Virginia Beach

I had a really perky piece in my head that I can’t post now, not with tragedy staring us in the face. My fiftieth high school reunion is coming up – I’m not going. Besides being to close to the end of chemo, I hated high school (but that’s a post for another time.) I did, however, want to see an old high school mate who lives in Virginia Beach. I made my reservations knowing that there had been a shooting, but not understanding the scope of it until I had.

It’s been years since Charleston lost the AME 9 to the monster who pretended to serve God with them and then took their lives. I don’t look for a reason: How can there ever be a reason for evil? No murderer gets a pass in my book for mental illness. As someone who has struggled with mental health challenges her whole life, not once have I ever plotted the demise of someone I didn’t know. THAT is evil.¬† We can search for the basis in whatever we want – illness, ideology, but in my mind there isn’t any.

I offered my friend my condolences and my support. We barely know each other, so there’s nothing else I can do. And there is a bigger, more immediate tragedy that I am facing, which is why I pulled the piece about my best friend. Her mother has been diagnosed with cancer, and it’s pretty far along. As we get older (my nurse practitioner reminds me as I go in for my weekly appointment), we’re not as strong. I was stage 2-3 when I was diagnosed (we’re treating stage 3 just in case) and had been fighting on my own for a year. My body was pretty run down. My friend’s mom is stage 4. She’s in her late seventies. That’s a lot for a body to take.

Tough week. I want to say that as we get older, it gets harder, but I don’t think that’s the truth. The truth is that we have hardship our entire lives. It’s how we grow. It’s what makes the good times, those moments that we try to stretch into hours, days, weeks, sparkle and take our breath away so much more spectacular.

It would be dishonest of my not to talk about God right now. I am always reluctant because to me, that’s the most intimate part of my life. I feel like I’m kissing and telling. As Einstein said, I don’t believe in God, I know God. I know that no matter where I go, in this dimension with all y’all or in another with someone else I love, I am with God. I don’t need to know that there is A Plan, I trust that there is one and that I have no clue what it entails. My only job is to treat others with love, dignity, and respect. I find that is a full time job and an especially necessary one. It’s my only hope. Hugs and love, Y’all. Spread it around.

Adversity

One of my goals is to be more organized about my writing, I say as I sit here in my apron (yes, I use an apron. I am a slob!) in the middle of answering a business email. What’s on my heart today is adversity and the pattern of events in our lives. Anyone who knows me or has read this knows that I am in the process of healing bone marrow cancer. I feel good about the prognosis. This is how that happened:

In the 1950s, things were a lot different from today. Computers were not used generally, let alone able to fit into a pocket. We had our hair washed in the kitchen sink so my mom could slide our little bodies under the faucet at will – her will. She let us know that we had to endure getting our hair washed. Oh, believe me, I was the kid that tried to talk her out of it. I ran, I hid, but I always ended up under that damn faucet singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Now, YOU might think that MHaLL had nothing to do with getting your hair washed, but when we hit a rough patch (i.e., being legally drowned by our beloved mother under the kitchen faucet), my mother would make us sing with her. She had a beautiful, rich alto voice. Our little voices would chime in with hers until the dreaded drowning was over.

Eighteen years later, I had a pretty bad experience. I made sure that I distracted myself until I was safe because my mom had showed me that no matter how bad things are, they will be okay in the end. That water faucet is going to turn off, and my hair is going to be clean until the next time. I had a few days to pray and think of new reasons why my hair was still clean and didn’t need to be washed.

But she saved me. Think of everything that you have been through. Yes, it gets harder as we get older because we are exposed to so much more, our lives are bigger so our woes increase accordingly. But our coping skills improve – and our song repetoire expands. Cancer isn’t the worst thing I’ve been through; it’s just the hardest for the people I love because of all the stuff I’ve been through, it’s the most socially acceptable. I get so much love, support, food, it’s humbling to me that that many people would go out of their way for me (well, not my best friends: we have the goods on each other…hehehe).

I’m not close to dying, but if I had to go now, I would be just fine.

Memorial Day

Today on Facebook one of my friends posted about the astonishing number of our military members and veterans who commit suicide. I was born in 1951, right after WWII ended 5 or so years before. My older brother served in the Philipines during the Vietnam War. My dad came home with a heart full of hatred; my brother came home with veins full of heroin. Neither was a winning proposition.

I was lucky: I had a mother who knew how to teach resilience and who had an open heart. As a little girl, I remember my dad and mom arguing because my mother was helping the young Japanese couple next door understand how to do things in our neighborhood. Their trash hadn’t been picked up, so my mom went over to show them how to sort it (recycle in the fifties? Your trash didn’t get picked up if you didn’t separate it! Not like today where in some places you pay to recycle.). My father was furious: he, of course, blamed them for the war. To be certain, the Japanese had a hand in what happened. My father couldn’t win the war, he couldn’t move forward. He, like man other men and women who have fought wars – or served in our military in any way – stay there, needing those days to be the glory days. Because of the huge personal sacrifice?

