Friendship, Cancer, and The Jokers

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” – Seneca

On my 52nd birthday my husband comedically quipped, “From her on baby you’re as old as a joker.” Why? “Because your age is equivalent of the number of cards in a deck.”

If you look in a card box after retrieving the deck of 52 necessary for the game you have in mind, such as solitaire, a pair of Jokers and the deck’s informational card sit, left over. I am the leftover — and now I’m entering the stage of life, the unwanted, the leftovers. I am in at the dawning of the age of the Joker.

Have a listen to the Australian band Wolfmother’s song, “Joker and the Thief.” It’s very catchy and if you like that song and haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Wolfmother their eponymous first album is great and has another song I like quite a lot called “Woman.” A three piece band, their sound is that of a love child, borne of Spinal Tap and Jack White. Here’s a link for The Joker and the Thief on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lkPfgzR6Hw

“Can you see the joker flying over / as she’s standing in a field of clover.” Great visual for song lyrics, dreamlike and yet ominous, a girl whose innocence is her honor, and the bringer of death the Joker poised to take her away. At any rate, clover as I visualize it carpets the fields of Scotland and of Holland. Furthermore, when you find one with a fourth leaf, rather than the common 5 leaf species, it’s considered very very lucky. The green carpeted field conjures up the impression of a girl rolling in a field of money without a care in the world. The Joker takes away that innocence and invincibility – I’m no longer a girl anymore.

I’m now firmly planted on the other side of 50 years old – more than half a century on this third orbital from the dying star in our solar system. Remember when youth outweighed the cataclysmic teenage ubermensch-ism? Remember when 50 seemed extraordinarily old? 50+ years to a teenager seems so ancient. God, like, you know Stonehenge or the Pyramids at Giza. Rude punks, my other mohawk prickly friends and I would elbow one another and smirk towards those who crossed the half century line and to any person over 50: “wow that’s so old.” So, turning some kind of sharp corner, I’m now the joker in the pack with the deck of cards. The cards that don’t matter and stay in the box, and no one cares if the jokers get lost.

I suppose if given the choice to see what I’d become now at this age, I think I’d like who I am and what I accomplished. Hopefully, you can look at yourself now, and know having all of those years to look back upon and smile with happiness in the warmth of good memories, or with bad decisions and hurt and sometimes embarrassment, the chill of regret comes and goes in a fleeting moment. Sometimes, we get the chance to undo a past regret. The opportunities come along infrequently, so try to recognize one when you happen upon it. I think it’s a strange enough concept, given the premise that you make your fate and take what’s in front of you – and make yourself better, create an improvement for your future self to incorporate. Use the good in front of you to drive your decisions.

Allow me to illustrate this phenomena with a personal example. About three years ago, I felt awful. However, I’d just gotten through a bunch of personal dramas — my dad died, my cat almost died, and a person who was a “friend” did something to cause enough stress to kill a normal human being. That was also when my husband tumbled deep into the dark well of depression.

Exactly thee months into 2015 I was really feeling awful and after watching me curl up into a ball on the bed, hands reaching and crying in absolutely the worst pain I’d ever physically felt in my life, he said that’s it we’re headed to the ER. We all thought it was food poisoning. Wrong diagnosis. There were 7.5 liters of ascetic fluid that built up in my abdominal cavity. If you’re unfamiliar with how cancer travels from one place to another in the body, they can only travel via your blood stream or your lymphatic system.

When cancer goes rogue through the blood stream, it goes through the liver which goes into overdrive and other extreme chemical reactions happen. I’ll skip the details, but the net effect causes a fluid to build up, and floating metastatic cancer cells coagulate without real purpose like Mercury in an old anal thermometer. The silver beads attracted to one another and make larger more expansive ones that light up on a CT scan like tiny oil slicks.

Hey, congratulations you’ve got stage IV cancer of the breast and bone lesions. Well, that explains why I wasn’t feeling so well. I recall receiving an email right before that most horrible week from a good friend and the email required my immediate attention. My attention won’t relate to anything at all back then when I had the diagnosis come down on me so hard I didn’t know when or where I was in the scheme of life. I don’t think I even opened email from back then yet. It sits, unread in my inbox – all of it.

I lost the chance then at giving my hand to hold for a moment if she chose to pick it up so she could feel even slightly better – because I know intimately now tragedy causes loneliness. Let me say though, as a Joker I feel magically imbued with some preternatural ability to move around the here and now without being seen.

Everywhere I go, I am not needed especially, yet I am empowered by my invisibility and the wisdom that improves with age. My wisdom tells me to go see her – call her – send flowers. DO ANYTHING to apologize that my physical state hasn’t allowed me to give her the attention then she probably didn’t need but I should have given her.

The Joker flies over and takes innocence like gasoline and soars over more clover until I find the lucky one, the one with four leaves. I am the luckiest Joker alive. So, to my friend who sent me a birthday card, now that the fireworks of the fourth are over I want to somehow tell her I love her and I think of her very often. I do hope she’s forgiven my remiss, having found out about my situation coinciding with her life’s loss. I hope so anyway.

