Monday, November 24, 2008

Post-nuclear life

I’m really out of sorts right now, and don’t know if what words come out will be worth posting. I have to be civil in roughly three hours (10 pm—2 am), and I’m really writing this for therapy. I’ll post it if I think it might be good for other people.

My brain feels like confetti. I talked with one of my faculty today, who’s at least as much my friend as anyone will ever again be my teacher. (More on that in a minute.) She gets it—but I don’t know if I was clear at all, and I’m still chewing on what I was trying to say.

The title of this post refers to life post-cancer diagnosis. I’m really not post-nuclear yet, as I realized while I was talking. I’m still living in the middle of this. I’ll be post-explosion when I’m done with my shots. (I’m throwing an eviction party for the gnats in my brain, sometime shortly after the last Friday in June. If you can commute to the Bay Area and you like sushi, write me.) I am post-initial shock. I don’t resist the things I need to do to take care of myself, forever (hats and sunblock) or just for now (lots of sleep). I touch my biopsy scar, and I know how incredibly lucky I am to be alive and as well as I am. I tell the story, and I use it well—at the same time, I don’t have to talk about it. I don’t really think about it all 24/7.

But I have this new mystery rash. It’s on the backs of both hands, over both wrists, and all over the top of my right forearm. My face and neck are clear, so I don’t immediately think I’m reacting to my sunblock. My oncologist’s e-mail suggested it could be drug-related photosensitivity—but I haven’t been in the sun, unprotected. He hasn’t seen it (and my derm’s out of town), and you can’t diagnose a rash over e-mail. I’m wondering if it’s a new reaction to the interferon.

I don’t know yet, and my next dermatology/oncology appointments are New Year’s Eve and mid-January, respectively. In the meantime, hydrocortisone seems to help. (If I really felt emergent, I’d go in.) The itch isn’t driving me crazy.

It’s just one more thing. I don’t know where the rash is coming from. I can’t control whether, or where, or how fast it spreads. And if it is interferon-related, that’s not going to change what I do. I have seven more months of self-injections. I’m going to finish them. I don’t want to wonder what I could have put up with. I don’t ever want to have to deal with cancer again.

God willing and I get everything done, I’m graduating in May. I’m going (back) out into the world. Away from the circle of witnesses who saw me get cancer. Away from most of the people who have supported me through it. I can’t leave my ear, and my scar, here. They will never be just a part of “what happened in grad school.” They are with me forever, along with everything they teach me.

I said above, one of my faculty is my friend more than “anyone will ever again be my teacher.” I’m drawn to her, and respect her, because she has a fearless honesty that I think keeps her safe—and I know liberates the rest of us. She’s solid. But I can’t watch her and do what she does. Authenticity only comes from yourself. If I can’t drag something out of me, I’ll never find it.

I have been where my teachers couldn’t take me. My advisor told me at least twice last spring, that I was teaching the community by my example. I knew what she meant, and I tried to do it well. She also asked me, what God was doing with me. I had no idea. Seven months later, I think I do. Having cancer cured me of all kinds of just ridiculousness. I have so much less fear than I ever did. I don’t worry at all about what other people think of me. I can accept the love I’m given. I don’t feel solid in the sense that I see in a few of my friends—but I know I’m on my way there.

I just don’t have images, or models. I have mentors, teachers, friends—but they can’t take me where I need to go. I’m the only one who can do that.

I knew when I was diagnosed with cancer in the seminary fishbowl, no one was going to teach me how to do this. They couldn’t. You can’t, unless you’ve lived it. Unless you’ve been to the post-nuclear place yourself, and survived with your soul intact, all you can do is offer your love. (In the same sense, I couldn’t take anybody through foreclosure, or another shattering experience I haven’t had. I know what it’s like to be shaken—but not all tremors are the same.)

I can’t say, I want this quality or that one. I can’t look at other people and copy what they do. It just doesn’t compute, anymore. It may have something to do with having had (not really willingly) the responsibility of teaching my community what it was and is like to live through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. It’s definitely connected to going to a place where I had, and have, no teachers.

I want that solidity. I want that fearless honesty. The only person who can show me how, is me.


Mary Beth said...

Wow. I wish I had something more profound to say than that...but I will say that I am praying much for you.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

...and guess are doing it. You just did it with your post, and you will continue to do it.

In my daily journey through the psalms (a task I started this summer,) I glommed onto v.2 in Psalm 53 today...“God looks down from heaven upon us all; to see if there is any one who is wise, if there is any one who seeks after God.”

Now there’s a notion. God is always on the lookout for us. But I don’t see it quite like “God as cosmic lifeguard.” I can’t get into a notion of all us swimming around minding our own business until we get into an undertow, and hollering “help” and God perpetually bailing us out. Blech. That is so dysfunctionally dependent.

Ok, so let’s move to the phrase before it....”to see if there is anyone who is WISE.”

I went over to the Tanakh translation in my Jewish study Bible and it translates out as “God looks down from heaven on mankind to find a man of understanding, a man mindful of God.” (Ok, it’s orthodox Jewish, it’s male male male; I will ignore the gender part here.)

So I don’t think this passage is painting God as some big cosmic lifeguard, we are talking about seeking a dialogue here, a traveling companion for the road trip. I think God prefers interactive over RE-active.

Interesting non-coincidence for us again today, my friend.

You are doing these things. It doesn't get any better than that. Something of use will be revealed for you on this segment of your road trip. The hard part is just sticking with the trip! Hang in there.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

P.S. Go look on my blog; I gave you an award last night!

Two Auntees said...

Advice for the rash: It could be any number of things. However, when confronted with rashes, I always start simple and then move out. Have you changed anything that comes in contact that part of your body. The soap that you wash with, gloves, etc. If you have changed something, go back to what you were using before the change and see what happens.

You have been through a life changing experience with your cancer diagnosis. From your blogs it seems that you have done amazingly well and had such a supportive network. You have been where few people your age go and you are forever changed. The change you have made is positive and allows you to understand individuals going through a difficult time/situation in ways that other seminarians will not be able to understand.

This experience has given you a special knowledge. It is a part of who you are........part of your uniqueness and will be a blessing to many.

Prayers still continue for you.

Kirstin said...

Thank you all, so much.

I have a headache and need to sleep--but thank you.

eileen said...


Lauralew said...

What everyone else has said.

Many hugs and prayers.

it's margaret said...

ummmm --yah---wow kirstin!

I know you will watch the rash carefully --but if it moves to your throat or to places like your tongue or inner-nose, please go to the doctor right away.

And --while you might not be able to get somebody through the technicalities of foreclosure, I bet you would be an excellent companion for the ride! You have that solidity. You have that fearless honesty. Already.

the word verification is "shilimm" --it sounds like a silly happy blessing! I give that blessing to you!

Paul said...

Nice to see you visiting.