Tag Archives: living with lung cancer

Tested

Kumo can run like the wind. Before I knew his given name I was calling him Ghost but felt that Arrow might be a better choice.

I learned from the get go that giving chase is of no use–Kumo can run circles around me and does. He is also smart and wily and careful not to get close enough that his collar can be grabbed.

This dog absolutely will not come when called and is not tempted by a proffered treat. In other words, approach is totally on his own terms.

With Kumo’s history of roaming, I took no chances and had him microchipped during his recent surgery. But even with that precaution, there is no question that being off leash is something that can occur only in contained areas.

Kumo arises early, and our first walk is taken while I am yet a bit groggy.

This morning my thoughts were elsewhere when I had the unsettling realization that the leash in my hands was suddenly connected to nothing–evidently I had not attached it firmly to Kumo’s collar and it had come loose. Kumo was just ahead of me but at the same moment I realized he was free, so did he. And he was off like a shot, an arrow.

I didn’t know what to do and nor did he. The call of the wild and all those mourning doves were pulling him off and away. And yet, he did stop when he was a good distance away to look back. Suddenly he was running toward me again and for one brief second I thought he would return. Rather, he ran wildly to and fro, close to me, away again, exhilarated by his sudden freedom of choice. Because it really was up to him at this point.

As I sat on the pavement in the middle of the parking lot, my heart pounding, tears quietly rolled down my cheek. ‘This is it’ I thought, my dream of a little white dog over. And so I stood back up and walked slowly to the building. Maybe, just maybe he would follow. And if not, I would go get Appa, the great white Pyrenees who is Kumo’s first and best friend at Western Avenue, and try to lure my little wild thing back inside that way.

I shut the glass door behind me and Kumo came closer. The minute I opened it he bolted. When I closed the door a second time he cautiously approached. I opened it just a tiny way this time and to my great surprise and overwhelming relief, he came inside.

IMG_1090

At the moment he is laying beside me on the couch, pressed up against my arm as I type. We’ve had our breakfast now and he’s licked my bowl clean for me.

I think we’re good.

Savannah!

I have a niece who is enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design and her family credits me with alerting them to the existence of SCAD in the first place–happy to be of service when I can. My niece, Zola, is wrapping up her third year at SCAD and just came home from Lacoste, France and a semester abroad. Fun for me as I too took a semester abroad in Lacoste back in 1979 when the program was affiliated with Sarah Lawrence.

Anyway, as an extravagant way of saying thanks for my tip off per SCAD, my sister Bink took me to Savannah for a long weekend of touring the city and hanging out with Zola.

It was a perfect trip all the way around. Bink got us an RBO in a beautiful Victorian adjacent to a park and within walking distance of everything. And walk we did. Savannah is laid out in the most unique grid fashion, with one block sized park after another. These little parks are filled with aged oaks dripping with Spanish moss and each has a monument in the center. And the parks themselves are ringed with charming homes and churches; Bink pointed out that Savannah wasn’t razed by fire during the Civil War and in fact was presented by General Sherman (impressed by its beauty) to President Lincoln as a Christmas Gift.

Of course we toured the grounds of SCAD as well and I can only say wow—art school has come a long way. Plush, luxurious, well equipped and an all around creative hive, it’s the sort of place that makes anyone want to go (back) to art school. And Zola is kicking butt in her major, advertising.

I was introduced to some fine southern delicacies along the way (we ate so well). Grits, fried corn, collard greens (which I liked so much I requested a second serving for dessert) and the most beautiful little macaroons. One unexpected highlight of the trip was a ride with an uber driver her told us about going on a cruise where they had a $10,000 prize for karaoke, and her disappointment that she’d not signed up. My sister asked her if she had a good voice and she said ‘pretty good’. We bantered a bit more and the uber driver said something about how she ought to sing to us. We thought she was kidding until she said ‘well I best get to it’, and broke into the most gorgeous rendition of Amazing Grace. This little tiny lady driving an uber while simultaneously belting out a hymn. It was magical. As was my entire trip. Thank you Bink, Zola and family! xo