Some of the stories posted by people who served and their families were heartbreaking: they didn’t have to see combat to feel a loss of who they were enough to drive them to suicide. My brother and I have spent our relationship off and on. At one point, after not hearing from him for over a decade, I was in the state where he lives and saw a man built like I remember him on the side of the road with a sign, panhandling. It’s been close to a decade again since we’ve spoken, and I guess I don’t expect to hear from him. It’s so hard to go forward with someone who has given up, who doesn’t even try anymore.

Through all of this, I remember the hope I felt because my mother would defy my father and do what was right. She made his favorite meal, made us kids act right during that time, as if to soothe him through the difficulty she could see in him. But mindful of what she was teaching her children about prejudice, forgiveness, and someone who looks and talks differently from oneself, she perservered. I will always be grateful to both of them for their example, because they worked it out. I played with the children next door, and our moms smiled and chatted as best they could through the two languages. And I will always love my dad for loving my mom enough to let her get him through the struggles he had with this.

Chemotherapy

Sorry for the distance between posts. After trying 3 alternative treatments (in addition to one chemotherapy session at the beginning of 2018), I realized that the tumor had grown so significantly, that I had to seek some sort of treatment to be comfortable until I died, or do something to cure the cancer. It ended up being the latter.

The first treatment consisted of assigning myself to the tutelage of a medical intuitive. I felt pretty good under his care, but he was not an honest man. The cancer didn’t spread, but it didn’t diminish (I had my family doctor do ct scans every 6 months).

The next treatment consisted of a purple foot bath. Alas, the only thing that was cured was the whiteness of my towels. I actually could feel the tumor’s size increase as my ability to sit for the hour or so the footbath required became so uncomfortable, I had to give it up. The footbath was made up of herbs, and I purchased it through a woman in Oregon. When she fell ill (she was in her eighties), I contacted the person from whom she bought it. For someone like me, neither of these humans was a good choice. Neither of them wanted to talk to me (“You’re not paying for that as a part of the treatment.”), so I had nowhere to go with questions. When you are facing a life-threatening illness, you tend to have those.

The third treatment was a suppository from a company based in Massachusetts, but the product came from Canada. It was a combo of THC and CBD oil. The THC was to cure the cancer (illegal where I live, but as a 67 year old pillar of my community and white, I felt I made a good poster child for the legalization of marijuana. During this time in Missour, the authorities searched the friggin’ hospital room of a man with stage 4 cancer for his stash. Luckily, he had none. My heart stopped for him and for me.); the CBD oil was to keep the cancer from spreading and ease the pain. It did neither. Border waits made this unwieldy. Besides, I was already in so much pain that using a suppository became difficult.

My best friend packed me up in the car (she has been through everything with me), and off we went to my original oncologist. I insisted I wasn’t returning to chemo and wanted radiation. My best friend convinced him that I would need radation if he liked his office as it stood.

Off to radiation I went for 5 treatments. The idea was to ease the pain until I died a graceful, pain-free death, no longer having to worry about what I was going to do with myself as I grew older.

More tomorrow. I have to get ready for a birthday party (not mine). Hugs. I promise to write again tomorrow.

 

Day 4 – In the Middle

All of the news that is telling us that we are being chemoed to death is amazing! For me, there was a lot of social stigma around my diagnosis. I thought people would judge me because I had it. I had been socialized to believe that if I was cheerful, positive, and didn’t have and/or suppress anger, I would never get cancer. What a load of manure!

This is what I am learning: More people are getting cancer every day. More options for treatment that are just as effective, if not more, than chemo. Chemotherapy actually takes people to the edge of death and then drags them back to life – hopefully. Now we see on CNN that Canada’s cancer treatment is less expensive and has a better survival rate than ours.

Just this week it was announced that 70% – seventy percent!! – of women with breast cancer don’t need chemo. There is now a test that can determine the genetic marker to know what kind of breast cancer it is. (Please don’t hold me to the scientific terms. You can get that from the actual article¬†https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/03/health/breast-cancer-recurrence-chemo-study/index.html. I am merely a survivor).

I’ve spent my life being afraid of cancer. When people see my bald head, many of them give me the head tilt and sympathy look. But I don’t think cancer is as scary as it once was. And from my experience, medical science doesn’t have all the answers – or even the right ones!

Still feeling energetic and focused. I only took one Tylenol today. The supplements I’m taking to support my body to bring it back from chemo and allow it to heal the cancer are working: All of my blood tests came back perfectly normal – right smack dab in the middle of the range of normal. I’m so happy some part of me is!

End of Day 1 CBD Only

My best friend falls asleep when she takes cbd. It energizes me. I don’t know if it’s our age difference (I am 8 years older) or metabolism. I read that practitioners are now giving cbd oil to seniors (I am 66) to help with memory. When I take the oil, I’m so focused and get tons done. After 8 hours, I need a nap. Then more cbd oil, and I’m off and running.

Pain mitigation is so-so, but I’ve only taken it without any supplements for one day.

Update tomorrow. I have some research to do.