Life

I nearly died again, you know –
Bloody glad I didn’t!
Too much still I want to do
For life to be an isn’t.

Remarkably I’m in one piece,
Though bits of me are two,
And other parts now wired for sound –
Bionic through and through!

So here I am all set to stay,
Stubborn to the last.
Too much still I want to do
For life to be a passed.

image

Four blackouts, four falls, one broken clavicle and a cartload of diagnostics later we discover an electrical fault called heart block that has been literally stopping my heart. Pacemaker surgery was complicated by veins gone all twisty from radiation scarring, but is now in place and working well – so I should stay upright for a while yet😉

Barbie

Barbie the Warrior

Barbie Ritzco. Her name has a resonance all its own, don’t you think? It dances around your head and tantalises your tongue with its rhythm. It whispers of warrior and thrums with the beat of the runner. Barbie Ritzco.

Barbie died yesterday.

It was almost three years ago when, in my search for people like me, I came across the Scar Project, and though her name didn’t stick in my chemo brain consciously at the time, it wiggled into a crack somewhere. Her picture, on the other hand, made my heart skip. She was a real soldier. She was beautiful. And I wanted to be like her, very much.

And then one day something came up in my Twitter feed and I recognised the picture… Hey, was this THAT girl? This picture I loved even more, and the mantra she tweeted has stuck with me ever since. Find Your Strong.

Think about that for a moment.

Find YOUR Strong.
Not “BE” strong.
Find. YOUR. Strong.

And so I came to Barbie proper, and to Flat and Fabulous, Sara Bartosiewicz-Hamilton and to people like me. First a handful, then a few hundred, now over a thousand, we find each other from the corners of the world and we swell – real, beautiful women who live life just as we are, who find our strong, and on the days when we don’t, we have each other.

I wasn’t the only one. And sometimes, that’s a very good thing to know.

What Sara and Barbie started needed starting. The discussion that every woman facing breast cancer surgery has, WILL become more rounded and inclusive, every option explored, every woman heard.

Barbie died, and that fills me with sadness. I honour her life, howl at her bloody gone-ness, and hold her close to my heart where she has become part of my strong.

Beautiful warrior, dance on…

Flat & Fabulous – the closed group, where we share, laugh and cry in private
Flat & Fabulous – the public fan page
Flat & Fabulous – the new website, just launched!
Barbie runs…

The Edge

How many times must we cry?
Cry as the hopes and desires of the future seem
Once more crushed by the weight of the world as it is

How many times must we scream?
Scream as those waves of anguish seethe
Once more from the eye of the storm of a life so desperate to breathe

How many times must we die?
Die those sad little deaths of dulled disappointment
Once more pressed to the end where reason remains, clinging

On a knife edge
While all are turned to the east as dawn breaks for the one
The other teeters – unseen, unheard, undone

Little Tree

Grow strong little tree, grow true,
Grow tall little tree, for me.
Be brave little tree, be wild!
Be free little tree, for me.
Dig deep little tree, down down,
Stand firm little tree, for me.
Protect little tree, my heart,
You see little tree – you’re me.

Oh the silly things we write while people try to die.

The day I get the call, the day my husband is in intensive care after overdosing, yes that day. That day I cut down a six-foot diseased shrub and I lop one half of a young ash so that the other can grow straight. I saw. I prune. I eliminate the rotten, the broken, the weak, and I do it in grim silence. For once, the voices in my head are quiet.

These, apparently, are the things we do when those we love try to destroy themselves and in doing so suck all around into the enveloping darkness. When you ask over and over in rising anguish “why can’t you see it? why can’t you see the light? It’s here, right here, why can’t you SEE IT?!”

I know more than I ever thought I would about clinical depression, yet still I struggle to understand.

This day also, Maya Angelou is laid to rest, and thinking about the courage and resilience of the woman behind Still I Rise is exactly what I need. So I lift my eyes and heart in thankfulness and leave you with the opening lines of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

” ‘What you looking at me for?
I didn’t come to stay…’

I hadn’t so much forgot as I couldn’t bring myself to remember. Other things were more important.”

Dance

Sometimes I just want to throw something, smash the glass right over the room;
Sometimes I want to roll tight up, eyes shut to the glare of blood;
Sometimes I want an ending, or beginning, just not this unending – stuckness.

But brokenness is what brokenness does and the respite still too fleeting;
Rolled up tight, means blind and bloodied by things so clearly coming;
Begin the end, end the begin, find the space to breathe again.

