The Gifts of Cancer Treatments

I got a fab surprise when i left my appointment with my radio oncologist today. Look at all that amazing makeup – very high quality and non toxic. I highly recommend going to not my favorite name but i can live with The Breast Cancer Charities of America and the booklet inside is even more valuable with a list of financial resources:

Assistance for everything from transportation to non medical bills to physician to wigs to copays. I rate this a 10 out of 10 even the silly pink wayfair sunglasses are coated with UV eye protection great for the glove box just in case. For anyone needing a little pick me up to paying your phone bills.

I also left with four dot tattoos on my ripped (haha) tummy so the radiation therapist nurses know where to point the beam. Turns out the Verzenio is holding back the L4 tumor which has not grown at all since I started in June. My 10 treatments begin October 5th for two straight weeks. The oncologist will meet with me each Wednesday and again after the final MRI scan – no contrast required. Sigh. My fears are ablated now onto the pesky tumor. Stupid cancer. I hate you.

Much love

My Gratitude: our virtual support group and my hope for our future

Thank you. To you my sisters and brothers who write blogs and create videos. I owe you my deepest gratitude for so openly, and with the intent of helping others like yourselves, with the therapy of your craft. By discussing your lives and fears, and in some cases, the end of your life as you experience it, I can feel all of you. I hope we will be the loosely knit, dispersed support group we’ve become, for a while to come. We make up a group of people whose bodies turned against ourselves with breast cancer, brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, metastatic cancers. and a host of other painful killer diseases.

We hope for life.

In tandem I write this blog with my own with intent. I write to begin, to enter, and to sometimes end discussions here online in the virtual world. The main focus of our discussions realize our hopes and dreams, as well as adjustments of our individuality. We watch as the shifting of hope: hope not only as a concept but mandate for our survival. We do not experience hope as an unmovable meaningless emotion. We give our readers and watchers the priceless gift of front row center seats to hope as it shifts throughout our lives in a conversation and in our actions as human. Our hopes and dreams are written indelibly, etched in time and for the foreseeable future.

Some of us take it all the way out to the end when we hope for a good death rather than painful ugly moments in and out of consciousness beyond our control. We hope that those who remain behind, who mourn our “loss” to carry out our wishes as we intend them.

We experience death.

I have spoken about two important moments in my life before and I with gratitude for them. Two deaths for which I sat holding witness as their spirits left this plane and went to one we can no longer see or visit them. While I was sitting beside my father as he was in a coma in hospice care in Miami I played music we loved quietly for us both. I’d sit and talk to him and tell him it was okay to go and not to be afraid. I sat as a spirit midwife of sorts and a Witness for my father, and 10 years prior that, my best friend Allan who died at 37 in my arms. They both gave me a gift immeasurable in a common meaning or sense of value.

The last breath I took with them changed me, each in a different way. To see the fear of not living in a 37 year olds eyes and to help him allay his broken heart with the knowledge of his impact on my life and everyone who adored him, and then to sit with dad for two weeks was as much a degree in how not to have the end of life filled with suffering and then lack of suffering, both allow me to face my own mortality in a way that’s indescribable yet quite tangible.

In the Jewish tradition when visiting a cemetery one leaves a rock or stone on the grave stones of their loved one. Some Talmudic teachings say it’s to keep the soul in the grave but I like the more hopeful version:

‘In moments when we are faced with the fragility of life, Judaism reminds us that there is permanence amidst the pain. While other things fade, stones and souls endure.’

Jack Reimer, Wrestling with the Angel: Jewish Insights on Death and Mourning

We find heroes.

There’s a person who’s presence in my life remains and always will be as long as I remain a lesson in how a single word can change a life. He said to me, “Ilene, you’re a wonderful writer. Call yourself a writer because it’s what are and have always been.” And from that day on I found another stone for my path ahead every morning or afternoon when I arose still alive. That stone allows me to put my foot on to carry me to the next and the next creating a new path in my life to carry me home. Without it i wouldn’t have found my way. Each time I write I thank him after a few moments of silence prior to the first word hitting the page.

