Hearts and Bones, Hope and Stones

Monday at 4:30 my appointment began after a round of bood tests to insure my platelette count prevented me from “bleeding out.” A caring, attentive nurse practitioner at Stanford conducted a procedure to remove abdominal fluid, in which escaped cancer cells floated like cruise ships in a pond. My tummy, hard as a rock prior to the paracentesis, softened as the pressure on my organs, rib cage, intestines and diaphragm eased into a very sore bruised feeling abdomen.

Probably the 10th paracentesis in five and a half years, the fact of more ascites fluid drained from my abdomen may indicate metastasis unseen by the most recent films of June, 2020. Now we, (the radiologist, my oncologist, and me) can see if there’s really spread to any unknown abdominal areas. I may also have a new “lesion” (read: tumor) on my L4 vertebrae and I’m in some pain but nothing more than I’m used to. My girlfriend drove us three hours each way to Stanford.

Last week she had delivered to my house: a few years old barely used spa tub – a gift beyond words to express my gratitude. I couldn’t wait for Craig to fill it up and for us to submerge our bodies in the warm, healing water. This hot tub isn’t a luxury, but therapy for me on so many levels. She knew our new, slightly off grid house had no deep tubs – for all its spaciousness – allowing me to relieve my pain and help me sweat out the poisons from my targeted and not so targeted cancer therapies. I am in more pain than usual from the aromatase inhibitors I have to take daily. Taken along with the new estrogen and progesterone hormone receptor metastatic breast cancer wunder-drug, Verzenio, is my fifth and current protocol. We hope. We hope. We hope it works.

I took my first dip in the tub last night and it was heaven on earth.

Hope and Stones
On another note, as I entered a few places on our trips to and from Stanford, I truly wish people would realize that our lives matter too and their refusals to wear masks prevent people from access to healthcare and clinical trials that have to be postponed or even canceled due to the risk of infection from Covid.

It’s the numbers of dead that won’t be counted because it’s not a direct but an indirect result of lack of infection prevention. I wish we could see some real death toll numbers as that indirect result of Covid and the direct result of selfishness couched in “rights” of people to choose not to wear masks and stay at home just a little while in the grand scheme of things to stop this virus from spreading in our country. I don’t think the writers of the United States constitution had that in mind when they discussed the rights of the individual to determine their own fates, and it’s disturbing to see it in action.

I noticed a little girl maybe 6 years old in a cart with her mom not wearing a mask at a grocery shop last night. The lack of protection upset me – you’d think that parent would want her child protected and to protect others should she be a carrier. A broader picture representing this sad state of affairs. We do not have this under control.

Let these experiences open a new conversation, rather than shut us down and create another fight, another us versus them argument. Leave the violence for the ignorant and the voiceless. For we with terminal illness openly and frankly discuss death. The ending of life as we individually experience what is inevitable to all who live. We must adjust our hope as a society now. Hope is a mandate not an immovable emotion.
Having had front center seats to the deaths of people who’ve been the closest to me gave me an immeasurable gift in the common sense of meaning or value. Each changed me in a different way; changed at the level of the soul. I feel the soul is where hope persists inevitably. And with that in mind how can violence erupt where love also persists?

In the Jewish tradition when visiting a grave in a cemetery one leaves behind a stone. Not flowers. Those die. But the immovable stone – its also something on which we can build a path. And maybe there’s some truth to that. We build a path from stones from birth to death. We can not go back and change it and we do not know if tomorrow will bring us another stone on which we can continue to walk.

Living life in the now, in this breath, allows death to be a part of life without fear or loss. We can step into the unknown and float away our soul free of the body of pain and suffering for some of us. And the stones left in this world we can see as simple reminder that we were here.

Calling Cancer a Gift Or an Opportunity for Enlightenment Is Insulting! | Nancy’s Point

Calling Cancer a Gift Or an Opportunity for Enlightenment Is Insulting! | Nancy’s Point
— Read on nancyspoint.com/calling-cancer-gift-opportunity-enlightenment-insulting/comment-page-1/

If you haven’t read Nancy’s book, please read her posts on Nancy’spoint.com her blog give her your thoughts in the matter of has cancer made you a better person (sigh. Absolutely not in my case anyway.) Then go on amazon.com and get a copy. If you happen to be really tight on cash due to this lockdown situation then let me know. I’ll buy you a copy. Its one of three cancer experience personal stories that I nightly recommend – the other two are The Cancer Olympics by Robin McGee about her odyssey with colorectal cancer and The Cancer Whisperer by Sophie Sabbage. All three of these women have a different side of the elephant to describe to you.

But all of them, as everyone cancer has visited uninvited, also get the ass end of the elephant to describe in their styles with their truth. I’m not leaving anyone purposely out. Memoirs of a Debulked Woman by Susan Gubar about ovarian cancer is another personal fave. I’ve read so many cancer books – personal and medical – I’ve got cancer on the brain for every meal of the day. Not cancer of the brain. That scares the living shit out of me to be honest – I’ve relied on it my entire life and without it I’d not be me…but that is simply not true as we all know with the advent of the cyberknife we have come into our disease at an advanced technological time – but metastatic breast cancer is still ignored by illusive

And the nausea that’s percolating in my stomach from the thoughts I’ve had regarding the stupid things people say like, ” Well, we’re all gonna die sometime,” and…so we will. But if you know this – we are born terminal – then that’s just plain stupid. And so is the idea that we are better people. We aren’t. But we must delve deep inside and find the better parts of ourselves like tenacity, to get through the horrible treatments and the isolation and all the drudgery that is life with cancer. It’s shit.

On Fire

Bury me amongst the trees

Where redwoods overlook the sea

From atop a crossed mountain

Where my body will quicken

From flesh into sand.

Underneath the needle-bed

Blanket, the fibers of my hair weave

A way through the wind-filled leaves.

Heat my voice with borrowed sun

Which once kissed my cheeks

Where freckles reached to meet.

You now hear my broken chords

Faintly in the the distance unmoored

Tasting the salted shore. Safely clean

I lay down on a million fine grains of sand

Not feeling myself again I repeat

To no one: I am an empty vessel.

I’ll still wake every morning

Habitually, my hands still sleep

Parting the fitted sheets aways,

Long gone I still reach after you.

I am the water, then the dew

Maturing into a pinguid mist.

The palms clap and sway to

Conduct the band at noon

To play a song of our bequest.

The hour’s imminent.

Time to ride a wicked dream on

A silk weaved carpet twisted

With last night’s ghostly breath.

Come take inventory of my remains

Should the tree mark me no more.

The lumber that’s become of me

Taken over by the shore. I am a house

Now – shelter for a family to whom you

Lost me once again. My soul holds up

The walls now, my legs hammered

Into floorboards, arms encircle

Each bedroom where the dormers rest.

My fingers lace together to build

A painted white front porch,

That’s my hips now a swing

Hung there, under the eaves.

Look up to see my head holds high

A roof; my back’s now the front door

My eyes frame All the windows, my heart beats

In the kitchen. My birds left the

Forest knowing where my mouth now sings

And the woodpecker that lived inside my trunk

Hollowed out my attic in the spring.

Let me stand strong and steady

For at least a hundred years.

By then, long gone, you built your own

And our lives live on, unworldly yet eternally.

Looking down at the rubble of what’s

Left of my body in the demolition heap.

What at all might grow from me who once

You buried underneath a tree?

Let me now burn someone’s hands

Someone lit afire from my plight.

It’s cold outside where I once stood

In the trees and dark of night

And I’ll burn vast and luminous

My spirit gives newborn light.