Saturday, April 11, 2015

Introducing Myself

I was invited to introduce myself.  I don’t want my introduction to be about cancer. I don’t want to use the word cancer ten times in this blog post, but I probably will. 

I have stage 4 terminal lung cancer.  Today, I am on oral chemotherapy and I’m doing really well.  Statistics say I have a 1% chance to live five years.  Thanks to a mutation, I have a good chance of being in that 1%.  But of course, numbers are irrelevant—either I live or die and there are no guarantees. 

This blog was not set up to be about cancer.  Several years ago, after being inspired by Brene Brown, I started this blog to “tell the truth” about my life.  Looking back, my plan was to have an awesome life.  (With a few ups and downs of course, but I trusted that it was not going to have to play out like a crappy reality TV show.)  Now this.  My blog has been hijacked.  My whole life has been hijacked. 

Last night I had a showing of some paintings made since my diagnosis.  Just before it was my turn to speak (about my cancer of course), I thought, “I really don’t want this to be my story.”  I really don’t.  I want to have a cooler introduction.

When I was about six years old, I wore a gold “ERA” necklace.  It was the early seventies and the equal rights amendment was on the table.  I felt proud of being young and passionate about something.  That has been my life ever since.  Anyone who has known me in the many circles I have been part of, will tell you I am passionate, and justice has always been just under my skin and on the tip of my tongue.  Love and justice have always been the themes of my life. 

Here’s the introduction and life story that I worked my whole life to build: I’m Colleen.  I’m a kick-ass revolutionary who is working to rip apart the lies that feed injustice and showing up to build a better world.  (Of course, I’d like to include the vulnerable truth that I make a lot of mistakes along the way, because, you know, Brene Brown.)

Okay, that story is really shooting for the stars. If I can’t be that cool, I would like to tell a story of the quirky mundane life of a queer pagan parent.  Yeah, that is what I was thinking when I started this blog. 

Today when I was driving to Trader Joes (cheapest organic milk in town), I caught myself appreciating the feel of the sun on my face in a way that reminded me how much I love this life.  There is a certain way facing mortality changes everything.  The drive to Trader Joes.  The sun on your face.  I remembered I was dying.  I looked at my fingernail beds and noticed the shape of them and wondered if anyone else would hold the shape of my fingernail beds in their memory so that they might live on, or would they die with me?  That is what going to the grocery store can be like for me now. 

You asked me to introduce myself and I can’t make my story not be about cancer.  I can’t make my story not be about death.

Here it is.  I am Colleen—and I believe in love and justice.  I have a big huge heart that loves so many, but can’t save a single one from the wrath of pain that my death might cause.  If I told you a story about how happy and fulfilled I am living my life today, it would be true.  Yet, it would be empty of the truth. 

I hate cancer.  I hate that my life is about cancer.  I hate that the only way for me to properly and fully introduce myself is to tell you a story that I wish wasn’t mine. 


  1. You are brave.
    You are light.
    You are a loving mom.
    You are strong.

    At the same time you are the opposites of all these things

    It is okay to show your anger,
    to be vulnerable,
    to teach people that life sometimes sucks
    and that living ultimately ends in dying. And we don't get to choose how or when.

    What you did here was remind us to LIVE each day.
    To find moments of sunlight on our faces while doing the most mundane things.

    There is beauty, abundant, glorious, beauty in your words.
    Yell them.
    They are your introduction.
    They are your benediction.
    They are you.

  2. I am awed by your courageous honesty. Namaste, Colleen

  3. Colleen, your "Truths" always read as poetry--an epic timeless piece of you and your story. The fact that you share them is a testament of your grace and wisdom --allowing each of us to share in the art that is you and to take some time to reflect on "Truth" and all that it means to each of us. I don't know what your fingernails look like--we've never had time together. But learning about you as I have through Miles/Finn and your writings have given me an introduction of who you are in this universe and in your many circles: Light, justice, beauty, wisdom, passion, activist, mom, lover, friend, family member... all the amazing parts of you that make up the whole. Did I mention light? You are like a rainbow beacon of every intensity of light--soft to brilliant. That is how I would introduce you. A myriad of changing color, softy illuminating or brilliantly illuminating. Whatever the moment needs. Your light encompasses everyone in your realm--even those of us who haven't spent time with you. That is how I think of you everyday.