Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

It was difficult to write while I was weak and loopy from the amassing drugs which was fine because I had a sublime acceptance of the condition. In fact, I enjoyed the slow mo tempo that chemo brought to the summer of ’09. Not since my childhood – before pc’s and cell phones and with limited tv – had I become absorbed in the velvet folds of a dahlia or marveled at the gold on sun-drenched grass as I sat amid it. Plus, I knew that “this too would pass” which was both a comfort and a concern for me as I worried that this season of luxurious lethargy and prodigious kindness – the entire chemo trip – would pass without remembering if I didn’t write it down. So, while the steroids kept me buzzed at night, I came up with a plan to make gratitude lists that would both keep my spirit boosted in the present and jog my memory in the future.

In the weeks between the 3rd & 4th infusions, during the hours usually reserved for journaling, I sat with my big black book and reviewed the blessings of the six months since being diagnosed with breast cancer by way of listing names. This is the book.

The card on the cover of the book is from dear friend Rooney from Santa Fe, NM. Rooney sent this card to report that she had all the Sisters of a nearby convent praying for my health. Little did my friend know how much Our Lady on Fire would speak to me at the time of the 3rd Infusion.

This page was in appreciation of Western Medicine and all the angels therein.

In honor of my beloved Light Brigade.

For my family.

There were nearly a dozen pages that included the Reiki circle, friends, colleagues at work, church communities, neighbors, people from the health food store… the lists went on and on, and so does my gratitude for each and every one named as well as those that remained nameless like the praying Sisters in Santa Fe. If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, it was the love from all y’all that really healed me.

In awe,






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After months of psychological preparation or, rather, avoiding thoughts about baldness, it all happened fast. It was as though the Universe ripped the Band-Aid off my head quick, so I didn’t feel a thing. Monday, my sister offered to buy me a wig. Tuesday, my friends threw a scarf party. Thursday was infusion day, the wig arrived in the mail on Friday, and on Saturday, August 1st, during my morning shower, my hair came out in clumps in my hands. At first, I was fascinated and raked my fingers through as if to clear out dead grass, but immediately returned to my senses when I realized the wads would clog up the plumbing.

Blessed with a thick head of hair, I had some time before my mane would look thin and scraggly. Still, the shedding strands were everywhere and I was annoyed by the extra housework, so I decided to have my head shaved right away.

This is what I wrote in my journal that day:

August 4, 2009

My hair gets shaved today. I am choosing to have my hair shaved, my head shaved. It is the easier (more noble?) way. At least that’s what I’ve heard others say, to keep power, or to take power back, or to feel in control – a dear friend did it that way, and the American Cancer Society website recommends – a lot of folks seem to think that it’s easier on the psyche to shave or be shaved rather than to wait and have hair fall out in hands, pillow, clothes, and just drift around like like like… there’s nothing like it except perhaps the spiders in the basement and their annoying imperceptible sticky webs. The hair is everywhere. I can run my fingers through and 15 to 20 fine strands like milkweed silt cling to the sweat. So, I am going to be proactive because it does seem easier than to watch it slowly thin out leaving straggly patches on my head and traces of myself everywhere. I wonder how many flecks of myself I left in the Monsey Hosiery Shop yesterday where my beloved friend Liz, an orthodox Jew, took me to purchase assorted tichels. We tried on dozens of the pre-tied scarves – that was the fun of the outing – and the shop attendants were so pleasant to the strange goy that sat on a stool in front of a mirror. I imagine their dispositions changed when they discovered all the hair I left behind.  I know I left evidence  just as I know that I purposely pulled out clumps and let them fly from my car window as I drove home from work yesterday along North Broadway past all the pretty mansions. I let my hair fly as if it would turn into something with wings.

What I did not tell my journal was that I had a wonderful experience getting my head shaved. It was filled with love and mirth, and I felt so blessed. Susan Ryan, “Ry”, my tennis partner and one of my BFFs went with me to MB’s Salon & Spa where the owner MaryBeth graciously invited me to come in before business hours.

MB’s is a zen atmosphere anyway, but in the early AM in solitude, it seemed a tranquil shrine and perfect for sacred ritual. In the spirit of all the hairless warrior women  – the Joans, the Sineads, and the Top Ten Bald Babes of Science Fiction – I vowed that hair removal would be empowering and I asked my friends to pray with me. Ry, MB and I held hands like the three graces or muses or furies to say the serenity prayer: God(dess) grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Then I sat in the chair, MaryBeth reached for her scissors and electric shaver, and Ry flipped through magazines and made social commentaries that had us both in stitches. MaryBeth told a few stories too of warrior women that had been shaved in her chair before me. One of them, she said, walked out the shop door onto Main Street, whipped off her scarf and yelled, “LOOK AT WHAT THEY DO TO YOU IN THERE.”

