One thing I really missed during my cancer treatments was my daily rituals. Until I went through chemo, I didn’t realize how important those rituals were to me. How they gave my days structure, stability, comfort, the illusion of control. And how I’d miss them when chemo grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
A morning cup of coffee was one of my favorite daily rituals. Getting the coffee and filters out of the cabinet, filling the basket with ground coffee, pouring in the water, pressing “on” for the coffee to brew. Hearing the coffee drain into the pot. Smelling the coffee. Pouring it into the special mug I’d chosen from my coffee mug collection. Splashing in some half-and-half and sometimes adding some sweetener. Inhaling the aroma as I took my first sip. Tasting the bitterness on my tongue, feeling the warmth spread down my throat. And about half way through my first cup, feeling effect the caffeine, that sharpening of awake and alert. Yes, it would be a good day. Or at least tolerable. Because it started with a cup of coffee.
But then I started chemo. The AC chemo that makes your hair fall out and makes you nauseated. And makes your olfactory sense so strong, so sensitive, that the formerly delicious aroma of coffee becomes a nausea-inducing stench. I couldn’t stand the smell of coffee. It made me want to throw up. I couldn’t even tolerate being in the car if someone had a cup of coffee. There went one of my daily rituals.
I missed the comfort of starting my day with a cup of coffee. I missed enjoying eating. I missed my hair. I missed having the energy to walk to the mailbox. I missed feeling well. That all was somehow encapsulated in missing my morning cup of coffee.
But I was lucky. My aversion to coffee didn’t last long after my last chemo treatment (that round was Taxotere – after the AC). I got back my morning cup of coffee. I got back my morning ritual.
So now I pay more attention. I don’t take my morning cup of coffee for granted. I buy freshly-roasted coffee beans. I grind them just before I brew the coffee. I drink the cup of coffee right away, while it tastes the best, before it sits too long on the burner.
This attention is a way for me to acknowledge that every moment is special, a gift.
Daily rituals really don’t give me any control, but they are a way to say “thank you.” I’m not guaranteed health. I’m not guaranteed being able to eat or to enjoy the tastes of food or to have the strength to walk to my mailbox. I’m not guaranteed the enjoyment of the rich aroma and bitter taste of a morning cup of coffee.
So when I have any of these, I appreciate them. I appreciate one more day. I appreciate the taste, the fragrance of a moment. I’m grateful for rituals as a way to say “thank you” for my being, as a way to show my appreciation. A mug of coffee can hold all of this. And it does. So I drink it gratefully. Reverentially.