Put the wet stuff on the hot stuff………..

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“Put the wet stuff on the hot stuff, and put that fire out….” it is part of the song the ‘firemen recruits’ perform in Legoland’s “The Big Test” show.  A song I can perform by heart after seeing Trevor do this show for six years. Then, Michelley in the same show. And, now, it is Michael and Christopher’s turn!

Michael auditioned.

Trevor will not be available for Legoland much during his second season at Cirque de la Mer. This created an opening and an immediate need. An audition was announced and held with a good number of acrobats attending.

And, Michael made it.

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Michael as Vern.

At this same time, the part of Chief was opening as well. The part that had four or five actors already committed and entrenched in this position for years. The part that Chris said he would love to do after seeing the show for the first time.  Some day.  Maybe.  Knowing this would most likely never happen. Not with a cast this deep for just one main role.

Sometimes, impossible things can suddenly become most possible.

The Entertainment Department put out the call. An audition for Chief. The other four actors suddenly had other gigs elsewhere, or moved over to other shows at Lego. Chief was open. Another audition was held.  Chris answered the call.

And, Christopher made it.

Chris as Chief with his brother, Trevor behind him as Marco as they enter to perform together.

Chris as Chief with his brother, Trevor, behind him as Marco as they enter to perform together.

Michelley and Trevor are out and Michael and Chris are in. I guess I will be hearing the ‘wet stuff on the hot stuff’ for a bit longer.  Before Trevor leaves for Cirque I get to see all three brothers perform together.  It would have been awesome if Michelley had been here to perform with them. They are all so good at their parts. I can never tire of this show and seeing my kids performing in it. The song, however, is another story.  It sticks in my head.

For days later.

I pull the bottom of my shirt away from my body, creating a fan, and try not to let it rub my skin too much. My burnt skin. This song goes through my mind over and over as I wait for Dr. K to enter. I wish it were that easy, to just put the wet stuff on the hot stuff.

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How Michael fights fires as Vern.

I am on fire.

We had expected the chemo to boost the side effects of radiation. Doing both at once, necessary, but, not part of the original plan.  Dr. K said it would amplify the side effects from radiation.

I do not think she expected it to burn quite this bad.

I am crying all of the time. Even though I am not actually crying. I am not sad.  My eyes are crying. Tearing. Welling up my lower lids and spilling over. Unannounced. Unwelcome.

Like a little old lady, I do not travel farther than a few steps away from the nearest box of tissues.  I look around this doctor’s examination room and can not believe that there is not one box of Kleenex any where.  I gingerly maneuver a little wad of tissue I have stuffed in my jeans pocket.  Still damp and falling apart.  I am using this to dab my eyes when Dr. K enters.

We say our usual hellos.  She does ask how Trevor is doing and smiles, but we skip the usual hugs.  I  lift my shirt so Dr. K can take a look at her piece of art, a left boob disfigured by cancer and re-designed by her radiation therapy.  Burned by radiation. She looks up to see my tears, she rubs my arm and pats my hand. There is a look of guilt in her eyes.

“Oh, I am not crying,” I tell her as I try to find a dry spot on my wad of Kleenex with one hand as I hold up my shirt with the other, “it is just the chemo.” Pieces of tissue have stuck to my face. I can see a piece on the one eye lash left after the second round of going bald.

Dr. K brushes off the tiny flecks of tissue still stuck to my cheek, “Oh, Lori,” she does a little tsk tsk with her tongue, “we sure put you through it, didn’t we?” She tells me to go ahead and pull my shirt back down while she goes to get Dr. L. “I would like her to see this if you don’t mind?”

At this point in time, baring my breasts for another nurse or doctor is no longer an issue. Much in the way my modesty flew out the window with each baby I had nursed. My first born and I would make a comical scene with the baby blanket over my head so that we could privately nurse in public.  One big nursing tent.  By the time baby number five, the last, came along, I was whipping up my shirt, exposing everything, to nurse while standing in the grocery store check-out line. I wasn’t about to lose my place in line.  Not after shopping with five kids.  Who cares if anyone saw my breast.

So, what’s one more doctor that I have yet to meet asking me to lift my shirt?

I fiddle with the thread that is fraying at the bottom of my shirt. It is old and loose. Like a favorite pajama top. It feels good. Worn. A bare film over my bare breasts. The burn is too bad for anything tight or for any bra wearing. I look down at my hands and see new nail growth. In spite of the radiation burn, there is new growth. In the aftermath of a forest fire, a tiny tree begins to bud. My growing nail buds feel like this. I am happy as Spring to see them, even though I’ve already learned to do without fingernails, hiding paperclips in several inconspicuous places around the house. The paperclips do the duty of fingernails.  I grab the paper clip I have attached with a leather strap to my purse.

