In 1986 when Paul and I honeymoon in the North Cascades, neither of us is an experienced backpacker. On one leg of our journey, we arrive at Nancy Lake, at the far end of Lake Chelan at an exquisite campground along the water. After being in the woods and carrying too-heavy back packs, with blisters on the feet from ill-fitting boots, with campfire soot weighing down our hair, we discover that for twenty-five cents, you can slip into a sliver of an outdoor shower enclosure sideways and take a hot shower. We keep feeding quarters. The Yiddish word mechayeh, captures the essence of that immediate, delicious, entirely immersive, life-giving joy.

When you’re connected to an IV through a PICC line, it’s hard to shower. A PICC line stands for a peripherally inserted (through the upper arm) central catheter, which goes directly into my superior vena cava and into the right atrium of my heart. The insertion is done bed-side in a sterile field, in my case, a small heavy piece of metal armor—think mini chainmail, is laid on my sternum, to help guide the magnetic tip to the exact right place. It’s taped and glued down, just like all the art projects I love to do, and it boasts three oblong lumen that lie friendly and ready to work, near the crook of my left arm. One is saved in case I ever need IV nutrition, which I sincerely hope I do not. They save it because that parenteral nutrition is quite fatty so it becomes difficult to flush the tubing.

Because I’ve had chemo flowing in through this wonderful invention, and blood taken out for labs, I’ve been relegated to the “bird bath” method of cleaning up. A little splash here, a little splash there. But in my regimen, I do have some break days and today one began. The lumens are flushed and snapped shut. For a shower, the whole operation is wrapped in a plastic bag and taped down, much like you used to have to do to bath or swim when a broken bones were set with plaster.

The luxury of a long hot shower, after days without, was indeed a mechaya for me. Many of you know that in my true Piscean state, I love to swim in a pool or a lake, and that I end most every day with a deep hot bath. The day before being admitted I had a good half mile swim and later that night had my last bath for a long time, slipping down under the water where all my cares and worries slid away, too. Visualize me swimming!

And I hope you have your own mechaya today and every day: in the water, with a friend, eating some berries, hearing a sweet tune, standing stock still before the morning sun.

Love & Light from Fifty-Five Fruit Street

#leukemia #survivor  #pisces #mechaya #thriver