And a lovely city it is, if one must be in a city. I promise myself this, the next time I am there, I will have my new camera with me - the one I havent had time to buy yet! Since my last camera broke, I have missed taking pictures.......time to get another one and get back in the game.
I would have loved a picture of Jeff with his bald head. New hair, just a blonde fuzz of it, like when he was a baby, is growing back already. Very cute. Under his battered old leather hat, his eyes look out as blue and honest - and PRESENT - as they always have.
When I got to the hospital, he was already in his chair, hooked up to the chemo. I am always amazed at the oncology ward. One would expect it to be a depressing place, and certainly some of the people appear very ill and are in bed. But, generally, the ones who have graduated to the tilting back chairs are very chatty and positive. We exchange snippets of stories, symptoms, side effects, chat and laugh. The staff seem especially suited to where they are working. They must see a lot of very sad stories. Yet the main feeling in that ward is hope. Everyone is doing what they need to do to be well. There is great humanity in the people in that room, all helping each other through the hard stuff.
He is nearing the end of chemo and is tolerating it very well. He had a full body scan this past week.
"Dr. S. says everything is looking very good," he tells me. "I have the two chemos left in August. Then after that I will have one three-hour chemo every three months for two years." He sounds a bit daunted by that, but adds, "He says there will be very little in the way of side effects."
"Well, that's good," I say. "Two years hey? But three hours once every three months - you have come through this treatment so well, that is doable, right?"
"I guess so."
I am praying this will keep it at bay. They say the type of lymphoma Jeff has is not curable, but that it is highly treatable. They can keep him going for a couple of years - when the cancer comes back they will repeat the treatment.
However, for now we are focussing on this series ending, and life returning to normal, as normal as it gets for Jeff.
"I'm having some difficulty today," he tells me. "I have a lot of fear coming up."
"You do? What of?"
"I'm afraid of my mind," he says. I dont show it, but this amazes me. He has never said this to me before.
Jeff has been given a double whammy. He was stricken with schizophrenia when he was seventeen and has suffered with it now for twenty years. The last few years, he has gained a better awareness around how to handle the thoughts that torture him. But still, on a daily basis, he wrestles with the contents of his mind.
"I'm afraid of getting run over by a car, of all kinds of things........."
"A lot of people have that kind of fear," I reassure him. "But maybe not always to the same degree you do. Maybe part of your journey will be learning to make friends with your mind."
"That would be good," he says. "I'm afraid of losing control. But I actually do have a lot of control," he reminds himself.
"You do. Look how far you've come and all you've been through!"
He perks up. We walked down to the seawall at Ambleside twice this visit, yesterday afternoon and again this morning before I headed for an afternoon ferry. The minute we sat there, with the sound of the waves rolling in, the smell of the salt air, the sun on our faces, we both felt a blessed peace. I told him, "If I lived where you do, I'd be down here every day!" He is two blocks, if that, from the seawall. The water glitters before us, the sun streaking it with silver. The waves roll in and in and in, to the rocks almost at our feet, where we sit slightly above, on a wooden bench. Big ships lie at anchor out in the bay. Small sailboats bob about. Every now and then a seagull or two come keening past, their raucous cries making me smile. I love seabirds.
The trip was tiring for me, especially yesterday. I had been tired before I set out, so by the time I travelled from here to the city, then bussed across the city to the hospital, walked the several blocks from the bus stop, went back home with Jeff in the afternoon, walked down to the seawall, then travelled out to New Westminster by skytrain to where I would spend the night, I was exhausted. I began to feel strength fading at Jeff's and told him I was going to have to start making my way. When I got off the skytrain, I felt a surge of weakness come over me, like I could barely move my legs. By sheer will power, slowly, I put one foot in front of the other and climbed the six blocks uphill to where I would spend the night. But after a good sleep, I was recovered enough in the morning to carry on.
This morning, early, as I sky trained across the city, my thoughts were busy. Sky Train reminds me of the book by that name writen by Canyon Sam about what has happened to Lhasa in Tibet since China took it over. They have built a train right into its heart and now what was a holy place is a huge Chinese marketplace.
However, the skytrain in Vancouver is one of my delights when I am there. That and the seabus trip across to the North Shore. I looked at all of the towering buildings. Each window hiding/revealing a life or lives being lived within. So many stories. I gazed at the faces on the skytrain. So many STORIES! Each one likely as impossible to believe as mine. We raced across the east side of the city, where I once was young and so unhappy. Across the west side, where I would walk and dream my dreams of a freer future (which came true!) To the seabus. As we pulled away from the dock, to cross the channel to the North Shore, I saw, on the top of a tall building, a row of brave, dancing little pine trees lining the periphery of the rooftop. I felt as happy with my fifteen minute seabus ride as any wealthy tourist on the huge cruise ship docked beside the White Sails!
Jeff and I had a good visit this morning. He was feeling a lot better today and hadnt had any side effects at all from the chemo. Remarkable! I cant get to the city in August, but promised him a visit here in September to make up for it. I have made it once each month for three months. But in August it wont be possible for me to get away. However we fasten our eyes to September. The weeks fly fast!
I had the ultimate ferry for the trip back to Vancouver Island........seven decks tall. On the upper deck there are smaller closed lounges, with chairs all facing out to sea for quiet watching. The restaurant on the top deck had floor to ceiling windows for our viewing pleasure. There was a lecture by a naturalist on one of the outer decks. Wow. Tourist season has B.C. Ferries rolling into high gear. Best ferry I was ever on. It is called Coastal Rennaissance. If you get a chance, book your trip on that one! My mini-Cruise:)
Off the ferry, driving up-Island, past Cameron Lake, through Cathedral Grove, our old-growth forest full of sleepy giants, over the Hump, and out Beaver Creek. Home, with happy dogs running to the fence to welcome me, fresh blueberries and greens and a GLORIOUS bouquet from the farmer's market left here for me by my sister...........and my neighbor just brought me a piece of fresh salmon. It is good to be home.
Here is Jeff, in his jester's hat, before his hair fell out.........
And here is my humble little home, with its big sprawling yard. You cant see them in this photo, but my prayer flags are flying above the iris bed. I am always so grateful, after being in the city, to have all of this green space around me. I am soooooo lucky!
Out back is more wild space, that runs down to a creek, which has a resident bear, who fishes it for salmon in season. He ambles up and down at night when he gets hungry, hoping someone has left their garbage out. We dont tell the wildlife people. We like him! He doesnt bother us. One night in winter when it was sleeting out and truly miserable, I heard him howling and crying down at the end of the road. He must have been cold and hungry and very unhappy. Poor bear! I so wanted to take him down a blanket!
See my covered porch? That is where my porch swing lives, where I sit sipping tea and watching hummingbirds come to the feeders. I recommend a porch swing, it does wonders for inner peace:)
For those of you who havent already read it, here is a poem I wrote on my previous visit to Jeff in the city. It will tell you who he is, in his own words, better than anything I could write:
"I feel like an angel,
burning up from the inside,"
my son tells me.
We're in the oncology ward.
into his arm.
His hair is wisps now,
across his bald head,
like when he was a baby.
His eyes are still
as blue and true.
"I view reality with perfect clarity,
but I've become aware of another dimension.
When I look into a flower,
I see the whole universe.
I can hear the earth
groaning in ecstasy
and, in my body,
I can feel, with my heart of compassion,
myself groaning along with it.
It's a good thing," he smiles.
into his arm.
My son is an angel,
burning up from the inside.
And now I am going to make a cup of lemon ginger tea. Life is good and it is good to be home!