Friday, June 23, 2006

Consider This

I have two things to offer for consideration. If you have ten honest moments to do nothing but wonder/ponder/philosophize. I know, on one hand you want to say Of course! who doesn't have ten minutes to just think?? But it's hard to find time just to meditate or contemplate in this hectic world, isn't it?

Anyway, query one:
Imagine that you're me and you've got about two years of "hard" ahead. No sugar-coating, chemo is difficult, saddening, painful; it sucks sucks sucks. However, there are the nebulous but likely silver linings: new appreciations, new clarities, new friends. So, what if doctors could put you in a coma for the duration of your treatment? You would sleep peacefully until March 2008 and wake up, weak but cancer and chemo free. Would you take the coma or the experience? (Not that I'm offered any such option, but it was something Evelyn and I were discussing the other day and I am curious what other people honestly would do.)

Numero Dos:
Remember back to when you were nine-years-old. You were probably in the 2nd or 3rd grade. Can you remember what you did for your ninth birthday or what you wanted for presents? I probably wanted some specific game or something for my bike or markers or something. Imagine a nine-year-old boy who, of his own idea and volition, asked his parents if he could request of his friends not to bring him presents to his birthday party, but to instead give a small donation to his "friend" who has leukemia. He composed a little letter explaining his wish and enclosed it with his colorful party invitations. And, after all his guests had left his pool party, when asked what his favorite part of the day had been, he said that it had been knowing that he helped someone else. I was/am still in such awe and admiration for Robert, Bess' little brother, and these actions he surprised me with a few weeks ago. I just wonder if even my current consideration of others could hold a candle; I know I wasn't that selfless at nine. Thought you might like to hear that story and ponder too.
Thank you Robert and all your good-hearted friends!!


Anai said...

Hi sweet philosophe,

Although it is tough to voice a strong opinion on your query because I have not had the severe displeasure of undergoing chemo, and the physical/emotional devastation that it brings, I have to say that I suspect and hope that I would not choose a coma. Way too much can happen in two years...people enter and exit our lives, we grow and gain new perspectives on life and our purpose here. There is so much to learn, painful and beautiful all rolled together. Maybe it is the optimist in me, I always think how wonderful it will be when you are healthy and feeling whole again, the adventures we will have and the friendship I hope to share for a lifetime. Are these just my selfish daydreams? The story of
Bess's litte brother is so touching, and such a great idea. I wish I had thought of it, or had another birthday this year... Missing you much, my love to you, Jaci and Lola. - AnaĆ­

adam said...

This post brings back memories of a February evening spent in the BW of Boston with an old-fashioned game of WOULD YOU RATHER scenarios!

I look to you, Erica - one who lives life to the fullest (no matter how tough the days) - and I know my answer. Stay strong!


Erik said...


I think Anai said it really wonderfully. Way too much can happen in two years. The hard, difficult, awful stuff makes us stronger. That's two years og getting stronger. (Physically weaker, yes; but spiritually stronger.) (Whenever I read a new blog entry of yours, I can feel your strength. Even when you talk about how difficult things are--I can sense the strength in your words.) (I just started to think about your post on meditation and how right on it was. That's a total tangent. Back to your question.) (Erica, oh my god, I am so unfocused right now. I'm sorry.) (But Anai totally expressed how I feel really eloquently and I'm trying to say it as eloquently, but differently, and, wait, okay--)

Do you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical? Have you seen the musical episode? Buffy sings this song at the end where she goes: "I touch the fire and it freezes me. I look into and it's black. Why can't I feel? My skin should crack and peel. I want the fire back..." and I kind of feel like those lyrics...if one COULD choose between difficult chemo or two years of coma, they would wake up and feel like what Buffy's talking about in the above lyrics--by missing out on the pain, you also miss out on the pleasure--

At the end of the song, everyone joins in and they're like: "we are caught in the fire, the point of no return. So we will walk through the fire and let it burn. Let it burn. Let it burn." All of this is to say I think I would choose the coma-free chemo.

Honestly, I think I would be too afraid of the things I would miss in the next two years.

I'm sorry this comment is so rambly and unfocused.

Bess' brother is awesome. That is SO rockstar.

Oh, and when Adam mentioned the "would you rather" game, it reminded me of the best "would you rather" anyone has ever asked me, but it's so dirty I am afraid to post it on a comment thread. It's really super dirty. But I think you would totally appreciate it because it's also pretty freaking hilarious. I'll ask you the incredibly dirty "would you rather" one of these days.

