After breakfast I would tell my mom, “I’m going up to take a shower.”
“Why don’t you leave that today?”
“No… I sweat during the night. I can’t stay without a shower every day.” A day doesn’t go by that my shower gets missed, even when I could barely stand. Especially during my treatments, the hot water on my skin was cleansing – cleansing of the chemicals that were being forced into my body, and helping me forget for a moment the chills and the sadness that enveloped me.
“So then wait for me, and I will come and help you. I could wash your back and feet.”
But I continued on upstairs, huddled in my cozy robe for warmth, struggling to get up the fourteen risers, as my architect had put it – but I had to raise my weak legs fifteen times to get to the second floor. I tried to avoid going up and down the stairs during the day, except for my shower and to turn in for the night. My mother always insisted on getting whatever I needed upstairs during the day, because she hated to see me suffer.
I unrobed myself, trying to avoid the view of my naked, skinny body. The washroom has large mirrors, so it’s almost impossible. The process of covering my feeding tube was a nuisance, but it was the only way to get myself under the soothing hot water. It wasn’t perfect, but the plastic bag I would tape to my skin did the job. Even when it got wet a little, the nurse would be coming in the next day or so to change the gauze.
The water created a mess of blood under the gauze, so I would use the hair drier to remove some of the dampness. The nurse often labored to detach the bloodied cotton gauze from my skin, apologizing for causing pain and discomfort.
I hung the towel over the shower door, and I wouldn’t step in until the hot water created steam. “Ahh!” The heat on my skin was too much. Making it less hot was necessary to avoid my sunburned torso from scathing. I was told not to wash off the markers penned in for radiation, but that they would undoubtedly fade. Since the stubborn ink never completely disappeared, the radiologist could easily darken the lines, without having to measure again.
Moments during our lifetime that seem large and that we feel define us, become smaller as years pass, leaving us with the wisdom to make us stronger – use it wisely.