I want to get away from here.
Far away from the emotional residue left over from my day spent caring for a 32 year old woman dying right in front of me, and her 9 month old baby in a stroller by her bedside. He is bored with the stupid stuffed tiger, a bell locked inside its belly, and he seems to be rolling his fresh eyes at me as I shake the toy in front of him. The baby and the tumor were practically twins, sharing a blood supply before he was born. His face is that of an old man, but baby style. I can see this baby is a Buddha, wise and present. A Zen Buddha Baby. No bullshit. It was like he was saying to me, “hey nurse lady, my mommy is dying and I know it, so enough with the fucking noisy tiger already, and what is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Most of the people I care for are dying. They are in some stage of decomposition, and the majority of these folks have some form of cancer. Fucking cancer, it’s like the Holocaust without a Hitler. at least not one anyone is willing to name. Carcinogens? I once asked a friend, “when are we gonna get rid of cancer?”, his answer was simple and profound. “As soon as we stop creating ways to give ourselves cancer.” Touche’.
We do a lot of “palliative’ surgeries, not “curative”, this wont save you, but it might make the living easier, perhaps the dying easier. They take out the tumor, and the recovery is plain hell, you get a tube shoved down your nose and into your gut, you will be kept NPO, ( nil per os, nothing by mouth, you go on a forced fast.) there may be infections, pain, anxiety, loss of dignity, maybe some chemotherapy and radiation, but hey, you might get to live a bit longer. Maybe. Maybe some people do go on to live happy lives, have a few more meaningful days, months, perhaps years with their loved ones. I just get to see all the shit, all the husbands, wives, children and parents losing big time. Losing a husband, wife, child, parent, or friend. I witness incredible and immeasurable loss, and on some level, I’m losing too.
Congratulations on your baby, engagement, job, house, lottery winning, and immortality. Oh wait, I’m sorry, did I say immortality? Oops, silly me! I was just kidding! You’re dying! But the good news is only your flesh and bones are heading south, not the rest of you, so relax. You feel much better now, don’t you? Good, so do I 🙂
Palliative care. Isn’t that what we are all doing anyhow? From the cradle to the grave? Palliating, or comforting ourselves with something? Food, sex, alcohol, thinking (my absolute favorite), TV, facebook, drugs, relationships, or whatever else pads us against the truth of our impermanence? Whatever puts some comforting distance between our “selves” and the raw messiness of fully feeling what it FEELS like to be alive. Not just when it feels good, but all the fucking time. To feel the eyes of a 9 month old baby who is aware on some level that the mother he just met is dying. Take that, human!
We are all dying. Sorry, but it’s true. The body is going to die, and we are all running around as if it isn’t a fucking miracle that we’re able to eat sriracha covered salads, drink South African wine, make love, dance, express ourselves with voices singing classic rock, with legs climbing 7 flights of stairs, with colors thrown onto canvas, and with hearts pumping blood without us even trying.
Life is a miracle. Life goes on. After she dies, after I die, after you die, life goes on, and on, and on, and on. Oblahdee, Oblahdah!
And it’s painful.
And it’s blissful.
And sometimes it’s all too much.
And sometimes I want to smoke pot.