Hello there. It’s now September 2022. I look out into the backyard, and half the apples on our tree have fallen; only the highest fruits, the ones with reddish hues from having the most sunlight, are still clustered and hanging on.
Is there a metaphor there?
Do these branches, these still-green leaves indicate something about holding on? About how the low- hanging apples are at the most peril of being plucked? How the best is for the latest? How waiting brings reward? How, first or last, we all fall? Or how the length of your life is just luck, and, pick or plummet, you did the best you could?
Or is a tree just a tree?
We’ve been giving away apples by the boxful, the bag full — and this year I bought an apple peeler and made containers of apple butter, apple turnovers, steel oats with apples and cinnamon. Every morning I look outside, and as a mother I feel the bend of our tree’s boughs, both the grief and gift of her plenty. Who wouldn’t wonder? Why wouldn’t Eve bite? Who wouldn’t, seeing such circles and bloom, sense a desire to the bite the crisp sweetness borne by the summer sun?
This post was supposed to be a cancer update. I was supposed to tell you how I’m doing, the state of my health. But once again I am distracted, caught up in gazing outside, wandering and thinking about apples, or trees, or flowers, or coffee, or books, or cats, or anything else besides it.
I’m doing well. I’m still in remission, thank goodness, and slowly regaining energy. My stamina is much better. I am able to walk 30 minutes to one hour a day. I have started volunteering once a week. I’m still taking Tecentriq, an immunotherapy drug, once every three weeks, but if remission continues until January the oncologist has said we can consider stopping treatment. That I might be considered cured.
It stuns me that I am able to write that. I have metastatic, stage 4, triple negative breast cancer and I am nearing two years into stable remission. When I say “remission ,” I mean there is no evidence of active disease, (NEAD), which does not mean that I am disease free, but it does mean that I am stable. It means that there has been no disease progression. It means the tumors still exist, but are dormant.
It means I am incredibly lucky.
It also means that I am in an odd place emotionally. I have both tremendous gratitude and tremendous uncertainty. I am poised on, and practicing breathing into, a space of deep uncertainty. I am still unable to predict the future. Those of us with cancer know that remission is a weakly-patched wheel. We check it constantly, ready for the next blow. I will forever live from scan to scan, in three to six month increments. And this is good news in one way. In another way, this news brings fear, anxiety, and rage at life’s cruelties.
Always the sway: living, dying; famine, feast.
People with cancer have bitten an apple. We know things. There is a medical wrath that we suffer through. We face snakes, and worms, and sickness. Some of us aren’t sure about God.
Some of us taste, some of us spit.
We are curious and angry and in awe.
We hang on.
Winter will come soon enough.