A blog is a really interesting and useful communication tool. I originally thought I would use it as a way to avoid writing ten – fifteen individual letters each week. I thought instead of transmitting similar updates to my children or friends, I could simply write a blog so that everyone would know which godforsaken mud-filled ditch or jungle path I was currently trying to escape or conversely, which glorious Balinese sunset or Canadian Bay I wanted to share with them. I never anticipated sending strangers the latest news about biopsies, lymph node margins, or an upcoming mastectomy. And it’s not the mastectomy that’s the issue. That’s just a fact of life. The surprising thing about the blog is that so many strangers appear to be interested in the most ordinary aspects of another stranger’s life.
It’s funny the way things work out.
Many of my friends and relatives happily have their own stories to think about and even, sometimes, to describe in their own more personal letters, Facebook postings, and blogs. My brother’s family, one of my husband’s nephews, Nova Scotian neighbours, and curiously, my most alienated grandson, as well as a few dear and distant friends appear to read what I write. They also remember more about what I write than I do and it must be disconcerting for them to discover I’ve changed sides when they dispute a theory or an incident I had described rather passionately. Most of my readers, however, are people I’ve never met, foreign and occasionally responsive, commentators from Eastern Europe, Thailand, Cambodia, Argentina, Scotland, and even the Palestinian Territories. I have no idea why anything I say resonates with someone from the Middle East, if, indeed, it does, nor why a blog about the Hmong community in Fresno will draw many hundreds of readers while a blog about the great Arnold Palmer or Akira Kurosawa generates little interest. It’s all a mystery.
Unfortunately, if I want to communicate with my children and three-fourths of my grandchildren, I still must write ten – fifteen individual letters each week.
Cancer, predictably, seems to be more interesting than even Hmong marriage rituals to people throughout the world. Everyone knows someone, perhaps a mother or aunt but at least a friend, who has cancer. Too often, readers are sympathetic or have special insight because they, themselves, had or still have cancer. Most stories I hear from readers are, happily, success stories. Survivors that were diagnosed and treated ten, even twenty years ago are, without exception, encouraging and optimistic. Many unknown blog friends offer to send meds or religious icons from China, India, or other developing countries (although if China is developed any more than it already is, I fear for the ozone layer if not the entire planet). I’m not sure about the legalities of mailing medicine not approved by the FDA through the international mails but I think I will pass. Priceless religious icons are, however, most welcome.
Some of my dearest friends have offered to hop a plane to the Maritimes to whip up a chowder, knit me a cap, or to find anti-nausea lollipops at a Halifax medical marijuana clinic. I’m convinced their kind words are more therapeutic than grass, radiation, or hormones could ever be so if I can, I will opt for kind words and funny faces over more toxic or playful therapies every day of the week.
Fortunately, Canada has a boatload of support programs designed to make the Big C journey easier and with names designed to make even the Grimm Brothers smile. My personal favorite is Titz and Glitz on The Front Line. Titz and Glitz offers financial assistance to Nova Scotian men and women with breast cancer and sounds like a pretty sassy organization. I also want to check out Casting for Recovery, a program that provides fly fishing retreats coast-to-coast in Canada. I’ve liked fly fishing since I first saw a young and virile Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It”. That film, my friends, was the greatest boon to fly fishing since the discovery of smoked trout. If the guides in Casting for Recovery have half the sex appeal of even an old, post-Angelina, Brad Pitt, I figure I will be cured by July.
Look Good Feel Better offers free cosmetics and hair alternatives (What’s a hair alternative? Moose hair? Hemp? Do you wear it or smoke it?) and then there’s Dragon Boating / Bosom Buddies. Since I was one of the founders of the Dragon Boat Races in Echo Park and once fancied myself as at least one of the Los Angeles Dragon Boat Queens (not to be confused with Drag Queens of Los Angeles), I am naturally curious about Canadian women that ride in dragon boats and paddle their way to health.
In addition to therapies that include yoga, reiki, interpretation services, home care, massage, acupuncture, foot care and meal preparation, the province offers a pretty inclusive menu of medical services. I may change my mind, attitude and free wig a month from now but at the moment, I think between Health Canada and my network of buddies, it all bodes well for a rapid recovery.
Although I don’t want a highly-educated Bucket Brigade of good friends to arrive on my doorstep, hell bent on scrubbing my floors, my baseboards and behind my ears, I do love their willingness to fly across the continent to support me with homemade soups and elbow grease. More than that, I adore the humour they share with me.
Some friends send jokes, some friends are jokes and some friends just have funny bones. My friend, Margo, the funniest woman I know, just has to describe a day in the life of a mutual friend afflicted with some malady characterized by frequent swooning and I am on my knees, heartlessly hysterical with laughter. Margo casts our friend in different scenarios that involve her keeling over at opportune moments that facilitate the theft of jewels or a priceless coin collection. At other times, she becomes a double agent unexpectedly fainting like those goats in the George Clooney movie. It’s all very amusing and creates a foolproof distraction. She has also promised to send me an old wig that is sure to fit (she and I are each from the Tribe of Large-Headed Women) but I’m not sure if it’s a fright wig, a wig she wore to a Godiva look-alike soiree or a hair piece she wore for an audition of “Annie”.
Today she called to tell me about her substitute doctor, a large man identified as Dr. HO, first name Ivan. Margo is a great and wicked mimic and when she becomes Dr. Ivan Ho, her caricature is tasteless, hilarious and a sure cure for cancer or whatever else afflicts the politically incorrect.
It’s both healing and gratifying to have kind and funny friends. Although I think I am candid to the point of surliness when I tell friends I much prefer they schedule their visits when I have a stylish new haircut, courtesy Mr. Cecil, and after elderly ladies along the French Shore have padded and crocheted new, lacy lingerie for my post-carcinoma debut, I do wish my friend Hope had built the DNRR (Do Not Resuscitate Ranch) she threatened / promised to build when her circle of friends all reached their twilight years. Of course, it wouldn’t do me a lot of good if she built the ranch beyond the service area of Titz and Glitz but it’s still a great idea for shared senility. I wonder if she knows that if she built DNRR up here, the Province would fix our meals, schedule the Victoria Order of Nurses to check in daily before cocktail hour, and make sure we stayed fit with Pilates, step dancing and canoe paddle practice.
The kindness of strangers and one’s BFFs is appreciated in good and bad times. Women that don’t have a team of girlfriends, a few of whom always seem to be men, don’t know what they’re missing. Or maybe they do. In any event, my “girl” friends from high school, college, women’s groups, the arts, and China, Nova Scotia, California and other Blue States, Southeast Asia, and Europe are more than a blessing. They’re a miracle. I can easily manage without a boob but I could never make it without my buddies. That said, buddies are advised not to worry about my state of mind nor should they show up while I’m still experiencing leaks and nausea. Ideally, they should either check in before surgery or whenever I’m ready to don my fascinator (a tiny Duchess of Kent hat) and head for the fabulous Weymouth Summer Teas. Margo suggests that if I don’t have hair while the Teas are in full swing, I should just attach a rubber band to the fascinator and hook it under my chin.
Cancer: an opportunity for endless New Looks and for fly fishing in beautiful places.