I feel slightly confused, a bit like the weather, which is cloudy and muggy and warmish.  I laugh at Anthony Bourdain, who could eat Balinese roast suckling pig till he loses consciousness and proclaims it the best he's eaten (and he gives a rundown of all his pork place highlights).  I can certainly relate to his feeling that it's time to stop the madness and stay in paradise.  I'm suddenly drawn to Bali, feeling deeply the insight of his commentary.  But I digress.

April has been a month of cancer deaths, of people I only know through friends.  The circumstance of their death rings home.  I feel a strange and paralyzing sorrow.  I shed tears for their families, and hope that the passing was a soft and quiet relief for the departed.  I project my own hopes and fears, of course, and in large part my own grief.  My friends held off telling me the news, the details.  But I need to hear it.  It's still an abstraction, but with every wheeze and stab of pain I wonder, is my time come? 
Though this life is fraught with pain, sadness, hard times, it is also full of immeasurable beauty and love, the  source of my longing and resistance to death.  I wish I'd kept rockclimbing, rafting, cycling, hiking.  I wish I'd thrown caution to the wind when I first entered college and thrown myself full-force into a creative major (fine art/museum studies or maybe literature/publishing).  I wish I'd continued traveling about.  If I had more time, I'd maybe do those things again, run footloose through flower fields.  But probably not, because modern living seems so against unmerited pleasure.  There's such a drive to work, earn, be productive, own things.  I suppose in the end, it's a good thing I got a job with benefits, or where would I be now?  On the other hand…
What did they (the departed) want in their last hours?  To see their kids grow up, perhaps, or to finish something?  None of my goals are super noble.  I want to see the last three Harry Potter movies.  I'd like to make sure my brother can sort of get by.  I'd like to spend some time with my husband doing something other than work or fishing (this may be impossible), like maybe exploring London, relaxing in Bali, diving the Great Barrier Reef…Again, the thoughts of someone for whom death is imminent; not of someone who may experience a miracle.  I'd like to think I've learned something about being on the brink of death, but I'm not sure I have.  It doesn't seem that hard, and I don't know why I should feel guilty, but the bottom line is, ENJOY LIFE.  So when Death comes, you can go with him and know that you gave it all you had.
I want to be able to hold my husband and tell him it's alright, I've had a good run.  In my heart I've already given him my blessings for the rest of his life to come.  He's stood by me and he deserves all that life has to offer (I just wish I could enjoy it with him, as this illness seriously changed our lifestyle).  I want to be at peace when I go, maybe that's why I feel sad.  I wonder if people are bitter at the hand they were dealt.  I know I used to be, but it's luck of the draw.
Anyway, this isn't solving the fuzziness I feel.  Best to move on to some other activity.  As a sidenote, I'm on the 17th cycle of the present chemotherapy regimen.  One more cycle and it'll be a year since I started it.  My last CT scan was stable.  I've been experiencing nausea a few days after treatment, and the skin rashes haven't abated, but I'm still up and about.  I've toyed with the idea of researching treatments again, but, eh.  I haven't made any plans for a big trip this summer…there seems to be something happening every month until September.  Maybe I'll do something last minute like last year— I need to fly while I can, and remember that there are weeks in between the sprinkling of events.  I don't have time to squander.
Oh, and I finally read the last HP:
Many of his loved ones die.  I guess it's sort of fitting.

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Sense of humor

I wish I was funny.  

Some people are so naturally humorous, you want to be around them all the time, like my husband.  I was just reading Bokker's blog, and her way of speaking/thinking seems naturally humorous to me, and incredibly creative.  She probably doesn't even realize it.  I wonder if it's a British thing?  Hmm.  I wish I had that!

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Wit, a movie


DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so, 
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, 
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, 
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, 
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. 
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, 
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well, 
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then; 
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, 
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
—John Donne (1572-1631)

This film, adapted from a play by actress Emma Thompson and director Mike Nichols, portrays a woman's journey from advanced ovarian cancer diagnosis through the subsequent, grueling 8-month treatment using experimental chemotherapy. However it's more a monologue/meditation on her life—how everything important to her up to the point of illness is reduced to a most unphilosophical, scientific, quantitative analysis of her anatomy—fairly existential, really, considering the core of the movie is John Donne's metaphysical poetry.   Emma Thompson (as the patient) is wry, sardonic, ironic, dryly amusing, and despairing.  She is heartbreaking as the objectified clinical trial subject.
This is not for the faint of heart.  It may be the most realistic, and poetically conceived, film depicting cancer out anywhere.  It's certainly a unique treatment, one I took to quite readily.  It drove home the reality of dying, and how painful it may be—physically and intellectually.  It takes place largely in present tense, with a few flashbacks, but very little rumination on relationships, possessions, external day-to-day life.  It has a roundabout way of presenting one of its points, which is kindness.
I admire the tone of this film—it's spiritual (not religious), stoic, rigorous, and not sugar-coated.  It may be slow and spare to most viewers—I, unsurprisingly, was gripped.  At some point, I may be where the character, Dr. Vivian Bearing, might be.  There are so many patients, the most revered 17th-century metaphysical poetry scholar doesn't stand a chance at being remembered except for her record-breaking ability to consume the full dose of chemo which ultimately kills her anyway. And in the end…well…one can only hope one gets a dignified end.
I love that someone made this film, and made it so well.  I don't have the facility to describe it well or to do it justice, critically.  I wish more people would see it.   

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Miles to go before I sleep

I've been called to bed by the snoozing husband, but I can sleep in tomorrow, and I need to log these thoughts in for posterity.

