Archive for February, 2013

Find Your Car

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

 “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t
seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you.”

Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Two weeks ago my oncologists found a nodule on my thyroid and another one under my arm. Monday, I had an ultrasound.  The images of my thyroid were clear; no nodule.  Thank God!  But, the lump under my arm is still there.  Yesterday, I went back to my oncologist.  She feels there is a good chance the lump is glandular and probably a result of “out of wack” chemo induced perimenopause.  But, we don’t know for sure.  So, she is recommending a biopsy for peace of mind. 

Only a few days earlier I was celebrating two years cancer free.  Now I am back in the doctor’s offices facing more issues and decisions.  Life is strange.

When I first heard these words, “nodule” and “thyroid,” I admit, I thought, this is it!  I gave it a good fight, but my time has come.  I knew that the “median survival time” for women with breast cancer that has metastasized to other parts of their body is 18 to 24 months.  That should give me enough time to see Casey graduate from OCSA, get Maggie off to high school, Riley to University, finish my book, put things in order and make my amends.  But, for some crazy reason as I was planning my last months on this planet, I completely ignored the fact that some cancers can be controlled for up to 20 years and others are healed altogether. I know that is unlike me but that is where my mind went. 

The funny thing is, I did not wallow in self-pity.  There was no “why me?”  No, it was more like “why not me?”  God gives us only what we can handle, right.  Apparently, God thinks I’m a bad-ass.  I read that on Facebook. 

Anyway, as I left my oncologists office, my doctor warned me, “Deanne, please don’t go researching this thing to death on the internet.  There is so much false information out there and scare tactics.”  I knew she was right.  Last time I went against her orders, I spent a sleepless night worrying about what type of tape to use on my fingernails to keep them from falling off during chemo.  I never had to tape my nails on.  Yes, they became dark and brittle but they hung on just like me.  But, did I learn my lesson?  Apparently not, because the minute I got into my car I googled “nodule” and “thyroid.”   The results:  neck cancer, neck cancer, neck cancer. 

I did not cry.  Not one little tear. 

No, I looked death in the face and like Hip Hopp’n Lil Wayne, “I took its mask off” instead.

And what do you think I saw. 

Life!

Everything became crystal clear.  Like a puzzle, the final pieces fell into place.  Life and all of its absurdities became apparent.  I felt free as if years of personal baggage were left behind on the tarmac of ghosts past.  All my fears disintegrated.  I was not afraid to die.  And more importantly, I was not afraid to live.

And then I laughed.  I sat in my car and laughed and laughed and laughed!  I know it sounds a little dramatic but it’s true. 

It’s strange how one can feel so alive when faced with the possibility of one’s own death.  An urgency to fulfill a dream that can no longer wait overcomes you.  That nagging need to travel to Ireland and kiss that damn Blarney Stone beckons.  The sun shines brighter, the air clearer and everything makes crazy sense. 

I drove home in a lucid state.  I knew what I had to do.

But, the minute I walked back into my house, filled with kids and moms partaking in a home school writing class, I felt myself slipping back into my typical way of thinking.  Busy with this, worried about that, life grabs you like a zombie and tries to eat your brains.  How I desperately wanted to bottle that feeling I had in the car just a few minutes earlier and carry it with me everywhere I go, 24/7. 

I may not be able to bottle it, but I know exactly what it feels like.  So, when things start to spiral downward, I just go back to that moment in my car and incorporate it into my life, “here” and “now.”  When I am tired and overwhelmed, I think of that time in the car.  As I wait patiently for my biopsy date, I remember the car, and when zombies are on the loose; car!    

Car! Car! Car!

All is good.

A Milestone

Thursday, February 7th, 2013
 
Raundi and Deanne singing “Check, Check, Check Your Breast”

“Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics. It brings healing.”…Julia Cameron

This is a huge day for me.  It was exactly two years ago today that I had my mastectomy and the cancer was cut from my body.  I am now cancer free; an enormous milestone considering the first two years after a cancer diagnosis is always the most precarious. 

