Tracy's my girl, and I woke up this morning thinking of these lyrics as I get ready for infusion #10. That means 2 more to go of the chemo drugs that cause more challenging side effects. Two more at the end of 24 weeks total. That is an accomplishment.
And then I head to the mountains for a week. Wonderful friends have gifted me the use of their cabin, and with friends and family I will celebrate this amazing completion.
On the outside, as I trudge the path back to normal life, I am worse for the wear. Bald. No eyebrows or eyelashes. Heavier. Puffed round as a doughboy with edema. Numb hands and feet. Aching bones. Blurry vision and red rimmed eyes. But all this will turn back around.
Look inside and I am sporting a larger, lighter heart. An untroubled soul. And a joy and gratitude for each new day like I've never known. For each new breath there is a hallelujah. I have found the definition of living in the moment. Cancer with all of its stealth and uncertainties has done this for me.
I don't hate cancer. I absolutely don't trust it, and I want it to leave me the hell alone, but I don't hate it. It has been, and continues to be, a knuckle rapping teacher. Maestra Cancer.
Infusion #10 this morning - then I'm going to spend the rest of my day living my juicy life. I'm going to be creative and artistic and laugh a lot. Cause you know, as Tracy Chapman sings: "If not now, then when?"
The sun is setting on your 60th birthday, my friend. My long lost friend. At least I trust the sun is setting because the space between the trees above the creek is darkening. The sun never came out today; instead raindrops and clouds and cool easy wind. Strange party favors for late July.
That light wind is doing its work in the wind chimes - a melancholy happy birthday to you. I sing along with it in my head, a dreamy song, with one more word landing upon each drawn out, measured note. What would the timing on this score read? Infinity over infinity?
A raven sits on that branch over there and calls out occasionally reminding me to smile. He knows how he makes me smile. Our party game.
And that's how simple these moments are on your big six oh. I am simply lying on my bed resting, flushing the most recent chemo drugs from my body, wondering if you even know what this year has looked like for me. Sixty. I was supposed to be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and you were going to meet me for a section. We had big happy plans. "Finally" kind of plans.
Instead you wander the roads, littering the country with discarded truths, hopes, dreams, promises; an old truck at an abandoned campsite. A helicopter search. And I stumble with numb feet into my own new territory, having left behind body parts and confidence. Sluffed off or cut out taking anger and resentment with them. New seams and seamlessness together.
Many gifts have come with this cancer of mine. Peace at the hand of your betrayal. Faith on my knees at night. And gratitude for all those days and years that were good. Gratitude that I know that very gentle side of you and we were blessed with a golden cord. A cord that still tugs and holds tension so I know there is strength at the other end. I've been the whole circle of love, friendship, betrayal, anger and finally peace with your disappearance. Cancer has taught me that it is all very simple. Love. Love is very simple. And forgiveness paramount. To heal my body I must keep love in my heart. And thank the Lord this is an easy thing for me these days. Each moment is a hallelujah.
You are forever my fermata.
Happy Birthday stevematts...
Having been raised a Catholic, and loving my faith as a child, I am taking toll on where it has come since then. I had so many questions and disagreements as a teen and young mother. I caused my parents a lot of grief. It was mostly about the riches of the Vatican as they compared to the pain and hunger and poverty of the world that I couldn't stand behind. And being a "sinner" full of guilt when I erred. It all was just not right in my heart.
And then I just kind of gave it all up and began to study spirituality without organized religion playing any part. It brought me through a time spent in People's Temple with Jim Jones - where I lost one of my best high school friends. Through depression and over a bridge into paranormal psychology. Into anthroposophy. Meditation and eastern religion. Back to the paranormal. To a student of new age spiritual writers. And into this mixing pot of all of the above. But one lasting truth throughout is I believe in God. And I believe in a good God who only loves. Doesn't punish or cause suffering. I believe it is all there for us and we have free will. The baseline is love and fear. God is Love. And fear is created in our own free will. Our lessons to learn on this earth and then we return to God.
Those are my bare-boned basics.
What brought me to these thoughts and my desire to write was the word "Beatitudes" that came to me clear as a bell in my dream last night. I've been thinking about this word all day and decided to visit Mr. Google tonight for a refresher course. After much reading and research I came to these lists and found The Works of Mercy, which I also remembered. It's interesting to count those that remain in my heart and soul, and those that don't. Those? No, one.
