Category Archives: dreams

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

Gentleness

I feel a little better today. I still am working hard in my brain as to what to do about everything in my post yesterday. I am sure it will come to me.

One of the images I use when I want to feel better is one from my life back in Ecuador.

Specifically, being on our ranch and sitting on the grass higher up on the mountain.

This is the mountain our ranch was on:

Pasochoa

I have no idea where our ranch was in relation to that picture, but I have many good memories there.

The one that I am calling to mind is about sitting on the soft mossy grass, just above the tree line. There is a grass there that is soft like moss, but is a very small almost light green ground cover. It has these tiny pink berries, berries so small you can’t even see them unless you are looking closely. I can feel the high Andean wind burning my cheeks a bright red. I feel like I can hear the sound of God in that rush of wind blowing past my ears. I weave my finger in to the soft plants, smelling the earth. Listening to my horse hobbled nearby, and the chit-chat of my family enjoying a picnic. I feel connected to the earth, an extension of her, like a small dendrite-like messenger. I feel my hair blow across my face and whip around wildly in the wind. I pick the tiny pink berries and put them in my other hand, which is cupped in my lap… filling my cupped palm slowly with these little light pink jewels. Fairy food, I am certain it is fairy food. I put them in my mouth, one by one. tasting their faintly sweet juice. I watch our cattle off in the distance, grazing.

There is something about that moment that is so gentle, so peaceful, that it can still evoke a certain calm when I am weathering a storm.

holding the darkness at bay

So, after feeling a down due to yesterdays ramblings and self flagellation I find I need to pick myself back up.

The other day someone came to me and asked how I was. I told her that is is a day by day process. That I feel good, that I am grateful for so much.

She went on to ask if I had experienced any dark moments, any depression, and tears. She added that her sister is a doctor and had told her to expect me to get to that point at sometime.

I cried when I got the first message. there is something about being told to call an oncologist that puts a certain indescribable pressure on your heart. To hear it while alone in an office, is hard because it means that you have to call people and share the news – and I will be very, very honest, that I was tempted to not tell anyone. Though I imagined that my husband and mom would have been extremely upset with me had I gone this route – in spite of that though, I can’t tell you how tempted I was.

I even called the oncologist first. I called my physician back and asked for a copy of the pathology report we talked about the long wait until my oncology appointment and then what the report meant in terms of what was happening inside my body. I went and sat by the fax and waited for the report to arrive (he was sending it right after we hung up). I got it and sat in my office, reading (memorizing) and mulling the news, tears in my eyes. I dried them, and decided I had to call my husband and so… I called my husband and told him the news. He was devastated (he had been a young boy when his mother had gone through two cancer diagnoses, I think that what was happening to me brought all those memories back) and I had to be strong and reassuring. After I hung up, I sat in the office some more, tears in my eyes again. Bracing myself for the call to my mom. She was walking into a meeting when she answered. I heard that stop in her voice. It was the same stop when I felt when I had to schedule an appointment with a hematologist oncologist for Squink after he was born.  Granted that was just for some jaundice we did not seem to be able to get rid of, and I knew that it was the hematology part we were seeing rather than the oncology part, but still – it isn’t something you want to deal with as a mom, your babies should never see an oncologist, that should be the rule.

So that was a quick conversation and I sat in my office again, a sense of “why me?” prevailed. My boss who had gone through that cancer route walked by and noticed I was upset, came in and I shared the news with her. After that, the next 24 hours are kind of a blur. I know I called my dad, and he was probably the hardest one to tell… but only because I had no idea how he would react, and he has a tendency to avoid bad things and go on and pretend as if they did not happen so the idea that he would ignore me in this was something I considered highly probable. I only remember that at some point by the end of that night, I was sick of talking to people. Wait, I love talking to people what it was is that I was sick of re-telling the story, the news. I just did not want to have to say that damned word again.

That has been the darkest point so far.

The days following are still a blur. I talked to my siblings, texted with Prima. Made arrangements for all the responsibilities in my life that would be put on hold. Sent out a group email to women who I adore. Friends put me on prayer lists, and I got through the interminable wait until that appointment. Once I saw the oncologist, it felt so much better, because there was a plan. I knew what was happening and it felt good.

I would even say that I was a bit jubilant the day before my surgery, because that mass of mutating cells was getting removed.

