Wednesday, October 28, 2015


These posts are what I am coming to consider my "after the storm posts." Sometimes I think none of this is any kind of deal, because we all have limited days and we all have storms in our lives. Things come up in my head and this is my place to record them.

When I was last at MD Anderson, a couple of weeks ago, I realized I hadn’t packed anything to bring with me to read while I drank the contrast material. They have paperbacks scattered out everywhere to pick up and read and you can keep them as long as you want. When you’re done with the book, you can leave it in any waiting room for someone else to read. I wanted to read something outside of my normal genre. I was looking for a mystery and would have settled for a romance, provided it wasn’t too cheesy.

But the first book that got my attention was one called “The Girl With All The Gifts,” by MR Carey. It was billed as “the most original thriller you will read this year.” I thought it was a mystery. Once I started reading it, I looked on the spine and saw that it was classified as science fiction, which is a genre I have not had much experience in reading. I got sucked in and it served its purpose which was to help the time pass while I waited. The story was good enough.

But I was reading an interview with the author in the back of the book and saw that they called it a post apocalyptic thriller, which, having come through a colon cancer ordeal, seemed oddly appropriate and appealing to me. Because, here's the thing—They asked him why he thought post apocalyptic thrillers are so popular. His answer was this, "...a lot of post apocalyptic fiction uses the sweeping away of the here-and-now to explore the question of what endures. What defines us. In a new world, born in flames or plague or zombie holocaust, what would we be and how would we change? Would we change at all, or would the same framework resurface and continue to control us?"

And now, nearly a year after my surgery, this is where I find myself, exploring the questions of what endures, and what will I be, and how will I change? And of all the books in the library and waiting rooms of MDA, how is it that I picked this one single book, something I'd probably never have read had I not been desperate for something to read, that has this one little nugget in the back that further affirms and defines my current life task?

After a storm, we assess the damage, and we clean up. That in itself is sometimes a messy task. So I'll extend grace and patience to myself as I work my way through the aftermath of the storm. As I work, I will remember, I will tell stories, I will gather up what can be gathered and I will let go of what has been damaged beyond repair.

This passage certainly has had its price, and it took its toll on me. But mostly, when I look back and consider the aftermath and what is left, I am grateful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Still Here...

One weekend not so long ago, I worked on cleaning my desk in my bedroom. I haven't used it in YEARS. I decided that since it looks like I'm going to live a little longer, I needed to clear out a few corners of my life. I found all manner of bittersweet stuff.

(Would any of you keep the now deflated Mylar sock monkey balloon given to you to celebrate your last chemo treatment? Ha! I didn't think so--it's in my "undecided" pile! UPDATE: I threw it away).

And then there were cryptic written directions to the place at the point of "where you can't go anymore." I wondered where it was that I was going and looked in the envelope. It was from when my son was in the Youth Challenge Program. 

(What does one do when one gets to the place where it seems one can't go anymore?)

I found a distinctly unflattering photo of myself from 2008, looking heavy and uncomfortable. I hardly recognize that woman. In the past I would have torn the photo to shreds, but I'm hanging onto it to remind myself of how far I have come.  

(That was "before," before the cancer the first time, before the death of my son, before the cancer the second time. Before, a whole other life. Yes, how far I have come.)

I've started back to walking, and tracking my food intake. Through a totally serendipitous set of circumstances I started playing tennis again after over 20 years of not picking up a racket. I'm loving that. Moving in my body feels so good. 

(And I'm not even tired!)

I showed up for my first three month cat scan and checkup. It was all good. And now I don't have to go back until January. 

I know I have plenty of people who could tell me exactly how I ought to live. But not a single one of those people have walked in my shoes. 

(Living life in three month increments is not so bad, after all. I have a few plans.) 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Awareness of, and Patience With, the Cost Factor of Choosing

This is old news now, but I went for my latest appointment with the liver doctor last week, where I received the most excellent news that I do not have fatty liver disease. There is one other thing he wants to check my blood for, but he doesn't think I have that. I will have to see him again in six months and get an ultrasound.

When I saw him, the doctor said my diet was very important in taking care of myself in this matter. He talked about awareness when eating, saying I needed to say to myself something like "I'm eating this cupcake or this piece of meat, I know I'm eating this cupcake or this piece of meat, I'm choosing to eat this cupcake or this piece of meat."

Everything, from the things we choose to eat, to the ways we spend our money and time, comes with a cost. This is one of my new ways of living in the world, to keep myself consciously aware of what my choices are costing me. To remember how often it is true, "if I choose this, I can't also choose that."