Some days are better than others. That is the ultimate truth behind every life, and every day. Even under the most dire of circumstances, some days are simply better than others, and certain days are simply perfect. What do I call a perfect day? Strolling down an old “downtown”, with every business dressed for Halloween as if this day is the most special day of the year. Store fronts decorated with cobwebs and ghouls, Raggedy Ann dolls, and ghosts doling out confections for the little ones, and tables out front filled with bowls of brightly colored candy. Everyone wearing huge smiles, and beautiful grins from ear to ear sharing a moment of agreed delight. Police officers walking the streets that are cornered off from traffic, waiving in sheer joy as they watch the little ones take their buckets from store to store asking for their treat. The weather is unusually sunny and warm for a fall afternoon, as the climate seems to agree with every person’s delight in the spectacle of the day. Neighbors hugging, children finding their school friends, and people walking about with no guard up before them, acknowledging one another with a happiness that is rarely witnessed. The maple trees lining these streets are dressed in their most brilliant colors of red, orange and yellow, as they proudly sit at their post and watch over the festivities, as they count the decades of life they have witnessed. I watched my beautiful grandchildren as they playfully walked along the storefronts, and I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. The air was crisp and clean and a thought snapped in my mind that reminded me of how good it is to be alive. That my friends, is a beautiful day. It’s good to find the beauty in unexpected moments, for that is truly living.
I watched the world carefully today, and my focus came into view. When I ponder the reasons why my life has come to this point, I usually sit back, take a very deep breath and wonder why…..Why did things turn out the way they did? Why must I suffer through a horrible illness? Why haven’t I won the lottery yet? Probably because I don’t play! On a serious note, “why” is such a powerful motivator of thought, but usually not action. The life lessons I was presented with today were clear, and presented themselves with such concise precision that it was simply impossible for me to ignore them. Rather than ask myself “why”, maybe the question should be “why not”. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. The reality of any situation is finding the lesson behind it. At this point, why or why not, no longer matter because the definition of our existence becomes evident. We are born to live, we are born to learn and we are born to love. Everything else is just filler, or the fluff that holds time together in a continuous manner. Life is like a finely woven fabric, with one stitch and weave holding on to the next, and the next and so on. Sometimes we can get lost in life’s weave, not clearly seeing where the next link goes. Worse yet, if this finely woven fabric tears, we become disrupted and forget the entire reason for the fabric that our lives consist of. Today I was blessed by an amazing beautiful human being, a Llama. As he blessed me, he looked directly into my eyes, and as I gazed back into his eyes, I saw peace, I saw joy, I saw the fabric of humanity and life once again. Where I was lost in a torn thread within my own life, I found continuity once again. He did not seem overly concerned over the simple matter of life and death, but more so in the matter of life. His joyful expression and peaceful demeanor reminded me that life is about being present, and being in the here and now. I am humbled by this blessing, and I am grateful. I am reminded to be grateful for my “now”, and not to worry about the “why and why not” in life. I was blessed today in so many ways, in friendships, in family, in humanity, in my warm home on a cold autumn night, in the food I have to nourish my body, in the medicine I have to help me live, in my faith, in my love and in being loved. From the outside looking in, it looks like a life well lived, and today, from the inside looking out I can say that it is. <3
Life can be confusing under the best of circumstances. The difficulties usually lie quietly in the words we choose to communicate, as ideas and thoughts can become muddled in the midst of single words and sentences. My wish is to explain, or deconstruct, many words I have written, so that those reading them can understand my mindset a little bit better. Please don’t fret and worry when I write about being set free. I see and feel the anguish many of you are experiencing when reading those words. The wide eyes, the sad expression on the lips, tells more than any questions you can offer. In my mind, being set free is as far from letting go into death as a mile is from an inch. At this point in my journey, I have no intention, or need to “walk the mile”. I will gladly take my inch. So what are my intentions and thoughts behind being set free? I have ruminated, prayed, and spun in my grief to come up with the answer that fits my entirety well enough to call it my own. To be free in my mind, my heart and my soul means to be free of the expiration date slapped on my body at a time unbeknownst to me. Freedom is living in this moment and being able to see the deep green color of the pine trees with each branch and each needle taking it’s own space in time. It is seeing the glory of fall’s colors, bright reds, oranges and yellows glistening in the sun on each maple tree. It is the ability to ask myself in wonderment how can such beauty exist? It is in the ability to stand outside with my dogs and notice the scent of the wondrous wet earth beneath my feet as it sits freshly dusted by a gentle rain, and feel the moist dew on my skin. Cool and fresh it reminds me, I am still here. It is sitting quietly with my dogs and having my heart swell with love, feeling their soft skin on my hands, and feeling loved beyond the measure of words. Tomorrow may or may not come. Tomorrow may be beautiful and filled with the magic and beauty of life, or an epic struggle to simply breathe and understand pain from morning until night. Tomorrow can only count in tomorrow’s moment. I am allowing myself to live today, in the singularity of a moment, and feeling joy in that moment. This my friends is being set free. I am free of the minutia and small thoughts that my diagnosis drug me to kicking and screaming. I am free from mourning my own passing on behalf of myself and the people I love, because every minute spent on that is a minute not spent living now. I am free to live, and live well, for as long as I do, and that is the freedom I have granted myself. The best advice I can give to anyone, whether you live a long life, or short life, is to live as if every moment is so extraordinary that the end no longer matters, it is of no consequence to the here and now. Live, and love……..rejoice, because life is beautiful regardless of time.
