Soul Spelunking: my inner journey after a terminal cancer diagnosis (take II)

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Soul Spelunking: taking time out to go on excursions of self discovery, reading the signs written on the cave walls, and finding our way underneath the surface level to healing the very deepest of wounds.

Let’s face it, no one gets out of this life alive. Or unscathed. Maybe some lucky people had amazing childhoods. We all define ourselves by our upbringings and all come from different places both geographically and psychosocially. But we find a way to one another and form relationships.

It’s the intersections where both cuts and bruises as well as and love transpire. We move in and out of Venn diagrams with each other looking for commonality. Sometimes we find really well-suited friends and lovers and sometimes we find people who can become life-threatening no matter how big the overlap in the middle.

Hopefully, we know well enough when it’s time to cut and run. It’s hard to see at times, but eventually the clarity comes and the sharper picture comes into focus.

Where there’s rain, there’s water

Someone hand me an umbrella, please.

Sometimes, my life seems itself to burst open like a sudden storm and pours suffering. It’s enough to distract my attention from everything – causing pain – both physical and emotional, which seem to go hand in hand. Yet I must care for myself in order to be of service to others. To offer solace or any kind of meaningful empathy I need some shelter from the storms. Or at least an umbrella.

I can only imagine by what so many of you, quiet and reading my posts, think. I’m sure you’re going through a difficult situation in your world. If nothing else, I can say I hear you, I care and I really can empathize with suffering. You perhaps got here using a search engine using terms like terminal cancer, breast cancer, death and dying, cave spelunking, cancer blog, poetry blog, or something worse like, “I’m dying from breast cancer and I don’t know what to do.”

You’re attempting to find some kind of answers. Or at the very least someone else either who’s got something as close to your own disease or worse.

The impasses and impacts can become so overwhelming in this life, just trying to find a way through them seems impossible. Grief from any loss feels shattering in the moment, but we are still whole. It’s what’s outside of us that’s in pieces. It’s the world that’s raining not us – we can somehow find shelter from the storms and survive today, anyway.

But if I’m not careful, especially given my own health situation – terminal stage four metastatic breast cancer that was diagnosed at stage four with no cure, just that knowledge alone starts to break me down inside too. S

Soul spelunking needs no equipment except the kind of strength of will to do it. No grappling hooks required. No ropes. Not even a partner. But we sure would be better off if we had some kinds of tools to help us get through the rough stuff. This is the rough stuff – cancer is very rough no matter what kind, what stage, what treatments or lack of treatments you’ve had.

Please do not apologize either for not having stage four cancer. It’s not your fault I have it (is it?) and you don’t have to say sorry if your comment on my posts. Please know if I didn’t want to have a conversation I’d not write it down and hit publish.

The Traveling Vagus nerve: what happened to vagus doesn’t need to stay in vagus

I’m not looking for sympathy mind you. My emotional state shifts as my hopes and aspirations. It’s my fears and my wounds that continue to show up on the walls of the cave as I go deeper and farther away from the outer crust of the earth and into the depths and darkness.

There’s a rope that extends from the mouth of the cave (the brain) to the dark places in the belly of darkness (the guts).

Places few get to see up close and personally. However here you are so if you like rubbernecking at a good car accident you’ll find this too ugly to turn away. Trust me on this.

But consider photographs if you will. A photo or a snapshot collects information and allows only what’s available in a small and cropped picture to emerge. I’m showing you what’s left on the cutting room floor. What’s not within the frame of the pictures you’ll see of me growing up and the way you’ll see them now. Tainted and forced smiles, not vibrant color shots of my face. Looking more deeply there’s more behind my eyes. At seven. At 13. At 16. At 22.

Me at 10 with my mom at 35 in 1975.

I miss old photos on glossy paper. My father photographed everything around him until he could no longer hold a camera – he was in either ICU or in surgery, and finally a coma. And then he died.

I sometimes wish I’d turned the lens back on him in his state of in between life and death. He snapped photos of me without permission. Movies on the best possible media available to him – 8mm film then converted to VHS then to DVD which, last I heard cannot be located. He was a very good to, some say, excellent photographer. He chose to photograph people in distress while he was an activist.

