“It’s even in the omentum,” the surgeon said with a kind of bemused detachment.
An aide had just wheeled Tim, asleep, on a gurney through the narrow waiting area, taking him back to his room. They had moved him to a grownup room that morning, no bunnies, ducks, or frogs.
The full-color Polaroids the surgeon handed me were from Tim’s endoscopy. Lurid glossy pinkish-red globules nearly blocking off whatever tube they were in, or nestled in pink ribbed tissue like Easter eggs in a basket.
It was the omentum that finally got to me.
“What’s omentum?” I said. “Is that an organ? I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s not an organ. It’s the feathery fibers that connect the organs.”
Tim had melanoma not only in every organ, but in the empty spaces between. There was no clear space left in him.
Or in me.
In the middle of the night I was shattered awake and trembling from a dream of menacing glossy pink Easter eggs in a red bowl. I could feel pink Easter eggs inside me, rolling around in my own stomach. All the new tumors—were they all even his? What if the alien melanoma cells they exchanged in Bethesda had had the opposite effect from boosting his immune response? What if they had just boosted the number and varieties of tumors he could have?
The next morning the phone rang early. Tim’s voice was grim and tense.
“Can you come to the hospital? Right now?”
“I’ll be right there. Seen Doctor Chapman yet today?”
“He was just in. How fast can you get here?”
He’d been told.
I looked at my watch. “Twenty minutes?” I’d leave right now, drive fast, with luck hit all the lights.
“See ya.” The dial tone started up.
When I walked into Tim’s room he was standing next to his bed, holding onto his IV stand with one hand, his eyes red, swollen and lost. He wore a light cotton hospital bathrobe over his hospital gown. Blue foam hospital slippers. His hair stuck up in the back where he had slept on it.
We wrapped our arms around each other, his sobs huge and hoarse and tearing, Tim holding onto me and sucking air from the small pocket left in his sinking boat. Hearing a man cry like that was ten times worse than hearing a woman cry, hearing myself cry. It was like hearing organs being ripped out.
Doctor Chapman had come in that morning and given him the results of the MRI, bone scan, and endoscopy. There was melanoma in the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, connective tissue and bone, spine and pelvis. Organs that hadn’t already been removed now had tumors. There was a palpable mass in the abdomen.
Tim had then pulled his last ace. He called Lydia, the researcher at NCI, the woman who treated him like a person and not a lab rat, who had sent him away only three months earlier cured by the experimental treatments, who had told him if he relapsed they would have new treatments for him to test. He had kept her direct-dial number in his billfold. Just in case.
Now his friend, his ally, was cold and distant on the phone. “There are no more studies you qualify for, Tim.” She was sorry. The study he was in had been terminated. She couldn’t get off the phone fast enough. His usefulness to them was over.
Tim went home from the hospital with new meds that allowed him to eat again, soft foods, juices. Irene bought a juicer and lugged home gunny sacks full of carrots and apples from the organic Food Co-op. So did I. Tim was lost inside himself, quiet and still, depressed. He drank his juices, kept his chemo and doctor appointments, but had nothing to say to anyone.
We all knew organic juices were not going to heal Tim. I had my second-degree Reiki certificate, but Reiki alone wasn’t working. What I needed now was real healing power.
The next morning I drove to a familiar beach near where Tim and I had grown up. I found a low clearing in the dune grass, a sandy bowl-shaped depression sheltered from wind by the dune. Someone had laid out a rough labyrinth in the base of the bowl with pebbles and driftwood. I walked the labyrinth into the center, and knew that was where I would create my altar.
The center of the labyrinth was where the energy stopped. There was great stillness there. I sat in the center, half-lotus, and saw how the sand naturally sloped up all around the labyrinth, how there was no way out of this depression but up. I wondered about Tim, his depression. Maybe depression was just a way to get completely still, the way a surgeon injects a paralytic drug into the unconscious patient before making the cut that will heal. One needs to be completely still for the healing to begin. It had worked that way once for me.