I knelt quietly upon my knees and asked my broken body, what do you need?
My body only shuttered, for it could no longer lead.
I set my head down and I prayed through my tears, dear Lord, what can I do? What will heal me?
No miracle would come, the answer was a simple prayer that could only set me free.
If my body cannot heal, then what is left?
It was time for my mind, heart and soul to simply shift.
Time is of essence, and the work must begin, for the quiet parts of me to prepare for the inevitable toll.
What is this work ahead of me? What of this is my ultimate role?
The answers crept in, slowly and elusively, as if hiding for me to seek.
If I look to the right and look to the left, the future only seems bleak.
Turn inward I heard in a quiet whisper to my soul,and quiet your mind.
Let your heart and your soul search through your time.
It is time to forgive, it is time to release,
It is time to let go and let God bring you peace.
Hold on tight, and time’s thread will only burn your hands,
It is time to let go, it is time to release all demands.
Now my work is set, it is time to practice the hardest lesson of all,
It is time to let God, so I do not fall.
I asked my broken body one more time, what do you need?
She simply responded, love me enough to set me free.
Some of you may know that I have been working on writing a book for a few years now. It’s been a huge challenge to get this book buttoned up and finished, as life has sent my eyes looking in many other directions over the years. My hope is that this blog will help me get my book in order, and finally published. In thinking of my book, and intentions about it, I gave some deep thought to the gratitude I feel that I still have the time and opportunity to finish it, and publish some of its pages to this blog. Life is so busy, and there are infinite reasons to not pay attention to the many gifts life presents to us. One in particular is gratitude. I know there a million memes, and sayings floating throughout every spectrum of available media regarding gratitude. I hope that this post will give you cause to stop, even for just a minute and give it some serious thought. Gratitude is one of life’s most precious gifts, and through it, we discover true hope and faith. Does that mean that life will be idyllic if we practice living in gratitude? Unfortunately, it will not, and that is not the answer. What does it really give us? It allows us to discover the truly magical sense of life that is usually hidden behind busy lives and thoughts. Even in the most dire of circumstances (and yes, I now own the “C” card and feel that I have the right to speak of dire circumstances), gratitude for the things in life that still remain constant and safe gives us hope. Even if our gratitude can only be limited to this one moment, this very second, that we can still take a breath……then we still have the precious possibility of at least another, and at most, finding joy around us. Even in the grief and sadness I have found in the thought of leaving my loved ones, I can still find gratitude in that I do love, and am loved, and will be loved. That alone can turn my eyes back toward the here and now, and reminds me how precious and lovely my life is. Here is my poem Eulogy. Don’t be fooled by its name. I hope you find the gratitude in these written words that I intended to uncover.
In my childhood dreams I lose myself,
Memories and wishes once put on a shelf.
Who was I then, so long ago?
A child, a daughter, sister, friend and foe.
Dreams of life filled with yearning for love,
So many lifted away as if on winged dove.
Some came to be through life’s unfold,
Some would never become, or ever be told.
Eyes that glistened with untold promise,
Wishes and dreams never to abolish.
Would I learn the meaning of being a true friend?
Always to stay near, even to a bitter end?
Hopes of being a mother, of one, two or three,
Filled with laughter and cheer, on my bent knee.
