Cancer, My Jailor

Born with a scream, die with a whimper. Between those bookends, the self somehow develops. Perhaps it’s because we exist at the bottom of an empty well, waiting for the drenching rains of knowledge to float us up and out of the darkness. The more I know, the less I know, yet the more I’m told. How unsatisfactory.

Do you somehow quench a long thirst, find how to know yourself, somehow climb out of that well to find your soul?

Probably not. And not exactly where I’d hoped to wind up at stage 4 of my life. No, not like a pitcher winding up on a baseball mound, but wind up the ends of a life spent pursuing “right” actions. By ingesting information, sharing love, giving as fully as possible, I found no answer to my great questions. And if the unknown creates a thirst, I remain in a state of dehydration. My consciousness lacks something, and I belive I’m not yet done.

When I’m alone with my thoughts, I know there’s not anybody else who exists outside of my mind. Am I fearless in my self-consciousness if this doesn’t scare me? Descartes be damned with your cogito ergo sum, and screw the existential problems of a Danish prince or a French novelist who’ll always be a stranger to me.

On the eve of attending the week-long Cancer Help Program at Commonweal Commonweal Cancer Help Program I sit on a bed surrounded by words, paper, buttons, beads, clothes, books, and thoughts instead of someone else. The embarkation of discovery. What’s bothering me about this cancer thing?

I’ve lost my freedom. My free will in some sense. Thinking about my health, my ability to work, earn, travel, run, freely move about the world as I have for decades, I gave my freedom to a disease that’s beginning to travel around my body again. Now my liver and onto chemotherapy and other fun stiff drinks Stanford has in store when a changed me drives back over the Golden Gate Bridge next Sunday.

Walt Whitman said it far more concisely so I’ll leave him to you and say, “adieu.”

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it, to another not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content…
– Walt Whitman

Welcome to the Machine

I climbed out of bed at 4:30. 4:30 PM. Oh god. The daylight hours dwindle quickly away. Off goes my husband – who is suffering from severe depression and doesn’t wake up unless I do – to grab my stepson from school.  Wishing I had gotten up hours ago, let’s say 8 hours ago, I spend the next 45 minutes hoping for any kind of intestinal goodie my body can produce and my left ass cheek falls asleep while I sit reading email on the toilet. If you’ve not had a part of your body tingle and go numb from sitting on the can, you’re not missing anything special. However, a painful side effect of pain medication – major constipation. Squeeze and pray, yet not even a milk dud today. Shit! I now get my numb ass into the shower.

I sneak another peak at myself before the shower and I gasp at my reflection – it would appear as though I slept as one might if the only part of their body to make contact with the bed  were their face. My eyelashes looked like Bettie Boop’s and the pallor of my skin has the tincture of a nearly extinct pink Chinese albino dolphin. Not pretty but something you cannot stop staring at because it’s so ugly in a cute, puffy way. No wonder the poor things are doomed for extinction. They cannot bring themselves to have sex with one another – they’re that ugly. But the warm water over my head has a magical effect on my entire well being. After wiping down the glass shower walls so they don’t become encrusted with the hard water of Santa Clara county, known also for its high PPM of  cyanide – which when you think about it probably becomes gasious in the shower and keeps oxygen from getting absorbed by your body (see I’m already distracted and took two trips to Wikipedia and fact checked and then rat holed on the etymology of cyanide while writing this post)  I return to the mirror in a semi recognizable form of me.

Before I was hit by a bus last March, it took me all of 15 minutes from shower to keys in the ignition. Now, if I remember where my keys and everything else I need are today, we might give it an hour to 90 minutes. I’m not wearing more make up, or doing a big fluffy hair do, but fifty seven existential discussions with myself and forty three distractions into what might be one or all of my five hobbies and/ or the booth at the antique shop or my Etsy store and maybe 10 text messages and oh I forgot to take all my pills and eat and…well  it’s too late to even get outside today.

But it turns out I wasn’t hit by a bus last year. I want to tell you a secret – I was diagnosed with hormone receptor positive stage IV lobular breast cancer with bone metastasis. And you might say, ” well you could be hit by a bus, too.” Chances of that happening? 4 in 100,000 pedestrians die each year by any moving vehicle according to the World Health Organization, which keeps me completely distracted for so long that I thought I lost this first blog post but thank goodness WordPress doesn’t suck and it auto saved this post. For better or worse. You be the judge. Anyway – your chances of being killed by a cancer hitting you? 186 out of every 100,000 of us. So, for today anyway since I never did get out of the house, I wasn’t killed by an errant bus jumping a curb and hitting me. And the cancer didn’t kill me today, either.

Score one for the home team. Oh and I don’t know that anyone was hit by a bus and died of cancer at the same time either. So shut up. Stop saying that to us people with cancer. I promise I won’t say it to anyone of you two or three people who read this and don’t have it. Deal?