I feel like I can breathe a little easier these days, but by no means am I off Scott free.  And, it does not mean I am ready for my Lazy Boy recliner and remote control either.  Quite the contrary; as long as our mother’s, grandmother’s, daughter’s and wives continue to die every day from this killer disease I am doing my part to help raise money and spirits for those who have been affected by breast cancer.

And I am not doing it alone. 

Monday night, The “Real Poets” of Orange County and The Mammary Chronicles put on a show to remember to help raise funds for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.  Yes, I am signed up to walk again.  Three amazing poets and performers, Eric Morago, Paul Suntup, and Thea Iberall rocked the fundraiser with their almighty poetry. 

Mr. Suntup ignited us by lifting the roof off its hinges and blasting holes in the black sky so we could see the stars.  Eric wooed the women and men with his contagious smile and love poems.  Thea pounded the rhythm of her voice to the drums, “I am Woman, I am Woman.”  James Palacio filled the room with Pennies from Heaven.  Helen, poet and soon to be centurion, demonstrated that age is simply a state of mind.  Cyndi and Angela confirmed their bravery as they followed Mr. Suntup with their original pieces.  Savanah kept things flowing with her elegant emcee skills.  And, the writers and poets from the Laguna Hills Spoken Word Club reminded us all to never stop writing, never stop creating, never stop.       

"I am Woman" Thea Iberall and Deanne on Drums

Thank you to each and every one of you amazing poets, writers, friends and family that made last night not only possible but successful. 

Deanne, Maggie and Riley

I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel right now.  One year ago, I was unsure of the next chapter in my life.  The pages were blank.  Today, they are being filled one by one with the most glorious of stories which I owe in part to the brainchild of The Mammary Chronicles;  poet, publisher and BFF, Raundi Moore-Kondo.  She not only wanted to help me, but she wanted to help create a world free of breast cancer and full of rad poetry. 

I will never forget the day she called.  “Deanne,” she said.  “I have an idea!”  The rest is history.

So to this end, Raundi and I published The Hills are Alive: a bodacious little chapbook of poetry, prose and art, all about breasts.  Hoping to see a cure for this disease one day soon, but not wanting to wait around, we came up with our own unique cocktail for a cure.  With our books in hand and our personal collection of bras in tow, we began touring around the OC and LA area, reading excerpts from The Hills are Alive and sharing our breast adventures.  “Believing that the healing powers of art, music and love must never be underestimated and should be a part of everyone’s long-term treatment plan, we have been featuring at open mics providing those who need a place to express themselves with the depth and breadth that only a piece of poetry or art can convey.”  Raundi’s words.

Laguna Hills Show

And, it is working.  In fact, according to the authors of Creating Healing, Michael Samuels, MD and Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, MSN, PhD, “Physicians and nurses are discovering that art, music, dance and poetry can all have profound healing effects on their patients. Art brings to the human spirit a sense of freedom and joy. The spirit freed helps the body heal.”

Well, not only are physicians and nurses discovering the secret artists have always known.  I am now privy to it.  And, I am living it.  When I write, sing on stage or perform with The Mammary Chronicles, I am free!  This freedom through expression and art is my true medicine.  I feel a sense of awe and purpose as we tour around selling books, singing our hearts out, meeting incredible writers, poets, artists and yes, breast cancer survivors. 

At our show the other night I met a beautiful woman in her eighties who was diagnosed with breast cancer 41 years ago.  She had a double mastectomy and radiation.  Years later, she had to have both of her shoulders replaced because they were disintegrating from the radiation.  She is an incredible example that it is indeed possible to live a long healthy and prosperous life after breast cancer.  Without the Mammary Chronicles I would have never had the pleasure to meet her and hear her incredible story.  It is moments like these and women like her that keep me hanging on when I feel like letting go. 

So, to celebrate today’s milestone, I have planned a day full of art, training and rad poetry.  I have this blog to write, a poem to finish, a canyon to hike and some drums to learn.  Our beautiful and talented drummer moved on to new endeavors, so I am learning the drums for now. I have some big heels to fill.  But, I am ready for the challenge. 

“The portal of healing and creativity always takes us into the realm of the spirit.”  …Angeles Arrien

Paul Suntup

 

Eric Morago