Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Letter from My Sister: Facing Cancer on Her Own Terms

Alone in her remote cabin, this strong, inspiring mountain woman comes to terms with a dread disease
On top of Sarah's mountain

Christmas Day 2011
To my dearest ones,

After more than 1 ½ years, the time has come for me to connect with you about an aspect of my life that I have been unwilling to share with anyone. It has just entered a defining new phase.
On Dec. 19, I was admitted to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, weak from blood loss from an advanced, externalized breast tumor. I’m afraid my claim of coming down with the flu was completely false.

After a number of blood transfusions I felt normal again. At first it was thought the tumor was inoperable. But the surgeons doggedly pursued a strategy, and on Dec. 23, performed a miraculously successful operation. The surgeons are proud as peacocks and I am thrilled.
The cancer has spread, but an estrogen-blocking pill should at least shrink what cancer is left. The complete success of my surgery hugely simplifies my on-going treatment plan and preserves my on-going independence.

In the haze of forest fires
For your own sakes I hope you can forgive me for not revealing my current condition. It has been such an intimate, personal aspect of my life that I simply and absolutely could not share it with anyone but my angels and ancestors. I could not bear the current draconian cancer treatments or even a medical atmosphere in which such a personal experience would be given over to the impersonal control and judgments of a technological establishment. I wanted to either succeed in healing myself or keep the best quality of life possible until the end.
Finally, I was so weak that I had to make a decision whether to seek medical intervention or simply consider that my time had come. I chose to seek blood transfusions and tumor removal. I called Paula, a friend in Gualala, and broke the news to her of my real illness. Another friend, my neighbor Ellen, got me to the hospital and Paula came later to act as my advocate.

Soon after discovering in early summer 2010 that the growing lump was more than a cyst, I learned to regard this illness as one of life’s wondrous journeys. Except for a few brief moments of terror, I have never experienced the fear and grief that I would have naturally expected. I am awed by this completely unique experience for me. It has taught me that all of life is a series of adventures no matter their nature. Every life adventure is valuable and important.
The cabin in Spring
My experience here in the hospital has been one of unexpectedly profound discovery. Most of the staff has gone out of their way to assure me that I am in control of what happens in my treatment. Some of them have even said it was none of their business why I declined to approach the medical community much earlier. Most disagree with me on some points and a few have been opinionated and judgmental, but at least I have confronted the inevitability of such attitudes and am learning to hold my own.

The most sensitive and compassionate – and those are many – have given me unbelievable blocks of time for earnest, respectful and thoughtful consultations and counseling. The strength of the love behind their work is almost overwhelming. As a result I have learned that rigid resistance and purism based upon principle on one hand, and fear of being over-powered on the other, serves no good purpose. I am now better able to discuss my case with oncologists and staff with a more open mind and willingness to wholly commit to our decisions.
Everyone’s case has a whopping team behind it and when there is harmonious cooperation it is a beautiful thing to behold. And I can say all this while continuing to believe that the actual treatmentis a combination of ritual and the medium through which love does the actual healing.

I am well aware that all hospital experiences are not equal but it has been my great good fortune to have had mine on the oncology unit of this one.
I am finishing this in the hospital, not yet knowing when I will be discharged. I have no idea if you have noticed that I am “missing.” But this is just too big for me to handle in a phone call. Please forgive the snail mail.

My deepest love,
Mom, Sister & Cousin Sarah.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Winter Solstice!

As far back as humans can remember, earth folks have indulged in mid-winter celebrations. It may have begun with stir-crazy cavemen seeking variety in the long, dreary nights. It attained a more specific schedule from sun-savvy ancients like the Egyptians, Druids, Aztecs, etc. From thence it was celebrated with the knowledge that the worst of winter was officially over.  The Romans set aside seven days (Dec. 17-23) for lawlessness and debauchery called the Saturnalia. I suppose we can thank the Winter Doldrums for the fact that this practice persisted into feudal times.

By now most people know that the birth of Christ was not December 25th.  Cuneiform scholars, working from ancient tablets inscribed by the Magi in Babylon at the time of the birth, have identified a date equivalent to September 11, 3 BC. (A much nicer reason to remember Sept. 11…) But there are other authoritative sources that place it anywhere from our current June to the end of harvest.
The point is, it was the raucous Saturnalia that prompted early Christian priests to choose the winter solstice for this solemn holy day. That settled things down nicely. But Christ really is the reason that we celebrate His birth on December 25th  ... no matter when He was actually born!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Win a copy of INHERITANCE Book 4 by Christopher Paolini

Actually I’ll just send it to you. No contest. I have an extra copy on my hands because someone already got it for my daughter. So, as they say in the pet section of the want-ads: “Free to good home.”

It’s still in the box - a brand new deluxe hardcover edition with dust jacket. Just be the first to tell me you want it, give me a shipping address, and it’s on its way. Hurry if you want it by Christmas.
Now, of course, I’m stuck again for a Christmas gift idea for my daughter. Sigh.