“You look great.”

Walking up to my weatherproof face
Say, “you look great,”
(With the implied italics on the great.)
My invalidly clear skin,
Such wise wild eyes,
Naturally open up wide,
Wow, you look great!“

Could you spare a surprise?
Shuddering at the danger of such a storm
Surging through my veins like an impulse
Holding back the invisible force
As you to recoiled.

Do you recall the dress I wore that pink afternoon?

How I make lemonade from such a sour fruit?
I don’t think
About my v-neck or recall how I flowed by you
Last time we met.
Unlucky chance as
Circumstances,
Uncomfortable yet innocuous. Maybe
A mall or a supermarket?
In an aisle with its Chia seeds, with its quinoa,
With its turmeric or with its masala, or with its free green tea?
Did you try some new found red fruit
Ubiquitous and misspelled as often as the word misspell.
Say it again:

You look so shocked that we must do lunch.
Face red over the menu
Its dishes unpronounceable.
Those one named joints like Spoon or Fork.
Those restaurants where everything on the list you exclaim and pronounce, expertly.

If it came down to the question of my looks,
Would you reply
Without gratitude:
Why thank you
How graciously
Oh, you’re too kind.
Leave for home alone
And cry.

Or ask me
“why do you ask me?”

As though you were the sick one.
Overrun with a malady,
Melodiously, waltzing to
A “thank you” with a sing song voice,
High and staccato
But sad sad
Ever sad.
Rememorys of quotes,
Remember me?
Reaffirming how strong, how beautiful, how positive?
Stop – the compliments overflow in my former cups.
How good do I really Iook?
Is it true or
The way shock looks good on you?
How good does it look not to be sick?
Not to lose?
I want to win the rights
to own my identity.
The right to keep my hair.
“You kept your hair!
How wonderful.“
I look fabulous.
Would you recoil if I retorted
Or chortled,
Out of some joke at the expense of your boundaries?
Your fence affronted
Laughing nervously
At my acerbic wit.
To whit without bullshit.
You commend me for my strength.

And then worse than all the worlds’ compliments:
“I’ll pray for you.”
As god walks away to hit the drugstore
Along the weathered path home
No kneeling at the counter of
Optimal opioids and malcontents.

So, gaze inside every
mirror
Each shop window along your route.
Let the looking glass take you to the other side.
Take a snapshot of yourself inside
After the infusion.
It’s not permitted by punishment
By law.
By transdermal
By transplant
By subcutaneous injections
By contrast
To you
I do look great.

Canferatu: The Prequel

In which our heroine finds herself clutched in the monster’s filthy, razor sharp claws, afraid for her life.

Introduction: The scripting process begins and ends

This narrative slowly opens and possibly took several years for the writer to realize the finished script. Editing the story of a life continues beyond publication, past the timeline of those who inspired the characters themselves. Those millions of words, her own and the voices of many others, became nothing more than ash made by trash bin fire. The wire mesh bin sat next to a solid oak beast of a work surface, the top ringed by years of too-hot coffee cups, and covered in a tablecloth of loose papers. A cracked black leather swivel chair sat empty and pushed back and turned away from the monstrous kneehole desk. On top of all the remnants of the writer squats an old black Corona typewriter, its clacks and clangs silent, it and the room gathering dust with every day since it’s author began her lifetime leave of absence.

Three years ago she abandoned a life of of golden accolades and long, meandering plans for future gambols. Three years ago, she traded the promise of generally uplifting experiences for the protracted life of a victim, incarcerated in her own body for crimes no one could pin down to a single suspect. Lately she looked weighted down by absurdly heavy fatigue. Additionally, without any real past precedent, she began to catch many uncommon colds and any new flu of the present season. Never before had her immunity left her body so unsecured and without patrol. It seemed illness had cracked her genetic health code. Our author’s body felt like someone else’s, although outwardly it looked exactly like hers, other than bluish circles around her eyes. As her story unfolded, she assumed these symptoms had to be a sign of work burnout and too much step-parenting stress.

