Here’s the thing. Cancer sucks. But a lot of good can come out of it. This week, I attended the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s annual conference. In Las Vegas. No, that’s not the good stuff yet. Maybe for you, but for me, not so much.
For some, just mentioning the idea of attending a cancer conference of any kind, might illicit sighs, groans, thoughts of running full tilt in the opposite direction. Jumps for joy, probably not in the minds of most.
But for me, being surrounded by other humans who are also doing the dance with ovarian cancer, was nothing shy of a full tank of fierce. Many women I met have been doing the dance for many years, facing several recurrences, chemo being an ongoing onslaught. I am in awe of not just their strength, but there ability to choose to live the happy, not the disease. That they bubble up to share all the funny stories that are amongst the dark moments of pain and fear. Their absolute ownership of living each day on their own terms. Their resolute unified will washed over me and I am still swimming in their outright refusal to give in.
I am not going to say that cancer was the best thing to happen to me, because I’m not living in a Hallmark movie. Cancer took a lot from me that I will never get back. But like the women I spent these past few days with, I absolutely know from the core of who I am, that it has given me an understanding of myself, of my emotional and physical strength, and the power to choose the happy in the moments I am given, because damn it, I get to. I don’t forget that for a second.
I am choosing to forge ahead, with each moment, each day, with love and laughter on my sleeve. And with all the voices of all the survivors who surrounded me, echoing in every chamber of my chemo brain.
Yesterday, I ran a marathon.
To honor the life and humanity of my friend TC.
To celebrate the friendship I have with my friend Gillian and the love she and TC shared.
To be a part of a community that had the phenomenal fortune of knowing him and the desire to do something positive to heal after his loss.
To heal my own history with cancer by doing something so physically challenging.
But I ran a marathon mostly because of love.
I try to have love be what defines my life.
Some days I do better than others.
Some days I allow stupid annoyances to reign.
Some days I rise above the crap that can take over if I allow it.
But Yesterday, it was all about love.
The last three miles, the proof was the tears that ran down my sweaty salty face.
The post finish embraces with teammates, with Gillian, with Meg.
It was real. It was our pure humanity. And my hope is that all the experiences yesterday will guide me to wake up each day being led by love.
And being so grateful, that even though there is nothing right about TC’s death, that his journey brought us here. Together. With love. And we will never be the same. We will be more.
Today will be my last day in the house I grew up in. After 50 years at 25 Rockwood Road, my parents are moving. I’m proud of them for being proactive. Moving to a retirement community on their own terms. Making all the decisions, choosing what is best for them. It’s truly a gift to me and my brother, that they are doing this. And I know it’s the right decision. But tell my heart that. Yesterday, I was short tempered and weepy off and on, to the point it would surprise me when my eyes would well up. And then I remembered, I’ll be saying goodbye today. I know it’s just a place, a building with rooms, with a backyard of trees and fallen leaves. But it has been a constant in all of my 48 years. My car knows the way without me tugging at the wheel.
My Mom transformed my bedroom into an office years ago. My bunk bed stripped of a mattress and laden heavy with boxes of files and stacks of reports and journals. But it’s the place I spent many a moment figuring out who I was. I came out to myself in that room. That room was the only place I didn’t have to hide every part of who I was. Many nights and afternoons spent ruminating and convincing myself I could change or hide a part of who I was for the rest of my life, even though I had barely begun to understand who I could be.
I will miss walking up the slate rock walk to the dark orange front door. I will miss looking out the wall of windows in the living room at the Silk tree. I will miss the familiar warm feeling as I open the front door and hear my Mom’s voice call me in.
But I have over four decades of memories alive and ambling inside me. Right now I feel the loss of what has been for so long, but I know in the days to come, there will be more memories made in new places. And I will walk through a new front door and begin again.