I’ll just use this to clean under my new nails while I wait.

The two ladies enter. Two radiologists. Dr. K enters first with her little legs and short black hair curling around her face exposing the red dot on her third eye. Everything about her says doctor. She even wears the white coat and stethoscope.  Dr. L towers over Dr. K.  Nothing about this woman spells doctor.  Her loud German or Russian accent, I can not tell the difference, booms over the top of Dr. K’s head.  She wears loud, attention grabbing clothes. Tight skirt over gray, mesh stockings, high heels, flowery blouse and bright yellow cardigan sweater.  Something seen in a fancy dress shop, not in a professional office.  Certainly not the usual doctor’s attire.  Her blond hair, done up in an old fashioned French twist adds to her stature.  Clearly, Dr. L is the boss of this place.

I am lifting my shirt before they even close the door.

I watch eyes widen. They both take a step back. In unison.  A practiced dance step. Only, both doctors agree this is something new for them. “You probably see this all of the time, right?” I am looking for confirmation that my burn is not really so bad.  Dr. L is slowly shaking her head back and forth.  A sort of disbelief gesture. Dr. K answers for them both,

“No. This is the worst I have seen in my career. In in in, both of our careers?” She looks to Dr. L for an answer.

Dr. L just keeps shaking her head back and forth as if in a trance, “oh, oh, right, right.” She looks to Dr. K, eyes still wide. “Aquaphor, she should be putting Aquaphor on this.” They both nod. I say I am. We stare at each other a bit longer.  Dr. L watches tears stream down my face as I dab at them with the same wet spit-wad of a tissue.  “She is not crying”.  Dr. K explains to Dr. L, “it is just the chemo.”  She looks back at me as she is turning Dr. L around, “you can put your shirt down.”  They scurry out of the small room like a couple of kids who suddenly realize that playing with matches actually does start fires.

“Put the wet stuff on the hot stuff…..”

Dr. K comes back in. Alone this time. “As soon as we let this rest a bit,” she is sitting in her rolling chair now and facing me. Close. Dr. K grimaces, “We will need to schedule a few more rounds.” She winces, “Boosters.” I am not alarmed, but I ask, “is this because the first round did not work?” I do not know why I am asking. I know with my ‘Knowing like a feather perched in my soul’, that it did, in fact, work.

I know that the cancer is gone.

“No, no. This is something that I had planned. Although, I did not plan on burning you quite so bad.” I think I hear her say ‘damn chemo’ under her breath. But, I may have just imagined that part.

I know I am not imagining the sadness in her eyes.

I tell Dr. K that it is okay. It is not so bad. This stuff passes. I show her my new nails beginning to stretch up the nubs of my fingers. I pull back my hat and rub my head for her to see the new sprouts of coarse little hair buds. It all passes. We are on a journey and this is just a bumpy part of the road.

This new hair growth is different than the first time it started growing back. This time, I don’t have fear that cancer is sprouting along with them. It’s just not there.

I tell Dr. K that it has all been worth it because the cancer is gone. And, that she can do another ‘booster’ round if it makes her feel better. “don’t worry,” I say as we exit the examination room together, “the cancer is gone but, I will just keep coming so that you can keep your job.”  We both laugh.

But, I actually mean it.

Watching my boys so happy to be performing is the most healing remedy. Think I will go get a Legoland shopper’s pass.  A free pass into the park for one hour of shopping.  And,  I’ll just peek at another Big Test show.

Maybe even shop for a new coffee mug for Dr. K while I am there.

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The youngest brother giving the oldest brother a difficult time! Nothing new.
Maybe this isn’t really acting after all!!!!

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Trevor takes a turn at playing Vern. Chris as Chief and Michael as Chef Basil.
Three clowns for sure.

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They ‘wet his pants’.                 I am thinking I would not mind getting the wet stuff on the hot stuff this way right now!

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My boys. My super heroes.
This is how I heal.
Laughing.

Hope is a thing…………

April 11, 2012

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Let Hope Fly

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

~Emily Dickinson

“That perches in my soul”.  I love this line.  There is a Knowing that perches in all of our souls.  It may be as light as a feather. And, maybe that is why we sometimes have trouble listening to this Knowing.  But, it is there.  Singing.

