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Monday, August 31, 2015

Ordinary Wonders

Okay, I promise, not to become a survivor zealot, but simple things are a thrill these days. My husband's sexy way of looking at me sometimes. Owning a home. Waking up. Sleeping in. Clean sheets. Good coffee that is made before you wake up. Breath. Walking. More of less full range of motion. Rain, sun, wind, clouds. Time, money and ability to pursue hobbies. Being a fine cook. Watching something good on TV. Being truly loved and loving someone back. Having good pets that miss you when you are away. Not having cancer. 

These are all things that were taken for granted pre-BC, when I was a normal, healthy woman. 

I can't wait to taste the air in Maine and its piney, dense coolness. The dirt road up to the lake, rutted and rough in places, then flat and smooth. Leaves and rocks. Fall color just beginning in the trees. Apple orchards opening. Church bake sales. Yard sales and thrift stores by the dozen. Road trips to the ocean, deep woods and cities. Napping. Reading, hearing the wind rustle the tall birch trees. Visiting with friends--drinking cheap wine with Kim; eating Cindy's amazing food; driving with Bruce at the wheel telling ghost stories and thus scaring the shit out of us on a dark Maine night; finding Dolly at the old place. Branch Lake, Eagle's Nest, Bangor's old and charming streets. 

And the best thing of all, at the end of each day of adventure and fun, snuggling with my husband in flannel, listening to the night creatures and drifting off to sleep. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Maybe some Demons are real

It has been a difficult month and I have not felt like posting.

Melinda died. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian cancer from the start.

Melinda and I were not close friends, but she was special to me. I met her in her work as a Doctor of Chinese Medicine. She helped tremendously during my father's freight train descent into dementia and ruin and my recalcitrant uterus crisis (which occurred simultaneously, of course). I'll never forget her calm, cerebral manner or her deft hand with an acupuncture needle. Tears of rage, sadness and relief poured from me on her table. I discovered my third eye. It was safe with her to let it out. She was a kind, magic soul.

Our niece is in Hospice care, dying of Stage 4 colon cancer. She has a rare, horrific form that only affects 1% of persons diagnosed. In 6 months, it has gleefully eaten its way through 3 different types of chemo, which it apparently considers as a fucking fertilizer. It grows more aggressive by the day. It is everywhere inside her now and she is in unbearable pain. She turns 37 in a few days.

There are so many more that we have lost to this scourge. Mike's mother-breast cancer; my father-acute myoblastic leukemia; my brother-in-law's mother-brain cancer; Sadie-breast cancer; Kevin-lung cancer. On and on.

My birthday has come and gone. I am now 48, and though I've much to celebrate, it's bittersweet. There is a cake, wine and lovely flowers. I am grateful and happy to be alive. My scars are mostly healed and there is every reason to believe my good prognosis. We are going to our favorite place on Earth for a long restful vacation and time with our favorite people. I have no horrid, high-pressure job to think about. There are many, many good things to savor and enjoy.

I'm a rebel child of a mentally ill mother, who was obsessed with religion. She was so sure that demons were real, and could manifest in a variety of ways - child molesters, murderers, rapists, etc. She was convinced that some souls were impervious to such extremes and that sometimes, entities would use other means to destroy-alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking, and disease. Though I've spent years, and many dollars, on therapy, to undo her seemingly crazed delusions - I can't help but wonder. 

Cancer seems like a perfect evil thing. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Totem for a Heathen

I'm spiritual but not religious, at least not in the conventional Western sense. My childhood was filled with religious-fueled manic highs and lows of my mother's mental illness. One week we were Pentecostal. The next, Seventh Day Adventists. Baptists for a short time. 

None of these sects filled up the holes inside my mother's precarious psyche, but it sure gives me loads of interesting stories. By age 8, I can mimic demonic exorcism (for smoking and drinking "demons") and speak in tongues (gibberish). My powers of imitation begin with making fun of the slew of pastors, preachers and other various church goers that I am forced to spend my weekends with. Religion is dark and God seems to be a bit of a bipolar asshole. My friends love my stories about my crazy mother. 

