One year ago, I was hovering in the space just before my very last chemotherapy treatment.  I had no idea what laid beyond that sixth round – and if you had told me there is a pretty solid chance I: (a) wouldn’t have believed you and (b) would have been completely incapable of handling the news.  I was already playing around with the idea that I might not do the recommended maintenance chemotherapy – and had made up my mind that I certainly wouldn’t do the entire prescribed year.  But I don’t think I was in a place yet where I could have gotten my mind around the idea of saying no to additional treatment in the face of an “incurable” diagnosis.

Is this thing on?

*   *   *

I needed some time.  Some space.  I had to learn the hard way that when you take to painting your emotions all over the internet – when you crack your heart wide open and provide whoever wishes one an inside view at the goriest year of your life – you can create a false sense of intimacy and a level of expectation that you weren’t really planning on. 

I haven’t written in a while.  There are several reasons for that.  Its been a bit of an odd time, the last few weeks.  I have always been a person who is fairly attached to dates, so the memories of what was going on a year ago have been sweeping in hard and fast and with incredible depth and its taken a significant amount of energy to process that.

Sweet Isla Grace.  Welcome.

Welcome to this lifetime.  To this miraculous place.  It is miraculous not because it is perfect, or constantly joy-filled.  It is miraculous not because we’ve finally achieved Heaven down here or even because we have managed to find a way to act with compassion and love 51% of the time.  And its not miraculous because love always wins. 

“They give you two weeks,” he says and many of us half-laugh.  It’s the laugh of those who know something is true, even while wishing it wasn’t.

We are discussing grief and its various manifestations and complications.

And the trouble that comes with the necessity of reentering the “real world” at some point after a trauma sweeps us off our feet.

“So what did you do this weekend?”

I had two issues with answering this question honestly.  First, we were tucked in the middle of a crowded coffee shop and I wasn’t sure how prepared I was to be overheard on the subject of how I spent my weekend.  Second, the friend asking the question was not only a new friend, but a pastor too.  I was treading into completely new territory with him, and I wasn’t entirely sure how the honest answer would go over.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my diet these days.  Whether it has to do with why nothing on a particular menu works for me or why I need to know if there will be a refrigerator at my location, people are really curious when they start to realize how much time and effort seems to go into the food area of my life right now.

“Do you feel okay?”

I am struggling to stand up from my lounger by the pool.  Its an overcast afternoon in Tucson, and I am taking the chance to do some reading in the fresh air without the risk of burning up.

“My bones hurt.  It’s a chemo side effect.”

“Isn’t that over yet?”

“You have been through an initiation, a burning down,” she tells me again from her perch in the corner of the sacred space we are gathered in.  My body feels full, for lack of a better word.  Plump.  Not in an uncomfortable way, but in the way I imagine a water balloon that has been given just the right amount of water must feel.  And I nod.  Because this is quite possibly the perfect word for this last year.

Initiation.

“I don’t think you needed any chemotherapy at all, to be honest.”

He tells me this as we are camped out in my neighborhood’s newest restaurant, sharing spanakopita that does not fall within any part of my restricted diet but which is so incredibly delicious that he insists I try it.  It is worth every risk that comes with putting it into my mouth. 

“You don’t think I needed any at all?” I question as I tuck my feet up beneath me and reach for my lemon water.  “Any?”