At 11:30 the class leaves the machine room and walks through the men's exercise machine room, through the entrance and past the pool. Up the stairs, and looping around small offices twisting and turning as we follow the hall to a larger room where one of the members starts setting up chairs in a circle. We each take our chair. Bands are passed to each member. The trainer takes us through a sitting yoga class/AA meeting. Everyone in the room has drugs and prescriptions, some are still on chemo or going back onto chemo, as far as I can see, no one is facing addiction. Everyone at this meeting has cancer. I think all of us have a port.
Some quietly stretch, others chatter with their neighbor or the group. There is a young man, maybe a year or too older then Christopher. There are more woman then men, but only by a few. The mean age is probably near my own. The instructor is the daughter of the head of the program. She looks like her mother. She has her slim runners body, her eyes, her kindness and easy smile. This group, this family, this support of people going through the same thing differently has all come together to feel better. Or maybe to heal, or to not be alone. To be with others like themselves. And we flex and stretch. We look at each other.
We openly look at each other, into each others eyes. There is no fear as we look so directly into each other. We are all living. We are all living with cancer. Some know that they do not have much longer to live. Others, like myself thought we would not see our next birthday. But now, we know we are going to live, but we still don't know how long. Will we be be going along just fine and then quicker then time to think reach out and be gone? Will we continue to be like this for so long that we forget that we have cancer, that we are Stage 4, that we are dying.
We know everyone is dying. We know that we are all walking a line between life and death. We have come to this exercise class to be part of this project. To reach a personal goal, to maybe push our death so far away that we might be able to forget.
I don't see any fear, I see pain in some eyes. I see resignation in others, but mostly I see humor and hope. I feel very comfortable with these stranger friends. These people who will become a part of my life. It doesn't matter how long. That does not enter our minds. We murmur good wishes to one who will travel today to Gainesville for chemo. You can tell by his shoulders he is not looking forward to the trip or the treatment. We listen as another says that he got his results back from his last scan and there is another tumor on his left lung. We do not say we are sorry, we know that this is not news he wanted, but he is not sorry. All of us here would rather know what we are up against. We have all accepted what is going on. We are not in denial.
We breathe through our exercises, each pushes themselves to where they are comfortable. It is not about how far you stretch or push, it is about being there. For ourselves and for each other. We also know that we are part of a movement that is spreading but still not common place. It is only beginning where Oncologist and Physical Therapist and Exercise Specialist come together with the understanding of the benefits of moving and cancer.
I leave the chair yoga class and don't feel like I have pushed myself far enough yet. I go back down to the exercise room and get on a treadmill. I just want to walk a mile. I want to learn about the pieces of equipment. There are so many of them, and so many things to learn. I get on the treadmill and 20 minutes later I know more about this piece of equipment. I have not pushed myself as far as I would normally push, but I have had a good morning.
I leave the Y and go to Wal-mart to get some workout clothes. Nothing fancy, whatever on sale will be just fine. I find what I need and get some chocolate milk, bananas and peanut butter. I heard an interview on NPR where they talked about how people who drank chocolate milk after exercising had the quickest recovery of their muscles. I really don't think I fit that category, but hey what the heck?!?! I know I need to eat something, but I am really not hungry. Mary had shared a banana with sunflower butter on it with me the other day. It was wonderful so I made due with what was available. It was perfect.
I drove over to the Oncology Center and participated in a seminar about cancer and movement. it was very interesting, and in some ways just seemed like commonsense. In other ways, exercising while going through chemo? Really? During radiation which makes you feel so exhausted? Yes, statistics show that it helps in so many ways. And as each of us work through this program we are adding more statistics so that those who come after us will have it better then even we have it today.
What hit me the hardest was sitting in a room where everyone there has cancer, has had cancer or in some other very personal way has been touched by cancer. They listed side effects of cancer and how exercise improves these side effects. The one that impacted me the most was anxiety. I stopped the talk and asked, "Do all people with cancer experience more anxiety?" I know I have struggled with it, but I thought I was just being weak. What a relief to hear everyone in the room just take it for granted that anxiety is a part of this life. I said, but I have never asked why, or wanted to blame someone or be mad at someone over this little "c". I have just given into it. I have just got thrown on the train and have held on. The journey has been bumpy, a little rough at times, but I have never been alone through this process. I have such dear sweet, patient friends. Friends who have had to live with my anxiety as I have fought to act normal. The meds help, but they do not take the anxiety away, they just take the edge off of it. Exercise should help ease it even more. That is all I need to know.
I drove back to Monticello, not in my toy with the top down. No my toy is at the shop getting her groove back. I am in the Malibu. I need to give this dependable car more attention. A little wash job, some detail work inside. Vacuum the hay out of the back. It is a good car, good gas mileage, and with the room of a small pickup truck. Now that I have adjusted to the toy, this car feels a little foreign, but I am grateful for it.
