Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 26

Calling Out Cancer

TEEN CANCER AMERICA

Skywalking
BY M A FA L DA VON A LV E NSL E BE N

I

'm sure the flight instructor introduced himself, but all I can recall
is the name of the plane: N007
Bravo Kilo painted in thick serif
font underneath the cockpit. She
was gorgeous. The curves of her body
bending the light from the mid-noon
sun, and dazing my eyes as I examined
her inch by inch in my pre-flight dance:
Tires? Full. Nose? Sharp. Lights? Flashing. Wings? Smooth.
This was my intro flight, which is
usually meant to weed out the weak
stomachs and the fast fainters unable to withstand the G-force of being a minimum of 3,500 feet off the
ground. But I wasn't going to be one
of those. Sure, I was diagnosed with a
generalized anxiety disorder and severe PTSD. And perhaps the prospect

26

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
JUNE 2020

of a Chemistry exam has sent me into
a panic episode that turned me into a
shivering, useless heap for a good two
days. But flying a plane? I got this.
Finally, after thirty minutes of lectures on brake fluid, fuel gages and
forbidden aerobatics, it was time.
With two seat bolsters stacked on top
of each other (so I would be able to see
over the dash) and a brief moment
of what am I doing, my instructor
shouts, "Clear prop!" and the propeller blades thundered on. Clear
for take-off.

Flying may be fun, but I absolutely hate
walking. It hurts, and it has continued
to hurt for a quarter of my life. This is
mostly on account of two open biop-

sies, a femur resection and reinsertion,
femur fracture, cauterized muscles,
and stem cell grafts from multiple
parts of my pelvis. And that's only after
17 rounds of chemotherapy, and two
months of daily radiation. Hey, cancer
bites; you bite back.
I remember being in the hospital
for some round of chemo or surgery
(it all blurs together at this point) and
trying my best to sleep. The thing is,
hospitals and sleep rarely coexists.
Forget the physical discomfort of
whatever procedure I was undergoing,
I had morphine for that. Here, I had
around the clock hydration (which
meant a trip to the bathroom every
two hours), monitoring (to make
sure I was still alive), and a testy IV
pole (affectionately named Steve) that
would protest every time it detected
the slightest problem. Beep. Beep.
Beep. Upstream occlusion.
But I had my star machine: a wonderful invention that projected a
hypnotizing lightshow on the ceiling
of my hospital room. The low hum
drowned out the various clatters and
yelps outside of my little cell. And
the stars? They were mesmerizing.
Watching, swimming along with the
pinpricks of light flitting around me.
Steady now. Breathe in and out in and
out. My body is down there, my mind
is up here, weightless and floating in
the night sky.
Up there, I found a way of existing.

Three hours after my intro flight,
miles closer to the ground than I care
to be, I stand leaning on my crutches
in a crowd of familiar strangers.
Parties are not my element, but I


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Elephants And Tea - June 2020

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Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 1
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