True to form, I tried to pretend Christmas was just another day. After getting the dog I was caring for out for a walk, I streamed the newest season (all ten episodes) of Emily in Paris on Netflix. It’s mindless, actually kinda silly, the clothes are outrageous but it was perfect for the situation. I’m happy to be pet sitting regularly again, a sign of healing progress. A client has already booked me for December, 2023! I still don’t have an appetite and have to make myself eat something. In talking with a friend who went through chemo/radiation she had the same experience. She lost weight after treatment. She assured me it will get better. My energy has improved, maybe a result of acupuncture. Acupuncturist continues to work on digestive issues. We are on the heels of 2023. I’m not one to make resolutions. However, I am contemplating where I will place my attention in the coming year. This past year I was derailed by the legal process in an attempt to see my grandchildren again, then anal cancer. Certainly the two go hand in hand. 2021 I almost finished my memoir. 2022 I had no energy for it. My hope for 2023 is to complete the last few chapters. I’ve signed up for my first in person writing class since Covid, Big Truths in Small Spaces through the Missoula Writing Collaborative taught by Barry Maxwell. I’m mainly nervous that is a 6:00 in the evening class. I’ve been falling asleep at 7:30 most nights since treatment. So wish me luck. New Year’s Day I’ll be at the hotel (no pet sitting) cooking black-eyed peas for good luck and collard greens for prosperity. House mates will gather to share a meal and start the year off on a good note.
The news of tWitch’s suicide this week was surprising. I thought he had it all, a career, beautiful wife and three children. I was an Ellen DeGeneres show watcher. At 4:00 I was ready to sit down for a bit, maybe have some popcorn. It always made me happy, all the things she did to help others. tWitch was Ellen’s side kick on the show, an amazing dancer, always, smiling. I remember his wife coming on the show, dancing with him. I remember the birth of their last child. But what we never know is what is going on inside someone’s head, which is where most of us live. This morning I came across a CNN Opinion piece by Mel Robbins about tWitch and our views of suicide. She hit the nail on the head. I hope you read it. People who commit suicide aren’t selfish. They may not want to end their life but they want the pain to end, whatever the source of that pain: mental illness or situational. I know this as someone who has attempted suicide and lost my daddy to suicide. After I attempted suicide, I went to a therapist, the late Jon Garlinghouse, who specialized in suicide. I asked him, “Why did I go to this place.” “It was an option that provided relief” he wisely told me. It was true, I was so tired of the pain resulting from the end of relationship, I wanted relief, I wanted the pain to end. I remember in a writing class, I once wrote and shared about my daddy’s suicide. A classmate spoke up, declaring I should be mad at my father for doing this to me. What she said pissed me off. I had watched my father struggle all his life with his mental illness and alcoholism. He was tired damn it and I understood that. I was mostly sad that my daddy had suffered so much pain, that it got bad enough he wanted it to end. As Mel states, “This is why I feel so adamant that we change the way we think and talk about suicide. Saying this is selfish or the fault of the victim is simply ignorant and tremendously hurtful to family members who loved someone who lost their battle.”
Learning to become aware of our story at a cellular level
By Charlotte Wilkins
It’s old but flawlessly restored, glinting metallic new-penny paint, a color that didn’t exist “back then.” A Chevy pickup, the 1940’s shape unmistakable. I’ll have to wait till it passes to pull into the street.
The truck reels past, the shutter freezing on a single frame in my windshield. Sound, movement, thought, breath all suspended, my fingers clamp round the steering wheel, foot jams harder on the brake. Bodily reactions leaving brain cells to catch up or ‘fess up. In The Body Keeps the Score, noted trauma specialist Bessel Van der Kolk, MD writes, “trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body.”
Now there’s a catch in my mind like a crochet hook reaching, turning, dipping…
It’s official. I have a certificate to prove it. I’ve completed the required chemo/radiation to burn this butt of a tumor. My appointment with the surgeon is December 15th to confirm we beat it.
Meantime, I plan to rest. After they handed me my “diploma” on Friday. the radiation techs, who feel like family now, followed up with a warning, “the side effects will get worse before they get better.” This morning I woke up at 8:30, late for me. I feel exhausted. Today, I’m staying put in my pajamas and going no where. I’m getting used to sitting on my side (always been a side sleeper) since the radiation burn makes it hard to sit flat and upright.
It has been my urge to nap each time I had to get myself together and out the door for 2:00 radiation. Now I will be able to rest.
My first dog sit is scheduled the week after Thanksgiving for a couple of weeks. It will be welcomed. My clients, fully aware I’m just coming out of treatment have graciously offered alternatives for days I may not feeling like getting their sweet dog out for a walk. Their home offers opportunity to rest, complete with big screen TV, streaming channels, gas fireplace and a dog who is allowed on the couch for cuddling. I’m so lucky. I will miss our house kitty, Brenda. We’ve become quite attached to each other even more so the past six weeks.
That’s the latest. I am tired and won’t write anymore for now.
This is the hard part. They warned me these last two weeks may be the worse. I’ve been nauseated since Friday. Can’t eat. No energy. I make myself go outside and stand in the sun. It’s lonely. It’s unsettling. I fear I will die alone, but many of us do. I want to hear my family’s voices.
That’s today and the past few days. This too shall pass.
In the midst of it all, I found the energy to put together the wall calendar I’ve dreamed of doing, something I could do from the comfort of my bed! Dogs in Cars and More captures our furry friends along for the ride. Hope it puts a smile on your face. I have a few favorites, February might be my most favorite.
