Nancy’s Blog Hop

A blog hop – so easy and it’s eponymous – hop around and read some new blogs. But if you each write a little about your awesome selves it’s more fun to hop around because it allows you a sort of handshake with which you can introduce yourself and actually meet a few new bloggers.

Sigh Late as usual but better than never, finally joined the hop. Please make sure to check out nancyspoint.com for more fun and awesome writing by Ms. Nancy Stordahl, too. She’s a great support to me and I dearly love her and her straightforwardness and the direct impact of her blog.

  1. Who are you? If applicable, share anything you want about your cancer (type, stage, when diagnosed, whatever.) Share something about yourself such as where you live, the name of your blog and it’s “mission”, a challenge you have faced or are facing now, or whatever you want.

I am a writer. I am a poet. I am a wife. I am a techie. I am a Trekkie. I am an advocate for those who do not have a voice for themselves. I am a cat lover. I am an environmentalist who sells vintage to not only make people happy but to help limit new resources in the manufacturing of consumer goods. I also happen to have stage four metastatic breast cancer and was diagnosed de novo March 25th, 2015. I don’t define myself by my cancer but it’s something that informs who I am now. I think I’ve come to love myself more since my diagnosis. But it’s in no way a gift. I am at peace with my own mortality but not at peace with the isolation that comes with metastatic disease, and I am without family except for my best friend and love of my life. My friends and family have all but disappeared and I feel lonely except for having the awesome power of the blogosphere and some social media to have created a network of wonderful supportive writers and Friends who are just on the other side of the screen 24/7.

  1. Have you ever participated in a blog hop before?

Nope. But I’m late as usual to the party, but better late than never.

  1. What’s your favorite sort of blog post to write and/or read – personal story, informational, how to, controversial, political, opinion, rant or other?

Personal stories and experiences as well as poetry. I think the more personal the better for those reading Cancerbus.com because people want to know they’re not alone in their emotions and their experiences. The comment I receive most often is something like “thank you for voicing what I cannot I feel less alone because you expressed what I’ve been feeling.” I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I can help a few people cope a little better.

  1. Describe yourself in three words. Yes, just three!

Funny, impatient, different.

  1. Name three of your favorite books from your youth (whatever age that means to you.) that had an impact on you.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My father gave me books that would have a long impact in my life at a very young age, and I started reading at 3 years old. I still quote the sci-fi books and Goodnight Moon impacted my poetry early on.

  1. What are you reading right now, or what’s on your to-read list for when you have time?

I listen to audio books mainly because Taxol had a terrible effect on my vision. I’m listening to
The Bright Hour and Cancers Cure Cancers Cause
Chris Beat Cancer is next up.

7.  What’s your favorite dessert of all time?

Key lime pie. Must be my Florida influence. And I love tart desserts.
However, I love to make chocolate pudding pie which is the easiest dessert for even those who cannot cook to make. One pre-made graham cracker crust, one box of instant chocolate pudding – follow instructions on box and spoon into the crust, one tub of cool-whip topping or if you feel fancy, a can of real whipped cream goes on top of the pudding. Then you can chill for an hour. To stay busy get a spoon and clear your bowl from prepping the pudding and eat. You will of course screw up the first slice of pie so eat that, too. Then serve the pie to as few people as possible and hide the remaining pie in your fridge. It will disappear. I think this is how crack was made in the 80s but I cannot prove or disprove my theory so we will just say it’s a conspiracy.

8.  Tell us about a special pet you have, had, or would like to have. (Never wanted a pet, that’s okay too.)

Simon caught yelling at mom, “treats!”

Simon Barsinister Templar Kaminsky, Balinese Cat at Law.
Big blue eyes with soft luxurious brown fur, the breed is known as the “silk brick” and is non allergic. The Balinese was created by two women who coincidentally lived in the Bay Area near San Francisco.

My cat is of course very intelligent, friendly, affectionate, and works nights as a professional lap dancer.

9.  What’s something people don’t know about you and might be surprised to learn?

I have a tattoo of the Cheshire Cat on my right shoulder blade. And I’ve lived on my own since the age of 14.

10.  Do you believe healthcare is a privilege or a right?

Healthcare in a civilized world is neither a privilege nor a right. I use civilized very loosely here given we punish our planet and our people without prejudice. In fact each person deserves equal access to quality healthcare no matter how much money they’ve got, their gender, race or religion or their geography.

Healthcare early in life prevents a host of problems later. Yet in a penny wise pound foolish system by which not everyone is able to receive medical preventive or urgent care as needed will burden a system like the one in our United States to outrageously huge sums of capital expenditures to benefit corporations in many instances. The rights of the few and the powerful threaten the health of our planet and our people.

11.  What’s your favorite thing about blogging and/or reading blogs?
Developing a network of support from people I’d never have the honor to know otherwise as well as learning from personal experiences on demand. I’m humbled by the candidness and humility of many writers as well as comments made by bloggers and non bloggers alike. Reading has caused me to become more humble and grateful. Also since cancer is not my only “interest:” depression; narcissism; step parenting; and poetry – I’m able to tap into a global stream of words that inform and help me cope. Additionally, in the case of poetry, I read in order that I may write better and I can practice and work at it at any time day or night.

12.  What’s something you really suck at?
Skiing. Both snow and water.

13.  What’s something you’re pretty good at?
Cooking. I love it and I love to nourish others with the love I put into everything I make. I’m also a pretty good poet. Been at it since I’m 5 or 6. I’ve not given up since.

