Today, I blew off my appointment for my infusion…for the second time. Why you may ask? Why my burning knees are asking? Why, the sausages formerly known as my fingers are asking? Why would any rational person skip two treatments that work and am blessed to afford blow off like a blind date with your friend’s creepy cat hoarding, with more hair on his chest than his head neighbor?
The truth is, there is no excuse. It is simply exhaustion. After three “abort mission” infusions and three almost trips to the ER, I’d rather go to work, to the park or even sit in a Wisconsin karaoke bar full of senior’s singing Bruce Springsteen than go to the hospital.
What happens when you ignore two infusions, other than the obvious physical implications, is la ira de tu familia (furor of your family). You can do it once and quite possibly get away with it but twice, nombre (oh Lord)…..you might as well be in a police station: squinting through the glare of the industrial lights, different parts of your family playing good cop, bad cop.
As if I had been hiding a body in my closet, my mother comes over in gallina (hen peck) mode, speaking half in spanish, half in english, but all in the language of “how could you.” Then my father, the good cop/veteran defense lawyer suggests we leave the building for some ice cream. He tells a couple of jokes, extols his tales about his beloved black labbies on hunting trips and then lowers the boom.
“Isn’t it you who is on Skype daily telling your aunt to keep her eye on the ball? Wasn’t it you who told her to go to the chemos not for her but for her kids? Does it not seem ironic that you aren’t even going to yours?!”
Indeed, my Tia Rosa was diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2014 in León, Mexico. The immediate thought on the part of the family north of the border was to bring her to the best oncologists in the States. However, Tia Rosa, a delicately beautiful woman with a hunger for laughter, life and the ridiculous, much to our disappointment, turned us down. Although she never was able to complete elementary school, she successfully raised six children into adult professionals, learned English vicariously by listening to the Beatles and is a master businesswoman.
Two Christmas’ ago, she took me by the hand and said “Come Katia, see this.” In her bedroom, pictures of each child at each stage of their life adorn her bedroom next to several rosaries, prayer cards and statues of the Virgin Mary. “You know, there is not much more I can do to protect them now that they are grown. However, I do pray for the safety and guidance of each one every night.”
As she is battling what seems to be (and just might be) an unending cycle of chemo rounds, she has her moments of why. I know by her voice she is unsure of what to do and for the first time in her life exhausted. Her immense joie de vivre only barely covers her weariness and search for answers from relatives.
Yet every morning she awakens at six to make atolito (morning food) for the grandkids and right before that carefully, like little premature babies, cleans and rocks the santitos by her bedside.
It suddenly struck me. Her courage to continue with the pain, the vomiting, the multiple needle sticks, was her family and her faith. She is not immune from fear and the ugliness that comes from chemicals slowly killing off your cells, but she chooses to go on simply and beautifully because her faith and family pushed her to do so.
One thing that the United States (and myself included) are known for is cynicism. We revel in it. Whether it be corporations, PACS, elections, health care, religion, U.S. journalism and many other Americans like myself are going to gloat about it. U.S. cynicism is what makes for a fairly healthy journalistic and political system. However, we are sick in strength of spirit.
Tomorrow, both Tia Rosa and I are getting our respective treatments. We will both be holding the rosaries she made us and hopefully we will both looking at the same early morning star.