Survivor

For the Prose Pantry at Poets United.  Magaly has chosen the word “stitches” for us to use.

Survivor
“You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It’s a mindset.” – Dave Pelzer

I should have died from the diagnosis but I did not. Most women do die from ovarian cancer. It mimics other symptoms of other diseases until it is too late. I had a canny doctor who ordered me for a biopsy and a CT scan. It was confirmed – I had ovarian cancer.

The treatments began until finally, surgery was the order for the day. The doctors gutted me like a fish and pulled out all the nasty bits, the parts infected with cancer. My surgeon was also canny and did not do stitches or staples. He used a special biodegradable and biocompatible superglue to seal the surgery closed. No stitches, no staples – I healed cleanly.

I was established in the guest room during my recovery from surgery.  My mother half sarcastically gave me an embroidery kit to work on while on bedrest. I looked at her like she was crazy. “You know my sewing kit consists of duct tape, staples, and safety pins.” She snorted and walked away. My two cats, Pugsley and SamCat the Ripper sniffed at the sewing kit and went down to the foot of the bed to guard me and keep me company. My husband looked at the kit and asked, “Is she serious?”

The embroidery kit was never opened. It was tossed to the side and discovered behind the bed a year later during a massive cleanup. I was determined – no stitches in me and no stitches in a kit.

 


embroidery kit for beginners

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….

 

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