The Gracie Foundation

Everyone needs a little pampering, a surprise gift of love, and no one moreso than a person with metastatic breast Cancer. The Gracie Foundation provides all that and a deep feeling of warm love in a priority mail box to its recipients. I received mine on Monday and not a moment too soon, either. You can nominate yourself or be  nominated by someone else to receive the amazingly beautiful and incredibly useful, high quality priducts to make breast cancer treatments just a little easier to bear. In my box: a large bottle, with pump, of body lotion; a scented soy candle; a cooling eye mask; a bath scrunchie; a gray knit cap; pink warm socks; an awesome mug for a big cup of tea; delicious scented soap; a pen and todo pad for chemo brain days; face cleansing wipes; and a book explaining the origins of the idea and the woman who founded this wellspring of love to carry on her legacy through giving even beyond her physical lifetime.

Gracie’s husband, who she married just a week before her fight with cancer ended, carries on her legacy and so he and volunteers ship off a little of Gracie’s beauty to others who need a bit of that special thing that made her a much loved woman of substantial giving.

Thank you, Gracie. Your spirit and soul fill my heart with beauty and joy, and I think that’s just what you had in mind. ♥️

CATS and KITTENS!

I have your full attention and yes there will be adorable cat interest stories to entertain you, so fear not dear reader. I make this assertion: blog posts, essays, and cute tongue in cheek stories about cats and kittens attract far more readers than similar stories about any kind of cancer. I’m fairly certain of this without even checking the statistical data. I might have this all wrong, but I doubt it.

If a kitten could invade your body physically, you’d know it. I don’t mean a “sitting in your lap purring” invasion of your personal space, I mean getting into your body traveling around a la the Disney movie “Inner Space,” in which a family is shrunk down to the size of a baby flea injected into the bloodstream of a human being. I recall the roller coaster ride at one of the Disney properties in Orlando, Florida supporting the film. I bet it took in millions in ticket sales from the drones lined up in snaking hours-long waits for a single minute of thrills. I cringe at the idea almost as much as I cringe at the idea of Silicon Valley rush hour traffic, bile of rage welling up in each driver hours before jumping into a pool of BMWs and Priuses.

Back to my subject matter – cats versus cancer. Cancer cannot compare in the arena of adorable versus ugly. Cats win hands down. The statistics about cats do not make people cringe, unless they’re cat haters or sociopathic torturers. Other than some dogs, the occasional wolf or coyote, certain birds of prey, and most carnivorous mammals larger than a cat that may view puss in boots as a nice appetizer for supper, nothing and no one really hates a kitten or cat. Even Grumpy Cat, that self-loathing short legged curmudgeon. His or her angry looking furrowed kitty brow genetically beaten in by human torturers kind of like a form of cancer. Nothing a little radiation therapy couldn’t handle.

Believe it or not, cats, not only dogs, can detect breast cancer. At least British kittens can. Recently, a women in the UK claimed that her kitten would wake up in the morning and jump on its owner’s right breast. She let this go in for two weeks until she visited her physician. It turned out the kitten sensed she had stage one breast cancer, and now the woman is on her way to a full recovered. See the article referenced below for the whole story.

There’s marked differences between cats and cancer. It’s no surprise these differences create a preference for cat content over cancer content. And although a kitten created a happy, lucky breast cancer survivor, this is one of the few Venn Diagrams containing both kittens and cancer with any overlapping area at all. Instead, if you were to think about the two topics, you’d draw the diagram in two distinct and separate circles: one labeled “cats” and the other labeled “cancer.”