This is how I birthed and how we have raised our children.

Listening to this ‘Knowing’ in my soul, rather than what society was telling me.  It is why we ended up home-birthing and home-schooling. It is what keeps me calm and gives me trust.  Hope when one of the kids appeared to not meet the proper criteria on the scale of expectation created by society.  It is the thing that perches in my soul.  Light as a feather.  I listen.

Maybe this is how I am healing from stage four breast cancer now.

Well, this along with the chemo and radiation that have my whole upper left torso completely burned and blistering. And, along with the juicing and raw foods. Those delicious colorful leafy healing foods. And, of course, along with my guides and angels.

I miss Michelle. An angel on this sweet Earth.  She has already been gone for nearly two months.  Our phone calls are better now.  We are past the first month of those dreadful skype calls.  The calls that came everyday with fears and tears.  Calls where I not only listened to her but could see her misery. Her dismay in finding herself in a foreign country. Alone in a studio apartment no bigger than the bedroom she so recently left empty in my home. Alone. She cried everyday for the first two weeks. “I wish Trevor made it into the show too.  He was so close. One of the top three.  Why didn’t he make it too?”  She would get the words out through sobs, “then, he would be here with me now.”

“I just want to come home.”

Skyping makes these far more than mere words. It’s one thing as a mother to just hear these words over the phone. Skype lets me see her. I am not sure I like such modern technology.  I am miserable too.

And I can’t wipe away the tears that I see streaming her face.

The song in my soul tells me she is doing the right thing.  The song without words.  I just know.

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This is Knowing, with feathers, who perches in my soul.

 “No.” I tell her. “This is a good thing. Hard. But good.” Trevor did not get the show in Japan. “And, though that seemed bad at the time, he ended up getting Cirque de la Mer again, stunt performing in the San Diego Opera-Moby Dick, and tramp wall show at the SD Zoo.  These are all great for Trevor.”  I remind Michelley of the Taoist story her daddy used to tell them all whenever they thought something bad just happened to us.  The story of the old farmer whose only response to any news, good or bad, was the same;

“We shall see.”

We thought it was bad, sad, that Michelley made it but Trevor did not.  Especially since he was the one who researched the audition and thought about doing that show for over a year.  We forgot to say, “we shall see.”  Trevor is in a far better place right now and could not have done this if he was in Japan.  “Besides,” I tell her, “something tells me that you need this experience on your own.”  I see myself in the little screen that sits over the top of her beautiful face on my laptop screen.

I try not to keep looking at myself when I talk to her over skype.

It makes me so self conscious. I check my teeth for spinach like I am looking into a mirror. She mimics me and laughs. Skyping will take some getting used to.  It will need a new set of proper etiquette, yet to be written. I try to stay focused on the conversation but it’s so hard to do.  It’s like talking to someone who has their back to a mirror and all I see is myself. “Besides, this experience is going to be life-changing for you. It is exactly the right thing for you at the right time. You will be fine.”

She says, “We shall see.”

I say these last four words with confidence. Yet, underneath this air of confidence the words are whispered more as a prayer of hope. Oh dear God I hope she will be fine. Let her be fine. During those tearful conversations I would find myself wondering……

How long will it take me to swim across the ocean?

I am just on the other side of the Pacific. Almost a direct line to Osaka. I look across my horizon when I stand on the pier. I like knowing she is just beyond this view. Fine. Doing fine. Momo used to tell the kids that whenever she missed them when she was back home in Florida, all she had to do was look up to the moon and the stars and know that they (the kids) were under the same big glow. “I see the moon, and the moon sees me…..”

I would say this to Michelley now, but, I know she would think I am being corny.  Already, she is doing fine.  She sends me a photo of herself.  Performing in the rain.  Smiling in the rain.

She is fine.288138_293371067428810_1621713322_o

I not only miss her, I am in a little panic. Did I teach her enough? The important stuff. Like, how to cook a meal, how to wash clothes, how not to get kidnapped. I know we taught her how to do gymnastics and how to brush her teeth, I remember doing that.

We just get so freaking busy living life. And in my defense, there were five of them.  The only thing I know for sure that I covered for each one of them was where babies come from.  I only know this, because to this day, I still ask if I had had this talk with him or her yet. I always worried that I might have told one child twice and then left one of them out of this little fact of life.

