I don’t know what day of the week it is. My head is swimming in a haze of what seems like whirlwind smoke and I notice my phone is ringing. I answer it absent minded. It’s a familiar voice, probably my favourite telephone voice. It’s Dorothy.
“Hi…” She pauses.
“Oh hi Dorothy.” I reply a little anxiously.
“You’ve been very quiet lately…” She’s decided on this introduction.
“Hmmm…” Is all I reply. Words are just not coming to me at this moment.
“I saw Dory the other day. She came round after work.” Dorothy pauses again. “How are you? I’m worried about you. Dory told me the bad news.”
“Oh yes. You know, I was just about to send you a message. It’s funny you called just now.” I start blurting. “My head’s just not there for the moment.”
“Uhoh… I’m getting myself ready and I’m coming over.” Dorothy says firmly.
“Okay, that sounds good. When should I expect you?” I ask as I have a need to plan things in my chaotic life with three kids.
“In an hour. I’ve got a few more chores to see to.” Dorothy says soothingly. “Take it easy. Don’t rush yourself.”
“That’s fantastic.” I say rather monotonously. “If you don’t mind watching the kids, I could pop out to the Delhaize to get some grocery shopping done. You know, without having to think about anything.”
“Sure.” Dorothy agrees. “No problem.”
I set about my morning rituals rather absently. Somehow I found the shampoo bottle in the cupboard under the oven. For a moment I catch myself wondering whether it was the baby who put it there, or whether I myself am going round the bend. Some time later my doorbell sounds. How much later I sincerely do not know. Time does curious things when the mind isn’t at peace.
Dorothy bustles into my house and gives me a big, long, warm hug.
“Oh just look at you. You look terrible.” She says holding my face in her hands and eyeing me up.
“Thanks.” I answer in return. “I feel terrible too.”
“Okay, tell me everything.” Dorothy starts busying herself in my kitchen to put on the kettle. “How is Wim?”
“Oh Dorothy, what can I say?” Tears start welling up in my eyes. “His cancer is back. Or however you want to put it. He was cancer free for almost ten years. And now it’s back.”
“What kind of cancer are we talking about?” Dorothy looks at me sharply.
“Colon cancer.” I answer meekly.
“What do the doctors say?” Dorothy insists.
“Said he has a 90% survival rate if he goes along with the entire treatment.” I answer with my eyes still glazed over. “But I’m not sure he’s telling me the whole truth. I was Googling it, and found that if it’s stage two cancer, then the survival rate drops to 60%.”
“Trust your doctor on this.” Dorothy tells me firmly. “And stay away from doctor Google. It will only get you more worried. So what treatment are we talking about?”
“First 5 weeks of radiation and light chemotherapy. Then an operation to remove the entire colon. And depending on what they find during surgery, he might have to have a full blown chemotherapy cure afterwards for another six months.” I can hear myself recounting what the doctor said, but my voice seems distant, as if someone else is speaking in my place.
“Look, I’m not going to hide it from you.” Dorothy has a compassionate look in her eyes. “It’s going to be hard. Very hard. You know I’m always here for you. My door is always open for you if you need to talk.”
“Oh you’re such a darling!” I give her a meek smile.
“And if there is anything I can do to help, just let me know.” Dorothy goes on. “If it’s help with the kids, or anything else you need. I’m here and I have time.”
“You’re really such a sweet darling, you know that don’t you.” I tell her again. “Look, we’ve told all our friends that yes, we will be calling on people for help.”
“What can I do?” Dorothy asks solemnly.
“For the moment I just need you to be there.” I tell her. “Be you. Be fun. I need that. We both do. Some warm and fun-loving friends around us to keep our spirits up. That’s half the battle won, you know, when you stay positive.”
“Yes, and if there’s anything else…” Dorothy starts out.
“Oh yes, don’t you worry, we will definitely need you.” I continue. “Wim will need to go to hospital frequently. His parents are old and he’s an only child. We’ll need friends to take it in turns to go with him. He can’t go alone.”
“Count me in.” Dorothy confirms. “I have time. I can go with Wim to the hospital when you can’t.”
“Thanks.” I say lovingly. “It means a lot to me. I really appreciate you being there. All of our friends are being wonderful.”
“Don’t you thank me.” Dorothy busies herself to put a hot cup of tea on the table. “That’s what spirituality is all about. Helping those around you.”
For a moment, I feel comforted. Safe in my house with my best friend, a warm cup of tea and a hint of dark chocolate on a plate in front of me. Everything is going to be alright. One way or another, everything always turns out alright.
Right now is time for a period of downtime. I need to stop being busy and manage my feeling of being overwhelmed. I’m discovering that I am being driven by fear or guilt that I am not doing enough. It’s my way of trying to gain control over a situation which is out of my hands. To regain my equilibrium and clear the clutter from my mind, I’m going to start by simplifying my life by establishing limits regarding what I will and will not do based on my personal priorities.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.