A Light-hearted Cancer Confessional

Ok, now that I’ve let off the first layer of existential-literary steam… what do I have to say?  

There are so many things I long to tell you….

Like what a terrible word “cancer” seems to be.  I don’t like telling people “I have cancer”, because I think in most minds, people interpret that as “I am storming Death’s Door”.  And really, that is NOT the idea that I’m hot on planting in the minds of the masses.  But maybe cancer came to visit me so that I could help clear its Name.  Maybe cancer is ready to be collectively imbued with more empowered impressions.  Like “my check engine light just flashed on, and I’m gonna have a good look under the hood”.  (Unfortunately, I did not invent that cleverness, the oncological nutritionist I am working with used that analogy in her video this morning.  But it’s good, huh?)  

So yes, they confirmed tumors in my lungs.  Four.  The largest was 3cm.  But I am imagining them SHRINKING.  

I don’t believe that I have a death sentence.  I believe that I am lucky enough to have the searing motivation to do a complete overhaul of my life and wellbeing.  And I am willing.  I am supported beyond my wildest dreams.  

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!…. to the droves of people, both who know me and who do not know me personally, but have heard my story and showered me in money, prayers and love… Thank you for letting my life and the lives of my children matter so deeply to you.  The truth is that it has not mattered to me as much as it does NOW.  Since my teens, I have entertained suicidal notions, because IT’S HARD DOWN HERE.  But number one, MY KIDS NEED ME.  And number two, I *MUST* become KNOWN as a writer whose words touch the hearts and minds of the masses, and liberate the unsightly though wholly lovable humanity we all share.

But I don’t want to waste my whole free hour talking about dumb old cancer.  Ooops, sorry cancer, you’re my new best friend!  Maybe even my torrid Lover.  You will unleash unprecedented wisdom that is now ripening within my soul and I will humbly decant it for ALL.

But for now, I need to tell you what it was like to go into the hospital in unbearable pain, my stomach a tight balloon.  I had NO idea what was in store for me.  Thank GOD.  After a panoply of tests, a semi-circle of surgeons informed me that my colon was completely blocked and they were going to remove a huge chunk of it and then reattach it, so that it was sticking out the side of my belly and I would henceforth poop into a bag.  At least for a few months until I healed enough for them to reunite it with my butthole.

This was THE MOST shocking moment of my life.  

In fact as I tell you about it, my pulse is rising and it’s hard to breathe.  But I want to tell you!  Guess what I did after they dropped that bomb on me….

I asked if I could call Giordano.  

I needed some kind of reality check because the ground had just dropped out from under me.

Surprisingly, he was a bit reassuring (that’s usually not his forte) and he told me to go ahead and surrender to their protocol.  (I had doubts about this!  I still believed that there must be a mistake…)

So they strapped me to a long, hard table, doped me up and sliced me apart.  When I came to again, my body was literally thrashing like a wild animal, against my restraints.  Slowly, I was able to see out of my own eyes again and my understanding washed back in in little spurts.  I thought I must be dreaming.  The circumstances were way too obscure to believe in.  Nurses busied themselves around me, but none provided the emotional support I was desperate for.  They told me (in Italian) to sleep.  This seemed ludicrous.  But then I guess the morphine kicked in.

When I awoke again, it was to a new life.

And here’s the most outrageous detail… the moment I first saw my colon peeping out at me from the left side of my belly.  Are there even any words for such a moment???  Being wide awake… and seeing your insides on the outside.  I guess I was terrified.  This terror slowly dissipated… at an impressive rate.  And now I feel pretty damn cool about my colon sticking out.  It’s a really exquisite organ… deeep red and full of shy, succulent folds.  It doesn’t have a lot of sensation.  It bleeds easily when I clean it.  Does that creep you out?  Yeah, our mortality is such a discombobulating topic.  These vulnerable bodies.  Tender armor of legions of angelic warriors come to realize themSelves amidst a crushingly rugged backdrop.  

