I should be in the gym on the treadmill. I even have my Brooks sneakers on. They were a good deal on Ebay and frankly they were lifesavers over the last two weeks walking about ten miles a day in New York City.
Instead of being in the gym, walking the treadmill, hating every minute of it, but believing it is good for me, I am here staring into space wondering what to think about the circumstances surrounding me. Got my cereal into a bowl but the berries in the freezer were one solid block. So was the frozen mango. I’m guessing the kids left them out to defrost while we were away and then threw them back in the freezer. Broke the big knife trying to break them up. I should know better than to use a knife on frozen items having had four stitches a couple months ago from similar actions. Poured on the almond milk, which according to viral news yesterday turns out to be mostly water. Yet another hoax! The cereal is our own concoction of an Engine Two breakfast. We make it up ourselves because it’s way cheaper. We eat it most mornings believing that it is a healthy thing to do. Is it? We really don’t know. We have also eaten a plant based diet for three years now. Is that really better for us? Who really knows?
This morning I am stunned. I didn’t sleep the night before worrying about my sons’ best friend. His gorgeous, brilliant, talented, mother had some stomach pains a few weeks ago along with a diminished appetite. She is svelte but she is also Italian so she knows eating and she knows good food. My boys love to hang at their house because everything she makes is delicious. She is also a well-known psychiatrist and has likely helped hundreds sort through their moments in hell. She and her very zen husband have become friends through our sons’ unlikely involvement in Civil Air Patrol.
I remember so clearly the first time I met her. I was sitting on the sidelines at one of the early meetings of this group sponsored by the US Air Force. My twin sons were in middle school. My older sons are all very politically savvy, and very liberal. Through them, I have learned and followed their leanings as well. We are pro gun control, anti-war, and all the rest that heads in that direction. Although both my husband’s dad and mine served their time in the military and raved about their experiences, this is a different time and we do not lean towards military in any way. So, imagine my dismay and queasiness seeing my sons don their military garb and boots, following shouted commands in the cavernous armory I sat in. This other mom looked at me, raised her eyes to heaven and we connected in misery and curiosity as to just what we were doing here in this environment. Well, little did we know that six years later, our sons would have spent many weeks and weekends together in barracks and missions, as well as learning to fly planes, survive in wilderness, train others and iron uniforms. Civil Air Patrol has been an entirely positive and transformative experience for all three of them. Her son is actually the commander of the whole division now and although we all still hold onto our leftist leanings, we appreciate the things this discipline has taught our otherwise distracted sons. We have suffered and laughed through many an awards night dinner with barbecue and hush puppies (the kind you eat, not wear) and been grateful for the alternative companionship to get us through the evening including the time that there were two guns up for auction and we had to hold each other back from bolting for the door! We made it through together and laughed along the way.
Our sons spend all of their free time together at one house or the other or too often at fast food places, which I do not want to know about. All three of them think they have crazy, hippie parents and on more than one occasion our sons have told us to put on our tin foil hats. (Saying someone is “wearing a tin foil hat” or “is a tin foil hat” means that they have paranoia or a belief in conspiracy theories, especially involving government surveillance or paranormal beings. Originally, the term referred to the practice of wearing headgear consisting of metal foil to block mind-reading.)
We laugh and hope they grow out of all of this before the Marines Recruiter gets to them and off they go. This is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat to my heart, but I go on breathing one breath at a time.
So, this gracious and wonderful mom went to the doctor for tests, into the hospital for more. with surgery planned for yesterday to possibly “remove affected part of her liver and bile ducts.” Scary stuff despite her beautiful and honest writings assuring us that she was in the best of hands. The plan was that if she was in surgery for a long time, this would be good news. It would mean that there was a plan and diseased parts would be removed and repaired. If surgery was short, that would mean there was not much to fix or do and they would leave most alone, which would not be good news. When we didn’t hear all day long, I felt reassured. I thought and prayed for strength and guidance for all of them. I don’t believe in a magical God but a guiding force and wisdom of a Holy Spirit is usually my go-to.
Truth turned out to be that we didn’t hear anything because the news early in day was so shocking and devastating to them, that it took till evening before they felt ready to share it. Metastatic disease spread into abdomen discovered laparoscopically so no further surgery was performed and the email says, “moving onto Plan B” which I do not have details of. It has been requested that there be no emails, no texts, no communication as they deal with their own shock and plans as well as sharing with family. How can this be? This healthy, vibrant, brilliant woman who chose the location of the house they bought when they moved to Raleigh because it was within walking distance to Whole Foods, really?
Her son was to come here for dinner last night and to possibly spend the night. The Caesar salad he loves was ready for him. He never came. I understand. But, what is it that I understand? Nothing or very little of the scourge of this uncontrollable epidemic. The families that are catapulted into an unknown hemisphere in one split second and all is new, dark, scary, and out of control.
So, this lovely and loving family who have just bought land in the mountains on which to build their dream, retirement home now has the battle of their lives on their hands instead. Stunning. Just stunning.
