this is my story. and it is real.
The above is a Prairie Rattlesake's tail - it was clipped off after he was destroyed ~we found him in the horses pasture late last summer and with one swift movement we were able to end his life with a crushing blow from a stick made out of hard ash. Their rattles are actually very fragile - you can see how they get brittle with age and begin to crack, weakening their defense mechanism they need in order to warn. Prairie Rattlers are not aggressive; on the contrary they usually rattle only when frightened and cannot escape - its their way of saying "please, please stay away from me!!"
and a simple piece of planed wood can end their life immediately.
Thats exactly how I felt when they told me they had found a mass last fall. They were thinking it was Lymphoma, as it was large, abnormally shaped, near to lymph nodes, and my calcium level was high - afterwards they will tell me that they were relieved that it wasnt retroperitoneal sarcoma, which has a poor survival rate of under a year. When I was first told that I needed to have surgery as soon as possible, I felt the blow of something that came out of no where - and where I thought I was strong -
my world instantly became very fragile.
The above is a knotty piece of petrified wood, found on our property. There are many pockets of coal seams, fossilized layers of leaves, and petrified wood in our corner of SE Montana. It is like time has frozen a remarkable place and let it stay still forever. Sometimes when we are out walking in the surrounding National Forest, we will come across a petrified tree stump, standing taller then ourselves, and we can only marvel at the knots, the patterns of the rings, the width...and how it is so remarkable that it stands still to this day, while the rest of the world revolves and changes all around it...
That was my world after the surgery. When they diagnosed a very rare disease, called Uni-Centric Castlemans disease, and they told me that they couldnt get all of it and they wanted to do radiation for 4 weeks - right before Thankgiving - where I would have to live in Billings and go into the cancer ward 5 days a week for treatment...In the end it was my decision alone to make, and I told them no. There wasnt enough case studies in its medical history to prove that radiation would even work...and there was the slim chance that it would die off on its own. Then came the surgical induced blood clot in my leg - running from my ankle to my hip - and I was put on Warfarin, a blood thinner - which in itself requires many blood tests to make sure you are not taking too much, or too less - and if it works right, then the clot can slowly dissolve on its own without inducing life threatening pulmonary embolisms or strokes while you maintain physical activity... this all takes time. 3 months at least. it takes time. So we keep ourselves occupied, trying to not think of what terrible things could happen - we will our heart and our mind to try to understand the new normal in our lives- we mustn't fret, we must make our mind think on what is good in the world, we must rest -
It takes time.
The above is a very rare grinding stone that was found in the mud at our old house in Wisconsin on the Saint Croix River... why is it rare? Do you see the circles at the apex of the stone? This is from being driven by rushing amounts of water, surging, melting glacial ice water, going round and round in a whirlpool on a bed of rock and making potholes, gathering more rocks so that soon they are grinding against each other, rounding each other out, each one becoming smooth works of art... and then one day coming to rest on a bank as the waters recede, grounded, only to be found by a feral person tending to their blooming spring garden on an early day in May...
When first confronted with such trials, you feel despair...and so you pray, and talk to God and ask "why?" seeking answers that wouldnt satisfy your darkening world anyhow...and then you reach out to others, and talk to them, commensurating on what is happening, but soon that too gets old and stale, a topic that has no answers, only questions, always questions...
and then you realize its all up in the air - all of it - you will always have questions that never will be answered. and that has to be okay. Youre ready to move forward now. So you learn that your family loves you, that your friends love you, theres a God that loves you, and that theres a whole literary world of people that rotates and floats through time and space and connects hearts to each others words, photos, life events, online, loves you too...and its good. all good.
And so you become grounded.
The above is a crystalline formation called Mica that is actually pretty incredible when you think about the process that brought its existence about...its bed is a mixture of coal and petrified wood; something that was once living, making air for the planet, is now turned into a rock-like substance but yet still can grow something so amazingly beautiful. Beauty from ashes literally.
And thats how I feel- dead to a former life that wasnt aware of what it was even capable of nor to acknowledging how precious life really is - to a life where everything is special, and the possibilities are now endless. Would I still be able to have a physically active life if the blood thinning therapy became permanent or if this disease spreads? Yes I could, as long as I took the time to examine "the how" in order to do that, and accept the differences of what I cannot do. My attitude has changed from "why?" to "how?". And patience now comes easily, because even the act of getting impatient is a gift. All of it is a gift. All of it.