Another year is upon me, and for the past few days I've been sort of pushed to reflect on the time between the last birthday and this one, by one incident or another.  Last year at this time, the cancer started to progress, and I wasn't feeling too well.  I went to So. Cal. and went on an outlet shopping binge with Julie (which I wouldn't mind doing again, since I don't shop for anything but groceries or other people's things anymore), then brought my brother up for a visit.  We saw The Shins—the first concert we attended together in ages.  We used to enjoy that quite a bit, and some of my best New Wave memories are shared with him and his wacky comedic antics.
Shortly after that, I felt super crappy and it finally showed on the CT scan.  My oncologist and I had a bit of a power struggle, but in the end, we both got our way.  I got the oral drug Tarceva (my choice, study drug that I actually got the placebo of while on the clinical trial) in combination with IV infusions of Alimta (his choice, the mesothelioma therapy).  After a horrible patch of about 6 weeks during which I had to accept never having beautiful skin ever again, I felt much improved and able to breathe like a normal person.  It was summer, my oncologist was on his honeymoon in Italy, and his sub said I could fly long distance.  Tara and Vidal came up and we went to London.  Mike changed jobs and began his current state of globetrotting.  We went to the Spam museum and the Jeep found its new home with the Schroeders in Albert Lea, MN.  We moved from Alameda to San Leandro (the main regret of this past year, with the silver lining being that it brought my sister and I together).  Mike took Brian crabbing out to the Pacific.  My mom became ill.  We got her the first dryer she's ever owned since coming to the U.S. (don't ask).  Bruno died (still not over him).  I received a locket from Tiffany so I could keep a picture of him (Bruno) near/in my heart.  Mike and I went to Houston on Christmas Day and trekked across the south.  We saw cousin Carol for the first time since 1995 (Mike had never met her and I'd never met my cousin-in-law Mike) at her home in Florida.  Went to Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, then on a cruise to the Bahamas.  We rode Segways.  I came home (Mike stayed in Florida), started ceramics class, had my health insurance axed by the Court, came down with shingles.  My mom recovered, my father finished his book, my brother has 9 cats, we have 2 new Siamese, and my neighbor Melissa and I walked 4 miles at Lake Chabot and I was neither tired nor sore.  Mike was given a Nissan Titan (the better to pull the boat with) for a work truck.  I've finally come to terms with the fact that I really need to apply for the benefits I worked so hard to earn.  I'd been in denial the past year, truly hoping to return to work…The oncologist always gives me this incredulous look when I talk about it.  He does, however, urge me to buy a house.  Does this mean I'll live long enough to get in it and enjoy it for a second?
I'm sure I missed a bunch of things.  I wanted to do more, but I guess I gave this year—the "extra" year—a run for the money.  I'm nervous.  I don't know if I'll get another year.  June 15 is the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis.  Memorial Day marks 10 years together for Mike and I.  The chronological years don't matter anymore, it's all about the time that's left and how I spend it.  That all depends on my condition.  Mike thinks I'm going to beat this, and some days I truly feel that way too.  Some days I feel really good, pretty close to normal, except that my hair is hideous, my face is puffy, I feel self-conscious about wearing short dresses, I have no desire to wear any of the fabulous shoes collecting dust in the closet, and going rock climbing is a fantasy.  I do feel like I'm running out of time, and I have to take big trips in the coming months or be cursed.  Maybe New Mexico when school gets out.  
Any illness can strip away the layers of things that add to the complexity of life.  I've always viewed possessions as creating undue stress and responsibility.  Owning big ticket material things (that aren't dictated by necessity) by definition creates debt (unless, of course, you paid cash for all of it, then I wanna party with you!), which sets up responsibility over time, which assumes time will continue to exist, as well as one's ability to use that time to work and pay the debt off, etc.  It's based on assumptions that are taken for granted.  I've walked the line for years, mostly living day to day, saving money for things I wanted/needed and paying for them outright.  Occasionally I'd take on short-term debt (I broke down and bought a new car, for example), but that was pretty rare.  I love fashion and nice things and nice meals as much as anyone, but rarely cave in to impulse shopping.  I don't tend to bite off more than I can chew.  We all love to have the best thing, but sometimes, the best thing is one that serves the purpose well and economically.  One would think that having cancer would propel me to run out and buy that $1500 Valentino handbag or a cool sportscar, but I'd rather buy a plane ticket or a Segway, were I to spend on something "unnecessary".  At this point, I'd be willing to buy a house because it's a good time, and I'm no longer willing to tolerate idiotic landlords.  That action would compromise traveling options, but those options might cease to exist anyway.  Best to have your own piece of land for meditative pools and zen rock gardens.  I'd rather have a fabulous garden than a bitchin' car…you get the idea.  Maybe in the end, I'd wind up giving money to charity to take care of all those starving kids, etc.
Because I've had a pretty long, decent run, I fear the time I'll no longer be able, much less have the will, to do normal things.  These thoughts are full of darkness and sadness, and I wonder if I'll be able to accept that time peacefully, with grace, acknowledging the good times for what they were.  I still haven't written a will…
Anyway, I thank god and feel tremendously fortunate to be here writing this, 4 minutes before my birthday.  On this day I thank all of you for keeping me company on this journey, for giving me love and strength, hope, faith, courage, compassion, and friendship.  The best birthday gift in the world is the dream of time well-spent, forging unforgettable moments.  Thank you for last year, I hope we can do it again for a little bit longer.
"I'd rather travel around the world for a year than own a house" and "Given a choice, I'd take time over money any day."  (Siddhartha:  "I can think, I can wait, and I can fast.")

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