Cortisol, a result of stress, certainly played a key role, aiding and abetting the ghoul who committed the ultimate crime against her, in an inside job right under her skin. Regretfully, she paid minimal attention to the diseased monster on a million-year long crime spree, taking women and even some men to an early grave, but not after draining them of their life force and absorbing it into his own body, which made him stronger with each new victim. And the shape-shifting monster metamorphosed to outsmart even the savviest of detectives who aimed to catch this predator once and for all. With each new case, the authorities found some new twist or turn to throw them off of his scent. He reeked of death.

A malcontented criminal, he tortured her unmercifully then leaving her alone, broke, and without empathy from anyone. This vampiric disease sucks the life out of its victims, some slowly, and some very quickly, but all losing their lives to the waking nightmare itself. In her case, she wrote the screenplay, acted the starring role, and eventually scrapped her success for a slow decline towards failure at the fangs of Canferatu, or the Vampire.

Part II. Oh, no! (Everything changed overnight )

One March night, I curled into the fetal position in the middle of our bed, sweating and wailing. I suffered from extremely severe abdominal cramps from what we thought was a case of bad food poisoning. My husband, Craig, finally demanded I get into the car and go to the hospital. He physically put my body over his shoulder and got me into the cloud like front seat of his Jaguar and pulled the seat belt around me. This, only after his heart sank as he watched helpless. Inconsolable and with huge tears bursting from my eyes, I screamed at him, “there is no way I’m going to the hospital! I’ve never been to the hospital! I’ve only been once in my life, when I was born and I’m not going!”

On the other side of the looking glass, this Alice awoke the very next day in a bizarre alternative universe. “You have metastatic stage IV breast cancer and ascites fluid build up in your abdomen.” Everyone around me looked stunned. Everyone who called to check up on me went silent, leaving me holding my cell phone and repeating, “hello?” checking to see if their calls had dropped.

“Not her! She’s fine. She takes care of herself. Look at her – she’s going to be 50 in June, she doesn’t look anything like 50, let alone like someone with a doomsday prognosis.” Sword of Damocles hung on the mint green wall over the hospital bed, my morphine drip morphing everyone’s words, a swirl of doctors, test results, and of two hospitals fighting over whose patient’s money the other stole by keeping me in their bed. I felt like a mixed metaphor in the wrong storybook. Now Goldilocks? Clearly I wasn’t in a fairy tale and Goldilocks would certainly find every hospital bed uncomfortable.

The bleak prognosis of my diagnosis shocked me and everyone involved in my life. Inescapable, unbelievable, incurable…a normal life as I once knew it (whatever normal means who can say) abruptly ended as exhaustion, pain, sadness and finally a wholly reinvented life took over completely. What could anyone say after five days hospitalization, five liters of cancerous fluid removed, five days of struggle to work with insurers, five more to become a patient of an oncology team, and five weeks from the day of my initial hospitalization I began my chemo and hormone treatments. Yet all my doctors could say was…wow.

Everything changed, including my relationships with my family, my friends, my stepsons, and Craig. My husband fell into the depths of an anxiety fueled depression. I’m happy to report three years later, he’s finally recovered, sort of – unless some dramatic bullshit flung from the other side of town where his brainwashing banshee of an ex wife pretends to raise his younger son. Do not judge. I’ve kept this ugly saga away from my writing generally speaking. This discussion requires a blog site all its own, and that would only serve to elevate an already overinflated sense of control for a person with a massive narcissistic disorder. No thanks. Dealing with the emotional wreckage and fallout is quite enough. (In case you’re reading this, and you know who you are, go fuck yourself.)

