Never, never, never give up.*

Christmas 2017

In the spirit of enjoying my newly found power of living in the now, and not over thinking my tasks or decisions too much, I find a listing worthy of our time and  instead of sitting home asking what to do and not doing much together, we decide it may be fun to head out to see a film. We drop our imaginary swords after a weekend of tension and melancholy leading up to today, Christmas Day.  After purchasing our tickets online, we slipped out of the garage with plenty of time to spare and without the usual tension causing any arguments. So without a hitch, we went out with a playful, familiar affection for one another.

I didn’t allow myself to over think what needed doing, and it all got done. I found myself grateful and comfortable as we drove the quiet holiday road, listening to Mozart. I am more home focused  these days as my current course of chemotherapy has caused my blood cell counts to decline. Compounding this, The C suffers from depression thats holds him locked in our house nearly  every day, sleeping more than he’s awake.

But tonight once he finished dressing, he smelled clean and crisp and looked really handsome and I told him so.  With patience he waited for me downstairs while I took a deliciously steamy hot shower, one of life’s little delicacies and a major privilege of living in a first world country. I dressed up a little bit for him, but for myself mostly.  As someone with gender altering breast cancer, I recommend it highly. If you don’t really feel like getting out into the public, dressing up and putting on a little makeup can help your inside rise to the occasion outside.  It doesn’t hurt, whether you have hair or not, gained or lost weight, became flat chested or had reconstruction, try it. I find needed confidence and The C says, babe, you look really hot. Grin. Blush. He playfully, but gently so as not to mar my transluscent skin, pinches my ass and impish grins and says, what? as I squeal “oh, don’t!” And we get moving to the film.

The Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman, who by the way OWNED the role of Churchill, engaged us from beginning to closing credits. Big new bonus feature, there’s now reserved seating recliners to kick back and put your feet up in, leather ones, too.  My inner marketeer assumes this phenomenon arose from a study about what makes people stay home instead of going to the theater to see a film. My conjecture: the study found people dreaded mortgage size snack bills and horribly unsanitary cloth-covered, ass numbing seating, originally designed for the Spanish Inquisition’s torture chambers. I can just see the PowerPoint presentation designed to sell the plush, button operated gluteus maxims warming cuddle machines to the theater chains’ operations management. (PowerPoint brain IS akin to chemo brain. I suffered both and the similarities are uncanny.)

Anyway,  The Darkest Hour covers Winston Churchill’s first month to his wartime appointed Prime Ministership governing Great Britain. He’s refused to lead his nation into a seriously precarious position of becoming like France in an act tantamount to surrender. Indeed, he would have accepted this fate had he allowed former PM and war cabinet member Chamberlain’s cowardly and first choice for the prime ministership, Lord Havilland to drive a country into a state that neither man was strong enough to lead. It turns out Chamberlain had only months to live having been diagnosed with cancer.  Me. Havilland drove his agenda as well as the King’s and persuaded Churchill to allow a seat at a table for one, at the so-called peace treaty with Hitler via Mussolini. History would be changed forever, and for not only Great Britain, but for all of Europe. There’s a surprise mini arc in the action that I’ll not give away but you’ll know why if you see the film.

Prime Minister Mr. Churchill, ravaged by lack of sleep and terrible indecision, finds himself unable to conjure the words for a speech he must deliver to the House of Commons regarding the decision to fight or to act with cowardice and surrender.  In an impulsive move, he leaves his chauffeured car running into the station and takes a train, something he’s never done, to Westminster and goes, so to speak underground. There he finds strength through listening to people’s emotional cries of “victory!” in the train car. Men and women who rightly are stunned by the presence of the PM and who represent a cross section of his constituency. Churchill initially went underground looking for a match to light his cigar, but emerged into the rainy day not only with the light for his oral fixation secured but enlightenment for his immanent oration. He finds answers he needs in that moment without over thinking his decision, in the hearts and minds of his beloved nation’s people.

I won’t spoil the ending, but we all know how the US for five long years allowed the punishing of our strongest world ally. Roosevelt got the blinders off very late in the war. Yet Churchill gave many European people hope for a future not ruled by tyrants. Without the navy but with his inspiration his ability to launch an entire force of civilian boats, to rescue 300,000 troops – the entire British military force stranded on the coast of France – waiting for help from across the English Channel.  Those boats were not captained by soldiers, but by regular people brought together, finding strength and bravery from deep inside their hearts and souls. Such bravery exhibited on so many levels boggles the mind and I need more time to digest the strength employed by everyone involved from the King of England, to Churchill, to his wife, to his supporters, and to the boats men living up above the White Cliffs of Dover.

I get chills thinking of the scene. It’s not a film full of CGI or big blasts or comic superheroes or special effects. It’s all in a short time with small spaces containing big exhibits of strength and bravery. Churchill knew that bravery comes not only from a wellspring inside, but from the community with whom we share a common connection. In his case the whole of Britain, in my case a small subset of the blogosphere. 

I know I represent a small subset who communicate via blogs. Here I find the brave and the vulnerable and in turn, this frees me to shed my own fears.  When someone stumbles into a post or poem of mine, and finds my “confessions” supportive,  the support I need comes easily.

At the beginning of this circuitous confessional, I found strong brave ties to a man I never knew. My relatives emigrated to the United States via Ellis Island in New York.  I am here because my great grandparents had the forethought to safely move our families out of the USSR, away from the tyranny that would slaughter Jews by the hundreds of thousands. Because of their courage I never will know  the atrocities of a true bloody ground fought war on a grand scale or the ensuing post traumatic stress disorder of an entire nation.

But we all fight our own wars don’t we?

I feel like my body is a country, my cancer, Stalin and  Hitler (Shitler?), the ground troops like my immune system, and my spirit like Churchill himself. Never, never, never give up. Victory is the only option, cried Churchill to the House of Commons that afternoon. From that scene on a wide screen was another brave heart who imbued in my spirit the strength of the lion himself long gone to find the One universal truth. He showed us the wisdom to listen, not just orate beautiful monologues that drown out the strength of other men and women, be they big public figures or new mothers with babies or blue-collar bricklayers from London.

Or even the small voice of a blogger in Silicon Valley, echoing words into the great web of the unknown. Too much drama? Nah, #fuckcancer.

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.