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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gratitude is Everywhere

I'm not in the hospital. I have had the good fortune of having a doctor who encouraged me to not be reachable for a week. Digitally check out. Enjoy a beach. Find my breath. We did just that.  Pictures will follow (tomorrow maybe)--
It was beautiful to be with Nitza for a week sans her blackberry, our iphones and any real connection to stress. I took all oral and inhaled steroids, did treatments and still struggled to breathe at times but laughed, relaxed and just loved being together.

We were on a very very poor island on Thursday enjoying a spectacular view from a private beach. Nitza asked me to get her a sarong at the local beach shop.  I did so happily. I was the only person in the shop with the short haired shop owner. She offered her island expertise and I chose a red flowered sarong. She asked me if I needed instructions for putting it on. I explained that it was for someone else and that by the time the instructions reached her they would be long lost, so it was best to leave life as is and just pay for the sarong.

As I handed her our agreed upon cost, she froze, staring at me. She said, "You have port." I nodded. She still did not move so I explained that I had a lung disease and was often on IV antibiotics. Her eyes saddened. She reached up with her left hand and pulled just slightly down the right portion of her shirt. She revealed a portacath, severely infected with a hole the width of a wire clothing hanger on the side of it.  She explained that it was infected... I nodded. She told me she had cancer and was receiving chemotherapy through her port. The infection haunts me.

I asked her about the process whereby she receives her chemo and she explained that she got it in a walk-in medical clinic on her island of about 35,000 people.  I feared that the infection would take her life.

Her eyes had begun welling up with tears. I reached out with my left and and held hers. We stood in silence for many moments, 2 women, ill, who live thousands of miles apart hand in hand. Another patron walked into the shop and we quickly dropped hands. Our eyes stayed in sync. I told her that I would pray for her. I told her she would be well. She told me I was beautiful and that I would live to be one hundred and ten.

I am grateful.


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