Just another Sunday in Paradise

There is a place on the bridge of my nose that will not heal. Last night I noticed that it corresponded perfectly with the rim of a wine glass so I’m calling it a wine scab. Occupational hazard, if you will.

Prior to our walk this morning I dabbed it with some Neosporin and unwrapped a bandaid to put across my nose, reflecting that in some other neighborhoods this would be a signifier that my plastic surgeon had just touched me up. I laughed when I saw that the bandaid was emblazoned with Mickey Mouse–these puppies must have been on clearance–but I adhered it to my nose anyway.

Cold, cold morning so puffy jackets for both me and my dog. His purple, mine gray. Giant white sunglasses which almost hid the bandaid and black hoody over silvery watch cap.

The sun was out and by the time we got to the park I was both singing and whistling ‘Good Morning Starshine.‘ Badly but boldly and punctuated now and again by a cough. Soon Kumo assumed a pooping position and just as he got started the church bells bells began to chime. I looked around and thought how perfect it all is.

My sanctuary. My Sunday.

It’s so very good to be alive.

xo

While waking

I share my blogs on Facebook as well and that is generally where I get the most comments. Per my previous blog and the dream about the woodpecker, my friend (and fellow lung cancer patient) Dora Medina-Flagg had this to say: ‘Interesting dreams- especially about the woodpecker. It gave me chills, because as part of my Native American healing, I was given a woodpecker feather and told to hold it near known tumors and focus on the Creator removing my cancer in the same way a woodpecker gets rid of rotting wood while looking for bugs.’

Well, Dora’s comment gave me chills as well. I decided a bit back that I would begin practicing my own form of immunotherapy through visualization. I mean, why wait for Western medicine to come up with a way to ‘harness my immune system’? It’s mine, right? My mind, my body, my cancer, my immune system? Who better than me to initiate healing?

Of course, I’ve been talking to this body of mine all along. However, I’m not sure I could see the trees for the forest.

Cancer has the advantage for a multitude of reasons. And certainly foremost is its ability to spread on a microscopic level. Not only is it difficult to detect, you can never be sure if you’ve gotten all those little malignant cells out of there.

Previously my visualization was rather vague and it occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention to detail. Thinking of the whole tumor instead of those individual cancer cells.

Well, now I’m weeding the garden. Going after every little invasive seed and sprout. And it works like this:

I visualize a single cancer cell (this is going to be an ongoing project). And then I choose my mode of destruction.

Sometimes I pop them between my teeth, like a tapioca pearl. Scoop them out (hey, Woodpecker) like punky wood. Squash, smash, pry, burn. Stomp. Rip. Pinch, Pull. Pick. Tear, toss, turn inside out. Annihilate. One–at–a–time.

Think of it as a pseudo Buddhist (if also violent) form of practice. A meditation of sorts but with a let’s blow this place to pieces bent.

It might just work.

*News Flash! Dora just wrote me this: ‘Woodpeckers are significant to Native Americans because they signify purification of the object upon which they are feeding.’ 

Absolutely perfect. Cancer, be gone. I’m going to purify the shit out of you.

🙂

While sleeping

I just got back from a week in California, compliments of my friends Wendy and Cristina. More details and photos to follow. But first this.

On the fifth night I dreamt of a black and white woodpecker with wingtips burned to ash. The next morning I was having coffee with Wendy at the table when I looked out the window to where a bird was pulling suet from a feeder. It was a Hairy Woodpecker, just like the one in my dream.

On night six I had a dream that I was dancing. I felt like Shirley Temple in my full skirted dress; jumping and leaping and twirling about. Again and again people would stop to tell me what an amazing dancer I was.

In my waking state I am far from confident per my ability to dance; lack of coordination coupled with an inability to follow direction and a sense of rhythm that is best described as uniquely mine. I dance alone or in the company of alcohol or some other source of disinhibition.

To be able to dance like that in my dreams is almost as good as flying. Perhaps my wings have been singed (after all, I have been flying rather close to the sun) but who’s to say they are not yet airworthy.

Dream on.

xo

Row, row, row the boat

I am adrift. Not emotionally, not metaphorically–really, truly at sea.

First, my housing situation; non tenable in all respects and something that has weighed heavily upon my mind for weeks now. There will be a solution but at the moment, it is not obvious.

And then, more importantly, my health.

Lungs and Airways: The patient is status post left lower lobectomy. There is essentially stable ground glass opacity in the left upper lobe on image 64, measures 3.7 cm, measured 3.64 cm in November 2018 . There is essentially stable more confluent consolidative opacity in the LEFT lower lung, along the diaphragm, best seen on image 96. Multiple other ground glass and solid nodular opacities are essentially stable, for example in the RIGHT upper lobe on image 46, 51, LEFT lung on images 51, and 89.

