The Ordinary

Sherry is hosting on Toads today and wishes us to write poetry celebrating the ordinary.

The Ordinary
When I had a deadly brush with cancer
a few years ago,
I learned nothing was too ordinary to celebrate.
Whether it be the tiny blue flowers
hidden in the grass,
the songs of birds,
my husband’s sky blue eyes,
the soft fur of newborn kittens,
the smell of gardenias at night,
the first snowflake,
biting into the first summer tomato,
pulling a pound cake from the oven
redolent with vanilla and lemon,
watching the moon peep from beind clouds –
nothing in our lives is ordinary.
everything is worth celebrating – every day.

The Scar

Day four of NAPOWRIMO. For Sherry’s Prompt at Real Toads

The Scar
“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” Anthony Bourdain

The Scar starts just below my navel and
goes all the way down to my pubis.
the doctor gutted me like a fish
and cut out and scraped out all the nasty bits
containing the cancer.
He glued it back together with that glue
the military uses in the field for the wounded.
My husband often traces it with his lips.
It’s like a tattoo of life, he says.
I smile and agree with him.

Haibun: That which saves us

For Sherry’s prompt at Real Toads – what we save saves us. This is not my usual brief haibun. It is long. But Pugsley deserves a long haibun. Sherry assured me I had her permission to post this as she is not strict about prompts. No social justice here, just saving a starving car. I saved him and he saved me.

Haibun: That which saves us

Twenty years ago, I was living in the Fan in a small two room apartment. It was a hard winter and snow was on the ground. I stepped out my door to fill the birdfeeders when I noticed a skeletal ginger cat gobbling up popcorn that had been thrown out for the birds. It looked at me. I called softly, Kitty? It made a step towards me. I ran in the house and quickly opened a can of tuna which I put out. I backed away and the cat began to eat as if starved. The cat was there the next day and I put out some leftover chicken. This time I walked towards the cat and it hunkered down. I rubbed its head and it stretched beneath my hand, grateful for the attention. I picked it up and it snuggled in my arms purring. I told the cat, not on my watch are you going to starve. It took it in the house and noticed it had on a rhinestone collar which had grown into its skin. You are somebody’s pet, I told him. I had determined the cat had been spayed. I put up notices around the neighborhood and three streets over, an old lady answered the ad and told me it had been her neighbor’s cat that had been tossed out when her neighbor died. I kept the cat. I renamed him Pugsley. He was quiet, well behaved and affectionate. My fiance’ was not happy but knew I was determined. When we married and moved into our home, Pugsley went with us.

A few years later, my PAP smear came back negative. I had cancer. I felt like I had been gut punched. I cried for several days and Pugsley never left my side. He walked around after me in the house and got in my lap when I sat down. A biopsy was done and the results were malignant. I started a round of chemo and finally surgery. When I went for the chemo, Pugsley rode with me and sat with me whenever it was possible. Often I was sick and exhausted. I did not complain or tell people what was going on with me.  But I told Pugsley and he reminded me that he loved me and listened.  He’d lick my face when I cried. I came home after the surgery during which I almost died due to reaction to the sedatives and painkillers. When I finally went home, my husband told me Pugsley had not eaten and meowed constantly. The first thing when I lay down, he jumped on the bed and lay by my side, purring softly. During the weeks of recovery he made me laugh and snuggled. I talked to him and he laughed at my lame jokes and loved me. My husband had the perfect baby sitter in Puglsey.

About five years ago, Pugsley stopped eating and didn’t want to be held. I took him to the vet who determined he had a huge tumor growing in his stomach. My heart broke. I talked to the doctor and then talked to Pugsley. He lay in my arms while the vet put him down. This cat who had been so loving and faithful, I could not save this last time. I had him cremated and when I inserted my mother’s ashes in her mother’s grave, I inserted Pugsley as well. He was the best boi in the world. I cry still at his loss. I take him flowers when I take flowers to my mother.
snow falls quietly –
a starving cat won my heart –
flowers bloom on his grave

Pugsley under the crepe myrtle

Beautiful

Beautiful
My once dainty hands became ugly.
Blisters from handling hell hot saute pans,
Cuts from too swift knife work,
My little finger permanently out of joint,
Mishapen, arthritic and painful on cold days.
Ugly brown scars from blisters burst
And reformed,
A long scar from a knife…
All the ugliness from a career of cooking.
When we married my husband slid the ring
Over the stump of my ring finger
and tenderly kissed it.
Years later he kissed the scar
On my stomach –
The scar where the laser knife slit me from navel to pubis,
The doctor removing from me
the organs and lymph nodes
Holding the cancer in his hands
and discarding as meducal waste.
My husband said:
Wear the two piece bathing suit at the beach – show the world you are a survivor,
So i did.
Because I am.
I showed off my scar proudly
And held my face up to the sun
And laughed.

