Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Between My Ears

Life is surreal. Throughout my life I’ve danced atop a fine thread, dipping my toes into dreaming reality then wakeful reality without a seam. I wonder if I’ve said or done something out loud and should pardon myself or if I’ve really had the experiences I have. Waking hours ebb and flow into alpha, theta, even delta, then back to beta, maybe because I’ve not been blessed with consistent spells of uninterrupted sleep, maybe because life is a dream.

To feel truly alive, alert, and awake, I hike—swiftly.
It’s my way of reducing the fat between my ears. After relocating to the Springs in January 1985, I would head toward the mountains Saturdays and Sundays. In 1990 we built a house in the mountain to provide no-drive-required trail access, and in semiretirement, I’ve walked the earth in all types of weather, breathing deeply and smiling, almost daily for 11 years. Hiking is therapy. Sanity. Cleansing. Sometimes social, usually solitary, full of flora and fauna, and today it was worth $100 plus compliments.

One week ago, Tuesday, I had a follow-up biopsy, 13 months after having a hole chiseled out of my head. The surgeon had sought to release my most secret, creative thoughts and unleash their vast potential, but all he found was cancer.* Morpheaform basal cell carcinoma isn’t a typical skin cancer. It can morph into organ, muscle, and bone. Months after surgery and sporting a lovely white gash on my forehead, a large bony bump grew below the scar—an unsightly, painful reminder of mid-September 2010.

Fearing the bump was more of the dreaded C word, I visited Dr. Sniezek again. He is my favorite doctor, despite his digging tendencies. I like him because he quickly and accurately responds to my rapid-fire questions. He’s intelligent, honest, and fun. By 10:30 on appointment day, eight patients sat comfortably around his waiting room zoning out on Halcyon and donning bulging, white gauze wraps, primarily on their faces. When it was my turn, he was 99.9 percent certain my bony growth was not cancer, even though I told him I’d been losing hair like a retriever for a month. But his proclivity to not sending a patient out of a room without a bandage led to a biopsy, just to eliminate the 0.1 percent worry variable. The sweet receptionist, with whom I have a great rapport, could barely look at me when I came out to pay my debt. Ugh. Results were to be available in two to three days, so Friday was the latest. Got home. Hiked. Rested.

I pushed my sorry self outdoors Wednesday before book club. We’re reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth about being fully conscious. Upon arrival, I became fully conscious that our host was very sick with a cold, coughing into her hand, blowing her nose and not immediately washing. One of her viruses got away from her and wiggled into my weak, submissive nasal passage. I felt its tingle. You know the feeling.

Thursday I was worried, depressed, and I failed miserably on my daily home repair job: moving two door lock strike plates needed to lock the front door of this constantly shifting house. I save a lot of money doing work myself, but I wonder how much of my work will have to be redone. No word from doc’s office, no person answering the phone, no ultrahigh vacuum for virus removal in an unsealed system. At my spiritual, consciousness meeting Thursday eve, friends bathed me in white light and healing. Everyone knew I was okay when I drowned in love.

By Friday, day three, I’d heard nothing. Hiking didn’t alleviate my fear, and resistance wavered. My anxiety level went from six to 10 on a five-point scale. Luckily my Friday friend came over and saved the day with his always-unconditionally loving presence and leaving a message with the doc’s office.

I later stepped out of phone range for a half hour when, of course, the nurse left a 3:59 p.m. message for me to call her at my earliest convenience. She gave no word on the results, even though I had granted permission to leave intimate, vital confidentialities on my machine. Just call, she said. At 4:23 p.m. I returned her call and found she was gone—till Monday. Fortunately a new gal informed me that my forehead nub was the start of a horny protuberance and soon I’d morph into a mythical animal.

Or maybe it was scar tissue. At that point I didn’t know if I was relieved or ticked off that I’d been left hanging.

By Saturday, I had my conscious friend’s cold, a sore throat, drippy nose, and 12 pounds of fat between my ears from four days of stress, 10 of which still lingered after running three miles on the trail. Not wanting to bless my Sunday friends with a virus, I opted out of church, hit the trail, and missed a great music program.

Monday arrived and I had a plan. I decided to advertise for a roommate to draw income and cancel my health insurance to save $200 monthly. First, errands. I used a car wash coupon my girlfriend gave me, then my shiny, dripping car and I headed toward the recycled-home-supplies store. It was closed on Mondays, so we trucked northward toward the grocery. A block farther, in front of office space I used to rent with Dennis, my friend and work mate of 22 years, a grated trailer disengaged from its fork, likely due to carelessness on the installer’s part, and bounced around two lanes of traffic and a sidewalk before coming to a halt. I was the first one behind the guy’s white truck, shocked. I drive about 2,000 miles per year and, fortunately, maintain supervigilance on these nightmarish streets.

In the grocery store parking lot, there was Dennis. Before I could tell him what happened, he announced that he had heart bypass surgery a month ago. When the doctor told him he had blockage and would immediately go into surgery, Dennis said it was surreal, like he was in a dream, a very bad dream. This is the same Dennis who for decades has biked 25 to 30 miles a day. Tears flowed from my eyes following our long conversation. What was God telling me?

Safely back home and groceries put away, I changed into shorts and sprinted out the door with Shiloh the Lab. What a relief it was to be outside, not contained in a two-ton shell. I said hi to a neighbor boy (he’s 46, six years my junior), who said I looked great. “Pardon?” I asked, so I could hear him say it again. I gratefully thanked him, touching my heart, and briskly strode up the street.

Twenty feet later, I saw a waterskiing partner and friend working on a neighbor’s house. “Hi, Tom!” I called.

“Hey!” he said. “You look great.”

Unreal. Life can be a dream, a sweet dream when you most need it. (Maybe hiking is all the insurance, ah, assurance I need ; )

* See http://auntieeartha.blogspot.com/2010/10/c-word.html

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