Written in November of the cruel year of 2020
I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia with a FLT-3 mutation on May 17th, 2019. Approximately 270 days and a stem-cell transplant later, I was declared free from that same cancer. And now, about another 270 some-odd days later, I find that can state these facts out loud. I can state them out loud, but I find I have not been able to internalize my experience in a way that leaves me free from cancer’s shadow. I desperately want those close to me to look upon me strongly, not gingerly or cautiously. Yet, I often gaze upon myself gingerly and cautiously. I want to silence the thoughts of relapse. I want the physical experience of my cancer journey to be pulled from my hip flexors, my facia, my neurons, my blood; to be pulled up – into - and through these words and released with a blessing over the waters into cold, night air.
We don't look alike: she's blue-eyed, pale-skinned, and had blonde hair, while I've got dark eyes, skin, and hair - more like my dad. I'm several inches taller, an apparently totally different body type. She has large breasts, and only when I was pregnant with and nursing my daughter did I. We both have longish noses, though - not quite aquiline - and we both wear a lot of thrift store clothes...her thrift store "eyes" are still impeccable. My mother Ruth and I are both hunter-gatherers, collectors of way too much beautiful/weird/objects/textiles...stuff...hers verges on humorous and the human-made - phallic banana and carrot collections in too many media to mention, cats, of course(?), amazing antique (from thrift stores) lace, and, my favorite, a sprawling collection of women- and girl-figures from all parts of the world, flowing from her small fireplace mantle, her "goddesses". My collections veer toward raw nature: broken bird's eggshells, seeds I capture and rarely plant, fantastic found roots and other parts of trees, rocks from every creek I step into, seashells, seaweed, and other extracts from every visit to every seashore, apparently irresistible feathers and bones...
As I stood in front of the audience at the TR Ranch that brisk October evening, I thought about life and how it has a way of surprising you.
If you had told me five years ago that I would be on a stage singing a cancer song, or any song for that matter, I would have said you were crazy.
Dear Friends and Family,
December 2019 marks 10 years since I wrote my last holiday letter. This year I am breaking through my writer’s block and re-establishing this tradition. Here is why I haven’t written. After my last letter in 2009, I was diagnosed with high-grade soft-tissue sarcoma in my left thigh the volume of a softball. I would spend the entire next year fighting myxofibrosarcoma made up of mean pleomorphic cells. I had a 40% chance of surviving past 5 years.
2010 was filled with two surgeries, twenty-five rounds of radiation and six 21-day cycles of chemotherapy. Chemo side effects resulted in three blood transfusions and five trips to the hospital. Kayla was in 7th grade when we received my diagnosis and in 8th grade when we finished chemo.