Tag: breast cancer blog

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. ♥️

CATS and KITTENS!

I have your full attention and yes there will be adorable cat interest stories to entertain you, so fear not dear reader. I make this assertion: blog posts, essays, and cute tongue in cheek stories about cats and kittens attract far more readers than similar stories about any kind of cancer. I’m fairly certain of this without even checking the statistical data. I might have this all wrong, but I doubt it.

If a kitten could invade your body physically, you’d know it. I don’t mean a “sitting in your lap purring” invasion of your personal space, I mean getting into your body traveling around a la the Disney movie “Inner Space,” in which a family is shrunk down to the size of a baby flea injected into the bloodstream of a human being. I recall the roller coaster ride at one of the Disney properties in Orlando, Florida supporting the film. I bet it took in millions in ticket sales from the drones lined up in snaking hours-long waits for a single minute of thrills. I cringe at the idea almost as much as I cringe at the idea of Silicon Valley rush hour traffic, bile of rage welling up in each driver hours before jumping into a pool of BMWs and Priuses.

Back to my subject matter – cats versus cancer. Cancer cannot compare in the arena of adorable versus ugly. Cats win hands down. The statistics about cats do not make people cringe, unless they’re cat haters or sociopathic torturers. Other than some dogs, the occasional wolf or coyote, certain birds of prey, and most carnivorous mammals larger than a cat that may view puss in boots as a nice appetizer for supper, nothing and no one really hates a kitten or cat. Even Grumpy Cat, that self-loathing short legged curmudgeon. His or her angry looking furrowed kitty brow genetically beaten in by human torturers kind of like a form of cancer. Nothing a little radiation therapy couldn’t handle.

Believe it or not, cats, not only dogs, can detect breast cancer. At least British kittens can. Recently, a women in the UK claimed that her kitten would wake up in the morning and jump on its owner’s right breast. She let this go in for two weeks until she visited her physician. It turned out the kitten sensed she had stage one breast cancer, and now the woman is on her way to a full recovered. See the article referenced below for the whole story.

There’s marked differences between cats and cancer. It’s no surprise these differences create a preference for cat content over cancer content. And although a kitten created a happy, lucky breast cancer survivor, this is one of the few Venn Diagrams containing both kittens and cancer with any overlapping area at all. Instead, if you were to think about the two topics, you’d draw the diagram in two distinct and separate circles: one labeled “cats” and the other labeled “cancer.”

Why? Cancer doesn’t playfully attack you – it aggressively wages war on your body. It’s not aloof or passive aggressive, just aggressive. It doesn’t purr or meow. Your friends don’t say, “ohhhhh! Such a cute little cancer you’ve adopted. What’s her name?” My cancer, as with other people with incurable cancer that eventually kills us if the treatments don’t do us in first, is named “metastatic” or “stage 4.” Cancer won’t play with a toy or a ball of yarn, it plays tricks and hides from mammograms if you have dense breast tissue, like me. It can’t smell catnip nor will it steal your ham or turkey sandwich. It won’t let you pet its head or scratch behind its ears. It hardly allows you to poison it with chemotherapy, radiate it or even cut it out surgically. Best of all, you needn’t buy Cancer a litter box or a food dish or food to fill the dish. Cancer lives in its very own self replenishing food dish. I am it’s food dish and it will eat me alive. I’m also it’s litter box and it’s cat tree. It doesn’t ask or meow to go outside and every once in a while I take it on a vacation with me or to a cancer retreat to entertain it! Lucky cancer is even treated to large doses of its favorite treat, cortisol, whenever I become stressed. I have a very obedient cancer. It responds well to chemotherapy- first Xeloda and now Ibrance.

Unfortunately my health coverage doesn’t quite cut it for this latest round of treatment to get it out of my liver. So I reached out to the Patients Advocacy Foundation and they are funding the $3000 copay that I cannot even begin to cover. Cancer pounced aggressively on my financial life from diagnosis, forcing me to get out of the workforce and spend many days at home. With my cat. And not much more company than that 90% of the time.