A beautiful weekend away from it all

Sometimes you just need to get away and away is absolutely where I got to last weekend. Forever friend Melinda and I decamped to NYC for thirty-six hours of culture and inspiration. After checking into our amazing hotel in Times Square (The Chatwal–I really could have hung out in the sparkly bathroom with the heated toilet seat a little while longer), we took a cab over to the Metropolitan Opera House, where we had tickets for Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore. Our evening began with dinner at The Grand Tier Restaurant with seats overlooking the winding staircase so that we could people watch to our heart’s content. Our meals were delicious; grilled octopus and duck liver mousse followed by halibut and salmon with trout roe.

First two courses finished and dessert ordered, we found our seats just before the curtain rose. I was entranced—a visual and auditory spectacle all the way around. At the intermission we returned to the Grand Tier for espressos and a baked alaska and chocolate mousse. Twenty minutes later we were back in our seats for the final acts. One of my personal highlights was the tremendous applause received by the tenor playing Nemorino, Mario Chang, at the conclusion of ‘una furtive lagrima‘ (follow link for bizarre/humorous interpretation), the romanza from act 2, scene 8. The following morning we learned that this had been Mario Chang’s premier as Nemorino and that he hails from Guatemala. At any rate, he was much moved by the applause and cheers (bravo!) and it felt like both a personal triumph (for Mario) and one for those of us in the audience as well—that we had been witness to such artistry.

Anyway, all good operas must come to an end and we finished our evening with a quick nightcap (still of the non-alcoholic variety pour moi) in the bar back at the hotel. I was sorry that it was so late as I could have spent several hours reading magazines while snuggled under the voluminous duvet. However, we had more scheduled fun early the next morning.

And that would be….backstage at the Met! What a way to round out my first opera experience. Going backstage was sort of like seeing the inner workings of an automaton. The sheer magnitude of it all! A highly recommended addition to a live performance.

Post tour we caught yet another cab over to the Guggenheim where we had lunch before taking in the Peter Fischli/David Weiss show, ‘How to Work Better.’ Whimsical but also provocative, this collaboration of two Swiss artists is absolutely delightful. It was a bonus when a side gallery revealed several paintings from one of my personal favorites, Kandinsky.

Have I mentioned that this was my first opera ever? And a very special gift from Melinda and her husband Kihan. Also, I had not been in an art museum in New York City since my teens, a situation that required rectifying. Thank you dear friends–it was oh so fun and absolutely magical!

 

By its cover

2016 began rather inauspiciously at a Great Gatsby themed New Year’s Ball. Held in a gorgeous old church, the night looked very promising. However the venue was poorly heat, the drinks insipid and the music far too loud. My grumpiness just made me feel old–not how I wanted to ring in a new year. We left a few minutes prior to midnight and when home I collapsed on the couch with my laptop. I intended to check a few emails before heading to bed but somehow got sucked into a site with before and after plastic surgery photos. Before too long I was looking at photos of Courtney Love. From bad to worse!

Fortunately I had some solid plans for the following day as I was preparing a meal for seven close friends. I’m still a little rusty when it comes to cooking and entertaining–my time management skills are way off–but I dove right in. When it comes to socializing, dinner parties are my absolute favorite. There is something about a table that is a great equalizer as conversation seems to both flow and include all.

I received a number of wonderful gifts that evening in addition to the company of dear friends. A beautiful centerpiece, a patron saint (never can get enough of those), the promise of some art (again, never enough). And a special gift from my friends Machiko and Koichiro; wrapped in indigo cloth. Tucked inside were two little wooden boxes filled with chocolate candy made by Machiko. Underneath that was another package which when opened revealed an onionskin envelope containing some mat board that had a little window cut in the center with a red tongue of paper attached–it reminded me of the advent calendars of my youth. Koichiro instructed me to open the little window and inside was a perfect, tiny platinum print of one his extraordinary photographs. I was so touched and shared with him that just the day before I had thought to myself that one day I would own a Koichiro Kurita (he is an amazing artist collected worldwide, with a photo in the Tate Museum in London). Now my year was looking up.