It’s also said we die twice – once is our physical death and the second is the last time someone living speaks your name. If this is true, we will live a long time after our physical selves are no longer a vessel for our beautiful souls and for us to “see.” Our words ensure our names will be rehearsed for many years to come.

We find beauty.

I’d like to share a poem by John Keats, written in the 1800s when he was about 22 years old. Definition of what I believe describes the British romantic period, when poets like Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and of course Keats wrote. It was a short enough period but a prolific one, much like one whose metastatic cancer brings a fierce need for expression, it seems our world changed significantly with a very hard push on the enlightenment at the time, Keats said:

“[I]f Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all,” proposed John Keats in an 1818 letter, the perfect symbol of the British romanticism movement.

John Keats
When I Have Fears

When I have fears that I may cease to be

   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,

Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,

   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;

When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,

   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

   That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Be Kind: The healing power of the natural world

Like a bruise: blue, purple orange, yellow and black birds, to whom I’ve not had the pleasure of introducing myself, fly by. The healing of the airflow clear and clean rushes into my lungs as I do a nighttime moonlit reiki meditation.

In the morning I truly feel a certain pique of childish curiosity; but I don’t mind feeling a bit silly even to myself in the kitchen in the first of daylight.

Catching a glimpse of sunflower seeds and other delights, they stop for breakfast plucked from small houses hung high on the long deck that runs on two levels on the back of our mountain house.
This new life in the country side in Northern California presents a cornucopia of earthly gifts every minute if every day. And not a minute too soon. The ugly side of humanity brought about by an uglier still virus keeps me going mad with the indifference of some of the population to the plight of people with stage 4 cancer and other terminal diseases who are unable to access critical care and clinical trials that could extend our lives…

But let’s keep that for another day, if you’d forgive my indulgence I would much prefer describe the life and death and rebirth of an ecosystem right here on our beloved subplot of five beautiful acres with our beloved animals.

Let’s first get Mister Waddles our skunk out of the way of the discussion. He’s rather fat. I feed Mister Waddles, my chubby stink bomb out of my kitchen door. We know it’s him. His tail is white and black and full of a dull brownish musk that’s clearly his way of saying hello to everything with an olfactory sense of humor. I feed Mister Waddles asparagus, lettuces, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, of which he’s quite fond, radishes and corn cobs with a little left over for him. The musk of skunk spray doesn’t bother me at all. No photos, Waddles has had enough paparazzi in his current incarnation.

We’ve got birds of all feather. So many avian malluded me my entire city existence
I hung the feeders where they’re safely out of the way of what dangers may lie in wait for a bird snack, just below. They become instead a tease to the keen ears and eyes of their enemies watching… listening. But I’m not familiar with their language- how would I know the way foxes sound: how they seem to giggle like bandits. They’ve got a joke to which none but they know the punch line.

Wild turkeys, deer, geese, owls, bats, wolves, mountain lions, bears, raccoons, wild hares, rabbits, and skunks make their way across the acreage they own and we borrow from them. They hide from human eyes in the forested tall oaks, pines, and grasses punctuated with buttercups and other newly blossomed wildflowers. It’s wooded and dense with untamed vegetation. My domesticated cat’s turquoise chatoyant eyes sparkle as he can see what I cannot. Birds in trees covered by leaves, their nests hidden in the branches: he can see them nestled there where I cannot see anything at all but the trunks and branches. To me they blend into green and brown leaves.

My eyesight strains to read books or even the warnings on the dense packages of chemotherapy.
But damn, he can see more details than the outlines and the colors of the birds against the newly born foliage. They just appear magically as if hatched independent and fully grown. From his perspective they look like the wild prey they are, food to pounce on as he’s braced and ready. He focuses out the window ready for one to land just close enough. But he can’t get through the glass. And I can let him out because he would make a nice lunch or dinner for many of the wild beasts that see him as he sees those birds.

