Toronto, the early hours of Sunday, August 11, 2019-I can’t believe what I am capable of doing when I am on Dexamethasone (affectionately known as Dexa!)
I texted my friend, Mary Gemmiti and told her I’d like to bring my family to her cottage at Wasaga Beach. Without missing a beat, I continued my series of long texts, without waiting for her to respond. Could I bring 7 people – Shayne, Cherrelle, Sabrina, Nagib, my mom, my sister and me?
And, could we stay two nights on two specific dates? I even texted ideas about meal plans and what we might do while we were at her cottage.
As soon as the texts escaped, I tried to pull them back. My messages were tone-deaf and the perfect example of being emotionally un-intelligent, but it was too late.
This is the effect that Dexa has on me. I become rather bold and aggressive and speak my mind. I am also super energized, super fun and feel like I should don a superwoman cape and do everything at hyper-speed. This lasts for two days until the inevitable crash occurs and I curl up and cry for two days. Shayne has been keeping me company during my Dexa nights and we have long conversations about politics, sports, relationships, life in Kenya. It is my favourite time, although I get distracted, as I am having two additional virtual conversations in my head. Last Saturday on Dexa, I started emptying the dishwasher at 1:30 am, while Shayne gently reminded me that people were sleeping. At 2 am, I suggested that I show him how to make beets in the Instant Pot. That’s when he brought me a Benadryl and sent me to bed, with the promise that we could pick up where we left off in the morning.
Anyway, I waited for Mary to call me back so I could apologize, blame my texts on Dexa, and move on with life.
Instead, Mary responded with the most loving of messages and opened up her home and heart to us; her only condition – that we adopt her into the Premji family when we stay together for a couple of nights.
Fast forward to Thursday afternoon…
Here we are in her log cabin overlooking the Wasaga river, savouring every sensation while time stands still. I am watching Shayne and Cherrelle make tacos for lunch, with sweet potatoes and butternut squash with maple syrup. I watch them steal kisses as they make home-made salsa and guacamole, and toast nachos and cheese for the appetizer. I witness Sabrina on an hour-long call with her team at Kidogo – questioning, discussing, validating, agreeing on goals for the week – and sitting in awe as she performs her role as co-CEO with Afzal. Somewhere during the call, I see Sabrina drape Nanima with Mary’s red and black fleece blanket. I watch Naz taste her very first cappuccino ever, unsure of the unfamiliar taste and texture on her tongue. I see Mary and Nagib in deep discussions as they finish an extraordinary Premji Family scrapbook that Mary wanted to help create for us. Nagib just walked over to me and laid his hand on my forehead checking for any potential fever. I see my Mom walk over to the kitchen, curious about the recipes being concocted while Shayne hugs her in a bear-hug. Mary and I glance at each other many times, smiling, united in our love for family. As I make my way to the deck, I see two people fishing in the river while an extended family of geese make their way up the river. I see a couple – they look like newly-weds, on two canoes side-by-side, less interested in the canoes and more interested in connecting. I find myself listening to music playing in the kitchen – the Stylistics, “You are Everything” – and dancing by myself with abandon. It’s like my happiness is so deep in this moment that my smile is going inside my body and touching every part of it until it gets to the toes of my feet, and then charges back up and out and around.
It is said that we take in 11 million pieces of information per second, and our brain only typically processes 40 or so pieces of information at a time. I think what I was doing in Mary’s cottage was practicing mindfulness; staying present in the moment and taking in what was going on around me. With the Dexa now out of my system, it was a state of calm and of just being, I am going to practice technology-free zones and times to relinquish my laptop, phone and TV for periods of time every day to choose to be a witness to the ordinary and extraordinary beauty of life around me everyday.
Our Wasaga trip ended today on Saturday, and Nagib, Sabrina and I, rushed from Mary’s cottage right to Princess Margaret Hospital, where I had the third (of 16) weekly chemo treatments. Sabrina and I were reflecting on how she was there for my first chemo for Lymphoma in March 2012, my first chemo for Myeloma in August 2012, and flew in from New York so she could be there for my first chemo for Breast Cancer in 2016. Overall, the first 3 weeks of my treatment for myeloma has gone really well. I’ve had 7 yucky days (out of 21) my tastebuds are fine, my side-effects minimum, and my hair has not yet fallen out yet. During this time, I have continued to keep client and volunteer work alive.
Upon returning from chemo, the Dexa took charge again. Our family ventured off to the Taste of the Danforth where Nagib strategically got me to walk and walk and walk to expend some energy. Now, the Dexa is playing havoc with my system and I can’t sleep. The family has all bailed on me and have gone to sleep (yes, even Shayne – boohoo!). My mind is racing so I decided to write this blog post, watch the last 30 minutes of the Bridget Jones Baby movie (which we started, but did not finish at Mary’s cottage) to find out who Bridget Jones chooses as the father of her baby. I plan to sleep by 2:30 am to make it to Eid Namaz tomorrow at 10 am, God Willing.
For all those who are celebrating, Eid Mubarak from our family to yours, with prayers for joy, time to reflect on the beauty of the everyday moments of life, and an abundance of love in your lives.