September 1, 2003
Make A Wish
D J Arthur
December 31, 2004
When I first was diagnosed with BC - direct to stage 4 - one of the first things I did was to join some online BC mailing lists. I pored through the archives, reading all kinds of hopeful and strong posts from several years ago from women whose treatment successes gave me hope. Then, as I worked my way forward in time, very frequently I found posts grieving those women's eventual deaths from BC. It was upsetting, but I didn't really know those women, had never corresponded with them.
In the 18 months (today is my 18-month BC anniversary, oddly enough) since then, that's changed. I've had a chance to get to know several women who have died, and those losses have been personal. The first one that was really tough for me was Mike D's beloved Celeste. There have been others, too, but Sue O's death was like a punch in the stomach. I still have an email from her that I wanted to respond to in more depth. Now I never will. I've been offline for the last week while taking my daughter to NYU, and when I came back, I found out about Sue's death and those of three others I know.
I'm feeling pretty fragile now, with 18 months of continuous heavy-duty chemotherapy under my belt, with mets on top of mets, with 12 weeks of hard-to- tolerate Xeloda (I start round 5 this weekend), and with no recent scans and tests to give me an idea of whether this Xeloda hell is still working (but I'll find out more in about 10 days).
I just wanted to share with you the analogy that keeps popping up in my mind. I was a big science fiction fan when I was young, and my favorite author was (still is!) Ray Bradbury, whose writing is more akin to poetry than to SF. In 1949, he wrote a short story called Kaleidoscope, about a crew of astronauts whose spaceship unexpectedly explodes and throws them out into space protected only by their spacesuits, without a chance to grab jet booster packs. But they are all condemned to death, and they know it. Some are headed toward the sun to be swallowed up by it, some are headed for deep space, one gets caught up in a meteor swarm, and one is headed toward Earth.
At first all they know is sheer terror. Then they communicate with each other by radio, trying to find a solution, thinking about the things they never did, until one by one they either pass out of radio range or succumb to something sooner and unexpected. During this time, small meteorites pass through their spacesuits, severing a foot here or a finger there - normally catastrophes, but now just minor events. Sometimes they lash out viciously at each other out of their own pain over dying, sometimes they support each other. The story is told, as I recall, from the point of view of the astronaut who will die on re-entry to Earth, who wonders if anyone will see him blazing. It ends like this:
"The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed.
Look, Mom, look! A falling star!
The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois.
Make a wish, said his mother. Make a wish."
That's how I feel like we are - a crew that's connected for a while, each part of a close group, but each traveling our own separate yet often similar paths to our destiny, some surviving (unlike in the story), but others of us ending as sparkling stars for someone to wish on - a kaleidoscope of colors. Maybe some day someone can find a way to help rescue us.
DJ . . . making wishes
Kaleidoscope is in Ray Bradbury's book, The Illustrated Man, which has several other minor masterpieces in it, too.