To thank someone, the dictionary says, is to express your gratitude. I certainly have a lot of gratitude to express these days. It might seem odd to say that I feel very fortunate and grateful for my life, given the arduous journey that Richard and I are walking with his brain cancer. But I do.
A bit over a year ago, my rudely healthy husband, the guy who works with ton-sized boulders, native rocks he calls “ambassadors of the Earth,” and hefts big power tools with ease, the guy who rarely needs to see a doctor, who has only been sick a handful of times in the nearly 28 years we’ve been together, began hallucinating birds. Within days, he was in the VA Medical Center in Denver with traumatic swelling that by all rights should have completely disabled his right brain. Within weeks, he was headed in for brain surgery, and after he recovered from having a tumor removed from his right temporal lobe, he was beginning radiation with daily chemotherapy to boost the killing effects of those gamma ray blasts. He “graduated” to intensive chemotherapy last Feburary, and seemed to be weathering that well when a routine brain MRI in July revealed more tumors in the same area as the original one. Ten months and one day after his first brain surgery, he was in the OR again with his skull cut open, ready for the neurosurgery team to remove the tumors and much of the affected temporal lobe. Three weeks later, with his brain and eyes still recovering from that surgery, we learned that those tumors were considered Grade 4, as bad as brain cancer gets.
So what do I feel fortunate about? Very simply, that he’s here.
At any juncture over the last 12+ months, whether the original bird hallucinations that sent us to the hospital instead of to the artist-writer residency we were to begin at a remote cabin in the mountains, the traumatic brain swelling, the first surgery, the radiation, the chemo, the second surgery–he could have suffered complications that would have ended life as we know it.
So I am grateful for the good health that has carried him through, for his strong body, mind, and spirit. He and we need those for the path ahead, which involves figuring out how to nurture his body’s own ability to heal and restore healthy tissue so that the cancer doesn’t return.
I’m grateful for a lot: that we have a house to live in, savings to sustain us financially, excellent healthcare through the VA system here; that we each have work that nurtures us and allows us to do our bit to leave this world a better place than we found it, we live in a place we love, where the peaks rising over town hint at the arrival of fall in the flecks of golden aspen beginning to show on their slopes…
And I’m grateful for all of you–family, friends, colleagues, fellow lovers of words and life–for the support you’ve show us in so many ways. The wave of love, good wishes, prayers, thoughts, meditation, energy, healing ceremonies, and just friendship touches me deeply and helps me sustain the energy necessary to walk this path with grace, graciousness and generosity. (Which in my mind, is the only way worth doing it.)
Last night a group of friends got together and threw a party for me, giving me the first “night off” I’ve had in weeks. Well, maybe months. We ate, drank, talked, told wild stories, laughed at stupid jokes, ate and drank some more… And they gave me the gift of the handmade book in the photos above and below, with pages illustrated by each friend. The book with its leather binding, ribbon closure, and original print on the cover, plus those pages with art, writing, calligraphy, a blessing in Czech, and even a poetry chapbook, are love made evident.
What is there to say in the face of such gifts, other than “thank you”? From my heart, from the deep well of gratitude I feel at the gift of your friendship, love, support, at the gift of this life, difficult path and all.
Thank you Earth, Life, Friends, Family, Companions on the journey. Bless you all!
Oh, and one workshop note: Isla Espiritu Santo, the island where I plan to hold the second “Words to Live By” workshop this winter off La Paz, Baja California, was just featured as the top island to visit in Sunset Magazine. Join Richard and I there for a week of writing, creative exploration, rejuvination and restoration. Begin the New Year with a renewed sense of who you are, and the story you bring to the world!