My Bi Monthly Cancer Wellness Survey

If someone handed you a clipboard with a survey attached regarding your “wellness” today, how would you respond? Doing my best to circle the closest answer to each inquiry using various rating scales, I hand the one-sided piece of paper sharing all my hopes, dreams, pains, and happiness to one of two nurse practitioners. Neither can truly comprehend the fitness of m6 mind and body by grazing over my confessional. Worse, they seem as uninterested with a quick flick of the wrist it’s tossed on the exam room counter, after it’s removed from the clipboard. I believe I spotted an eye roll of cynicism as I sat watching for an6 sign of interest on their face.

As always I inadvertently misappropriate the ballpoint pen on temporary loan I really don’t need, given my penchant for purchasing an embarrassment of redundant office supplies, to fill in the survey: “YOUR WELLNESS: how well you feel so your cancer center staff could attend better to your needs?”

The Stranger
Immediately an Existential crisis ensues. Such questions provoke an intensely dramatic Shakespearian-Hamletesque- “to be or not to be” soliloquy of the mind, or just plain thought vomit. Hopefully I don’t puke all over the page as I must determine the scale on which my most important stressors exist including appetite and nausea. For instance, rating my ability to think and judging during this particular day a level of satisfaction with my relationships? Seriously I think it’s not cogent at the moment, but I answer evoking my centrist point if view, since going too far right means I’m really angry and headed too far left means I’m going insane with happiness. The middle answer for the question is “sometimes.” Makes sense I suppose and I do not need those prescriptions adjusted.

Also I’m pursued by this paper chasing mind stalker to rate my current pain level. Do you mean right now? This morning when I got up? In general? If they mean at that moment right then or that just passed while I’m filling out this supposedly innocuous survey of my overall well-being? It’s giving me gas and a bit of acid reflux, plus this pen is really crappy for a nice place like Stanford and gives me a hand cramp that won’t let up due to neuropathy. (Note to self, donate nice pens for metastatic patients to lift in my last will and testament.)

What does it all mean?
Now the real kick in the ass – how I rate the meaningfulness of my life on a scale from excellent to poor, my activities in my home, social life, and community rating from completely to not at all. Two specific questions require an essay by Diogenes regarding cynicism and stoicism but there’s no blanks for open form answers. If you’ve read my posts you’re thinking the form might require five pages of addendum to control my verbosity. The questions in question:
My life lacks meaning?
Irritable, anxious, or depressed?
Rated from “never” to “always,” and “sometimes” the middle ground, on this particular day, I circled “sometimes.”

Sometimes my life lacks meaning for reasons such as my usefulness to society in general, to my financial stability, to my husband, to my friends, even to my customers in my Etsy shop – shameless self prhttp://www.yeuxdeux.etsy.com – should you want to do some holiday gift shopping from a very small business that directly supports metastatic breast cancer at the grass-roots level.

The purpose of consciousness might be as simple as love. Therefore we are all here to bring each other joy through love. And I firmly believe love is our purpose. What if, as imperfect as we are, we can achieve a clearness of mind to allow our thoughts about people to fall away, and rather than judge them love them instead? Wow! the joy we could feel if we lived without those thoughts, and the love we truly feel could comfortably be shared even further than inside the doors of our rooms.

Try a little tenderness.
Experiment with the following: show a little love to somebody you don’t particularly like today and see how your whole attitude about them and yourself changes in an instant. Perhaps, you can love yourself a bit more, too. But don’t give them a satisfaction survey when they’ve been loved sufficiently by yours and their agreement, because you’ll lose the squishy warm feeling of human interaction to the marketing puffery even taking place in your personal brand study.

Cynical? Nah.

 

 

A Must Listen BBC “About Death”

Bravery on the precipice of the end of life.

British woman who exhausted clinical trials for metastatic lung cancer died the next day after recording this podcast for the BBC. I’m not afraid of death – my belief is this gift of life in our physical manifestation of consciousness is bookended by not being. I’m not – I’m here – I’m not. For those whom we leave behind when we are no longer, really need to try to listen to her talk. She had a tumor wrapped around an artery, and liver failure amongst other mets, contributing to her demise. “All I want is options, because when you have options you have a chance.” Indeed, brave woman, indeed. My greatest gratitude to you posthumously for this gift of speaking out when you could have quietly gone into that good night.
— Listen on www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06hkhx7

Fly Away Home, Blessed Body

In Memorium, Jnani Chapman

“Blessed body heal this beauty,”
Her song flowed gently —
We lived longer in her hands.
Once, all at one time
She let fly love’s bounty:
The heart’s harvest floating on
A barge atop a boundless wave.
Rivers of tears flow beyond our sight,
Farther this time — please, to not return.
Within the star white
Light of the quilted night, sewn into
A blanket of every color
By her own hands.
Swinging movements to and back
Here, to find the constant:
Love equals gravity plus motion.

Calling to us on the shoreline,
With a Cheshire smile
We wave her back in, yet
Calliope, turned to me
Whispering in the wind,
“Wish her safe passage, instead.”
Lifting our eyes to the skies
Ethereal blue air filled
With the soft silence of
Dandelion feathers blowing
And billowing in winter’s dusk.
Everywhere, time to head home.
All the better for knowing
Grace once embodied us
With the cure of her touch.

Let night shine with a million bits
Of candlelit diamond dust and
Let her spirit dance and spin in
Swirling white wild robes.
We seek the wide eyed child
Instead finding her silk sails had set
A course just above the curve
Of earth, into the horizon.
Glimmering into the shimmer
Of the red ruby crystal day
Behind the shadow of the sun.
Landing everywhere together
Touching every space, untethered
To the mystery unseen,
Now shimmering in us and in between.

A blue velvet bag opened by this single
Movement – her hand reached
Into the spaciousness above
And all stars’ light unpacked, and
Secreted away in drawer full of daydreams.
Now the seashore glistens
With the promise of night, and
Eternally luminous
With all the befores,
And all the ever afters,
Moving our millions of tears
Into a single smiling river.
“Goodnight my beautiful bodies,”
And we fly away home, laughing.

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…