Craig’s recovery requires a medication called Pristiq. His mental health issues began well before my diagnosis. After the stage four gauntlet got laid down, he struggled with the horrible notion of my death and we began about five months in hell to get back to one another. He initially reacted by ignoring me and admitted feeling resentment, of which he felt ashamed. In hindsight I am uncertain as to how ashamed he really felt. It’s clearer to me how much resentment lingers in the air between us, even now, three years later. It’s as though he tests me. He waits to tell me I never want to do anything and asks me to go out with him when I’m having a bad Health day or when I’m enraptured in writing or editing a piece of poetry or an essay for my blog, or trying to work on my Etsy business. All of these things suffer from the resulting bickering brought on by the care giver role thrust upon him. The role he threw off like a bad suit after a long day almost immediately after learning of the responsibilities.

Lonely, scared, angry, tired, moody, but generally motivated to live, I said, “not me, no way.” And sure as I tell anyone who’s reading this, I’m still here three years after my diagnosis of stage IV A1 lobular hormone receptor positive breast cancer with metastasis to the bones (and now liver). My sexuality and womanhood now stripped away from me, I no longer appeal to my husband or anyone for that matter. I feel like I’m a non-gendered adult. I’ve taken a laundry list of medications, sat in monthly seats in the infusion center for shots to my abdomen and gleuts, monthly blood work, countless visits to oncologists, psychologists, palliative oncology, radiology, specialists, a multitude of nurses, a surgeon. I spent a second week-long in the hospital. I’ve been to breast and metastatic support groups, cancer retreats, and learned to deeply meditate.

There’s good things that I’m certain have humbled me. Yet I speak to none of my former friends but a couple. My new friends don’t expect me to be as I was and know me only as I am now – someone with metastatic cancer. I never see my stepsons who have been convinced by their mother that I’m lying about the severity of my disease because I look too good and I’m simply a gold digger who doesn’t want to work full time anymore. I wish, honey, I wish.

It’s still a nightmare and admittedly and despite the “best of the worst case scenarios,” I’m not thrilled with a life path that leads only to an early demise. Canferatu never sleeps, his fangs deep within my neck. And though you cannot see him, he preys on my organs and functional systems until another cocktail puts him into a coma, but a coma he always awakens from to claw at my insides and take more of my energy for himself.

I still want my life back.

The Gracie Foundation

Everyone needs a little pampering, a surprise gift of love, and no one moreso than a person with metastatic breast Cancer. The Gracie Foundation provides all that and a deep feeling of warm love in a priority mail box to its recipients. I received mine on Monday and not a moment too soon, either. You can nominate yourself or be  nominated by someone else to receive the amazingly beautiful and incredibly useful, high quality priducts to make breast cancer treatments just a little easier to bear. In my box: a large bottle, with pump, of body lotion; a scented soy candle; a cooling eye mask; a bath scrunchie; a gray knit cap; pink warm socks; an awesome mug for a big cup of tea; delicious scented soap; a pen and todo pad for chemo brain days; face cleansing wipes; and a book explaining the origins of the idea and the woman who founded this wellspring of love to carry on her legacy through giving even beyond her physical lifetime.

Gracie’s husband, who she married just a week before her fight with cancer ended, carries on her legacy and so he and volunteers ship off a little of Gracie’s beauty to others who need a bit of that special thing that made her a much loved woman of substantial giving.

Thank you, Gracie. Your spirit and soul fill my heart with beauty and joy, and I think that’s just what you had in mind. ♥️

The Second Line

Not the first, nor ever last,
The Second Line dances ecstatically past.
Behind the mourners, they’re not the saints,
All uplifted, marching in crowded street’s restraints.
Wheeling, turning, lift and fall with porch swings,
All souls rise upon the polls and upon night’s owl’s wings.

Arriving I walked through stranded streets,
Leaving, I grasp a heart (as my own skipped a beat.)
Coming to hear my disease my diagnosis,
Going to feel your hands opening my prognosis.
“I believe you understood I needed nothing!”
Somehow I left the sand untracked, forgetting every something,
And now I remember to choose without no judgement (or cups or wands)—
The images I neatly packed tumbled and eroded into sand.
When I lost my vision I cannot recall, but you held me in your light,
Though I came to find my courage, I dance away with second sight.