First, the good news: After a two-year long cancer panic, my oncologist has declared me disease-free. At first, what seemed to be an inconsequential carcinoma in my kidney slowly grew and the kidney had to be removed. The oncologists debated the options of post-op treatment, but they all punted.
We finally we chose queasy wait-and-see. Monthly blood work, ultrasounds, and CAT scans, all clear but more anxiety on what enemy still might be lurking. Finally, the oncologist felt certain to declare me cancer-free, and I ferried myself from incredulity to health. Thank God.
And now the bad news: If you follow “Wilson’s Law,” you know good news is invariably followed by the bad. You see, I am haunted by the demons of “Booga-Booga!” like my being caught eating bacon as God snickers “Booga-Booga! Gotcha again!”
But this time, the news is really tragic. I will likely never walk again. After recovering from the surgery, the nurses admonished me to get up and walk. But my legs would not move. Even steadying me on a walker, I took three steps and crumpled. Encouragement, then rebuke, just not trying hard enough.
Back to the specialists who poked, let blood, CAT-scanned, tapped my knee, evaluated neurological functions. (I will be damned if I ever again must draw a clock with hands reading 10:50!)
Conclusion: It was probably my progressive MS. So, here I am two years later, confined to a wheelchair, motorized, thank God. Even my ever-optimistic therapist says that we should work on other muscles but that I was “likely to never walk again.”
All the traumas I suffered in my later years have brought me profound depression, helplessness, grief. But for reasons unknown, this time my infirmity has been sprinkled with more than a grain of salt, sometimes even bordering on slapstick. I imagine riding my electro-chair as Buster Keaton dodging the oncoming locomotive, impervious to the imminent disaster.
My scars attest to caroming into doorframes, chewing them into kindling. My knees are never without gauze or an Ace bandage to stanch the bleeding. Then, there have been the numerous falls, only to be uprighted by the local EMS. Once Minnie the Wonderdog uninvitedly plopped herself on my head like a Chasidic shtreimel, wonderful comic relief.
Yet, I still reside in a world that not always grants humorous respite. I have developed the skill of clumsily rolling in and out of bed and transferring to-and-fro from my chair and the toilet. Linda must assist in stabilizing me and attending to other bodily functions, good grief. Showering is especially harrying, despite a full complement of handicapped equipment. Linda still must bathe, dry, and dress me because my equilibrium is still so badly impaired.
Navigating steps is my closest encounter with despair. I need assistance, and even then, prospects are slim – going upstairs and downstairs in my own home, sleeping alone in the master bedroom on a hospital bed, visiting friends and kids, enjoying reputedly “handicapped accessible” restaurants and shows.
No, no whining, but please understand that none of this is insurmountable, just a tremendous struggle that holds no humor.
Through it all, Linda has been my guardian angel, a tiny woman, lugging me about with a grab-belt, patiently waiting on me, encouraging me with my clumsy ability to still cook. Her self-sacrifice not only enables me to stay at home but to remain alive, no hyperbole.
Where is God in all this quagmire? I will never walk again, and He has got to have something to do with it. Well, I do not know where He is. I cannot imagine bearing the grief of a parent whose child has died. But for me, the best I can tell is that I have come to more humility, gratitude, management of tough breaks, compassion, cherishing family and friends, simply to seeing the silliness around us and smiling.
This is where I think I have found God amidst despair. So, if ever I go crashing into a wall or calling EMS, I imagine that I will hear God chuckling and crooning “Booga, booga! Gotcha again, Marc!”
And I will give up and know that He, as always, is right.
MARC WILSON is a retired rabbi who writes from Greenville, SC.