Several months ago back in Santa Monica, Nick called me into his room. He was spending most of his time in there, trying desperately to feel better after completing an aggressive course of radiation for throat cancer. We had not been prepared for the pain med experience, to put it mildly. From cannabis oil to Vicodin to Methadone, we were trying hard to find the right balance for Nick: as pain-free as possible, yet ideally in the land of the living with the rest of us.
“Hey check this out,” he said, showing me a large school bus on his ipad.
“Cool,” I said, then promptly left the room to continue folding laundry.
Five minutes later I heard him holler, “We own a bus!”
“What???” I said, trying to stay in a supportive frame of mind while wondering, couldn’t he have consulted me first? Well, I guess the ipad preview was his consultation. Because for the grand total of $1000, we now owned a bus straight outta Compton.
“It was a steal,” he said, sounding as close to excited as I'd heard in I couldn't remember how long. “A thousand bucks for an office. Pretty good, right?”
I thought of the house we'd committed to renting high on a mountaintop in Topanga. How would we ever get it up there?
Nick didn't blink. “I’m going to take the kids to go check it out and pay the guy.”
Looking back, I can’t believe I let my husband take our five children in an Uber to Compton, but 'alone time' was rare those days, so I said ok. (I know; desperate times, desperate measures). Needless to say, they returned safely. He did cop to having felt sketched out, but they had a good time, the bus was super cool, and we were its new official owners.
After a month to fix the starter, replace the taillights, rip out the nasty “bathroom” in the back of the bus (ugh), and 3 attempts at actually getting it up the mountain without breaking down, it finally arrived in our very own driveway.
6 months later, Nick is feeling so much better. The bus is under construction, well on its way to becoming an office instead of an eyesore/play structure. Although it's parked roughly 5 feet from our front door, I know that for Nick it is a bright light at the end of a long, and often dark, journey.
We often say that cancer brought with it many blessings, but inevitably, too, came a broken spirit that has taken unimaginable strength to rebuild. And for me, watching my healthy, confident, vibrant husband be reduced to a voiceless, nearly lifeless soul has been an internal (sometimes external) battle to remain sane.
“Cancer free” seems like a relative term to me, because it’s not as though you're ever really free of cancer. I think cancer might be on our minds, in some way, every day for the rest of our lives. In some ways a reminder, although cliché, of how precious life really is, and on the flipside, the battle wounds from which we may never be totally free: the garbled voice, necrosis in the jaw, the lost taste buds and salivary glands, the pain, the lost time with our children, the daunting question, 'Will I ever enjoy food again?' And lastly, the most haunting of all, will this ever come back?
So today, as I look out my window at this giant pink and blue bus, I can actually laugh and think, 'Only in Topanga would the neighbors be so accepting of such an eyesore, and wow it’s so “us” to try and pull this off!' Most importantly, though, I see this bus as something of a monument, a symbol, a tribute and reminder of the battle we have fought, the battle we will continue to fight, and a badge of courage for all seven of us!
How are we 'Living Yum Yum', you might ask… How can we not, is my response. Living yum yum represents the ability to take control of one’s own health and prevent disease, the ability to recognize imbalance and seek out new solutions, the ability to be present, conscious, and mindful, to embody that balance of healthy body and healthy mind and to lead by example. It’s something we strive for daily. Yes, I did say many blessings have come with cancer, but if we were to do it all over again, we would have chosen the path without cancer, absolutely. If only we had known how to live yum yum….
Sometimes a bus is just a bus. But it just might also represent a new beginning, hope, an office, an escape, a future, and/or a reminder, to name a few.