A lucky activist with some very expensive equipment and the money to afford the ever-upgrading, ever-expanding camera collection. And he collected everything he wanted as he liked through his entire life, he had a father who was wealthy and no other siblings. He was able to spend the better part of two seven-figure inheritances, which dwindled rapidly. As luck would have it for me, in his state of brain addled malfunction he completely cut his favorite child out of the will because my brother had resented me for some reason.

“It’s my turn to be the favorite for once.” This is what he screamed at me several times during my father’s two years of suffering through a brain cancer death.

Both of my parents decided to go with who was closer to them geographically because that was always easier for them. And they’d come visit me in California but as they got older and more ill – my mother had dementia and the first signs of Alzheimer’s while my dad’s brain was being taken over by a mitochondrial brain tumor. How strangely parallel for two people whose only commonality were two children they both ignored for the most part.

They again abandoned me from their wills like a used tire or a Covid dog that someone once thought they wanted but realized they hadn’t the time to raise. Loved and kicked back to the curb again. Yet as the glutton for punishing myself I went back to Miami Beach and sat bedside with my father in hospice. But that’s a story I’ve already told. It’s on the blog. A couple of years ago I wrote about living with death.

Ring! Ring?

Who’s there?

Me!

Me who?

Ilene!

Click.

My family are vindictive for reasons beyond my understanding. The dying it seems haven’t the right to ask for what they want of their families. Or at least in my case. Every single person in my family who remains alive has determined I’m not worthy of their time or even a, “how are you?”

I have one remaining step sister who speaks to me and I assume gives a report to whomever reports to the rest of the clan. She’s my sister by marriage but as close to a sister as you can get for having no genetic material between us. Is that what makes a relative real or not? Not in my opinion, since we choose who we marry why can’t we choose our siblings? I think there should be a law for siblings to adopt one another too, not just parents but that’s silly isn’t it? We must have blood or otherwise been married into or adopted into our brood somehow to determine relativity.

Ha. See what I did there. Relativity. But things in life through our death are relative. We can see the ball bounding on the train before it goes by and can see the future and the past all at once but that’s a confusing as relatives can be, too.

My grandma Sylvia (born Cecilia Sher and lied about her name and her year of birth until I found her certificate when she was finally done with life.) She was 5’ 1” tall I am 6’ tall. She wore an F cup I wore a B+ now a double A. She was loud and drove my pop nuts, yet somehow they remained married for over 50 years and my pop died peacefully at home when my grammy was at my cousin’s bat mitzvah in New York. He wanted peace.

She wanted to follow him threatening to jump into his grave with him at the service and again a year later at his unveiling https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-tombstone-the-unveiling-and-visiting-the-grave/. For two years I drove her to the grocery, visited her, brought her gifts and took her to eat and we’d go see movies together. I was her favorite of seven.

After much prodding by my mother and her sister, it finally became clear she’d never learn to drive instead of giving me her car my family finagled that, too, along with jewelry. Some made it to me only to be robbed off of my body during a robbery when I was 18 by crack heads with knives.

It took that horrible 2 hour ordeal to bring my father and my mother to the conclusion I could not live alone in a house I’d been abandoned in by my mother when I was 13 years old. No one in my family “knew” my mother had taken my 11 year old brother after six months of me trying to coordinate a household on my own and permanently left.

MY FAMILY IS VERY VERY STUBBORN clearly in how they want to think about how they want to think. Look at how a woman who had never driven a car felt when her husband died after over 50 years of driving her and remember we are from New York and she was female, she didn’t need to drive. Why force her at 75?

And why did it take a violent act of horrible terror that I remember with keen vividness to this day to get me out of the house I could nary afford and into a dormitory at a college that I could barely afford but was safe in the arms of with people my age around me and the security of being in a college dormitory? Why did I rank that low on the scale of selfish priorities of my parents? If you die before me, and you happen to run into them please ask.

