Saturday, January 22, 2011

On a walkabout

I’m out on a road trip, friend-visiting spree, and half-formed quest. I left a week and a day ago. This is the first chance I’ve had to sit and be with it all, and catch up.

I’m at a seminary friend’s house in Whittier, CA right now. I got here last Tuesday. Before that, I was in Riverside over the MLK weekend. From here, I’m going to visit another seminary friend in Tucson, and check out border ministries while I’m there. I’ll stay for a week or so with a high school friend in Phoenix. I may stop in Joshua Tree in one direction or the other. I’ll camp up the coast on the way home.

My excuse for doing it now was my friends’ blessing in Riverside. Otherwise I would have avoided the city like the plague; it gave me flashback nausea just seeing those mountains, and freeway signs driving there. But the ceremony was beautiful, and I was really glad I could be there with and for them. I got to spend time with the people from St. George’s who had ministered to me when I was there for chemo. I worshipped with them on Sunday. I’d been to a mid-week Eucharist, when I’d had a later intake appointment, but had never made a Sunday morning. Paul brought me into the center, and they all laid hands on me. I love that kind of prayer-bath.

He prayed that I be an example of God’s love and beat this disease. That’s so not my theology. I can’t and won’t hold God or my body to that kind of pressure. But it is their love, and that came through.

A came down for that weekend, and we got some really good time to talk. I had driven for seven and a half hours on Friday, gotten out of the car at my friend Diane’s, put my hands on my back to stretch it—and felt a new soft-tissue nodule just to the right of my spine. I literally found the monkey on my back, as soon as I'd sought to escape it for a month. It's small, and may not even show up on the PET I have to schedule for as soon as I get home. I'm breathing as well as anyone breathes Southern California air. (With lung mets, that’s what we watch.) My neuropathy is bothering me, especially when I walk, and I keep trying to figure out whether it feels balanced. Left-leg weirdness could easily be hormonal; without the numbness, it reminds me of what happened when I first started getting periods. Chemo threw me into a decade-early menopause. (My oncologist doesn’t want me to take hormones, because I’m doing well so far and there’s a connection between pregnancy and melanoma.) All of this will be sorted out by the scan and follow-up when I get back. There's nothing I can do about it right this minute. But I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I never thought of it.

I had these concerns, that I didn’t want to tell the Riverside people but needed to share with A. We’re both being really, really hopeful, but trying to be realistic too. If I have to go back into treatment, as long as it’s not high summer when she can’t get time off, we’re doing something just for ourselves first. And I’m planning (health permitting) to be in Olympia in April for the Procession of the Species. We talked about her meeting me in Eureka on the way back south, visiting another friend of ours, and coming home along the coast. And we had time, wandering around downtown Riverside, to check in with how each other really was. It’s almost easy for me, being the one whose body has cancer, to grit my teeth and go through whatever is next. I worry about people who love me and have to watch, or care for me through it.

I don’t know yet that I have to do anything. I won’t know for another four weeks or so. But that tumor is there, and it’s new at least to my experience. Are my lungs holding steady? I don’t know. Have I sprung a leak, and what do we do if the answer is yes?

What I do, emphatically, is live in the moment right now. I’m still trying to scratch out a Morning Prayer routine. Cindy and I said it together the other day. She went in to work this morning. I went outside, sat on the steps on the back porch looking over the canyon that drops off from their back yard, and said it alone. In the space for intercessions, all I could say was thank you. For the warmth on my back, the air on my feet, thank you. For all who love me, thank you. For that bird flying over there, thank you. I sat for awhile when I was done, just bathing in morning.