The corporal works of mercy are as follows:
To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are:
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.
There is really only one that doesn't speak to me any longer. That says something for how I was raised. (Thanks Mom and Dad.) "To admonish the sinner" comes from the house of judgement and I don't think it comes from my merciful and loving God. Who am I to admonish anyone but myself? And how helpful is admonishing anyone, myself included? To "warn someone firmly"? No. To "advise someone earnestly"? Perhaps. But I can protect the weak, live a life worthy of imitation, and recognize and right my own wrongs.
I'm learning. I'm trying. I deeply hope I am not offending anyone here, that is truly not my intention. I honor the fact that we each have our own beliefs and they all hopefully lead to Love. I rarely write about politics or religion. But this comes from an opening up of myself. I am just sharing my heart with you. Here I give you The Works of Mercy as I learned them as a child and found them again today. And it all started with that dream last night....
So like I said, my last infusion went well. I am hearing from most everyone that the side effects of this drug are cumulative so we'll see what today has to offer, but I am full of positive intention and faith. This is #2 of 12 weekly infusions. Second round of chemo drugs. My son will be here to take me in an hour.
The dishes are washed, a load of laundry is in, and the birds are singing under an overcast sky. I'm happy for the cool fog that rolled in overnight. The sun will come later this morning, that's how it rolls here in northern California. For me, made to order!
Last night I was having a pity party, feeling very alone and lonely. I love people, and yet I've always loved my own company and am known for my love of quiet and artistic alone time. But oh how that has changed since my diagnosis and treatment. I have too much time on my hands, and feel trapped because I have to stay put for all of the appointments. I'm an adventurer, a worker, a road-tripper; I'm used to being busier, so that the days (and then the nights) now feel so long. I have great will to keep moving, but right now I don't have the energy. Sometimes I don't even want to talk. So yesterday felt long and way too solitary. Wanting and not wanting. I found myself a couple of times with tears streaming down my cheeks without even having thought about crying. It was a sad day. And then in the evening Shannon surprised me and showed up with dinner and her three kids and oh how I thanked God in glory for taking care of me! It was exactly what I needed.
I have been doing a lot of collaging which has been a very healing activity for me. Here is a photo of my favorite:
Have a wonderful day my friends, please hold me in your prayers as I hold you in mine. lovelovelove....
For those of you who told me Taxol was a walk in the park compared to AC, so far you are absolutely correct! Aside from tiredness, it has been a great weekend.
Friday night I went to grandson Ike's 4th grade play, a Norse Myth where he had the (hilarious) role of Loki. A phrase from one of his lines spoken, "...from chaos to cunning..." Yep that's my boy Ikey! He did so well and was so present on the stage (he's on the left).
Yesterday I slept until noon! So crazy for me. But then went to both Ike's and Satchel's little league games. It was a big day for Satch because, not only did he strike out eight players from the mound, he hit a home run over the center field fence out of the park! Here he is, grinning from ear-to-ear with the home run ball. He was so tickled and so proud. He has worked very hard for this!
And then today Alex and Laura and Sam invited me for a Sunday drive which was just what I needed. I do so much better when I get out and enjoy the day! We went to The Geysers in Calastoga to see the new baby goats, browsed a bit in the downtown shops, then into Gotts Roadside Drive-In in St. Helena for dinner. It felt like we were on summer vacation. The weather was so beautiful. People having fun everywhere. Birds singing. Music. Lemonade. Milkshakes. Lovely!
Just a few little snapshots to spice up the post, but my main purpose here was to tell you that my chemo infusion went off without an allergic hitch, and that I'm really feeling very few side effects from these new drugs. Thank you so much for the love and prayers sent. xoxo
Today I begin my second round of chemo meds, Taxol and Herceptin. I'm doing my very, very best to be brave. The build-up to today has been full of angst but this morning I woke up with a sense of faith and peace. It was kind of like magic. Or a miracle. Or something. Of course I like to go to that realm and not the pragmatic possibility that it is the steroid pre meds I began last night that bathe me invincible. I want to be holy, not medicated.
