heroes

two

I am not an alarmist.

Okay, I sort of am.

One time, I thought I was getting a strange skin growth on my face. Until I wiped it away. It was called peanut butter. Another time, I knew I was diseased when all of my fingernails suddenly turned orange. I forgot that I was experimenting with self-tanning lotion. (By the way, I also thought my car was diseased when the leather driver’s seat started to stain in strange spots.)

In 2013, when my friend Nancy told me she was feeling bloated and it wouldn’t go away, we  joked about gas like eight year-olds teenage boys two mature and sophisticated women. She subsequently went to get her colon checked. It was healthy.

It turned out that she had a late-stage ovarian tumor that had started to secrete fluid into her abdomen. She fought hard to kick cancer’s ass and gave it a tremendous fight, but a year and a half later, she was gone.

She was 52 years old.

My friend S recently told me she had been feeling bloated.

Alarm bells blared in my ears. I didn’t want to hear them. I didn’t want to share them with her. But I did because I told myself that if any woman ever used the word “bloated” in a conversation, I would inquire further and gently ask them to consider seeing their gynecologist. Many symptoms of ovarian cancer are disguised as common symptoms that we all experience.

S was one up on me. She had already seen her gynecologist and everything appeared fine. Phew. Stupid alarmist. Why did you have to scare the crap out of me?

But as it turns out, all is not fine.

Ovarian cancer is nefarious. It slips quietly into a room and by the time you notice it, it has taken up most of that space. It’s greedy. It wants more. It wants to suffocate you from the inside out. And you can look for all sorts of reasons why it showed up in the first place, but one of those reasons could simply be, as scientists termed it: bad luck.

I love my female friends. They are my support system. And I have a hard time understanding why I would even have to consider giving them up. Why are they being attacked? While I’m at it: breast cancer, leave us alone, too. All cancers. Just go away.

Stuart Scott, an ESPN anchor and sportscaster, recently passed away from his battle with a rare form of appendix cancer. About six months before he passed, he said these heroic and inspiring words:

“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

My friend S is transcendently forgiving, full of grace, and tough as nails. She will be navigating her way with the kind of light that you need to see through those dark places.

They don’t call it the hero’s journey for nothing.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

*friendship

I’m single and I don’t have kids.

So if you want to marry me or be my kid (not both), I will mail you an application. You can tell a lot about a person from their handwriting and the way they construct their sentences. I need to find the right person to inherit my personal treasures:

"...my Preciouses..."

my Preciouses

 

In all seriousness, I’ve been thinking about drawing up a living trust/will. I simply cannot imagine leaving and not having the final say. And more seriously – I really do love my Preciouses.

Being in this mind space makes me wonder if I’ve expressed enough love to the people I love. Some already know because I’ve told them or have sent them a random text or email while high on caffeine, running or while possessed by some wide-ranging, renegade emotion. I also say it through food. Sometimes I pull their hair. There are so many different and creative ways of expressing it.

I’m not always a good friend. Relationships morph as you morph and break ups are difficult. Do you use a clichéd saying?: We’ve outgrown each other…We want different things, you and I…It’s not you/me, it’s me/you. You cannot say, “Let’s just be friends” because it’s totally counterproductive.

And then there are those who are stunningly beautiful in the ways that they are, and some way, some how, they look at the tumbledness inside of you and think you are stunningly beautiful, too. One of these beautiful creatures opened her home to me and let me stay with her for three months while I sorted out my life. I’m not sure I could have let myself do this or let someone else do this for me, except her. I love her with all of my heart and beyond. I’ve never said it to her in exactly those words; if I had, I’m sure she would have had me arrested for being overly dramatic, as is my wont. Thusly, my plan is to tell her posthaste! For my heart wills it. Exit stage left.

I guess that’s the point of a living will: to take care of business while you’re still able, and remind you to use your voice, arms, and yes, your oven, too, while you are still able. I wish more than anything that I could will everyone their hearts’ desires plus the belief that they can do whatever that thing is that makes them happy.

What the hell. Maybe I will add that to my wishes and demands. I wonder if you have to use law lingo for a document to be considered legal tender. (I feel like that sentence made me sound kinda smart.) Well, for now, I’m declaring it here. I’m feeling sentimental these days; so much so that my heart gets to aching because it feels like I’m not doing everything I can for the people around me.

I think I’ll go now and bake cakes for everyone…

friends

*for nancy

 

Run, Hammer Time!