My dad left us when I was seven. So there’s a hell, too. But Jews like me believe we live in hell here on earth, this is where our stars of David are to bear, the ones we carry like big crosses only in the form of cans of guilt. Big giant guilt condensed like soup in a huge bowl ready for us to eat if we misbehave, and I was brought to you by the word “guilt” because I was a planned baby – a huge baby weighing in at just under 10 lbs and 22” long with my eyes open and head up.

Can you imagine his righteous indignation at finding out my mother left a 13 year old child to support and feed herself? And get to school. And not tell anyone. Should someone call, I’d tell them she’d call right back and call her at their house to let her know. This was in the days before caller iD, when we still had a push button princess phone on a 50 foot cord in the kitchen.

I HATED answering that phone. Now you know why I’m a serial texter and it takes a lot for me to call you or for me to answer if you call.

I mean you couldn’t want to talk to me? Could you? And I hate lying so that’s a big phobia my gut still feels every time my phone rings.

And of course this is a big secret? Really?

No one in my family wants to say it out loud because this is not easy to accept, and this is the reason it was upsetting to see me at the end of her life with Alzheimer’s.

The reason wasn’t some made up excuse that I owed her some money for some credit card that we’d jointly had together when I was traveling and I paid her to watch my house and feed my cats every day or so. Seriously get over yourselves and your bad case of denial. It was denial then and now. This is one glyph on the cave wall I’m still trying to grapple down to and get closer to so I can move on – the day I can call anyone anywhere I’ll know I’m better.

I’m still not better.

Get over it right? Not so simple.

Bats in the belfry – its not you, it’s me.

That’s one long set of stab wounds deep and some still not yet fully healed. Unhealthy and unspoken. Unsafe and dark. It’s where the bats come flying out of the cave to scare the shit out of me. And others too if you’re not careful. I may go silent for long periods of time – years- but it’s honestly not you, it’s me.

I’ve heard this: “why don’t you get over it already?” I honestly thought that I had seeing as how I have a college degree, I’ve had a career that’s enviable, and I’ve had all kinds of success in my life. Even living past the expiration date with metastatic breast cancer.

But the one success that I don’t have is getting over that anger yet. I do not nor will I ever have satisfying closure. And I’m exploring ways in which I can pop that last anger balloon and let the air out of it. I do not want to keep feeding it and tending to it but it seems to rear itself in some strange ways and I cannot get over it. Maybe if people stopped telling me to get over it I could get over it. A syllogism no doubt but not unfounded as a fine argument technique in such matters of the human brain.

No one can tell you get over it and I can’t stand when people use that term. I think besides just mean people its one of my biggest pet peeves.

I will never tell someone to just get over anything: it’s their wound, their hurt, and their pain. They’ll move on when they can and if they can.

I’m trying. And I have tried, yet been unsuccessful without anyone knowing what I’ve been through in my life. And it honestly doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter to you; it doesn’t really matter to anyone quite frankly, but it does matter to me, and that’s what matters.

So don’t tell people to get over it it’s really uncool and unfair. I know they will get over whatever it is iff (not a typo it means if and only if) they can. Iff in their time.

But wait there’s more.

My “get over it” peeve is a prime example of what’s really down deep hidden away, keeping me in the unhealthy world. I need to find the wounds. Then I must painfully reopen them, let out the infections and the yucky goop that keeps me feeling somehow not quite right with sudden bursts of insecurity and slight anxiety. I need to give myself love and air so I can let my body get on with healing best as possible from cancer, rather than old emotional wounds.

PTSD

Pissed Tired Sad Defensive or

Parental Torture Sacrificing a Daughter or

Plagued by Trust and Stunted by Desertion.

PTSDs like those listed above, create patterns of reinjuring ones self over and over again and push the immune system to its limits. And it’s that Vagus nerve the one that wanders into your gut from your brain and gives you a “gut” feeling – it’s a culprit in there even being thinking that there is a cancer personality, no theres not there are empathetic and highly sensitive people who have been hurt and then think they somehow need to repeat old patterns because it’s all we deserve. It’s being wounded as a child deeply and what I can only describe as the resiliency nerve to keep going no matter what has transpired but would flatten others to the ground.

Woof.