I baked a cake, from scratch, a chocolate very moist cake. It was easy and I am quite proud. I was able to use the nasturtiums I planted to decorate it. One of our housemates turned 29 yesterday. Her boyfriend, who caters with a local gourmet company, cooked up chicken enchiladas, made homemade chips and verde, salad, and simple veggie appetizers for our household as part of her celebration. Another housemate had just rearranged and freshened up our community sitting area. It was all ready to be decorated with pom poms and streamers for the party. Bob, asked me to order a cake earlier in the week. After several calls on Wednesday we were too late. Seems there were a lot of weddings this weekend, bakeries couldn’t take any more orders. Even though I can count on one hand how many cakes I’ve baked in my 63 years on the planet, I began my internet search for best chocolate cake recipe. I honed in on one, BBC easy chocolate cake recipe, gathered the ingredients, made the so easy, so delicious icing in the morning. Baked the cake around noon. Bob was looking at me with skeptical eyes as I put the very liquidity batter filled pans into the oven. The recipe stated once you add the boiling water, “the cake mixture will now be very liquid.” I was only a little worried about how they would come out. 30 minutes later, it was a very moist and perfectly formed cake. I iced it like a pro. Dinner was delicious. I was happy to have a decent appetite. The cake was donned with candles, lit, carryed out to the tune of, you know, “Happy Birthday to You.” I helped slice and serve a few pieces when my body suddenly told me to go lie down. There was no arguing with it. I did get to hear the rave reviews the cake was getting. It was really a fun day, helping with the festivities. I love the people I live with. As I laid down with my black kitty, since I was tired, the tears just came. I wish my child and I could share special moments, laugh together. I miss her, damn it. Life is short, life is precious, hope springs eternal, forgiveness is possible, choose love not fear.
Friday they disconnected my chemo fanny pack for the weekend. I haven’t been that excited about a weekend since I was a teenager. Even though I do have some side effects kicking in, ie: nausea (under control if I stay on top of nausea medicine), low appetite, diarrhea started this weekend and mouth sores, I felt good enough to crank up the tunes, dance around my room and get some cleaning done.
To add to the excitement, at my Monday appointment to check everything; platelets, blood count, etc, I learned that I don’t have chemo for two weeks, only the daily radiation. I was dehydrated, so I sat for an hour relaxing receiving hydrating fluids. All that happens through the port. Hence, don’t have to get poked all the time.
Some of you have asked for clarification on the port and fanny pack of chemo. Below is a pic of me with the pack. I wear it over my shoulder. The tubing from the fanny pack is pretty long, runs under my shirt and into the port that’s in my chest. It’s with me 24/7 during the weeks I have it. I drive with it, sleep with, bath with it, occasionaly dance with it. Robert, the 83 year old owner of the building I live in, and I often greet each other with a jig when we meet in the hallway each morning. His positive attitude inspired me throughout his health issues during this past year. Now he is cheering me on, telling me, “well, you certainly are a trooper.”
My fellow housemates have been so sweet, offering to bring me anything, making extra mashed potatoes for me, the gift of a journal titled – 52 Lists for Calm. They didn’t even know I have a “list” writing group. My new room as of late spring is decorated, cleaned and organized. It took me all summer since I was pet sitting so much. Happy I bought the tv from the previous tenant, haven’t had a tv in years. Making good use of it now. There hasn’t been much energy to read or write. The adult coloring book that has been on my shelf for ten years is getting used for the first time and I’m cutting from magazines for collaging while watching tv. Back to the basics in the creativity department. They are comforting yet mindless activities.
That’s the update for Tuesday, October 4th. Thanks for reading.
Appreciated the prayer posted in the hospital elevator today.
Port has been implanted. It is a miracle that medicine has come this far, that I will not have to go get poked on regularly for chemo. For some reason, I was really nervous about the procedure. I’ve had a few surgeries: appendicitis, c-section, hysterectomy, knee surgery. For all those, I was out, under anesthesia.
I was awake for the port, given valium and numbed at the site (near right collarbone). The “cocktail” nurse was right by my side offering up any cocktail that might be needed. Another attending nurse, asked if I wanted music, “sure” I said. I was smiling, rocking my feet back and forth, taken back to good times with my high school/college sweetheart as Earth, Wind and Fire sang September. No telling how many times we danced to Earth, Wind and Fire even seeing them live in Memphis. My sweetheart is no longer alive. Maybe it was the valium, but I sensed he was with me, letting me know it would all be OK. I trust him, it was all fine. Cancer has made me hyper aware of when love is present. Friends from as far back as elementary school have reached out offering support, my community of local friends check in regularly offering any help I may need, house mates take me out for a high protein meal before the pet scan. Packages of goodies show up from an out of town friend. Our house cat who prefers to sleep at the end of my bed (no snuggling) has been making a habit of laying right next to my bum.
Yesterday, a sunny fall day, I walked a few blocks to pick up my car at the hospital. From the middle of the crosswalk, I heard my name blaring out of a car. The boys I occasionally watch were waving arms, yelling, excited to see me in this random place, sharing they had been in the homecoming parade earlier. A couple of more blocks, I ran into a dear friend’s son. We hugged while he announced he would be bringing me houseplants to purify the air.
It’s another clear fall day. I think I’ll take a stroll, watch for love, feed a cat and head to Fact & Fiction at 5:00 for Second Wind reading with Chris LaTray and Mark Schoenfeld.
Chemo/radiation begin tomorrow. I’ve been told side effects may not take effect for a week. Maybe they won’t be too bad. I have some low key cat sitting gigs lined up. They will be a welcomed distraction.
Thank you all for reading. Watch out for love out there.