Music Reactions: two friends with terminal cancer

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So, if you’ve not seen this video yet, you’ll find it entertaining, and perhaps a little sad. And perhaps you know Aimee Mann’s song, Save Me, from the film Magnolia’s sound track or if nothing else, I assure you’ll like the video. But it’s a hard song for anyone not to like. The video was created and edited by my good friend Rudy Fischman. Rudy has inoperable brain cancer, as well as two daughters and a wife – people with whom he wants to leave as much of a legacy of himself as possible.

He’s done a few more, and we’ve done several together coming to YouTube soon, so stay tuned. We’re enjoying our behind the scenes music banter as well as the time we share together developing a friendship that’s a marathon with some sprinting to catch up with the intent of a close friendship that may otherwise take years. It’s nit how long, but the quality it brings into our lives, mostly alone and misunderstood by the vast majority of those around us who don’t have terminal cancer.

Cancer friendships can end without warning. One of us will inevitably die first, and the other will mourn quietly and alone in our grief.

Rudy also produced the poetry episode 46 of The Brain Cancer Diaries by stop please watch and subscribe. You’ll find it here: Poetry Episode . It’s become a fan favorite and sadly Ben North died before it was filmed. Melissa Blank the second poet, died last week at home with her husband, listening to Nina Simone. I joined her death, quietly and alone; Rudy told me right as we began to film one of our music reaction video sessions. I put my face in my hands and asked, no one in particular, “why?” Why does cancer rob us of beautiful souls? It’s not a question so much as a statement.

It’s been another tough week, my friends, and I’ll give you a health update after I meet my new oncologist on Tuesday. In the meanwhile, farewell Ben and Melissa. I’ll carry the poetry torch in your honor best as I can, with dignity and the wisdom of your words whispering through mine. We did not need know each other to get one another. As I said, cancer friendships burn bright and quick sometimes. I’m the only one of the three of us still living. I can only believe that the survivors guilt I’m wracked with might be one of the culprits making my legs heavy with dangerous lymphedema and my belly round with at least six liters of ascites fluid, both side effucks of the radiation treatments I had back in October/ November 2020. Fuck cancer. Seriously.

Broken Circle

A mirror can’t judge you
Nor can it lie, it hangs up deliberating
In a box without jury or law.
Facing adjudication
I tell my side and can swear
On a stack of miracles
As a morning sleepy refugee
Belonging nowhere today
I get dressed for the trial anyway.
Showered, shorn and bowels empty
I’m a traveler brushing her hair
Singing, humming, bustling
Like yesterday but no chair
Awaits me at any desk, no rustling
Paperwork into the corrals
Where the palominos ran.
I’m instead looking at four walls
Painted dove gray and orange.
The mind of an orangutan
Looking at the empty crates
No more books no more tape
No more staples, no more breaks.
Water coolers generate condensation
Leaving now your conversations
Gossips of Karen’s and Kate’s
Sales pitched over the plate
By Pete’s and Paul’s and the VPs.
Why I’ve never smoked
But I now show signs of
Someone older with a gash
Between my eyes
As though a killer with an axe
Took me for a blind ride by surprise.
Catch your breath, still slapping
An oak desk or a glass table
From a joke we all heard a hundred times
The overripe punchlines left
A prime meridian of jokes
The longitude of laughter
Down to the frown ground into
Cleft chins and Adam’s apples.
The mirror round, a circle nothing
Special, or even social.
Sorely left concave and convex
Not impressing or annoying
Yet impressionable
Not beautiful but attractive
Not pretentious, but on reflection
Of one more than anything
You knew about everyone else
All the knowns and even the odds
Of the unknown futures. The past
Imperfect and Impossible still
Nothing of a future state
Meant to somebody
Who once held weight around here.
They saw your signal
At the stop sign Not a zodiac but
A night light spotting by accident
Before it happened making
A living beyond killing as a comic
The twist of a cosmic relief made to
Unsteady the hands the end of a pair
Of arms of two feet right in front
Of your very eyes moments unfolded
In sheets on a bed waiting for you
White and Egyptian. Enter with
A card key and a new friend.
She’s ready, willing like Able to Cain.
Sisyphus or Thor your
Next door neighbors. During the silent
Years you never knew me, the unicorn.
“She found her horn in the yard,”
Everyone knows. It was a joust
From beating her head against
A brick house. The place
Where now justice ahead of us
Made a left and t-boned into
The passenger, dead by impact.
Tomorrow’s special the guilt
Pie. Eaten a la mode with sprinkles.
Sailing across the bench seat into
Your empty children
Lying to you not strapped in
Tricked by slight of unhanded
Sighs of relief knowing why
The cage door open
And the bird sings yet never
Leaves. Unclipped wings don’t try
Wet with sea spray don’t dry.
Good luck take care and these
Twice a day during questioning
By a peace officer without any
Tickets to the ride to the station
Where I have the right
Go ahead make a call. What
Number - call Pi, or infinity.
Like those wild eyes I saw in the
Mirror just this morning . Inert
Inverted like my thoughts thatched
In a fence around the old dog run.
You’re not really free, never were .
Nobody has a will or a right to the truth
The mirror always lies and hangs
Me upon the wall where I got framed.