Own the feeling, feel the pain, there ain’t no gain till you dance in the rain:
When it come down, to the it why what, there’s only you her me. And I
Dance.

I could have been Einstein

“You could have been Einstein…”

When two old friends who don’t spend nearly enough time together any more sit around with cups of tea, the talk can take some odd turns. But when you are still alive thirty-four years after your first cancer treatments, and – most surprisingly – a year after treatment for your fourth, it’s a fair question – what would I have been like if I’d never had it? Again. And again. And again.

I might have been a god-damn genius for all anyone knows. Right?

I mean, PCCI has hit me hard this time, and I wonder why the devil I never noticed before. With other chemos, I mean, not today. But I was still seventeen when they started pouring mustine and vinblastine through my veins, prednisolone and procarbazine down my throat, and in 1980, no one had heard of chemobrain. So who would have known to check if I was more dappy than usual?

Though I doubt I was ever cut out for Einstein.

I was bright in school, highly capable but dreadfully lazy and totally lacking in academic discipline. College was the same, my potential always exceeding productive reality. Maybe I was a late developer in need of a mentor, but Einstein comparisons weren’t the ones that leapt to mind or lips, and anyway, instead of a future of glittering potential, what I got was a father berserk with drinking and fists, mums divorce, and Hodgkins Lymphoma – it was a busy six months. I always was a crammer.

Cancer treatments then were a comparatively blunt instrument, and the scars of various biopsies and diagnostic interventions tell their own story, to say nothing of the ticking cancer bomb left by high dose radiation in a young breast which lay dormant for nineteen years before exploding my world again. I was in a turbulent relationship with a complicated man I loved very very much by then, and the emotional fallout was rough. Treatments had come along plenty in the intervening years but don’t let that fool you, it’s no walk in the park. However, hiking up Helvellyn between bouts of FEC, everyone believed I was superwoman, so of course, I was.

But I wasn’t Einstein.

By the time number three made its presence known another twelve years on, life with that lovable complicated man had become a horrible mess, and in the preceding nine months a lot more bad things happened, including the deaths of my mum and adored stepdad, my cat, my job and this time a husband beserk with drinking and fists. Cramming again. The marriage was dead man walking for another six months or so until number four bloomed in my now breastless chest and I finally found the courage to say enough.

Einstein would no doubt have managed that a lot sooner.

Of course, I could never have been Einstein – physics makes about as much sense to me as – well let’s just say once I’d made a basic circuit of bulbs light up, that was me and physics done. Theories of relativity in my world have more to do with fathoming that my aunt is a great great aunt to my nephew’s children than a bunch of rules involving gravity, space and time.

Though perhaps Albert and I do have something in common after all. And when I’ve remembered what it is, you’ll be the first to know.

Always be tears

It’s ok to cry, when the world closes in;
when your heart is too small to hold all its feeling.

It’s ok to cry, when things that were, aren’t;
when people are true to the worst of themselves

It’s ok to cry – its healing, you know;
when you fall once again to the darkness below

It’s as the tears dry, when your sadness is done;
when you open once more to the arms of the sun

There’ll always be tears, one way or another.
Just never forget how to love.

Her me and I

Where will I go, who will I be?
Well I shall be me, of course!
But the me that is here, wherever here is,
Isn’t the me that I was.

The I that is me, in the here and the now,
Is one I’m not sure that I know.
But now that we’re here, her me and I,
We shall make a most fearsome us!

Coming to terms with the end of a love can be as brutal as the love itself, but with it comes the promise of freedom

Done

I thought I was done with this.
I thought I was done with feeling like this.
but it seems the feeling is not.

I shall have to rearrange the
bloody bookshelves.
Again.

I really was rearranging the bookshelves, thinking these words, trying to distract myself from the exquisite sadness of the final breaking of love and marriage.

I’m FINE!

“How do YOU feel?”

Me?
How do I FEEL?
I’m fine!
The sun is shining
I made a new friend
No-one needs fixing today
I’m just fine.

“What do YOU need?”

Me?
What do I NEED?
I’m fine!
I’m tired, I know
and I squeezed her in
I’m glad I did, it meant a lot
I’m just tired

“What about YOU?”

Me?
What ABOUT me?
I’m fine! Aren’t I?
I’m not fine
But its quiet
And that’s fine enough
for today

Therapists and their pesky questions. When did thinking about myself get so hard?!