A cat will make you feel a little better if you do have cancer by showing you love and affection, and in my case remaining with me in bed when I feel terrible or on the days when I cannot bring myself to fight the fatigue. He’s around when the humans in my world disappear, some never to return again. But my cat only leaves my side to eat or use his litter box. I know if he had opposable thumbs he’d feed me and bring me soup and things to drink. He allows me to cry in his fur and won’t run away when I talk about uncomfortable subjects. Simon loves me unconditionally, while my cancer hates me unconditionally.

So here’s some entertainment for you to forget about cancer for a while and the article from the Daily Mail about the cancer detecting kitten. But I hope you’ll come back again to read more about the uncomfortable topic of how stage IV breast cancer in the form of invasive lobular carcinoma with metastasis to the bones and now the liver, aim to destroy a woman and how she lives in relative peace and happiness, regardless of what rages on inside and outside of her physical body.

Kittens Boxing in a Ring, circa 1894
The oldest known film of kittens
YouTube’s oldest cat video (movie?) made in July 1894, not posted until the 2010’s

My Kitten Alerted Me to Cancer
Kitten saves British woman from rare form of breast cancer
Continue reading “CATS and KITTENS!”

One Fresh Hell, Hold the Tomatoes

Last week found me a visitor to a mental health facility, leaving each evening alone and downcast. The place just a few miles from our home, in the foothills south of the city, in an unremarkable single story building where I chose to allow supposed professional responsible human beings to rescue my ailing partner from the shackles of long term anxiety and depression. Leaving without him broke my heart and provided not a whit of relief as a few close friends hoped a “break” in the action might provide. His pained eyes looking upon my sadness as yet another judgement to come down upon me. Another multi-year term added to the #lifer tag around my neck, another blow to my remnants of hope.

All the while I possess the knowledge that I likely won’t live to see our future through to a plausibly happy conclusion. Even though this love 10 years in the making, its melodramatic script changed and the film itself in the can, spliced together and the story arc mangled under the cruel editor’s blade. The final reels go to the studio with my scenes cut and lying on the editing room floor.

I hoped for relief at the end of a long week spent alone over the course of treatment, yet no sparkle reappears in his eyes yet and his life not yet resuscitated. It takes the Zoloft about four weeks to help much. But I’m mostly alone these days. Yearning for my partner’s support and the kind of tender and caring love many of which many metastatic sisters write and blog about, I now look over at him, home in bed, and find one whose dark, inky emotions remain locked away inside his heart, like the stars behind clouds in a dark night sky. He lays there disengaged, thinking to himself about things that cause long bouts of sighing, and the simmering anger of so many men who find themselves bitten by such disorders.

Sometimes, my difficulty lies in hiding my visible outrage for being his care giver for over three years, of which this past 18 months one of the most heart wrenching trials of my life. My god – this and cancer, too? Fuck. What more can one do but look up and ask the ceiling over our bed long and winding questions about the treacherous nature of spiritual meaning, self-worth, and the relative value of a life. I then break from the sum of my existential questioning of cogito ergo… to find an email in my inbox from someone who reaches out to me to thank me. Grateful for my honest approach to my blog posts they type out a note that reminds me of why it’s worth it to know that it’s my responsibility as a wife to make a decision to help alleviate my partner’s suffering and try to revive him. To ask that his soul be returned his body.

He, too, wants only the same for me and indicates we may not stay together. For fuck’s sake — why now and you have got to be joking (the only sentences I can form without punching him in the face.) These trivialities came to him exactly how? And in what universe does he believe he lives in where this would even be okay by a substandard unintelligent alien culture of unfeeling assholes? And with that he passes wind and falls asleep and I’m left to wonder alone, naturally, what fresh hell might await me tomorrow?

Hopefully a new sandwich called “fresh hell” from the deli and no more than that.

And now, Ms. Cancer and Mr. Depression

How does one learn to reason with depression? I’d like to share with you a story about a confused partner who, after the passing of her arbitrary three-year deadline, falls into the rabbit hole and finds herself staring at a 40-car pile up and the unenviable clean up of the bloody aftermath. She unreasonably and unfortunately becomes inconsolable with wave after wave of false accusations hurled from across a house she lives in with this depressed man who she no longer knows, or even knows what she feels for him anymore.

