The Week I Was Dying of Cancer
29 November 2010
One of my favorite openings of a movie is from Love, Actually, written and directed by the divine Richard Curtis. Actually, I don’t know if he’s divine – I have never met him, I just love the beauty of his work. The opening monologue said:
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion love actually is all around…
So that means, every other weekend, we ate lunch in the “flying saucer” that overlooked Los Angeles International Airport, then I picked an arrival gate and we stood and watched the reunions. I was particularly fond of those who carried signs and balloons.
Airports seem so lonely now. Only passengers are allowed in the terminals and all the emotional reunions have been moved to baggage claim and it’s just not the same.
Not to say the hugs aren’t there – just that they’ve been tempered by thought, by earthiness and real life. The euphoria of the moment – of landing safely, after being 32,000 feet up in the air, where humans fear to tread – is gone. The europhia of the moment - of walking down that dark tunnel from the plane into the light - and seeing his or her face, waiting for you - is gone.
But still, to this day, I love airports. I love the promise they give, their offer to take you on a journey to a faraway land, out of your element and into a new you. And if you’re so inclined, you can leave your baggage behind. Your real baggage that is, because it’s always there, waiting right by the front door when you get back and if you really want to pick it up again and carry it around, you can. But for the moment, don’t we all feel a bit lighter, a bit freer when we fly without it?
I spent most of that first night online, researching Ovarian Cancer, also called The Silent Killer. Of course I had all the symptoms – bloating, feeling full quickly, and pelvic pain. Of course, I was afraid. Of course, I felt very alone, with no lover to hold me and tell me I would be all right.
I had a friend turn 50 recently. To him, the number signified a milestone. It was time to take stock of how well he has done so far. On Highway CA-125, I too was taking stock. Assessing my choices, my road trip so far.
It occurred to me that I was always going through the difficult times alone. Not because I didn’t have wonderful friends and family, because I do. I was always alone during difficult, scary times because I had a long pattern of choosing lovers who were not ready, willing or able to love me back. But no one put a gun to my head. I had chosen these unavailable lovers. I kept driving down the same Highway that led to the same destination - heartbreak. What does that say about me? If I really wanted a loving, stable, consistent relationship - then I had to get on a new Highway and fast.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how we can maintain what we know and who we become when we step into those moments of heightened awareness. Perhaps it's too painful to stay in truth for too long, so we claim our bag of armor and shield ourselves from the sun? But we know. Even when we hide, we know. We taste it, feel it, soul it.
Highway CA-125. Yours to drive, anytime.
watch: Wish Right Now
|Amazing||- By Guest on Apr 27 2011|
|I have been struggling with some of these same issues. I desperately WANT to stay aware of the beauty and peace that life has to offer, yet I allow myself to get sucked into chaos and unappreciative thought.
Beautiful words. Thank you for sharing
|Happy Birthday||- By Guest on Jul 14 2011|
|Hey There. I wasn't sure if there was somewhere else to be able to leave a comment on this day, but I know it's your birthday so I just wanted to tell you Happy Birthday. I remember you from back in your days at Riverside, and I'm so happy to see how you have thrived and shared your light. I am also a breast cancer survivor, and know very well now about how precious each day is, and what a gift. Blessings to you and yours always, and a Very Happy Birthday to you! It seems kind of creepy to leave this and not say who I am so... I'll just say, if you think back, we first "met" by the Bell Tower, and I was making a Not Very Nice gesture about you. I guess some of us have a much longer way to grow than others. Thankfully, with the blessing of time, I have gotten over myself. : P If you ever wish to say "Hello", you can find me at: email@example.com *replace the "!" with an "i" and the "#" with an "e". If you don't write that's fine. Just know I always remember your birthday, and wish you well. : )
|words to live by||- By Guest on Aug 09 2011|
|This is my first time reading your blog, and wow! Thank you for being open and sharing your story. Your words are inspiring and a great reminder to live each day to its fullest!
|- By Guest on Jan 01 2012|
|I had a similar week last May when my nipple started bleeding after my mammogram. The same heightened awareness of life and its true meaning and beauty. I also felt exhilirating relief and gratitude when the ultrasound verdict was non-benign intraductal papilloma. Definitely a week that changed my life.|
|- By Guest on Feb 05 2013|
|Hi, beautiful writing! Have you ever read a book called "To Live Again" by Catherine Marshall?|
|Paris||- By Guest on Feb 05 2013|
I met you for the first time yesterday on House Hunters, you were looking for a flat in Paris. I watched the show because of two words \"Paris\", \"Screenwriter\", I was intrigued, a writer who dreams of living in Paris, what are the odds? ;) I wondered if you were \"real\" or just a television creation.
After checking your credits, reading your CV (production exec - to flower delivery person -to writer), I knew that you must be real. I\'ve walked this road, I was commodities trader - P.A. (a.k.a. Starbucks delivery person) - to writer.
As you know, our lives are stories. We turn to books and films to find other people with stories that touch us in some way, as we live the day to day creation of our life. Good stories remind us that life is beautiful. They help us negotiate the dark times, and they remind us that we are not alone. I have not known anyone with the unique \"cluster\" of hard times, which I have been staring down. Enter Katherine Fugate.
As I read about your \"week\" I am right there with you. I held my breath as I read your result, it was okay, there is hope. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions with such honesty. Knowing that you made this journey, and came out on the other side has given me the strength to keep believing, keep walking, the next turn in the road might lead to something really wonderful like a beautiful flat in Paris!