I fear this Taxol stuff because there is an elevated risk of allergic reaction that manifests as anaphylaxis during infusion. My oncologist and the chemo nurses and all that I have read tell me that "most people" do not have this reaction. But when it comes to Anaphylactic Shock I am not like "most people." Back in the 80's and 90's I had several episodes of going into anaphylactic shock that required an ambulance ride to the emergency room to turn it around. I went though the whole gamut of testing to find the cause, the allergen, and it could never be defined. It often happened when I was outside doing some form of exercise. Once it happened when I was in the garage sorting the laundry. I learned just how scary this severe reaction could be. You can't breathe and you lose consciousness. Once the hives transformed my face so dramatically that my husband wasn't sure it was me being removed from the ambulance. But time went on, and I learned to use antihistamines prophylactically and I was never without carrying an epi pen. The fear left behind really infringed on my exercising. But the episodes seemed to go away over time.
Then last May when I took a vacation up in the mountains to dream and prepare for my Pacific Crest Trail hiking adventure I was planning for this spring, you may remember this posting. While at the cabin it happened again. I knew the first signs, and since I knew just what was happening I took Benadryl and drove to the ER immediately. It wasn't nearly as bad and I was fine. But the bummer was, what I had thought was past was still lurking. And anaphylaxis is life threatening when you are "special".
So I am not "most people". My oncologist told me I was "special" at my appointment on Tuesday. Nice word, Dr. Zhang. But special is not what I want to be today. Special my ass. No, he is smart, and sweet, and was being kind and playful. I trust him whole-heartedly.
A recent prompt in my writing group was to copy a list of words and then choose 5 from them with your eyes closed, then free write for twenty minutes without editing about "a first" in your life. You were to use the words you chose from the bowl in your piece. Of course I was planning on something to do with romance or friendship. But I never got to this assignment. And then this morning I had the whim to write about my first day on Taxol. And here are my words. I actually have six because two stuck together on my last draw.
slope. wing. edge. crimson. kiss. hair.
We'll see what I come up with.
So my friends, I am apprehensive this morning - and calling out for prayers, good thoughts, blessings, wild dances, song, sacred space, novenas, meditations, reiki...whatever your thing is, I'm calling out for it! My appointment is at 10:30 and the infusion takes "210 minutes" (yes, that's what they wrote).
There is this very soft place that lives in my heart for all of the children I have taught over the years. They often dance in and out of my awareness - little snippets of the chidren. Memories that waft in on a breeze and flutter up and out toward the sun and stars. It's hard to believe how many years go by in the blink of an eye.
I recently received this facebook message from a young guy who was a child in my kindergarten:
"Marianne!! How are you ? I don't even think you remember me! Well anyways I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for teaching me a lot of things in kindergarten. You taught me how to love others. And you also taught me how to treat others the way you wanted to be treated. I just wanted you to know that everyday I think of you and I hope you are doing great and my whole family misses you so much and we all love you.
I want to let you know that next year I'm going to Spain, Italy, and England to have a tryout with a couple different teams for soccer, I don't know if you know or not but I'm playing for the United States National team for soccer.
Marianne, your in my prayers... You are one of Gods angels he sent and I'm soooo happy that out paths crossed. I know you'll be fine because you are the greatest teacher I ever had. I remember sitting in your lap and eating apples. It honestly seems like last week. Stay strong, your like a Grandmother to me. Not to make you feel old lol
I miss you a lot. God Bless you. I love you Marianne."
Do you think that just maybe this melted my heart? Sweet Payam. He used to get so worked up about staying at kindergarten without his grandma that he would throw up! Sweet, sweet boy. All grown up. Here he is:
I am in my second week of an online six week women's intuitive writing group, and my word bank is feeling the post tax time blues. I've been taxed. I am loving the experience and meeting so many incredible women from all over the globe. But I am finding that I cannot find enough words to fill all the spaces of my writing. Everyone has been seeing so much less of me. I apologize.
When I planned to participate, it was my intention to share what I've written there on those pages on my blog. But I've found that space is open for the rawest parts of me to climb out. It immediately became a secret, divinely holy place where I could dig deep. That's hard for me to do. Not the digging deep. I've built those muscles well over the years. But feeling the safety to put it into words in the world outside my own head, for which I am accountable forever. Words can't be taken back. To process, out loud with witnesses, is an act of bravery beyond measure for me. And I am in the company of rocking women. I am teetering on new found legs. And I am awed by what they share. This came at a perfect time in my life.
Tomorrow is my fourth and last infusion of my first chemo drugs. My body is holding strong. Cause you know, I'm a bad Mama Jama!