But, I never ask them if I covered any other important ‘how to live life’ topics.  Well, except, maybe to tell them that it was okay to be gay.  Another repetitive lesson.  I wanted them to be sure that if they happened to be gay, I would still love them to the moon and back.  So, this question, I know for sure, I asked each one of them.  Often.  Hundreds of times over their young lifetime.  Why didn’t I make sure I taught them other life skills?  I wish I had done a check list for raising my kids right. Maybe I should not have just listened to that thing with feathers perching on my soul, singing without words.  A song with words may have been a wiser ‘Knowing’.  Michelley’s not just down the road a piece so when she makes a mistake she can run home and lick her wounds. She is 6078.49 nautical miles away.

That is one big ocean between us.

I dig deep to my ‘Knowing’ with feathers.  I find Trust is also a thing. Perching right there beside Knowing and Hope.   I have to just trust at this point. Trust that Greg and I have done enough in raising her. Trust that she is part of this big beautiful universe. A universe that knows exactly what is right for her. Trust that she has guiding angels. I know that she listens. So, now I just have to trust.

Michelley sends me a photo of a meal she just made for herself.  She thinks it is chicken.  Shopping in Japan without knowing how to read the language can be a little surprising.  I see spinach and tomatoes on her plate and breathe a sigh of relief.  It is not a meal made from Doritos and Top Ramen.

I just hope she knows that poultry should not be eaten raw.

To name a hero…………

April 6, 2012

Sometimes super heroes have capes. Sometimes super heroes have webs shoot  from the palms of their hands. One thing that all heroes seem to have in common is perfect timing. They show up at just the right moment. The crucial minute that determines life or death. The moment that lives between despair and hope.

I had always hoped for a knight in shining armor. Someone to save me from my stupid mistakes, my poor decisions, my lack. A knight to come along with a bag of gold. Well, a bag of dollar bills, actually. To pay off my debts, buy me a house, a car, and a sewing machine. I like sewing.

A knight would fix everything that I had screwed up. Things that I now see weren’t ever really screwed up. It was just scenarios I had created by focusing on lack. Then, pulling on pity strings and waiting for that dang knight to show.cropped-13.jpg I thought I was defeated. All of this pales in the shadow of a cancer diagnosis. A true wake up call. And of all times, I stopped wanting pity. No longer expecting a knight in shining armor. Probably when I need one the most. This was serious. I knew that I needed to make changes. But, occasionally, I’d still look up to see if a white knight was on the horizon. What I did not know is that I would get a hero.

And, that sometimes, a hero can be a hero even before he or she is born.

We just found out. It’s a boy. This baby boy who had the perfect timing of a true hero. Who stands on that thin thread between despair and hope, balancing like a practiced tight-rope walker, fists on hips, red cape bellowing in the wind. This little hero who puts a stiff arm up to the side of despair and takes my hand into hope. This little boy, yet to be born, has no idea what a true hero he is with just being.

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Maybe we all are true heroes. If only we could just be. Just be. Nothing more. Just be who we are. Stop asking what do you want to be when you grow up. Start being. That’s enough. The people that I love the most, I love because of who they are, not because of what they have done. And, in this moment, I am finally realizing how this unborn child has already taught me this most important lesson. I hadn’t painted since high school.  But, I wanted to paint a little hero series for him.  Conceived at the most perfect time.  He is a hero just by being born.

A perfect little hero.

photophoto (2)His name will be Grayson. Grayson Chance. But, we are not to tell anyone yet. Cassie doesn’t want to be influenced by other people’s opinions. This is his name. And that is that.

I hope I can keep my mouth shut.

There is meaning behind each name. Chance, because it takes willingness and courage to take chances, to take risks and to not be afraid of failing. Failure is necessary and part of succeeding. The more you chance, the more chance you will no longer fear failure. The more chance you will succeed. Cassie picked the middle name of Chance for this reason. Justin picked Grayson for other reasons.

Justin is a life-long fan of Super Heroes. Particularly, Batman. And, Justin chose a name that is strong and meaningful.  Grayson.

I looked it up in Wikipedia: “Richard John “Dick” Grayson is just a fictional character, a superhero in the DC Comics. He was the youngest in a family of acrobats known as the “Flying Graysons”. Dick watches the mafia boss kill his parents in order to extort money from the circus that employed them. Batman takes him in as his legal ward, and later, Dick becomes his partner~Robin. He is the one that Batman cares about the most.”  So, there it is.  A little hero is named.  Grayson.

Grayson Chance. My own personal super hero.

