Monday, February 29, 2016


I am picking her up from work. She gets in the car and closes the door. “Hi, how are you?” I ask. “I had a hard day,” she answers. That’s it.

In our family, a car is like a magic space. Sometimes, we like to take road trips and blast music while we all sing along. While we sing, everything falls away--there is no pain or injustice, even if it's just for a moment. At other times, when anxiety hits and I don’t know how to support her, we get in the car. Driving creates space that we don’t find in the confined boxes of homes or businesses. Driving loosens what is tying nerves into knots. We notice nature. We talk about trees, sky, and water. We talk about the big stuff. Sometimes the car has the magic ability to create the space and comfort that I want to offer her as a parent.

Then, there are times when the car makes me feel the hugeness and pain of the space that separates us.

When she shuts the door, I know that this will be a quiet drive. Still, I take the parkway where I feel the trees and water offer their assistance to me through my memories of their comfort and connection.  I point out how the clouds make the sky look striped. She remains silent. I feel like if I say another word, it will probably trigger frustration-she needs quiet. So, I say nothing.

She comes in the house and goes to her room. Closes the door.  There are so many days lately when she closes the door to her room. I get it, this is the life of a 19-year-old, and still…. I want to put her back in the car and run away forever. Drive to the edge of the most beautiful place on earth. And live, live, live with her! Instead, I am on the other side of her closed door.

I can feel her broken heart from the living room and I can’t save her. My cancer is a huge part of the brokenness of her heart and I don’t know what to do. This experience might be the most painful part of my life right now. I know what I can do about cancer—it is specific and measurable. When my problem is the infinite space that separates me and this precious human--the closest living thing to me--I feel clueless. It feels like everything and nothing is both possible and needed. I haven’t got a clue how to bridge love and separation. Sometimes I feel like my sum total is hurt plus more hurt.

I think about turning on the TV. I wonder, will it help? How long until it will distract me from this reality?

Sometimes, all I want is to connect and watch my daughter enjoy the freedom of following her own passions with or without me. Sometimes all I want is to not feel like I am the only one who washes dishes in this house. Mostly, I want to know what to do with this space between us. How to honor it, challenge it, accept it, and change it. Paradoxically, I can’t change it, and I refuse to accept it.

I decide against the TV. I knock on her door and ask if I can snuggle with her. After a few minutes of silent settling in, I realize that right now, our physical contact is the most beautiful place on earth. This is not a metaphor. Sometimes, it doesn't take our car to make magic. In my family, sometimes this is what living looks like. 

Post Script: Tonight, after reading this, she came out of her room (where the door was closed) and said, "I'm mad about the dishes part." She came to me, fell into my chest, and sobbed. Eventually, through tears she said, "I am so tired of cancer." I told her: I know, me too. "No. I don't think you know how much I hate it." We cried. I love her. She said she loved what I wrote. Sometimes telling stories helps us break through the silence and space between us. <3

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Deepening the Learning

I came home from witch camp with some new promises: I promise to write more. I promise to dance more. I promise to take better care of the earth that is my body and the earth that is all around. So I am writing and letting go of attachment to outcome.

The day after coming home, I had scans. Today I got the results.

Here is what the doctor said, "Your scans are…Stablish." My cancer is growing, there has been a little growth in the past six weeks. I knew this day was coming--but it was not possible to predict how living with this information would feel. Feelings are complicated. I feel ready to "deal" with cancer. I feel sad that cancer is progressing. I feel scared about telling people. Especially my daughter. And I feel pissed that I didn't wear the socks that Willow made me. Every other time I have been in this office I have had them on. Every other time, the news has been good.

When this drug that I am on stops working (which I knew from the get go that it would), I have other drugs to try. They are coming out with new drugs for the ALK mutation that I have--this time last year there were only two oral drugs, now there are four. Plus, (lucky me) failure of my drug qualifies me for a trial study of an aggressive chemo drug. 

Last year at witch camp, I learned that I wanted to chose life. I gave myself permission to want the things I wanted and step into the center of the life I am building. And live there. Embodied and unafraid to fully experience life even if it hurts myself and others. This year, I see ways that full living has happened and ways that it has not.

This year, my camp focus was on grief work. I was excited to bring all the fruits of my grief labor over the past year to offer others. (It is humbling to even write this down!) I was excited to connect with others through their grief. It didn't work that way. Instead, I tapped into a grief that was deeper than any I have experienced this past year. Cancer has made me feel like an outsider in many ways with people. I hate the identities of cancer and terminal illness and I can't shake them. It is painful.

I came through the hard grief and left camp knowing that my learning is deepening through my life with cancer. I still want to have that embodied living. I still want to build a life and live it. And, I am called to the difficult work of accepting cancer as it is right now. Right now, it is growing. (Fuck, that is hard work.) Don't get me wrong--I am not throwing in the towel. I am still ready to stick around a long, long time.

I don't want to say I choose cancer, because I don't. I want to say, "I choose life and accept the grief that comes with it." For me, today, cancer is my grief. But it won't stop me from making plans to go dancing this weekend. <3