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What a difference a year makes

In 27 days I will celebrate one year of remission.

Today, I reflect on one year since I got the telephone call.

At 8:58 AM my doctor left a message that did not pop up on my phone for  at least another 20 minutes.

I was at work, and my office is in a cellular black hole. I was unable to listen to the message through my phone. I had to call my voicemail from a land line. I learned that I had cancer via voice mail.

I’ve left the voicemail unheard, like this, since, that day.

I remember looking at my desk, that space between my keyboard and the edge, staring at the wood as I listened. He gave me the pathology report results, and then gave me some names and numbers of oncologists to call, and of course asked me to call him back if I wanted.

I remember taking a very deep breath. I had a moment of overwhelming helplessness. Didn’t know what I should do first. I didn’t want to call my husband or my family. I tried to think of a way to get through this without telling anyone. I realized that was going to be impossible. I decided to take care of business. I think this all happened in 16 seconds. I called and made an appointment with the first oncologist he had recommended and then called my doctor back.

So began something I had not signed up for.

Looking back, I can honestly tell you that in so many way this has been the darkest year of my life.

I try to hang on to those moments that gave me moments of brightness, but it’s some of the hardest most desperate hanging on I’ve ever done…

Especially during those times when recurrence, in spite of a “98%” survival rate (which is the same as any of us pretty much) becomes that focus on the knowledge that I am on that low end of that 98%  spectrum and a swirling mess begins. I wish I could invoke my husbands Austrian pragmatism and just eschew that as silliness.

Actually, there is a part of me that can. What ends up happening is that I have conflict.

So, since I have dedicated October to mindfulness I want to explore how I can manage this conflict. I hate feeling the way I’ve felt this past year.  This article gives some clear steps on how to do that:

  1. Whenever you become aware of negative thoughts and emotions arising, rather than ignoring them, or setting them aside for later, identify, acknowledge, and honor them.

Identify: As a result of my cancer diagnosis; I am scared. I am angry. I am sad. I feel lonely. I feel ugly. I feel unloved. I worry that it will come back, every little pain or ache can bring that worry to mind. I feel unworthy. I feel like crying. I feel tired.  I feel selfish for being so sad and upset about these emotions. I feel let down. I feel like family is a joke. I am heartbroken that my mother chose to defend my aunt and berate me just a few months after my surgery when I was trying to find the good things in this. I’m angry that my aunt was a crybaby about my not thanking her enough. I feel like friends can bring greater value in times of stress (and this haunts me). I feel weak. I feel like a failure. I feel judged. I feel helpless. I feel like something I considered vital was beat out of me by this cancer, and by those I love. I am heartbroken to realize I no longer think I’m a kind person.  I miss the pre-cancer me.

Acknowledge: I clearly can see that these are all related to my diagnosis and experiences relating to all that has happened to me in the past year.

Honor: I have tried to do this, this is where I am stuck.

This past weekend I was at a leadership retreat where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year old.


I was told to picture that little girl in front of me. And tell her that I loved her. That she was bright, and kind, generous, and beautiful… loved. I was to caress her cheek, and hug her. I was to tell her she was valuable, important, strong, and brave.


2. Become very clear on what the specific upset is by identifying the exact thoughts that are bothering you. Are they self-judging, bad memories, or anxiety about future events? Any thought that causes dis-ease in you, regardless of past, present or future is applicable.
3. Next, indentify the specific emotions that arise in you as a result of said thoughts. What do they feel like? Is there tightening in your chest? Is your stomach turning or is there a throbbing sensation in your head? Again, any emotion that causes dis-ease is applicable.

4. Once you’ve clearly identified the thought(s) and emotion(s), close your eyes and explore the imagery they subsequently create in your mind (once you’re familiar with the practice, you won’t always need to close your eyes—i.e., if you’re driving, or in public you can still do this.) Do the thoughts and emotions create colors, shapes, figures? Are they abstract or clear? The important thing is to let your thoughts and emotions create the imagery while you simply become aware of what they are.

5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there however, because here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.