Why? Cancer doesn’t playfully attack you – it aggressively wages war on your body. It’s not aloof or passive aggressive, just aggressive. It doesn’t purr or meow. Your friends don’t say, “ohhhhh! Such a cute little cancer you’ve adopted. What’s her name?” My cancer, as with other people with incurable cancer that eventually kills us if the treatments don’t do us in first, is named “metastatic” or “stage 4.” Cancer won’t play with a toy or a ball of yarn, it plays tricks and hides from mammograms if you have dense breast tissue, like me. It can’t smell catnip nor will it steal your ham or turkey sandwich. It won’t let you pet its head or scratch behind its ears. It hardly allows you to poison it with chemotherapy, radiate it or even cut it out surgically. Best of all, you needn’t buy Cancer a litter box or a food dish or food to fill the dish. Cancer lives in its very own self replenishing food dish. I am it’s food dish and it will eat me alive. I’m also it’s litter box and it’s cat tree. It doesn’t ask or meow to go outside and every once in a while I take it on a vacation with me or to a cancer retreat to entertain it! Lucky cancer is even treated to large doses of its favorite treat, cortisol, whenever I become stressed. I have a very obedient cancer. It responds well to chemotherapy- first Xeloda and now Ibrance.

Unfortunately my health coverage doesn’t quite cut it for this latest round of treatment to get it out of my liver. So I reached out to the Patients Advocacy Foundation and they are funding the $3000 copay that I cannot even begin to cover. Cancer pounced aggressively on my financial life from diagnosis, forcing me to get out of the workforce and spend many days at home. With my cat. And not much more company than that 90% of the time.

A cat will make you feel a little better if you do have cancer by showing you love and affection, and in my case remaining with me in bed when I feel terrible or on the days when I cannot bring myself to fight the fatigue. He’s around when the humans in my world disappear, some never to return again. But my cat only leaves my side to eat or use his litter box. I know if he had opposable thumbs he’d feed me and bring me soup and things to drink. He allows me to cry in his fur and won’t run away when I talk about uncomfortable subjects. Simon loves me unconditionally, while my cancer hates me unconditionally.

So here’s some entertainment for you to forget about cancer for a while and the article from the Daily Mail about the cancer detecting kitten. But I hope you’ll come back again to read more about the uncomfortable topic of how stage IV breast cancer in the form of invasive lobular carcinoma with metastasis to the bones and now the liver, aim to destroy a woman and how she lives in relative peace and happiness, regardless of what rages on inside and outside of her physical body.

Kittens Boxing in a Ring, circa 1894
The oldest known film of kittens
YouTube’s oldest cat video (movie?) made in July 1894, not posted until the 2010’s

My Kitten Alerted Me to Cancer
Kitten saves British woman from rare form of breast cancer
Continue reading “CATS and KITTENS!”

How to Listen, Artfully

via Erich Fromm: The Art of Listening

One Fresh Hell, Hold the Tomatoes

Last week found me a visitor to a mental health facility, leaving each evening alone and downcast. The place just a few miles from our home, in the foothills south of the city, in an unremarkable single story building where I chose to allow supposed professional responsible human beings to rescue my ailing partner from the shackles of long term anxiety and depression. Leaving without him broke my heart and provided not a whit of relief as a few close friends hoped a “break” in the action might provide. His pained eyes looking upon my sadness as yet another judgement to come down upon me. Another multi-year term added to the #lifer tag around my neck, another blow to my remnants of hope.

All the while I possess the knowledge that I likely won’t live to see our future through to a plausibly happy conclusion. Even though this love 10 years in the making, its melodramatic script changed and the film itself in the can, spliced together and the story arc mangled under the cruel editor’s blade. The final reels go to the studio with my scenes cut and lying on the editing room floor.

I hoped for relief at the end of a long week spent alone over the course of treatment, yet no sparkle reappears in his eyes yet and his life not yet resuscitated. It takes the Zoloft about four weeks to help much. But I’m mostly alone these days. Yearning for my partner’s support and the kind of tender and caring love many of which many metastatic sisters write and blog about, I now look over at him, home in bed, and find one whose dark, inky emotions remain locked away inside his heart, like the stars behind clouds in a dark night sky. He lays there disengaged, thinking to himself about things that cause long bouts of sighing, and the simmering anger of so many men who find themselves bitten by such disorders.