Don’t take the bait. Walk away. Leave. For an hour, a week, or…

If it were only that easy. You know who you are – partners of the dysfunctional. But add a little metastatic cancer to the mix…my shoulders are killing me under the weight of it all. I’m sorry if I come across as confusing, but this whole crazy dysthymic depression without an end in sight is confusing.

I’ve finally helped him to treatment. We, well more like he, vomited the angry bitter disgust of a man who simply wanted to raise his two sons across a 2.5 hour session of exhausting couples counseling with my psychologist. She, by the way had breast cancer, can provide him with a helpful view from within should he inquire. He spilled tears and guts for 95% of the session, at the end of which I said he may be better off getting a bit of help for himself or I didn’t feel we’d make the progress we’d hoped for. He immediately went on the defense and the doctor came to mine and remarked, can’t you see she’s very concerned and wants to reconvene when you’ve gotten through a bit of your own healing? He could not disagree.

I’ve read countless books on the topic. NAMI.org is a web site full of great information for you as a depressive’s care giver. All very helpful.

Here’s a few titles available on Amazon and through kindle to keep the costs down:

Talking to Depression: Simple Ways To Connect When Someone In Your Life Is Depressed https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002DYMB1M/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_OPHwAbK3Z6EC

Depression Fallout: The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0012GTZBG/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_ZQHwAbH1P5EGN

When Depression Hurts Your Relationship: How to Regain Intimacy and Reconnect with Your Partner When You’re Depressed https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HZ9SA92/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_tRHwAb7H1451X

When Someone You Love is Depressed https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H0IGJIQ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_TRHwAbDTCFKWT

I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FC0Q0C/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_m3HwAbA93R7H9

The confusing days in the life….

When he asked me what time it was I was holding a stack of books and I said that it’s not too late just a second to look at my watch and this was what caused tonight’s major smack down. He’s called me a bitch for two days, running tests to see how I’m going to react to his nasty new nomenclature for me, similar to a teenager cursing in front of his parents. Yet I embarrassed him.

Apparently I’m the one who needs hospitalization and help and that he, “knows what’s going on here.” I ruin everything night after night with my “selfish shit” and do my own thing. My Etsy online shop and writing are more important to me than having a good relationship with him. Yet, it’s all I can do to keep from losing my own mind to the loneliness and isolation of cancer.

I’m somehow playing a game with him and somehow it’s my fault; apparently I’m the root cause of his problems. I tell him that nearly every night he’s laid here leaving me alone and now he’s saying that’s not true that I’m the one who has ignored him. A new critique appears in the repertoire: I’m an Intellectual bully and he does not want to be a victim anymore. Too embarrassed to even suggest anything resembling sex to him anymore, he’s barked back, “the only thing you’re even interested in is sex.”

No, I’m interested in happiness and I love him enough to stay. He also knows I’ve not the physical or financial resources to leave. There’s days when his light comes on and his blue eyes sparkle and shine like two stars in the sky. Come on you, just wake up and shine with me for a little while and let’s shut this nightmare down. It’s never very much about sex, is it. Love in all its permutations requires a cooperation of high and low and mid range notes all beating in time to the same heart. Does cancer extract my heart from my body for study by science and remain in a clear beaker on a dusty shelf behind an outdated computer book from 1999? No, not this time.

He said he wants me here and he loves me, but answers in vagaries when I ask for examples or specifics. As he retorts, more vague statements such as how I always criticize him. I never say anything positive. All he does is help me but I do not let him help me. Each and every time I ask for his help he’s got more important things to do, ignores me, or just sleeps the day away. My very favorite tactical maneuver is to keep me quiet by calling me a nag. I “nag nag nag all the time.” He said he gave himself up and he made that mistake because he thought it was the right thing to do for me. However it cannot possibly be true since I’m not worth it. At least not according to the oxymoronic verbal diarrhea spewing at me night and day.

I ask him what he means by anything he says, yet he won’t tell me. He said he misses himself more then I can ever miss him. This is a wonder because I’ve been mourning him for over three years. I am being crushed under the weight of his depression. My loneliness and frustration are at an all time high. He is starting to tell me how he can’t get anything from me, I have nothing he wants or anything that is valuable to gain from me. He gives, all he does is give and I cannot give anything worthwhile to the relationship so why don’t I just stop fucking up a good thing and just shut up?

