Unbearable Demand for Patience

I’m not going to lie to you. Lately I’ve had a lot of anger issues. It’s not that I run around screaming at people or bashing walls with blunt objects. It’s a slow, teeming displeasure that errupts in outbursts of visible frustration.

The crux of the problem, the god particle of the issue, the kernel that explodes every time is resentment about the unfairness of it all. It isn’t how unfair it is to me, nor the imposition of illness. It’s the toll that it is taking on my daughter. This toll is always made evident when my screensaver springs to life on my idling laptop. There they are – the pictures of Jordan at the height of wellness, her cheeks blushing with baby fat and her smile eviscerating any hint of abnormality.

My photo library is classified into two groups: those pictures taken before diagnosis, and those after. I see pictures from a trip we took together to Chicago and I think, “that’s before she got sick”. Then I view pictures from our trip to Hawaii and I think, “the disease was growing here”.

And thus starts the rage. It is here that I begin to argue how promising her future was, how she excelled at her studies, competed with physical stamina, and courted with obstinate charm. It is here that I complain about unfairness. It is here that I wail about the snail’s pace of resolution. It is in this intemperate, resentful space that I burst open like a shaken can of pop on a hot, humid day. It is here that I ask: why her and not me?

The anger surfaces unevenly. When things are very bad, it often recedes. Perhaps my mind has a shock system that allows me to filter out the really bad feelings when the situation calls for me to be upbeat and positive. Perhaps it is this very act of repression that makes the resurfacing all the more pungent and unexpected. Lately, I feel it a lot, and yet Jordan is agruably doing well. She is speaking with greater clarity. Her physical therapy is going well. Her body is handling the chemo without obvious side effects.

But sitting in the hospital with her for thirty minutes conjures gnawing indignation. Hospitals are horrible places. It is an irony that they are associated with healing. Everyone in them is sick. Ill emotional radiation swirls around the patients, seeps through the impermeable, antiseptic walls and saps hope from all around. It is hard not to be angry in a hospital.

Jordan feels it, too. Each passing day invites new irritability. Her emotions change rapidly. One moment she is giddy and playful. The next she is cross and vexes bystanders with hysterical trivialities. We shimmy back and forth on a volatile path of emotional highs and lows. The net effect is fatigue.

Jordan has a friend at CHLA, whom she met awhile ago on a retreat for pediatric brain tumor patients and their families. Her friend was re-admitted last week to begin an aggressive treatment. The drugs she will take have horrible, painful side-effects. In her case, there is no other course of action. Her cancer is pressing and extremely dangerous. Hearing of this made me realize that Jordan is lucky, in spite of the anger and impatience we all feel. Her cancer is methodical but lazy. She is not fighting for her life, she is fighting to be “normal” again. Despite the drama that daily unfolds, I must remind myself to keep my composure. Flush the bad feelings as circumstances allow. And hope for the day when I can see a photo and think, “this was after she beat cancer”.