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

 

time

the road to point sur lightstation

I drove out to the Point Sur Lightstation last night to join one of the moonlight tours they offer every month. At first, my dramatic self didn’t want to go: Would being alone make the moon less beautiful? Would I feel even more alone going alone?

Get a grip, Sarah Bernhardt.

The wind up at the lightstation was fierce. I had visions of being tackled and catapulted across the ocean by this mack daddy of winds. I scanned the tour group to assess who would allow me to grab onto them without judging me. I now have a deep appreciation for sturdy frames.

As per usual, I was the only one who was there by themselves.

I’ve viewed a lot of sunrises, sunsets and moons as a singular person. In a way, I’m not really alone. It’s me and the sun. It’s me and the moon. Even when I’m with other people, it’s still just the two of us, sharing an understanding…sharing a secret together.

sunset

Last night I watched time pass as the sun set amidst a bank of clouds and the moon rose above the mountains.

moon

When I woke up in the morning, my hair was like the Salvador Dali of bird nests, tangled by sleep and that maniacal wind. And then during this very ordinary moment, time stood still. I found out my loved friend passed away from ovarian cancer some time this morning.

 …

“I don’t know, Jane…” She had said the last time I saw her. “The doctors say I have six months and I’m trying to be strong, but I don’t know…”

As I walked away from her, I suddenly turned back around, gave her a final hug and told her I loved her. We stood there together and cried in silence.

That was five and half weeks ago. And now she’s gone. My brain can’t compute it. But my heart, which I am learning to take more seriously, holds her close and revels for having known such a remarkable person.

I’m never alone. I never was.

Peace for Nancy. I hope she is seeing all of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets ever imaginable.

light

“I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. To enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary ordinary life…We’re all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”
~ “About Time”

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often mistaken for other illnesses – for more information, please check out the American Cancer Society website to learn more about this disease.

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.

The Ultimate Bully

I hate cancer.  I just want it to leave my family, friends and me alone.  And just leave everyone else alone, too.  It’s already bullied my mom and me, and now it’s trying to attack one of my good friends.

When I left my ex and moved out of the house, my friend N let me stay with her for three months while I gathered myself back together.  Imposing on someone for that long goes against my very nature, but her kindness and open-heartedness made me feel welcome and safe.  Those three months were exactly what I needed to help me process and take the next step in my life.

N is an amazingly unselfish and giving person, and everyone she has helped is coming out of the woodwork to support her.  It really is an indication of who she is and just how much she is loved.  True to form, she told me that if anyone in her family had to get diagnosed with cancer, she was glad it was her.  She isn’t married, doesn’t have kids like her two sisters do, and doesn’t have to worry about finances because her workplace is stepping up to support her as well.  She will be able to fully concentrate on kicking cancer’s ass.

In the presence of such an incredible person, I could only do this:  tell her just how incredible she is.  Tell her with total belief in her strength as a future survivor.

If you are feeling it from the heart, say it.  Or find ways to express the gratitude and joy you feel without the expectation of getting the perfect response or in fact, getting anything in return.  What are you saving it for?