Uncertainty

Life’s great deceit
The human equalizer
Is death, certainly.
No announcement from our pilot
No time of arrival
No maps of the place we land,
And what happens
Afterwards
All mysteries, all.

He teases us with a whip sometimes
tickles our insides with a feather.
Cancer’s uncertain effects
Of diagnosis of life or death
Or would it be a stretch
Of the imagination
A Jewish woman may conjure up an image
like this:
I’m in a concentration camp
Looking down a barrel of a CT scanner
Like waiting in line for a shower
But the lot of us wind up
Tossed into a gas chamber.

A body transformed at the whims of science
For the good of us and the bad of the rest
And for those who cannot sleep.
My head droops on my neck escaping the air
Closer to the ground where the poison
Waits snaking up my body. A fat brown boa,
twisting and constricting
Suffocating my peace with a promise:
Please squeeze hard.
For thick with the dead
After life’s passing glory
The campaign marches on.
Beating time tracking and tracing out
Torsos with cold leather fingers
They drew my blood then sent me
To the mass grave. I fell in
Losing my balance.
On the bodies of giant
Piles of shoulders
I become faceless in a crowd
Of numbers up before mine.

The Mystery Award – Much Gratitude to Lahla for Recognizing My Blog

What is the Mystery Award?
Wow an award, so unexpected and so cool. I can’t say I’m not happy to receive the award, though it’s a mystery to me that my words have touched someone enough to nominate my blog. Lahla Brain Cancer Freeish, my nomintatrix to you I am grateful for this award and it’s no mystery that I have a mutual respect for your writing, and inasmuch I wanted to show my appreciation by fully answering your questions and so my apologies for taking so long. We are, all of us, blessed to have a platform to speak our hearts and minds. In my case, I focus on my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and to living life to the best of my ability and to talk about it candidly and with an audience who support my blog.

Quoted from the Mystery Blogger Award’s Creator:
“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion. – Okoto Enigma
Here’s the link to Okoto Enigma’s blog http://www.okotoenigmasblog.com

Rules:
Put the award logo/image on your blog.
List the rules.
Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Answer the questions from the blogger who nominated you.
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
Share a link to your best post(s)

THANK YOU THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH!
She’s an awesome writer and a brave woman. Read her and be prepared to think. Here’s the link:
https://lahla.blog
Lahla you inspire me to continue with my ramblings and to become a better, more relevant blogger to reach out to people who have cancer as well as others who struggle with challenges of different sorts. My expectation of blogging hadn’t included awards by other bloggers who I respect a great deal, such as yourself. If anyone had given me such an honor, you’d absolutely have been one of my selected writers to receive it in response. I’m grateful beyond my words… It’s not just another blog about cancer and its collateral damage.

Three things about me:
1. Once upon a time I was a CEO and Chairperson of a 2,400 person international contact center company with offices in the Philippines, India, and three small towns in the United States headquartered in Miami, Florida.
2. I graduated with honors from University of Florida with a degree in English and a minor in philosophy and I worked my way through school. Since I had my GED and dropped out of high school in the 11th grade, I wasn’t a candidate for admission. And though I had an Associates of Arts degree with honors it wasn’t until I wrote a letter to the Chancellor of Education of the Sunshine State of Florida throwing myself at his mercy and asking for just one semester to prove myself that the day of matriculation for my soon to be junior year, was I accepted. The letter stated I needed to maintain a “C” or better average. I aced all my classes and the rest as they say, is history.
3. I’m a writer. I couldn’t say this sentence until two years ago. I’d thought it egotistical and not applicable until a very wise, warm, and witty man asked me why I didn’t call myself what I am. My writing as a result improved 10x by simple stating a fact. How words do make us believe in ourselves. Now I’m more cognizant about what I say to people and try to bring positivity to my discussions – words can heal bad words can wound. Once something is said, it cannot be unsaid.

Lahla’s five questions:
They’re answered humbly and with the staccato of a shrill, “you like me! You really like me!,” of Sally Fields winning an Oscar award for Steel Magnolias. Should your current youthfulness prevent you from having experienced this rare yet spectator worthy display of gratitude, let me digress for your edification: it’s a moment of true Hollywood humility that seeped into the cultural gestalt of the 1980s. This took place during the era when the bulk of my teenaged, Florida inbred, burgeoning writing career took flight. You may read some of that shrill shrinking daisyesque behavior embellishing my post cancer apocalyptic retelling of my life here on the Cancerbus.

When and why did you start blogging and how does it fit into your life?
Perhaps Lahlah chose my blog and me by way of my blog for this mysterious gift because she found my benign self deprecating humor and my more malignant posts about life with metastatic breast cancer somewhat inspiring and blatantly honest. At least I hope so, and this is why I began blogging. Not to win any awards, but to win the hearts of fellow travelers in cyberspace over and create a place I may go to talk to them one on one. A blog to feel less alone in my predicament and find others who, whether in a similar place in life or who have tastes in poetry and a dark sense of humor like mine. Who likes to talk to themselves ALL the time, anyway?

