Op-Ed: Regarding Cancer and Making Personal Connections

My dear friends,

I’ve received so many amazing letters from people who read my blog or found me through another online channel like my Etsy shop, YeuxDeux Vintage, or on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. They read about my diagnosis and my current life and find common ground, and I’m honored to communicate with people who were touched enough by my life to personally reach out. I appreciate their candor and I am especially humbled by the emotional outpourings of some of the communications I receive. Unnecessarily, their email begins with an apology for a “stranger” so openly sharing their experiences with me. But are we really strangers?

It’s impossible for me to conceptualize the idea of a stranger. If you believe as I do that we are all made of the same “stuff” the universe is borne from, then we are all part of a single infinite family. I’m very much Jungian in my spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, my father, who studied Freudian psychoanalysis and was an atheist, never appreciated much about my spiritualistic tendencies. Jung’s theory of synchronicity certainly supports my belief that we meet people when the right time and space collide, however our acquaintance comes to fruition be it virtual or face to face.

I’ve learned that the people I meet virtually share my own philosophies and align with my experiences far more frequently than a smaller circle of people in my immediate geography. Makes sense mathematically – there’s nearly 8 billion of us globally and only a few hundred thousand around me. I have also decided to lay bare my personal life on my blog. As a part of the confessional nature of my writing, my pain and my emotional turmoil make my the most private inner world available to those who were heretofore unknown. Some with cancer, breast or metastatic or other forms, some care givers to those with diseases of the mind and the body, some creative writers, and some lives carry emotional similarities to mine.

Anyone who decides to engage with me receives a very dear gift in my response. My words are wrapped with care and a certain kind of love that’s unheard of where I currently reside. Still, I find isolation in my life with cancer.

For instance, last week I could not stop thinking about my mortality. How could I find a way not to ruminate as my three year diagnosis anniversary in my rear view mirror and oncology appointments and chemo and other therapies in the windshield looking at the unknown duration of my life on the road ahead of me. I snapped at my husband for his glaring lack of celebrating life’s time markers with me. He instead ignores them as a way of ignoring what I’m coping with primarily alone. In fact there is no more time left to avoid celebrating cancerversaries, birthdays, and anniversaries. He’s very good at disguising his sadness with annoyance, using my disease, my side effects, and and my cash flow as excuses. Such bullshit.

We are both aware of his avoidance. He has yet he to open his heart, to enable his true empathy, or allow my state of being to enter his consciousness… without relying on such lame excuses. I too wonder if the overwhelming amount of crap piled up between us is surmountable, and the task ahead staggers my mind. I wonder if we can ever find new footing on which we can look through the same windshield from the same vehicle to make this trip together. Yet he cannot completely get his mind to wrap around a tremendous daily uncertainty. It’s all too much for someone who thrives on order.

This may provide some insight as to why I’m happy to find the better part of my human condition and to find connectedness where and when it presents itself. I find peace with all that life’s delivered on my doorstep, whether or not I order it from the infinite universal catalogue of “Oh My God.” There’s so much complexity to a life, irrespective of whether one finds themselves with a cancer diagnosis. By the time we reach 50 the explosion of our entire life’s plan is the last thing we expect.

My plans got blown to bits but heart remains solid. So, keep those cards and letters coming my friends, keep them coming.

With love,
Ilene
Head Driver
The CancerBus

P.S. Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. My minds been occupied with heavy things and I’ve tried to pay better attention to my relationship to insure it’s survival. As my friends, I’m sure you understand.

Ilene

Female. East coast transplant living in the Bay Area of California. Living with Stage IV breast cancer. Married to the coolest guy in the universe who occasionally suffers from serious depression. Love my stepsons, although I never thought I'd have that thankless job - ever! And my best friend Simon is also my cat. How I have survived with stage IV: treatments including chemo and surgery; palliative oncology; tenacity; a dark sense of humor; support groups; and my newly reinvented career as a vintage and antiques maven. Some days I miss the old me who led a well respected and well paid life as a business strategist in high tech. So much for that. I blog to simply share my experiences and my poetic approach with others who have cancer of any kind or with their care givers and those who love them. If one person at the very least finds a little commonality or a friend out in the ether tor a smile, a common nod about this experience, or even a link to assistance, then I have accomplished a small but extraordinarily meaningful goal. Go team.

4 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Regarding Cancer and Making Personal Connections

  1. update: no need to credit me when you post on blog; however, please post with title … Apache blessing.

    You are in my daily thoughts.
    ~Liesl

  2. Dear Ilene,
    I admire your ability to share so openly about your cancer journey with others. You have touched so many people through your writings.

    A dear friend sent me this Apache blessing; I thought it is worth sharing with others that are navigating cancer.

    May the sun bring you new energy by day,
    May the moon softly restore you by night,
    May the rain wash away your worries,
    May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
    May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.

    Your blog continues to bring me comfort … knowing that I am not alone … navigating advanced cancer.

    Sending caring & positive thoughts,
    ~Liesl
    Metastatic Breast Cancer IV

    1. Liesl, I wrote this post specifically to shine a spotlight on finding each other in such a vast space and reaching out our virtual hands to hold on in an unbroken circle of life. It may sound dramatic to some but it’s very much grounded in real terms. I do not know what I would do if not for relatable words written by those who have been touched by the ugly monster in some way. Both survivors and the people who care about and love us.

      Thank you for sharing the Apache blessing; the words are based in the beauty of the natural world and so life affirming. I hope others will read your post but if you don’t mind I’d like to post it on the blog and of course credit you for bringing it to my attention.

      Much love,
      Ilene

      1. Ilene –
        A good friend (since passed) sent me the Apache blessing … worth sharing with others !

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