Cassie decides we should prepare the nursery.  For my birthday.  Which, happens to be this Sunday. She wants me to paint a mural.  I know exactly what I want to do for it. I’ll go up on the train at six thirty tomorrow morning. I just have to time the painting so I am done by Sunday. To be back by Monday so I don’t miss radiation. And chemo. The duo that is setting me on fire. I am watching Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon on the lobby tv at the radiation center. This might be another day that I stay to watch the ending. A new, fun habit. I think I am the only patient to take their warm welcome to heart. Maybe wearing out the welcome mat a bit.

“Lori Rubino, cooooome oooooon dowwwwnnnnn!” It’s Emil. He’s on the intercom. There is a camera poised on the lobby. He sees me watching tv, sipping coffee from their paper cups. Once I slide my card upon arrival, my information scans into the system and let’s the techs in the back know I have arrived. Still, I like to go to the clipboard and also sign in. This way I can say hello to Sharrone at the front desk. Then, I wait to be called back.

Emil turns it into a game show.

After going to the small locker room, hanging my clothes and slipping into the hospital robe, I wait again on the little chair by the locker room. This is when Emil physically comes to get me. And, usually in some surprising way. Today, he is waving a sticky note in the entrance with a smiley face. My flag to “Go”. I walk in to the treatment room to see birthday signs hanging from the robot arm.  “Happy Birthday Grandma Lori.”  I hop onto the cold metal, the techs get my spongy thing, the ice-cold sponge pack to fit across the area we radiate. It intensifies the radiation to the area. There is no getting used to this part. I squeak every single time it hits my skin. Particularly now that the skin is burned. Today, Tiffany pauses before laying the sponge. They all come to take a look.

This burn is getting bad.  Really really bad.

Emil wonders how many more they are going to be able to do. Dr. K is out so they call in one of the other doctors. I’ve never seen him. He tells me to go get Aquaphor. That’s all. We continue. We talk as we go through the routine. The, now, rote routine. I lay on the metal, someone puts the triangle pillow under my knees, someone else puts a warm blanket over my legs while someone else puts the cold sponge on me. Emil laughs at my reaction. Every time. They position things, check placements. I grab the handle bars and wiggle around several times. Always saying, “wait…wait..there…no…wait..okay….. now….yes…okay….oh crap….my nose…..wait….okay….now”. We carry  on a conversation about each others lives all the while.

I think of how Momo would.

“So, how is Cassie?” Tiffany always asks. The memory of the pain of childbearing still so recent in her mind. She usually asks about the pregnancy. I tell them it’s a boy. Emil wants to know if they have a name for him yet?

“Grayson Chance.” Oh my God. It’s the first time anyone has asked and I didn’t even hesitate. Oh well. I figure they will never get to meet Cassie. So, they can’t try to influence her.

“Grayson?” Emil fiddles with the remote control adjusting my bed alignment with the red light lines across my body. “The Flying Graysons,” he says and nods with approval.

“You know about the Flying Graysons?” I am amazed.

“Well, duh.” That’s it. That’s his answer. “Grayson is a good name. A strong name. A little super hero.”

‘Oh, Emil’, I think, ‘you know it.’  He turns up my music, hits the lights and the switch to close the door.  Last one out he laughs, “better than calling him Robin!”

I don’t even watch my handsome dance partner, the robot arm, this time as he works through the maneuvers of our dance number. As I usually do to make sure he doesn’t miss a beat. This time, I close my eyes and think about the nursery mural I am going to paint.

I think about how grateful I am for the little heroes in our world.

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She paints the crib.
I paint the wall.
She sings while we work.


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A little message for my little hero;
Grayson’s Grandma loves Grayson H.

Down and down I go, round and round I go, in a spin….

March 13, 2012

We could hear her long before we would see them trailing down the dirt road together.  “down and down I go, round and round I go, in a spin, lovin’ the spin I’m in, lovin’ that oooooold black magic called LOVE!”   Her singing voice that never found the right key. Always a little off. Always loud. Joy filled. She could care less who heard it. Or, who complained at birthday parties when singing happy birthday became impossible to sing along with her. She would continue to the end of the song. Alone, after the rest of us would give up trying. It was someone’s birthday and she was going to celebrate that person for goodness sakes.

She sang like there was no one listening long before that ever became a cute quote.

We lived in the country-side of Statesville, NC at that time. Early morning walks were brisk. A ritual back then. Something the kids looked forward to every time she came to visit from Florida.

Which, was often.  Every chance she could get.

Wrong era; right type of Grandma.

