Posts Tagged ‘memories’

My daughter is playing a clarinet in her bedroom on the other side of the wall of my office. Her smooth breathy notes are transporting me to long gone days of a first recorder festooned with skinny ribbons for lessons learned, then the obligatory school concerts of three tiers of children in black bottoms and white tops tooting exaggerated four count beats with occasional squeaks, and Twinkle Little Star ad nauseam. It’s a pleasant reverie. Those memories have easily pushed reflections on chemotherapy out of my head.

Plus, I’m on vacation.

The first two days of my Summer vacation were devoted to the burial and memorial service of a great aunt who left us for the Summerland just a few days shy of her 97th birthday. Auntie, as she bade us call her rather than Aunt Mildred, was a breast cancer survivor. I attended her services with my heart swelled with gratitude for her power of example. Her diagnosis and treatment happened more than thirty years ago when I was young, living in New York, and rather mesmerized by the glittering disco ball; but I took an evening off from the high life to visit Auntie at Sloan Kettering after her surgery. That hour or two spent with her would inspire me for a lifetime and particularly when I had my own breast cancer experience as I witnessed the efficacy of a feisty spirit. While most of the patients snoozed after surgery or treatments, Auntie walked laps around the cancer ward, dragging her IV pole along with her. While we chatted, she squeezed a rubber ball to strengthen her arm and peppered the conversation with promises that she would live long and remain strong. Indeed, she did. I would say, “Rest in peace, amazing Auntie,” but I’m betting that she’s already jitterbugging on the other side.

And now, I’m about to go to the beach. I’m in vacation mode and finding it too difficult to concentrate on the next Lump Lesson which is about the 2nd infusion and going bald, and I do want to be able to immerse in those memories, write well, and give a fitting tribute to momentous events. But that’s not happening today between the musical reverie and my desire to paint my toenails blue to match my bathing suit; so, I’m going to give myself a break.

However, before I go, I’d like to offer a link to an extremely important TED talk given by Eve Ensler about how she reconnected with her body through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Her discoveries are so poignant and her delivery is so powerful that I considered for a moment that I need only share the link to Eve’s “Suddenly, my body” rather than to continue writing my blog. But, then I would miss making my own discoveries.


Enjoy the last sultry days and waning light of August!



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Every May 6th, Reade, my husband, recalls being released from the army. He says that it wasn’t the end of the two years of service that made the event so dramatic for him. It was the bus ride from Ft. Benning, Georgia and driving through the night with his head pressed against a window to sleep, and then waking as the bus swept in a wide turn, his eyes opening to see New York City sprawled along the horizon, glowing gold in the morning light. He knew in that instant that he had to be there. Although, it would take four years in which he returned home to Chicago to go to school on the G.I. bill before he could actually move to Manhattan where he would become an actor and meet his destiny (me); but the course was set, the switch was flipped, the trajectory was launched in that moment on the bus.

May 6th was momentous for Reade.

mo·men·tous (m-mnts) adj.

Of utmost importance; of outstanding significance.

February 3 is momentous for me. Like Reade’s moment of recognition on the bus, the event that occurred on that day is a vivid, sensurround, palpable memory. It was on February 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm that I learned over the phone that the lumps in my breast were malignant. So, on these first few days of February 2011, I’ve been spontaneously flashing on the experiences of two years ago, and weeping or welling with gratitude; and I’ve been thinking how strange it is that I’m so aware of the anniversary of the biopsy on Groundhog’s day and receiving the diagnosis the day after, but I do not remember the date of my last cancer treatment. It was sometime in November. I recall bringing a tray of cupcakes, or was it cookies, to the radiation team.  Oh, yes, cookies, chunky chocolate chip, that my daughter baked. And I remember being glad to be done by Thanksgiving; but I don’t remember the exact date, nor have I thought to celebrate or reflect in November.   (?)

Maybe I don’t have definitive memories of the end because a breast cancer experience doesn’t end with the last of the aggressive treatments. In my case, there’s hormone therapy for five years, and, like everyone else, there’s continuous check-ups and close monitoring. People still ask, “how are you?” with extra oomph, and comment on how good I look with a tone that speaks to health and not beauty. I don’t mind. It’s great that people care. I’m just musing about what makes a momentous occasion so memorable. And, you know what I think? I think it’s the condensed energy – the momentum – that’s in the flick of the finger that tips the first domino.

The next entry in the brown suede journal (the book whose days are numbered but not over yet) speaks of recalling a momentous event:

June 2, 2009

Seventeen years ago today, Reade kissed me for the first time and I had a zoom-to-the moon out-of-body experience that changed me forever. I knew/we both knew in that moment that we would partner for life. Today I remember me as a young woman in Washington Square Park. I wore a black and white checkered skirt with a fuchsia blouse, sneakers for urban trekking, and I was filled with dreams about what it would mean to love and be loved. Most of my reality has been better than my dreams. We have a wonderful daughter, a cozy home, an expansive community, and a full rich life together. We’ve had our share of hardships too with enough struggle to keep us growing.

Today, we’re waiting in Colombia Presbyterian Hospital for the Doc to interpret my Pet/Ct scan, and I’ve just come from another round of pre-surgery tests. Who would’ve dreamed that a breast cancer diagnosis would be a part of our love story, that I’d learn about love and trust and other healing modalities in year seventeen.

Whenever I come to this hospital, I cry. It is in the hospital that the seriousness of the diagnosis hits home. It’s here that all I have to be grateful for hits home too. It is here that I remember to appreciate the blessings in this day.

mo·men·tous [moh-men-tuhs] –adj.

of great or far-reaching importance or consequence.


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