One day we are in France, 9 days later we were in the emergency room in Toronto. We learned Clo has stage 4 breast cancer that has metastasized to the liver and spine and hip and she has shadows on her lungs. She is in bed now, unable to eat, barely able to walk. Friends, family, colleagues, many, many we do not even know, have written, phoned, brought in food, sent love, prayers and meditation, given support and amazing care and kindness.
Through love and excellent medical care, steroids and pain medication and chemo therapy, Clo is working on becoming energized so as to be able to plan American Thanksgiving at our house for 9 people. There are 12 expected for a week at Christmas. Clo does crowds well even when she is sick. I am more inclined to panic, but I have learned from her to hold steady and trust it will all work out well. Thanksgiving and Christmas will happen and will be magic and fun and loving and precious as it has always been for us. These family gatherings work well because Clo does head of the family and take charge of business with style and grace. (My oldest son Jeffrey said early on in our bringing Clo into our family circle, “Hmmmmm, I am not so sure about this! I think of myself as head of the family. Yet I see you doing it quite well!”) All of my adult children and our grandchildren came quickly to love Clo very much many years ago.
I am living in an amazing whirlwind. Clo has a shiny, smooth, round bald head, so today we went scarf and hat shopping. Later this week, we will talk with the oncologist for the first time since the diagnosis, to see what kind of progress is being made. Life has changed and neither of us knows what is ahead. Clo does an amazing job of being in the moment and getting as much out of every little second as she can possibly do. I worry. She distracts herself by doing what she loves: cooking when she can, talking with friends, smiling, gardening if possible and always making plans for the days and weeks ahead.
I continue to work and love my work and see it as an excellent way to centre and focus myself so I can feel balanced and sane. I think my heart has opened and my empathy deepened through this process so far. I learn from Clo as she takes command of each moment and fills all of them full of life. I watch my adult children and grandchildren as they reach out in love and provide hands on care. They take turns moving in and out so as not to overwhelm us but to provide the support and security we both need. It is a lovely and loving psychically choreographed dance as I watch each person take their turn and fill their role with grace and ease.
Clo has done a will. We have talked to a Realtor friend who has made suggestions should I be alone, or should Clo be unable to navigate the stairs. Together, we are planning an uncertain future and making loving memories. When the life of your partner with whom you intended to spend at least 30 more years is threatened, you truly learn to hold every precious memory close to your heart. I watch her in her garden willing each new baby plant to grow. I see her following the flight of a tiny bird that comes frequently to gorge on the seeds in the bird feeder she recently purchased while shopping with a friend. When standing outdoors tires her, she takes a small stool and sits down. Her bald head is uncovered and I hope she doesn’t get sun burned.
Love every minute of every day. If you don’t love what you are doing, do something different. Find out what you love and bring it into your life. There is no other reason for doing this life time. It is about learning to love, to feel joy, to like yourself and who you are. Breathing is good, smiling is great, laughter is healing, and bliss is possible for all of us. I am the holder of hope. I always have been and always will be. I will hold the hope for you and your relationship should you want me to do that with you. I have long known how to hold hope, and my skills are being tested and strengthened through this journey Clo and I have just embarked upon together.