Wrong era; right type of Grandma.

She was their grandmother, but, they called her Momo. Like a tiny Pied Piper in sequin shoes. She’d lead the way with her little legs, with a spring in her step and with her horrible singing voice. Our five kids would trot beside her, holding her hands, her shirt sleeves and pulling the baby in a wagon. And, just like her, their faces up to the sunshine, arms swinging, knees high stepping, we could hear their voices, too. They knew all of the words to every Louie Prima song by heart.

Louie was Momo’s favorite.1153026

Momo was magic. She would tie one end of the jump rope to the porch railing so she could swing the rope for eight year old Cassie.  Teaching her to jump and sing rhymes Momo had jumped to as a little girl. She would insist on holding baby Michael on her lap. Help Michelle to put “real” baby clothes on her many baby dolls. Clothes that she bought for her because ‘doll clothes did not look real’. Teach Christopher and Trevor how to play poker. Playing with them, of course.

She would do all of this, at the same time.

The magic was that each child seemed to think they were the only one in the room with her.  Each felt that they were her only grandchild.

I also felt that she was only mine. Momo was my mother-in-law. A dear, sweet friend, I had met two years before I met her son. She would slide into the restaurant booth beside me and that’s when it would start.

The art of asking questions.

An art, because she was far from being nosy. It was more like, an interview from the heart. Momo’s interviewing talent would put Oprah Winfrey’s to shame. Momo was just interested. Period. Truly and lovingly interested in people. All kinds and all ages.  Especially, her grandchildren.  Her “interviewing” with each of them started by the time they were two on long distant phone calls.  I had never known anyone to be able to engage a two year old in a two hour conversation before Momo.

She taught me this. Ask questions. Listen.

I am not saying that I have accomplished this art.  Not by a long shot.  I still get excited and talk more than I listen.  Momo never made me feel like I talked too much.  I miss her.  I am thinking a lot about her today. “Old Black Magic” played on the car radio on my way here. It was Louie Prima. He was singing for her. I know this.

Today is Momo’s birthday.

She would have been eighty-five. Still making friends. Still asking questions. Listening with all of her heart.

I don’t ask questions like I should.  Especially in doctors offices. I had to bring Trevor with me during the first consultation with Dr. K in this radiation treatment center. Trevor knows I would not ask the right questions. I’d probably know everything about her family, her childhood, and her college life as a young doctor in training. Nothing about the radiation treatments I was embarking upon.  That stuff just makes me nervous.

Trevor would be a calm presence.

When he was a teenager, I remember Cassie telling me how, anytime she felt stressed or worried, all she had to do was merely sit next to Trevor and just his presence alone would give her great calm. She said his soul was big, centered and sweet.

Dr. K said the same thing about him, the day of my first treatment.

She comes into the small examining room, shuts the door behind her as though she is about to tell me a big family secret. She walks to the computer stand, turns to face me, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this,” she leans her back against the wall as she rests her coffee mug on the examining table, “but, Trevor is one good-looking young man.” And, then, she heaves a hearty laugh. Knowing that it’s okay for women of our age to say these things out loud.

“But,” she quickly adds, “the thing is, I can tell you this, he is just as beautiful inside,” Dr. K sits and rides her stool closer to the exam table, still holding onto her mug. She makes me feel like we’re just a couple of friends, here to chat over tea. She reminds me a little of Momo this way. I could climb in a restaurant booth for long chats with Dr. K.

Today, I am here for my sixth treatment.  Dr. K enters the room saying, “That’s all my daughter ever wants in life, she yearns for in life, is to find someone to love.  She just wants a relationship.  To find someone like Trevor.”  She likes to talk about him, every time I see her now. My daily visits for radiation.  Weekends off, of course.  “He has a good soul.”

“Today, though,” she’s more serious and rolls her chair back to the computer stand, “we need to make a decision about what to do with you.”  I already know where this is heading.

I had a dream.

“Dr. B ordered another series of chemo for me.” She looks at me with alarm. Wondering. How is that possible? We both know that Dr. B is out of the country. Back home in India with a family emergency. He will be gone for a few weeks. “Oh, I don’t mean that he actually told me this in person.” I swat at thin air, “I mean, I had a dream that he did.” I tell Dr. K that I often have dreams that are foretelling. And, I have grown to trust my dreams to lead me in the right direction whenever I am at a cross-roads.

In this case, I know without a doubt, that I should get more chemo.

