Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fear of flowers

Well, it's not exactly fear of flowers, because I love to look at my garden. But I am afraid of going too near the flowers, of deadheading, of weeding or otherwise digging in the dirt, and even of cutting a few flowers for the table.

My mother loved spending time in her garden, while for me, the fun wears off after a short session. Mostly I'm not that great at the Zen of gardening. But I love to have fresh flowers around. And now that I can't garden, I miss it.

The reason: The threat of aspergillus, a fungus that can be life-threatening when a person (like me) with a weak immune system gets infected with it. It's present in the dirt and doesn't usually bother "normal" people, but it bothered me in a big way when I was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia in 2003.

No one can really be sure where I was infected, but the garden is a suspect. I developed a fungal ball on my lung and needed lung surgery before we could proceed with the rest of my treatment, which consisted of high-dose chemo followed by my first stem cell transplant.

Now that I am recovering from my third transplant, which I had June 10, I stand back and give my children instructions on what to plant and what to pull. Right now they've taken off in various directions, so I depend on the kindness of friends to help me out. I feel like a faux aristocrat standing back and pointing to this and that task that needs to be done, but I know I can't get in there myself. Once when nobody was around to help, I held my breath and deadheaded a beckoning snapdragon. And a couple of times I put on a mask and gloves and cut a bunch for the table.

The other day I stood back and chatted with a friend who was pulling weeds. "I wish I could do a little of that," I said. He asked me how far out I was (from the transplant date), and I said a little more than 50 days. I think I made a face signaling that at that moment, I didn't feel like 50 days was very long.

"Sounds like a nice milestone to me," he said.


I had forgotten to be grateful for the progress I had made in those 50 days.
I had forgotten that although I can't smell the flowers up close, I can take in their beauty from just a few feet away.


PJ said...

I fear small children more than flowers. I'm afraid I've turned into W.C. Fields.

Anonymous said...