What kind of things do you do that make you feel good about yourself?
Showing gratitude for small glimmers of hope and pulling out an uncharacteristic spirit-based patience with Craig, my life partner of 12+ years and his four-year depression; writing the past four years of experience with MBC (my new resume) to share with those who may want to peek at my style of illness navigation; holding onto the cat-love of my life when all seems dark and my body hurts the most; and spending time with the friends who have become the rocks on which I stand when my on foundations seem weak and unreliable. It’s not the obvious things like charitable fundraising or making time to generate awareness for metastatic cancer. Those naturally give my heart a fresh pump of blood. But it’s the everyday, the simple slower activities and the gratefulness I feel for having love in my life, that gives my soul it’s nourishment. Also my recent fascination with art journaling as an adjuvant therapy to my poetry and personal essays.

If you could go anywhere in the world OR back in time, where would you go and why?
Four years ago I’d have said 1900 -1930s London, England for the writers and the Victorian sensibilities to meet the Bloomsbury Group writers along with Virginia Stephens Woolf and the rest. But life changes with age and with priorities, so realizing that I’m in a certain time space continuum, and without any assistance from a time traveling mechanism, other than an airplane of course, I’d go to France in the present day. For the je ne saus quoi, the terroir, the art, the TGV trains, the variation in weather, the house owned by Count Lurpak with it’s view of the mountains from the bathtub, the proximity of the south to other places like Barcelona. I’d have moved there if not for meeting Craig 12 years ago. I hope that before I expire I get back to the beloved place for an extended time. In fact if it were the last place I’d visit I’d die happy for it.

What is your favorite food? If it’s special beyond taste, please feel free to share why?
Food is my favorite food – rarely run into anything I won’t eat if offered, although I could live without a few Asian odiferous delicacies. And I cook…anything. My dream if I live so long: make each recipe in Julia Child’s the Art of French Cooking. I’ve created feasts of roughly 1/4 of the well worn, butter splattered tome. So, you may have guessed, I cook. I’ve cooked for as long as I could write, and learned at the side of my grandmother and to some degree my mother. My mom let me take over the kitchen about any time I wanted from the time I turned seven. As long as I cleaned up.

Thanksgiving feasting with turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry relish, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole. My Thanksgiving feasts can take place mid summer, the dead of winter, or anytime someone says, “oh, I really crave that turkey you make.”

What inspires you the most in life?
Change inspires. Stagnation kills creativity. So anything that requires change, be it my foibles, my craft, residences, travel, even daylight savings time provides me with enough change to soothe my ADHD and up the ante on my creative side. During my career I changed jobs within and between companies leaving a resume that could challenge even the most experienced of head hunters. My clients inspired me, start ups were my speciality. Now, my life is a start up and every new day brings changes to my body, mind, and soul. Since my diagnosis (talk about change) simply upon waking to see each new day unfold, I am inspired.

Nominees!
Finally, my no my knees, in no order of significance…with a few people you may not have had the treat of getting to know through their writing:
1. Leon’s Existential Cafe http://existentialcafe.blog/
2. Xena’s We Hold These Truths… http://Blackbutterfly7.wordpress.com/
3. A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Kadoodlepip AGuyCalledBloke.blog
4. Sara in Lala Land http://sarainlalaland.wordpress.com/
5. Thanks Cancer – and their podcast, too -http:// thankscancer.com/
6. Unbreakable Queen’s Lifelessons Diary http://Unbreakableyetfragile.com/
7. Breast Cancer Conscript -http://breastcancerconscript.wordpress.com/
8. Molly Kochan – http://everythingleadstothis.com/
9. Nancy Stordahl – http://nancyspoint.com/about/
10. Brian Lageose – https://brianlageose.blog (I forgive you. 😜)
11. Julia Barnickle – http://juliabarnickle.com

My questions:
1. Write a haiku about being nominated for a blogger award and title the haiku with the cartoon character with whom you most relate.
2. What’s your superpower and how do you use it for good not evil?
3. Do you believe in a spiritual world or some kind of afterlife? If yes describe, if not why do you believe this is all there ? ( not just a one word “no” answer for the atheists nominees.)
4. What’s the best place in the world you’ve ever been and why should anyone go there? Convince me. Plane tickets are a good way to convince me. (Joke. The last part.)
5. What are the top 10 songs that make you feel good when you’re down, or inspire you, or you just love to listen to anytime or all the time.

Links to my best posts:
My last two posts I’m very pleased with as my writing matures and I focus less on bitching about cancer and more about looking outwards. I also am proud of my poetry but I’ll let you decide if you want to read it, as I know poems aren’t everyone’s cup o’ noodles.

Dense: Very Stupid Breasts Outsmart Early Detection

Integrative Hope: the prison of a diseased body

Cancer Art Journaling: Colorful words help heal my mind

Reluctantly, Ive decided to share a couple of pages from my sketchbook where I keep my not so very good artwork. I scrawl my emotions out on the pages using colorful pens, pencils, markers, paints, and whatever else handy from my growing art box.

