With the original diagnosis and each of my (two) relapses, I discovered a hidden path … “a way out of no way” (old saying quoted by activist Grace Lee Boggs). Today, I am busier living than recording the trauma of cancer. I have been in official remission since treatments of Blincyto in late 2019 and pre-pandemic 2020. I walk upon it gingerly, careful not to fall through thin ice. I have the deepest of gratitude for the treatments and the remarkable doctors/researchers/nurses I have known.
Nine Years Ago
February 22 is the 9th anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, complete with the ominous “Philadelphia Syndrome”. It is a date that both amazes and appalls me.
I literally don’t know whether to celebrate it or try to forget about it. Why celebrate? Because it’s a freakin’ miracle that I am alive, and a marvel of modern science, for sure. There is risk in provoking the trauma of the remembrance. I know that. But there is also honor.
And something else … the reason it should not be forgotten … call it genes, or angels, Spirit, or prayer. Something wanted to live. Resolve? Did an Ancient Heritage call on forces that can’t even be named? I don’t have the words for it.
The days pass in a way that startles me now and probably always will until the day I die. The world stage is tumultuous. My small life, along with everyone else’s, flows in a wild river of a virus that won’t go away, an embattled Earth, and finger-biting insecurity over war and shifting finances.
Without a doubt, the biggest 2021 event was was Elena’s and Alex’s wedding. Take some dear friends, mix them in with beloved family and magic happens. The setting was beyond beautiful. Elena was in the cutest barely-noticeable stage of showing “Little Mister Something”. (due March 2022). The day was rainy, but this detail is not the main thing anyone will remember, although it did make us scramble. It was a sweet and intimate and lovely event, with members of Alex’s family we had never met—and old friends of our whole family.
October 2021 was a stormy, rainy month, with the first of two “Bomb Cyclones” of this year. Steve was flown off island after weeks of feeling worse and worse with a severe pain that turned out to be his failing gallbladder. He goes on now without it, with scarcely a misstep, making us both wonder why we even have gallbladders.
On December 19, I woke up with a scary situation called Bells Palsy. OMG. My world changed after that.
I cancelled the birthday party I had planned. My face was completely paralyzed on the right side. I couldn’t blink, much less smile. Then it snowed like it meant it on Christmas night. We stayed home for days; me locked in a nightmare of Bells Palsy.
Unmoored From Time
Thus, I entered the New Year of 2022. I could barely remember what year it was, or common words. Though there was every reason not to, I undertook to recall my Cancer History; the original “Fall from the World” (Leukemia), which happened 9 years ago.
While my body battled to get healthy from the Bells Palsy, I wrote about the dread and pain of cancer, but also the miracle of grandkids and two daughters who bought land and made homes here, on our island. I remembered two relapses that crept up on me like hungry predators, but also that Steve and I traveled once again to places that made us tremble from the beauty of it all. I remembered cruel treatments, but also a new puppy who joined our family and brought much joy to us. My life continued to teeter just above the jaws that snapped for them, and I prayed unabashedly for more time to be alive.
So, it seems to me this is a time to celebrate that I did NOT die any of those many times when the possibility of it was so very real. I decide to assume, from the evidence of my life, that the world has need of me still, and I have work to continue.
I will continue to put this request and desire into the Sacred Mystery. I want to be grandma and mama and wife/partner and friend – for more years to come. I want health. But most of all, I want to continue to have the deep privilege of witnessing this beautiful Earth. I want to be worthy of the miracle of Life.