Dear Me,

Ilene, may you find it in your heart to forgive me. It’s harder to forget than forgive for you, yet you may be better off, if you cannot forgive, to forget. Some wounds become scars. Do your best to forget the scars, some of which only you can see. They’re not from your cancer but the way your life changes because of your cancer.

The people you love will fall away, but they don’t know how to see you anymore. They feel guilty talking about their problems with you. Its guilt that stems from what they realize is pettiness. But you can’t hang onto those people no matter how hard you try. Letting go gives you a more solid foundation on which to heal. It’s hard enough with negativity and trying to explain your situation. Some will believe it’s based on something you did or did not do. Neither is true and there’s absolutely no point in wasting time.

Time is the commodity you have so little of, but don’t worry. You’ll have exactly as much as you need. Don’t waste it waiting for that is the one thing you’ll regret.

It’s not your fault -ironically – you’ll forget a lot in five years. For instance I’m so late in writing this letter to you because I’ve forgotten so many times. I meant to sit and write it 100 times but I forgot or time slipped away from me. And you’re the most important person in my life and you know me better than anyone, don’t you? Please forgive me for not writing this long ago. I’m still as distracted as ever maybe more so. Don’t worry the cancer’s not gotten to your brain yet. We are doing pretty well all things being equal given five hospital stays, five types of chemo and five different oncologists. You have a lot to look forward to.

But there’s a few things I want to tell you. It’s been about five years since the diagnosis came down on you like a boulder even Sisyphus hadn’t the strength to keep pushing up that hill. Do you recall Albert Camus’ version of the myth of Sisyphus? Ridiculously, because he has accepted his fate, he’s happy. His punishment is only horrible if hope of a better life enters his thinking. If he continues to focus on his absurd task then he cannot fear the punishment, extreme given its grounded in of his lack of trust in his widow left behind to carry out his wishes upon his death, but he’s dead. No longer in charge of what happens to anyone whos alive. Camus grinds his pencil point to a sharp by alluding to Oedipus and that, although both situations are absurdly tragic, both Sisyphus and Oedipus are ultimately happy. But how can a boy kill his father, marry his mother and live with all that guilt?

They both “conclude that all is well.” And all is well. You’ll use this to mediate countless times in the coming years but you’ll never leave hope out of your thoughts. I’m doing well so all can’t be that bad.

The moment you give up, the stone will roll back and crush you. Don’t give up hope because all is well. I never break promises to you. I promise this is true.

You’ll keep dreaming of bigger better things. Throw away your lists of things to do before you die. You can hardly count on making a phone call these days why then put a constant state of anxiety upon yourself for what you’re not getting don’t – when you’re achieving so much? I say this to you with all your expectations boiled it down to ONE SINGLE thing… the northern lights. Don’t forget that’s the one thing you’ve dreamed of your whole life. Find a way to go!

If you get to Scotland and Britain, awesome. You must try to hug those amazing people who have loved and supported you from afar.

However it would be great if your friends and one or two family members who physically can – would find a plane ticket to come out and see you??

There isn’t a lot left except loving more fully and learning to accept love better and know when to let go. There are a couple of places I’ve not been yet and maybe learn to fly or horseback ride. But I’ve not seen these as regrets but just life and living and finding the budget. I realized tonight in fact that if not another thing I wanted to do happened, if not one single trip to see and photograph the Aurora Borealis never came to be…my life would be a success.

This life is all you get and not having died as an infant, toddler, teen, or any other age is certainly an accomplishment as noted by our current global health crisis.
I loved with all my heart.
That’s the life you wanted.

I continue to live with love as the guide for my actions. You know by now all that’s mattered until this point is love and by shining your light you’ll attract amazing people to help support you through the most difficult time you’ll ever know. Leading the emotional rollercoaster is uncertainty, and coming in at a nose to nose tie is fear.
I was fortunate to meet people and travel and learn and become a success in my career and break a lot of glass so other women wouldn’t understand the shards that stay under your skin, I took the bullet. Many women around my age +/- 20 years did too.
In general I’m happy.
But most of all…there was and is LOVE. Einstein even was quoted as saying e=LOVE. A joke, but you get my sense of humor.

He and other scientists, ancient and later in the end said love mattered most.

“Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science – for to fill your heart with love is enough.” Richard Feynman

“One word
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love.” Sophocles

I suppose that’s about it for now. More later but remember one thing, I love you.

Love, You

Meditation

Please allow me to share a current meditation with you.

In quiet moments, I sit relaxed listening to the fireplace: the sizzle of the wood and the clicking of the cast iron as it expands with the rising temperature, the energy coaxing a well timed 1:4 beat in the background for my chant. Sometimes I may whisper the words to myself and other times spoken only to myself in my mind.

