Saturday, October 29, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #408

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy and I have recently returned from visiting our siblings. All live in the Memphis area. I have three brothers, one older, two younger, and a sister who was born the spring I graduated from high school. Buddy has an older brother and a sister. Two of my brothers are widowers and among the jobless. Three of our brothers are not in good health.

During the long drive, Buddy and I talked about bucket lists, those things you would like to accomplish before you “kick the bucket.”

The term “bucket list” was popularized by a 2008 movie with that name. It was a comedic drama about two terminally ill men who go on a world-wide trip with a wish list of things they wanted to do before they died.

I can identify. Probably you can also. If I were to die today, I have no regrets…a few wishes maybe, but nothing more. I have lived longer and better than I deserve.
There are some things I’d like to do for the first time and a few experiences I’d like to do again.

On this trip home, Charles Lester and I took a leisurely horse ride on his farm, just the two of us. We are four years apart in age and share memories of an impoverished, yet rich childhood.

I am glad there wasn’t a movie camera around when Charles struggled to heave me onto the saddle. My old knees don’t bend like they used to. We rode off into the sunset, laughing and talking about old times. The saddle slid sideways and I spent some of the time riding at a 45 degree angle.

Charles Lester and I are the oldest of the five siblings. I am labeled as the smartest. He is correctly labeled as the craziest.

Our parents never knew about the time he took me on a midnight ride when we were teenagers, not on horses, but on a high-powered motorcycle that belonged to his friend. I hung on for dear life as he sped the rainy streets. Helmets? No. I didn’t even have on shoes.

It took a while for me to forgive him for waking me up one night with a realistic, wiggly rubber snake the size of a python. He chased me throughout the house and out the back door. Fourteen-year-olds don’t usually have heart attacks, but I think I had one then.

I probably had another one the moon-lit night Charles drug me along on a frog gigging adventure through dark Mississippi swamps full of wiggly things that don’t croak.

None of the above is on my bucket list. Instead, they are on my unforgettable “never to do again” list.

Most folks, who have bucket lists either mentally or literally, would divide their unfinished dreams into categories. I would have one for travel. It would be nice to return to Bermuda where Buddy and I own property.

When we honeymooned there in 1965, we buried a long-necked coke bottle in the shifting sand. We have often wondered if it stayed on the island or drifted to Neverland. If you find such a bottle with a note pledging ever-lasting love, please return it to the senders.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #407
Nancy White Kelly

Go to any town, big or small, and it appears that every business is either buying gold or giving flu shots. I got a phone call from my neighborhood grocery store reminding me that flu shots are available on aisle number one.

An appointment with my cancer doctor was only two days away so I decided to wait for him to give that shot to me. After battling serious cancer off and on since the mid-80’s, I still must regularly check-in for claustrophobic CAT exams, vampirish blood work, and radiating bone scans.

You would think I’d be used to all those tests by now. If anything, I dread these supposedly routine visits more than ever. You just never know when cancer, with a renewed vengeance, will again rear its ugly head ready to race to the finish line. I don’t fear death; I just dread the journey.

Thankfully I have been stable for many months. Bad memories linger. On a treatment day about three years ago, my doctor came into the chemotherapy room, gave me a darting glance, and hurriedly held an impromptu meeting with all the available nurses. Little did I suspect they were talking about me. Within an hour I was in a hospital bed and near death’s door with total kidney failure. Miraculously I recovered and was released from the chains of dialysis in less than six months.
Every time my oncologist sees me now, he seems puzzled. How could somebody with Stage 4 cancer survive two major bouts with the big C which included a stint with hospice? He quizzes me about health food I might be taking.

“Zip, zero, nada.”

Without fail, my smiling doctor points a finger toward heaven. In the early days I tried every herb and radical diet imaginable. During the intervening years I have taken every type chemo for my type cancer available. I have had so much radiation to my spine that I glow at night like a Halloween skeleton.

More than a Living Lady, I am a thriving lady. My oncologist sees so much illness and death that he is quick to tell me that I am a rare bright spot in his practice. He sees few long-term metastatic breast cancer survivors, especially after the disease has coursed its way through bones and lungs. It is as if my cancer has stopped in its tracks. The title of this column should be Journal of a Living Miracle.

The word “stable” is a wonderful word when you are in this battle. I don’t know why God chooses to prolong one life and not another. I am not more special or deserving than others who have fought or are fighting this tough opponent.

Today my doctor wanted me to have a flu shot. No problem.

A teen-age nursing assistant, obviously in training, appeared with a syringe. I don’t know who was more intimidated, the shot giver or the shot “givee.” My hope was that I wasn’t her first patient ever.

The young girl dabbed some alcohol on my upper arm and pieced the skin with the needle, not with a quick jab, but with a slow methodical push. It made me wish I had taken my grocer up with his offer on aisle number one.