“I agree.” She is now starring at my barred chest. Standing back, the artist examining her sculpture in progress. She comes in closer again, and rubs her fingers in circular motions around my boob. The bumpy one. The boob with new tumors that are growing rather fast.

I am wondering how much my new diet has had an ill effect on the cancer cells. Maybe I was feeding the last few cancer cells that had not yet been killed off? I have been eating meat again. I’ve also been making home-made yogurt utilizing cow’s milk—albeit raw. It was still cow’s milk. Dairy.

Of course, as soon as these tumors popped up, Greg was back at the computer, and at Barnes and Noble, researching. He comes home one day, alarmed. Guilty. He blames himself for changing our diets without knowing this one important item about cow’s milk.

Casein protein.

I tell him not to blame himself. We both made this decision. Together. Now, we believe this was a mistake. A big mistake. Casein protein is in cow’s milk. Studies have shown that this particular protein given at 20% actually developed tumors in rats, and when dropped down to 5%, the tumor growth stopped. Brought back up to 20% in the diet, tumors developed again. Of course, these were studies we discovered AFTER we had added the milk , meats and fish back into our diets. But, I am convinced, for me, this is why the tumors so quickly developed.

Now, along with radiation, I need to go back to the full chemotherapy treatment. Not just Herceptin, but, the whole sha-bang. Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin.

Dr. K makes the decision. We shouldn’t wait for Dr. B to return to decide. “I’ll deal with Dr. B when he returns.” She orders another round and tells me that this pretty much sucks. Of course, not in those exact words. But, she and I both know that I am in for a tough time. “Radiation will not effect the chemo side effects, however,” I wait for her to finish sipping from her favorite mug, “chemo will certainly make the radiation side effects worse.”

Not to mention, I will lose my newly grown curls. Soft curls that are already an inch tall around my scalp.

I go back out to the welcoming lobby area to wait my turn on the radiation table. First, I visit with Sharrone at the front desk, get myself a cup of coffee from the stand and settle on the couch. A Fred McMurray movie is just starting on the lobby tv.

Momo also loved these old black and white movies.

She died a few years ago. Only seventy-six years old. We knew she had stomach issues for a year. Doctors did not diagnose cancer until one Friday in November. She died the following Monday. We did not even get to go to Florida to hold her beautiful little hand with her special rings. I will sing happy birthday to her. Right here in this lobby. Like no one can hear me.  Like Momo would do.

My voice is just like Momo’s. Maybe even worse. But, I am not like Momo, not caring who hears, not worrying about judgement.  I still have a lot of work to do if I want to be like Momo.

Maybe I will just wait to sing happy birthday until after my radiation treatment. Until I am alone in my car.

Emil calls me in over the intercom.  I start singing as I walk down the hallway, “down and down I go, round and round I go…”  I really don’t want to think about going through another round of chemo.  Emil greets me at the end of the hall by sticking his leg out from behind the door-stripper fashion.  He has a way of knowing.  He knows ways to get anyone out of a funk.

I come out of radiation to see that  Fred McMurray is still on the lobby television.  Think I’ll stay to watch the end of the movie.

Hello, Handsome, wanna dance?…………..

March 6, 2012

The metal table is cold. Hard. Uninviting.

I am not afraid.

Holding my arms over my head for thirty minutes, without moving, a challenge. But, I am not afraid. The technicians are wonderful. Already, we know so much about each other. Liz has five young children.  All under the age of ten.  She is Catholic and thinks I am too, since I home-schooled our five kids. Kate has a new puppy. A Lab.  Emil is single and likes to do break dancing and Tiffany just had twins five months ago. Boys.

Everyone wear’s a smile. They are positive and warm. But, I guess, they can be this way because they don’t really know much about the prognosis of each patient. They don’t need to know all of the gloomy stuff. They just invite patients to come in, to lie down.  They offer warm blankets.  They guess what music the patient likes and puts this on the stereo.  Emil chooses the Beatles for me.  There is a bit more chatting and several warnings against making any movements.  Stern warnings.

“Don’t move!”

The lights get dimmed.  The six inch metal door begins to slowly swing shut, automatically, with a sound much like the doors on the Starship Enterprise. Each technician escapes. A cheery voice over a shoulder, “here we go”.  The words stay behind, remaining.  Lingering in the room with me now. And, I am left alone.

This room suddenly does not feel quite so warm and welcoming any more.

