Archive for the 'Illness' Category

24
Jan
13

something on my mind

Last week, in an Oprah Winfrey interview we heard Lance Armstrong, the world-class Olympic cyclist confess to having used several performance enhancing drugs to achieve his string of seven Tour de France medals during the period 1999 to 2005. These medals were stripped from him late last year, and recently the Olympic bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney games as well. Lance is a proud man, a fighter—a winner at all costs sort of person. Oprah did a magnificent job of drawing him out from shadow to full light truth. She did this by offering him kind, compassionate support all the way home. He needed that and she, out of her storehouse of experiences, could give it. I don’t think she skipped a beat.

For two hours I watched and listened to two amazing persons reveal themselves to the world: one a fallen celebrity newly discovering his feet of clay, the other a celebrity interviewer/entrepreneur who has never hidden hers, even from herself. This is a distinction of importance as I look through the pages of my own book of life. I find identity in both areas and I am not at ease.

I am annoyed with Lance Armstrong, not for the doping, arrogant lying and power-driven will to win, win, win, but for the cancer mythology he helped to perpetuate through the LIVESTRONG theme of the foundation bearing his name. The foundation has done good work and raised millions of dollars for research, but it did that based on Armstrong’s own cancer experience turned into the thematic slogan: LIVESTRONG. Many thousands of people carried this message to heart—persons unlucky enough to have contracted the disease, were caretakers for them, or otherwise touched by the disease.

In 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with late-stage, metastatic, testicular cancer that had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain. He ignored the warning signs at the early, easily treatable stage of this cancer, common in men aged 15-35. Had his body not been as fit as it was, he may very well have been a statistic instead of a survivor of heroic proportions. LIVESTRONG worked for him because it was his personal modus operandi. People want and need heroes. He was a winner, so the slogan became a word to live by for many, but not for me. I survived cancer and didn’t have the strength to live strong for a very long time. I simply survived. It took many years to overcome the side effects of the treatment, some of them permanent.  I am still surviving. There is a 50/50 chance that my cancer will return at some point. I live with that daily. Is that living strong or living true?

The yellow LIVESTRONG wristband always turned me off. I didn’t know what it meant and still don’t. In the absence of broader knowledge of this disease, responsibility for outcome tends to shift to the sufferer. How does one live strong when the drugs that flow intravenously through the body every three weeks (or less) leave you chemically depressed, thin as a bone, bald as a bat, sick and wobbly as a toddler learning to walk? Does that mean soldiering on through, fighting on through, or what? Cancer is still incurable. Oncology speaks of remission these days, not cure. So, is remission the goal of living strong? Is that what is meant by “beating it?” I don’t know. We see the happy faces of cancer survivors in commercials and advertising. We don’t see the thousands of people permanently disfigured and/or impaired by the side effects of these chemical cocktails, nor do we understand that each recurrence of the disease further weakens the body’s ability to counter. We don’t see the epitaphs of those who apparently didn’t live strong enough to survive. We aren’t ready yet to admit that the war on cancer, started 40+ years ago by President Nixon, has not produced cure. Treatments are better and drugs are becoming smarter, but it is still treatment that will be deemed barbaric some hundred years or so in the future.

I would like to hear another interview where Armstrong takes responsibility for misleading the public into thinking a catchy jingle could make us all strong survivors. We aren’t. If he does this he will be a true leader and a strong advocate. Cancer is still a dark thief riding a dark horse in the darkest of nights for most of us.  Both my niece and my sister lived their cancer as best they could…some might say strong, but the endings were not pretty. After Adopted Daughter died of cancer, I found the yellow bracelet among her things. I recoiled at the sight of it and tossed it out. My loss was too great to even look at the talisman she thought would help her. If I had it today, I’d take a scissor and sever the LIVE from the STRONG. I’d throw out the STRONG and pin-up the LIVE in my studio to remind me of what surviving is all about, at least for me: living authentically, gracefully and joyously.Type Embellishments_H 36pt_white.

Postscript:

1) My personal cancer story, Dying to Live: My Cancer Odyssey, was written in 2007 and can be seen on my website: www.inheritanceproject-2.com – project 5.  2) Reports on Lance Armstrong, the foundation, the interview, other cancer survivor’s opinions can easily be found online. Your comments to this posting are welcome.

15
Dec
10

you’re it

Long ago.

Back in the olden days of my childhood, we played a scary playground tag  game during recess. It may have had a name but we just called it You’re It. This was basically a run around game with one person the tagger, whose mission it was to catch someone—anyone. We ran like crazy, screaming and yelling as though our very lives were at stake. This was especially true when played with boys and girls together. (Remember, this was before co-ed gym and way, way before co-ed dorms!) The tagging was quite aggressive. Being tagged, and hearing you’re it screamed out gleefully had a nasty feeling to it…like being a big fat loser, or at the very least, being hit by a bag of slimy worms (yuck!). Yes we had losers in those days, but the term had not yet been designated as a life-long failing…just a momentary humiliation between children at play.

Fast-Forward 60 years.

Last week I was hit by a nasty respiratory virus and tagged: you’re it and so I am: another victim of this year’s respiratory nemesis, down and out on the side-lines.  I’d been warding off all sorts of bodily ailments for quite a while, but this time, completely exhausted from two months hard work (see Drawing Sacred Circles Advent 2010) and bottomed out over a small incident, the virus I call Wicked, had no trouble tagging me, but I didn’t know it right away. Wicked did this quite silently, like a lion stalking its prey.

Profile of Wicked, 2010.

After a short incubation period of 24 hours I began feeling sort of low in spirit and a bit cranky. After another 24 hours, my throat started to feel like burnt toast still burning. I began my usual ZiCam protocol, thinking I’d lose the bug as I had several times before. By the end of the week (about 56 hours later) I felt better and thought I’d thrown off Wicked.  Then in an Alice in Wonderland moment, I went down like a Christmas tree—cut with an ax at the ankles. I was sick, more sick than I’d ever been with a cold. I had fever and was completely miserable. Felt like flu, but without the body aches—all too reminiscent of the sweaty, feverish weeks before my cancer diagnosis in 2006.  The next day I called my homeopathic physician, received a recommended medication and began getting better, but the process was really slow. Four days passed. I called the doctor. He agreed…progress was too slow…and prescribed another remedy, which has sped things up dramatically.

I am doing a lot better, but not well yet. Still, this state of health/unhealth is way better than where I was 10 days ago. I plan to continue burrowing my way out of this rabbit hole and returning to the land of the living. Wicked can go take a hike!

Conclusion.

This is a really nasty illness—not your average sniffles and sneezes. Take care and beware of those who say…I just have a sore throat… That’s how this particular bug starts its pathway through the human body. Apparently some folks have remained stricken for weeks. I don’t intend to be one of them. I shall not be tagged; I shall not be It. I have plans to take my grandchildren to the fancy French bistro for a Christmas lunch in a few days. I want to see their eyes light up in delight. It will warm my soul.

Take care everyone and don’t take any wooden nickels. 🙂




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