I wanted to be that woman, to have her courage and her humor. The brazen humor, however, wouldn’t have come naturally to me, but I could muster up my own sort of courage. And so, when MaryBeth was finished and I was done trying to get her to take my money, Ry asked me what next and I said, “I want to promenade my shiny head down Main Street.”

In the months to come, I wore baseball caps to protect my head from the sun (hugs to Ryan and Tamara) and tichels or scarves to protect from cold air conditioning or my shyness upon first meeting people (hugs to Liz, Susan, Deirdre, Patrice & Katy and more); but, for the most part, I wore my bald head proudly. Except for one occasion when I missed my sister and wore the wig to honor her, I did not choose to wear a wig. Wigs and most head coverings were hot and itchy. Instead, I made an altar with the wig on a black velvet stand as the centerpiece to remind me daily of the power of love in my life. And, I enjoyed the freedom from hair care and the feel of the breeze, sun, or rain on my scalp, and all the added expressions of care that came my way when my bald head took my cancer experience public.

My sister Sandra & me

In Gratitude,


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There’s a little pink-striped book from The Libby Ross Foundation Pink Ribbon Kit called a Journal & Sketch Book that I carried in my pocketbook at all times to scribble in as needed after I gave up the little brown serious journal for the large black unlined journal that I kept at home. The scribbling I did in the days prior to the first transfusion was done in this portable pink book as I had shpilkes that kept me on the move. Since I wasn’t sitting still much, there isn’t much from that time period except for one comprehensive entry from a writing date with my husband. His presence anchored me, and I’m so grateful for that because I now have these notes from that precious time period.

Prelude to Chemo – July 11, 2009

Sitting on a footstool at Barnes & Noble staring at the New Age bookshelves wondering what I need to read next? What will help me now? None of the books seemed appealing though. I felt satiated with self help and spiritual manuals. Really I just wanted escapist fiction. And yet I was drawn to this section of the bookstore and plopped down on that footstool, so, I sat. Thinking. There must be more to learn, more to remember. Perhaps I could re-read all I’ve read before, I thought. It must be 25 years since I devoured Jane Roberts’ Seth books and Edgar Casey and Ruth Montgomery; however, I didn’t stand up to reach for Seth Speaks. I just sat and thought with frustration mounting as I beseeched my spirit guides to help me: won’t you please knock a book off the shelf and make it obvious. I recalled that my sister Brenda in a psychic reading said that I had a new guide,  a Mayan with a nice butt, so I considered a 2012 primer for a few laughs. But, honestly, no book called to me. I sat on that footstool in a trance.

“Excuse me.”

I looked up, perplexed. There was plenty of room in the aisle; but, the short, dark-haired woman with the slightly crossed eyes was motioning to move past me to look at the shelves to my right. I determined that she was being polite, smiled, and then we both went about our business. A minute later, she returned, knelt beside me and asked if I had seen the book Reconnect.

“Perhaps Customer Service can help you,” I said and gestured toward the center of the store.

But, she stayed crouched beside me and in a whisper suitable for libraries told me that the book by Eric Pearl was about Reiki. I smiled again and kept smiling with a skin tingling recognition that the book I wanted to fall off the shelf was standing before me in the flesh as this stranger went on about her path and her belief in energy healing. I told her that I had similar experiences and when I mentioned Julie Connor, she knew of Julie and the Reiki Share group. She explained that I could do Reiki to myself and told me to pray, “In God, with God, for God,” saying that I need only ask to be healed and my hands will move and show the way. “You only need to believe,” she said.

Since I got the word from my doctors, I’ve been thinking about the need for support for my chemo experience and there are so many opinions, approaches, alternative methods.

My friend Jill tells of various vitamins and foods. She has so much information that sounds like so much effort to procure and prepare that my mind tends to become porous when she talks. In our last conversation, I retained one word: Gingko to help with fatigue.

Then the Susun Weed book (Breast Cancer? Breast Health – The Wise Woman Way) told about nettle, comfrey, milk thistle, etc etc etc, and I would read her book more  thoroughly except she scares me. Her supremely judgmental tone about the toxicity and the damage that chemo can cause provokes fear, and fear of chemo will not serve me. Supreme faith will serve me.

Also, Lisa Orlando, the lovely woman offering the Cancerland seminar re. navigating the medical system, recommended acupuncture as did others.