Nowadays, I have a healthy aversion to all things supernatural. Except for my own altar of faith. 

It's just a bookcase, blond colored Ikea style. It holds nothing expensive or rare, nothing of any real monetary value. Lots of books - old cookbooks, mixed volumes on eastern religion, a few quirky and unusual titles. My favorite wedding photo, where we are untouched by time. My grandmother's cheap metal Christ statue draped with her rosary beads. Her hand mirror and pin from Zayre's. Statues of elephants. Crystals, my father's coins, rocks from Maine. My dad's dog tags and key chain, his watch. Every single card sent to me during treatment. Marble eggs to symbolize growth, rebirth, change. The handwritten notes from my oncologist with the words, "curable" in her neat script. My final pathology report indicating my complete response to chemotherapy. 

I accept all prayers gratefully and sincerely. They come by accident, coincidence and with terrific purpose. Strangers hug me and hold my hands, and allow me to cry on their clothes, embracing me fully and without a hint of embarrassment.  And, well...all this seems to work. I've come to learn - what harm is a little faith in the dark?  

For now, the bookcase will stay, undisturbed except for a dusting to keep the energy clear. Everything about it makes me happy, grateful and amazed. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Cabin in the Woods

We are fortunate to have a vacation place in Maine. It's nothing fancy - but if you love old log cabins surrounded by beauty, it's perfect. 

It's an original cabin built by hand in 1927. Solid as concrete now. We have owned it since 2006, but it's been in Mike's family for decades. We have many friends that all live nearby and which Mike has known since he was a child. I just cannot wait to see them and it will be soon. 

Last year, just before we were to leave for our Maine vacation, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Allegiant Air refused to refund our tickets. I suppose the credit they offered, sans a $150.00 "service fee" and their offer of extending the travel date till March 2015 was decent. However, when I advise that March is not an ideal travel date for MAINE, and that I was still undergoing active treatment and very ill, they refused and scolded me for not being smart enough to purchase travel insurance. So, fuck you Allegiant. I am sure our $600 saved you from bankruptcy. 

My friend Kim lives there, and though I was not lucky with my birth family, my good fortune is with friends. Kim is wicked funny, has a bottomless heart and I love her like a sister. We are low maintenance women - our favorite things to do are site-seeing, day trips, thrift store shopping. At night, we sit around a campfire, chit chat, drink some beer, eat some good food and laugh our asses off. Our husbands together are nearly manageable, but they are like two peas in a pod. They put up with us giving them crap and acting like fools. There is no better time spent than with Kim and Bruce. 

We like to take night walks up to the pristine, unspoiled lake by our camp. It is a nature conservation area, which means there are no houses built right on the lake and never will be. It's as quiet and beautiful as anyplace can be. Nothing like the stars and moon seen from a high lake in Maine, with no interfering city lights, people, or sounds (except woodland creatures crunching on brush). It's the antithesis of Sarasota and I absolutely crave it. 

Deportation and it feels so good.....

I am now deported.

The port removal goes fine. Excellence in staff and facilities makes a huge difference. My pre-op RN is also a cancer survivor. We are legion.

The coffee tastes like heaven in the recovery room and since I need little pain control, we are out of there before noon. Taking it easy today, it is pretty sore but nothing like after insertion. I'm taking mild painkillers as needed, with a chaser of stool softener and prunes. 

The notion that all my active treatments are completed has still not entirely sunken in, but the absence of the port feels wonderful. I want to leave this hellish foreign place for my old, familiar country. This land is full of gravely, scary roads and shadows, hidden ruts where I get lost. Dead ends and swamps of pain. The only way through it is to keep moving, ignore the horrors and hang on.

I think I'm near to home.