Good, Halloween, pay it forward, sexual predators, Social Media, Support

May They All Fall Down

 

I am nostalgic for simple things today — tiny costumes, frost, crisp leaves and the Halloween of days past when I safety-pinned tails and veils and walked door to door at dusk arms full of coats and extra tissues. But delusion, that life is simple, is on the auction block this week.

Sexual predators and manipulators in the form of celebrities, chefs and politicians have been steadily outed this month. Dropped by the media, the public and sponsors does not begin to rectify the enormous damage, to both women and men, that denial has fostered. Yet this feels like a slow roll towards something: illumination, education, vindication? The news just came through of truck carnage in NYC.  I find it hard to catch my breath.

What is good.

I need to reward the good people around me more. Thank them often, send them notes, praise their accomplishments, foster kindness and respect. I cannot expect them to just know that they have touched me with their goodness but I can show them in simple ways. We should all start fixing and polishing what is around us one word, one gesture, one act at a time. I choose to believe this will pay forward towards a better culture. Who does not feel better, more powerful, more motivated after praise?

After the news broke in NYC today, I went outside and nailed up a plastic illuminated spiderweb at the bottom of my stairs. Threaded down a 40-foot extension cord so the spider’s eyes could glow. My pockets are full of tissue for my own cold. The children next door make an effort to come up my stairs and get candy at some point every Halloween, even though the neighbors give out full-sized candy (come on, no contest, I agree). But they support me and my presence.

In return, I will dump the contents of my plastic pumpkin into their bags and spike their end of the night candy count quite nicely. I will cheer them as they tackle the stairs to my door, trains and swords and light lasers in hand.

May the people that harmed all fall down. May the goodness in others, and you, get rewarded, over and over. It is the only way to stand up strong.

Tonight, may your candy count be amazing.

pic

Standard
#metoo, keeping silent, Me, Too, Social Media, Support, Women

Me + You

Me, Too.

Two little words. Every one of these posts, raining down on Facebook and Twitter from my women friends, colleagues and family feels like the moment the ice bucket challenge water hit the top of my head. The goosebumps just keep rising and won’t go away.

Just like when I was groped, at fifteen, in a movie theater. Just like when the pant-less man jumped out at me on Anderson Street. Just like when the passenger standing over me on the train parted his raincoat (seriously, how cliché) and showed me his penis. Just like the lewd emails I received from a male writer after a conference. Just like the tainted martini. I felt sick. I fell silent.

Do I look like an idiot? No, I look like a woman. And what did I do? Moved seats, crossed the road, sat still and hoped it would go away, deleted the emails, tried to forget. Never told my daughters. In other words, acted like a woman taught to keep her mouth shut, not stir up trouble, smile and pretend.

Those of you that know me might just have snorted. But that reaction has been ingrained. Period. In every instance, through my entire fifty-nine years, my response has been I am powerless against this man. Nothing I do will change what happened. Not worth making a fuss.

But these two words, posted again and again by women I love and admire, makes my heart skitter. We are confessing, yes; Me. But together we are building powerful, irreversible awareness with the second word; Too. 

I suspect every finger hesitated, every woman wondered, “should I do this publicly?” The answer is yes.

Because if you are nervous about going public consider something: each generation reaches higher standing on the shoulders and accomplishments of the women before them. But how staggering that women of ALL ages are posting these two words Me, Too and #metoo.  This is power. This is momentum. This is all of us, together.

Solidarity breaks things. Silence. Ignorance. Powerlessness. Domination. Wrong.

Wow and Wow. I admire each and everyone of you.

We are women. Not,

Blog10.17.17

 

 

 

Standard
Begin anew, Carcinoid tumor, Coping, Healing

What Comes Next.

Sitting under a Pacific Northwest sunset, freshly shucked oysters in hand, a friend asked me last night, “what are the top take-aways you have from the last three months and what you have been through.”

The first thought that came to mind? I can heal. No matter how much I thought my body was broken. I have never been health challenged before. I did not know what came next.

The second thought? I was wearing a long, white linen skirt. I twirled it a little. Then said, “I realized saving this was ridiculous and have worn it almost every day.”

What came next for me, when I woke up one morning and realized I could make tea and walk the dog and make it past nine o’clock at night, was a sense of magic and wonder. Every day is a good day. Even if I feel crummy and sit curled up on the couch, resting. Here I am.

If I focus on the what if of that now-removed but large carcinoid tumor I will never get out of bed, or get dressed at all. So that feels like a waste of all my body has been through. I am breathing, right?

Now that I have thought about this, I like the image: Drag the broken body out into the sunset. Decorate it with a long, impractical but divine white linen skirt. Twirl in the sparkle of the setting sun. Pat the stomach pains and remind self: I got this today.

What came next was an understanding: The sun will come up and go down, despite. Every day. I want to watch it, eyes wide open. Surrounded by friends and family, preferably wearing that impractical skirt.

