[This concerns my Doctor"s fortuitous discovery in January, 2004, of cancer
cells and my
struggle with this shocking, condition. Due to the twin exigencies of
accuracy and recuperation,
there is an editorial delay of several weeks. As of July 5, 2004, I am
alive and resting at home.
If you are missing any of this series, please request them. Phillip Danzig]
FIGHTING A BIG BATTLE
After surviving my big battle with the poisons of chemo, I returned home to my bachelor apartment. It was quiet after the noisy routine of the hospital. A Registered Nurse visited to take my "vital signs," and to determine whether I needed a Home Health Aid. I was not keen on having a man or woman following me about, making sure I took my medications, or, showered properly. However, my middle son, up from Florida, saw the situation more clearly than I, and insisted that I agree. So for the next three weeks I was kept to a schedule, ate a reasonable breakfast and enjoyed some simple companionship. My son also went through some historic collections of typewriters, broken telephone answering machines, papers and boxes, and we began to throw out detritus and debris.
Later, my eldest son, resident in Israel, visited for a precious week, and helped me sort out my numerous medications [for Crohns's and for the chemo] made pointed suggestions regarding what I should eat, how I could amuse myself [with comedy films] and expressed his deep concern. We went through piles of books and when I was strong enough, took the refuse to the Strand Used Book Store and sold a batch for $43.00. Somehow, clearing out long-standing stagnant piles in dusty corners in my apartment felt good, as though I was metaphorically cleaning out the malignant cells in my body.
I had recently visited with my youngest son, so we stayed in close touch by e-mail, and planned a visit during the summer. Some families are torn apart by stress and danger, but we were drawing closer, Thank G-d. On days when I felt too weary to eat, I bestirred myself on account of my children and grandchildren.
Unique among the creatures of this world, mankind has free will, a sense of humor and knowledge of our mortality. We answer the question: "How would you behave if you knew you were to die, or the earth would be destroyed, in two weeks ?" in several different ways. Aside from making strenuous efforts to upset that prediction, I think many of us would simply go on with life as per usual. After all, we all have always known that we have had a "Life Clock" somewhere,
The only difference for those of us surviving cancer, or other potentially deadly diseases, is, we can HEAR our clocks ticking. This changes everything; and nothing.
One change was the concern, support and sympathy I was now receiving from so many. Friends from long ago reappeared. Members of my congregation whom I knew well, slightly or, not at all, telephoned or sent me kind e-mails. Two knowledgeable members of my congregation spoke with me three or four times each week, and helped explain what my doctor was saying, or asked pertinent questions. I thereby learned a lot, and felt I was developing more understanding and, thereby, control.
I was amazed to find out just how many people, or their close relatives, had, happily, survived some form of cancer. And it seemed that every second person knew somebody who was being treated by Dr. Bruckner. There are styles of approaching a cancer patient, I learned. Some regaled me with their own tales or horror stories of treatments that worked, or, failed. Some simply offered sympathy, and then happily changed the subject to something " out in the real world." Others asked probing questions and offered advice. A few questioned why I was out in Brooklyn, a tedious trip for me each week, and for them. Each style has merit, but when one or another made me uncomfortable, I simply begged off. I realized that I had to protect my own psyche.
The first few week home, I remained indoors, depending on my Home Health Aid for breakfast, helping with medications and shopping. But as I grew stronger, I began to resume aspects of my former life. By one of those quirks, called Fate, Serendipity, Kismet, Karma or, Bashert, I had run two workshops in Mosaic Tile Art in Manhattan, for a group called, "The Creative Center for Women Living with Cancer." Some of these ladies were totally "cured," were back out into the "real world," with powerful, positives attitudes. One or two seemed weak and distracted. One elderly woman was continuously weepy. I have directed several workshops, in New Jersey, Manhattan, Crown Heights and South Africa, and found these courageous women among my most interested "students."
The two Directors of the Center were themselves "survivors," so I now let them know of my changed situation: they invited me to visit them as soon as I could make it. On entering the studio the next week, both women approached me with opened arms and one said, "Welcome ! Now you are one of us !"
It is hard to describe my feelings on hearing these words. I felt warmed and comfortable, on the one hand, but scared and horrified on the other. These professional colleagues had only my best interests at heart, of course, but the cold reality of what they said was difficult. It removed any lingering hopes that I was living a night mare, that one day I would awaken and find all this gone, my life simple, as before. Inexplicably, I felt like Mia Farrow's character in "Rosemary's Baby," when she is finally, happily, reunited with her strange, Satanic offspring, but discovers the enormity of what she is facing.
In fact, the support, encouragement and validation which my friends at the Center have given is among the most useful and empowering I have received. I do not feel as alone as I had previously and I only marvel at the twist of Fate, Serendipity, Kismet, Karma or, Bashert that originally brought me to the Center.