In the center of the labyrinth I laid down a mat of brown and green dune grass. What ended up on my altar was a live sand dollar covered with purple fur. Smooth dark stones, an agate, and some smooth amber-colored stones. One broken razor clam shell. A thick piece of translucent green beach glass, tumbled and polished by the waves. I wound seaweed ropes around the altar and sat back on my heels to see if it was all there.
I needed a blue mussel shell, the shell little Timmy had once called magic when he found one on the beach. I hadn’t found one, common as they were. It took one more trip to the surf’s edge, to a large boulder half sunk in sand and water. Mussels clung to the lower part of the rock. I found the blue shell in a tidepool next to the rock.
Standing, I could just see the ocean over the top of the dune. Kneeling, the crash of the waves was muted to a soft rumble. At the opening to the labyrinth I placed Tim’s magic blue mussel shell. Knelt and held it enclosed in both hands. I needed to say a prayer. Who should I pray to? God? Kwan Yin, the Great Mother, she who hears the cries of sentient beings? Women around the world prayed to Kwan Yin for the healing of a sick child. But this was beyond praying for a healing, we needed to up the ante now. I was praying for the gift of healing touch.
“Dear God,” I said. “Here I am again.” I stood up and took a step into the labyrinth, holding the blue shell. The thick blue sky all around, ocean rumbles just over the top of the dune, seagull calls. I watched my feet follow the path to the center of the labyrinth, the altar, and knelt again. Laid the blue shell next to the sand dollar, and sat back on my knees in the sand.
There was a presence behind the altar, the form barely visible in the white pulsing aura. It was a man in a long robe. Jesus. The Healer. The Miracle Worker. From the corner of my eye, I could see it, but if I turned to face it directly, I couldn’t.
“Jesus,” I said to the shimmering white. “You know what’s going on here. I need you to let me be the channel for healing; I need it for Tim. You healed with a touch. Let me heal with a touch. Let me heal Tim with a touch. We need a miracle. We need it now. Let us see a miracle.”
From the corner of my eye I could see the aura didn’t move, just stood. An impression of kind, gentle brown eyes.
“Please,” I said.
“Tell me what I need to do,” I said.
The vision hovered closer. Words whispering in my head, that familiar whisper from the years I had listened to regular guidance.
“You commit, and I will too,” the whisper said. “We’ll do it together.”
So, I would have help. The best kind of help.
I hadn’t believed in Jesus as “Savior” for a long time. Jesus had become the Jesus of the Course: my elder brother, my guide and my friend. And now, here he was, right here, sort of. Not nailed up on a cross but seeming quite fit and relaxed. Saying “We’ll do it together.”
Another prayer, while I had His attention: “Please, please, please. Heal him. I’ll help, guide me, help me, show me what to do.”
I went cross-eyed staring at the vision; it disappeared and the aura expanded until the sky was undulations of white.
Then the high humming inside my head. Undulations inside me. The sound of waves going soft and far away. The white shimmer all around and inside me, the smell of God throwing lightning out of the sky just before the rain starts, the smell of God coming so close I could smell him breathing.
I laid myself across the driftwood alter and rested until the undulation and the white gradually faded, the smell of God breathing gone back to the smell of the seaweed under my outstretched arms.
Jack was my experiment. His knees again, his poor knees always locking up and aching. I sat on the floor and wrapped my hands around one knee, called in Jesus, and waited. Drew the Reiki symbol for Energy of the mind, be still and peaceful, drew it with my tongue on the roof of my mouth.
Jack looked down and whistled through his teeth. “You’re better than ibuprofen,” he said. “Do the other knee.”
So I did. There was a presence I could feel but not see. Hands on my hands, energy coursing through from the unseen.
Jack put down his book. “What’s going on, Judy?”
Didn’t want to talk about Jesus, it was still way too surreal. Not that Jack wouldn’t understand and even be happy about it, but my experience was…beyond personal. It was intimate. Jesus offering to join with me? No way would I tell anyone, not even Jack.
He flexed his knee. “You recharged your healing touch? At the beach?”
“Looks that way.”
Maybe I’d tell Tim.