I can truly laugh at my own denial of impermanence and face each moment of the rest of my life more fully. Maybe I’ll even call a meeting to work on “strategic life plans!”(AFTER chemo has ended of course!)

And hopefully, on the days when the tears have subsided, the laughter will re-emerge, because I DO trust in the idea that “she who laughs, lasts.” No matter how long.

…many years ago, as I was making a “snow angel” on my grandmother’s grave in northern Vermont, these changed words to an old song came to me, and I find myself singing them this morning:

“T’is a gift to know the Spirit
T’is a gift to feel the Heart,

T’is a gift to know that where we End we Start

And when we understand

that the Truth and the Light

are inside us, to guide us

We come round right….”

Personal Journey, Twist of Fate

One Comment

  1. Jeanne Pfeiffer, DNP, MPH, RN, CIC --Clinical Assistant Professor, University of MN School of Nursing says:

    Redwing, I asked how you were before I read your blog. I have followed your journey here and I send you healing prayers and surround you with the peace and serenity of each moment we live to experience. Let joy fill your soul as you face each challenge. Jeanne

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