He sat in the doctor's office, and when they siphoned blood into a syringe and mentioned white counts, he couldn't stop his mind from sliding the slope into a time when monitoring every cell in his blood told us how long his clinic days would be. Some days they drew blood twice, occasionally thrice. He hates counting blood cells.
So he prays for flu while they swab his nasal membrane.
I had the flu once, when I was pregnant 12 years ago, and it's not your average cold. It's hardly an answer to prayer.
But it is for Mike, and, really, it's already too late. His mind is back there now, remembering what he longs to forget. Feeling terrible from the flu feels akin to cancer, and how he hates feeling sick.
He doesn't really know how to feel bad anymore. Mike's perfected feeling good. It's a life mission now. He eats well, exercises daily without fail (even with the flu apparently), and guards his sleep. These things insulate him from the past, the pain, and the fight of your life, literally. These are the only things you can do to put comfortable distance between cancer and health. That, and pray it's flu.
Yesterday he pulled out the face masks from the back of the closet, behind the box of leftover syringes we used to use to inject medication to stimulate red and white cell growth. The masked man waded through the neighborhood pollen, the old athlete in him trying to "walk it off."
Later that night, I watch him, agitated, staring at the ceiling at 1:24 in the morning, unable to sleep. I know his thoughts are teasing him. He is wrestling the onset of a panic attack. That's when I, too, am tempted to slide the slope. I pray silently beside him that he pins his opponent to the mat and wins the match.
Back when he was fighting cancer, there was no mental wrestling, only time and energy to combat the real enemy, cancer. He was too busy surviving to engage in mind games. And that's how I know it's just flu. I closed my eyes relieved, pray Mike rests, and thank God for flu.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, ~James 1:2