Today my morning started at 5 a.m. when two mother turkeys and six turkey chicks ate seed kicked out of the feeders by kingfishers and blue jays. Even young, they’re rather large birds – adorable nonetheless and very interesting creatures to watch. The interaction between the two mother turkey hens and their six chicks had an almost human dynamic. The moms chatted, their eyes just slightly from focus on each other, peripherally keeping watch as the babies played in the seed by the kitchen door, pecking up the seed all over my porch. The little chicks are relative to our definition of small as they’re far larger than most fully grown birds. Yet they’re adorable. And there’s an interesting dynamic between the two mothers in the six babies was almost as though they were human. It did not matter whose babies belonged to either of them. They protected their young from anything threatening.

There’s an aggressiveness to how the jays eat. They seem angry as they kick the feed out of the feeder. After this bird style vandalism they sit as though they were taking a bath in it. The turkey chicks did an excellent job cleaning up the mess and I almost wanted to give them all an allowance or start a college fund. But as we all know turkeys are rather small brained. Certainly not intelligent enough to make them the appropriate selection for the United States National bird, which Benjamin Franklin thought should be the turkey. It turned out to be the bald eagle was a far less subtly better choice. Although these days with the size of the bird brain relative to the size of the ones inside of the White House I think that the turkey would’ve been far more appropriate choice for this administration in particular.

All kidding aside I love watching the birds here. I also love watching the deer. There’s three orphans growing up on their own. As sad as I feel when I see them, nature takes care of it’s own. The three deer siblings consist of two bucks as a doe. The furry antlered males act very aggressively. They come up to the door of the house and look right at me as though they’re thinking I’m pathetic. Recently one actually came right into the garage. He scared the hell out of my husband. They’ve grown quite a bit since then and neither buck are as reckless to coming into the house anymore – they’re maturing. Although they stay outdoors now, they still eat all of my flowers. I can’t help but not want to shoe them away or cage the flowers from them. These three deer that live in our property. When I think about it, it’s actually their property if you want to see things rationally. They were here for before we arrived so we are living on on their property.

Their mother got hit by a car. As I drove by that cold night I knew it was her and I knew the three babies were on the around and hoped they’d not witnessed such violence. But as I looked into the darkening brush, I could see six eyes staring out from behind the bushes. Tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t possibly take in what I just saw. The bucks have grown quite a bit since then and aren’t as fearless in coming into the house. They stay outside and eat all of my flowers. But I can’t help but not want to shoe him away or cage the flowers. Our property is actually their property, viewing things in a rational way. They were here for before we arrived so we live on their property. Their mother got hit by a car. As I drove by I knew it was her. A big weapon driven so quickly it didn’t see her and it hit her hard. She was as large as she was beautiful. She was not that old you could tell this was her first litter they way she coddled them. After she died I did some research to see if they needed feeding or some other help. We were willing to take over any necessary mothering for her as they got old enough to care for themselves.

After witnessing the saddest thing I’d seen since our move put here, immediately I drove home in tears and ran to Craig to hold him. I said the mother she’s dying she’s on the side of the road I don’t know what to do should we call someone who do we call? He suggested we get back in the car. Reluctantly I agreed and we drove over but she had been pulled off the road onto the side and she was gone from our view. The next day I frantically looked for her babies in there they were bedded down where she had taught them to bed down right on the corner by our driveway way at the end about 300 feet from our door. There they were, three of them nestled together in some leaves very hard to distinguish from the rest of the surroundings. They were sleeping together one head on top of one’s rump one had on top of the others rump a sleepy circle. I came to find out my neighbors had some guests that evening. One of them happens to be a horse whisperer and saw that the mother was dying, laying partly on the road after the hit and run. He and a friend had moved her into the brush. There he laid with her for 10 minutes and stared into her eyes and whispered in her ears. He talked to her so that she wasn’t afraid, helping her let go of her pain. She didn’t die alone; she died with a loving human being holding her head in his lap whispering in her ear telling her it was okay to let go. He was taking her from this life into the soul life. He was her soul midwife. When I found out about the story it literally brought tears to my eyes again and I think about the doe often and every time I see one of her children. nothing sad at all about these three animals. Their mother taught them very well how to eat. Especially out of my garden which as I said I can’t bring myself to cage and I can’t bring myself to separate them from the flowers that they so love to munch. Every once in a while I throw some things out some celery and things and they really love it. It’s safe for them to eat; it takes them a while to digest and I make sure that they only throw things out there for them that they can digest. I’ve come to learn a lot about the diet and digestion of white tailed deer.