Haibun Monday: Outside my (hospital) Window

Today it is Haibun Monday and I am giving the prompt for today.  The post accidentally went live Friday – sorry!  Accidents do happen in the real and the poetic world.  I am asking people to write a haibun (one or two tight paragraphs with a seasonal, classic haiku at the end) about a memorable birthday or, a full moon or…both combined!  These last few days shows us a super moon in the sky – the closest the moon has been to earth in 69 years!  Enjoy the moon, enjoy the haibun. Come Join us at dVerse Poets Pub for some splendid reading.

Outside my Hospital Window

I spent my 55th birthday in hospital.  I had been diagnosed with uterine cancer and I had just been operated on to remove the cancer.  Luckily, it was caught in its very early stages and I was one of the few lucky ones who did not die of this form of cancer.  But…I was sick with complications from the anesthesia and deeply depressed.  All I could eat was some pond scum broth, water, and coca cola.  I had thrown up everything but my toenails.  And I had been presented with a birthday cake by my mother, husband, and mother-in-law.  It ended up at the nurses’ station for them and anyone else to eat and enjoy.  November 16 was a grim birthday for me but I was alive.

Outside my hospital window, the sycamore trees were alive and golden, waving their leaves in the breeze.  I could see them from first to last light.  They reminded me I was alive and at this point, I had been pronounced cancer free.  I spent a lot of time in silence in that room, watching those tree leaves, watching birds hopping from branch to branch, gazing at the clear blue sky during the day and the huge full moon at night.  I was sick as a dog but I was alive.  I was alive.  Happy birthday to me…I sang.  Happy happy birthday to me.

golden leaves shimmer
during the day – full moon shines
bright during the night

public domain NASA photo

public domain NASA photo

Mrs. Kanzen, you have cancer…

I have written before about being diagnosed with cancer and now being a cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed in October six years ago.  We see all of the time information about and campaigns for breast cancer. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – normally a silent killing cancer, but again, because of vigilance on the part of my PA and the grace of God, I am here to send you all this love letter. Ovarian cancer is almost always diagnosed too late and mimics symptoms of other diseases. We don’t hear as much about the other cancers as we do breast cancer for some reason.

Ladies: please have your gynecologist, when doing your PAP smear, take a swab from higher up in the uterus which is where this cancer starts. Tell your daughters, your sisters, your mother, your friends. Men, you do the same thing with women you love and want to continue to love for many years.  Everybody, get those colonoscopies and men, bend over and crack a smile for your MD.

Taking care of ourselves – men and women, is important. Lots of fresh veggies and fruits, low fat diets, exercise, certain foods to eat; stop smoking and stop fooling yourselves with those steam cigarettes that contain nicotine. Just stop it. I stopped smoking over 30 years ago from a 2 pack a day habit, cold turkey. You can do it. I know you can. We’ve heard all of this so many times, we don’t hear it any more. When my dear papa was dying, he had me promise to stop smoking.  I did it out of love.  I think you all have people you love and who love you.  As a cancer survivor and your biggest fan, please, please, please take care of yourselves.

I hope this works as I am always link challenged.  This is supposed to be a downloadable cancer awareness color chart….ovarian, my ribbon, is teal.

ribbon_color_chart_printable

Hugs and love….

 

Six Years Ago Today – Return from hiatus, Cancer, and other such things

With apologies to my friend Bill Hamilton: I don’t like Florida. Good people there but it is just too darn hot and steamy – and the mosquitos…..like a biblical plague. Enough about that.  This is a long post and I hope no one will be offended by it.  I hope you will please read all of it.

This is one of those rambling posts and eventually, I’ll get to the points about the kindness of unstrangers (one of my favorite topics) and to tell you all, God’s not dead. Please don’t stop reading because this is an important post and concerns a diagnosis of cancer. I know many of you do not believe in the existence of a supreme being for whatever reason. And that is cool. I neither condemn nor attempt to convert. I just want you all to know: God’s not dead.