IMG_6005

IMG_6010

IMG_6014

This past week I made a point of engaging in all of the activities I wish to focus on in 2016. I roasted a chicken and later made soup; today I will bake some homemade granola. I walked, read, took and edited photos. I opened an instagram account–you can find me under linnoline. I ordered some canvas as I am all set to start painting again (yes!). I wrote (Click here for my latest post for CURE), made plans to get together with some of my lung cancer peeps, and began preparation for my next advocacy venture (DC in March with the American Lung Association). I participated in open studios with my vintage clothing shop–soon I will have an instagram account for that as well. On my to do list–yoga and maybe a gym membership–I’m not going to take this cancer thing lying down.

But back to covers–a highly anticipated book is about to be released–When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Dr. Kalanithi was a young neurosurgeon with a gift for words who sadly contracted lung cancer. In the months after his diagnosis he devoted a great deal of time to working on his autobiography. After Paul passed away his wife Lucy, a physician as well, helped bring his book to completion. She also penned a poignant essay about love and grief for the New York Times that brought me to my knees. It is uncommon to have the perspective of patient and physician in one telling, and although I am certain it is going to be a really difficult book to read, I plan to do so.

Keeping to myself

You know, it’s been a hell of a year. Enormous change, too much loss and an awful lot of heavy lifting—both emotionally and physically. I am stronger for it all but weary as well. Make that exhausted.

Mom’s death knocked me out of orbit more than I could have imagined—as I feel I may have lost the person who cared for me the most.

I say that in a quantitative sense: Evalynn loved her children heaps. However, from a qualitative perspective, our mother did not always love us well. Strong willed, occasionally self centered and histrionic, her affections were like a wild fire, and sometimes we got burned. Once upon a time I tried to reason with her: ‘Mom, just because you will do anything for me, it doesn’t mean you can do anything to me.’

Grieving has been complicated. I miss the hell out of her but am also tasting that bittersweet broth of relief and confusion that happens when a very passionate but emotionally destructive relationship falls out of one’s life.

Make that two relationships. David and I were a couple for over twenty-five years. There are many parallels between the bond I had with my mother and that which I shared with my husband. Duration, intensity, depth of love, degree of difficulty–but also importance.  My mother and my husband have in many ways shaped the arc of my life.

Perhaps because I am the one who moved out of our home, there are those who felt my decision to leave David was selfish. I may go into more detail at a later date but I can assure you that getting divorced was never my first choice. And under the circumstances it was and is hardly easy. Again, a conversation for another day.

I realize most of you come to this blog to read about lung cancer, and that some of you have been on pins and needles as to what is going on with my lung cancer. I am feeling well—unexpectedly well—and I am also acutely embarrassed and even ashamed that I have not shared that update with you sooner. However, my illness has not been foremost in my mind these days.

There is an op ed piece in the New York Times this morning, The Problem With Collective Grief. In reference to the response of the Dutch public to tragedy, it struck a personal cord with me:

“The sad thing about mourning is that it really is quite unshareable, that it involves an extremely individual emotion. People have the right not to show their emotions and not to share them, even when it comes to soccer and calamity.”

And then this:

“…that we are often indifferent, that we are busy enough as it is trying to provide emotional succor for those closest to us, and often don’t even succeed in doing that, seems to me not so much a sign of our inhumanity, but of our humanity. Were we to actually allow the world’s suffering to sink in, we would quickly become psychiatric cases…”

I share these observations with you because they help explain my own emotional state. I’ve been grieving one very important relationship only to suddenly have another come to an end. And because life doesn’t hold still, I’ve attempted to maintain some semblance of order and sanity, all while starting a clinical trial, working on a fairly contentious divorce, attending to my children’s needs, worrying about my financial future and contending with the side effects of treatment. I’ve hit most of the high notes, but it’s been a bit hit and miss when it comes to communication. At least one friend has jumped ship and others may follow suit. I’m saddened by this inattention on my part—but it’s been all I could do to take care of my own.