I was in the hospital almost a week, determined that this whole thing would not bring me down. I have managed to stay positive through the rest, even that horrid backslide where, through projectile vomiting and other effluvia, fever spikes and chills all intertwined with a general sense of feeling horrid, I lost over 10 pounds, got dark circles around my eyes and began to lose hair. I was still in a good place.

I have these moments that seem to want to step in to those dark shadows; when I noticed that there is an area near my incision is numb (normal, but a strange feeling), talking to someone else who has gone through this process evokes some teariness, after time spent wondering if I am avoiding dealing with something, being told I hurt peoples feelings all brought forth some form of gloom to my mindset.

Thankfully, they are able to be beaten back.  And I think that is my job right now.

More thoughts and a tale from my misspent youth

Reflection
Something I do a lot of right now.
As I watch, feel, and notice my body heal from a pretty brutal surgery… I reflect back on my life.
What is so amazing to me is that I have such a wonderful group of people here in my life now. 
A husband who waited on me through the surgery, held my hand, brought me food, made me eat when I did not want to, bought me more thermometers than he should have had to purchase for me as I lay in bed vomiting with fever and chills and consistently losing them to the depths of my mattress and covers, who rinsed the vomit bowl so I could have a clean bowl for the next round, massaged my neck that was sore from throwing up, is waiting patiently for my body to heal, fed me, clothed me, monitored me while I showered in case I passed out… crap, the list of things he did [is doing] for me is too long to even recall… I just know that I could not have gotten through the last few months without him. 
Then there are the folks that helped arrange food deliveries, delivered food, send cards, visited, called, sent a text… I am humbled by all of these things. 
An aunt who fought against her ingrained instincts and took care of me as best she knew how when my husband couldn’t stay with me.
My mom, who took time off and flew to be with me and watched her first baby sick and vomiting and trying to recover; held her hand, rubbed her brow, made me smile and provided those moments that induced healing that only a mom who loves to mother and nurture can give.
Friends who made sure I felt loved and fed, acquaintances who sent notes and some who even made sure I was fed… they came out like a force field and I was unprepared for the support.
I did not expect any of that, support that is… from anyone outside my immediate family. 
I am not sure why. I tend to keep to myself… I have been deeply burned by some people I thought were friends, so I tend to keep to myself and not talk to many folks. So, when I got the “NEWS” I had to let go, I needed help, I need a group of people to have my back (and not throw me under a bus without a chance to tell my story) and they came out of the woodwork, and I was touched, and am still touched, humbled.. tears are in my eyes now, as I write.
Even friends who I exchanged superficial texts with stepped out and were present to me. Near strangers offering so much more than good wishes.
The world is truly a magical place filled with so much good. I can’t wait until I am free to frolic (without pain) and pass on that kind of goodness… for now, I heal, and am blanketed in gratitude that I have a tribe whose large size I didn’t know.
~ ~ ~
I was driving and reflecting on what good things have happened to me in my life over the years and  in a brief flash of mental inner dialog that occurs in seconds I noticed that I drove by a building that once housed a flower shop in the 80’s when I was in high school and which was made famous by a stop by then president Reagan who went to buy flowers for his mother-in-law who lived up in some super fancy “estates” near my house.
I remember that visit, he was new to office and it was a stop that made the local news. The other funny thing is that night some friends and I went to visit a friend that lived in those “estates” and was a neighbor of Nancy’s mom… how do I know,, because of the plethora of secret service who hung out in the neighborhood. I remember a group of us running to the car from my friends house and the agents getting a little “jumpy” – but those were different days. Now we would probably be shot, then we just got stopped on the way past and told to behave by men in dark suits that wore sunglasses at night. 
I smiled at this memory as I drove away from that building that once housed the famous flower shop; I loved high school. I had friends whose company I enjoyed. I had good times… I was a little bit of a rebel, but I had a heart of gold, and the naivete of a child.

Day 18 – 40 days of writing- The long, slow, walk to the guillotine.

