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Corita Kent (Sister Mary Corita):
m is for magick (1968)

"[Magick] might materially misrepresent its eventual impact."

The wheat and the chessboard problem dates from at least the thirteenth century. In it, a king foolishly agrees to pay a mercenary in grain, a single kernel for the first day's effort, two kernels for the second, doubling the amount each successive day until all sixty-four squares on a chessboard are covered. The amount of grain accumulated after the first thirty-two days of effort seems huge, something on the order of 279 tons, but the thirty-third square calls for twice that amount. By the sixty-fourth square, only more than 1,600 times the world's annual grain production will meet the requirement.

I recall this story to describe how cancer treatment works.
It's not like applying a topical ointment, where each treatment evaporates or something. It accumulates, adding what at first certainly seems an insignificant increment of treatment. Over time, though, residue accumulates, stealthily but eventually alarmingly, until its presence becomes dominant. What started with no symptoms grows to exhibit at least one prominent one.

Tomorrow, The Muse will hit the halfway mark on her clinical trial cancer treatment. I won't speak for her experience, but the first half of the regimen has not been unacknowledged. She sort of bit her Emotional Support Animal's head off when he characterized her condition as an "illness," for she refuses to perceive herself as ill, and, indeed, by all outward appearances, she isn't. She continues to insist that she's experiencing a plot twist, with Polly Pureheart perhaps in greater peril now, but nonetheless certain to better old Snidely Whiplash. Still, the treatment if not the illness takes its accumulating toll in tiredness and soreness in unaccustomed places. Talking's attempted in small doses now, and soon exhausted. Since we're officially an old married couple, the result of this effect has really taken a bite out of our preferred method of communication, which has always been yelling from floor to floor and responding with heartfelt, "Whats???" Neither of us expected the treatment to so deeply impact such a subtly important element of our relationship. She sets precedent by listening with intent. I must be present to gauge her response.

We're aware that we're engaged in a progressive treatment, where each additional increment increases the chances of some unwanted experience. The oncologists have been more than clear about this, insisting that however easy or difficult the treatment's seemed so far, worse, and probably much worse, will be coming. The radiation residue will likely require a month or more to clear out of her system, perhaps peaking weeks after treatment ends. It routinely overruns its mesa, like Wylie Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon, a gift stuck on giving while taking away, too.

There's nothing to do but continue through it. Each week, Erin our research questioner, asks if she wants to continue the trial, and The Muse responds with another, "Of course." This is no simple response, for illness or not, she's increasingly carrying the accumulating weight of the experiment on her sagging shoulders. She sequesters in the basement, working a puzzle where she won't have to carry on any conversations, or in her throne chair with a lap blanket, near the fireplace. The weather changed over the weekend and we received more rain on Saturday than we'd seen in the prior four months, over two inches. The shift was stark, and while expected, even prayed for, it still shocked. Same story for this Magick we're experiencing. The Muse benefits from state-of-the-art treatments and has avoided the dreaded Chemo poisoning, but the wheat continues accumulating nonetheless, and no king could avoid wondering if he made a foolish decision when he agreed to the terms his mercenary suggested.

Magick performs its misdirection. It might wound while healing. It might materially misrepresent its eventual impact, starting unremarkably until one day, surprising. Cynthia, a regular on my PureSchmaltz Friday Zoom Chat and a retired nurse, suggested something called Mary's Magic Mouthwash, explaining that it's absolutely wizard for radiation throat. We ordered some yesterday and her Emotional Support Animal drove out to fetch it in the late afternoon. He set it on the kitchen counter and later asked if she'd tried it. She said that she hadn't, that she'd wait until she really needs it, then returned to making her signature chicken cacciatore supper.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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