I feel like Pluto sometimes ready to be found out as not enough of anything really to be called a planet. Waiting to get cut from the family. Abandoned at the orbit of the sun. Written out of science books. Kind of like my personal inner life but on a much grander scale. I’m nothing in the scheme of the universe. Dust in the wind. You know the cliches.

My favorite book in the Bible is Ecclesiastes. Made popular if you remember the song Turn, Turn, Turn, by the Byrds you’ll know part of it well. Pete Seeger put it originally to music, but here’s the words it’s adapted from in the Bible.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain that which is to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time of love, and a time of hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Catchy. And things change. It’s what they do, but I don’t believe that humans change really all that much in their lifetimes. I’m fact, I don’t think we change much at all: we just become more of who we’ve always been.

I like who I am, and like the I who I am now in no way better than I liked who I was before cancer. Some people feel they become these more loving and understanding humane people. I think we were those kinds of people if we already were. But we just don’t have the layers of masks to hide under anymore. If anything maybe I say more of whatever’s on my mind, within reason of course, because I have nothing to lose.

But here’s my Achilles heel – I don’t like being alone. I’m pretty much alone in my life right now. And not having very many people around is exceedingly painful for me.

In fact this is one of the worst periods of my life, period. There’s few people around me and it feels like I’ve been cut from life’s roster a little too soon, a little too unwillingly, and without having had the chance to do a few things I want to do.

I feel a little like ex-planet. Like Pluto.

“Astrologically speaking, Pluto is called “the great renewer” and is considered to represent the part of a person that destroys in order to renew by bringing up buried intense needs and drives to the surface, and expressing them, even at the expense of the existing order. A commonly used keyword for Pluto is “transformation”. (Wikipedia)

This hellacious house!

On another stress of note: if we don’t get out of the house we closed on right before the pandemic closed down the world, my life will be cut shorter still.

(I know who you both are should you be reading along with this and you’re in big trouble and spend days in my thoughts as to how I’d love to see your ugly faces when you receive and read the demand letter Kammie Bailey and Travis Fator. We know what you did. Your realtor really should’ve been more like ours in San Jose and told you to DISCLOSE EVERYTHING or you can wind up with a huge lawsuit and possibly risk bankruptcy. Or worse, if you both have consciences, which I seriously doubt, take years off a life of someone who you knew at the close of the house has terminal breast cancer. Thats me.

Your realtor knew. I know you both because I’ve known people like you. People who suck and you both suck. Actually all three of you suck and everything you did to put lipstick on this pig of a house you used to buy another house you hardly can afford on your own on a single blue collar salary – so unless you’ve cheated on your taxes or made up some story to convince some bank somehow to give you a mortgage on an $800k house and have another kid – sit down and think before you gloat all over social media if you’re going to defraud another couple out of a lot of money thinking we can’t do anything about it you’re wrong.

Wanna know why? Because selling a house “as is” means “as is as known.” And not disclosing any of the things in the boxes on that piece of paper you and your realtor signs to let us know everything we need to know to make an informed decision was NOT CHECKED OFF. And a few of those things you cannot move — like the neighbor across the street or the huge 5G cell tower right across the property you conveniently made sure not to have in any of the photographs of the house online or on the sell sheets and marketing materials. Shame on you.

We must sue the sellers and just call it a day since the house’s problems, which were willfully undisclosed to us, continue to impact my health detrimentally – there’s a mold problem from leaks in the plumbing all over the “remodeled bathrooms” that were just a cover up for what lay in wait behind the walls.

We moved here from my support structure in San Jose three hours west. When we came out to move we had put stuff in storage waiting to get delivered. We found a house and we were a little weary of living in an airbnb for three months but it was one of the best periods of our relationship. It ended the day we moved in.

You see, we saw a tree. A very tall tree that we don’t recall seeing from our long upstairs deck at the house during our total of four allowed visits to the house. Four. We had to give 48 hours notice. I don’t know why but huge red flag. Huge. We were tired of looking and the house claimed “MOVE IN READY” and “completely remodeled.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You see, this tree wasn’t a tree – because it was disguised as a tree and surrounded with tall trees in summer and early fall.

