Tag Archives: Mortality

Inside out

Yesterday was like no other. I picked my friend Marc up at 10 am and we headed to Andover where we had a date with an old piano.

Built in 1907, it was beyond repair and its owners–friends of Marc–had invited him to salvage what he could for art materials. Marc knows I love taking things apart and so I got to ride shotgun.

In two hours, five of us got it down to the harp. We then loaded my car up with the dismembered pieces. Marc and I picked up some bagels on the way to his house (I had a french toast bagel–who knew?) but once there, we first toasted our endeavor with gin martinis.

As I departed, Marc gifted me with some brownies. Last night I had one just before retiring. And then I settled in for the show.

And a wild one it was. Something about being high facilitates memories for me. It is as if I am not merely recalling, but rather experiencing yet again. That fresh, that real.

It was a long time before I fell asleep, but along the way I had some sort of breakthrough. A traumatic memory from childhood and its relation to another equally unsettling event as an adult. Turns out the two events are corollary.

When I did finally sleep I was awakened because I had to pee. That, and the sound in my left lung. I am now experiencing not only a wheeze but also dyspnea. I know where this is heading and can’t say I like it.

Tomorrow I have scans, with a virtual consult on Wednesday with Dr. Lin and possibly Dr. Shaw.

Today I carted the parts of the piano (post mortem) to my studio. I also painted for several hours. My heartfelt response to what is going on in my body is that I don’t have time for this shit.

It’s a bloody shame that cancer has such an issue with boundaries. My big plans matter squat to those errant cells. Therefore, I simply have to operate under the assumption that once this therapy fails, there will be other options.

It takes a lot of faith but also fury. Some strange amalgam of acceptance but also hell no.

I cannot, will not go. Not yet.

On obituaries

Every once in a while I google myself, just to see what’s out there. When I do so, popular searches appear at the bottom of my browser page and invariably one of them is Linnea Olson obituary.

Once upon a time it freaked me out, but no longer. In my community it is entirely valid. In fact, when Facebook alerts me that it is someone’s birthday, I go to their home page. I am checking to see if they are alive before wishing them a Happy Day.

BD (before diagnosis), I would read the obituaries faithfully. If someone was younger than me, my heart would catch. A premature passing felt both tragic and somewhat ominous.

Now, if someone has died and the cause is cancer–minus any reference as to what type–I presume it is lung. That is because lung cancer is still saddled with an assumption of culpability. We call that stigma.

As for my own mortality, I suppose you could describe me as comfortable. Not willing, and certainly in no hurry. However, as death has been my familiar for so very long now, there is inherent ease in our relationship.

In some fucked up way, this is advantageous. I do not worry about dying. It is life that keeps me awake at night.

Beautiful, impossible, difficult. Never, ever to be taken for granted.

And all the more valuable for it.

xo

Death

I think it is important to put this out there. I am not afraid.

Nope. When I say death is my familiar it is not merely a throwaway statement. Seriously. Death has been my persistent companion for so very long now that it has lost the ability to intimidate.

I have thought about death a lot. Not because I’m morbid but rather because I am terminal. And I have come to the conclusion that it is nothing to be feared.

Not long ago I spent several hours with a close friend who was on their deathbed. And she was afraid, very afraid. This had to do in part with the fact that she was way too fucking young to be confronting the end of it all, and there is no way she could have been prepared.

However, I did my best to comfort her. Dying is not easy, I said, but death is. And then I told my friend that in my work on death I had come to the conclusion that it is a big giant release—and—contrary to what we are often led to believe—an ecstatic experience. The French refer to orgasm as ‘la petit mort’ or the little death. This is not, I think, a coincidence.

Death is a kindness. A place beyond pain and suffering. It is a letting go into that beautiful scrum of all that has lived before.

Dying is difficult because it is a separation from all we have known. In this respect, I am no different than most. Given a choice, I am not ready to die. In fact, a consummate late bloomer, I feel like I’m just getting the hang of this particular lifetime and I would prefer to have some more time to hone my craft.

I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to getting my physical affairs in order. I’d like to spend more time with friends and family, see more of the world, make more art and more love too 🙂

However, spiritually, I am ready. I have done the hard work around my own mortality. And because my love for life is truly unconditional, I am not married to outcomes. It’s all good, no matter how this ends.

Because it will end. For all of us. This, our life on earth. After that? Who knows. As an atheist, I like to think my energy will just get stirred back into the whole of the universe. You may have another vision–equally comforting.

But know this. I don’t think we need to be afraid. Our death is harder for those left behind–the people who grieve. And even then, I have learned that when someone I love dies, they continue to live on in my heart and my head. I just can’t call them up to go to lunch. But I sure as hell can go on loving them.

That’s the thing. Our flesh is not eternal, but love, as an intangible, can be.

Live now. But leave with love.

xo

Funk-ness

I have been feeling rather blue. Deep blue. Indigo. A fatigue that is physical, emotional, spiritual.

Not surprising, I suppose. In sixteen days I will turn sixty. Remarkable, really. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to grow old. It is a milestone, in so very many ways.

It also means that I can now say, with complete accuracy, that I have been living with lung cancer for one quarter of my life.

That’s a long time. And obviously primarily a positive–surviving has always been my objective. But it’s also really sad.

If my life is a pie, then cancer represents an enormous slice.

Choosing to become an advocate has lent my diagnosis purpose. It has been an opportunity to make some good out of what can only be characterized as a personal tragedy.

But there is much that cancer has taken that I simply cannot reclaim/override.

Innocence–mine and my children’s–financial security, the bloom of youth.

And then the loving and losing. It is both the best and the worst part of advocacy. Relationships which transcend the ordinary. Incredibly special connections, each of which has enriched life to an almost unimaginable degree. Precious. Precarious. Often fleeting.

This–and my own mortality. Each new day exhilarating but also exhausting. Life so full of possibility but also portent.

Overwhelming. Odd, glorious, awful. But also all I’ve got. This is it. This is mine. My life.

Until it’s not.