Rantings of a Metastatic Lunatic

Writing, for those of us who dare call ourselves writers, prolific or sporadic, come to find satisfaction in the act itself. Not that praise and recognition aren’t wonderful, because our insecurities tend to coexist with our capabilities. Admittedly, a cancer diagnosis nearly four years ago relit the fire that once burned in my brain to put pen to paper. Let me caveat my last statement: that is, once I forgave myself for feeling afraid of calling myself a writer. I am a writer today, in no small part due to one person, Michael Lerner a co-founder of the Cancer Help Program (CHP) at Commonweal in coastal Northern California.* Immediately finding common ground in our backgrounds, I looked forward to my personal sessions with Michael.

I admire people who wrote and had published books as well, knowing what a gargantuan task it is indeed, whether fiction or non-fiction. Michael also wrote an encompassing book on cancer adjunct and non-traditional therapies called “Choices in Healing.” Pick up a copy if you can; it’s still very relevant 20 years post initial publication. In a session I had one on one with Michael, he asked a simple question, “why don’t you call yourself what you are? A writer.” So one word changed my attitude with regards to a long held fear that perhaps my writing didn’t merit giving myself the title of writer.

From which neuroses did this fear grow from and how do I continue to kill the weeds before they take over the fertile garden of my mind? Does fear fertilize the same physical mutations in which cancer grows best? Maybe these connections strengthen or weaken our immunity to pain and illnesses. I’ve come to believe there’s no such thing as a mind-body connection, because the mind (in my mind) is the body and the body is the mind. There’s no schism that separates the two, not even the blood brain barrier.

I wrote my first poem before the age of six. In 1971, before dad left us for another family he’d fallen in love with, I recall sitting on the radiator in our apartment in New York watching the snow fall in the playground outside 16 stories down with the swings bucket seats silently hiding undercover in white dust. Even then I walked around with a notebook, and I remember a feeling wash over me that afternoon as the sun sunk lower and the snow continued piling up risking the next mornings announcement of a snow day from school. Warming myself on a pillow atop the clanging coil of pipes, I put pencil to paper I wrote a two stanza a/b rhyme scheme piece entitled “What it is for You and Me.”

Giving it to my mother for her birthday that year when she turned 31 that she kept and gave to me many years later, sometime prior to succumbing to dementia at 74. It’s a wonderful gift to receive all those years later as a reminder of who we intrinsically are as human beings. I’m amazed at how many memories come flooding into the brain from some unseen place when such wonderful events transpire between us.

The Glymphatic System

Recently scientists discovered that lymphatic drainage does occur for the brain, whisking away waste and toxins as well as infections. The system aka glymphatic system links to the body’s lymphatic system near the cervical bones of the neck. Unbeknownst to anyone is the existence of lymphatic drains on the brain – heretofore unseen and just discovered in 2015. All except one exceedingly smart doctor practicing in the 19th century whose research was long forgotten, prior to the 2015 study run by researchers funded by the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute. A specialized highway like the blood stream and the lymphatic system exists in the brain.

And my mother passing away from the ravages of Alzheimer’s are directly related in no small part to the breakdown of this system. Perhaps even my own disease has a direct correlation as well. It’s all in our heads anyway. The act of writing, fear, doubt, distress, anxiety, chemo brain, dementia, Alzheimer’s, cancer. All of it.

And how this all ties back to metastatic breast cancer you may ask? Well, I may be an okay writer but I’m no scientist. I do love the occasional research paper as it may relate to my disease or to some astronomy discovery. But it’s fairly clear to me why the NCI funded the study. Especially if indeed there’s no difference between the mind and the body but instead they’re one entity codependent upon one another for life support. You can draw your own conclusions based on the breadcrumbs of interest left here to follow. And this fits nicely with my spiritual belief that the consciousness is the god of the body itself and somehow we go on as a soul long after the physical self has drained its last drop of brain waste.

We can organize peacefully around the idea that we ourselves can supercharge our immune systems to fend off cancer. And my truest hope is that discoveries like this one will allow me to thrive long enough to see a cure for cancer. But then again Maybe I’m just bathing in my own glymphatic waste. And perhaps calling myself a writer at this point in my life is self-delusional. But what a sweet delusion to know that my words reach others with cancer and have helped one or two people with struggles of their own.

We aren’t alone when we write and publish our personal stories. And perhaps the undiscovered territories and deep psychological insights are in some ways akin to the discovery of the glymphatic system. There’s an importance to both for humanity’s healthy survival.

*Commonweal’s CHP is a week long immersive resident group of only eight people who couldn’t be more different or the same. We go in afraid and heavy with baggage and we depart carrying fewer suitcases than we arrived with because of the amazing work of 30 years spent helping heal the souls of people with cancer and their partner-carers. If you’re metastatic check it out in an earlier blog post on this very site or at commonweal.org

Look into My Crystal Ball, or The Writer as Telepath

The blank page: at times a writer’s inanimate nemesis. The written output, the writer’s words lend themselves to an infinite life with inasmuch potential. This simple premise suggests a complex hypothesis: a writer’s output can bridge the gap between art and science, alchemy and physics, space and time. The writer becomes a telepath sending messages into the future for a reader to interpret. Somewhat like a clairvoyant or perhaps the act exists in the realm of remote seeing, where one person would send a thought or image across time and space or pick up images from maps or clues designed to lead the seer to a specific area for finding, for instance, another country’s nuclear weapon silo.

Interesting to consider these assumptions imbue alternative meanings to the act of reading. You immediately see the past and derive a picture of the past, or the future in science fiction or fiction generally by interpreting words laid out as clues by the writer.

Extending the conceit of my satirical discourse, astrophysicists might look for wormholes between the covers of a book rather than through the lens of mathematics. A writer collapses the past and future at the every moment in the continuum of time when another person reads their words. Without control over who reads and when they read, the writer interprets and translates physical or imagined information to convey meaning. Recall for a moment any biography you’ve read of a living or once living person. Is it factual or to a degree is it fictionalized through the writer’s mind to the page, still applicable in autobiographies?

Might I suggest that both reader and writer together create a closed circuit to bend the time space continuum. Reading uses clairvoyance and writing, telepathy, to communicate. Both acts indelibly change the past and the future. As the reader becomes a telepath who interprets the messages being sent from another time and place and create meaning that may have an impact on themselves or in some instances one or an infinite many others. I write messages for future others to receive. How far in the future will determine the degree to which my words are interpreted based on several key factors.

First, cultural distance between me and the reader or receiver. I’d bet if you’re reading this now, you’re not too far in time away from me and your physical space is not too different from mine. If you’re a Martian colonist reading this 100 years from relative “now”, I’m no longer alive and my meaning must be left to the receiver to recreate any meaning from my words.

That person can change the past by interpreting my meaning, my words, and something about me that may or may not be true. So I can change history (now) and change the future (tomorrow) by writing something evocative and capturing enough mindshare to get you to think about something.

Just a thought that provoked some lively conversation this Sunday night. Time to give my iPad a rest, wish my husband love and pleasant dreams, give my cat Simon a good petting, and ready myself for another week. A week when I hope to fend off the busyness that would have my attention rather than using my powers of mental telepathy and sending my remote viewers something to chew on from here in the past.