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Cathy Coley

Columbo Saves Us

Rolling ocean waves under blue sky with smattering clouds

The sea reminds us change is the only constant.

I’ve been MIA here for a few months.

I’ve been watching a lot of series, Queen’s Gambit is amazing, and I think I’ve watched all the Cozy Village British Murder Shows there are to watch. I’ve returned to the Murder Shows of my childhood, with the help of a friend who sent me the full DVD set of Columbo.

My spawn in the house have started watching Columbo with me. It’s nice when the world is in chaos, both big and small, ie: my cancer, and being locked up in the house during the pandemic with me, to know the outcome, and to watch how Columbo figures it out quickly, and steers the rich entitled murderers into their own trap.

I got through two back to back surgeries, and then chemotherapy. I’m recovering my appetite and general brain capacity after being so sick and fatigued I could barely eat, move, or think. I am still really physically fatigued, it’s hard for me to get around even in the house. This isn’t a sympathy plea, just my is. I want to recover. I want to dance and cook without having to pull up a stool rather than my legs give out from under me. I don’t know if this is extreme or normal, or a matter of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in conjunction with the chemo. It feels extreme to me, and I’m pretty well accustomed to fatigue. I am slowly improving.

Last week, I was CAT scanned, and molded into a form, and tattooed with marker points to be sure I’m lined up perfectly in the radiation machine. Yesterday, I was laid in that form and X-rayed from every angle and got one more marker point tattoo, just to make sure. Today, I start radiation, and will be driving a long commute daily for six weeks, right up to Christmas.

There’s a weird comfort in the solidity and almost antiquity of these machines that move around me taking pictures of my insides, mostly of my left breast and surrounding lymph nodes area. Outside of the rooms I’m in, the nurses and techs sit at a wall of slim computer monitors that bring it up to date, otherwise, the machines themselves look and operate like the computers and machines in that 1970s series, where Columbo is mystified by their modernity, rooms full of a single computer that whirs and bangs and clangs. That’s what I’m laid out in now.

I am also currently watching another long series, of an earlier time, Call the Midwife. I cry almost every episode. I have to switch back and forth between these two longer series. Columbo, while Murder, is ultimately a great comfort of knowing what to expect. We know who the murderer is from the beginning. We know Columbo is going to bring them to justice. There’s some humor in the regular lines, “can I borrow a pencil?” and “oh, ah, one more thing…” that he says every episode. We can count on it. We can count on him.

In Call the Midwife, we are privy to the very intimate moments of birth and death, and all kinds of heart breaks and joys. It’s hands on, usually home births, before and at the advent of using drugs to help the mothers’ pain during delivery, very much women caring for mostly women in desperate poverty, at the apex of life and death.

So I go back and forth, I watch a few episodes of one, until I need to go back to the other. Because, especially now, during cancer treatments, during this pandemic, during this crazy election, where we know the outcome, but one and his followers won’t accept it, we are in the midst of chaos, more than usual, and I need to know that at least sometimes, in life and death, things work out for the better.