Okay.

Florida, State Your Name

You carry our secrets whispered into cardboard boxes tied tight with candycane twine
(That kind you find in old-time kosher bakeries.)
Tall cakes topped with buttercream flowers in new-fatigue green and suburban-Mustang blue whose
Stemless petals rise above yellow spongey layers with strawberries.
Pure as curbside snow. Pure as little girls with pinch pink cheeks.
Too early for my birthday the trail of a mistake runs upstairs from cheap paper doilies.
Pin striped suit coat and sea glass blue shirttails waving gooodbye, or hello,
(I never knew the difference.)
My hair twisted into a gilded fist as you push my resistance down,
Down into the drowned warped boards.
Raising my right hand, I swear you found a pushover:
A raggedy doll tape and bubble gum, of bare burlap, plaid, and buttons, of red yarn
Covering my torn skin where I stitch myself up and over
(And over to hold myself in again.)
A stray calico cat sits in the window right above your shoulder, startled by your loud heart.
I can still hear you slapping your thigh and then,
Distant laughter cries at your day-old jokes jokes and overtold stories.
Your hysterical, foul, scorn defers a look at me.
I hated you for that minute, then carrying on again I forget you already told me.

My face looks tired, uncooked, undone.
While white hot light sheds the palmetto scrub
Covering the non-natives invading our country- bright boisterously green parrots.
Which fly in on an uncommon flight schedule,
Catching a torrent of wind the turkey vultures wind into a tornado
Turning up higher and faster into the late afternoon rain.
Here, every shower comes in on time right at four.
Bursting open ladies with umbrellas, with daisy dresses, tulip capris, white rose tanks,
Waltzing by the front porch screen doors squeaking,
Slippery dimpled thighs sing together,
All sweet, easy, glide by leaving their perfume behind.
Then zipped into black patent leather hand bags powders, compacts,
Glossy rippled heat waves us in on a 45 degree right angle sun ray.
Show up the hidden mildewed sinews of ductwork,
And the hum of air conditioners masking our words.
Slowly dripping outside busy windows pelted by huge mosquitoes,
Or rain?
(Probably rain cries outside)
Only two minutes, like soft boiled eggs on timers,
Now done cooking. Her eyelashes, false
Newly bred widows sit with spidery eyes,
Single fingers silently making reservations for you.
They reapply the glue, so unkind, that damned humidity.

Son of a Canferatu

Chasing me for almost three years, could Canferatu possibly close in on me, catching up in an average game of cat and mouse? Struggling to stay away from its heinous blasts of hot, narciferous breath, of the damp bone cold green-gray living-dead body, or the gnarled knuckles arthritic and exposing curled, long encrusted finger nails? I feel trapped inside the generic walls and barely concealing privacy curtains of many scenes of many hospitals. Canferatu pushes up against me and wants to bite me. I know how to handle a vampire, the kind of film legend, of the horror genre and less pathos imbued Dracula from the infamous oeuvre by Bram Stoker. The stuff of romantic legendary fictional bumps in the night.

Yet I, perhaps as a pathetic stand against my fiend, yet not so unlike Lucy who loses her life to kill Nosferatu, hold up some garlic I found buried in my backpack. (I’d have made a great Let’s Make a Deal contestant but not a great paperback heroine, I’m afraid). I duck under Canferatu, reeling from my video game style one-two punch, leaving the cold, putrid huffing breath, which smells like rotting animal meat. It’s ugly pointed fangs still glisten with the blood of his latest victims. I chuckle to myself.

I stroll nonchalantly in through the emergency room security and then sliding door cutting the air full of concern and the permanent infirms the temporarily injured with their and brain damagingly bored visitors. Some of the older women and men, the infirm, sit in tubing laden wheelchairs made of slings strung on metal pipes while the young sat on parents or in strollers with their curious eyes peering out wide with fever or fear, over annoying masks. Can anyone see their own illness monsters sitting in their laps, hanging from the ceiling above, doing high wire acts? Illness monsters turn to look me over, their zombie-like stares piercing my heart, and I pull a gleaming arrow from my backpack and shoot the largest dumbest monster through the eyes. They look at my tired face. “Unimpressed,” said their gazes. Descending a flight of brightly lit, stone cold stairs, I trip on the last step and land flat on my face. I look up to see several helping hands reaching out to get me back up on my feet down in the basement on the #oncology floor.

