When I first found out I have cancer, I curled into the corner of the couch, afraid to move. When J~ came home, he rushed to do everything for me. Why this tendency to treat me as suddenly fragile, like my body could not be trusted? When we recognized it, we laughed, and made a conscious effort to recall that I am not sick.
Okay, so I have cancer. But I'm not sick. I don't have to act like I'm sick.
After surgery, this kid-gloves tendency resurfaced. Of course it made sense at first. I was in pain. And then the fluid continued to build up in the surgical site and Dr. Z kept urging me to take it easy. But now that the drains are out (yes, the drains are out!) and I'm gradually recovering my range of motion. It's time to begin reclaiming my strength and confidence in my capabilities.
Tonight J~ and I were driving from one errand to another through a downtown area. Cars were slowing, people were gathering on the sidewalk. J~ slowed and stopped the car, rolled down his window. In the night glare, it was difficult to understand what we were seeing. There was a car pulled over, windshield utterly crushed. A man was rolling on the ground beside it, and in front of it, a woman knelt with her head down to the pavement. Someone crouched nervously over her. A woman strode into the street, fumbling with a cell phone, shouting to an onlooker to call 911.
J~ was already out of the car while I sat frozen. Perhaps I should stay put, I heard myself thinking, but then I snapped out of it. Cancer does not get to claim me so thoroughly. I can still be of use.
And so I was, calming the crying woman, encouraging her not to move, bunching my scarf as a pillow for her blood-soaked head, trying to reassure her across the language divide that her esposo/boyfriend was okay. She had a deep gash on her forehead, blood all over her face. She was crying, she kept trying to get up. Meanwhile, J~ and the cellphone woman attended to the injured man, who was also conscious, though more marginally so, and bleeding from the back of his head.
When paramedics arrived and took over, J~ and I returned to our car. We cleaned up and then gazed at each other in wide-eyed wonder. We still don't know exactly what happened, who was driving the car, whether these people were in it or, more likely, hit crossing the street. J~ shook his head.
"What are you thinking?" I asked him.
"That anything can happen," he said.
It didn't matter that the people we helped spoke only Spanish, that the man smelled faintly of alcohol, that they had, apparently, been hit by a car. I think I can speak for both of us in saying that we felt a kinship with this couple, with the shock and gravity of their situation. And I think we both felt lucky. Lucky that we were able to help. Lucky to understand how vulnerable we all are. Lucky to have each other. Lucky to be okay for another day.
Hug your loved ones. Happy holidays to you and yours. I wish for you many many more lucky, appreciative, okay days.