Adverb :In a good or satisfactory way: “the whole team played well”.
Adjective: In good health; free or recovered from illness.
Exclamation: Used to express a range of emotions including surprise, anger, resignation, or relief: “Well, really! The manners of some people!”.
Noun: A shaft sunk into the ground to obtain water, oil, or gas.
Verb: (of a liquid) Rise up to the surface and spill or be about to spill: “tears were beginning to well in her eyes”.
This post is going to involve my use of different definitions of the word “well.” I’m going to begin with the exclamation.
Well, I’m waiting to hear from my radiation oncologist’s office. I thought, hoped, that radiation would begin today so that I might be able to make it to the Sahkanaga showing in Savannah at the Lucas Theater on April 9th. http://tickets.savannahboxoffice.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=18
Some of you know that I helped John Summerour, a former student and current friend, make this movie in the spring and summer of 2009. I put in many, many non-paid hours and am listed as Associate Producer. It would be a real treat for me to be at the showing in my home area. I grew up outside Savannah. That’s where my father worked and where we went out to eat and where we shopped. It was a part of “home.” I have family and friends in Savannah and the area, and to be with them when they see “our” movie would be very meaningful to me. But I didn’t get the call yesterday to tell me that radiation starts today, and so far I’ve not gotten a call back from my request to the office this morning. Apparently that means it starts Monday, and that means it won’t finish until April 11th, two days after Sahkanaga shows. I’m so bummed. And I can’t help but blame the radiation oncologist’s office. If I hadn’t gotten an assessment last week from a doctor not familiar with my case, then my radiation oncologist could have consulted with my surgeon last week, and I’d have already started radiation. A couple of days makes all the difference in my getting to be in Savannah on a specific date. Of course, I may not feel up to driving to Savannah after being zapped for six and a half weeks, but the hope that I would feel well enough to go was encouraging for me.
If you’re interested, here’s the teaser for the film: http://www.sahkanaga.com/
Well, on to another “well.” Though I appreciate it very much when people get in touch with me, I don’t want to read another “I hope you’re well” until I’m through with breast cancer treatments and healed from those effects. No, I’m not well. I haven’t been well since . . . well, since before I had cancer. I guess people just don’t realize how hard cancer treatments are on the body and psyche. When I’ve been poisoned with chemo eight times, the effects of which last for weeks, when I’ve been cut open in two places and had tissue and lymph nodes removed and still am not healed from that, when I’m struggling, yes struggling, to do everyday types of activities like walk to the mailbox and go to the grocery store or load and unload the dishwasher, no, I’m not “well.” And when I’m being radiated every day, five days a week for six and a half weeks, I won’t be “well.” Wellness is a quality of life I hope to have again, but it won’t be anytime soon. Recovery from the harsh, painful, debilitating effects of these cancer treatments will take time. So instead of hoping that I am well, which is frankly not realistic, just say, “I hope you’re feeling better.” That is realistic. Or at least I hope it is.
This journey is wearing on me, as you can tell by the tone of this post. Except for a couple of weeks before surgery in early December when I felt almost normal, I’ve been experiencing the stronger effects of chemo treatments or surgery every day. And all of this started in September. I’m almost to the six-month marker of feeling bad, of having pain every day, of not having the energy to participate in the activities I took for granted when I was a “normal,” healthy human being. Food has made me nauseated or has tasted odd or has had no taste or has hurt my tender mouth for almost six months. I’ve had the fog of “chemo brain” for almost six months. Yes, I am starting, tiny bit by tiny bit, to emerge from the fog, but lurking around the corner is radiation, and its effects are totally unknown for me. Will I have burns? Will they be bad? Will I be tired? Will the seroma at the node-removal site be irritated? Will the cellulitis be revived? Will the cumulative effects of the radiation make me as worn out as this last chemo has? Will I get a cough from the radiation that hits a little piece of my lung? Will the effects of the radiation delay and hit me a month or two or three after I’ve finished radiation? Will the cumulative effects of chemo and radiation affect my body years later in some adverse way? I don’t have an answer for any of those questions.
Yes, I’m still struggling with the unknown and trying not to have expectations. This is one of those days, one of those weeks, when either tears are welling up in my eyes because I feel sorry for myself, or I’m shaking my fist in anger at something – the foot-dragging of the radiation oncologist and his office or people’s insensitivity or just at my circumstances themselves. Right now, I’m doing more of the latter, the fist-shaking, partially because I’m getting a tiny bit of energy back, and it feels good to be able to ball up my hand and shake my fist. Even if it doesn’t do any good.
Have I covered all of the forms of “well”? Am I well or doing well? Sigh. Yes and no. I’m surviving cancer treatments and am quite sure I’m cancer-free, that there are no rebel cells in my body resisting the treatments. But am I well and content? Not really. Not yet. I know I will be. But not yet. Not quite yet, though I know I have a well of strength and courage from which to draw. So I’m lowering my bucket once again and am about to draw up a drink of cool, clear, reviving water. And to take a drink . . . even if I can’t taste it.
A post script
Here is a list of Sahkanaga awards and screenings (the Corona Cork Film Festival was in Ireland, but the Rome one was in Georgia):
***Excellence in Georgia Cinema Award from the Georgia Film Critics Association
2012 Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
2012 San Francisco Independent Film Festival
2012 European Film Market
***American Independents in Berlin presented by IFP & Sundance Institute
2011 Corona Cork Film Festival
2011 New Orleans Film Festival
2011 Driftless Film Festival
2011 Tacoma Film Festival
***Recipient of TheFilmSchool Scholarship
2011 Woodstock Film Festival
2011 Rome International Film Festival
***Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature
2011 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
***Koroni Film Award
2011 Northside Film Festival
***Special Presentation by IFP & L Magazine
2011 Atlanta Film Festival
***Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
2011 Independent Film Festival Boston
2010 IFP Narrative Lab Fellow
Screenplay developed at the Screenwriters Colony, Nantucket