So this column, like the previous few, is being written on my cancer brain - a couple years from when it started growing unbeknownst to me, six months since the diagnosis, five months since the treatment began - this is what words do on the page with my current cancer brain which may be different from someone else’s.
…I am grateful for the purple flowers sitting in a vase on my dining room table as I write. My first step-father who has stayed in my life even as others came and went, has made it a practice to send me flowers every two weeks, they arrive the day I return from getting an infusion in San Francisco. He is my brother’s father and was my legal step-dad from the time I was eight until I was sixteen. The flowers remind me of how grateful I am that in my family divorce doesn’t always mean the severing of relationship with beloveds. Having said that I am also grateful that in my family divorce does mean we no longer have to deal with other folk who weren’t so beloved.
…I am grateful for the dog and the cat that have been my companions through this journey - Dash is a twelve year old Norwich Terrier (and indeed God does love a Terrier…which also makes me grateful for the brilliant minds that gave us “Best in Show” among other things)…Dash is getting cataracts and losing his hearing and sleeps a lot, but then so do I, sleep a lot, so we’re a good match…the cat is newer to our household - she came right before the diagnosis so in a way our relationship mirrors my relationship with this experience - as the months and weeks have rolled by both relationships have gotten more familiar (she may even be on her way to becoming my familiar). Both the dog and the cat came into my life through another beloved who I see daily, another being for whom I am grateful. The cat has taken quite a shine to my mother and the beloved with whom I live (different from the beloved who brought me the fur beings). Like the cat, I too have found myself more and more in love with these two humans as they rise to the task of caring for me. My beloved with whom I live is good at the little things - do I have clean drinking glasses since all my food is drunk, is there a fire in the living room to keep me warm since I have lost all the fat I’d gained since I was a teenager and have no extra layers to do that important winter task.
Our cat Layla has taken to rubbing her face in the back of my mother’s head any time she can get behind her on the couch - it is fascinating to ponder what it is about my mother’s hair/head is Layla catnip. This whole cancer thing has been harder on my mother than me perhaps - she is seventeen years older than I and for most of our lives we have operated as siblings but this thing happening to me has shifted that and in many ways she is now able to take care of me in a way she wasn’t capable of as an adolescent.
I am grateful for my friend/sister Pam. Pam lives with her own chronic illness and knows more about navigating the medical system than most people on the planet. She is the reason I am doing immunotherapy which is so much gentler on my body than a ten hour surgery followed up by chemo and radiation would have been. She not only knew everything one outside the medical field could know about it, but has gone with me to most appointments asking questions I wouldn’t have even dreamed of knowing to ask. And then there is the fact that she sings to me via the poop emoji on my iPhone, and for that I am stunningly grateful.
I am grateful for my friend/sister Luanne who is always up for a trip to the beach or a little retail therapy or to sip soup together. But mostly to talk about stuff…political stuff…theological stuff…family stuff…cancer stuff…silly stuff…deepest corner of the emotional closet stuff. And she loves the purple flowers too.
I am grateful for “the original Jeff”. We have been BFFs since seminary, I the Grace to his Will he the Will to my Grace. Somewhere as the years progressed we realized we were partners for life which makes it confusing since one of my other partners also is named Jeff - but now that I have cancer I’m really really grateful for having multiple partners! The original Jeff has also been there at the hospital, at the appointments, at the melt downs, he is particularly good with the times I am beyond out of it.
I am grateful for the witches who have come to lend their magic to my healing or a place to stay in the city or containers of soup, I am grateful to my Trivia sisters who drive me and walk me and laugh with me. I am grateful to my clergy sisters who come and lend their magic to my healing - it should come as no surprise that most clergy women in progressive christian denominations are also witches - shhh. I am grateful for the little old ladies who knit prayer shawls and send them to people with cancer - one of those has been my “binkey” from the beginning of this. I am grateful for people who I have mentored over the years visiting me and lending their love and strength. I am grateful for old friends, for neighbors, for kind people on the UCSF shuttle, I am grateful…mostly I am grateful. It seems my brain on cancer is mostly grateful.
Did I tell you about the pretty purple flowers?