Here we go. Today is a big day. We’re pulling out the big guns. I should be afraid. I am the girl who avoids using a microwave oven. I opt out of walking through security scanners at the airport. But, today, I am just more afraid of moving and having to start over again or of having lasers hit my brain instead of my boob, than I am of the radiation I am about to be blasted by. I don’t know how long I can hold my arms over my head. My nose itches. I have to distract myself. It’s a good time to meditate.

I am horrible at meditating.

So I think about rainbows.

cute_rainbow_colors_and_their_meaning_wallpaper-t2Well, I just saw one this morning. So I am going to think about one now.  Driving in to the radiation treatment center, there it was. And it was not even raining. But, I saw it. A full blown, vibrant arching rainbow stretching across the highway. The end, off in the distance, hovering right over the top the Dr. K’s treatment center. I know what that means.

This radiation treatment is the pot of gold.

Maybe I can nap in this way? I just wish I could re-position my hips. With my knees bent, supported with the hard triangular pillow, my tail bone is carving my initials into the metal table. But, I don’t move.  Don’t dare to fidget.  I focus on my breath.   Holding onto the handle bars.  If I could just lay my arms down, I could keep them over my head better.  But, I am to hold onto handle bars.  This makes the challenge a bit tougher.  Sleep would feel good.  I wonder if I can fall asleep with my arms over my head this way. What if I can but my hands let go of the bars once I sleep?  I am not even sure I can continue to hold on while awake.  Already I feel my fingers slipping.  Why does everything have to be so cold?  So, metal?

It has already been a long day of metal tables.

First thing this morning was the scheduled Echo cardiogram. Chemo can do heart damage. We check. I watch the heart chambers pulsing on the x ray screen and think the valves look like hands clapping. The more love, the bigger the claps. The technician laughs and after a thought, a look, a study, she agrees. “I never looked at it that way, but, you are right.” She goes back to work on me murmuring to herself, “Funny.”

I look again. Maybe I can see the love that we always say lives in our hearts.  But love doesn’t show up in x rays.  I take comfort in this thought.  Love can’t leave with the body.

The next metal table of the day was the Pet/scan. This is getting to be old-hat. I know the routine well. I stay pretty calm when they enclose me in this metal cocoon. Here, I can and do fall asleep. Every time. I worry that I might drool, or talk in my sleep while, yet another, technician watches from behind the glass windows. This guy does not crack a smile.

PET scans are boring.

A radiation treatment room is another story. This is new. I can’t turn my head, so I try to strain my eyes as far as they will go. This actually feels good. So I do eye exercises. Without moving my eyebrows. I am remembering not to move.  I make my eyes strain to see everything possible in all directions.  I find the cameras. The ones that are zoomed in on me. The ones that the crew is watching me with on their screens just on the other side of those metal doors. So far, nothing is happening. They told me it would take a while for them to set up but, they can see and hear me. I’d like to continue our chats, but decide against that right now. I look up and realize there is a beautiful domed ceiling with the constellations glowing.  Twinkling.  They even included a shooting star.

These people are good.

Even the lobby is warm and inviting. A TMC black and white movie is always on the tv, evidently. A table hosts a thousand piece jig saw puzzle, always in progress, that anyone can work on while they wait. Tea and coffee always available. Too bad I am only doing this every day for a few weeks. I could get used to coming here.

I close my eyes and wait for them to begin.

When I open my eyes again, he is already there, standing in front of me.  Starring. Like a curious alien who had been hiding, he quietly, stealthily, magically appears from behind my metal table, two large arms reaching out from either side of me. One beady little eye. As if he is cocking his head, the eye tilts one way, pauses and then another. Sizing me up. Calculating his next move.

I think, “oh, hello, Handsome, wanna dance?”

images (1)And, then, I think I am quite mad. Lost it. I am about to be zapped big time, all over the entire upper left portion of my torso. This is incredibly uncomfortable and I am thinking a conversation in my head with the robot arm.   A voice comes over the speaker, “okay, Lori, stay still, we’re ready to begin.”  Thank God.  If they didn’t start soon who knows what I might say next to my new robot friend.  “Stay still, Lori.”  The intercom clicks off.

I don’t sit still very well.

A red light goes on. I think I will close my eyes for this whole process.  This robot arm is eerily close to my body.  Too close.  This takes trust.  Yes.  Close my eyes.  And, trust.  But, first I look straight into those camera lenses and try to smile…. without moving.  I wonder if anyone is looking at the screens right now to see.

I feel grateful to be in their expert care.  And, then, I hear a high-pitched whirring of spinning wheels.  I close my eyes.

Handsome has started our dance.

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