And this afternoon the shop fixing my car will call happy with the surprise that they have gotten the car fixed early. I can come and get right now. I tell him how much I appreciate what he did, but I don't have a way there at this time. I will come tomorrow like he told me this morning. He asks me where I live, he will come and get me. I live in Monticello. Oh, pause, he can not come that far. I tell him I understand, that I am grateful and thrilled to know my car is ready, but that I can not pick it up until tomorrow. He seems disappointed. I feel as if I have spoiled the surprise. But what he does not know, is that I am relieved to know that my toy is done and ready to be picked up. There will be no worries about whether or not I am driving to St. George in a car with the top down. No worries. And this after the insurance people called me yesterday and told me that it would be delayed, they found more damage as they took the bumper off. More damage clearly showing that my story was more accurate about the accident then the person who backed into me. None of that is important, because I know that if Mr. Moon recommended this person they are going to do it right. That my toy will be home with me safe and sound tomorrow night. Ready to be packed for Sunday.
This morning was Ednarose's first visit to the Veterinarian. The two of took a shower together. She mostly enjoyed it, but after a while got tired of not being able to run and jump and bite and be a puppy, so I let her out, finished my shower and then stepped out to dry her. I called her name and she ran right to me. I grabbed her up in a bath towel and rubber her all over vigorously until she wiggled and yipped with bright eyes of joy. She is too small for a collar and leash, so when we left I wrapped her back up in a bath towel to take her to the car. She was happy to let me after all the attention of her bath. This was her first trip in a car without her brothers. She was a little nervous and wanted her Bob and Harry, but adjusted well.
She weighs 17+ pounds now, she is a chunk. Dr. B took samples and poked and prodded, furrowed her brow and mentally went through check lists. At the end she is strong and healthy, but has a skin condition inherited from her mother at birth that will take 4 months of medication. Medication that we have to be careful not to poison her. She had her first vaccinations. She has other meds typical for puppies her age. Dr. B oohed and aahed at how well she behaved, she smiled at her and took her time talking to me about each medication, about side effects and what is important to watch for.
I stopped on my way from the vets to say hello to Jack and Jan just back from their trip across the pond. I can't wait until they are all rested and we get to see the photos and hear the stories and watch their animated faces smile into each other as they keep those special moments to themselves, but share so many others.
As I drove home I realized that I was going to have to make special plans for her for next week. My neighbor is going to watch over the dogs and cats and chickens for me, but Ednarose is going to need special care. I called my friend from the garden club that boards animals and talked to her. Of course she could take care of her. No problem about the meds. We hung up and she emailed me the forms to complete and send back to her.
Pets are not allowed at the Moondance cottage, and trying to sneak in a 10 week old biting, chewing, howling, peeing, pooping puppy into a stilt house and not cause general havoc, and give me the space to relax with no worries? Not going to happen. I am so grateful for my friend who I know will take excellent care of my baby.
Ms Judy came by for a visit. I am always happy to have her stop by. She is well versed in so many subjects and can talk and discuss just about anything. She is curious, thoughtful and intelligent, and it is nice to have her here in Monticello. For both of us to end up here and then to stay here after our retirements. To get to know each other even better after having been friends for 20 years, this is special. And it is special to get to work together at the Opera House. To have her knowledge, friendship, love and support as I weave through this journey.
And next week we will be two of the friends who will move into the Moondance cottage and share a week at the beach. We will have a birthday to celebrate the weekend we get there, and another the weekend we leave. The birthday girl from the second weekend asked if Ms Moon would make pizza for her on her birthday? Judy asked her if she wanted to go out for fresh seafood? No, Ms Moon's pizza please. How about an oyster roast? No thank you, Ms Moon's pizza please. And so Judy stopped by the Moon's and made the arrangements from the ever darling Ms Moon who of course agreed readily to do so. It will be a night of looking at stars and sitting together laughing and talking in the kitchen as Ms Moon spins her magical pies. It will be the beginning of the end of our week together at the beach and I am sure that their will be rum involved. Maybe tequilla, maybe pyracantha. Who knows what innocent craziness and silliness we will get into. But we will each at separate times look around the room at these friends, old and new who have come together on this island and remember that moment. The smell, the light, the laughter, the faces, the love, the moment.
For most of us this is a coming home of sorts. A return to memories from our youth. And now as we step each day closer to becoming old women, we do it together. Each in our own way, each with our own challenges, each of us with the support of the rest of the woman around us. And we will know that beyond that room watched over by a waning moon and a sky filled with stars, that other places on this planet we each have dear beloved ones that are being watched over by the same moon and stars. And as the moon wanes then waxes and our lives continue and we leave this little cottage, the Moondance, we will look back at these moments. But we will look forward to more. More life, more time together, more friends, more nights on St. George celebrating time passing.
Even now as I sit her in my red chair, aware that I have such few memories compared to the others from last year, that I am happy to be here in this moment, and happy to look forward to the moments I know will come. That will be new, and known, comfortable and unpredictable.
I talked to Ms Moon as Ms Judy left and I felt so grateful to have these woman in my life. And now as I close this post and look toward my bed that will be filled with my animals and sleep and dreams that I am grateful for everything. For all of it. Not because the bad makes the good better. No, at this moment, with anxiety quiet for now, it all seems good.