By the time fall fell and the leaves with it – there it was. A HUGE 5G cell tower less than a block away. Nothing between us and it. It’s supposed to have been disclosed by the sellers. No box was ticked. When you’re driving and pull up you don’t notice anything but a chain link fence and trees.

We were not told about problem neighbors across the street nor the fact that we are helpless to do anything because we are in unincorporated Nevada county and apparently they can do as they will on their property.

We have a neighboring constant nuisance noise and carbon monoxide from the gas generators producing the noise and no legal recourse to get them to stop it although now they’re causing a big fire hazard in this tinder box called California where rain doesn’t fall at all lately.

We get no peace outdoors because of the noise level. We can’t get them to stop running these things 24/7/365. We’ve talked to them over and over and the neighborhood is afraid of retaliation but I’m not. What are they going to do shoot me? They’re already ruining my life by not allowing anyone to sit outdoors for more than 20 minutes without wanting to pull my ears off or on a bad day pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Then there’s the little box they didn’t check off to say there’s a cell tower within a very close proximity to our house – I mean one of those HUGE cell towers that cover miles upon miles of area.

There’s so much science backed evidence around Electo Magnetic Frequencies (EMFs) given off by the 5G cell tower across this five acre lot and it is and has directly impacted my health. The sellers knew of my cancer.

Still with all the red flags and all we came to find out only after the sale my husbands OCD keeps us living there until he’s determined thinking about what to do is done. Nothing more than what we know will be done will change it’s just going to take a bit longer than it should.

My cats developed a wheeze. I’m even worried about his health.

My options aren’t great. I’ve given him until April to get it together both emotionally and with our healing, as well as the house…but he’s in denial about the seriousness of my health situation.

Meanwhile, I’ve lost a lot of weight.

Amazing Dis-Grace

His mental health must improve to push him to take the appropriate actions to right what’s wrong. That will entail quite a lot of change in our life again. And so soon after we already up and took ourselves from where I had solid infrastructure for my healthcare and at least a few friends I could call in a 60-minute radius of our house.

We will have the contract cancelled, get our money back out of it and cut our losses. We will either move on together or split the proceeds and move apart. It’s a lot of stress.

A lot of change.

A lot of thinking for a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, who overthinks everything to the point of absolute inaction. He’s still thinking and it’s frustrating me to the point of disgust of the entire situation and it’s impact on my health and happiness.

I feel so isolated up here. No one really could’ve predicted the pandemic or the politicization of vaccines and masking. We all have a right to be well. I’m not really sure how anyone can look at the current situation and believe it’s okay.

Where do I go what do I do?

Writing is my safe space. Poetry is my personal container if you will. Having backgrounds in both reading (English/ philosophy majors) and writing poetry its what I’m actually fairly good at. Please do not take this post, a long rambling confessional as a great example of my writing. I needed to get all this shit off my chest. With breast cancer its kinda what you do. Get shit off your chest.

Every single spirit or soul, regardless of education or station, embodies some talent to be fostered and nurtured. Some people contribute on vast scales while others in small yet impactful ways. We have been reached by some inner or outer calling. The action may be a one on one friend in need of someone to listen. The action may be starting a non profit organization to help many people by funding research or aiding in affording expensive medication. Scale matters but then again, it really doesn’t, as long as you do what you can, while you still can.

And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here?

The outlet for the intersection of of my talent and my safe space is this blog.

As though magically somehow behind the algorithms that run search engines you may have stumbled into a blog. However if you keep reading, commenting and responding to comments you’ll find yourself in a discussion.

And dig just under one thin layer.

Underneath the soft cover you’ll find a huge box of treasures the size of everyone in the world who writes a blog on exactly what you’ve come to find. Like a writer’s Tardis.

Some will quietly read and take what they need. I am perfectly fine with that. Just reading is why this is in existence after all.

Still fewer comment with a kind note of gratitude.

And then there are the very few who aren’t shy and take time to respond to a post that resounded with them on a visceral level and I always will reply in kind.