6. This step is where everything begins to change! Once you have the mental images of what your thoughts and emotions look like (and even if there’s no image at all, this practice still works), picture yourself holding the image (or lack thereof) in the same way a mother holds a newborn baby. Picture the image of your painful thought and emotion wrapped in a warm blanket, being held with very loving care closely to your heart, your chest, as you extend it very sincere compassion from your heart center. (You can also use the imagery of wrapping the thought/emotion in a warm blanket and placing it in a baby carriage, and rocking the carriage back and forth.)

7. Next, mentally (or verbally) say to the image that you know it’s there and you promise to care for and hold it with compassion until it’s ready to go. Do your best to say these words from a very sincere place in your heart.

Messages from my mirror

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
~ St. Jerome

Today I scheduled a follow-up eye appointment for October.

As I opened up my calendar I realized that the four months would land on the day before I had my surgery, which was when my eye problems started.

In the eight months since my life was spared and my body was torn apart in order to do that… a lot has happened.

One of the things that I find most striking is that my eyes have changed. I have been trying to figure out what it is that I have noticed.

I am not sure when I started to think my eyes looked different to me, but I recall wondering if somehow my irises had become lighter or cloudier in color. Cataracts at my age?

The crux is that they don’t look happy to me, they looked pained, tired, and perhaps even scared.

I don’t know that I am any of those things, but I am a very different person than I was in 2014 B.D.

That B.D. is Before Diagnosis.

This process has been hard, but the hardest part was learning to stand up for myself. Standing up to a mother and aunt that I know love me, but who felt that age gave them some sort of prize that included tearing me down… I am sure that is (was) not their intent… but as they threw things at me that I would have previously have bowed my head to and ignored but in the middle of my fight to feel whole again seemed unduly cruel coming from them. As I said, I am sure they did not mean it, but they still hurt me very deeply on a level that a doctor could not touch.

I think, perhaps, that is part of the cloudiness that I see in my eyes.

It is also navigating my health after a pretty invasive surgery, the unwanted weight gain, the change in shape, the pain, the aches… the health of my eyes included.

They are better now though, the scars left on them through repeated injury (and a misdiagnosis) are healing, are almost gone. The burden of the change of lifestyle for them is permanent… eye drops for life, they said. Keep them moist, they said. I will, I reply.

But when I got home from my appointment today, I looked in the mirror and still saw that certain kind of cloudiness, and I hoped it was not permanent.

Then there is this.

image1

“Behind these eyes there is a girl trapped within her pain – a girl feeling all the emotions of anger and sadness. She’s fighting for a way out.”
~ Chimnese Davids

TMI

Navigating a cancer diagnosis that has a surgical intervention is pretty complicated. In the case of breast cancer  the mastectomy or lumpectomy scar is right there for you to look at, it is hard to hide from, even in a case where the patient has opted to get reconstruction.

Girly bits, the lower ones, cancer is a little different.
Both breast and cervical cancer are traditionally considered women’s cancer (though men can and do get breast cancer). Our breasts and vaginas are the most obvious parts of what makes us women (yes, yes, yes, aside from all that inside touchy-feely kind of stuff).
I have not had breast cancer, but I used to sit on a board for an organization that served women who had breast cancer, and as such I heard a ton of stories. Women’s sexuality, for many of us, are tied up in our boobs.
Are they small. Are they big. What kind of nipples. Do they sag. Do they perk.
People we, as women, love intimately, typically love them.
I can’t imagine the mental turmoil surrounding losing your breasts.
I know too well the psychological turmoil in losing your lower girly bits.
For starters, here is a pictorial cartoon like representation that I took from the ethers about what those girly bits look like. I would have used actual body parts, but really, it can be hard to tell from something like a medical school cadaver image.
It should not be a surprise to anyone that I owned these parts. These parts are also part of what made me a girl. Aside from boobs and all that other stuff. Gender identity… I believe that is the new buzzword.

So, below is a picture of me after the surgery. I had to use some fancy apps on my phone to remove those parts which I had removed. But this is all that is left inside me. Most of my vagina. And my ovaries. Everything else was taken out. My uterus – OUT. My cervix – OUT. My Fallopian Tubes – OUT. There were some other things that got taken out too; lymph nodes, tissue… but those aren’t girly bits.  Oh, and you may be wondering what is up with my ovaries. For now, since I plan on asking my oncologist about them at the next meeting, I just imagine that he blinged them up and hung them on my ribs  or something once he separated them from my uterus and Fallopian tubes. I imagine that they are dangling like a disco ball for my abdominal region (what seems to have gotten big enough to play host to an CRAZY internal organ dance party).

