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Clinging to the raft of Mom and tossed in the seas of the Big C

March 5, 2012

After being dry irrigated by chemo for five straight days and six hour sessions at the Stanford Cancer Center Infusion area, there’s almost a seasickness that settles upon me. I’m clinging to a raft and floating in a sea of chemicals. Some people wonder why I haven’t had a beer or wine )wine tastes like crayons), but any form of alcohol would just add to the chemical mix and make me lose my grip on the raft. Another thing people say. “What kind of cancer do you have?” I answer, “The kind that can kill me.”

I just have to cling to the strengths that my parents somehow imbued in me. You have to go back to the elixir of your essence because the hardest thing in life is to find your voice, because the journey is simple and full of fear–it’s easier to blend and nod and collate and file and smile. I go back to my mother. She died of cancer. But I inherited a force from her.  When we he;d the celebration of her life, with the light coming through the stained glass above the altar of the church, and above the priest, I suddenly thought of a hovering hawk, and they way they tip their wings. So during the eulogy I said, “I was sitting here an image came to me, have you every seen a hawk or an eagle when they are in the air, and they are just tipping their wings? I always thought that was so cool. They are flying but they are not flying. They’re just there. Hovering. And I always thought that would be such a great thing to be able to do. And then I thought of my Mom’s love and my heart, and how it was like that bird. Just tipping a wing one way and tipping a wing the other way. And I realize I have been doing what that bird has been doing my whole life. That’s what my Mom’s love was doing to my heart.

One of my Mom’s basic stories was talking about Dr. Caligaro, who said to her, and I see here are a young twenty year old woman with two children, and he said, ‘Anne, you can make these kids be something, or you can let them grow and be themselves.’ And she did that, she let us all become ourselves and different, which means we’re dysfunctional. I remember when I got caught for shoplifting, and my mother came in at 11 in the morning to get me, and she had this forlorn expression on her face and said, ‘Thanks a lot Fritzie.’ And I never wanted to ever hear her say that again, I was so ashamed. People say a lot of things when someone dies, they will say, ‘They had a good life,’ I say, let me say that, let me say that. Because none of us have expiration dates on us, and I think if we did have expiration dates we would treat each other a lot different. I think the thing that upsets me is that my Mom didn’t get a second act. I almost died three, once from cancer and another time with polyps, and now another battle with cancer. I got a second, third, and fourth act like an old Renaissance play.

Everyone deserves that act, for a chance to change, because who wants to be the same person their whole lives? It’s boring. And it would have been nice to see what see what she would have become. One person, kinda religious, said, ‘Well, we all are going down the same road.’ And I wanted to say, ‘Yeah, and I’d like to call you a cab!’ I went to see my mother, I flew in on Friday, and went straight to the hospice, and she was lying in bed, hooked up to an oxygen machine, on morphine, comatose, and breathing in deep two-four beats, and the nurse said, ‘She can’t speak but she can hear you.’ And it hurt me because she was in pain, that bothered me the most to see my mother in pain. And I spoke to hear and I said everything I could think of, and thanked her for everything, and how I didn’t want her to leave, but she could, and I said. I said, she was the most beautiful woman in the whole world.

And so I cling to her in these indifferent dead sea of chemical waters. The tears come and dribble, but they are like dew on a ripening fruit. Mom is still with me. I ride on her last breath.

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