Sometimes, my difficulty lies in hiding my visible outrage for being his care giver for over three years, of which this past 18 months one of the most heart wrenching trials of my life. My god – this and cancer, too? Fuck. What more can one do but look up and ask the ceiling over our bed long and winding questions about the treacherous nature of spiritual meaning, self-worth, and the relative value of a life. I then break from the sum of my existential questioning of cogito ergo… to find an email in my inbox from someone who reaches out to me to thank me. Grateful for my honest approach to my blog posts they type out a note that reminds me of why it’s worth it to know that it’s my responsibility as a wife to make a decision to help alleviate my partner’s suffering and try to revive him. To ask that his soul be returned his body.

He, too, wants only the same for me and indicates we may not stay together. For fuck’s sake — why now and you have got to be joking (the only sentences I can form without punching him in the face.) These trivialities came to him exactly how? And in what universe does he believe he lives in where this would even be okay by a substandard unintelligent alien culture of unfeeling assholes? And with that he passes wind and falls asleep and I’m left to wonder alone, naturally, what fresh hell might await me tomorrow?

Hopefully a new sandwich called “fresh hell” from the deli and no more than that.

The Light of Reason

The light of reason
Shines least
On the most alluring
Accompaniments.
Good works gleam
With diamond dust intensity,
Arrested by a photographer
Caught setting jewels:
Emeralds, sapphires, rubies
Where the eyes once saw you.
Scintillations and
Ministrations of cold
Creams to cover girls.
Replete with therapeutic virtues –
Liquidsolidgas
Scientific foundations
And loosely pressed theories:
For lips
Two-fold
Exuberance.

Positively Connected

“Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.” Eckhardt Tolle

Our personalities and sense of self do not stem from our opinions. Not even in our age of entitlement formed through the public ramblings of one single ego-driven tectonic plate moving dictatorial notion. Important, no doubt, to someone impressive to all their tweets and likes command. Of course, every human being beginning at birth has a perspective. Narrow though a newborn’s and pickled though an alcoholic’s – and no single moral standard claims any higher reaches than another. Despite what seems evident to me, there still exists a subsection of hostility driven people, trapped in a prison of anger. Their approach to the world carries an unwavering intent to cause suffering. Yet, we are all responsible for our own suffering as well as responsible for suffering in the world.

So how can this be possible?

I can choose to live as a source of conscious positivity. A great example to illustrate Richard Feynman’s excited and animated discussion of how rubber bands work. Feynman explains in this must watch video by the BBC, how atoms jiggle when excited by other atoms in some way. If I recall one example is a racketball hitting the court. The jiggle created by the contact of bouncing a ball hitting the boards, which ever so slightly increases the heat in the floor because the ball is moving faster than the floor. The measure of increase in temperature then becomes a proof of energy transfer at a molecular level. The floor’s atoms are disrupted by the ball hitting it and that is not even the point although voila, his excitement creates a curiosity in us and an excitement about learning. Similar to positive consciousness of living in the presence of now.

Pedestrian example…notice on days when you’re in a bad mood how others pick up on your negativity and they respond negatively to you in kind? Perhaps you’re driving more aggressively because you spilled coffee all over your car and now speeding over the roads towards a meeting 15 minutes delayed. I can simply arrive at the meeting a bit late, calmly and apologize with a smile. Certainly my reception may start cold, but my cheerfulness and tenacity inevitably override my unfortunate tardiness. My associates’ experience a graceful and present human being and eventually respond in a like manner. I guarantee someone else in your meeting went through a similar situation at some point in their lives. Maybe even that very day. They will remember only what you tell them to remember – meaning how you transfer your energy to the human beings with whom you’re engaged – positive or negative.