Picnic2017

Mt. Rainier, Restoration Point sunset, July 2017.

 

Standard
Coping, Fear, Strawberries

Hold. On.

 

This week marks one month since my second surgery that removed and rebuilt a portion of my colon. As the four weeks crawled by I struggled to adjust to healing all over again. I stayed upstairs for a week, fear and pain ruling me. I stared all day long at a blue whale print propped across the room and listened to a nature app on shuffle just to breathe. The discomfort was relentless. Night and day were interchangeable. It was easier to close my eyes. Who was this person?

It took me a few weeks to have both the energy and the courage to look down again at the new swelling, stitches and bruising, the new topography of my belly, taped up tight with steri-strips. Then I went back to bed.

Once upon a time I thought exams were a tragedy. I wept nightly into a dorm pay phone my third year of college over an English paper while my mother sat silent on the other end. Soon after she mailed me a small card. I opened the envelope while curled up in a ball on my single dorm bed, eyes swollen. The front pictured a cute little mouse nibbling on a bright red berry. Inside she had written, in her strong, loopy cursive,

Relax and have a strawberry for god’s sake!

Dollar bills fluttered to the floor. Wait. This was sympathy? I have to take care of myself? I have to get on with things? I got off the bed and went to dinner, miffed. Exams ended. I still had good grades.

A flat of farmer’s market strawberries made me turn the corner again this week. I got off the couch at week three and made compote. I spooned the jam straight from the jar and closed my eyes as it sparkled in my mouth. She was right.

Then I took a bath and slowly peeled off the stern-strips. And I had a brand new indent in the middle of my abdomen.

The surgeon smiled as he checked my incisions last week and asked how I liked my new belly button. My reputation was at stake, he said, I couldn’t leave you like that. So he stayed on and did some plastic surgery. We high-fived and I thanked him. His eyes twinkled. We had a good laugh that rolled down the oncology floor.

It’s the little things.

Is life as simple as a field strawberry, red and sweet and full of the sun, perfectly orbed and bursting with remarkableness? Definitely. Do I believe in the kindness of strangers? For sure.

I kept the card from my mother, cutesy little mouse and all, because I count that little piece of paper as one of my big HOLD ON moments: while wallowing in self-pity my mom pushed me to get up and get on with it, ace the difficult and remember how good a strawberry tasted. And it worked.

However, the nature app has to go. Every other track includes the sound of rolling thunder. Olive my Scottish Terrier —  chief nurse and caregiver who has not left my side for ten weeks —  does not consider that restful. It’s me or the app she finally huffed.

I have learned over the last ten weeks that I can and will heal. That is the miracle of my body. The potential of more cancer, the active surveillance by my doctors, will be on my calendar for years to come. That is the risk of my body. This new bodily state can not dictate my life or rule me with fear.

I have so much to do. You can find me at the market, loading my basket with strawberries.

Berrypic

 

 

Standard
Diet, Health vs. Beauty

Toast and Eggs and Toast and Eggs.

This morning I looked down at my breakfast with no affection or desire. The sixth pile of toast and eggs in as many days. I felt a tired resignation and appreciation that the carbo-loading marathon week was over. My body has been reluctantly eating pasta, bread + butter, rice and potatoes for the last seven days; the suggested diet to store up energy for the second surgery tomorrow.

When my mother was very, very ill and very, very thin she looked at me and said, “how I regret all those damn diets now.” With her voice echoing in my head I soldiered on last week, stuffing in all the food groups I had literally eliminated from my diet for the last five years. Bread? Where’s the butter. Pasta? Let’s stuff that with cheese and ricotta please. Potatoes? Slide over that sour cream! A diet contrary to everything I believed was now good for me and you had better believe I was following the rule book.

The process of taking care of myself has rearranged and shifted what is important: Food as medicine even when I have not a lick of an appetite. Surgery as preventative medicine, despite how close this is to the last one. New sheets as medicine, just because. Taking naps. Lying down when I need to. I just had a practice run six weeks ago for this recovery X 2, and will therefore forgive myself the couch time, the extra needs.

That moment when your life swivels, that shiver when your blood stops in your veins?  My pathology report was that moment. This plate of eggs? Doesn’t matter what I want to eat this morning. This is what I need to eat. Want and need have changed their relationship, every morning performing a complicated dance in my head, in my hips, in my heart.

I will wake up tomorrow relieved that this step is over, anxious to move on to recovery and health, my book project or any writing that emerges, my daughter’s wedding and the budding peonies. Olive will need her teeth cleaned. Lists will need to be made. And I will follow whatever diet prescribed, for as long as I have to, as that is the new order of taking care of myself.

I dream of salad Niçoise. And that créme brûlée brioche from Tatte on Charles Street. Mmmmm.

Just saying. A girl can dream.