Pump a little bit and let ’em know it’s going on
Like that, like that
Cold on a mission so fall them back
Let ’em know, that you’re too much
And this is a beat, uh, you can’t touch

Yo, I told you (You can’t touch this)

He’s straight out of Oaktown (I’m pretending to know what this means) and is kindly providing me with my motivational, power running song. I’ve never thought about having one before, but it’s perfect. Just when I think I can’t run anymore and start thinking about a detour towards an ice cream sandwich, the song gets my energy up to start/keep running. It also makes we want to dance, but I restrain myself. Running and dancing don’t mix. Unless you are doing the Running Man, at which I’m terrible. I feel great when I’m doing it, but apparently, judging from the furrowed brow of my friend Mae, I probably look like I’m doing one of those old, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” exercises instead. While doing dangerous and super impatient knee lifts.

I tend to be late on the bandwagon when it comes to suddenly liking music that’s been around for decades. When I first heard “No Diggety” last year, I thought it was a new song. Same with “Shoop”. No, I don’t only listen to old rap songs. I actually like a lot of folk rock like The Oh Hellos, Gregory Alan Isakov. And 70’s and 80’s music. Southern Rock. Pop. Why am I talking about this?? MC Hammer…music…motivation…

I completed my first 12K three weeks ago. It was amazingly awesome. Especially when you share the experience with friends. We ran our own races, cheered each other on, and proudly and loudly debriefed over a huge Sunday brunch. I almost felt like I was part of King Arthur’s court with my grog (coffee) and leg of wild boar (eggs benedict).

So, three weeks have passed and in between then and now I’ve been dealing with some family stuff, creating more mosaics, made a trip to L.A. and interviewed for a job. And, oh yes – I’m thinking about running a half marathon.

I had previously thought the idea was quote, cuckoo, unquote. Perhaps it is. But I never claimed to be sane. So I’m entertaining the idea. A friend lent me her copy of Jeff Galloway’s “Galloway’s Book on Running” and I’m trying out his method of training. I’ll be curious to see how my running changes over the course of the next 4 – 6 weeks.

Time to find more music to motivate me. I just heard about a guy named Vanilla Ice. Think I’ll check him out – or maybe it’s just that I still want that ice cream sandwich…

jane trains, mainly on the plain

…tall…strong…spring!…tall…strong…spring!…tall…strong…spring!…

This was my mantra today as I trained for a 12k that is three weeks away. I still cannot run many continuous miles, but I’ve made a commitment to try and increase what I can already do. This running business is literally and figuratively putting one foot in front of the other. That’s how I started – with small goals, kindness towards my more unathletic moments, and the desire to improve my health and strengthen my body. I want it to work for me for a long time.

I have always been an on-and-off exerciser. In October 2012, I started a new streak that has continued. Frankly, I’m surprised. And running has me particularly befuddled. I never thought I would begin running, let alone sign up for a 5k. I was thrilled and content with completing a handful of them. I had no interest in running a 10k. And then I ran one this year. Next? A friend told me that he wanted to run a 12k that crosses over the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, a 12k isn’t that much farther than a 10k. And across the GG Bridge? Awesome!

I have no interest in doing a half marathon. That’s nuts. Cuckoo.

Back to my morning run: At about mile seven, my helpful and cheerful mantra morphed into: tall…strong…dragggg…tall…deadlegs…#!@$#%*!!!…tall…who the hell invented running, anyways??!!

Never fear – I still love you, running. It’s just that, sometimes I hate you, too. I know you can handle my wildly fluctuating affection for you. Ah…lucky is the man who wins my heart.

p.s. If you noticed that I’ve been AWOL lately, I wish I could tell you that I was climbing Mt. Fuji, saving the universe from evil overlords, or inventing cures for all of our illnesses, but no, all of my words and creative energy went into a journaling course led by the bright, beautiful, rockin’ Susannah Conway. It was fantastic – like summer camp for introverts!

The Enemy of All Enemies

In the past couple of weeks I’ve learned of a handful of people passing away. Most of them suddenly, unexpectedly, swiftly. One in particular was a 47 year-old woman I used to work with. Cancer took her life in eight short months.

Cancer is my sworn enemy. And as my enemy…Cancer, you can suck it.

In fact, you can suck it big time: My good friend N is battling ovarian cancer. She started out at stage 4 in April 2013. The prognosis of this disease at that stage would lay anyone low. After enduring a multitude of tests, drainings, 12 weekly sessions of chemo, surgery, and currently more chemo, N just received the results of her CA-125. This marker measures the concentration of ovarian cancer cells, normal being at 35 and under. SHE WAS AT 8.

I flipped my lid when she told me and I cursed to the high heavens in happiness. True to form, she thanked me for making her experience less lonely, less scary. Seriously? How lucky am I to have a sistah and friend like her?!? I told her that she gave me strength. For real.

For the time being, N will continue her chemo sessions because her oncologist told her that the cancer cells could simply be “sleeping”. Oh? Then blast those suckers, I say. So far, she is tolerating chemo very well, thank goodness. I wish I could be there to celebrate with her.

I think I’ll go for a walk and celebrate the fact that I can.

Good health and wellness to everyone out there.