Clip my lush blond to the root and strip away my self-identity with all its egoic glory. Like Hell Week with its mental anguish and physical punishment, I am undergoing an initiation of sorts–
This one will make or break me.
I thought I had it until those damn CT scans showed the cancer growing instead of regressing. That has been one bitch of a mental obstacle with a massive mud pit on the other side.
Then the Coronavirus quarantine ramped up, shrinking beloved friends to a lonely thumbnail on my screen, sidelining everything from airlines to annual celebrations and reducing all visits to a doorbell dash.
As if the Coronavirus wasn’t enough, we in California got dumped on as if it’s the second coming of Noah’s Ark instead of Passover week.
I think I’m safe in saying none of us live in California for the rain.
When my husband and I drove up to UCLA to see Dr. Lee Rosen, specialist in neuroendocrine cancer and procurer of hot pink socks, he discussed my cancer prognosis by holding up his hands, palms facing, like two bookends.
“On the one hand you have a life-threatening illness,” Dr. Rosen said. “Get your affairs in order.”
He waved the opposite hand. “On the other hand, don’t sell all your jewelry because what are you going to wear to the ball?”
I’ve been rock solid sure I’m going to the ball, even if I have to wear a Cinderella wig.
But this week —
This week I was fully encapsulated in Hell Week. The mental anguish and physical punishment had a little to do with my third round of chemo and a lot to do with the strange environment we find ourselves in today–
Especially in our heads.
Be careful in there, my friends. It can be a dark, scary place. I know this from firsthand experience.
There’s been a 25% increase in alcohol sales and an 890% increase in calls to the federal mental health crisis line. This should tell you something.
This week, I found myself doing the pit crawl toward the other bookend in my mind, the forbidden one laced with barbed wire.
I tried to approach my advance directive and financials with an accountant mentality, not taking the word “beneficiary” personally: A person who derives advantage from something, generally an estate or trust.
In this case, death. Mine.
Wallowing in this mind space compelled me to start pulling out photo albums too, circa 1980s, 90s and beyond. I look at the girl I was and the woman I am now. I realize I’m a survivor.
At the age of 16, I was in a horrific car accident. My older sister took a corner too fast. We hit gravel and the car slid across the road, slammed into the ditch and flipped.
I was thrown through barbed wire though I remember none of this. What I do recall is opening my eyes to blue, blue sky in a golden field and wondering whether I was in heaven.
Then something flew into my peripheral: The car.
I had just enough time to register the drive shaft and the muffler when I realized it was coming down–
Right over me. I knew if I didn’t move, I’d be crushed beneath it.
When I came to again, the car was next to me, my sister on the other side–
As if it had been set down between us.
I believe it was.
I still bear the scars raked across my hip from that barbed wire. That experience changed me.
I was adamant about wearing seatbelts before there was ever a law.
Later, I’d have a horseback riding accident where a green mustang bolted when we came upon a stallion in a nearby pasture.
I didn’t have the riding skills then to pull her head to one side with the reins, instead I tried to pull her head down to her chest with both reins. She stopped on a dime and I flew up around her neck, hanging on with just my arms, feet dangling.
That bitch started running with me as a necklace.
I dropped and she trampled me, striking my head with her hoof on the way.
For the first time since that accident, I can see the crescent scar on my head.
I look in the mirror. I run my finger over the crescent:
After everything I’ve been through am I really going to give up on myself now? Am I going to let cancer beat me?
I try to smile valiantly, like the warrior people think I am. It looks fake, like the one I shoot passengers who ask stupid questions.
But there’s something more.
That girl in the prom photos and Walt Disney World college pics had no idea the difficulties that lay ahead for her. I wonder whether she would’ve had the courage to face them shining so brightly, knowing the certain heartache and pain that awaited.
I’d like to think so.
Broken hearts and alcohol addiction ain’t no sweetheart dance. It’s sandpaper against the soul, laying bare all the reasons why my favorite person to escape was me.
There is no escaping me now. Just like there is no escaping you.
Put down the booze and the despair, darling. It doesn’t look good on you.
We are in the final climb of this pandemic and Easter is upon us. Hit your knees, sing your song, pick up the weights. This too, shall pass and when it does, summer will be upon us with no layers to hide behind.
Everything is temporary and which way a thing changes depends on you.
I may look like a dandelion fluff ruffed up after a good wind but I’m still full of wishes.
Wishes, hopes and dreams are the stuff we’re made of. It’s what pulls us forward in these dreary days of quarantine while fear slides along our streets.
The sun will come out, the lockdown will cease and we will step outside and hug each other like we’re never gonna let go. Until then, I’m holding you in my heart.