As reassuring as my last scan was, the fact remains that I have multiple areas of cancer in both lungs. And, at long last, some information from the biopsy on 12/14/18.

Essentially, in addition to G1202R, I have now acquired two more secondary mutations, both of which are conferring resistance by compromising the ability of lorlatinib to bind. G1269A and S1206—I am not certain of the letter following 6 on the second mutation but it is no longer Y. More importantly, neither of these newly acquired mutations is actionable. As in, there is no next therapy.

Adrift without a paddle, as it were. Or maybe a more apt metaphor is that I am in possession of one paddle yet, but it is busted. And that would be lorlatinib.

I am still expressing ALK, so Alice is hopeful that lorlatinib continues to confer partial resistance. As she put it, the cancer is working very hard to get around it. My job, in a nutshell, is to hold on (stay alive) until a 4th generation ALK inhibitor is developed.

Big sigh. This is the time to think possible not probable. And also to not only get that good china out, but to use it at every damn meal.

xo


Keeping some good company

What does it say about the world of lung cancer advocacy that all the people in this online magazine are my friends. Proud, proud, proud to know these folks and fingers crossed that ten years from now we’ll do a reprise. I’m talking to you Julie, Andy, Sara ❤

PS: I’m the tall girl flipping a peace sign at Machu Picchu. Pg 24. Inside joke. Whenever I’m meeting an online date somewhere for the first time, I tell them ‘I’ll be the tall girl.’ I crack myself up 🙂

Oh Lorbrena

Like some fancy fantasy girlfriend, the drug formerly known as lorlatinib has been rebranded Lorbrena. And not a cheap date, Lorbrena. Check out these over the counter prices for a months supply:

However, even given her top shelf status, my Lorbrena is handed over in a brown paper bag to be carted home wino style. A brown paper bag that evidently blends into the surroundings so very well, I simply forgot it was there.

Yep. One whole week without taking my cancer meds. Blame it on stress; they sprayed my loft for bedbugs for the third time this week, on the same day I was getting surgery on four ingrown toenails that are an apparent side effect of hanging out with Lobrena all these years. And change; August and Lily moving out did a number on me. Then there’s memory; I just can’t. Remember. And it’s getting worse with time.

So there you have it. Gotta say, I enjoyed my little respite but starting up again resulted in a full on case of the runs and the shakes; just like our first date so very many years ago. And now, in order to keep this relationship on track, I need to begin (duh) setting an alarm to remind me to take my meds. That is, if I can remember to. Maybe I’ll even start filling out the daily diary (I usually do it in the office and when my nurse comes in, I sing a little song ‘making shit up, making shit up.’ Honestly. I am not non compliant for the sake of non compliance but those diaries are busy work. And, this being 2019, you might think we’d have a more sophisticated mechanism for capturing supposed data than a worksheet. I’m over it.

But the taking of the meds? I need to be on it.

Where your thoughts hang out

My daughter Jemesii was an amazingly precocious child. Highly verbal and given to preternatural wisdom. One day, at the ripe old age of maybe two, she said something that I shall never forget: ‘Dreams are where your thoughts go at night.’

Well yes, of course. Seemingly a simple observation but oh so much more.

Dreams are one of the reasons I love to sleep. When I am dreaming it is as if I have opened the door from one place to another. A magical place, strange and yet so familiar. From one self (waking) to another (sleeping).

Over the past two nights I’ve had a pair of dreams that seemed particularly powerful. In the first I am watching four elk graze when they turn and start moving toward me. Then I see the tiger. And then the tiger sees me. I begin to run and the only shelter is a screened in porch. I get there just before the tiger and quickly latch the door. To my surprise and great relief, the tiger simply regards me through the flimsy wood frame and wire mesh and then turns to go. I think to myself that sometimes a simple barrier is enough to protect oneself from danger. But there is more. Because this barrier is transparent, I can still see the tiger. Now he is far below and menacing a group of people gathered on the beach. They do the oddest thing (or perhaps it is the only thing to do, although I think I would have jumped into the water). They simply turn their backs to the tiger and of course this does nothing to stop him from attacking.

In the second dream I am standing in a series of lines, waiting to get into a cafeteria. At one point a number of us sit together on a wall and I share the fact that the previous night I had been very stoned while looking at the night sky. And that I had been able to hear the throb and hum of the universe. This is met with silence but an Indian man, who is also some sort of teacher, approaches me later and says ‘Absolutely. It is all moving, all the time, and that is what you heard. I too have felt it.’ The subtle (or not so subtle) wind of existence. Life. Energy. It. Us. Connected.

Where my thoughts go during the day: a captured moment.