Love always,

artineh said...

Hi Erica,
Your first query is a hard one, especially since not having to go through chemo puts me in an outsider position. But here's my thought on it: after I read your blog and took the time to think about it, I was reminded of nightmares. (And I don't in any way think I am an expert on dreams or anything... remember I ran fast from psychology before I found anthropology). But from my own experience, when you're living the nightmare, (sleeping during it), you often just want it to end, whatever the cost. Sometimes, I have even felt myself telling myself to just wake up so the nightmare will be over. But when I do wake up -- and if the nightmare didn't have a chance to find closure, go through its (un)natural process -- I find I am much more uneasy in my conscious self and throughout that day. In a way, I think we need to experience the process, no matter how painful. It's important for us to see the end of things and how that end came to be. This end could in fact be the best thing ever but I wonder if it would hold as much weight if the process wasn't experienced as well. Using the nightmare as an analogy, I guess I would say I would rather sleep through the entirety of the nightmare -- and thus have the chance to experience it all the way through -- than to force myself to wake up, only to be left with an empty feeling, not having seen the process. After all, I think life is a bunch of processes and as sweet as the ends of things may be, they are empty without the journey there, no matter how hard.

and yes, I also agree with Anai... too much can happen in two years, good as well as bad things and it's too much to risk being asleep through it all.

stay strong hon.

TheDarkerUma said...

well, i needed a lot of moments for your first query.

i will answer you with my gut feeling. my gut feeling is that you can have both, metaphorically speaking.

you can feel all the ups and downs in the next two years.


you can not feel too. i have never experienced chemo or physical/emotional pain like you have. but, i have had to check out of the world at times because reality got to be a bit too much. and in some ways it was like a coma. not feeling. not talking. not wanting to wake up. just not.

so, although you may not actually have the coma option, perhaps there is a way for you to periodically check out (ie. meditate, read a trashy magazine, watch an ant carry a bread crumb- i swear it was one of the most satisfying and spiritual things for me, etc.)

also, on a selfish note, you have way too much to give me and everyone who knows you, to be asleep for two years.

secondly, robert is wonderful and takes after his big sister.

thirdly, you should watch buffy. erik's comment will make more sense when you watch it. or better yet, i will bring it when i come next.

love uma

Andrea said...

Hi Erica - this is Andrea Suarez, from Oxy. Not sure if you remember but we did O-team together. Anyway...I just found out from the Occidental Magazine class notes that you have lukemia. I checked out the blog and am truly inspired by your spirit. The amount of love that surrounds you says alot about who you are...beautiful both inside and out.

I'm sorry that I don't have any insightful comment to your first queries. As to your second one, children never cease to amaze me and constantly remind me of how much more I need to do.

As for you...stay strong and keep laughing. You know everyone's rooting for you.

P.S. Can you please e-mail me ( your mailing address? Thank you.

Sam Farmer said...

It's Sam Farmer (from Oxy, LA Times) and I just wanted to say hello. I had lunch with Jim Jacobs yesterday and asked about you. He gave me an update and the link to your blog. I found you really impressive when you set up that lunch a few years ago -- a great representative of the school.
Anyway, I just wanted to pass that along and let you know I'm praying for your full recovery...

Christina said...

Hey Erica,

I didn't really ponder your first question for too long but thought it would be better to answer such a question instinctively. I would like to think that I would undergo the chemo, emotional/physical stress and so forth, if I was faced with the predicament you are now in.

Great blog entry by the way, dear. I like it when people make me use my brain ;)


UNDRCRWN said...

Erica!!!! I know my first reaction would be to choose a coma because it would be the easier route. But, my grandma told me "sometimes the best view can only be seen by taking the hardest road" and I think this junction could lead to such a road. Life is all about relationships and experiences and when you're in a coma - you get neither and your friends/family miss out too.

Thank you for sharing your experience with such insight, humility, strength and passion. I am obviously not the only one that comes to this page to get updated but always leaves inspired.

BTW, Robert is the MAN!!!!

Much love,
Jeremy Castro

enid said...

Hi Erica,

I am reminded of when I found myself unecpectedly pregnant- with morning sickness. I almost never threw up, but it was always waiting at the back of my throat. I lost 10 pounds. People would say"oh well, it's only for the first three months". I'd nod weakly and think "but there are a lot of minutes in three months". Your situation is of course, much longer and worser- and there are really a lot of minutes.

LOve, Enid