Perhaps on my drive I make a negative detour and make myself even later by running a stop sign and getting a ticket. Instead of ruminating and becoming angrier, instead of cursing my spouse or partner, the inanimate coffee, my boss, the other drivers…so much negative energy transference I create in a single drive into a small blip in the course of my life. Why?

Think about it this way perhaps. An opinion in your consciousness when applied to others sets the alarms off, erupting in arguments allowing negative energy to break into your positive space, like a thief. If I view others as equal – no matter their origins and opinions – with an open heart and mind and listen, we find ourselves in positive space with diverse rich colorful discussions, opening minds and knocking on doors rather than knocking them down.

This in 52 years? I earned the understanding of this concept and I’m not sure it’s something I even learned at all. In fact it’s more a feeling in the spiritual sense, than knowledge or a meaning in the mind. Here’s my confusing formula for you science types:

“Now” = what is, what’s gone and what’s going to be. It’s a triplicate paradox – ergo, appropriately, a “tripledox.”

To review how I got there and why that crazy logic train makes sense to me. Some days, my words refuse to connect to any discernible emotional or mind state – or anything I believe worth the investment of my time to sit down and pick up a pen and a piece of paper. As I wrote that last sentence, I realized that is the very worth my time, even if no one else ever reads what my thoughts became. And that’s not why I’m writing. In this moment when the past present and future dance together forever entangled in an infinite ring, what I write becomes very important. Not necessarily to you the reader. (If it does, how Cool is that? We connected.) I write for my physical, spiritual, and mental health.

My connection of mind to pen and paper help me plough through the work I must do to live. And it’s all work right now. I wish I could say differently. But this as all things must pass. Like a fart. Or a tailgating asshole. Or depression. Or bad weather.

And with that, I loathe waking up sometimes. You mean…Princess Positive? Miss Merrymaker? Lady Laughsalot? Moi?

Even hypocritical me. I get so angry I just want to fall off the flat earth and pound hard on the door of the universe – I bet Monty Hall answers and asks me about which door I choose. I say “all three” because you can do what you want in alternate dimensions. Or just because I want to see silver taffeta curtains opening like birthday gifts in my next reality tunnel where I win lunch with Douglas Adams, Dick Feynman, along a three piece lounge set from mid-century modern Michigan circa 1950. Did I digress? Yup. Sorry. And no the women I’d want to lunch with us remain with us. Diverse dream meals-r-us.

In the past 48 hours…

I’ve thrown up, thrown upset crying fits, tossed annoyed looks at The C. Twisted myself emotionally, felt alone, experienced the panic of financially worry about my healthcare, and I can’t get any good deli anywhere in San Jose. But this, too, shall pass. I realize I am where I am because I must be here. And there’s no way to go it alone given the stress of a change of residence and my enemy, thy name is stress. See, I’m dealing with this fucking liver metastasis at the moment. My veins and arteries have no blood count, and my bones work overtime at night so I can’t sleep. I have no appetite, no energy. No visitors. No shit. Lost 25 lbs. not a recommended diet, kids. I’ve had a bad week. It’s hard saying goodbye to everyone and everything all the time. But I can’t linger in this space much longer.

Open all three doors, or Monty gets it – and I’m not in the mood to make a deal. But I will say with the saccharine sweetness of a diabetic candy and the artifice of the broiled roast chicken brown skin from a tanning bed light, you’ll want to go plant wild flowers and kiss your loved ones all on the forehead, and hug your annoyed cat. Or slobbering dog, if your so inclined.

P.S. Another tale of opinions pissing on the heads of others: It would have been my mother’s birthday on the 31st. I wasn’t given any chance at closure because my aunt and brother decided I didn’t get to say goodbye to Elaine Rothman Kaminsky Tramonte. So laughs on them, she’s not gone to me. She’s around telling me I look fine stop worrying, wiping my face with a wet index finger (eww), hugging me, telling me how I’m her beautiful girl. How proud she is of me. And for all the shit our lives dumped in our laps, she was my mother. She loves me. I’m her first born, her daughter. Because they didn’t want me to upset her. How do you keep a child away from a parent, even as she aged I was still her angel, her shayna maydelah, Esther Williams, “mouth”, and the other 100 nick names she bestowed upon me – and she was my mammelah, mah, mom, mommie, my mom.