Some days, instead of trying to get my words to fit in an essay, I find it easier to explore more non-traditional forms of journaling. One of my favorite sketches to date was to create a woman’s torso out of the letter “w” beginning the word “why.” It’s a question we probably all ask ourselves occasionally. Not feeling sorry for myself as in “why me?” But more in terms of “why not?” Why aren’t we counted? Why do we still need to die from metastatic cancer?” Why, indeed. Even if you aren’t a great artist like me, just let your colors and your hands do the talking for you. You may find out some things you didn’t even know you were thinking about. It’s visceral and gut level and it’s also a great way to purge negative emotions in a positive way and you just may have some fun.

Go ahead, be a kid and doodle. I’ve taken up trying my hand at mandalas, too. They’re not very good yet, but practicing focuses my mind away from everything and into the art form and coloring in the interesting patterns that emerge. And share them with me here if you decide to create something. I’d love to see what others are using their art journals to express. New ideas to generate ways of thinking about my life and my cancer are such a welcome gift.

Writing Prompts: Some great tools for those not so fresh days

Help me.

Writer’s block sets in slowly and as unpredictably as does productive bursts of semi-genius. Rare is the latter, the former happens at least once a month. Blame the cancer writer’s block occurs far more often than it used to back in my “normal life.” But cancer became my go to writing prompt for the simple fact that it became my life. It’s neither fortunate nor ever what I’d choose to write about but it’s clearly important. Still, I run out of ideas or my chemo brain or brain fog if you prefer robs me of ideas. I am compelled to jot everything down now. My running list of writing prompts helps me get out of the wet cement and so I can run with my output.

While writing typically comes quite naturally, poems can take years to get right and essays can become stale before I’m finishing the final paragraph. I always go back to my old expired or uninspired writing to take another whack at it or to just not begin with a blank stare at a blank page. I keep it in my journals scattered all over the house, and car, and in purses, in between books I’m reading. You get the point…but I don’t toss away or delete anything unless it’s pure drivel. The white page glaring at me keeps my mind dormant at times.

So if you take a single piece of my advice, for what it’s worth, it’s don’t start with a blank page. And reused writing is only one way to get the job done.

Using writing prompts does as well. Keeping up a self created running list isn’t necessary. You can feel free to use some of mine listed below or check out the web by searching up “writing prompts.” Specific or general you’ll find something to write about or to get the old noggin in gear. So dig deep or tread in the shallow end of the pool, but write. Your blog needn’t be the final goal, nor your work on some overdue white paper for work. Using prompts might just surprise you, though.

My prompts ran away with my homework

In the mirror this morning…

If I had wings…

The universe…

The concept of time…

Kindness…

Laughing…

My expectations of…

When I think about (place) I think about…

If tomorrow…

Changing my mind about…

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day…

I want to grab a flight tonight to …

If I could predict the outcome of…

When it rains…

At night I love to…

The first thing I do every day…

I want to change my…

I woke up…

Sunshine…

Full moons…

Mythology character…

Music gives me…

A letter to…

If I knew at 20 what I know now…

Death…

Birth…

If tomorrow never came…

I am so afraid of…

Spiders…

The last thing I ever expected was…

My skin feels…

I wish ____was here because…

Suddenly…

My patience…

The best possible way to…

Under a microscope…

In a telescope…

I grew up…

I feel like a little kid when…

The best age to be is…

If I were born in the year (past)…

If I were born in the future…

When I cannot fall asleep…

I think about____all the time…

Ice cream…

I want to live to see…

It’s no use, I…

Finally…

Walking along the ocean…

Driving in the mountains…

Rollercoasters…

Beginning…

Endings…

Nighttime…

Mornings…

Secretly I love…

I’ve always loved…

I never did like…

Flowers…

Technology…

My favorite musical genre is…

The best day looks like…

My best day to date…

My partner…

Being (religion)…

Museums…

This song brings me back to…

The scent of/ odor of reminds me of…

I finally learned how to…

Cats are better than dogs…

A group of ravens is called a murder…

My top 3 online prompt resources

In my experience, these websites provide fertilizer for sprouting ideas of your own, with straightforward, self explanatory, yet engaging writing prompts. Although these sites focus on poetry, you could eagerly apply most of them to prose, non-fiction, even science or psychology.

I love these lists I reckon for several reasons. First, they get straight to the prompting. No book selling after a tease of a dozen prompts, no sign up forms for more spam email. Just the content without shameful self promotion. Next, no one site takes the same approach to growing your ideas. Furthermore, the sites are professionally written and edited. They’re not cutesy or too self reflective, such as say a goth self published novel writer and their five best steampunk writing prompts. Finally, and my all time biggest web click regret: as the frustration of writer’s block bubbles to the surface while you browse your search engine’s top results, some sites muddy the content with perpetual advertisements bombarding your overloaded or underused senses.

My short list of the three best sites ALL alleviate frustration and grant you FREE access to the articles. Novel idea! Also the links below open up directly at the best articles with writing prompts but do check out each site.

Writer’s Relief

Think Written

Think Written