Chemo Crime Boss

WPADoctorNursePatientNOLAMy partner asked me this morning: “Are you feeling like chemo is your ally now?”

I replied with, “uh, I’m not really thinking about it.” We laughed (ruefully), moved on to coffee and breakfast.

But I got to thinking. Because Monday I will have chemo. However I think about it, that drip is gonna start and here’s my new best friend for the next six months.

The thing is, I’m not that psyched about allowing toxic chemicals into my body. But it’s kinda like having some bad uncles in the family. What if I thought about it like this: there’s been a pretty bad mofo wandering the streets of my body. The crime boss, let’s call him C.C., he’s been taken out. But he’s got all kinds of minions and feeder fish lower down the ladder that might be thinking my body is ripe for a new boss. I mean, unprotected territory is fair game, right?

But I got these two bad uncles. Let’s call them Flavius Umberto the V, and Octavius Pocotini. They don’t  get invited to Christmas dinner (though maybe this year), they’re black sheep ass-kicking assassins, and I don’t really relish hanging out with them. I mean, they’re killers! I’m a moral girl! Yet, here they are, FU the V and OP, stepping in to take down the bad guys. (Insert the voice of Marlon Brando here) For the family.

How Mars is like Chemo

It’s like Mars in my Vedic chart: he’s considered a major malefic in that system (bad planet, bad!), yet he stands in that chart as the strongest ally I have.Mars as our ally

How do you make peace with a bad-ass, chaos-bringing dude as your biggest champion? I’ve been sorting that one out for the last 10 years, because according to the Vedic system, I’ve been in a Mars dosha (time period ruled by Mars). In traditional Vedic astrology, someone in a Mars dosha is generally gonna do nothing but suffer. Oh boy. Bad planet, bad times.

(Not that I believe in bad planets, mind you.)

But . . . the last decade certainly has been challenging. And yet, despite heartbreak, economic despair, and cancer, the molding of my soul through the last years of pain and glory has been nothing short of amazing. Mind blowing. Humbling. Empowering.

In other words, Mars, like a tough love sensei, whipping my innocent ass into warrior shape. Cause Mars says, girl, we got some things to do! He says, (insert Brando’s voice again), Elia, you got to be strong. For the family.

Family=human, animal, vegetable, mineral.

pheonix risingWe’ve all got these dubious allies in our lives. The tough times, the challenging family member, the call to be stronger than we think we can possibly be. Sometimes we have to let the fires burn everything down in order to be ripe for the arising. Surrender is inherent in the process of healing, and Monday I will be surrendering to the good intentions of FU5 and Oxilplatin, however dubious I suspect their methods to be.

Can I take this for the team? Can I trust the strength inside of myself and my amazing body? I think, you know, that I have done harder things. And if this is how I stay strong and present for the people I love and the mountains and the elk under the moonlight, and the women I support in Africa and the little girl I’m helping in India, and all the souls that have yet to touch me . . .

Yes. I can.

To all of you who are strong for me: thank you.

To all of you who lay hands upon me with care and healing intention: thank you.

To all of you who have been my teachers, bad uncles, less than salubrious companions: thank you

Round two. I got my red Mars boots on. Let’s do it!

with strength,


ps: as always, if you like this post, please share it or comment! It means a lot to me.

pps: I want to hear about your bad uncles. Really, drop me a line!



The “Good Enough” Cancer Patient

when sadness comesMonday of this week I woke up and commenced to cry the whole day. About everything: the three surgeries, the ostomy, my overwhelm about eating, my insomnia, my pain.

I was crying about all those things, but really what I was feeling was unworthy. Failed. Unloved–by myself especially. Like I wasn’t doing it right and had messed up my body and not loved it when it was whole and beautiful and not scarred and well.

I called a dear friend, she helped me by listening, offering her good insights. But then I got off the phone and cried more.

It’s too much, this uncertainty about chemo and work and life and money . . . and the feeling, on that day, was that I wasn’t enough for any of it. Not brave enough, smart enough, stoic enough . . . add whatever adjective you like. I was not a good cancer patient.

I ate half a can of Pringles, about 10 chocolate chip cookies, part of a chocolate bar.  Trying to feed the emptiness inside. A f**k you to eating healthy and getting cancer anyway. It was kind of a pit. But I guess I had to go there. Bit of bottoming out.

And then, when I’d given up and was so puffy and headachy I really couldn’t produce more tears or cry anymore lest my belly scars just open up again, I went to bed. And received some grace.

I can’t fall asleep these days, so I started reading a book my friend had sent. Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually). I love her writing, especially about writing, but hadn’t been so drawn to her Jesus-y stuff. But I felt I couldn’t read another crime novel in the state I was in, so I started.

And as I read, I was aware of a change creeping over me and into my heart. I was having a conversion–not of the Christian kind–but in my own psyche. As I read her honest, authentic, and funny words about life and love and healing, I was transformed.

I forgave myself for being so mean (to myself). I really, finally got it on a feeling level, beyond my mind, that it is ok for me to be human. A mess. Brave/afraid. Strong/weak. Etc.

Anne says, in one essay:

All of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving,  feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.

Obvious, maybe. But for me, late at night on that day of being so separate from my Self, these words (and many others in the book) were enlightening.personand universe

Healing is a messy journey. It doesn’t look like the angel Raphael coming down and making me better, or more sweet about having had cancer in my body. Healing isn’t actually warm and fuzzy. There is a myth, in the woo-woo world of which I am a part, that to heal and be a healer is a transcendent, pillowy process.

The longer I live and navigate this world, the more I realize, nah. Healing can look pretty fantastic, but mostly it consists of small steps, stumbles, and whacking through the jungle with a pair of scissors, trying to find our way.

I think that I have more humility now, less expectation that I should work miracles on myself or my clients.

I know I possess a new kind of nobility, because of the love and care I have received from both beloveds and strangers in this journey of cancer.

Humility. Nobility. Written on my belly, in all those scars.

Friendship_4The cancer trip isn’t over, though the tumor is out, there’s the preventive course of chemo. I’m pretty sure there is more lurching and losing balance in my near future. But I honestly feel I can love myself through it on a level I never have before. And for me, that is healing.

Whatever I can know in my heart, I can give to someone else, in the form of a helping hand. However deeply I can love myself is how deeply I can love you.

And that’s my service.

Namaste, blessed be, amen.

with love


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