But this is my trying to make light of something that is far more serious. My scar from this surgery is on my abdomen. It has not really exemplified what exactly happened to me.

I had all those parts removed. My vagina was shortened.

For the past 5 months, I have been terrified to think about what my new body was like. I knew and celebrated it being cancer free, but it changed. it changed in ways that make it very obvious.

But these are things I cannot see. And because I can’t see what my new vagina was like, I had created horrible images. These were courtesy of words like scar tissue and granulation that were tossed my way in my post surgical exams.

Those are not pretty words, images of keloid and granulation in my mind as to what my new vagina looked like. I had images of puckers tough tissue reminiscent of the ears that a bullfighter cuts from a bull.  In my head, my new vagina was hideous. I was ashamed and horrified.

So, finally, after five months. I got up the courage to take a feel and see what it was like.

It wasn’t hideous to the touch, there were no areas of puckered keloid tissue with granulation that I could identify. The tissue was smooth, taut, moist. Just what it should be, though missing the nose tip of a cervix.

I cried with a sense of relief.

A RANT – Catching up, with myself

So, for starters — the biopsy was totally just scar tissue.

But that event led to some pretty radical discoveries.

One thing is that I deeply resent is the people that tried to write my cancer story for me.

There were people who tried to decide my treatment option.

There were people who told people false information about my diagnosis, and refused to tell the real one. “It was DES, that is my story and I am sticking to it”, they said. (for the record, it was not caused by DES).

Oh, who am I kidding it was one person!

The fact that this person is also a cancer survivor makes me all the more incredulous. And bitter. And angry.

The one place I don’t feel gentler and kinder is in those who try to take from me.

We don’t live in a world where we have to whisper the word cancer any more, where the sheets and mattresses are tossed because they are “contagious”…

It is my story.

I don’t like people who interrupt my story with thoughtless perversions of their own.

We seem to live in a land of poor listeners…

##

I resent the anti-vaccine movement. My cancer is vaccine preventable. Men and women get cancer from a virus called HPV – we have a vaccine for that. Why on this earth would anyone choose to risk getting cancer????

Read this for a far more articulate version of why: http://www.voicesforvaccines.org/say-something/

I had a preemie, a medically fragile baby… to think how clueless I was when I took him out with me after he was born… it makes my heart hurt. I don’t feel much kindness towards my friends who support vaccines but pretend to be anti-vaxxers because they are afraid of conflict (or in one case because they thought it was ironic and funny) .I don’t feel much kindness to my friends putting seriously and DANGEROUSLY false information out there about the problems with vaccines.

##

and lastly…

I lost god, or God, or G_D or however one wishes to spell it.

I am totally fine with this, I actually feel some relief in some ways.

It, ironically enough, happened on Easter Sunday.

I was reading some blogs, and came across a few that made claims that were completely incompatible with my thoughts on God… and as I pondered that incompatibility I asked myself about the roots of that… and came to the conclusion that I can’t buy what they said. That I think everything is far grander than they think and that they are so limited in what God means… And just like that, I left God where he belongs, in the hearts of people that need that.

I still strongly believe that religion (in any form) has some very important cultural fundamentals and is vital for many people who struggle to make sense of things… but that as I struggle to make sense of things, that ideas on God no longer require fitting in. I am happy. I would encourage people to find God… I just don’t. I don’t need re-birth in a Christian sense, I don’t need to be saved in a Christian sense, I don’t need those things at all to find my path in this world. I can make all of those transitions and shifts without God. I also don’t consider this to be a simple kind of faith.