My paperwork is filled out.
And I sit here, today, tonight, feeling like I am awaiting an execution.
There is such an ominous feeling in knowing that tomorrow all this becomes so much more real. There are conversations I have to have…   decisions I have to make… all of which feel overwhelming to me now, even before they are completely and specifically known.
And as I contemplate them… the ones that are somewhat known, they feel so bitter.
I can’t ask “Why me?” because this is a product of life; choices that I made and that have brought me to this junction. It is futile to wonder the why, but in my most self pitying moments I wish I could scream this into the abyss… and then reason takes over and answers me gently.
Nature is so cruel. I was brought up with that in my every day life. And yet, I want to scream… “why do this to me, why take the one thing that is a symbol of being a mother and obliterate the last few years of my chances at having more children”. “I wanted six”, I want to add to my scream, and in the end I feel weighed down by this incredible failure of aspiration.
And perhaps it is this failure that makes things in this situation so damn hard, because it is just that. A failure.
I look at the exotic eyes of my beautiful son, and choke up at how much I love him and how profoundly lucky I am that he came in to my life, and feeling that the intense lamentations of the ones who were never to be born are equally lost to him.
Couple that with the idea that I should be grateful that I do have him, creates a whirlwind of emotions as intense as they are complex. 
That which I have held most sacred, motherhood, will be denied me (in this way) much earlier than I am ready for.
The rituals of this disease are subtle and fierce. My physician turned my care over to the oncologist. I do not get to return to him until I am released back… much like a prison sentence.
And so, I feel like my dinner tonight was a last meal… and tomorrow will begin the long, slow walk to my own personal guillotine.

Day thirteen – 40 Days of Writing – Obsession

I loved the way Obsession for Men smelled (when I was a teenager).

Yesterday, I obsessively read my pathology report. And by obsessively I mean that I read it repeatedly for a 5 or 6 hour stretch of time. I read this two page report and felt so much that it was as if my life depended on it. I would focus on one part of it, set it down, ponder it, and then come back to it and re-read that section. I would then set it down. Then pick it up and read the whole thing again. Focus on another section and repeat this process all while watching the utterly mindless and unbelievably mind-numbing Vampire Diaries on Netflix as background noise. 

Thankfully, I am done. I think. I don’t really want to read it any more. My medical school stint reared its virtual head and I gained that understanding that I was looking for, picturing in my head the sizes of the different samples, trying to picture them as I read the descriptions. These three dimensional images rotating in my brain and looking at them from all directions. My brain would form these hologram like images as I studied each section of the report and the three samples in question and I could twist them to try to better understand the height and width and depth in hi-fidelity color based on the descriptions of the stains they used. My brain hadn’t thought this way for a while, it was both exhilarating and exhausting…. and all while not focusing on the screaming absence of the words “clear and present margins” and breathing deeply and heavily at the places that stated that the “extend … to the margin”. Wondering then, how much further they could have gone in order for me to be able to read those words I kept hoping to find.


That those two black and white pages that my GYN faxed to me contain the key information about what is going to happen to my life for the next few months (years, too) is a bit mind blowing. It is like the home pregnancy test I took when I was pregnant with Squink, something so small serves as such a huge symbol of GIGANTIC changes that are about to come.

It just seems, in a weird way, that these symbols of huge life changing moments should be different somehow. Maybe. It is also just amazing how simple things reveal so much. I wonder what the pathology report would look like if I painted it, applied rhinestones… or gave it a tiara?

As I woke up today and wondered what inspiration might come my way in terms of what to write for this round of 40 Days Of Writing… all while pondering how I spent my day yesterday – and hoping that I wouldn’t be so stuck on the diagnosis and the “C” word…  when, I thought that part of this process of managing a diagnosis like this is that there is an element (or time period) of obsessing about it. Trying to get into its skin, wearing it and figuring it out… especially in those times of waiting (which frankly sucks the most of anything so far).

It all makes perfect sense, in a way. Today is another day.



Day 11 – 40 Days of Writing – ten years ago my cervix failed me too

I realized that I have been blogging for 10 years, starting around this same time of year. There are earlier posts but those were after the fact. The linked one was my first and the one before it was an email I sent to friends on that day (he day I retroactively published it).

The huge irony is that it was about my cervix as well, granted in that case I also gained a son… instead of in this case where it is about losing my uterus.

It is ironic, I suppose… to have started this blog because I was in a dark place. Bed rest, as romantic as it may sound, was amazingly lonely and dark.

And now, these ten years later (almost to the day) coming here and writing again from another dark place, that has a very different feel to it… a deeper kind of vulnerability, perhaps.


