“Then perhaps life, as it has a way of doing, suddenly hands us a great big lump that we can’t begin to swallow, let alone digest… What then?… Can we transform these calamities into assets, sources of growth and comfort to ourselves and those about us?” The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 113
Well, this last week has been the down and dirty of this process that started with the diagnosis of a brain tumor in Bill’s head over a month ago. To watch the man you have loved for 47 years drained of strength, to see him lying there helpless, with no hair, radiation burns on his forehead, his heart racing at 166 bpm, short of breath; it becomes clear, too clear that this is serious and life threatening.
The first go round with the discovery of the brain tumor and lung cancer was almost glamorous compared with this reality. His whole being has been beaten down by twelve days of whole brain radiation, the withdrawal from the anti-seizure and steroid meds and recovery from brain surgery one month earlier. What next? How about a massive blood clot in his left leg? How about embolisms in both lungs? These put him flat on his back in Critical Care for seven days, IV tubes in both arms, a heart monitor and oxygen tubes in his nose.
He tells me, “Be the gift!’ This phrase keeps running through my mind. “How can I be the gift when I have this going on?” is my first thought and then my second thought is that this is a gift, not the gift I wanted but a gift none the less, part of the great adventure. It appears thatI get to practice the spiritual principles here and now. God bless everyone—no exceptions.
“Please, no visitors,” He asks, “I just do not have the strength right now.” There are so many people who offer to do anything, anything at all to help. What can I say to them? We must heal and find a way to “Be the gift”, to remember that we can practice the spiritual principles, even here. Bill gives a spiritual principle card to everyone who comes within reach. They all respond—“How wonderful, what a good way to try to live your life” and give us a big smile and maybe a hug. All except one, our own “Nurse Ratchet”. She refuses to respond to the light. And we have her two shifts in a row! How can this be a gift? It’s definitely difficult to rise to the occasion, I see him struggling and afraid and we have to ask for a new nurse. Sometimes it’s best to withdraw from the contest and allow others the consequences of their own actions. We do not have control over her. The Twelve Steps have given us a recipe to continue reaching for this seemingly unattainable goal.
Finally, eight days after admission, he has actually finished the last two radiation treatments and the chemo port has been placed for the continuation of this drama, we are home. We are so tired. I swear I am as tired as he is and we take naps together. Time to regain strength and grace. Time to heal for a short while before the chemo starts and we are asked to “Be the gift” once again.