To be fair, though… most of the things that caused me to go were about Jesus. Not God, that is if you consider them separate (in any form) and while I followed a Christian based spiritual path, I never felt that Christ was my “It” guy. I had believed that I understood God, but that all got called in to question. And I realized that the version of God that I had in my heart was based on the magnificence of things, most of those things being based on reason, some of those things based on how I made sense of the world. But, and here was the kicker, I really did not need God to keep that delight in magnificence. It was there even as I let go. I still deeply love this world. I am not about to become an atheist poster child. I don’t even like the word atheist. But I don’t feel like I fit the mold for agnostic any more either.

I am still navigating this path… but I am ok, I don’t see it as a path of reason, it is just my path.

Maybe, someday, I will change my mind again, though I feel less inclined to care. It just is.

I still believe in vaccines, though!

The fossils of dead superlatives

I am the best at beating cancer.

Though in some respects, there was not much to beat.

In the end, we caught the cancer so early it was only the size of a grain of salt.

Yes, I talked about that before.

There are many strange things that happen when that words gets tossed into your life.

Trying to make sense of it may be the hardest.

In my case, it is managing the whole thing of having CERVICAL FUCKING CANCER.

It is, after all, considered to be a sexually transmitted infection.

And then there is managing that stigma.

I am finding my path as an advocate for the HPV vaccine. And am meeting with many people about how to help spread the word about the vaccine. I will state that I would not wish what happened to me on my worst enemy, and I had it easy.

Anyway, the stigma thing.

SomSome people that I tried talking about this with dismissed my concerns as my being more upset about it than the situation merited. In my fragile state I listened to that too much. Several months out from hearing this.. I am calling bullshit.

As I talk more with others, it is clear that the stigma is there.

After all, it forces us to have a conversation about S-E-X.

Because, that is culturally understood to be the main way that you get it.

At a dinner to talk about HPV recently, a dear friend revealed that she had cervical cancer.  I watched my friend talk about her experience. The others at the table leapt at the chance to blame it on her husband at the time, as he had been older, more experienced.  I was pretty horrified by this in a way because you could tell the others really liked her and  I was pretty horrified by this, one could tell the others at the table liked her. Most likely they did not want to have any unpleasant ideas about her and her choices in behavior. We were meeting to discuss how best to spread information about the importance of the HPV vaccination among a particular religious group. As I heard them accuse the man, the hair on my back flared a bit. I reacted this way because it was judgement…  this happened and lets blame the older ex-husband because that is easy to do (though there is no way of knowing if it was the correct thing to do).

My tendency is to assume that everyone is having sex.

What that translates into can vary;

  • waiting until marriage
  • waiting until in a committed relationship
  • Sex on the first date
  • Sex with strangers
  • Sex with multiples
  • and on, and on, and on…

We have chosen, as a culture, to decide that one (of these) is better than the other.

We still judge men and women who choose to move outside the boundaries of long-term, We tend to judge men and women who choose to move outside the boundaries we set. That is, those of long-term, spiritually certified, monogamous, committed sexual relationships.

And while this may present a cultural ideal, it really is not the case. One just has to look at the research coming out of the Kinsey Institute to be witness to this.

It is unfortunate that the assumed cultural demographic for women with HPV and cervical cancer tends to be among what is often referred to as the loose woman.

Working in the early 80’s in some health promotion programs (breast and cervical prevention models) it was often a topic of discussion that cervical cancer was either transmitted by
a) loose women or
b) the husbands who had sex with loose women who would then give this disease to their ever so chaste wives.

The truth is, is it really any of our business to worry about past choices? Past experiences?

We can all assume that the women who’ve had a diagnosis of cervical cancer have in fact had sex. It follows that in some way they have been exposed to the virus either through her own experiences or those of her partner.

The possibilities range from
a) being raped (which is much more common than is reported, regardless of how you feel about it being deserved or not, and that is a whole different conversation) to
b)choosing to have sex with a partner who is infected.

The only thing for certain is that there has to be at least a third person. This is in regards to the sex lives of a couple for HPV to happen (I don’t mean a three-some per se, though that is not excluded). The couple can be gay or straight.

Divorce rates indicate we participate in a form of serial monogamy. We can follow that with the idea that people who remarry have been exposed… which helps accounts for the idea that 80% of our American populace has the HPV virus.

But there is that stigma, it hides out there as this article recounts and is poked fun at by this Onion piece.