She’s one of the good people I’m blessed in my life to know. The four leaf clovers? I now realize they’re the people in your life who I should never let go of and never give up on – regardless of the situation. They don’t care about a miscue. They’re too deep to be so shallow. They care about me and send the most positive thoughts they can.

Thank you my dear clover in the hills, I hope to see you very soon.

My Loves Electric (Not Anymore)


Our “Friends” Electric Gary Neumann

There’s a knock on the door/ and just for a second I thought I remembered you.
So now I’m alone / and I thought I could fend for myself.
(From Our Friends Electric by Gary Neumann)

I’m in a terrible dream from which awakening may prove worse. My house in a state of disrepair, crumbling down around me. I try to run as the floorboards warp and break behind me with each step, I scream moving towards a closing door my hand grips inches from the handle as it shuts and locks me inside our home’s sweet wreckage. My good dreams of the future simply exist as memories never made. Each new day wakes me with only the potential of a kind morning. And still alone, my mind races back to that door slamming in my dream single lingering question: I face myself and ask – where do I go from here?

My partner of 10 years decided in his state of untreated general anxiety disorder and depression to quit the miraculous rTMS treatments that incrementally could save him from a life in darkness. The magnetic woodpecker that sat over his head for 40 minutes and gave me five memorably glorious and wonderful days with him. Days and nights when his eyes returned to their beautiful sparkling turquoise with flecks of gold from cold, grey, and dead.

We want to sell our townhome. Simon our cat and me probably, for my longer term mortality, must move away from him should he remain embodied in anxiety’s bouts of rage and pain. Because metastatic breast cancer should take poll position over his anxiety, my life simply cannot continue in the same manner. The last hellish three years of watching the love of my life deteriorate from the vibrant and wonderful man into a nasty and cold asshole. My own coming months and years cannot be spent writing behind bars of someone else’s prison, a prison I handed him the keys to but he refuses to leave.

The keys to my prison do not exist, there’s no cure, and there’s no future with happiness together as a team, the team I really counted on – but Einstein said not all things that can get counted, should be counted.

Many women must experience similarly traumatic stress events with cancer ravaging their bodies. My life’s spirits’ exhaustion shows. I burn hot on fuel called cortisol down unpaved roads, climbing hills to where I believe waits my husband only to drop 10,000 feet until I can stop myself from falling. In the uglier more humiliating moments, I feel useless and unrepentantly inferior to able bodied non-disabled women. People say, “just move out!”

If it were only so easy.

The energy, money, and help (none of which I have by the way) moving takes and the emotional toll of the move itself and consider just the breakup – could shave years from my already shortened life. Yes, I do need to reconsider my options. Unfortunately, I’m unable to work much ouutside of my home and if I have any of my own money I don’t qualify for Medicare. In our great country, one must live far below the poverty line to become eligible to receive medical insurance to cover the incredibly high costs of living in a body full of metastatic breast cancer.

I’m watching my life expire, while my love lives imprisoned by something preventable and completely unwarranted since the keys lay in his reach. I imagine what the feelings of excitement of embarking on a new future, unladened by the heaviness of a partner with depression would feel like. However, given the genuine sadness, memories of pain and ugliness and tears combined with my MBC, and my heart and soul feel nothing even close to free. It’s so unfortunate my new direction will bring only lonely, empty, impoverished days and sleepless nights.

It’s as though his depression, rather then a hug and an apology, will be my runner up prize when it comes time to hit the road. I don’t want this new life, but I cannot stay in this one either. For three years I fought to try to help him. And now I cannot help him any longer. If you’d known us before you’d know why I struggled for so long to try and take care of him at the risk and loss in years of my own health.

What the fuck is life without love? What is life without purpose? What does it feel like to truly live alone with pain? How do I go forth into a life without anyone’s name to put on my advance directive? There’s no one left I can trust to see out my end wishes. No one who I can trust to speak for me when I cannot. Everyone’s gone – dead or left when cancer entered my bloodstream. Never did it occur to me that I’d become this lost so late in the game, but My Love is gone. He is not going to come back to me. I mourne him as he was and don’t know this person who says ugly horrible things and teases me with hope of his wellness and then maligns his state of mental health like a monster from an old movie in front of me.

It’s torture. He believes I am having him go to these treatments to have his brain scrambled like eggs. Yet rTMS was incrementally helping him. Now in his refusal to continue he’s just cruel and it makes me wonder what I did to deserve this horrible life. You’d think – why would anyone do this and choose to hurt someone and himself? How egotistical can one be?

You’ll have to ask him. He may indeed become my last love and now my lost life. Indeed, the friend was electric, but he chose to leave its tapping on his door unanswered and thus, unbeneficial. If life as I hoped truly is over, where to from here?