When something big happens in life. And then it comes to an end. There’s the moment when I realize I have to keep moving. Ready or not. The next moment is here and I am still holding on to what was. Because it was momentous. I am dwelling in the magic of it. It’s one of the things that keeps me returning to the stage. Every time, a willing player in the game. I know it is going to go by so fast, the rehearsals, each time I step out on stage, until boom, here it is, closing night, done and gone. I sit bereft and numb at my kitchen table Monday morning wondering how it happened. Again. Another show behind me. All the emotions, raw and real, still rolling through me. No where to put them. Just the blinking light of hope that the ache will fade but the high won’t. This show. Burning. Not only the name of it, but what it continues to do inside my heart, seven days after the lights fading to black for the last time.
The “longing, burning…” continues. Three years of staged readings, three weeks of rehearsals, sixteen performances. I’m not ready to let go. The connections made on and behind the stage, with the audiences, with the words, with all who walked through each moment with me. This story, from the moment I became one of the players, I knew would dig in to my every quiet, hidden place and do its best to push it up. Because in order to truly come alive on stage, I knew it would have to. And now that everything is on the surface, I am all too aware that I must acknowledge it. Honor it. All of it. All of it makes me more. And those close to me, should know that I got there because of their heart and passion and commitment. I am not ready to move from this place yet. This show, this collection of consuming moments, deserves a little more time, to linger, to breathe.
It happened today. the Supreme Court said it, loud and can I say, proud. Same sex couples cannot be denied the right of marriage. My marriage. Which has thrived within the walls of our house. Thrived within the boundaries of Massachusetts. But had stopped short of equality in the eyes of the nation. Today, we have moved significantly forward. My marriage is now going to count amongst those same sex couples who are married in all the states that recognize them. The federal government will now recognize us. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re equal. Almost.
I hope that this gives those who live in states that don’t recognize those rights, a light that shines for tomorrow, as it will happen. It may be a bumpy wild path for some time to come, but the momentum is humming. National marriage equality is on the horizon, I can see it. I hope we all can.
Those who came before us, I stand tall, humbled, by what you gave to get us to this moment. You are to be celebrated. And tonight at City Hall, we will. Be sure. You’ll hear us. And then tomorrow, we’ll get to work finishing what you started so the lgbtqqi youth who are growing up now will face only acceptance, respect, and equality. Let’s get things started. And today is a phenomenal place from which to leap forward.
I spoke to my Dad tonight. He was in Central Time. His home state of MN, the land of butter and many lakes, attending his first cousin’s memorial service. The other sad news is that the family farm is no more. The Malme homestead and barn have been leveled. He and Mom drove by yesterday. Big machines stood where the buildings once did. I asked him if the faded white stone block that bore the family name was still firmly planted by the front hedges. But they didn’t get that far in to see. We both decided that it was probably removed. Gone. Who knows where. The farm was sold long ago. To cousins who farmed the land. Then to strangers. But it was always our farm. Still. In my memory.
Many summers I chased after the ferrel kittens that only my Grandma could coax into her arms. I walked amongst upturned clumps of rich soil, wandered inside the empty barn that still smelled of cows and hay that were long gone. The softness of the home made buns my Grandma baked that tasted amazing with the rhubarb jam she had canned. Shelves full in the basement.
I am sad I’ll never see the farm again. I haven’t been there in years. Decades. My Dad and Mom have been back off and on over the years. They’ve watched it’s slow descent into no more.
But the memories of all those summers are firmly planted in my mind. My Grandpa driving us in the back of the sun faded red Ford pick up to get the mail at the end of the dirt driveway. The sound of the screen door slamming. The slant of the gray planks of the front porch. The rain barrels full of summer rain.
It’s Father’s Day. And my Dad has had to say goodbye to his childhood home. I hope he knows how much it means to me to have spent those summer weeks exploring where he grew up, where he played with his cousins, where he milked the cows, fed the pigs and chickens, where he dreamed of who he was to be. It is part of who I am. Even if it is no longer there.