Six years ago, I should have died from uterine cancer, but I did not. Six years ago, I was not feeling well, was constantly tired, in pain, troublesome symptoms. I had scheduled an appointment with my MD and based on things I had told her, she determined I needed more of an exam rather than just the usual. It happens on that day, she was not able to come into the office so her PA (physicians assistant) took her calls. Being a bit hypervigilant, he examined me and took the procedure a little further than usual. A week later, my PAP smear came back with an abnormal reading. I was sent to a specialist who biopsied and then two weeks later, I found out I had uterine cancer.

Uterine cancer is normally a killer. It mimics other diseases and symptoms and because PAP smears usually are not taken from higher up than normal but this one time, the PA went higher. Because of his vigilance, the cancer was caught at virtually ground zero. Women usually die from this cancer because it is usually found and diagnosed too late.

The week before this diagnosis, I was teaching my adult Sunday School about acceptance and God’s timing. Tuesday, I was told about the cancer. I’ll be honest; I felt like I was sucker punched. I sat in my car and wept and shivered and wept some more. I kept hugging to myself that God would take care of me. I told myself over and over that what God brings me to, He will carry me through by His grace. I assured myself that the oncologist I was referred to, would take care of me. I went to him that afternoon because of the diagnosis. He told me it was nothing short of miraculous the uterine cancer had been found so early. That there was hope for my recovery. I then went home and told my family.

Telling my family was the hardest part. My mother was angry. She said that I didn’t deserve this, that I was a good person and God had no right to do this to me. My husband looked like I had kicked him in the family jewels and just stared. I was calm. I told them it would be okay that I believed, however it turned out, that it would be okay. The oncologist (one of THE best in Richmond for women’s cancers) would be taking care of me and was optimistic about my recovery. I had faith in the love of God and His plans for me.

I told myself this over and over and over. People at my church prayed for me and my family. People who didn’t know me prayed, sent their positive thoughts, vibrations, wishes…I was so surrounded by love and light from so many people, many of them strangers.

The day came for my surgery. I would be in hospital on my birthday – I took note of the irony of that. Now this is the really hard part. I know people are going to scoff at this but that’s okay too. My family and some friends were sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear how things went and would go in the future. My husband said the doctor, when he came out was very still and had an odd look on his face. He thought to himself, he’s going to tell us she died, that she will die, that it is hopeless. My mother began crying.

The doctor then said, the surgery went well. When I opened her up, the parts that had shown up on the MRI and PET were clean. There was no cancer – everything was as clean as when I was born, no lymphatic problems, no cancer. He went ahead and performed the surgery to be on the safe side. He shook his head and told them, “This is a first for me. Your wife, your daughter is fine.” He then shook hands with everyone there and went back to perform another surgery. My mother said people began to cheer and hug each other. When my family was allowed to see me, they told me what had happened. Truly, it turned out okay. So again I say, God’s not dead.

For some reason, I was given this incredible miracle. No, it was not a mistaken diagnosis. I saw the results of the tests showing the infected parts of my body. I got a second opinion and went back to my oncologist.

I have been in Florida with my mother. She is currently in a rehab health center. She had decided to give up and starve herself to death and came really close. the week before I went down, every time the phone rang, I expected it. She asked me to please bring her some good juicy tangy Southern tomatoes. I made her tomato sandwiches twice a day while I was there and she ate every bite. I spoke to the Doctor and dietician about what she was being fed (pureed food that looked like a combo of pig puke and cow poop and smelled about the same) and why? So now she is being fed regular food and doing okay with it. We all know hospital food ain’t the best, but she is eating some of the food off her tray every day and drinking her nutritional supplement. She has gained four pounds. From being at death’s door, she is now waiting to be transitioned to assisted living.

I told Mama about all the amazing people and especially those of you in the blogosphere who sent prayers to her, who sent positive vibes and feelings of light and love. She was so encouraged by your kindness. I was as well. We still have some tough times to go through, but I feel better about some things regarding her.

And again I say, as long as there are people who care, even about strangers, no matter their belief or unbelief, that God’s Not Dead. I am proof of this. The way my mother was encouraged and lifted up is proof. I never cease to be amazed by the goodness and caring of my fellow humans on this earth.

So however you feel or believe, that is fine.  Just don’t ever stop believing in the goodness of our fellow travelers on this journey of life.  Never stop caring, never stop letting people know you care, always accept that care and love from others.

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