Flawed. Forever part of me. Forget? Never.

It is what it is, huh?

If “it is what it is,” why is it so the collateral damage of metastatic cancer so fucking hard?

Why is it okay to break promises to me?

Why is it so painful to look at the shattering of once solid love?

Why is it okay for me to take handfuls of pills but it’s not okay for you to take one?

Why did I think it was a good idea to give away all my strength?

Why did it fail me to believe when it came down to it?

Why is it you can’t put your paranoia away for one day and help me live?

Why is it impossible to find my fight today?

Why is it okay for my needs not to matter?

How is it possible for you to listen silently while you hear me cry?

Why was it okay for me to be a day late to get the assist I needed to save my life?

Why is it okay for a copayment for chemotherapy to be greater than an entire months disability check?

Why is it okay to see that my life is slipping away?

It isn’t what my it is.

Why isn’t loyalty, isn’t love, isn’t commitment, isn’t kindness, and isn’t believing in the human spirit – why aren’t these its the “it is what it is?” It is what “it is is always negative.” Why?

Fuck it.

Whatever it is.

To #laugh is human; to #cry is to laugh longest.

It’s never your responsibility to…

Eventide

Riding passenger side snapping right,
I’m down in front stealing long exposures.
From the back seat our youth sits
Mocking us with instant polaroids.
Destroyed pictures of minutes and memory
Precious and precarious slip a stone
At once here and at once gone.
Right under the driver breaks hard and higher
Up another mile, silently stealing all we pass.
As if it meant nothing, had no value.
Yet we never stop to salute the flowers –
All wilds and yellows and purples.
The foothills’ shoulders grow peonies
Upon sunshine golden with military ranks.

How jagged time?
We spend ours climbing again as
Eventide approaches us.
Stealing the light
Squinting and teasing Every photographer’s eye.
The lens escapes the fight as fists fly
Above us rung the first punch
Headliners: the over-real versus the unbelievable.
Then we drop down tearing around
The Summit dragging the day with us.
With us flat then right over on the side.
Buckshot sprays whitetail from
Underneath the wheels,
My skin and bones chill fast underneath
Blankets just a quarter mile thin –
Count the microclimates in a 14 mile exposure.
My imagined assignment, anyway.

Inertia now driving our ascension
Finally dousing my focus.
Yet I am pacified by
Deep coastal royal blue velvet,
And by the courtly cape
Of dense silver fog.
Trees, reach in and take my attention
Lost in the sky and yet at home.
Away with the little brick foxes
Already started by the drooling hounds,
Running in distant golden broken lines
Shrinking to a pointed index
Finger of bent redwood lumber.
Penciled between the knotted trees
Escaping our eyes
They write letters to us
To one another, to anyone.
I imagine the trees alone love themselves.
Writing in dead languages those
Modern towers of Babylon
Without oral tradition
No monks or followers to take dictation
The mighty ones tie rings around
Paper and papyrus of their own making.
They, like me, can write their own stories.

Distant deamons dance to the music of the eventide,
Whose eardrums thump and pop from slight descents.
Mercies clear the stares and the macabre glances.
And up ahead the night hides just around
The voluptuous Earth’s curves.
Yet she shakes off the road upon her hip
Langushing and lounging
Laughing at all the forsaken highways.

You snap me awake.
My hypnotic state undone
By our quick duel and I, only me –
I roll one window down
With enough sense to know
The party orange of evening presents
A moment for exposure
Showing the night undone
By the simplest flash
As we find a space and stall the motor,
King and queen of the hills
Announced by snare drums and trumpets.
Goodbye, twisted bruised skin of eventide.
Eventide, goodbye.