Thursday, November 11, 2010


"Angels and ministers of grace defend us. Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned, Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked, or charitable, Thou com'st in such a questionable shape, That I will speak to thee.”

Dear Joe,

This is your "official" notification that John Doe’s time with the ChemoAngels program is at an end as he is not receiving chemo at this time. His last scan results were good - isn't that good news?

I belong to a program called Chemo Angels. It’s simple really. You volunteer to guide a patient through their journey with little notes of inspiration. It’s a job that could last weeks, months or longer. There's no pay save for the fact that you may make a difference in a stranger's life.

Once a week you send a ‘note’ to your patient. Just an outside tag saying you are thinking about them. It could be humorous. It could be nostalgic. There are rules, however. You can’t ask about their status personally. You can ask through the organization however. You can’t be ‘depressing’. You know – “Well, you think you have problems? Let me tell you about mine…”

My patient must now learn to fly. It’s a tentative flight at best. I can’t really tell him this because it would break the rules but I want to scream the warning – Watch out for the cliff. Science is done with you. The hordes of doctors, nurses, rehab clinics…all gone. The storm is in your face and your toes will barely break the cliff’s edge. Time to fly. Your sand timer has been turned over. You get a reset button. How long? I don’t believe in fate but it waxes poetic to say fate will decide.

My run was tough today. I adore running in cooler weather as opposed to the summer heat. This time of year, though, the elements throw more than warm rain and sun. Wind, misting ice, leaves, everything.

I drove into my downhill trying to gain as much momentum as I could. When I turned the corner, I started my uphill climb. I can’t dwell on it much. It feels like it is at a forty-five degree angle.

My patient popped into my head. He has to go it alone now. After radiation, chemo and limb-severing surgery, he has to swim solo.

My strides grow smaller and I lean into the hill. My ungloved hands swell in the cold wind. One step at a time. That’s how he has to go from now on. One step. Deal with what he knows now, not 2 days from now. He's clean right this minute - right now. I want him to grab onto that and clutch it tight. Let no one take that away from his present moment.

I am halfway up the hill. I often wonder if the neighbors are looking through their windows at this nut running uphill, into the wind. My lungs are maxed. I am leaning into the hill but I still have to keep my torso straight. More air gets into your lungs that way.

My patient will have many hills to climb now. I supposed we all do. Most likely, I will never meet him. His universal path lies elsewhere.

I begin to crest the hill. This is good because my hips are protesting and my calves are looking for a golf cart.

The wind is actually pushing me down the other side of the hill and for a brief moment, I feel like a kid being pushed in a cart at the store. You want that energy to last forever.

I just hope I pushed my patient’s cart hard enough…

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