Peonies

 

Standard
Bravery, Carcinoid tumor, Health vs. Beauty, ovarian cancer, Women

Bravery: Not Always Pretty.

After the elective ovary-fallopian tube removal surgery that filled my abdomen with air, then sliced, diced, washed and scrutinized everything that could be examined in my abdomen — along the way my appendix didn’t look good, so the surgeon nipped that out too — the bloating had finally reduced enough on day four so that I could see my feet. In disbelief I howled my first complete sentence into the shower steam;

“WHO THE F DID THEY GIVE THE RAZOR TO?”

That was when I got my first laugh, bent over the sink holding a towel to my sutured belly. I needed that laugh. My belly was a mountain range of peeling steri-strips, yellow bruising up and down and around, my belly button full of stitches.

Thanks to two friends in the medical profession I had been linked up with a first class surgeon. April 20, 2017, was her first available surgery slot — a completely random date, for a straightforward elective preventative surgery  — which turned out to be more crucial than anyone knew. Two weeks into recovery, pathology reported that my female bits were all fine. But I only got half a victory lap. The appendix was filled with tumor.

The road back from this surgery initially required patience, sleep and helping hands. But most importantly, this one required, and still requires, bravery.

I am healing from round one and my work isn’t done. I have been overwhelmed and full of fear since the pathology report, the kind that makes your knees weak and your head disconnected, a paralysis that had me knocking things over when I bothered to even get off the couch. I did not know this fear, a bleak, dark, exhausting swamp that mired me day and night, that arrested my healing, my appetite and my sleep. I didn’t want to be alone, and then cringed when anyone saw me. This was ugly. This was not brave.

And then, last week, I went back to Mass General Hospital and met with my GI Oncologist and the next surgeon for round two. As we talked, I felt the anxiety rise out of me. Like a palpable, visible mist right off my shoulders. I suddenly realized I chose trust. As these two men looked me in the eye and laid out our game plan, I understood that after a life of being in control I could recognize when to give it away. I didn’t google, or argue, or faint. I asked questions and listened carefully. I brought a note taker.

The next day I received an email from a fellow writer and cancer survivor. She wrote me: You have to be a fighter. And I would add, to be a fighter, you need to chose your team to go to battle with you. And when I chose, and accepted, I got my first good night’s sleep.

As I move forward, this life changing surgery — now referred to as surgery #1 —  leads me in a few weeks to surgery #2. I choose to count my blessing; if I had postponed the first surgery until after my daughter’s wedding in September the situation would have been immeasurably worse. I will have deeper scars and take longer to heal. I have to ask friends and family to re-boot meals and help and support all over again (thank you). I will most likely marvel if not laugh over the new mountain range of scars and the price of spanxx.

Bravery isn’t pretty, but I am upright.

Though frankly, the guy in surgery #1 with the razor (had to be a guy) might have tried to do something about those stretch marks while he was down there.

To be continued.

IMG_1448

Nurse Olive never left my side.

Standard
#CRUS11TOUR, Friendship, Grief, Tears

Spill With Me.

 

I can be made of steel and counted on in any crisis. But I do not feel badly when and if I cry, too. Why is it that the moment we begin to cry — especially men — we apologize? When did we learn that crying makes us lesser in some way?  In the past few months I have heard too many times, “I have to stop crying, this is the last time, I promise.”  Why?

There is a whole lot of emotion out there these days for me. Riding on my sleeve, face, heavy heart and yes, tracking down my face in the form of tears. Did this wave start on November 11, 2016? Crying on election night was a first for me. Hard tears. Maybe.

But I also cried when I saw the first spring heron on Green Lake and the first hyacinth bloom, when I heard a friend’s diagnosis and watched Davey’s #CRUS11TOUR team cross the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday.  I have been crying for happy, for sad, for pride. The tears felt necessary and the aftermath felt, well, good. I honored the moment that way. I honored the feelings that way. I honored these people with my tears.

Wait. Aren’t we supposed to buck up, stop crying, pull ourselves together, don’t be a baby, time to stop crying and get on with it, be a grownup, go it alone?

No.

By crying, letting those tears fall, swiping them with your sleeve or my proffered handkerchief, maybe even adding a hug, we demonstrate several things to the people around us: trust, intimacy, vulnerability, friendship, to name a few. Consider the baby crying. Consider happy tears at a wedding. And consider, for a moment, how painfully difficult it is to hold back tears because someone said you should.

Since November I have had many unexpected reasons to laugh and to cry, more than any other time in my life. I don’t know about you but those tears — that welling, salty water filling my eyes, floating behind my eyelashes, spilling down arbitrarily, often in front of other people — just seems to be what my body needs to release and express and shed with others. Maybe I am spilling my emotions out all over the place but I share them unconditionally with you, friends, because I trust you.

And know that if you cry in front of me, I consider that a great honor.

There is always an extra hankie in my pocket, just in case.

IMG_1246

Standard