Sunday, June 15, 2008


I don’t feel like writing. I’m tired right now. But I need to give some sort of an update.

I’ve been busy the past few days, helping my best friend’s oldest cat through his dying process. He died this evening. She was napping on the couch, and I’d just finished dinner; I’d come back into her bedroom to hang out with him. He’d gotten out of his nest (in her laundry basket) and was lying on the floor. I knew, as soon as I saw him. I felt for breathing, though I didn’t need to. His fur was already cool.

I woke A. up, and we sat with him awhile. We read the applicable parts of the burial service for him. And we sent his body to its next place.

I’ve been part of her life, and his, for the past three years. I was there, two years or so ago, when this cat found God. He’d been absolutely unpettable, by anybody but her (and that, on his own terms). A switch flipped, and he was all about affection. All he wanted was for either of us to hold him. He stayed that way, for the rest of his life.

We don’t know how old he was, but he was old; he’d been on thyroid meds since I can’t really remember. He came to her as a stray, and a terror to the neighborhood. She tamed him. He was an absolute sweetheart for the last two years of his life. And, an absolute brat.

I know he’s being impossible to God right now. And I’ll miss him.

A. came with me to my consultation yesterday with an oncology nurse here. The first thing the nurse said was, “I don’t know much about interferon.” A. and I looked at each other, and our eyes nearly rolled out of both our heads. She redeemed herself quickly, though. She had a great sense of humor, and she listened. What she knew (germ prevention, and normal chemo guidelines), she knew well. And she had lots of alternatives for chasing (and catching) my unsociable veins.

I can’t have most raw foods for the next year, apparently. I’ll be more susceptible to salmonella. I can have peeled fruits and veggies. No raw leaves; you can’t peel them. We went out for sushi last night; it was the last cherry blossom roll I can have for awhile.

We’d both been cranky and edgy, from worrying about me and from watching her cat die. We went out for ice cream afterward; both feeling better. We know more of what I’ll be dealing with. There are workarounds, for some of it.

I shouldn’t be really sick right away; it takes about a week for interferon to build up in your system, even at these doses. I’m supposed to drink six bottles’ worth of water a day. I can do that. I can do everything I feel good enough to do; mild to moderate exercise should be possible, and is good for me. Apparently the last side effect to leave is fatigue. That makes sense, considering I’ll have just assaulted my body for a year. The tiredness can hang on for another six months. Not what I need, when looking for (and doing) real-world work. But there we are. I really don’t know what I’ll experience, until it happens.

I’m already craving old sci-fi movies.

I drove to Livermore this morning, because I felt like driving (yeah, I know) and because I really wanted to go to St. Bart’s. A. had taken me there last November, and I’d loved it—and never made it back. I was so glad I went, and I felt so much better on the way home.

The community is wonderful—it’s like a small, laid-back St. Aidan’s. Everyone was so warm to me. Carol (rector) remembered me from before. We hugged, and she asked how I was. I told her, “The short answer is, fine. The real answer is, it’s been a rocky spring.”

She asked about school. I told her school was great, and briefly about the diagnosis. She gave me a sympathetic look, and went on with getting the morning going.

They do a hymn-sing before services. People call out what they want, and we sing them. The third hymn became the opening. Someone called out a number; it turned out to be “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” I was trying not to crack up; I hadn’t sung that since I was probably 20, with a bunch of fundie friends in college. I hadn’t even heard it, since. It’s militaristic and trippy and struck me as hilarious—until one line caught me:

“Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.”

I wasn’t thinking about Christian soldiers. I was singing for survival.

I told someone sitting directly behind me, that she had a good voice to sing next to. She told me later that she felt I’d been there for “eight thousand years.” The community is incredibly warm—not pushy, just open. I love them. People I’d never met hugged me at the Peace, and asked if I lived there. “No, actually; I’m a student at CDSP in Berkeley but I’m based in Stockton for the summer… and I’m starting chemotherapy tomorrow.” It didn’t freak them out. They said they’d pray for me, and I knew they meant it.

The liturgy was much like what I’m used to: pieces from New Zealand, Common Worship, other sources around the (God help us) Communion. Carol asked me, like she had in November, if I’d carry a chalice. I leapt at it. The whole experience felt like home.

She told me to hang around, afterward; she wanted to hear more about what was up with me. So I chatted with people who were totally friendly, whom I didn’t even know, until she’d finished greeting everyone. She took me outside, to a bench under a big tree, and we talked.

I showed her my ear, and my scar, and told her what was next for me. She asked how I was praying. I told her I really wasn’t; my community prayed for me.

“Because all I’d pray for is—“
“Heal me.”
“So why don’t you?”

I told her why I didn’t: because lots of people pray for that, and don’t get it. She said she didn’t really agree. And she told me something that I would not have been ready to hear, before now:

“God will either heal you, or change your heart so you don’t need it anymore.”

She was the right person, at the right time. I could take that in. And I thought, in the car on the way home, “That’s at least as good as the odds I have now.”

It is. Better, really. And I think that what she said is true. I need to be open to God in this. I still need to be held in others’ prayers—but it’s time now that I join them. I think I can. I’m awake enough; I’m strong enough; I’m still healthy, and I’m here.

I start the meds tomorrow. I don’t know how they’ll affect me. I know I’ll feel something, and I want to. You can’t mess with my T cells without me knowing. I’ll know it’s working if I’m feeling ill, if that makes sense. But I need and want to live my life.

I have a friend who graduated from CDSP two years ago. He’s been living with HIV/AIDS for half his life. I saw him at this year’s graduation, and we talked briefly. He really got how scared I was, and am.

Someone with that diagnosis knows if, but not when. I don’t know either. I have no idea whether I’m clean, or whether something is growing inside me. I’m at the point now where my head realizes: the only sane choice is to say, “Fuck it, I’ll live.”

My heart isn’t there yet. But it will be.

Pray with me: for manageable side effects, and for healing.

“Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.”


susankay said...

Kirstin -- Healing is not the same as a cure. It is something better.
It does not rule out cure, however.

Prayers for healing.

Anonymous said...


It's one day at a time and one step at a time. You just keep moving forward.

Carol+ is an ACE by the way! I'm glad you made your way to Livermore.

Prayers continue to ascend.


Caminante said...

Do extend my prayers and purrs from my crew to your friend and to you as you mourn the loss of her cat who seems to have wrapped his paws around your hearts.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Day by day, Kirstin. Do you know that the bad stuff is growing in your body today? No. So live today. If the bad stuff recurs, then deal with it then, but not today.

You'll soon know how sick the treatment will make you. Deal with that. You could get hit by a car today, and all your worries would be over. ;o

Day by day worked for me. God knows it may not work for you. What do I know? Prayers continue. Our whole congregation prays for you every Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirstin,

Susankay has it right --there is a difference between curing and healing. Curing is when you become disease free; healing is when you know the peace of Our Lord, inside and out.

I will pray for your cure and most of all for your healing.

many blessings, --margaret

Kirstin said...

You are all absolutely right--and thank you. Thank you for your prayers, too.