My partner, and his insistence, ripped my crying annoyed body from my comfortable bed into the car. He took me to Stanford Medical Center’s emergency room. #Metastatic #breast-cancer, that strange body snatcher, moved into my corpus and took up residence squatting in a few choice properties – now my liver on its menu. I could take up residence as a Buddha statue on a Tibetan shrine, my abdomen distended with 10 pounds of fluid, yet again.

My intestines crushed inside the cavity wall, and pinched by tiny cancer seedlings floating in the fluid and causing a kind of neurological short circuiting. The long trip, of both small and large tubing, suffers from incredibly slow transit and now an infection near my stomachs dumping valve, my ilium. By the light of the TV on with no sound on, the watery fluid, extracted by my awesome Dr. Brian, assisted through the night by Nurse D, who has a contagious laugh and keeps me pain-free, with her big smile and easy manor. Then, as the gastric acid moved down from my esophagus, back into its rightful home in my stomach.

I find myself actually hungry after a month or two of chicken soup and not much else other than the allusive matzoh ball (thank you Gunther’s Deli San Jose) or more common creature comfort, the wonton. Not having eaten for a lunar day, I’m very hangry (hungry + angry) by the time I’m able to eat anything at all. We arrived at 1:00 pm today; by 7:00 pm pacific, I fill with boredom, pain, and weariness from a day-long wait, interspersed with ugly, unwarranted comments and curses from my partner, a three year long depression sufferer.

Apparently, ascites build up and potential infection where they found a thickening of my bowel in the very same spot of my abdomen where I complained to my oncologist of constant pain. A pain level so fiercely off the charts, its feeling replaced organs and tissue about eight weeks ago.

No sleep and no change of clothing, no toiletries, no cat, not much of anything anywhere like home and of course no partner to hold me or wipe away any fears with a quick flick of the wrist. I’m complaining now rather than feeling the grace of life, in the now, where I am. I am grateful and very fortunate for my complete access to skilled nurses, doctors, and support staff.

That said, what company’s geniuses made this radically uncomfortable hospital bed? From the designers of, Hospital Gown, opening in the back for no real reason and showing the crack in your ass for over a century, comes new Z-Style Forward to the Past Torture Bed, now with patented bubble wrap technology in our extra, extra thin mattress. They tell me it’s for insuring patients do not get bedsores. And I’m exhausted from the bangs and inane noise coming from the room next to the one I share with a woman who speaks only Spanish and requires LOUD translators. Although she can apparently read the room service menu and translate it back to Spanish to order breakfast. She also gave me her cold so I’m running about a 99 degree fever and feeling flu-like symptoms.

Over the next few days my oncological team wants to remove, without prejudice, any remaining stuff in my sore, distended guts – still experiencing “slow transit.” Slow transit, an intrastate train system outside the country of Switzerland, where measurements of timeliness literally are marked to the 10th of a second. On time. I wish for a magic metamorphosis of my slow guts into a fast Swiss Train version.

Guts. Hmmm, apparently my friends and family admire my spiritual resilience, my steadiness and guts in the face of scary situations, and in particular, my over the age of consent blue humor. How much can my good qualities can stretch today? And so, I remain, my dear blog reader or two, your friend, in a sad state of Sick, in country called Illness, in a loud windowless room with Canferatu scratching on my door. He scares me nearly to death with oddly scented train cars and unpredictable time table based on non-Swiss random intervals.