14.  How do you escape from cancer (or life in general) worries?
I believe I engage more deeply rather than escape social creature that I am. However, I write poetry, take long hot baths, sing, play with Simon, play with Craig. Watch films or comedians I love. I wish I could socialize more often and hang onto friends longer. I hope to add gardening and growing food to my list but Craig always asks if I’ve not got enough on my hands already, especially as I get closer to writing a book full time. Just like a job. Once we move we’ll go back to hiking and I hope Craig takes to kayaking like he does to skiing, since I cannot ski. But I don’t think he swims very well so it may not make the monthly list. Finding drawing after 53+ years of being told I wasn’t very good consumes a lot of my free time these days with Zentangle and art journaling. I also love to bead and make jewelry and when my Etsy shop does well, I get to go antique and vintage shopping and I love that.

If you’d like to join in:
1) Write and publish your blog post.
2) Copy the URL of your blog post, click on the “Click here to enter” link below, and follow the instructions.
3) To list the other blogs on your website or blog, click on the “Get the Code here” link below, and paste the code into your blog. Make sure to paste it into an HTML box – it won’t work otherwise.

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One Word Can Make All the Difference

So, there’s wonderfully good things that transpire to create a solid high of energy around us that heal. Then I think neutral stuff happens all day long like stopping at a red light. It can be a negative event if the conditions we perceive make it so: e.g. I’m late so this might make me later still; I have bad luck. Outside of all perception and control things happen all around us: environmentally, socially, scientifically, etc. We assume we have some way to partake in those events or that they conspire against us to create a negative vortex or a positive window or door to look out or step through. It’s vague. But the vagueness is very interesting isn’t it?

Perhaps you feel like cancer or disease is in some way your fault or a conspiracy of circumstances. I actually believe it’s both. In my heart I now know there preceded my cancer diagnosis events that were incredibly stressful creating a hospitality center for my cancer to take up residence in my body. It’s not my “fault.” There’s no way we can know just what dis-ease lie in wait for us except for the occasional discordances like diabetes, which is generally genetic. However that’s controllable with diet.

We live in a diseased environment that much like our bodies under stress develops dangerous conditions in which nature slowly dies. In some sense I’m glad I won’t be around to see the death of our planet as we know it. Depressing. But truth be told did we need the fluoride in our water? Did we need all that corn? Do chickens need such big breasts that they fall over? Does organic even mean without chemicals? No. None of this is true. But we are fed a body of fear to add to our newly stressed out lives and we wonder why breast cancer rates since the 1950s have increased from 1:40 to 1:8 (or 7 depending on who you ask). That’s a gigantic rate of increase in a very short period of time. And not to get too much into numbers but only 5% of cancers are genetic. Including breast cancer.

So what can we do about all this? Well I am headed back to Commonweal in Bolinas, California in two weeks to attend my second session at the Cancer Help Program. (CHP information)I’m giddy with excitement and literally cried tears of joy upon receiving the call last week. And we are in the midst of closing on our house and finally finding a new one. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. I sit in acceptance of offers of help from a professional organization expert hired for me by my realtor, with C’s assistance and the enlisting of a moving and storage company if it comes down to it. I’m not giving up the opportunity to move to a new home with my life partner and best friend to drag the same shit along buried deep in a dark box from my internal attic. No point. It wasn’t working for me before so it won’t work going forward.

The first week long program started the healing in October of 2016. But I knew I wasn’t well and wound up spending a week in the hospital upon my return. C was at the apex of his depression and there was no relief in sight. He was hospitalized about two months later as well, for his anxiety had gotten so bad that I couldn’t in good conscience watch him deny his condition any longer. A long road to healing began for us both individually and as a couple.

But something seemed really undone. Like a frayed rope or like confetti or ticker tape after a parade my mental streets need sweeping. I called one of the founders of the CHP in March hoping to get to the June week program before the summer break. Only eight people can attend. September had the right mix for me with the other seven attendees. June just didn’t play out.

I am blessed again to benefit from people I love and respect and who gave me a path to find my way to new meaning. The most profound statement of healing cane from one of my private sessions with Michael Learner, the founder of Commonweal. He said, “Ilene, why don’t you call yourself a writer? That’s what you are.” And a simple statement changed the course to bring us here. Today.

I am a writer headed back to the Cancer Help Program in two weeks. In the meantime I hope to post one more time to respond to Nancy’s Point and her Blog Hop. I feel like a bad friend but I know she understands.

I’d check out her blog if you’ve not been there yet. I love Nancy’s way of explaining the emotions and medical conditions about having cancer and losing her mom to cancer as well. Take the time to read her stuff it’s worth it. She’s also written several helpful books especially for those new to this cancer culture that you’ll welcome even if it’s old hat.

And with that I leave you with my love and my light and a gentle goodnight and a poem from Robert Frost:
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Uncertainty

Life’s great deceit
The human equalizer
Is death, certainly.
No announcement from our pilot
No time of arrival
No maps of the place we land,
And what happens
Afterwards
All mysteries, all.

He teases us with a whip sometimes
tickles our insides with a feather.
Cancer’s uncertain effects
Of diagnosis of life or death
Or would it be a stretch
Of the imagination
A Jewish woman may conjure up an image
like this:
I’m in a concentration camp
Looking down a barrel of a CT scanner
Like waiting in line for a shower
But the lot of us wind up
Tossed into a gas chamber.

A body transformed at the whims of science
For the good of us and the bad of the rest
And for those who cannot sleep.
My head droops on my neck escaping the air
Closer to the ground where the poison
Waits snaking up my body. A fat brown boa,
twisting and constricting
Suffocating my peace with a promise:
Please squeeze hard.
For thick with the dead
After life’s passing glory
The campaign marches on.
Beating time tracking and tracing out
Torsos with cold leather fingers
They drew my blood then sent me
To the mass grave. I fell in
Losing my balance.
On the bodies of giant
Piles of shoulders
I become faceless in a crowd
Of numbers up before mine.