So, there’s enough to boggle the mind.

Thus I chant: What I need will come to me. All I need will be told to me. And the means will always be made easy.

And then a cross-eyed angel appears.

In awe & gratitude,



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Sometime in the month of May ’09 the PET/CT scan happened and the details of the event were reposited as deeply in my brain as the PET/CT laboratory was entombed in the hospital complex. I don’t remember much. Except I do recall traveling down down down into some sub basement of a different building a block north of the oncology pavilion of Columbia Pres; and that there was a complete colony of administration cubicles and exam rooms and dressing rooms, a waiting area, and so forth, there, and that everything was yellow lit. Then there was another long hall, and thick doors marked with radioactive warning signs that clunked shut behind me, and there was an Igor-like technician, and an enormous torpedo tube large enough for the Avatar, and it was all so Sci-Fi horrorific.

Although, the test was not at all physically painful, and, in fact, would’ve been relaxing had I not fantasized the possibility that the oxygen could be cut off in the tube while Igor twiddled his thumbs rather than respond to my suffocation. Otherwise, it was easy and over fairly quickly, and I guess the PET/CT happening was somewhat uneventful since I didn’t write a word about it in my trusty journal. I did, however, write about my anxiety while waiting for the results:

May 23, 2009  – Today or maybe only for this moment, I’m scared. I had a dream about receiving the results from the PET/CT scan in which Reade (my husband) answered the phone to receive the news from an Asian woman. His eyes seemed to look through me as he shook his head “yes” which I interpreted as positive for something unwanted and, so, was in such a tailspin that when dream Reade handed me the phone to talk to the dream doctor, I woke up in a sweat.

Perhaps if I had stayed asleep for another minute I would’ve discovered that everything was clear and that the message was positively positive. I ought to have faced my fears; ya know, face everything and recover.  Because I woke up, I remained in a panic and couldn’t go back to sleep. To calm myself I tried to visualize a clean, clear, white-lighted body. I imagined being in the PET/CT tube again but this time white light scanned my body and permeated every cell with immune boosting energy. Then I visualized a spectrum of light rays cleaning each chakra – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. But, the colors didn’t seem bright enough in my mind’s eye and I fretted that I was inept at visualization and so I chanted affirmations in my head: “My body is 100% healthy, whole, well, safe, and complete”. And yet, I’m not so sure about the effectiveness of affirmations and the healing-your-life-through-thought approach anymore, and I’ll tell you why – the letter that my father wrote a year before he died was filled with positive thoughts, gratitude, and a strong will to live and succeed.

I don’t know.

Maybe there are some things, lots of things, that are beyond my control. Maybe at all times I need ask my Creator for the serenity to accept the things I can not change. I am clear that I want to live though.

In my father’s letter to Clinton V. Johnson, his employer for the last two years of his life, he wrote that work gave his life meaning. I would’ve said the same before my cancer diagnosis, but work is not at the top of my Wish List anymore. I want to live to see my daughter grow up. I want to witness her successes and see her get married and meet my grandchildren, and I want to be there to hug her through all her joys and fears. I’d also like to travel and write another book or two; but, those desires are secondary to being with my loved ones which is something that disturbs me about the letter that my father wrote. In fact, I’ve been downright exorcised over that letter which, incidentally, was recently discovered by C.V. Johnson’s daughter and given to my mother who gave it to me for my birthday, and, so, in the spirit of “there are no accidents“, that letter and the resulting exorcism apparently were meant to be. 

Well… upon a second reading…

I do understand that the letter was written to his employer, so perhaps my father had targeted his audience with his emphasis on work. Perhaps in his private journals I would find that he battled cancer in order to watch his daughters grow up.  I choose to believe that his soul/sole motivation like mine was to care for his babies. I also choose to believe that he has been caring for me from the other side ever since as I would hover over my daughter; and that this letter is evidence that he’s particularly with me now.

I am playing tennis in a Rally for the Cure today. May God/Goddess please grant me extra Faith, Courage, Serenity and whatever it takes to keep my eye on the ball and the Cause to help all women so that we will not need to fear our breasts. Please let there be Health on Earth so that all the high drama surrounding the painful systems of breast cancer detection and eradication will not be necessary.

I have a dream that one day mammograms, MRIs, PET/CT scans, lumpectomies, mastectomies, reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy will all be stories in history books.

And that there will come a time when we simply drink fresh juice, paint, dance, laugh & sing our way to health; and all aberrations will be cured by the love in each other’s hands. Faithfully Yours,


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