Dear me, I seem to be ranting…

Announcing I had cervical cancer allows people to make assumptions about my sexual behavior. These assumptions create a need in me to discuss my health and sexual history to allow people to form a correct opinion of me.

Hell, even my husband was lamenting that he hoped that he was not the cause for my disease,

In the end, my cancer was something that my body was unable to fight and the cells decided to mutate… in most cases, this is something that bodies able to fight on their own.

A vaccine would have helped.

Oh, and by the way the incidence of oral cancers is on the rise and in men and these are associated with HPV too… how is that for a fun conversation. Lets talk about sex baby!

~sigh~

The funny thing is that I titled this post just because I read this article and liked the phrase enough to want to use it.  I did not intend to write a diatribe about my dislike of judgey people in terms of sexual behavior, but it happened… I suppose it is something I am still processing. one does not hear the word whore cancer and move past it easily.

A

Anyway, I love words, I love concepts… concepts like the consensus of definition, etymology, and epistemology (to name but just a few).

I have had several friends comment on the cautiousness in which I choose my words. However, when I am excited I tend to fall back on strange metaphors, similes, and synonyms that are tied up in my multi-cultural background and present what to some as gibberish. My friends are able to figure it out or at least pretend to.

I do love words, I like to listen to them, make sense of them, argue and chat using them… and I was charmed by this idea that remnants of my ancestors word choices are alive and well in my current vernacular.

trolling and menopause

As I have been pondering my move over here…

I have been thinking about how I have heard my mother and aunt say that because they are over a certain age, post menopausal,  they are entitled to speak their mind freely and as they want. Frankly, at this point, I think this makes them out to be more like trolls (definition here) than adventuresome women who are fearless.

I recall I time when I heard them say this and thought it was so wonderful, that they were fearless. But does age really allow us to be rude?

I don’t think rude is ever good.

I actually think it, this tendency to speak ones mind freely and without censure,  is more about the anonymous public thing…  when you don’t have a sensory interaction with another person, it is as if you have a license to be a rude asshole. I have seen it in a few different places. With other people. In general, I don’t like internet assholes… and it takes a special talent to interact on the internet without coming off that way, I can only name a few active “online” friends who can usually manage it with a modicum of grace, most others are just rude assholes.

There is enough bullying going around.

Notice how when you see a face, or hear a voice… that you often have a deeper understanding of the situation and I would guess that we are kinder and gentler in those circumstances.

Journalists, of course, suffer this consequence… being a silent voice to challenge and stimulate conversation Journalism is certainly not for the faint of heart in this. But I have never thought of bloggers as journalists. I tend to think of them as people willing to expose a part of themselves. In my case, I started my blog so I could document my pregnancy. I found tremendous support through my friends who read it, but the strangers who came across it were kind and gentle with me. I developed several friendships with people I had never met. They are different kinds of friendships than the people I know if life. But they were deep enough to get invited to funerals, to foster connections, to grieve together via email. It was kind. It was gentle.

I myself have engaged in an ungraceful manner on-line. I usually realize it and apologize… and have tried really hard to be mindful that we have enough horrid in our daily lives that something kinder and gentler is probably more productive.

There is even a news piece about how to deal with anti-vaxxers saying that putting them on the defensive may cause more harm than good.  And what happened when this writer met her cruelest troll.

I think people are feeling disconnected.

I just see how ugly and horrid things like politics has become – in the case of politics both sides using horrible terms to refer to the other side, names for the president that are shocking (at least to me), names for our female politicians that are misogynistic at best… I recognize that this is not new, but it is more vulgarly inflammatory now.

Then there are what I traditionally avoid when reading news stories… the comments section. Often full of hate and vitriol, scathing off the cuff accusations against the author or subject… its a little much.

As I age, I am finding it mandatory that I be more gracious and kind. That I invite into my life (and by default my family) something kinder and gentler. That I find a way to shift the ugliness of character in myself, that I allow my exposure to grace to be the driving force. Age is not allowing me to tell people to fuck off, it is not allowing me to be mean, it is not allowing me to speak my mind with freedom.  It is calling me to be quieter. It is calling me to be gentler. It is calling me to use a phone or move to be in person when I have a concern or opinion.

