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Monday, May 30, 2011

Perfect Timing

Getting out of the hospital is great. But returning to the "normal life" of cancer patient on chemo-break is not as simple as it seems. 
Once they removed my tubes last Saturday, so desperate was I to be free of the hospital I couldn't even wait for my parents to get to the room to pick me up. We grabbed our bags, fled to the building and loitered on a picnic bench in the parking lot until Dr. Dad arrived.
As the next few days passed, so glad was I to be back in circulation that found it much harder to carry on "as usual" and transition back into restful-healing mode. (Come to think of it, was I really ever in restful-healing mode before? Probably not.)
I began to understand that, ever since I'd been back home, I'd been very actively resisting any meaningful type of rest. No longer chained to the hospital bed, I couldn't seem to sit or lie still for more time than it took me to drink my morning tea. 
I went to a movie, to mini golf, to a minor-league baseball game. I went out to dinner four times and out to lunch twice. I've been to gym every other day, and go to the doctor's office every afternoon for a shot. We do laps around the neighborhood and then I come home and do laps around the house. It occurred to me that I might be trying to outrun cancer.

I felt depressed, and it sucked to admit it. I was supposed to be Choose Life Bowman, weaving the threads of silver linings around me and reveling in the magic miracles that life continued to bestow. But the truth is, sometimes all that ever-present magic can still become heavily obscured. Like the brown smog that settles on the Visalian valley and renders the Sierra Nevada Mountains invisible from view, gloom can settle on a girl with cancer stuck in her parents house in her backwoods hometown. 
Visalia was no longer felt like the peaceful abode it once had been. The house—stagnant. The town—dirty and downtrodden. The days—too long. 

And so I was not to be at peace, and continued to drive myself crazy, creating errands and activities to keep me busy. The entire time, though, there was a nagging feeling that it is the wrong breed of busy. Like a cat trapped in a bag, I thought to myself—just struggling and flailing and fighting so hard against the one peaceful alternative, which would be to submit. Surrender. Sit down and stop running and relax in your fucking backyard! Take a nap! Anything! 

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, and I'm pretty sure I've written about it before, that this has been my biggest challenge for some time now, long before the cancer diagnosis. To learn how to drop all the activities and the productivity and be still and find peace in the stillness. It figures that it would take cancer to force me to learn this, and that I still wouldn't give up the struggling without a fight. 
Just one blog ago I had the audacity to wonder aloud what my challenge was, and what my transformation was meant to be. Now here it was, slapping me in the face, and I found myself still trying to resist.

I was pondering this very juxtaposition when a Fed-Ex arrived. There had been an e-mail earlier from Stanford Doctor two weeks earlier about said package—that he had a patient with a very similar case to mine, who had beaten his cancer and wanted to send me the necklace he'd worn during his treatment.
I'd replied that those seem to be the kinds of things in life we should never say no to, and that I'd be happy to receive the necklace. Then I forgot about it. And then, on Wednesday , the Fed-Ex.

Was I literally curled up on my bed in the fetal position when it arrived? Yes, yes I was. Was I completely caught up in the tragedy of everything? Yes, I was. Was my soul quivering with the understanding of the heavy lifting it was going to have to undertake? Again, yes, but now might be a good time to remind ourselves of that Prednisone regimen, and also the Depo-Provera shot they gave me in the hospital to stop my periods (to avoid anemia). While I deeply believe in the spiritual journey this cancer trip is taking me on, I have to say that it is also possible that these drugs are fucking with my brain. The doctors are so intent on saving me from cancer that there is no discussion about the effects of hormonal birth control therapy and my mood, for example. But I know that going from 200mg of steroids a day to 20 is a big leap, and that some types of hormonal birth control methods can directly affect a person's state of mind. So. There is that to consider.

But back to the necklace. It is a clear crystal, wrapped by a thin wire onto a worn leather strap. It has a bit of weight. Along with it came a two-page handwritten letter, from the wife of my doctor's other patient. She told me the stone was found by his father, in the Ruby Mountains of Northeastern Nevada. She said that, as a healing crystal, it absorbs the good and bad energies around us, and releases only the positive energies. She said her husband wore it during his treatment and is now cancer-free. She didn't say how exactly they'd heard about me, only that I would also be a survivor. She also said this:
"There are times you will feel helpless or there is nothing you can do, that was the case with us. Exodus 14:14 says 'The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.' So lay back and relax as your body heals and fights this disease away."

It was a good day to receive such a message, and ended up being a turning point of sorts. I've worn the necklace every day since, and it is a constant reminder of that message and source of inspiration for me. I also look forward to the day I can pass it on to someone else.
Annie and I dog-sat this weekend, and, in the recliner of a neighbor I hardly know, I finally found many hours of peaceful stillness in front of the whole first season of Modern Family. I think I may need to have a recliner for myself one day.


  1. Backwoods?!
    Hope you see Visalia in a different light. I do.
    Best wishes with the crystal.

  2. Wow, what a powerful thing to have happen! Sometimes the universe sends us bits of light and hope at just the right times. Always thinking of you and sending love your way. XOXO to you and Annie.

  3. Being still took practice for me as well as learning to let go of control. You wondered at the beginning what you would learn from all much. Keep on truckin sweety.

  4. Hey Kia! It's Gina from Noho! This story brought tears to my eyes. I'm a suvivor of Hodgkins's Lymphoma and I would love to talk with you about it. Keep on pluggin away, or, rather, keep on doing nothing. The words in letter his wife wrote are very wise. You don't have to do anything. Those words help me relax and they make me smile, always. I try to remind myself of them every day. Sending love and hope. Gina

  5. Ha, I'm 61 and still struggle with same issue (as did my mother who could not sit still during her final serious battle with cancer...) I now think it's not about doing away with the energy. Life force is an amazing thing. But directing it and being in it thoughtfully, ever present to the changing needs of the body and emotions, and not just the mind. These were not things that were part of our upbringing, and hence probably weren't much a part of yours. Your family inheritance, if you will, and those jewels do need polishing to see what is underneath. By the way, crystals do need cleanses, especially with what you are going through... the chemicals releasing and any negativity, which is in all of us but that is begging to be released with the cancer journey. You can check it out online, but putting them in the sun for a period of time -- don't remember how long, or soaking in salt water (which you may not want to do unless you can remove the leather) does the trick and then it's good to "clear" some more for you. What a lovely blessing. I was sharing about your journey with my (new) cute young hair dresser and she immediately said when she heard the type of cancer: Oh, my friend had that and got better. Your niece will too. When you can't pull for yourself, the universe does. It's always doing it, but you may only notice when you have to "surrender" yourself. Love you! Coral