Leaving Cancer in Paris

Nancy King in Paris. Photo by Suzan Hall.

Nancy King in Paris. Photo by Suzan Hall.

The voice on the other end of the phone was exultant. “I’ve found a house exchange on Craig’s list. I’m going to Paris for two weeks. I leave in ten days.”

Envy, like a mass of kudzu, took up every bit of space inside me. It was all I could do to congratulate her. I wanted to go to Paris. I wanted to eat croissants and drink wine, see great art, walk along the Seine. Instead, I was waiting to learn the results of the bone marrow biopsy, pretty sure I was facing a third bout of leukemia, having a port put into my chest, chemotherapy . . .

“Want to come with me?” she asked.

I wanted to say yes. Yes. Yes.Yes. Instead, I felt like a five-year old. “I can’t tell you. I have an appointment with Dr. L. tomorrow. He’ll give me the test results. Could I call you after I talk with him?”

“Sure. Good luck tomorrow.” I hung up feeling depressed, deprived, and despondent.

He didn’t waste any time. “There are hairy cells (cancer cells) in your bone marrow and peripheral blood. I think we should start treatment right away. I’ll give you the number to schedule the port implantation, and when the incision is healed, we’ll start chemo. Any questions?”

“Yes. A friend invited me to go to Paris for two weeks. Do you think I’m well enough to go with her?”

“If it were me? I’d go in a heartbeat.”

Feelings of exultation almost overwhelmed me but I managed to say. “Treatment postponed. I’m going to Paris.” We hugged. I skipped out of the Cancer Center, too joyful to take one step at a time. In the car, I called my friend. “Yes. Yes. Yes! I’m coming.”

What an enormous pleasure, after dealing with bad blood counts for so long, to be futzing around with airline schedules and meeting places at Charles de Gaulle Airport, what clothes to take, what books to bring. We even arranged for the Frenchwomen to stay in my house so they could take care of my kitty—one less worry off the list.

When friends called to say how sorry they were I was ill, I shook off their well-meaning words of comfort and said, “I’m going to Paris!” It was amazing. Thinking about Paris crowded out all thought of leukemia. I even sang to my kitty, “I’m going to Paris! Pomme (apple) tarts, here I come!”

Armed with Chinese herbs, homeopathic remedies, extra strong Vitamin C powder, and uncontainable joy, I flew to Paris. Groggy from the long flight I ordered a cup of tea to drink while I waited for my friend, whose plane was delayed. Six dollars for a cup of hot water and a tea bag? No matter, I was in Paris.


©Nancy King.We saw great art, walked, moseyed into little shops, ate croissants and pomme tarts and stupendous bread, walked some more. Sat out in the sun in cafés, happily watching the world go by. One day we took a train to Chartres so I could walk the labyrinth. Crowded as it was, I walked at my own pace, noticing that as I walked toward the middle I kept losing my balance. Was it the narrow old stone path? When I reached the center, I stood, waiting in vain for some revelation or words of wisdom. Yet when I walked the path out, my balance was fine. I couldn’t explain it, and it wasn’t my imagination, but I left the cathedral feeling as if something was shifting inside me. Once more in the sunshine, we walked around the old part of Chartres, which was full of tiny shops. We stopped at an expensive shoe store where I kept looking at a pair of shoes that made me grin. I couldn’t resist. I didn’t even want to resist. I decided I’d wear them to all my treatment appointments.

The two weeks flew by. We spent a good part of our last day at the Luxembourg Gardens, full of what we’d seen and done, the food we’d eaten, the wine we’d drunk, watching Parisians enjoy a beautiful afternoon. I felt myself begin the dreaded transition between life in Paris and dealing with illness.

Friday, three days after returning from Paris, I went to the Cancer Center to have a blood test in preparation for the port implantation into my chest on Monday. I asked to see my test results and couldn’t believe my eyes. All my blood counts were normal! Who knew why or how or what caused it? All I knew was that my counts were normal. Yes!

My oncologist was away. After fruitless talks with a variety of nurses and personnel at the Cancer Center, with ten minutes left, and more than a little nervous, tense, anxious, apprehensive, and worried, I cancelled the port implantation. Four days later I met with my oncologist and told him I wanted to postpone treatment. He agreed. In two months I’ll have more tests.

I’m hopeful that whatever happened while I was in Paris continues. I’d rather eat pomme tarts and drink wine.

Nancy King s most recent books are three novels: A Woman Walking, Morning Light*, The Stones Speak*, and a nonfiction book, Dancing With Wonder: Self-Discovery Through Stories. You can read excerpts of her books, as well as order them, on her website www.nancykingstories.com.

*YLIAT HOLIDAY SPECIAL: Morning Light and The Stones Speak are: 2 for $15 .00 available on Nancy’s website holiday specials page: http://www.nancykingstories.com/holidayspecials.html. Sale ends December 31, 2011.

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