I smell nice however, I’m not shooting with much accuracy, these days, either. From Werner Herzog’s remake with Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu, based mostly on the silent Murnau adaptation of the Stoker novel, I leave you with a quote, and one that says maybe it’s not Lucy with whom I should resonate, but the monster himself:

To be unable to grow old is terrible… Death is not the worst…

Ray Today

Inside a coach
Filled with diamonds
Rings and starlight
Gentlemen born of
Sparkle and cut
Open to remove those
Blasted ugly things
Radiating with half
Life and spring
Practices. Moments
Yearbooks cheerleaders.
Say Ray,
We love you.
None knowing twisted
Grief made a new friend
This week when Ray
Hugs my tiredness
He says I’m so happy
To see you.
And for the first day
In I don’t remember
How long I believe
Somebody who says
They really wanted
To see me.
Expansive arms held me
Up, I guessed like one of
Ray’s boys but better.
Three month check.
Six month check Monday.
Say Ray
My god, no one said.
No, how are you?
He asks again, again.
180 days since
180 degrees spun
A son into gold
Holding me up
Groceries in hands
Sparkling, always
Because I want to say
Stay please, I can only
Tell you the truth.

Sparkle

Canferatu, The Monster at My Door

WARNING: I’m going to bitch a little. Maybe a lot. I admit, I’m in pain of several kinds and with facing #chemotherapy again, and the evacuation of a total of 10 liters of ascites  fluid from my abdomen adding 20lbs to my stomach and causing my body not only discomfort but all kinds of fun side effects including severe constipation. Ascites meanders through the abdominal cavities, which fill up with the remains of a body’s lubrication in the peritoneum, leaving less room for the organs including the intestines. See the container of yellowish fluid above? That’s one of four two-liter bottles removed from my big round belly three weeks ago. Additionally, I had four and a half more liters removed yesterday.

My body had enough room for food for first time in three weeks, long past a bad case of being “hangry” (hungry-angry). My prescious neighbor and dear friend Lisa, made me simple soup of chicken broth and won tons. The hunger with which I ate it rivaled Henry VIII mauling a turkey leg as he’s so often portrayed. I’m feeling like total shit right now, no pun intended. I feel physically and emotionally wrung out. I appreciate your patience and please know I do not mean to condescend: I’m just kick off my big girl shoes and put on my fuzzy slippers and whine.

#Stage4cancer brings to mind a place a B movie might portray, as you’ve probably noted in some of my other pity party posts. In my latest film, my 1960s MST3K worthy vampire hell ride, Canferatu. Canferatu is an inescapable, slow yet fast paced vampiric monster approaching magically everywhere I turn. Chills run down my spine as I hear the ugly abhorrent thing rapping, scraping on my door. I realize it’s only the wind picking up, frightening me as a tree branch runs its claws along the windows of my imagination,

Am I dreaming in color of the darkest places my consciousness has to offer on tonight’s mind menu? No. No horror film, no inadvertent wind blown tree debris, and definitely not a B movie. Reality sets in at some point between, “are you fucking kidding me?” and the desert test of an atom bomb blowing up underground and taking out a life I once knew. A life defined. One with possibilities of working full time, seeing friends, hearing from family, trips and travel, and a whole lotta love. As unsalvageable though your existence may feel at this very moment – if you don’t have stage 4 cancer consider all systems pretty good, if not fantastic!

I feel awful when I can’t feel much empathy for people with controllable, curable diseases who do nothing to seek out readily available medical attention. Even when the hands of help reach out to them to provide everything they require to find a healthy self, they choose to lie down in puddles of self created doom and pity. As I approach the diagnosis’ three year mark at stage four, I become more hardened to their plights. An empath, I know that their pain is very real pain. I know it’s as real as the device you’re reading my post on, yet I see possibility and hope. Depression and anxiety sufferers see darkness visible. As I scratch and scrape to stay alive and keep Canferatu from sucking me dry, my partner has the audacity to pull at my heels and bring me tumbling down with him into the black box he lives in day after day. And night after night without so much as a kiss or a hug anymore.

It all feels so very unfair. I want to make it all just stop because this simply cannot be real. Like Canferatu. What kind of unique inequity caused these circumstances in which I face my end of life head on while he faces his future head down? For three solid years, I represent the root cause of every single one of his problems. These days I’m overly embarrassed to even suggest sexuality as a topic to discuss. Who would embark on a talk to let him know how I don’t want my end of days bereft of human touch?

When my psyche owns up to having grace enough to know when to get off this crazy thing, I will, but I love him enough to have hope and to stay.