If I reflect on my experiences here I realize how much seems to be about mothers and children. In someway mother nature takes care of her children. During the COVID19 virus so many things came back into the natural state of the blue sky, the vegetation reborn, and hidden within it all of the animals just months ago nowhere in sight.
This seems to be about mothers and children doesn’t it. In someway mother nature takes care of her children. I love looking at the stars here at night. Without the light pollution it even less so now you can see every single one of the constellations as clear as if it were day although it’s night time. I know they just are. There are certain things that are indelible. As the souls indelible to the universe as the universes indelible to the soul as our energy is produced and we in turn feed back to the universe what it has given us in the first place. We too are animals, I’ll kinds of things I hadn’t heard before. At night this guy seemed a little clearer and four of stars. I love looking at the stars here at night. Without the light pollution it even less so now you can see every single one of the constellations as We we borrowed this body, and someday we will have to give it back. We will give it back not quite in the same shape in which we got it. It was brand new in fact it had that new baby smell. That absolutely innocent smell that only babies have that absolutely clean sweet smell.

The baby has not been soiled yet. It’s mind hasn’t been soiled, it’s body is still fresh and new. Hopefully it has no genetic mutations to cause it to have any kind of disease. Hopefully no environmentally caused diseases will get to it either. And it will grow into a human being – all dirty, littering, light polluting, EMF emitting. You get the point. The older we get the less innocence we seem to have. I think this is why I love it here so much, love the animals that I watch every single day. Even in the rain they’re out there and I wonder if they need to come inside but I know that’s stupid they don’t need to come inside. But they’re perfectly fine where they are. And they aren’t homeless in knowing the world is their home.

It is we who don’t see the world as our home — we see the world as something to stay away from. We build walls around ourselves so that the world doesn’t get to us. So that we don’t get dirty. When in fact the opposite is true those walls that we put around us are dirty. Our walls create pollution.
Meant protect us supposedly from the elements. What elements – wind, water, fire, and earth? Are those the elements were referring to is the sky? Is it the sea? Is it the rain? Is it the sun? Is it the stars? No I don’t think so; the animals are far more innocent than we ever were.

Beginning at about three years old I had a recurring dream every single night. It was a very strange dream of a monolithic rock. The rock was not smooth but shaped like an obelisk floating alone in the night sky. And there was nothing else to the dream. I had this dream every single night until I was about seven or eight years old and then the dream stopped for good.

I was the kind of kid who would rub their eyes really hard to get those kaleidoscope like visions that you see behind your lids when you rub your eyes too hard. I used to love how the yellows and the whites would come together in the strange patterns. know the stuff that’s outside of the universe and all the things we know what’s there is that with nothing else I I wanted to know what nothing was because nothing didn’t make sense to me — everything looked like something. My dad laughed and he tried to explain to me in his way. But in the end he couldn’t really define it for me and I still can’t find it for myself. Nothing is the feeling that I felt when I saw the mother deer on the side of the road. I felt nothing. I felt guilty and hurt. I felt her pain.

I imagine her eyes – I think I don’t believe that I really saw her eyes but I imagine that I did. I imagine that I saw a tear in her eyes. I was so relieved to know that a horse whisperer happen to be driving by at that moment and saw her and took her off of the road brought her into the woods and held her looking into her eyes leading her from this world into wherever the next is and she knew her babies were going to be fine and I know her babies are going to be fine. And somewhere there all of our children just as every child that you see is yours as well.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure we provide examples for the next generation’s grownups. Without role models of a gentler sort who’s going to provide the settings for a moral compass that’s hopefully pointed in the right direction? Whatever the right direction at the moment, don’t know.

But what I think I really mean by that is very simple:

Be kind.