Finally out of the funnel there’s friendship. Friendship can exist in the blogosphere. I can name at least 25 people I could say, hey I’m coming to your neck of the woods want to grab a coffee or dinner? I think they’d say yes. No, I’m sure they’d say yes.

I would say c’mon over and let’s meet and I want to see how tall you are, what your eyes look like, what you sound like when you laugh and when you cry and what you love to eat and drink. I want to make you dinner or brunch. Whatever you like just tell me. And I would meet you somewhere close, too. Just say the word.

Maybe this unwritten, unspoken code of sorts exists. And I believe in it with my heart and soul. It may be because of the way in which the very embodiment of writing existed for me prior to my real first memories of life, although they’re not good ones. They’re pretty awful. But it’s okay, I wrote about them so many times in so many ways examining them like a coroner with a murder victim on my table. My sharper tools appear to come to the surface to carve out those painful pieces of evidence and post them for examination. Will I get lucky and find any cause of death?

What’s new pussycat?

What’s new pussycat to make you laugh out loud by John Mulaney. I am certain my post has left you with a headache if you made it this far and I am treating you to something kinder than my internal sinister problems starting with childhood. This is from John Mulaney’s childhood and his favorite meal of all time when he and his friend pay a jukebox to play the song What’s New Pussycat 21 times in a diner in Chicago one afternoon. It’s guaranteed funny so take a break and come on back if you’re still with me.


Being comfortable with silence is a continual learning process for me. However, in accepting dying and death, (whys the order always backwards in that process usually explained death and dying – you die then you’re dead?)

I’ve nearly overcome pangs to rush in or fill up spaces with sound in my own spaciousness. It’s delicious to taste silence now and not having to answer everybody’s questions first like in college or elementary school.

I don’t recall much from junior high or high school and I wish I’d paid more attention but now as you know I was parent-less and had no sense of what I should do about a lot of things at the time. Feeding myself, providing shelter and transportation is most difficult starting at the ripe old age of 13. In a city like Miami Beach, no less. My mother left to live with my future step father, taking my younger brother in tow. There wasn’t room enough or love to go around for me. Worse still I hadn’t permission to “tell” anyone. I didn’t know this was called child abandonment and a significant form of abuse. It’s neglect. It’s painfully clear as it’s been for years but I spent about six years of my childhood in a strange fog of conflict and confusion.

Currently I’m going through a similar form of neglect playing out the patterns of abuse as we do in our lives. I’m terrified of throwing myself out into the world and worried it won’t break my fall and I’ll keep falling in some great canyon until I hit the ground hard or I find a soft place to land without too much damage I know in my heart and soul it’s time for me to fly.

Words don’t always hold the answers. And in the workforce ones expected to have the answers especially in executive consulting. The pressure to be an expert on anything but mastery of my “self” is a gift beyond price.

It’s nearly seven years now of facing uncertainty, mortality, fear, grief and so much loss. What I didn’t realize is we walk with death hand in hand from the moment we’re conceived. It lives with us in the womb – conception of this body until this body can no longer contain our souls. And death is inevitable and the grand equalizer- no one can say with any certainty what happens after this “beautiful body” as Jnaini from Commonweal’s cancer help program retreat would repeat, as she massaged my skin like a silk scarf in the wind repeating “beautiful body heal they self” and sing and hum a tune or hymn or whatever suited that time of intimate healing touch.

When she died a few years ago – and it seems so long ago now – I sent a poem to commonweal for her memorial service. She brought so much love and as housemom that week showed us the way up and out every day to fully embrace what was set out for our healing hearts. Here’s the poem Blessed Body Heal Thyself.

Preparing my Soul

There was nothing in the world that could’ve prepared me for this magical week that were, as I look back, a series of healing circles. The agreements weren’t spoken as such. In piece parts and as a set of ground rules for the week I can now remember some discussion of respecting one another’s unique ways to healing, no interruptions, deep listening, silence to access our healing, confidentiality…it makes more sense now then it had then. I was a deer in the headlights upon arrival. When I left the next Saturday I felt transformed.

After I departed I was taken apart but not put back together.