There’s days when his light comes on and his blue eyes sparkle and shine like two stars in the sky. Come on you, just wake up and shine with me for a little while and let’s shut this nightmare down. Coupling up begins, but never ends, with sex. Love in all its permutations requires an orchestration of high and low and mid range notes all syncopated in time, day in and day out. However, there’s a time not too far away when the cortisol highway in my body caused by the stress of this heinous cloud raining down on us both will end, as highways all must. I’ll have to leave him sitting here alone. If he refuses to seek help he so desperately needs much longer, I’ll miss him, and I wonder if that heartbreak is enough to cause a whole new cortisol highway to open up, allowing my cancer to take me over and cause a horrible, unintended wreck.

Does cancer extract my heart from my body for study by science and remain in a clear beaker like the one holding the ascites on some dusty shelf behind an outdated computer book from 1999? My loneliness and frustration are at an all time high. Can you tell? No, I have nothing he can gain from and to his mind, all he does is give and I cannot bring anything worthwhile to the relationship anymore, so why don’t I stop fucking up a good thing and just shut up?

Okay.

The Country of Illness

*Fearless (David Gilmour, Roger Waters)

The country of Illness
In a town called sick
Squabbling or wordless,
Rounded outwardly thick.

Bellicose brick towers
Bruised smokey blue
Indian summer showers
Over babies bathed anew.

Watery heads doused by the sea
Drowning deep in kitchen sinks
Forks napkins politeness and please
Cheeks red as lipstick all pinched and pink.

A fat bike tire, a bent back bow
Digestion, plagues, and like tissue
Blowing out each open widow
Oh, he whispered: maybe I’ll kiss you.

In Illness, my country
Sick towns allegiance to my space
I swim free as concrete
Cold deep water displace.

(Fearlessly the idiot* dying
Yet with whom that scares me so.
Reap later you enemy spying —
And now too too late to sow.)

The Island of the Misfit Toys

Metastatic cancer feels a little to me as though I am standing along with the rest of our group on a lonely island in the middle of an unknown world, called the Island of Misfit Toys. This fictitious land of Yukon Cornelius, of Rudolf one red nosed (drunk?) reindeer who guided Santa that cold Christmas night, and of Dennis who wants to become a dentist.  By the way, a study on social cognition and a desire to maintain positive feelings about the self,  Dennis and Denise represented a higher proportion suggested that people disproportionately choose careers whose labels resemble their names (e.g., people named Dennis or Denise are overrepresented among dentists) And of our own self images, they’re not influenced by much positive representations.

Especially those of us at stage IV, the stage about which no one wants to know much about at all.  We, the misfit metastats, don’t quite measure up to Santa’s ultra high standards. Therefore, we become like the toys left behind on Christmas Eve as we watch bleary-eyed and all shivering from the cold, waving goodbye to the rear end of a sleigh overflowing with gifts for everyone else. We wave to Santa Clause and his big fat ass and to eight wagging reindeer tails.  We wave as we stand alongside Mrs. Clause, who holds a glass of wine and smiles knowingly.

Betty Clause – I imagine this is her first name I don’t know how why – Betty’s thoughts travel inside the Clause residence,  followed by her plump reubenesque body into a frankincense infused, well deserved, hot and steamy bubble bath. Then, as she sinks into the temperature perfect water, I hear her sobbing tears of joy. The kind of joy we’ve all felt after a long hard job well done. She smiles and weeps at the lack of noise and and a home devoid of all the stress. Now the elves have packed up and went away until next winter, and Dennis has gone to dental academy, and all the reindeer shits been scooped up, and Betty gets a little girl time to herself! Finally!

Sadly, unlike Betty Clause, we won’t see jolly Saint Nick coming back after a magical night of delivering toys to deserving children. Instead we must look to break out of the loneliness and outside of a life without someone to cuddle our stuffed bodies covered in matted faux fur, as I feel sometimes as though I were a used up stuffed bear waiting to be yanked off the floor by my arm and taken under someone’s elbow.  The elbow of a boy who used to love me more than any other toy in the box.

