I was moving on, getting used to a medication-free way of living. I was more than aware there was a seriously contagious disease that was rapidly approaching our vicinity. Somehow, though, I managed to distance myself from it — just like I manage to distance myself from actually, in my heart of hearts, believing I could get cancer again. I mean, sure. It is possible. But… who wants to live like that?
Answer: No one wants to live like that. No one wants to live with a sword permanently installed above their head. But this is something that cancer patients do on a regular basis, if they’re lucky enough to be in remission.
I was feeling cavalier about the virus, to be honest. J and I went to Costco last Friday, sure we did. And we bought a bit more than usual. But we forgot, or maybe pointedly avoided, buying paper goods (perhaps to our great peril now). I bought more bulbs for the garden, instead of toilet paper rolls.
And then… things started to happen. It started becoming apparent how our president intends to obfuscate and hold back needed information about this virus. People in our county started getting sick. All of Italy closed down. I know a lot of people in Italy, and it is the place I go in my mind when I need to feel at ease. Images of deserted places were difficult. Today, a friend’s image of rush hour Penn Station in New York looking far emptier than normal, chilled me. The world is starting to empty out, like scenes from an episode of The Twilight Zone. Out of a sense of obligation, I texted the nurse practitioner from the cancer center on the portal, asking if there was anything I needed to worry about beyond what a civilian might. No, came the immediate reply. Wash your hands.
Tonight I went to a stretching class taught by a friend and beloved massage therapist. I hadn’t been to class in a while, and it turned out I was pretty tightly wound. Spraying down my mat with disinfectant before class, not hugging the teacher or another class member I’ve known for years, that was hard. We worked on our breathing. Because we need to remember how to breathe, now, and not for any metaphysical reason. Breathing = survival.
I came out of class feeling less stuck and less bent over. And then I opened a message on my family’s WhatsApp, stating that a loved one’s nursing home had shut down for visitors this evening at 5 p.m., until further notice. As I started driving, the reality of that message tightened in my chest. Soon I was sobbing as I drove, thinking of all the people in the care of that nursing home, and how bereft they will feel, whether or not they understand the reason for their sudden quarantine. All the lonely souls lost in dementia and old age, and the devoted people who care for them, suddenly appeared in front of me like passengers on a ghost ship set adrift. It made me unbearably sad, and it led me to something even more difficult:
All this time, for years, I’ve been keeping this blog in order to explain my situation, to perform hopefulness in the face of grim news, and to show how many reversals of fortune one person can experience and somehow endure and survive with humor intact.
I’ve tried to get across the feeling of that looming possibility of the end of life that lurks everywhere for people like me. But you know what I have never wanted for you, readers? I never wanted you to experience that for yourselves. And now, not only can you — now, to stay alive, you must.
I can’t stand the thought of losing a single person I know to this horror. So sing whatever song you must to get through your twenty seconds of hand-washing. Take every precaution you can think of — and then add some extra, just for me.