The next two years were difficult and required hospitalization on and off for one to two weeks at a clip for two years afterwards. I came very close to my own demise in February 2019.

Long lonely days I spent after I’d brought up so many deep, unhealed wounds that opened up. I also realized the multi-faceted causes of my cancer. Not so unpredictable in hindsight. When living through something we can’t always read the hieroglyphs but we do notice they’re there.

Cliche and annoyingly obvious now, then those painful wounds needed tending with tenderness I haven’t any access to at home. The home I once joyfully shared with a now morbidly depressed person and two damaged stepsons who found nothing wrong with taking advantage of the situation for personal gain. Manipulation comes in so many sizes and forms.

I’m now sitting listening to a barn owl sing, hoo hoo-hoo-hoooo as I echo her song. She flies a bit closer after about three or four rounds of call and answer. It’s the church of the forest – she the minister, I her ministry. There’s a common goal between us: to find out who you are.

I have a little time left in my life. Not much but a little. I know each and every minute is mine now to take back and own. I cannot go to death reaching for my pen and notebook. Too late.

My mom saved my first gift to her – a poem I’d written just after my parents split up when I was just seven in ‘73. When my dad died of a brain tumor at the young age of 71, she gave the poem to me she’d kept all those years while I was with him in hospice for nearly three weeks in a coma. I was blessed to spend it with him. I breathed in his last breath out. A gift. His last gift.

Another blessed gift from my parents.

Sadly, I never got to see my mother alive again. She had begun about a year prior showing early stages of Alzheimer’s and my family determined it would upset her if she knew of my MBC diagnosis. She died at 74 just three years after my father. I found out seven hours before the funeral and did not make it. Ever. No closure. She left me again this time to Alzheimer’s.

FIRE!!!

Is there really more?

We also have wildfires burning literally all around us – we have evacuation bags set up, the cats carrier and his bag ready, a bag for my beta fish and we keep the car full and so on – until this drought passes it’s another horrific stressor on us and we’ve kept an animal sanctuary best we can around our house with watering buckets, bird food, some fruit and veg that is on the cusp and I’ve even uncovered the trees and flowers for the deer so they have a place to eat and bed down at night safely and get a drink.

My heart aches when I see animals in distress are in this area not knowing where to go and not ever having seen a car or a human in some cases.

Hearing of the environmental circle is one of the best thought current ideas – I think it impacts us emotionally more than we even realize.

I wanted to give you a more three dimensional view of what life holds in store for my discovery each day. I know with cancer we make space for physical needs. But these are psychosocial things we may not make space for or may not make sense unless they’re expressed in detail. Maybe it’s worse than you’d expect to find – maybe too much confession.

But…

The continuum of reading to find out something very important you might’ve come to find here means somehow you’re meant to be here – or “beshert” in Yiddish. I love Yiddish terms as their expressiveness and onomatopoeic qualities truly drive a point home (as my grandma was so able with a single word and a raised finger.)

I’m happy when you’re happy, readers and friends. And I hope that my confessional doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted. But this is the third revision. I’m sorry for the first data dump, but I had to get it out. And I know you do understand how soul spelunking can take us deep within the caves of our lives, into places we’d rather forget exist, and just escape them. Thank you for indulging my healing and being my “buddy” hanging onto the other end of my rope from wherever you may be right now.

You do know you find love here – and I hope you know it now if you didn’t before. Love to hear your comments, your confessionals, and your thoughts on anything in this rambling length of blog post. I promise there’s not another one in here – I don’t think I have the psychic room for it.

