I met someone who became one of my closest friends in December of 2015, shortly after my diagnosis. I have learned over the past two years how perceptive she is. She seems to see things others cannot see. I have experienced this personally. She calls herself an empath, and I believe her. I've seen too many examples of it not to recognize her abilities. Last summer, she told me she could see I was dying when we first met in 2015. She told her husband as much when they left our home that December night. When she told me this last summer, I had begun to feel like I was dying a month or so before. When I asked her what she saw, she replied, "a withering."
I see and feel this withering every day now. The longer I remain in hospice care, the more pronounced it becomes. I was tempted to place a shirtless picture of myself at the top of this post, but I decided to spare you that, and spare me the embarrassment. What few muscles I had are now shriveled. I look like an elderly man. I'm losing weight at a gradual but steady clip. Like a long stem rose a week after Valentines Day, I am drooping. I'm withering.
It's more than physical. You may have noticed I don't write as often as I used to. I feel obligated to write something every week or so. If I don't, people wonder if I'm still alive. But honestly, I'm running out of things to write about. I don't want to keep complaining about the foods I can't eat and how bad my nausea is. But ideas are hard to come by when there's no medical news. And there's precious little of that.
As the foods I can eat diminish and the pills I take increase, my desire to keep putting one foot in front of the other decreases with each passing day. I told my doctor how I was feeling and when I thought I might die, and she said she sees a slower decline for me. This was not what I wanted to hear, but I understand why she said it. My heart rate and blood pressure are still strong. My breathing is still clear. I'm still able to take the stairs. Other than cancer, I'm in very good health. Other than that one thing. Other than that one thing, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
It seems as though this old body will continue to hang on for a while. The steep decline I foresaw seems unlikely now. Instead, it will be a slow withering. My energy level is waning. I'm not up for attempting bucket list items like trips or even going for walks. I take lots of naps and sleep more than I did when healthy. Exercise is out of the question.
I still have rehearsals with the band Wik to attend, but at the rate at which I'm losing weight, I may not be able to keep that up for long after their show on March 16th. I told them at a recent band meeting that I'd keep coming to rehearsals for as long as I can, but I refuse to be The Skeleton In The Room. When I've withered to that point, I'll stay home.
I have an exciting, unexpected musical opportunity on March 17th, the night after the Wik show. I expect to be good to go for that, but after the 17th, I don't see any other opportunities to perform. Nor do I have the desire to do so after that. Even my desire to perform is withering.
My friend came over for a brief visit last Saturday. I told her how my work here is wrapping up. There is very little left for me to do. In a moment of frustration, I said, "I'm ready to be done." She called it part of the withering.
Instead of the picture of roses at the top of this post, I should have used a picture of the withering peach tree in our back yard. But I'd need one while it's in season to really show the effect. It was damaged in a snowstorm in 2003, and has never fully recovered. Roses wither much more quickly than trees. That tree continued to produce fruit for a few years after it was damaged. But after a while, it stopped blossoming. Whole sections of the tree died while others continued to grow leaves. Gradually, fewer and fewer branches showed any signs of life. This year, I don't expect it to leaf out at all.
It won't take me fifteen years to wither like that tree, but it's a gradual process. Much more gradual than I would prefer. But it's not like I have a choice. My relative good health was a bonus while I was in treatment, but it's slowing the process down now.
It's not that I'm anxious to die. But I am ready. By the end of March, everything on my to-do list will be completed. Then it will be a matter of waiting and withering.
I visited a friend in the hospital yesterday. He told his nurse about me, and I explained my condition to her. She complimented me on the "grace" she saw in me. I hope you see some grace in this post. Yes, it's not a pleasant topic. But I have to tell you the truth. I must bear witness. Today, I bear witness to the withering of my body, my desires and my sense of purpose. When April comes, it looks like I'll be adrift, with little to do and little to write about.
Maybe God has something planned for me that I know nothing about. I hope so. I hope he inspires me to write on a level I've never reached before. But it doesn't seem like that's coming. I feel like an old watch that no one can wind up again. One that keeps ticking slower and slower. But this watch has a really big spring. One that will take months to stop ticking completely.
My friend saw it more than two years ago. I can feel it all the time now. God grant me the grace to face the withering, and the words to describe it in a more inspiring way than this. #waroncancer #bearingwitness