“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 39: Why Cindy is Giving The Guest-Sermon Today

In our kitchen, we were telling Cindy about Zoe's recent chemotherapy treatment in Ottawa.

"Nothing has changed since the last one, three weeks ago," I said.  "Her condition is stable."

We explained that the same very small nodules that were in one of her lungs last time are still there, but they hadn't grown.  And one lung is completely clear.  It had had something growing in it in early December, but it disappeared before Christmas and had stayed away since.

"That's really great news," said Cindy, whose optimism is incurable, and stable.

Since I've known Cindy, she has been no stranger to sickness, death, grief, and suffering.  She lost her mother and one of her sons in a short span of time, but then she married the man who had been her boyfriend for a long time, underwent some soul-satisfying home renovation projects, and this past year, helped one of her daughters take care of her newborn.  (I'm not sure how many small children are in her extended family; she showed me pictures of the cuties once, and there was an ample handful.)  She makes quilts, takes vacations on the Carolina coast, organizes family reunions, reads avidly, and still finds small miracles to inspire her every day of her life.  Because of her outlook (and the fact that she's a fine writer and storyteller) the pastor in her church has invited her recently to give guest sermons.  She's giving one today, as a matter of fact.  Partly in honor of Martin Luther King, she is going back to what the Greeks said about spirit, and enthusiasm, and of never giving up hope.  Her message is to remember to keep "your eyes on the prize."

"You really think that's good news?" I said.

"My mother-in-law has had stage 4 colon cancer for four years now," she said.  "That's pretty stable."

Four years ago, after surgery to remove the tumor and much of her colon, Cindy's mother-in-law had a round of chemotherapy.  She began a second round, but it made her so sick she had to stop.

"Her stomach is lined with small tumors like plague," Cindy said. "They're not going away, but they're not getting any bigger.  They're just there.  Stable.  The doctors think it's a miracle."

"Plaque" is exactly the word I use myself when I visualize the nodules in Zoe's bronchial system.  I picture the kind of tartar you can get rid of with a good tooth-brushing.

"What's your mother-in-law's secret?" I asked.

"She's on the anti-cancer diet, for life.  You know.  Kale and other dark leafy vegetables.  Lots of whole grains and legumes and broccoli and cabbage and berries and fruit with lots of color.  Not a lot of meat, only lean meat like chicken.  The diet we're all supposed to be on."

"There must be something else to it," I said.  "For four years she's been walking around, feeling perfectly fine with Stage 4 cancer?'

"A half cup of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar first thing every morning," she said.  "I don't think anything wants to grow in that."

Zoe was wagging her tail as Cindy told this story. But then again, she really likes Cindy.

"Plus, she's almost eighty, and she still lives on her own at home.  She still shovels her own driveway.  She gets out every day."

(If you are relatively new to this corner, and want to read more about Cindy, go to Day 24: Zoe and Cindy, or, Meditation on the Quilt.)

I highly doubt Zoe would go in for daily doses of cider vinegar, but this story made me happy, just the same.

Zoe rolls on her back and grunts happily when she sees Cindy; this picture was taken a few years ago, when Zoe had two back legs.

Cindy and Zoe and Natalia on the quilt Cindy made for Zoe this December; photo by Tara Freeman

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