Alene and Melissa’s blessing, besides being beautiful, gave me a lot to think about. I saw seminary friends I hadn’t seen in a year and a half. Three who had visited me in the hospital; both of them, and one whose home I’m in right now. Some were friends for a time. Some are friends for life. That was obvious, and it’s okay. I’m the one with the life threatening diagnosis. And I think I’m the happiest of most of us. Sure, I carry student debt that if I live, can break me financially. But I can’t do anything about it right now. And so I don’t have to. I don’t have to scramble to find adequate employment, or worry if I don’t get it. I have both the necessity and the grace of living in the moment. The undercurrent of this trip is, “See friends while I know that I’m well enough.” I can go for a month, on this half-formed quest, and I’m not even delaying my process because I’m finding things that clarify the call for me.

I have this time to be open to what happens next. I didn’t leave the house with a fully planned itinerary; I knew who I wanted to see and roughly when. A and I got talking in Riverside, and now I’m going to camp up the coast when it’s time to go home. I’ve gotten to check in with myself every step of this: what feeds me, where do I want and need to be? This morning, I e-mailed friends in Arizona from different parts of my life, and figured out when I’ll stay with whom. I know I’m going to check out border ministries when I visit a seminary friend in Tucson. I’ll get there sometime Tuesday. The next week I’ll be in Phoenix, with no greater agenda than hanging out with a high school friend. (We’re much closer now, as adults.) I need to go on the National Parks website, and see if I want to or could camp in Joshua Tree on the way back. It’s a long enough drive from Phoenix to the coast, that if I want to stop there and just walk around, I’ll be looking at my watch the whole time. But I have friends on the coast who said, you can call us from down the block when you’re ready to stay here. I’ll do that for a night, and see them. Then I’ll camp up the coast until I’ve found all I need to (really, three days on the ocean will give me more peace and clarity than I can yet imagine), and be home in time to pick things up again at church. I have a healing prayer commitment on the 13th, and the option of CCOM if I get some preparatory writing done. They were clear with me that this is all on my schedule; they’re not rushing me. I still feel pressed between my body and the timing of the process. But that’s not these people’s doing. They’ll grill me, because that’s their job. But I definitely feel supported by them.

I’ll have my first follow-up PET as soon as I can when I get home, and see my doctor on the 23rd. Either life will continue as it was before I left, or I’ll be back seeking some kind of treatment. I know that I’ll never be truly off the cancer bus again. I lost control of this so long ago, that losing control doesn’t scare me anymore.

I got to see someone who’s been a walking sign of grace to me, on Wednesday. I didn’t have any idea I’d get to, until that morning. She’s been in a similar place to where I am, which is why we know each other. She was speaking in a work context, in a meeting I was invited to attend. Over and over, she said this: Live in abundance. Don’t live with a mentality of scarcity. She was absolutely right.

I get to do this. I get to travel from love to love. I have now. And knowing I have now, being fully able to live right exactly where I am, is everything.

“We thank you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life.”


it's margaret said...

I will live with you in the moment. now in the joy. now in the blessings. now in thanksgivings.

find/live your peace with friends and at the ocean.

I love you so very much. You continue in my prayers.

Vicki said...

It was so good to see you on Friday. I hope we didn't talk your ears off. Just being with you was a blessing.

Kirstin said...

Margaret, I love you too.

Thank you Vicki! I enjoyed our time.

Caminante said...

Wow... thanks for letting me know of this post. So, so much in it I dare not try to say anything... but may this time be fulfilling for your soul.

But some of what you wrote reminds me of what I have been working on with my spiritual companion:

the past pardoned,
the future assured,
the present controlled.

I am not so sure about the controlling of the present because it tends to get squirrelly but the real work for me is with the past. Anyway, being creatures that live in the past, present and future, there are a gazillion ways to approach it. And there is a future, we know that, we just don't know what it looks like.

You continue in our prayers at Trinity and are always in mine.


Paul said...

"I get to travel from love to love."

You are such a gift to the world, naming things like this.

(((((((((((( KP ))))))))))))

Ann said...

You can always stay here Kirstin if you go north

Kirstin said...

Thank you all. Love to everyone.

Two Auntees said...

And I give thanks for your, Kirstin. Love and prayers follow you where ever you go.