Speaking of mortality, I need to confide in you what it’s like to face mine.  That’s no frivolous small talk, eh?  Have you ever sat still in the center of THAT one?  

During the days, my energy is high.  I am eating such a clean and nutritious diet at this point, that I feel amazing.  I am also riding on a luminous magic carpet of prayers and spiritual protection, which is palpable and precious.  I am busy with my children, appointments, research, making the most of delicious nibbles of down-time…

And then comes night.  In the solitary, silent darkness, my own shadows and hidden fears slither in and dance mockingly about me.  I wake frequently in the night.  I feel strange, foreign pangs in my lungs.  I hear my children breathing beside me in the bed.  There is nowhere to run.  I wonder if I will die.  I reach for God and feel Nothing.  Only me.  Forest stirs occasionally and calls out “Mama, Mama…” in his sleep and I tell God that I MUST STAY WITH HIM.  And with Serena.  God I am ENTIRELY WILLING to do what I must to save my precious life.  

It’s really such a Gift.  To fondle this forbidden, mostly forsaken edge of life.  With courage and curiosity.  With tremulous flinching desperation.  It will only make me more Real.  More tender.  More awake to what I AM.  

I’m Back. With a Heart Freshly Shattered.

shattered_heart_by_generalmokka-d72yv4s

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

T’is the east, and Athena Grace LMNOP is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. . . .

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

Yes my Beloveds, I, Athena Grace LMNOP am back… Mainlining Heavenly brightness to your heart and mind with renewed, impassioned, whitewater currents!!!  I didn’t mean to be away this long… but for the month of November, I spearheaded a small online group committed to writing a poem a day for the entire month (which also entailed the grace of reading each others poems). This endeavor, to which I was fiercely committed, gobbled up every single spare second of my incessantly demanding existence.  And then some.  But the good news, is that I rocked it.  And I mean smoking’ gun style.  I wasn’t sure if I could still write poetry… it had been so damn long.  But I guess a poet is just what I am… cuz when I touched pen to naked page, it just poured out like pee and poop.  An essential byproduct of living with an open, ever-curious and hungry heart.  (I dare you to demand that I share some of my latest poems here in Athena Graceland!!!)

Then came December.  Then came Athena Grace drawing in a hella deep breath.  And releasing said breath.  As it turns out, the day that will live in infamy is actually DECEMBER SECOND, not the seventh.   That was the day my blood turned to cold, white lightening.  The day that contained the precise, lucid moment when I faced the possibility of losing my Ma way sooner than I ever imagined.  

Actually, for the past few years, I have imagined losing her on a semi-regular basis, so that I never take her warm, luminous presence in my life for granted.  Despite my “impermanence exercise”, parents still occurred as immortal… probably because they are the ones who have been a constant since before the beginning…  Anyway, I give myself an A+ for savoring time with my Ma.  But that didn’t  make the semi-sudden threat of losing her any more gentle and delicious.  

Last week, she asked me not to blog about it.  I think she might have changed her mind by now… but just in case, I shall remain vague and elusive.  This *could* be considered poor form… to evade the jugular, ignore the bling-clad, neon pink elephant on the page.  But, as the self-proclaimed Picasso of the literary domain, it is my prerogative to break rules.  Especially if it is the only way that I am able to show up for my self-ascribed literary duty at this time.  So let’s explore how I can olympic figure skate around this enticing elephant in mother’s clothing, and still win the GOLD.  And when she’s ready, I have unpublished blogs waiting in the wings… so you can taste the recent rainbow of my heart as destroyed by Kali Ma herself.  