I feel the compression that too much alone time can cause, like an astronaut without a helmet, the ring around his neck empty leaving him gasping purple in an airless infinite darkness for a breath of nonexistent oxygen.  Perhaps, and more apropos, metastatic breast cancer survivors represent a horde of Barbie dolls, freakish perverted proportions, and missing one or both of her once disproportionately large nipple-less breasts. Our torsos wrapped in gauze, we hobble back to the warmth of the factory, now quiet after the seasonal rush.

What I do know of cancer’s tonnage dump of loneliness is this: it’s a single perfectly understood universal gestalt, which  includes the undeniable, unbearable heaviness of spending our days just ghostly and a turn a whiter shade of pale. Once death becomes a friend we join the universe’s energy again and mix it up. Imagine if you can, a rave that ends only when your soul, composed of the imperishable neurological energy created by our brains during our momentary, slippery lifetime.  Yet we came up short on everything truly important until it’s too late. Until we found out we had an expiry stamped on our ass that’s not easy to read even under the best light and with the best pair of medical glasses that the cancer industry has loosed on the oncologists who work to keep us alive longer.

But we’re stuck here alone without those who loved our better selves, alone with our thoughts and dreams, alone with our entire life erased from the great whiteboard in the sky and waiting to be written over by us, preferably soon and preferably with a happy ending to our stories.

Yes, I ramble. But I hope you get the point.  The imperfect beings made more imperfect by metastatic cancer of any kind aren’t the kinds of people who you’re gonna pop by and see, the guilt ridden phone call you know you should make but haven’t and shit, the longer you wait, the more difficult that call becomes. We the misfit toys don’t care when you call, when you stop by, what you DO NOT bring, what you want to talk about or do not want to discuss.  As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I don’t want to talk about cancer either.  So come by, call, write, I’m still me.  I’m still thinking about the Columbia University findings regarding how people make important life decisions on unconscious tags for better or for worse.  We make our decisions so irrationally, it seems, that there must be some reason, something we don’t realize.  Here’s the well stated conclusion of this very interesting paper on Attitudes and Social Cognition.

The findings of this report stand in sharp contrast to many of the assumptions that both scientists and lay people have typically made about major life decisions. For example, these findings raise serious questions about whether people are fully in control of their own behavior. Nonetheless, the idea that people make major life decisions on the basis of unconscious decision rules does not necessarily mean that people are irrational. Instead, the specific form of implicit egotism identified in this research may represent an unconscious route through which people create social worlds that typically make them feel good.

Such speculations aside, the most important implications of these studies may be the most obvious: there may be much more in a name than most people realize. To paraphrase an anonymous author of tongue twisters, this research offers some new insights into why some people might find it more satisfying than others to sell seashells by the seashore. Why do we seem to make so many important life decisions based on unconscious emotional responses? I suppose we truly trust our guts to decide what makes us happy? Is it the same reasoning That causes so many more people with the names Denise and Dennis becomd dentists than those named Bill or Belinda?

I assume if there were more personally uplifting stories of some of us who were doing well, pictures of us with hair not just with our turban or wig slightly off kilter on our heads, or emaciated from the ravages of chemotherapy with puffy grey circles like rain clouds under our eyes, then maybe the loneliness of cancer wouldn’t be so deep and dark.  Maybe so many husbands and partners wouldn’t become depressed or even leave.  Maybe we would meet more people like ourselves instead of hiding away to stay at home.  The wounds deepen with every passing month, albeit invisible wounds. The kind that even Santa Clause can’t put on his list as us being naughty or nice this year.

The findings of this report stand in sharp contrast to many of the assumptions that both scientists and lay people have typically made about major life decisions. For example, these findings raise serious questions about whether people are fully in control of their own behavior. Nonetheless, the idea that people make major life decisions on the basis of unconscious decision rules does not necessarily mean that people are irrational. Instead, the specific form of implicit egotism identified in this research may represent an unconscious route through which people create social worlds that typically make them feel good. Such speculations aside, the most important implications of these studies may be the most obvious: there may be much more in a name than most people realize.

To paraphrase an anonymous author of tongue twisters, this research offers some new insights into why some people might find it more satisfying than others to sell seashells by the seashore.