I know that we all need to face ugly and deal with criticism and hear unseemly things, but there is just so much. And as I sit here, managing life after a cancer diagnosis (which shifted my way of thinking) I want to commit to gentleness. I want to commit to kindness. I want to avoid trolling.

Day 2 – 40 DOW – was pretty shitty

IMG_2954-0.JPGNot my cells, but similar cells

Cancer

in-fucking-situ (at least I hope… the word micro-invasion is hanging out there too).

A cause for celebration. Really. They say.

But holy fucking shit, calling an oncologist for an appointment for yourself is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, Not even someone who could use a strong life lesson or a swift kick in the butt.

You get that call. The one that gives you the pathology report and tells you next steps and it is so heavy and burdened that the air gets thick and it is almost impossible to breathe. Partly, I wonder in retrospect, if is so that you don’t miss a word about what you are being told.

The call to the overly cheerful oncology office to book your appointment.

The calls to those you love. Your husband, your mother. You aunt.

Contemplating how to make the calls to your other loved ones; your father, your cousins, your friends.

Return calls. the news spreads. You get calls from your brother, A message from a professor from when you were back in medical school (who is now a close colleague to your mother).

Priorities mulled.

Pathology reports faxed. scanned. emailed.

Decisions to be made,

Priorities re-mulled.

What do you tell your young children so they can navigate the stress they know you are feeling without giving them scary words that will make things worse.

What do you tell your friends. How do you tell your friends. Do you tell your friends? It is easier to tell strangers.

How do you navigate not knowing what the oncologist will say without Googleing yourself sick.

And again, priorities re-mulled.

Fighting the tendency to blame yourself.

Trying to be strong because you need to be for others, because the last thing you need is to take care of someone else when this is about you (and not them).

Trying not to listen too closely.

Wondering if you will lose friends. Knowing you will (I’ve worked in cancer, it happens too often) and wondering who it will be.

Wondering what do you do. Do you burden friends with the news?

Having to deal with the part of myself that feels socially awkward and introverted.

Remembering to breathe.

Philip K Dick said that cancer was “the process of creation gone wild…”.

Thoughts of prudence and of recklessness.

The mantra of thinking “it could be worse” repeatedly. intermittently. nauseatingly.

Blaine The Dane – QEPD

Just shy of one year ago, a very dear and special person passed away. his friendship was deeply (profoundly even) important to me, he was kind, and gracious, and patient with me. I was reminded of his passing, and the flood of sadness at knowing that would not hear his voice again, just made my heart feel heavy. again.

He was living in New Orleans when Katrina happened, he called me a couple of days after the storm hit from his cell, the one which I had tried repeatedly to reach him on. I answered, breathing into the phone with anticipation; “Blaine, please tell me you are Blaine and that you are OK” He answered; “Darlin’, I am OK. It is hell here, but I am alive.”. He told me how awful it was and asked me to call others that were important to him, people who I did not really know, but had met and knew how to get a hold of… There was such an honor in being that kind of person to him.

I wrote him a letter last year, shortly after I found out he had passed away from brain cancer. Here is an excerpt of that letter.

My dear Blaine,

I always told you that you helped me in ways that would be eternal. Now that your body has passed away, the truth of that hits home, and hits hard.

I was recently broken up with one of the most vile and worst of the boyfriends in my life… I was broken but managed to talk myself into going to Long Wong’s in Tempe to hear The Revenants play… alone. Not anything I normally did, and everything I was told I should never do.

You were sitting outside on the patio with mutual friends. You heard them ask me about the ex. They went inside to see what was going on. You stayed and talked to me and told me what I needed to know about being in a relationship with addicts and how to handle it now that I had broken up with him.

I recall thinking that you were trying to work me, and you probably were. The light from the streetlight reflected on your long, dark, thick hair. I was pretty broken that night, when I arrived. You were extremely kind and I decided to give you a chance. We spent quite some time together after that, hanging out at your casita talking about having ties to the rise of Phoenix; Denton, Texas; music; astrology… and even a little about your vile ex… and my vile ex. And in those moments, where we would sit and talk, a wonderful friendship began. That is, until you decided to move to New Orleans because you didn’t want to cut your hair. I’m not quite sure how you managed it, but before you left Arizona, you helped me regain a sense of worth that I had handed vile ex boyfriend on a silver platter. Merely in you appreciating me for who I was, was I able to regain the knowledge that I was a good person. Those early years between us seemed a diversion. We had sex , drank a lot of your cold brewed coffee and talked.