Sometimes I’m still or others I rock or sway gently side to side or front to back. All the while it’s important to push my thoughts out from my mind – I use an imaginary hand to shoo them away like flies on a picnic blanket. No violence, just a helpful movement of the pests so concentration on the words of the meditation can rise like the sun enlightening my mind…

All things in time, all for the reasons on which my life tumbles and turns to the songs of the spheres. Remind me as I am a human being, the universe tells me when I need to know: all is well. All is well.

My Cancer Philosophy

Cancer doesn’t mean I’m broken or did anything to deserve it. It means nothing to me, actually.

And Karmic retribution isn’t something a person “deserves.”’I believe Karma represents an unclear conscience of one who’s so busy looking over their shoulder at what’s behind them, they therefore trip over what’s right in front of them. Karma doesn’t discern between either bad – falling flat on one’s face – or good – missing out on all the love and beauty that’s available in this world.

I know cancer will eventually kill me. But it won’t have made me a better or stronger person. Having a diagnosis of a terminal illness actually forced me to see the person who I always was. It’s through shear force of my own will that I gather together the very best of the essence of myself. And with that will for as long as I’m alive I’ll heal myself as best I can but not beat myself down when I cannot. Gratitude comes then through my healing in that I can help others.

Writing my experiences as plainly and as real as possible allows others to see my cobbled path and how I navigate the bumpy road ahead. In seeing what I could not see until I’ve passed those tests doesn’t mean that they’re cheating on their own but rather can provide a guide for making their road a bit smoother so they trip less often than I have. Why let anyone’s life be more difficult if it’s as simple as that. If my story is valuable enough to be shared in by others then I have an obligation to tell it as well as I can for as long as I can.

My strength wanes and waxes as my cancer does as well. If you’ve heard this quote as relating to metastatic cancer, there’s nothing said in my opinion that’s more accurate: “living with uncertainty.” Uncertainty paints a picture of my life before cancer. It’s not any different now, so my strength from my experience in dealing with change and not knowing what the future looks like, well equips me to handle this disease.

It’s called resilience.

When the gift of each new day comes in shining through my window I am grateful for the time I can pet my cat. Or hug my best friend. Or even mop the kitchen floor. I can sing while I mop. I can hear my cat purring. I can feel the love of my partner returned to me each time we embrace. And some days that’s maybe all that I can find to seek happiness within – but that’s a lot.

In fact it’s more than I can ask for because it means I have a roof over my head, clean water to mop the house with, enough money to have a loving cat as a constant companion, and love in my life that goes beyond just the requisite. I’m fortunate and richly rewarded by life in so many ways that description of these gifts seems lackluster upon review. Yet even for me, a chatterbox since birth, realizes that some things are so much bigger than me they evade my ability to describe them.

It’s true that certain famous (and not so well known) quotes by others can describe feelings and ideas far better than I. Yet certain universal ideas find their way into everyone’s mind sooner or later. Yet these ideas are informed by experience and influenced by authorities we respect, such as religion or poetry or science. Usually it’s a combination of things that create our personal philosophies.

For instance, a white supremacist believes they’re right to impose their thinking on people not like themselves. They impose their deeply held beliefs that certain religions, races, and ideologies should not be proliferated but stopped by their own hand. I won’t even kill a spider in my house. She has a right to be here as I do. And I’m not saying that if the white supremacist were in my house I wouldn’t put him out like the spider.

Here’s the three philosophical statements that describe where I’m at today. Yet my emotions change, sometimes on a daily basis, yet it’s stormy as it may have been in the past but a more gentle breeze that changes my weather. Cancer has this effect on me:
1. Forgive, and if I cannot forgive, forget.
2. Love is all that matters – in all life and the universe.
3. Death is the natural path of all life; I face my own death with curiosity and grace.

And just as that equalizing common denominator of life is death, the most curoius thing about it is not one of us truly knows what mystery lies beyond this reality or how many realities there are. We tend as a culture in the United States anyway, to dismiss alternate realities as we tend to dismiss death. We don’t discuss it much. People do love to talk though. Hearing someone say that cancer is some kind of Karma is not only ignorabt but dissmissive of alternate ways of being. By doing so we miss learning lessons about living life with grace in the face of our own deaths. Especially those with a stage four cancer diagnosis. It never leaves our bodies and turns our bodies into a machine with an invisible timer set for detonation at an unknown future time. Kind of like not having a stage four cancer disgnosis at least, well…philosophically.

And I know if you’re reading this post you probably will agree that no one deserves cancer. Not me not anyone and not anymore.