A wish of making my father proud,
Hope of carrying his burdened shroud.
If these wishes are hopes and dreams to come true,
Will I remember them, or begin to think them new?
These dreams draw me back, and bring me around to see,
A child filled with hope, that child is still me.
I wrote Forever a while back, thinking of the many loves that I have lost throughout my life. I wrote this poem thinking of the perspective of the one who has passed. Interestingly, while looking over this poem today, my own perspective came into focus. I wonder, is this how I am seen from the other side? About eight months ago I had a very powerful dream, or premonition. Everything was in it’s place and seemed to be played out in real time, and that was when I first realized I had cancer again, and this is what would bring my time to its end. I saw myself in the mirror in my room, and as I walked by, I gazed at myself and realized I was dying. My body was thin and frail, and the first thought that came to me was a very matter of fact thought “Oh, I have cancer and I’m dying”. I was not alarmed by what I saw in the mirror, nor the thought that came with it. It felt very much like a calm notification of what was to be. My mom and dad came to me in this dream, even though they passed many, many years ago. They stood in the corner of my room as I lay back down to rest in my bed, and I was the only one that could see them. They came to help me find my way away from this world. Their presence was reassuring, and calm. My diagnosis didn’t come until six months later, after this dream. Even with my doctors’ reassurance that I was fine during those six months, I knew what I knew, and I was right. I hope that you find some solace in this poem. It meant a lot to me to write it, and I believe it………
I came by your bed last night as I saw you weep,
I whispered I love you, as I wiped a tear from your cheek,
I laid my face against your hand, a caress I tried to steal,
My heart in your hand is what I wanted you to feel.
Do you see me in your dreams my darling, my love, my friend?
I have never left, and I am here with you until the very end.
I walk with you each morning, my memories never leave,
I remember you loving and holding me, but now time makes us grieve.
I follow you throughout each day, I see your wilted hands,
Your tired face and broken heart is more than I can stand.
You sat alone by my grave, stooped and very stark,
Please know I am not alone, or without you in the dark,
As we walked together home this night,
I saw you scurry to find the light.
Do you hear me my love? Do you feel me gently touch your knee?
I cry and whimper, and hope you hear my plea.
I will never leave you. I can never go away,
I will walk beside you every single day.
I hold you in my heart, as I lay with you every still night,
And I watch for your smile, to make this seem all right.
As day folds into night, I long so for your touch,
I long for life, for breath, I miss you so much.
Goodnight my dear, life is large, and there is much for you to see,
So I will follow along until your journey brings you back to me.
I cling to you for so many reasons,
The key to my wellness your smile carries to hold,
Are you my savior, and the length of my seasons?
My hopes and fears entwined to be told.
A gentle smile brings quiet to an unsettled soul,
Your gentle hand brings me to comfort,
Lead me forward, with my hand in hold.
Fear fills my head, my heart and my mind,
Walking these hallways wondering what I will find.
Each visit brings worries and so many cares,
But your eyes bring me comfort, your words always shared.
Walk with me doctor, through the halls and trenches we have both found,
This journey is ours, with your lead to bring me back around.
Our hands will be left raw through the battle of this brutal fight,
Bloodied and saddened but never relenting in this plight.
Your compassion brings me peace, and settles my unsettled,
Your words give me strength for the demons I must wrestle.
Eyes that see through me, you see my fear
For my future is uncertain and ever unclear.
Help me be strong, remind me to be humble.
Dear healer of bodies, souls as well,
Know that I see the person and the soul in a doctor’s shell,
Doctor, dear doctor, know that I see,
The person, the woman, daughter, sister, and friend who sees me.
Your eyes share the pain of your calling when the frail start to fall,
Even when your voice sternly repeats the learned recall.
I hold on to you tight with hope and fear,
You hold me tight, in hope and care.
Compassionate healer, compassionate friend,
Help me walk this path, help me when my time comes to end.