I always marveled that you were such a wonder… You were the first to present me with a clean sexual history on paper, I was struck by that… it seemed so gracious. You also once introduced me to your friends as your lover, you were the first man to do that. I was floored. I’m not sure why, but it was undeniably true. You had the smoothest skin 😉 I’d ever seen, I still marvel at that. Making love to you was straight raw sex… but it was transformative for me. You helped me get past some perceptions about my body and shifted the way I confronted men as well as myself and how I felt about sex. You allowed me to relax and have fun. You were a catalyst in returning me to me.

We stayed in touch by email when you moved away and when I moved out of the country. We would use ICQ to chat between Latin America and NOLA. You were the first man to send me a picture of themselves naked, and I think you were disappointed by how I was not charmed by that.There was the other video (not of you) that still shocks me, and has me deeply concerned about a horse. You seemed surprised that I even watched it.

I was able to swing a visit to New Orleans and stay with you for a few days on my way to a friend’s wedding. I was still living overseas and there was something that felt very grown up in going to visit you, even though I was in my late 20’s at that time. That trip changed me so much. It was there that I became aware that you called me darlin’. It was that trip when I felt like the sexiest and most desirable woman in all of New Orleans. You took me to dinner and fed me jambalaya, later you took me to see the Blind Boys of Alabama. I wore a slip, no bra and no panties. We walked around the French Quarter and you gave me a tour of the city at dusk and into the night. You introduced me to your friends as we walked along the street. I”Of course, darlin’ you’re beautiful.” I think that walking around town with you while I was wearing nothing but a black slip was one of the most wonderful moments in my life as a female. I felt beautiful in a way I had never felt before. You may have been the first male to tell me that and that I believed truly meant it.

We went back to your place and made love… and I laughed. You had to stop and tell me how weird it was for you and I told you that I was laughing, not at you, but just at sex as it was a funny thing to do and it felt good and most of all because I was happy. You looked at me and said that you could handle that, smiled, cupped your hand around my neck and kissed me.

You took me to a graveyard near your home and we talked about death and life as we wandered and sat on the mausoleums, that was so perfect. You told me that you had identified the time and date you’d die. You wouldn’t tell me though, you said that it shouldn’t matter and I realize that was right. You called me darlin’ that whole trip (and never stopped).

I never had “intentions” about my relationship with you. It just was. I never thought of you as a boyfriend or even as marriageable. We enjoyed each other.

I recall that in Phoenix, we spent a New Years together. We had dinner and you ordered soft shell crab. I seem to recall that we went to a party and got bored and went to just get naked and enjoy each other. You looked so handsome in your suit, and you were extra gentlemanly to me.

I’d gotten married and when I told you, you said that you’d miss having sex with me, but that I was forever your darlin’. I came to visit you again after that, and stayed with you but in separate beds this time. You showed me the shaker shop and your love of good wood. We were friends, and I knew that would never go away.

I was one of the first people you called after Katrina devastated New Orleans… to tell me you were ok. You’d call a every once in a while and I’d call you. You’d share your relationship horror stories and I’d ask about my sons astrological chart (it was not done by you, but it was done with software you’d written. So it felt right) or we would talk about how New Orleans was still trying to recover. Or we would talk about guns and how much you hated liberals.

Oh my dear Blaine, when you called to tell me about your tumor. I was devastated. Stage 4 is never ever good. I asked if they thought it had been the tumor that had caused the constant ear infections 15 years prior. You said you hadn’t thought of that. I think it was, but it is in my nature to find some form of survivor guilt about you. I don’t want you dead, but you went ahead and did it anyway. So you leave me here, all the richer for having had you in my life.

I miss knowing that hearing you call me darlin’ is a phone call away. It was always so genuine.

I really do miss you.

Love you forever,

Your Darlin’

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