Last week Peter got his driver’s license and the two of us have been busy painting walls and moving vintage clothing into my new studio space. Yesterday I had the Moh’s surgery for the basal cell on my shin. There will be a memorial for Mom in Fort Collins on Saturday and Peter and I will be driving to Colorado. We were to leave early this morning but I just couldn’t get it together in time.

It’s a good thing sometimes; pushing pause. An extra day gave me that space I needed to finally get this blog written.

We will hit the road first thing tomorrow, with Peter doing his fair share of driving. Should be a fine mother/son adventure.

Thought bubble: stuff on my mind

...

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and the longer I wait, the more daunting the task becomes. As my one and only resolution for this year is to not procrastinate (an utterly self defeating behavior), I best get started.

Oh, man. Where though, how? Maybe with the fact that my sister Binky pointed out to me that this is the first time in my entire life that I have lived alone. I’ve always had parents, brothers and sisters, roommates, partners or even my own small children as a hedge between me and loneliness. Now, it’s me, myself and I.

Fortunately, there have been only a handful of days where my newly solitary lifestyle has felt like a negative. For the most part, I am reveling in me-ness. But separating me from the mess; me-ness, messiness, has been quite the project.

You see, I love stuff. Books, beach glass, buttons (and that’s just some of the B’s). In my 54 years I’ve amassed a fair amount of treasure. Thank goodness I’ve moved into a space large enough to contain it all, but I also need to wrestle these stacks into submission. Go through it all, assess what I really want/need, and then find good homes for the rest.

A peaceful environment is enormously important to my sense of well-being. My life has been disordered for some months now, and some healthy routines have fallen by the wayside. Eating well, exercise (yoga!), catching up on email and yes, writing. However, I’ve got to stop using the chaos (however compelling) as an excuse.

It’s been far too long, and I apologize. To you, and to myself. This blog is enormously important to me, and the ability to maintain it a privilege that I never wish to take for granted. Me, myself and I; we are honored to be able to share our life with you. Even the messy parts.

Sharing on

Publishing will share in one place.(change)

Publish

Status: Draft Edit
 Visibility: Public Edit
 Revisions: 4 Browse

The nature of things

In the midst of all the hectic goings-on, I’ve still found time to marvel at the natural world. Frogs, newts and salamanders, who would love to share our pool but alas, the chlorine is not their friend. A fat garden spider whose neck-high web I inadvertently walked into (like a ligature!), inspiring him/her into defensive mode.

One morning, a delicate mushroom suddenly sprouted in a potted plant and which resembled nothing so much as a paper parasol. While on a walk, a dragon fly lying stunned in the road. Once home, I lay it in a bowl on the porch. The next morning the dragon fly was not there; I soon located it clinging to the inside of the screen and looking quite revived. Taken out of doors, it immediately flew up and away.

At first light, I am often awakened by the song of a robin who has roosted on the same branch outside my bedroom for three summers now and who favors an early morning wake-up call (4:30 am). We have several apple trees—presently bursting with fruit and filled with various tribes of song birds gleaning in a ‘mixed species foraging flock‘. The season’s last butterflies crowd those bushes that are yet in bloom and the cadence of the katydids has slowed considerably with the onset of cooler nights.

Back in June, a smallish snapping turtle spent an entire day depositing eggs at the edge of our yard in a decidedly haphazard pattern; we decided it was her first go at motherhood. Several days ago, David spotted a hatchling and now there are several little turtle-shaped slots in the lawn.

The wild grasses have gone to seed; beautiful swaths of yellow green, mauve and champagne colored froth lining the sides of the road. And now that the temperature has dropped into the forties at night, some of the leaves are beginning to turn as well. Goodbye summer, hello autumn.