So most importantly, something happened - an awareness of how special each moment can be - how amazing, even the most mundane brings beautiful moments. Emily's epiphany as a spirit who had the opportunity to come back to life on a regular routine day in Thornton Wilder's play, "Our Town" sums up my previous in two sentences - starting with the moment where she says "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?" and what was the stage manager's response? "No... saints and poets, maybe -- they do some..." I am not a saint, but in my heart now beats a poet. I am standing alive. I am still here.
and its not too late.
The above is something very special to me, that links me to this land we own in Montana ; while walking above the creek on our place on a rocky ledge, I happened to look down, and see this...as I picked it up and placed it in my hand, it fit comfortably and I realized the last person who touch this lived many many years ago, when it was a place of running horses, untamed hills, open land ...I shivered, my mind staring up at the blue of the sky. It is a scraper tool, used to scrape leather hides. Someone (i'd like to think she!) left this here on this nice sunny ledge above the creek - maybe a storm came on, as they do suddenly do here, and she had to gather everything quickly to seek shelter- maybe a child called her, yelling to her that father was home and come, mom, come see what he brought - maybe a buffalo herd was sighted, and everyone was called to the hunt as fast as they could get prepared in order to gather the next winters provision - maybe she was in danger, and she had to go, now, and dropped this to the ground, where it lay through seasons upon seasons of snow, rain, drought...until I stood on this very spot, glanced down, and saw a shadow remnant of her life...
I want to leave something behind too, for someone to notice and reflect. I have purpose. And so do you. While we still breathe we can determine what we want to leave behind...I realize that all what I have accomplished is nothing without having someone be affected by it in a positive way.. a disease does not make me who I am. My attitude does. And I want my children, my childrens children, to remember me as the kind person who loved others... and so like she who left the scraper, I too will leave something behind ...
I will try to leave good memories.
The above is a feather from a red shouldered hawk ~ a bird that lives its whole life in the air, and only touches the ground when its time to hunt. You will find them on top of things - fence posts, tallest tree limbs, the highest spot on the gate - in order to fly freely. They are the most incredible flyers; gliding on thermal currents, or diving gracefully to the ground to snatch their next meal, they do it with incredible ease. We have a pair that has a nest across the hayfield in a very tall ponderosa pine, and they trusted us enough to bring their babies up to the top of our butte later to teach them to hunt. We would watch them call out to each other, and laugh at the antics of the youngsters who were still trying to get the hang of landing...but by seasons end, they did, and they too became graceful flyers of the sky...
Last week I went in, for the first series of tests and scan to see if anything was growing, and to check the situation concerning the blood clot. As i lay there in the scanner, I had the sudden urge to bolt from the room, but I couldnt even physically if I wanted to, as I was hooked up to an IV with contrast with my hands above my head, and my pants were down around my knees under the covers so they wouldnt mess with the scan picture and I was stuck in a tube. It took a bit of reasoning inside my head to fight this urge and Im glad I did - because the results came back as nothing. NOTHING!!
Thats right, nothing significant showed up. So the next scan and tests will be in 6 months, not 3. And my calcium levels are normal (high calcium can be an indicator for cancers). So far, the decision to not do radiation might be the right one... time will tell. And now my blood flow in my leg is good, so I am off of the blood thinners. I am free to do what I choose to do physically. We are starting a new exercise program to build strength and endurance - with doctor approval. And like the red shouldered hawk youngsters, Im kind of shaky on the landings, but I can now "fly"...
I am free !
The above is a blossom from my primrose that sits by the cat food bowls, occasionally watered when we water the cats. Not exactly a perfect oasis, but this primrose chose to bloom right there, in the moment, bringing a smile to those who see it by the back door. These blooms are not forever. They will die off. But they will leave good memories...
Right now, while you are reading this, You and I are in the same moment.
And the best part about that moment?
We can bloom where we are planted :)
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, and my transformation to where I am today - you are partially responsible!! Kind words, thoughts, prayers, even encouraging others to cheer me up - you ALL are the water to my roots. Lest I break up into a red solo cup song version of "you fill me up", I really do want to thank you from the heart for all you have done - I still have a ways to go before this is all over with, but I plan on leaving good memories, to give everyone something back in return, until my last breath**... !
(**which at this point looks like it might be awhile, yippeeee!!!)