Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Two-Day Rule

When I used to lift weights, I would refer commonly to what I knew as the "two-day rule." It means that after lifting, you can usually expect to be sore not on the day immediately following the lift, but on the day after that, the "second day." Depending on the intensity or duration of the lift, you might be sore the very next day as well, but generally I knew my body and could anticipate the length and severity of my soreness. That way, I was prepared for the necessary rest, replenishment, and recovery my body needed to get stronger.

Today is my second day removed from a five-day chemo treatment. It's not quite the same, but I feel like my body has been beaten. I feel like a couple of tough guys got together and roughed me up a bit. And while it wouldn't be the first time I've ever taken a punch, at least in the past there was someone against whom I could defend myself. Right now, I've got two tender cheekbones, my chest hurts to the touch, laying down makes everything sore, I think I took a few shots to the legs, and to top it off my stomach is a mess so I might as well have taken a swift kick to the nuts along the way, too. This chemo is one bully the likes of whom I've never crossed.

The real beauty is that even though this last round was five days long, they pushed the start back a day to get all of those tests and scans in beforehand, and since we're trying to compress everything to make sure I really have no recovery time, I'm already supposed to be back there a week from today. So, in seven days, I'll be tied to the whipping post once again.

I know I've marveled before at the body's ability to rehabilitate itself. We tear our skin off, and it usually grows back. We bang, bruise, and sprain our joints and bones and ligaments and, in most cases, our bodies can find a way to piece them back together. But it still amazes me that one simple mistake; one false move in a million routine patterns of seemingly functional insignificance could spell irreparable disaster. I mean, really, our cells divide and duplicate themselves all day long since the moment of conception, and all that has to happen is a "D" gets flipped for an "A" and the formula is ruined. The new creation is a tumor; a downward-spiraling, ticking timebomb of destruction in our brains or spinal cavities, and for some reason it isn't the same as any other kind of thing because our bodies don't have an answer for it. It just doesn't make sense how our bodies can be so evolved, yet so fragile and so vulnerable at the same time.

Where would we be without modern medicine? I was born with pyloric stenosis, which means that the opening between my stomach and small intestine was too narrow, so I wasn't digesting any food and if it hadn't been for a fairly modern surgery, I wouldn't even be around to be fighting this new and ever-more exciting medical anomaly. I don't even mean to joke about it; I'm afraid I should be a little weary of trying to beat this because maybe I'm just testing fate by relying so much on medical technology. Maybe it's just a matter of time before my body comes up with something ahead of our diagnostical capabilities, and then I'm screwed. I shouldn't even say that, though, lest I forget for a moment the monster in my bones whose wrath I'm praying will lie dormant for the remainder of eternity.

I've digressed so far from my original direction that I'm not sure anymore where I'm going with this. I suppose I could reiterate the point that as long as I'm still kicking, and as long as I've got a shot, things could always be worse. And that's a sentiment worth repeating. There's always someone whose monster won't go to sleep, no matter what Molotov cocktail of drugs and poison the medical miracle-makers can concoct to throw at it.

Good people, better than I, are doomed to such a fate. The thought of it just seems to drain all of the air out of the room. But it makes me want to be better. I know those people won't stop fighting until that final breath, and that's a lifetime's worth of inspiration for me. I will forever hesitate to take a simple moment in this life for granted, though it will probably take some getting used to, because I've never lived that way before. But, having thought about it, there's really no other way to live. It's all just too fleeting and too ephemeral to fail to take the time we do have here to try and be better. I'm going to be better to myself, more forgiving of my mistakes, better to those around me and to those close to me, because they deserve it. We all deserve it because if we don't start treating people better, nobody ever will. Nobody's going to do it for us, but if we each make that small adjustment to be a slightly happier, friendlier, more accepting or more welcoming individual, the implications could be enormous. Tragedy will still exist, and unspeakable misfortune will befall the few, but it seems like a no-brainer to me that fewer strangers means more friends and more love and that breaking down some of the other barriers that pervade our volatile social coexistence might only tempt fate to be more forgiving. Maybe it could work, and maybe fewer monsters would sneak up from inside of us. Maybe it wouldn't work, and not a whole lot would change, but foregiveness is still a powerful thought.

Forgiving my body its mistake won't erase the tumor it created, but holding onto that grudge and refusing to forgive won't get rid of it either, so it's a matter of the kind of person I'm going to be. I'd imagine that if those with gloomier prognoses than I can find it in their hearts to forgive their own conditions, then I sure as hell can, too. And if we could all learn to forgive just a little bit better, then fewer people might actually be recovering from an old-fashioned ass-whooping, or worse, the way my body's feeling today. That's something I'll gladly hope for.