Today is day 2. Slept 10.5 hours with the help of drugs. When I finally woke up and went to the kitchen, Danielle had set up my tea and left a plate of high protein breakfast and veggies (my non-carb diet plan for days 1-4). These simple acts of kindness and love are what get me through this grueling process. I am so lucky to live in a healing home, with someone who herself is a “healer” and is able to infuse me with Reiki and healing energy regularly.
Still feeling the effects of steroids, so not so sick today. That’s good. Still dreading the next week, which is not so good. I felt the drugs working on my yesterday, in ways that felt harder than the last 2 times.
My brother Alex and his wife Rosabelli and daughter Natalie were here last week for a wonderful and meaningful and potent visit.
Family—what is this difference that we feel, if we are so luck to have blood relations with whom we can truly share our lives, our feelings, parts of who we are. Most of us feel that we cannot be all of who we are with our families, or even with some of our friends, and certainly not with colleagues. We hide so many of the pieces of our personal puzzle, for fear that we will not be understood, or accepted or appreciated, or even loved anymore.
When I first “came out” to my parents when I was 21, I was taken off their will for several years. They (my Mother more than my Father) were so angry, hurt, upset and did not have any way to understand or process their feelings. They had no support, only shame and self-blame. It took many years for them to learn, and accept and change, which they did. I was re-instated in their will, and we learned to love and accept more parts of each other, over time. My mother, who had been most angry and afraid, ended up sending gifts to my partner. When my parents were getting close to the end of their lives, they admitted that if they were going to live with or near one of their children, it would be me. Partly because I was a nurse, and they also loved Mendocino, where I lived. They knew I would take care of them well. They trusted me to do the right thing in their dying times.
SHIFT HAPPENS for most people, when enough continued love and positive energy are consistently given and received. Our work is always to open and accept other people, even when we do not fully understand where they come from or why they think the way they do. Especially when their ideas or ways of life or paradigms they grew up with, are different from ours. Class differences, race differences, gender identities, lifestyles—these are the things that make our culture rich. Why not embrace our differences and learn from them.
SO when my brother and his wife and daughter were here visiting last week, it was an amazing time together. A time to just BE and love each other. When Alex came to my appt with my amazing Palliative Care doctor, Mike Rabow, it was an incredible session. I was able to be fully myself in terms of discussing medical issues with my doctor, and then we were able to have a deep, short and to the point discussion of what it means to support a loved one who is going through cancer.
I see how much I want to protect people I love from the feelings of despair and frustration and anger, and only show the positive and upbeat side of things.
We talked about the difficulty of connecting long-distance, via phone, and Mike suggested we use Skype. (Since I am not a regular Skype user, I had not even considered this—but of course seeing someone’s face makes a difference and we can’t always hide our emotions when we are being seen physically.)
We talked about what it means to compare other friends and loved ones who are also undergoing health challenges, worse ones than mine, but how comparison is not always helpful to those of us with cancer.
Many people tell me they know and believe that I am going to be fine. My doctors, friends, colleagues, family.
I DO believe I am going to be fine.
But I also see and feel how much I need to be in the moment of MY process with this disease, which often does not feel fine at all. It feels horrible and scary and sometimes devastating–to have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and know that I am genetically prone to an 87% chance of getting breast cancer as well.
So the idea of comparing my process to other people is understandable, but perhaps not so helpful to my own emotional and spiritual growth at this point.
Something happens during each infusion that is unexpected and a good surprise.
Yesterday, the chemo chair next to me was vacated by the first recipient and soon after, 2 women walked into the infusion room to take that spot. They both looked vaguely familiar, in that way that women of our age and “ilk” often look familiar. We have been in similar circles somewhere along the line.
The woman about to get chemo walked toward my chair, seeing my “altar” and said, “OK, I’m in the right place.” She said she had an altar at home, but hadn’t considered bringing one to the infusion center. An opening. I gave her copies of my cards of the Yew Tree and the Platinum Rock. Eventually a copy of my book as well.
Then of course, the conversation of who are you, where do you live, what do you do, besides having cancer and coming to the infusion center for your medicines to help you stay alive.
Turned out she is Willow Wray, a singer with a group called Nicholas, Glover and Wray, whom I saw perform many many times when I lived in Mendocino.
So, we chatted about life and cancer and treatment and food and what works and how we live with this disease and continue to be creative beings and making music and art and writing and contributing to life and love and society—and one way is by sharing this process publicly, through sites like this and Caring Bridge.
It is a way to connect with people without having to drain oneself of energy, and that is a wonderful thing.
Family, partners, friends, acquaintances….all are such allies in this process of healing. When we have circles of friends with circles of friends, the spiral of prayers for healing just grow bigger and wider and higher and how can we NOT heal from all those prayers. My friend Ned told me his mother’s prayer group in northern Illinois is praying for me. Yesterday my friend Joni in Vermont told me I am on the list of her New Moon Jewish Women’s prayer circle.
I feel SO MUCH LOVE and care and support and I am so grateful for all of it.
Especially knowing that the next 5-7 days are my really hard days, and I will need to draw on this energy, just to get through the days, hours, moments.
I write this in gratitude for all who are reading it. And for these potent medicines that are dissolving my cancer cells at this very moment.