And yet, we learned that in fact Gluten may not be the culprit in what makes everyone sick when they eat bread. Bread that has been eaten since bibilical times. Bread that was the food at the last supper. Yes bread. Why? Because Fucking Monsanto, greedy, sick as bad as Nestle and maybe worse, Monsanto has Roundup spray going into 99% of every grain of wheat harvested in this country!! We are mice in a maze trying desperately to protect ourselves and keep our bodies fairly safe and healthy against the impossible greedy slime giants of our culture. I digress.
But then too, there is the five month old precious baby I saw four times for breastfeeding difficulties. He and his mom had a time of it. Finally, it got better but one day he developed a swelling on his arm for which she came to the office to see the doctor. No one knew what it was, but he was referred to a pediatric neurologist who found this very rare, very aggressive form of cancer in the cerebellum of his brain and in the tumors on his arm. He is the sweetest, most darling little one with blue smiling eyes and an adoration for his mama that is beyond imagination. And yes, he finally breastfeeds well which is a good thing because the procedures they are putting him through are brutal and he finds some comfort at the breast. I receive updates regularly and find it nearly impossible to wrap my mind around the whole situation wracked with fear. There is a reason that this mom and I have bonded, but I do not want to tell her the reason just yet until it is needed.
Then there is my old La Leche League friend who had such a challenging time getting pregnant. She went through the madness and expense of three different infertility journeys that resulted in three handsome, happy sons. She breastfed each for long periods of time and absolutely loved breastfeeding. She too, chose organic foods, always Kosher, and met each family member’s dietary and allergic needs with grace and no complaints. So, how the hell did she end up with breast cancer – mind you two different kinds of aggressive breast cancer that has left her without her breasts, over a year of awful chemotherapy and a battered down perspective on her formerly happy life. I mean, really???
The friend who came to my house when I first had twins and brought me a pillow that allowed me to tandem nurse, went onto to getting her PhD and practices the most tender and helpful psychotherapy, especially for moms suffering from depression. Her red hair sweeps the floor, which has always made her unique and attractive. She too suffered from infertility and through treatments, had twins and a singleton, all of which seem to have their own struggles. But, she is accomplished and happy when suddenly her back pain turns out to be ovarian cancer and she is whisked off to Texas to MD Anderson hospital where she is being treated. She said something so poignant that I cannot get out of my head. As the oncologist spoke to her describing her condition, she felt a deja vus sort of feeling as if she knew the words that were coming, had enacted this scenario in her head and had rehearsed the call and reponse. Isn’t that the way it is for most of us now? Her floor length hair is of course, gone.
Quite frankly, I have left the most difficult for last… my sister. She moved to the beach after losing her husband several years ago and said she’s been the happiest she’s ever been. One of her daughters lives nearby, she made some great friends and had a boyfriend who kept her whirling and dancing the whole time. So, when she called to tell me that in fact, she had breast cancer a few years back, our entire world stood still. We found her the best surgeon and docs in the best hospital and she proceeded to have a single mastectomy along with radiation and chemotherapy. Gone was her infamous red hair. She progressed well and participated in all the pink affairs she could find. She seemed radiant with recovery over these last few years and we were all so relieved. But cancer is indeed a “shit show” as they say and when she called me this February to tell me that the back pain she’d been seeing a chiropractor for, was instead metastatic bone cancer, I was slayed. She has since had radiation twice which made her quite sick, oral chemo and as of late a steel rod inserted into her femur to support deteriorating bone. She is still dancing and going non-stop on most days as she is a force to be reckoned with and an inspiration to us all, but it is a constant reminder in my mind of her fragility and possible worsening which I dread and pray for her to avoid for as much as possible. We have survived a lifetime of hard balls together and I wish I could be there for this one as well and I try as much as I can, while trying to also respect her boundaries.
Brene Brown preaches on Ted Talks about vulnerability. It is the kind of vulnerability that makes us open, honest, realistic and sharing of our feelings. This is NOT that kind of vulnerability. This is the kind that takes your breath away with fear for others and for yourself. This is the kind that makes you want to do everything you ever wanted to do TODAY, not tomorrow, not when you retire, but TODAY because we are so unsure when our turn in the MRI tunnel is coming and yet we all feel it is coming. Where is the cancer in me? When will it surface? It often feels like a given, just that way.
And we feel helpless in so many ways. I have never forgotten the scene in the old series Thirtysomething after the young mom is diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she stands under the bridge screaming, “Did I eat too many red M&M’s?” And now I ask is the Glysophate (RoundUp) in our bread along with most other foods we eat thanks to Monsanto? Is the almond milk that turns out to have few or no almonds bad for us? Is it eating meat? Not eating meat? We can assume that a zillion years of birth control pills has not been good. We can also safely surmise that infertility treatments screw around with our hormonal home bases and create havoc (this one in particular scares me.) Is the very air we breathe just too big a battle day in and day out? Is it the toxins in the homes we live in from the crap in our walls to the toxins in our furniture? It is likely everything. It came into our consciousness along time ago when Alar was discovered in apples. Yes, the fruit that Adam shared with Eve. That fruit.
And here I am writing my thoughts, not on the treadmill, still stunned by the latest news of a friend. I need to get into the office and do some work, carrying on as we do wishing I was back laying in the grass in Central park listening to the profound and soothing words of David Ippolito. They’re temporary but effective balm for the soul for me, for today. Just for today.