Pick Your Poison

I drove through the pharmacy today to pick up my poison for the first time.

Pills, steroids, estrogen.

The lady comes to the window and staples it all up into one bag and leans into the microphone to shout, “Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant? I have to ask because you can’t be pregnant and take chemo meds or any of this other stuff.”

No, I whisper.

“What? Are you pregnant?”

No, I say, gulping this time.

“Are you sure? I am sorry, but I have to ask.”

I am not pregnant, I tell her. I have cancer. I had a hysterectomy.

“Oh, well, if you give me your driver’s license, I will send these narcotics out to you. You want your pain medication, too, right?”

I just look at her.

“No,” I say, clearly and simply, so that we can understand each other.

I have confused her.

“Just send out the others,” I say.

“You’re not pregnant?”

“No, I am not pregnant.” I promise.

It’s an exchange that exhausts me, but all I have to do is put my flex card in the little drawer, and then out pops all my medications. I don’t have to give her money. It doesn’t come out of my bank account. It’s just there, taking care of me, letting me buy poison that promises to cure me. I am grateful for the flex card that just lets me drive away.

Usually we use the flex card to pay for the dentist, so I make a joke about having cancer so I don’t have to go to the dentist this year.

The rain starts as I drive away, and by the time I am home the fever is back.

It poisons me that fast.

I didn’t do too much today. I really didn’t.

I slept until nine.

The 25 month old toddler graduated SoonerStart today, scoring about 30 months on everything, except social skills. She scored just barely behind at 24 months on that one, but they said she is catching up now that visits are suspended. She started out almost ten months behind on everything! I am so proud of her! It’s also a relief to be released from one more appointment every week. Our life really is calming down.

And I was calm. I just sat in my chair. Nathan ran around with her, tickled her, and played in a box with her. But I just sat there, resting.


Our caseworker came, and I stayed in my chair, and somehow we passed our home study renewal, cancer and all.

She said it’s because we did our medical tests in May, and winks at me.

So now we are ready for the adoptions, or to continue fostering, or whatever combination of that unfolds.

But I stayed in my chair.

Just as she was leaving, a friend dropped off a backpack full of school supplies for Five! It is amazing, and I will take pictures later when he sees it. He will be so excited!

I slept, then.

I stayed in my chair all day, resting, except for my big walk to the kitchen and to take Nathan’s picture. There was no walking in the neighborhood again today. I didn’t feel well, and didn’t feel strong, and knew just to rest.

I only knew, though, because there was an Emily intervention last night.

One of my “fathers” sent me a reminder that even without cancer, a hysterectomy takes a full six months to feel normal again. And Nathan reminded me that I had more work done than just that, as they chiseled out all that extra stuff and pulled out the cancer. Another friend even tried to play scriptures on me, quoting Ecclesiastes and about there being a season even for rest. My “father” reminded me to pace myself for a marathon, and that this is not the time for sprinting. Nathan said to be still, and know that my Father-in-Heaven is God, and my “father” said to listen to what He is trying to teach me during this time.

So I got schooled, in the most tender way.

I didn’t mean to do too much. There is just so much I want to do. There is so much I want to do, and fear that if I do not do anything then I won’t be able to do anything. Also, compared to before, I felt so much better! So I wanted to escape while I could, walk while I could, breathe while I could.

And I am glad I did.

Even if I am secretly relieved to know I am not failing if I can’t do so much as I think I should be able to do.

I also know I was just being naughty, trying to take control in the few places I could because there is so much I have no control over.

Like picking which poison to take, and pretending fruits and vegetables will make it easier.

And so now, when the poison has arrived for round two, I at least have sunrise walks and yummy juices to look forward to, and to remember.


Because the truth is, this whole mess is really scary.

And the truth is, this whole mess is really hard.

And the truth is, cancer hurts.

And the truth is, chemo makes me sick.

And so I cry.

I heave and thank God I don’t have staples still, and that my stitches are out, though it feels like a knife ripping up and across and swooshing through me.

And I sit in my chair where I am supposed to be, and I cry and cry and cry.

My tears are hot again, and that’s when I know the fevers are back.

Nathan comes and gives me a blessing and reminds me the stake president authorized me to cry. It makes me smile. He looks at me and tells me we have promises that mean we do not have to be afraid, even though this is scary.

I realize I wasn’t pushing too much because I was afraid to be still.

I was pushing too much because I knew I was racing against time.

Nathan’s parents are back in town, and they go to get the kids. Nathan is making them all dinner, and it is the smells of Israel that woke me. He used my spices to make me smile and try and bring some comfort and hold something down.

I sit, writing to process my emotions before the fevers get the best of me.

Because I refuse to go into this afraid.

I go into this, I tell myself, by choice, to choose wellness, to descend into the worst of unwell so that I will know what wellness means, so that I can choose wellness well.

I go into this choosing the poison that will save me, they say.

And I know a Friend who did just that, enduring the suffering that brought life.

That’s why, for round two, I begin to sing verse two:

2. Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell–
All is well! All is well!

And soon we’ll have this tale to tell-
All is well! All is well!

Posted in Healing, Health permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Pick Your Poison — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you again for your words of courage. I wander through my own fearful woods and you have again given me a map to lead me through. ALL IS WELL.