The Enemy Within
The chair is as comfortable as they can make it, but it still becomes uncomfortable after awhile. The slow steady drip of the I.V. and the sound of the monitoring devise steadily becomes white noise in the ear. No matter what they say Im trapped here till the treatment is over. They have a T.V. for me to watch, but sometimes, no matter what, all I can do is think and wonder about the enemy and what its doing to me.
The enemy is savage and it has no sympathy or remorse. It fears nothing, not even death. Its very existence is predicated on death, the one it attacks and its own. There is nothing or no one as dangerous as someone or something that doesnt fear death or harm. It marches at its own pace, lying waste to everything in its path. It travels in the blood, the bone, and the very tissue of my body, a relentless advance eats away at all it touches, leaving behind nothing.
It is cancer, and like the German Army of World War II, it practices a scorched earth approach to its progression. Sometimes it moves with lighting speed, and other times it crawls at a snails pace, but it always moves forward with grim determination. The enemy is a rapidly and unregulated growth of cells in my body that rob my health cells and eventually destroys them in favor of itself.
At times its like a selfish child, it wants everything and if it cant have it then it destroys everything so that no one can have them. At other times its like a bully, it picks on the weakest parts of you beating it into submission. No matter which way it decides to act, it always pushes for the same goal, total domination of the body. It eats at you till you and it both die.
The line of I.V. that runs into my body carries a deadly cocktail of poisons that will stop the enemys advance, but it also, ironically like the cancer, lays waste to most everything it touches. Listening to the sound of the I.V. beeping, I know that once again Im beginning the battle yet again. I have no choice in the matter, I fight or I die, its as simple and as complex as that. No matter how tired or overwhelmed I feel, I must wage war again.
Its a battle Ive fought before, many time, and it leaves me battered and bloodied every time. The odds get lower and lower with each new war and my body gets weaker and weaker with each treatment.
I dont know why this has happened or when, but at some point a tiny piece of malignancy crept inside my body. It means to kill me, but I refuse to go quietly into that goodnight. I rage and focus all my energy and hate on the tiny invader that wants to deprive me of a future.
Like any war, you make friends with others that are on the battleground with you. Young, old, single, married, bi, straight, gay, male, or female you bond with your fellow warriors and encourage them as they encourage you. You form a closeness with them that only soldiers who have fought together could understand. You rejoice with each small victory and you weep at every loss. The older warriors explain the battle to the newer warriors and we all try to keep each other going. As in any war each loss brings home the knowledge of just how deadly the battle is and ones own mortality. The toughest part of the war is to watch the younger warriors endure the pain. Some are so young that they cant even pronounce the name chemotherapy much less understand what is happening to them. I was once one of them, four years old and still worried about monsters under my bed when I was told that I had a monster inside of me. Before I understood what life meant I knew what death was.
Ive watched friends come and go and learned that today is the only thing that matters. The promise of tomorrow is vague at this point and better left in the back of my mind. The older man beside me, Ive known him for years, is on his last treatment he says. He intends to stop treatment if this round doesnt work. Hes seventy-six and hes fought the enemy for twenty years and just doesnt have the strength to fight anymore.
My I.V. monitor beeps letting me know that this days treatment is over with. A male nurse, he looks like the Hulk but acts like a big teddy bear, comes in and begins to unhook me. He smiles and talks about all kinds of things, anything to lighten the mood. As he helps me into the wheelchair to take me back to my room, the older gentleman asks him a question and the nurse leaves me to go to him. I notice the mirror in the corner and Im startled at what I see. The image in the mirror doesnt look like me at all. That image has a gaunt face with eyes that look like theyve shrunken back into my head. My hair is still there, but noticeably thinner and my lips are cracked with no color at all. The t-shirt I wear looks like it was made for a giant the way it hangs on me, and looks about to swallow me whole. My brown eyes are flat and cold looking with no sparkle at all. My body, what can be seen anyway, looks like something out of a concentration camp video. Im stunned at the cadaver staring back at me. Im too tired to cry or even care anymore.
As Im wheeled out a young man in his Spider-Man p.j.s is wheeled in. He smiles at me and I smile back. With energy that could only come from God, I raise my hand and wave at him. Hes seven and this is his first treatment and I have to be strong for him. I must help him begin his war and train him to be the warrior he must be to fight this enemy. The nurse knows this and turns my chair around as they put the boy in the same chair I had been in. The older man, the boy, and I share a quick look and a knowing smile and it hits me then. I, for this one moment, this second in time, am looking at three generations of warriors, we are together and we are strong, stronger than the enemy, but more importantly we are alive and we are not alone.
Im in my bed ready for sleep. I couldnt eat dinner, I was to sick. As I drift off to sleep I pray to God and thank him for this day of life and for the gift of the old man and the boy. I was low and feeling beaten till the three of us looked at each other and I saw the face of God in those two faces. The face of God letting me know Im not alone and he is always with me. I pray for the two of them as well as the others on the ward.
As I slip into the dream world I know I will rise in the morning and wage the good fight once more. I will fight till there is nothing left to fight with and I know I wont fight alone.
Anything I could say, I said in the story. God bless all the warriors out there who are waging battle even now!