Jean Jacques Henner – Solitude



Day 9 – 40DOW – a little conversation I want to have with men

I think the one thing that has been hardest on me is how the men in my life have handled this.

First of all, let me state this is not all the men.



My husband has been über fabulous; he has been there for me and has been a solid rock and really been wonderful and supportive and asked questions and made me feel like he is in this with me 100%.

It is the other ones.

Like My Boys   – sigh.

I mentioned the one that talked about himself after I shared the news… though he has sent a note back in which he sorta says one brief little thing and proceeds to write about himself for three or so long paragraphs (that is how he is). Another, that found out through his wife, sent a note to my husband saying that he knew. For those two, it was perfect. It fit their personalities and I am so glad. 

I did share with the other boys, and nothing. I am hoping that they might be out of town for a very long time or too shocked at the news and feel kind of helpless and not know what to say or even do. I mean there is something so very personal about talking about your lady parts with a man, I imagine it might be embarrassing or something along that fine continuum for a man to talk about a female friends girly parts in such a deeply personal way… even if you never utter the words cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina.

The other three male friends that I have told have been able to reply. One with a sweet message and encouragement and stories of how his mother has gone through something similar. Amazingly supportive and wonderful. Another apologized about what I am going through and then turned into a lump that seems to want me to take care of him. The last proceeded to offer a bunch of medical advice based on his experience with his mother and her ovarian cancer.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for a male, to hear from a friend that her girly bits have failed her in such a dramatic way.  I am sure that saying “I am sorry that your cervix is going through that” just seem too ridiculous for a male.

So, if you are a male and you have a friend (or loved one) who has been diagnosed with a reproductive cancer (or any cancer) here is some advice based on what I have learned so far;

  • If she tells you, respond. Even if you just say: I am so sorry you are going through this. I don’t really know how to respond, but I am here if you need me. Repeat this on occasion if you are still speechless.
  • Prepare yourself, think about times when you have been scared, or ill, or going through a difficult time. What did you want to talk about? What did you need? Consider your friends personality; is she forthright or private and talk to her. 
  • Tell her you are sad that she has to go through this, acknowledge what she is going through.
  • If possible, invite her to lunch or dinner or breakfast or brunch, and listen to her if she accepts (and let her know it is ok to say no). Ask her if she needs a hug, and talk to her about things you know interest her; books, plays, etc. Reminisce the old times, make her laugh at how silly you both were when you were younger if your friendship has lasted decades. 
  • Don’t continuously pick up and stare at your phone or allow other distractions when you talk to her, especially if she is talking about what she is going through.
  • Let her know you are interested in her health, and are willing to help. If she is alone, ask if she needs help putting in light-bulbs or other small house projects. If she is married or living with someone and you know them, ask if you should take her partner out and get his mind of things. If you offer, and she accepts. Follow through. 
  • Be honest about your feelings.
  • If you have a history of doing things together, plan something she can look forward to.
  • If you have shared friends, ask if she would like you to let them know. Respect her answer.
  • Try not to offer medical advice. Don’t send her information on protocols and options don’t be upset when she makes decisions that you find odd or extreme or even not extreme enough. 
  • Most importantly, continue the friendship… knowing there is a support system out there for her is incredibly important (even if she doesn’t take you up on the offer)

I hope that I have given some pointers that are helpful. 

These are ideas based on my experience so far. I am sure that there is some variety among women who are going through this and I am sure that Google probably has far better advice available if you search. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  Please refrain from talking about her disease around her children. She may choose to really limit what the kid/s know during this time since it can be super scary, and needlessly so.

Day 7 – 40DOW – Curious George is my new hero

There is something kind of magical that happens when you get a serious diagnosis… You get a new level of patience and tolerance, and you hold closer to what’s unacceptable and intolerable.

It is as if one gets knighted and imbued with certain super powers. Probably though, it is just some form of self examination that allows for some serious decision making.

I am not dying, but this may be the closest I get to that in a while. A friend wrote me last night about how I was now in the middle of my “bull fight” and that I had an arena of friends who were supporting me through this. I was struck by their using this metaphor not only because I am a bullfighters daughter, but because there really was some intense truth to what they wrote (and also because they hate bullfights so I was surprised to see them use this).

