As I sat down to write on this sunny but cold “spring” afternoon in Maine, a favorite song of mine popped up on Pandora – Eric Clapton’s “Running on Faith” . As I listen to his words (“Lately I’ve been running on faith, what else can a poor boy do?“), I feel like Clapton is speaking to me. After all, I am running on faith – faith and love are what keep me going.
Two years ago at this time, I started to fade away. There was no more modern medicine could do for me. My body was giving up. I experienced pain that not even the most powerful of opioids could control. I talked about where I wanted to be buried; I asked my parents to care for Sadie; and I prepared myself for the worst. But as I did those things, I also I sought second and third opinions, and I planned trips to the best cancer centers in New York and Texas to see experts. I implored my doctors to find something new. I knew there would be an answer. I believed in something bigger than myself. I had faith.
I also had love. As Clapton sings later in the song, “When love comes over you, all your dreams will come true.” While I think Clapton is singing about romantic love, I am talking about the kind of love that comes from letting others into my life. I started to break down some of my defenses that I worked so hard to create when I was a “healthy” person. I felt what happens when you honestly let people in – I felt the faith of others.
Faith and love continue to be constants in my life. I am now kept alive by a drug which no one can say for sure will keep me alive until the gray hair appears on my head. There is no scientific certainty. “Well,” the doctors tell me, “we have no idea how long this will last.” It doesn’t exactly instill confidence that I will live to resemble one of the Golden Girls.
I’m often asked what it is like to live with this uncertainty – a foot in the world of living and a foot in the world of facing mortality at a young age. I never quite know how to answer, because I just do it; I live my life as if I’m no different from a healthy person with the exception of being injected with a secret sauce every three weeks. But when I heard Clapton’s voice this afternoon, I realize that faith keeps me from giving in to the uncertainty, from allowing the uncertainty to control or paralyze me.
I still feel sorry for myself sometimes, and I still build walls to keep people out and avoid vulnerability like the plague. I wonder, like my doctors do, how long this will all last. But, I keep running on faith. What else can a poor girl do?