August 26, 2019
I’ve been anxious to get my hands on the keyboard for the past few days, but waiting until my thoughts could form some kind of tangible rhyme or reason. I want to start with my thoughts on medical doctors, medicine and medical care in general. The smartest lesson I think I have learned to date, and unfortunately, had to learn with a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, is ALWAYS, ALWAYS…..ALWAYS get second opinions, third opinions, fourth, and as many as you need until you are fully satisfied with the answers you are receiving. Even if you are of the opinion that your doctor can, or might be able to walk on water, ALWAYS at least get a second opinion. Lesson number 2? Always refer back to lesson number 1. Today’s post is by no means a doctor or medical care bashing session. I do believe that most medical professionals do work hard and intend to help their patients, but sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can catch things that the status quo simply cannot see. My point in question? I had a one centimeter tumor in my breast. There was limited metastasis to my lymph nodes and blood vessels, which my medical team deemed “not enough to matter” and I was told there was zero spread. I went through all of the usual genetic testing including testing on my body, my cancer, and oncotype testing as well. The statistics looked fabulous, giving my oncologist a false sense of security and hope that I was……here it goes…..CURED. I suffered from terrible back and hip pain shortly after a double mastectomy, and because I was “cured”, every single doctor at the clinic taking care of me dismissed my back pain. I faithfully took the preferred medication to prevent the spread of my cancer for almost seven years. Of course it could not and would not metastasize! My own oncologist kept drilling me to exercise more in some poor attempt to mitigate my joint pain and symptoms. Low and behold, almost seven years after my mastectomy, solely by a stupid accident on the part of a well meaning radiologist looking for arthritis, I was able to insist on being checked more thoroughly by means of a CAT scan. Mind you, in almost seven years of being checked by my oncologist, in dozens of visits, never once did I have a blood marker test, a PET scan, CAT scan, or an MRI up until this point, regardless of my debilitating back and hip pain. To make a long story short, the CAT scan in insisted on having led to a MRI, which led to a multiple bone biopsy and a positive metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. My doctor was on vacation when the biopsy results came back, and all of the stars lined up for me that week. I was lucky enough to see my oncologist’s partner who thought it would be too much work in ask my insurance company for a full PET scan after my diagnosis. I can wholeheartedly say that God was working full time, dragging me along as I kicked and screamed, into the hands of a new doctor. The PET scan that I finally was able to get showed metastasis in more bones, which would have never been seen if not for my first PET scan. Was my doctor and her partner wrong, or maybe lazy, or maybe even too arrogant to admit they did not cure me? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this much….if any doctor, including the oncologist taking care of me had bothered to run a simple blood test for markers, or a PET scan, CAT scan or MRI, I would not have languished for years in insurmountable pain and the metastasis would have been caught much earlier. I don’t blame my previous oncologist for the metastasis, and I harbor no ill feelings toward her. I think she did the best that she could. That, unfortunately, wasn’t good enough for me, for this body, and looking back, for this mind. By God’s hand I eventually landed in the hands of a doctor who is working diligently to keep me alive. Will I question her? Yes, I will. Will I continue to do my own research and be my own advocate? Yes I will. Always remember, nobody, absolutely nobody can be a better advocate for your body than you! You have to live in your body, and live with the health you advocate for. Listen to your body when it whispers, so you don’t have to listen to it when it screams! Now, the first lesson learned? Be an absolute advocate for yourself and never take any answer that does not absolutely fill your needs. Lesson number two? Always refer back to lesson number one. As always…..the next question is always……where do I go from here?
It was a cold winter’s day when I first heard your name,
You crept into my life, but this was no game.
Like an unwelcome friend, you grabbed me by the hand,
You led me to new paths, my life slipping through the sand.
Lurking for years, unheard and unknown,
Until that cold winter’s day, when I saw you unfold.
A clumsy cell growing wild and free,
My own body trying to do away with me.
The word that rings as deafening thunder,
My will was set, you would not pull me under.
Faces of kindness worried and frenzied,
As my wonder would bring me to remember a life now to be envied.
You stole my innocence, you brought me to my knees.
Would you be my expiration, would you be the end of me?
You took my joy, my confidence, you took my mind,
You left me reaching and yearning as if I was blind.
That cold winter’s day stays in my heart,
Reminders and moments I now wish to empart.
You have filled me with bitter rage, a taste in my mind soul and body,
You have filled me with sadness, and yet now you turn me so oddly.
This rage I have found gave birth to compassion,
My soul has been found with no room for concession.
One step, one foot, standing on each side of a door,
One step, one foot, anchored in the loves I adore.
Take me if you must, tow that ragged line,
But know you cannot take my joy, my love, or this day, but only time.
Each breath I take is still mine to take,
Each moment enscripts as memories are made.
My mind is my own, as my thoughts will always reveal,
I am a soul in a body, and my soul you cannot steal.