Ok, so which burning bush shall I beat around?  Do you want to hear about “Toot”?… A book I recently checked out of the library “for Serena”.  It’s about farts, and I was SO excited to read it to her the second we got home.  I could barely get the words out, I was laughing so damn hard.  She had no clue what was going on.  Or I could tell you that Serena’s new favorite food is spirulina!  Yes, it has taken the lead, over sauerkraut, beef and dill pickles!  Or that I was planning to cut down my own christmas tree.  The first tree of my adult life.  Yes, I’m thirty six and I haven’t had a christmas tree since I was a disgruntled seventeen year old, living “at home”.  Whoa.  I felt conflicted about taking the life of an innocent tree… I was gonna try to ASK the tree permission.  But I doubted my ability to talk to trees… and my heart clenched when I thought about executing this indulgent murder.  Then on sunday evening, Serena and I were out walking and stumbled upon a PERFECT tree that had already been slaughtered, and was just laying in the mud, dying a slow, tragic death.  A tenacious, modern-day pioneer woman, I hoisted her up on top of Serena’s stroller and she wafted piney perfume all the way home.  How’s THAT for amazing grace?!  For my next modest miracle, I shall pull innovative decorations out of my ass!… I could tell you that I’ve always had a mental block against Shakespeare… but reading the snippet of Romeo and Juliet at the opening of this blog has tickled my poetic sensibilities.  I can see myself diving into the oceanic depths of his literary genius and being born again.

Nah.  I’m gonna stick with the enticing meat and potatoes on my heart’s plate. I still dunno if my Ma will stay or go.  I guess we never know, even when we imagine we do.  And this, my friends is a gorgeous crucible of human existence.  But touching the possibility of life without her, I have turned back toward Ed (my married baby daddy), and am clinging with renewed fervor.  I had made such strides in letting go… I have mixed feelings about this “regression”.  There is such a stubborn fighter in me.  I have loved my fight for Ed.  I have fought hard for “The Dream of US” (That’s the perfect tittle for my book about falling hopelessly in love and making a baby with a married man as a ruthless, spiritual crucifixion!… (and Resurrection, I hope…) for four years.  And some essential and deep part of me is… fulfilled?… by engaging in this impossible battle.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been on my knees, blood and tear soaked, asking myself if I might want to consider choosing a more intelligent fight….

But… It means something to me that we have a child together.  And I *wanted* to create that “forever” bond with Ed, because our love is boundless and eternally compelling.  We are able to merge and taste a rare, pure unity.  This has kept us going in the face of our excruciating circumstances and inexcusable humanness.  Relationships oughtn’t be so disposable as they have become in our contemporary, strip mall, ravenously consuming society.  Oh Virtuous Athena… where does that leave his marriage then?  Fuck, I don’t know.  I got myself in a hopeless tangle.  If I had a shiny, gold Sacajawea dollar for every time I felt suffocated by the claustrophobic trap of my choices in Love… scrambled desperately to find the glowing Exit sign… only to discover there AIN’T one… 

The only thing even resembling an Exit sign is stopping dead in my desperate tracks, putting my hand on my heart and speaking “I LOVE YOU.”  Over and over and over and OVER again.  In the face of Life’s panoply of tragedies, colossal disappointments and triumphs alike.  This morning, as I was leafing through my precious (100% recycled!) notebook, I revisited a few potent nibbles of the notes I took when I heard Matt Kahn (my spiritual teacher) speak in Berkeley last month.  This one leapt off the page: 

“When the ego unravels, you will always feel alone.”

I became wildly jazzed…. Something fabulous might actually be occurring beneath the surface of this opulent buffet of tragedy and ache.  Like maybe I actually have a chance to realize a deeper cut of the God (Love) within me, and within ALL.  Like maybe the greatest blessing of my Existence, is that I can’t find the infernally blazing Exit sign… and that the pain can be excruciating.  That there is no one to catch me when I fall…. and instead I land with a clumsy, shattering thud, right in the stark and holy center of my Self.  Maybe it is fantastic that I can’t reassemble the broken shards of my heart and life.  

I must be saying something true, because suddenly I could cry.

It’s six fifty am.  I hear Serena stirring in the bedroom.  

Well, I’m glad to be hOMe.  I’ve missed you.