2 comments on “Soul Spelunking: my inner journey after a terminal cancer diagnosis (take II)”

  1. Ilene There is so much that I would like to say about this post. I read ALL our posts but don’t comment because my blindness makes it difficult. But I have made an extea special effort to comment on this one, first, to let you know that I have read it and that it has found its home in me. I am not terminal as you know, but could become terminal at any point. As you probably know, my cancer treatment rendered me blind, inable to walk and with no balance to boot, so wheelchair bound, no feeling in hands, feet, legs, face mouthxand tounge, breathing issues so low oxygen levels, and constant pain. Terrible bowel issues making going out difficult and heart poblems. I often feel that I have no right to comment anyway because I am not terminal, thoug I do face my own death daily (no one else wnts to though and people pray for a miracle! I would far rather them accept it how it is and walk honestly that path with me). Please forgive if I make anymostakes in my typing. I just want to say that so much of what you say is my lot too, apart from the terminal bit. No family as they have turned away from me, a terrible childhood very similar to tours, whre my brother was te favouritecand I was rejected yet expected to be their “mother” atcage11. Abused in some terrible ways (she is dead now thoug an renected me in an exceptionally cruel way when I got cancer, trying to get me to eurhanase myself! Many many more things too muchto go into. But also your house sutuation and having to deal with it while you are ill. We had that to (I am in the U.K. though). Non discosure leading to breat battles and us having to go to court. Innfact my husband had to travel tobthe cit to gobto court on the day Icwas suppised to start chemo and my cancer was advanced. I can relate to SO MUCH o what youvsay Ilene. I am not terminal (yet) like you, but in other ways I am a fellow traveller, alone in the world. My husband too is disabled and beginning witAlzgeimers. Like you, I listen to the owl abd nature. Somehow or other nature seems pure but I am not surecwhy. Thankyou forcwriting this piece, in which you have expressed so well so much of what I too have experienced and felt/feel. We are fellow travellers. Thankyou Ilene.

    Sent from my iPad

    1. My dear quiet friend- we have our crosses to bear be it terminal cancer or the ravages of its “treatment” of us. It is abusive to our bodies and our lives. Rendering parts of us unable to function- my abdomen, your vision – funny how the “gut” is so connected to how we see. I know people with eyesight who see less than you. Please don’t ever apologize or hesitate to comment. I welcome and want to hear from you and it’s how the continued conversation develops and why I write as honestly as I can with as much time as I can give. There’s days when I don’t know why I’m still here on this earth. There’s days I know I don’t have a clue but it’s somehow possible to pick up my pen, my journals, my devices, my books, anything to help express what’s continuing to keep my body going in the condition it’s in after so long being on treatments. I wish I never had the radiation I knew in my gut it would do more harm than good. I’ve concluded that it needed to be done since having that kind of surgery should the tumor have robbed the vertebrae of its integrity then I’d be in bad shape.

      I have trouble complaining knowing there’s those who have things far worse than I do. I’m not blind or in a wheelchair and I can still do so much about the situation and I’m hoping I can find the strength- all of it – to do something before it’s too late to find just some peace without guilt, or loneliness, or isolation and perhaps with community and people around me who can understand and create a support structure with…I can’t look back only forward with what’s available to me now. Just because my cancer is stage 4 doesn’t mean we cannot relate and I’m glad I let all this out that was festering for so long. If it prompts someone to change for the better even better. If it gives someone any ideas on what solutions are out there I’m all ears. But I’ll never know if I don’t state the problem and the truth as I know it. There’s going to be disagreement with those people it’s obviously going to happen to strike as not their truth and I’m perfectly okay with it. I knew in putting all this out there I’d get responses but I want you to please not hesitate nor apologize. I can get your entire message with typos and all. Fellow travelers need no translation books. May you find peace in your days, know I hear you and I feel you and don’t shy away. All stages and every kind of cancer SUCKS! We have to hold the scars up and show them as bad as they can be to let them out in the air where I hope they can heal.

      Tomorrow is paracentesis day. I’ll be miserable until then but I’ll be okay by Saturday. Then I have one more pre scheduled for four days before my trip so I don’t worry while I’m gone then I’ll see what happens when I get back. I don’t think much of anything and I don’t know what I’ll come home to but even so, it’s okay. Whatever it is it will be. I don’t want to ruin it by dreading my return before I’m even away! Crazy. But it’s where I’m at – if I could get my sleep to be consistent I’d feel so much better so for now little steps. Get ready to go. Not ready for the aftermath. Yikes. Even saying it sounds kind of strange.

      Much love. And please do comment no apology ever ever ever necessary.❤️❤️❤️❤️😷

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