Monday, December 19, 2016

Sad isn't a four-letter word

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear...
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve
Greg Lake


As I sat waiting for Sheri to bring the car around following our latest cancer clinic visit, I tried to root out what I was feeling. Sad was the winner.

There's a lounge just inside the front doors of the clinic, with a fireplace and a piano, of all things, along with some comfy furniture. Now, I would normally have gone with Sheri to get the car, but we were at the end of a truly unpleasant session at the clinic. The temperature outside was frightful, and the fire was kind of delightful, which is a great line for a seasonal song, but not so great when cancer has you by the mistletoe and is making you break out in cold sweat after cold sweat. Single digits, the wind whipping and the day-long sweats had made my clothes damp and going outside into a completely unheated car would have been... well... bad, to say the least.

So, I was sitting there and the usually innocuous, constantly present background music happened to be Christmas, big surprise. Say what you will about Christmas music, it is not to be ignored. This was Bing Crosby, along with a number of collaborators, including David Bowie. And as I sat there and had a lifetime of feelings pass over me, I realized I was simply sad.

I wasn't upset about Christmases past, present or future. I wasn't longing for my two front teeth, and I wasn't remotely interested in a white Christmas. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Sheri made some of those our first Christmas in Maine. The fact that they were the wrong kind of nuts probably contributed to the note she left with them for me to read when I got home from work at the credit card call center around 2:30 am: “These are the worst things I've ever tasted. Ever. They're horrible. Try some.” I did not, but enough said.

And sad was okay. We'd had a couple of pretty rotten days to finish out a pretty rotten week in my treatment. With this new regimen I'm on, I have found myself actually throwing up at some point during the week. I hate that! This week, it happened to be Thursday night, just hours before we had to be at the clinic.

So, I woke up feeling less than stellar and... wait a minute... did I just see my breath?!? And am I very, very cold?!? It took a little while, but I made my way to the thermostat to register the fact that it was 53 degrees in our house on a morning when it was minus 7 outside our house.

We use a heat pump as our principal source of heat, which is fine. But they don't really work all that great when the temperature gets too far below zero. We know this. But it was the first night of the heating season when we should have set our furnace as back up. Set up? We hadn't even turned it on.

I must confess, I almost asked out loud if maybe, just maybe, having cancer wasn't enough of a challenge; maybe having to spend seven hours at the center with two different chemotherapies and a bunch of other poisons being eased into my system wasn't enough. Well, brothers and sisters, evidently not.

But, on a positive note, and I mean that sincerely, without a trace of sarcasm, the car started and we were able to make it to the clinic, cold though we may have remained.

Despite the best efforts of everyone involved in my treatment, the day was crappy. I kept getting cold sweats; hot blankets came and went; and I couldn't get comfortable, no matter what.

But, eventually the session ended and it was time to go home and I was actually okay sitting, waiting for Sheri, listening to Christmas songs and feeling a little sad.

This is our fourth Christmas with cancer. I always have to remember that I didn't think I was going to see one Christmas after the initial diagnosis and before we settled down to battle my multiple myeloma. So, I'll take a little sad along with the joy and gratitude that regularly fill our hearts.

You know, probably the best Christmas gift I could get is the one that just came to me while I was sitting here trying to finish this column: no matter where we are in life, or how hard things may seem... we just need to be brave a little bit longer... just a little bit.

Merry Christmas.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere