Tag Archives: Colorado

Terminal, incurable, alive.

It’s a heady mix. You have advanced cancer which is, by definition, both incurable and terminal. And yet, thanks to ‘the wonders of modern medicine’, you’re alive–aka–not dead yet.

Because you prescribe to not just a glass half full but rather a ‘my cup runneth over’ mindset, you always try to stay focused on the bright spots. First, waking up in the morning. Never, ever, taken for granted. The chance to see your children even a few minutes longer–mind blowingly awesome. Meeting fellow travelers on this friggin ‘journey’–others who’ve been smacked upside the head with cancer–your life has been made oh so much richer by each and every one of them. And then there is the fact that you get to hang with your oncologist (a goddess) and a bunch of swell nurses—perk and more perks.

So yeah, you’ve been fortunate. And at the moment, you are on a targeted therapy that is keeping your cancer in check. You don’t even look as if you’re sick, let alone terminal.

Which, by the way, makes it very easy for those around you to forget that you have cancer at all.

But you, you’re always aware. Friedrich Nietzsche once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Bullshit. Sometimes it just keeps on trying.

Each day you continue surviving is an achievement. It is also a tremendous struggle–physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. An endless struggle too, as there is no top of the mountain, no victory lap, no cure in sight.

The heady mix becomes a mind fuck. If you are lucky, you have adequate support. Enough resources so that you don’t live in a constant state of anxiety; friends and family with sufficiently long attention spans who don’t drop away when terminal becomes chronic.

Because the truth is, nobody wants to think about cancer all the time. My marriage ended, in large part, because my partner found our lives too ‘cancer-centric’. I’d break up with cancer this very moment if I were able to, but it seems we are one and the same. Cancer doesn’t just inhabit my body, on a cellular level, it is me. My own selfish, nihilistic and wildly dis-obediant cells.

Sigh. Living well may be the best revenge and most of us do whatever we can with what we have to work with. I’m certainly not interested in becoming a schadenfreude. However, when living itself (liv·ing: a : having life) is a big fat uncertainty, then living well often requires more psychic energy than a person can muster.

Short of curing cancer there’s not much you can do other than to be understanding. And supportive. It’s not easy living with the knowledge that you are terminal; harder still to remain happy while doing so. Honor that.

Final week of vacation: Colorado

John, Bink and I landed at Denver International on Tuesday afternoon.  We drove to Broomfield where John lives, and then Bink and I continued on to her home in Fort Collins.  Bink and her husband Greg had to head right out the door for a soccer game, as my nieces Mesa and Zola are both on the varsity squad at their high school.  It was an outdoor game, and quite cold, so I begged off and went to bed early.  I slept a well needed twelve hours.

On Wednesday morning I was treated to what is the standard breakfast at my sister’s house; lattes and fruit and spinach smoothies.  Bink is an interior/exterior designer, and I accompanied her to her latest project, a lounge, kitchen and conference area in the basement of the Armstrong Hotel, for which she has also done the design.

In the afternoon we cruised through a couple of flea markets, and then went to dinner at the Rio Grande, a restaurant I started waiting tables at on the day they opened some twenty four years ago. I even had a sentimental margararita (rocks, no salt).

On Thursday morning I visited with my good friends Claire and Andre (Andre was one of the original owners of the Rio).  I found that even though we’d spent more time apart than together in the past two decades, that original bond was as tight as ever.  I then got a chance to hang out for awhile with our son August, who I also see far too little of.  Bink and Mesa had to fly back to Las Vegas that afternoon for a soccer tournament, so Greg, Zola and I had pizza in.

Friday was more time with August, and Greg and Zola joined us for the early showing of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.  It was at a groovy movie theatre which is housed in an old dry cleaning business and is called the Lyric.  You can sit on couches and sip cold beer on tap while viewing the film.  Mexican food followed.

Saturday morning found me headed to Boulder where my youngest sister Rosalie lives with her husband Brian.  The three of us had breakfast with Brian’s parents, and then Brian went off for a day of sky diving while Ro and I walked around the Pearl Street  Mall and soaked up the Colorado sunshine.  Dinner was at an Ethiopian restaurant, which was an entirely new cuisine experience for me.

On Sunday morning we reviewed Brian’s skydiving videos from the day before (he has a camera mounted in his helmet).  For those of who who like to live vicariously, click here to see one for yourself (uncensored moment included).  I then booked it over to my Aunt Claudine’s one hour late, as my vacation mode had left me completely unaware that because of daylight savings, time had sprung forward.

Assembled at my Aunt’s house were my various cousins and their families, as well as Ro and Brian and my brother John.  We spent a lot of time together as children, and it is always great to reassemble.

That evening I drove back to Fort Collins, and Bink and Mesa flew in from Vegas. The next morning John picked me up and I said my goodbyes to Bink and family. John and I stopped at New Belgium Brewery (both his and Greg’s employer) for some swag, and then by August’s house to say goodbye for now.  After a morning of cruising flea markets, we were joined by John’s daughter Shannon, and the three of us went to see Crazy Heart and then out to dinner.  John then dropped me off at my Cousin Leigh’s for an insanely short visit, and picked me up again in the morning for a ride to the airport.

And now, after two and a half weeks of whirlwind travel, I’m back home in Hew Hampshire.  In my absence, winter seems to have quietly slipped away.  Now only one thing lies between us and spring, and that is mud season.