Fear of Happiness and the Nuclear Bomb

Happiness. It’s not found in nature – do bees, birds and skunks seem happy or just carefree? Perhaps there’s a powerful connection between freedom and joy. When we find ourselves free from major responsibilities we find peace easier to come by. After the following came back from my CT scan report I found my mood became less jovial and more edgy. I’m afraid of the protocol for hopefully solving this latest tumble down the rabbit hole of metastatic breast cancer:

“New moderate focal uptake within the L4 vertebral body concerning for progression of osseous involvement from PET/CT 4/12/2019. Diffuse sclerotic osseous lesions are otherwise not hypermetabolic.”

My CT Scan Report

I begin radiation treatments Tuesday for the tumor on my L4 vertebrae and in all the treatments over near 6 years since diagnosis, I’m afraid. But so many people have had radiation and come through just fine. Why such a fear of a very common treatment?

My fear of radiation began long ago in my childhood. After much soul searching into why the looming treatments scare the crap out of me I arrived at several interesting conclusions about the connection of fear and happiness.

We age and as we doubt our own hopes making the world a better place- it becomes simple. It’s a risk to take redemption to begin to see the hope where we can see darkness in the forest instead the earth calls us to see its light.

I think back to picketing against McDonell Douglas‘ huge multi billion dollar contract with NASA for what would become part of the Star Wars program begun by President Reagan’s administration. We held up our signs against nukes, U2 blaring in the car on the three hour drive home from NASA In Satellite Beach to Miami Beach – “Bullet the Blue Sky” was the song coming from the speakers in my dad’s old Celica. That song and it’s ominous countdown are etched into my memory, as are the chants of “We Shall Overcome at the end of the protest.”

I remember seeing pictures and documentaries on nuclear weapons and I think my ingrained fears about radiation causing cancer has kept me from utilizing this protocol until now.

In my dreams

I see my father in my dreamscape standing in a cool forest as I run to him not as an adult but a child. I’m afraid and I’m screaming, “no daddy! no not the bombs not the burning bombs!” Just in time I reach him before the blowback reaches me like you might have seen in film of the Bikini Atoll atom bomb tests. Then he gathered me up in his arms like a baby and we fly up without any propellant. He whispers something I cannot recall before he deposits me in a nest and disappeared leaving me safe but helplessly alone.

Is there ever going to be a time when my cancer doesn’t leave me alone? Alone in both senses of its meaning: isolated and diseased. This last week my friend told me that a relationship I’d hoped to develop wouldn’t happen. The friendship will end before it begins. She’s lost too many people to cancer in the last several years abs she cannot deal with more pain.

Where’s my happy place?

I feel okay. I have no idea when I will die. But I do know this – I also have enough on my plate but not enough human interaction- have we all gotten so used to isolation because of the never ending Covid lockdown that we will become used to doing things anonymously and alone?

I hope not, I have some frightening days ahead of me. It’s too bad I scare people away from my life just because of metastatic cancer. But her honesty is appreciated. At least I know why I haven’t seen her in six months. What’s everyone else’s excuse I’ll probably never know. Not my current friends, few though they may be, but all the ones who disappeared and left me on my own. I know they read this blog. I hope they know how afraid I am now after nearly six years of treatments.

Will I find myself in a happy place again? Or will happiness become like my mother coming into my room at night seeing my light inside. “Put the boom down and go to sleep!” Connecting fear to fun our parents do their best for us but etch away at our carefree souls for our own safety at a young age.

We thus begin to avoid risks and take fewer chances. As we get older and our responsibilities and the depth of our love becomes more important we take less risk, more work and find less fun offerings in our day for fear we cannot meet our obligations.

Do you see where I’m going? Certainly you can relate to what I’m experiencing now and what I experienced as a child leading to fears I couldn’t relate to pinpointed events until my dreams ripped a hole in my own time space continuum.

Meanwhile wish me luck.