From February 10, 2021
Dear Friends --
Oh hello! It's a Wednesday in February, which means more zooms, impeachment, masks, and teenagers who have essentially declared they will wear pajamas until summer. I fear we've all slowly lost our crackers, but it's nice to know we're all in the same crackerless boat.
When I last posted I noted that I would be stepping into the middle place, a grand in between of 90 days until the next scan. After some good deliberation, my smart medical team decided that I should pause most of my maintenance chemo and "go and enjoy!"
Me: "Yes but what about the scary teeny tiny activity in my lung?"
Medical smarties: "Go and enjoy! We'll cross that bridge in February."
Me: "Um. There's a pandemic in motion. Have you heard?"
Smarties: "Go and enjoy!"
I'm hardly one to disregard direct medical orders, so here's a fast set of postcards that capture some of how I've followed the "go and enjoy" orders:
A week on the Big Island of Hawaii with Connor and Lucy, and even a rendezvous with dear Bay Area friends who happened to be nearby. There was a day when Connor, Lucy and I went off on an ocean excursion to snorkel, and on our way out of a sun-drenched bay, four dolphins decided to escort our boat out to the mighty Pacific. And if there's anything more heavenly than a dolphin escort, please do tell me.
A hike through a Hawaiian volcano crater, where decades of molten lava have created a steady plateau of possibilities: small wildflowers pushing through black and calcified cracks are living proof that all things are forever being made new.
I turned 50. I know! HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE WHEN I DON'T LOOK A DAY OVER 42. It's a mystery for the ages. Anyhow, I did! And as we know from last year, I'm all about adoring birthdays these days. And mine was all kinds of fun, despite the pandemic managing to squelch a proper in person party. It's ok. It's happened to all of us. All the more reason to crush 51 next year.
I took my 17 year old son and his two 17 year old buddies skiing in Tahoe. I know! Who goes skiing with three 17 year old boys? THIS LADY. Here's what everyone needs to know about 17 year old boys: they LOVE Elon Musk. They do. They love his rockets, and cars, and underground tunnels. They also talk about colonizing Mars as if it were as easy as moving to Boise. And these particular 17 year old boys are also the kind of creatures who volunteer to carry luggage (why thank you!) and return your skis (thank you again!), and even bring their instruments for the weekend. So at night I was treated to them strumming James Taylor and the Eagles on their guitars and hearing them marveling at how great "the classics" are. One morning I swear I woke up to one of their alarms blaring The Carpenters. What is this about. Better not to ask, and simply, yet again, whisper a quiet "thank you."
Speaking of 17 year olds, it's college application season. And guess what? Connor got accepted to Tulane. Wow! And yet this kiddo had never even stepped foot in New Orleans ... that is, until a few days ago! Who flies to the Big Easy during a pandemic? As it turns out, we do. We toured Tulane, ate beignets, listened to jazz in the Quarter, and even had breakfast one morning at a little hole in the wall called Wakin' Bakin', which has to be the best name for a breakfast place, truly, in the history of time.
One Saturday morning Lucy and I lounged about in our pajamas (as if it were a school day!), and watched this captivating documentary about Ralph Lauren. We marveled at his back story, his style, his love for his soulful wife, and his imagination for finding beauty all around the American landscape. Then we decided to buy a new couch.
A few days back a buddy and I decided to drive over to the ocean to see what we might discover gazing as far west as we could see. Walking along the beach, we spotted a group of elephant seals napping as grandly as any creature has ever napped. Did you know these critters swim as many as 8,000 miles a year, only to finally arrive at a patch of beach just south of Pescadero for a well-deserved nap? There's some dating and mating with the lady elephant seals too, but that happens after the naps. They're like these mighty pillows of slumber, nestled in the sand and snoring away. Bliss.
Long hikes with old and new friends, longer phone calls with friends from all kinds of chapters, a 2am viewing of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," for no reason at all, learning how to make this salad dressing, (which honestly everyone should try), making a red-white-and-blue Jan 20 breakfast to celebrate a new president with my soon to be eligible voting kiddos (did I mention we were in our pajamas), and savoring the small moments of picking out fresh berries at my local farmer's market were among thousands of small and memorable moments.
I know what you're thinking. Hold up. This lady has stage 4 cancer and what is she doing flying all around and even traipsing about searching for napping elephant seals? I get it. But you know what -- apparently I'm not in much higher of a covid risk group than anybody else these days, and also I have the most phenomenal set of N95 masks. Somehow the direct order of "go and enjoy!" hooked up with "be safe!" and all has been well.
The headline here is that I'm delighted to report that the past 90 days have been full of true living, and all that it entails: from sunsets that require an audible gasp, to chatting up the dry cleaner, to paying bills, to the thrill of enjoying skiing again after a long spell away. I've adored each day.
And yet. The reckoning of what's to come now beckons. I'll have my next scan later next week, and since we keep it real here, it's likely going to be a nail biter. Those teeny tinies in my lung may be on the move, and if so, a new twist in the trail could be ahead.
I wonder sometimes, how best to prepare for a scan? Is there a way of thinking, of praying, of reading, that's particularly wise? Perhaps.
If so, I have yet to discover it. For now, what I know for sure is that the best way to navigate the middle place is to live as fully, and bravely, and as beautifully as possible. In the extraordinary and the ordinary, and all the magical in between.
If I started this trek in the sweet and innocent shire, I've encountered the howling winds of chemo, horrific spidery caves of surgeries, and the uncertain black riders that gallop in with every blood test. But these past 90 days I've been bivouacking in Rivendell, where the waterfalls are generous with a mighty mist, the views are full of a soft and eternal fog, that each day gives way to a blue sky that holds the forever promise of another day. And, with it, another life-changing story.
I'm eager to hear yours. There's simply no better way to spend these days, while we live.