About a month ago, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. And my
whole life changed.
I don’t know what this change is, was, will be, but I know
that I am in several ways entirely different than I was. The way, at least
right now, that I see things are entirely new. And profoundly grateful. I
almost died. And yet, I didn’t.
We each get this each day – I got this each day, prior to this happening. I got the chance to
understand that life was precious, but I didn’t, really. I understood it,
but to really feel it? Well, it’s
and it brings up a host of other questions. Am I allowed to still watch Ben Stiller movies? Am I allowed to spend a day on the couch? Will
I now stop stopping myself short on all my varied art projects, and allow
myself to follow through on anything
that I’ve started? I have no idea.
I’d like to think that part of this “change” – for lack of a
better term for “life altering sudden tragic happening” – will indeed move me
toward being more in my art, more in my life. I’d like to believe that part of
this whole thing is a very nasty kick-upside-the-head lesson in not living for
tomorrow. That I’m being given the chance to very acutely see that life is
short and tenuous, and so I ought to embrace the talents that I have, and finally
let myself explore them fully so that I might share them with you.
I’d like to believe that there are lessons here. Otherwise,
what the fuck.
I’d like to believe that the Universe or my Higher Power
couldn’t — for some reason completely unknown to me – send me a postcard, or a
dream, or a message on Facebook. That for some reason this lesson had to be learned hard, and fast, and
therefore more gentle methods of smoothing a rock down to its shiny parts were
not available to this massive Power.
I’ve been out of the hospital for a week now, and I will go
back in next Monday for another round of chemo. This will be the 2nd
in a series of, likely, 5 treatments. The words that I’ve had to learn over
this month scare the crap out of me. I don’t want to use words like chemo,
nausea, pain meds, pneumonia. I don’t want to hear “How bad is the pain on a
scale of 1 to 10,” or, “It’s time for your shot,” or “Well, we expect this.”
I’ve oscillated since I’ve been out of the hospital between
those few stages of grief – anger, grief, acceptance. Often within the same
minute. When I was in the hospital, there wasn’t time for anything except acceptance. This is happening. Period. Go with it. And, despite
what you may think, it’s really f’ing busy in the hospital with people coming
in and out at all hours of the day and night, throwing information or
medication at you. There’s not really time to process, space to absorb and
consolidate what has been happening to me.
And so, being home now, I’m getting the chance to experience
what I couldn’t while basically holding my breath for 3 weeks. I’m getting to
realize the enormity of what happened. The slow, marinating, seeping
reality – I almost died. The nurse told me that I had 49% leukemic cells in my
blood when I came into the hospital – WITH STREP THROAT – and that if I hadn’t
come in, I would have died within two weeks. I would have gotten a bleed,
likely in my brain, and I would have just died. No one would have known – no one would have known why. Relapse?
Suicide? Understanding this fact has begun to lead me to know that I need help
in holding the space for all this – and yesterday I contacted a cancer support
AND, I have to tell you, I don’t want to be someone who needs a cancer support group – I shouldn’t have
motherfucking cancer in order to need such a group. A month ago, this was unfathomable.
This morning, I read my last Morning Pages entry from the week
before I went into the hospital. I haven’t written morning pages since then, I
was too sick, and then too hospitalized. And so I read them, and I see myself
talking about how my throat really is starting to hurt. About how I went to the
art store Flax and got new pens and a notebook and talked to the woman in the
back about different types of pressed paper – hot press versus cold, what would
be good for the art I want to do. About the café I’d emailed with the month
before about putting up a show in their space, and how he wanted to do
November, but I simply wasn’t ready, as it was the end of September at the
I’d written about the clothing I’d bought for cheap at good
thrift shops, and the flying lesson I was scheduled for, which ended up being
the day I went into the ER. I wrote about being excited, about art that I would
make. About missing my family, and wanting to go home for Thanksgiving to see
In some ways, it feels like reading a journal from junior
high, it feels so long ago. And yet, it’s all still me. And that’s something
that I want to take away from this too. This process is going to be HARD, challenging, painful, difficult, and yet, I’m still
me. As I was writing my first Morning Pages this morning since that last entry,
I was inwardly elated to see my handwriting hadn’t changed. That major facts of
who I am have not changed. That things that were important to me then, “before
cancer,” are still things that are important to me now. – art, family,
I’ve been blasted with some of the nastiest chemicals, shorn down
to the barest slices of my body … but my handwriting is still the same.
I could go into the ways in which gratitude has become this
sort of well of tears behind my eyes at all times. I could talk about how just
waking up this morning feels like a gift. But I don’t want to today, really. I could
list the thanks and the inundation of love and support and care, but that’s not
what this blog is about this morning, at least. It’s not a love fest, it’s just
a truth fest. About where I am this very day, at this very time, arguing and
stamping and shaking a fist at the sky with WHY in the m’f’in hell couldn’t you
have made this a little bit of a gentler lesson? About how I feel like I’m some
sort of icon now, with people telling me all the time what an inspiration
you are, when I’ve had diarrhea for 3 out
of the last 4 weeks. I’ve asked people what on earth that even means, an inspiration to what? What have I inspired in
you? What am I inspiring you to do? I haven’t done anything except lived.
I get to be bitter about it. And I get to be amazingly
thankful to get to be bitter about it –
to be alive enough to have emotions enough to get to scorn about it.
It is surely true, the love and support I’ve gotten. And
yet, there’s a part of me that feels angry that I even have a situation in
which to receive such love and support.
I know people love me. Couldn’t I have had my 31st birthday at a
restaurant with them, instead of in a hospital bed? Couldn’t I have learned to
get out of the way of my own creativity and drive and lust for life in a
different, gentler way? Couldn’t I have gotten to see my family by flying East
for Thanksgiving, instead of them flying West to hold my hand while my hair
I’m grateful for this blog – this tempestuous blog that
gives me the chance to be honest in every way. Which I want to use to
springboard to something else, to write in another venue, maybe one that’s
paid. I’m glad that I get to write here, as someone told me, as I speak – that if I
write the way I talk, they said, I’m surely a great writer. I don’t know how much that is
true, but somehow the cancer lets me see it a little more clearly. And perhaps begin to accept it. I want to explore my talent more – because there simply is
more there. I want to push into it, and I want to share it.
I swear I would have gotten there without this whole cancer
thing, but I guess I really didn’t have a choice in this one.