Without delving into a treatise on bullfighting, I will say that the bullfight is not about the torero, it is about the relationship between the bull fighter and the bull, each playing into instincts and their very special mortal relationship. They are each trying to figure the other out, and while they are separate, they form a symbiotic relationship. I am here in this ring, and I am that relationship, the instinct is driving me to examine my surroundings, and as they said, I have a cadre of people supporting that.

Which brings me to something else that has been swirling in my newly seriously introspective mind.

I recall the day when you heard that someone had cervical cancer that a pretty loaded assumption was possible made:

The woman (since men do not get cervical cancer) was a loose ho-bag and had proverbial round heels

I have heard this whispered amongst the most gossipy of people even to this day. So, yes there is a certain fear of assumptions that people (stupid people) may make about me. I know that I have never been a loose ho-bag and I most certainly do not have round heels. And I don’t think that what is happening is the direct result of any karmic like indiscretions I may have made.  I am a human with a cervix and it has betrayed me (yet again).

I sit here newly diagnosed with something the most heinous of gossips use to tear people down and between that and the whole mortality associated with the word cancer causes for an astonishing amount of reflection. Self-reflection certainly, but also about the world I live in; the friends I have and thee ones I had, the adventures, the quiet moments, the rage, the gentle, the sweet peace when my son rests his head on my lap, the Ebola crisis, our southwestern drought, or awfully separatist politicians, the atrocities in the Sudan… all these and so much more… they have become different in some ways now.

At the root, though, these are extensions of curiosity, which is a true animal behavior.  There is something primal about trying to understand what is happening around you.  A certain fierceness comes, priorities seems stronger and there is a certain curiosity that reigns over me. It is like an adrenaline rush, but in a very sedate way (much like the adrenaline the human and the bull need to control when in the ring). I consider how the social animals (outside of humans) interact with each other. Elephants are amazing at this, but so are so many other animals. And there is something beautiful in that… in feeling close to that which unites all of us animals as we try to make sense of the world around us. It connects me to my surroundings, makes me feel a part of something whole and those who think this kind of thing (introspection) is something selfish, elitist, or wrong are just temporarily disconnected from the life death continuum.

Day 6 – 40DOW – another stage, perhaps.

In Old Norse the raven was a popular symbol and represented the power and wisdom of the mythological god Odin who would strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest warriors with his two fearless ravens sitting on his shoulders.

Me Hello again, 3:00am. You kind of suck for me right now, though I recall the days when you were fun and I was much more invincible.

I’ve moved into the next stage. Or is it another stage?
It happened the second I hung up on the last person in my inner circle.
The very second my finger pressed the hang up button.
I felt stupid and ridiculous for all the crying and sad.
This is stupid, I thought to myself.
You’re trying to get attention, I scolded myself.
You are making more out of this than it deserves, my inner voice admonished.
I felt ashamed for my tearful calls and emails to these people who mean a lot to me. 
My brain rattled off a list of the reasons that supports its claim that I am swimming in ridiculous.
There was a tiny voice telling me this was all OK. These are scary new words and it’s ok to be scared. But tiny voices are easily shut down.
Is this denial? Acceptance? Are there even progressive emotional states after a diagnosis like this, like the stages of grief?
I know I am not going to die, so why all this fuss? Is it really all that ridiculous that I want my mother and aunt with me, even if this causes them even bigger inconveniences? That I want to monopolize their time and play paper dolls with them, like I used to do when sick and at home as a child.

I always loved paper dolls from other cultures

And the vestiges of anger are poking through in those who mean well and tell  me what to do, or discount my thoughts on what I know may be my treatment options. This is my damned body, not yours.
Is there an angry denial phase? Am I really angry? Am I in denial?
I hate that as my body recovers from the cone biopsy, the aches and pains tease me into thinking that the cancer has taken control… that it has, in a blind rage at the attempt at its excision, rallied like a fire breathing mythical beast and waged a war inside me that I am slightly oblivious to and thereby allowing to grow with wild abandon as I navigate the days until my oncology appointment.
I decided that if it should have a name that somehow the notion of carrion should be involved. I have decided to invoke the ancient Valkyries of my genetic past, the ones that were ravens that became the ears (thought) and eyes (memory) for Odin, that cleaned up the battle fields by eating away at the carrion that resulted.
I want those ravens to remove my carrion and bring me the wisdom to do it bravely.