National Poetry Month

Ready for intense?  This poem was brought to my attention by the facilitator of my writing circle.  Thank you Dawn for sharing with the group.  Please be warned that this poem has some swearing.  Did I mention it is also intense?

Press play to hear cancer survivor Tara Hardy share her poem Bone Marrow.

After viewing you may want to read the text.

Bone Marrow – Tara Hardy

You will be standing in the market, sorting through avocados when the band Kansas “Dust in the Wind” will come pumping through the ceiling, and you’ll think “Jesus…this song is gonna out live me”.

There are few things that getting really sick illuminates:

One. Dieting? Is ridiculous. The way you look is beside the point, the biggest you bring to any room is your heart. 

Two. You will ask anyone for money. Will get on your knees to beg your enemy for help and because you know that, way down under all that animosity, is a deep and abiding love, for why else would she hate you with such loyalty

Three. Things that used to taste bitter suddenly turn to maple sugar in your mouth; what you wouldn’t give for another year to grieve that man you thought you loved more than your own bone marrow.

Four. Suddenly, everything will be so beautiful. The halfhearted sunset, the rotting leaves, the way a rind hugs a lime, your own age spots—what you wouldn’t do to earn more of them. 

Five. Yes, you will drink liquid seaweed. You’d stand on your head in a mini-skirt wearing no underpants in front of your ex’s new girlfriend if you thought it would make a difference but you won’t—not ever—be the same again. This is neither good nor bad, it just is, and, anyway, too much suffering is caused by trying to hold onto things. There goes your youth, there goes your lover, there goes your health, your wealth, your beauty, all of them useful when they were around but there are other tools with which to cherish yourself now

Six. The first thing you give up is the means of comforting yourself with thoughts of suicide.

Seven. The second thing you give up is pride. And as you do, the world will come rushing forward. It is fucking hard to ask for help, but if you don’t, you will never know how much you matter, or the fact that the only person who didn’t love you enough is huddled inside your skin.

Eight. Your skin – Your skin is the biggest gift you were ever given. When the doctors first said I might die—soon—what surprised me is that I didn’t wish I had written more poems, or even told people I loved them, because if I love you, you know! What I wished is that I’d seen more of the world. Let it’s salt stick to me. I’ve spent so much time in my head and  in my heart that I forgot to live in my body! Maybe that’s why she’s in trouble now. I have been obsessed with achieving immortality through poetry. But when I was told in no uncertain terms that this rickety container has an actual expiration date, I knew that immortality is bullshit! So I left that hospital with a horse’s dose of right fucking now. We don’t get to take anything with us! And anything we leave behind is not one foot still in life because once we are dust we are literally for the wind. So on my agenda, for whatever time I have left, is joy.

Because number nine. Anticipatory grief is absurd. When I’m dead, I won’t be here to miss anything, and engaging in pre-missing seems like an indulgence. It’s not that there isn’t pleasure in weeping—why else would we do it so much?!—but I’ve got oceans to float, I’ve got lava to peep, I’ve got a balcony in the south of France upon which to slow dance with a lover who I love down to the spaces between their eye-lashes! Poems will happen because that is how I process life, but I will no longer mistake them for living! If there is any advice I would have to give to my formerly non-sick self, or maybe you, would be this:

Eat the avocados. Love yourself down to the marrow and out past the rind. Make stalwart enemies out of good people who will hate you with their whole hearts, make it mutual and unconditional and this way you will never be alone with love. I don’t want to finite, but the fact that we are is what makes even the terror exquisite! So step out from behind your walls, let the world rush forward—rise to meet it! Turn your precious attention towards God’s most tangible gift, this physical world and while you’ve still got the chance let your beloved skin salt in the wind.

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Hair, or Lack Thereof

For a good portion of my life my hair spent it’s time pulled back into a ponytail.  Every now-and-then I’d get a great cute shortish cut. Eventually due to lack of caring it would grow long enough to be pulled back into an up-do.

As a young girl the color was blond. By middle school the color had darkened slightly, which could have been the oil caused by puberty. In high school and early college years I fell victim to the home hair coloring products. Upon college graduation my hair was universally a nice fine straight light brown. It stayed that way until mid-way through my first line of cancer treatment.

Cisplatin robbed me of my hair, among other things. Whole brain radiation caused all sorts of havoc on/in my head. From this point on what grows out of my scalp is a crapshoot.  Fine to course; white to dark brown; straight to curls – you name it, I’ve likely had it with the exception of long hair.

It’s about time that I get my hair cut again. The poof has gotten pooffier. I’m considering to let it grow out a little.  What will it look like? Will it be easier to cover the thinning patches if it grows longer? Will I ever sport the pulled back pony again?

I feel like a walking, talking, mostly hair growing science experiment.

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Disappointment was no Disappointment

A few days away was exactly what I wanted. The where was not so important. It had to be cheap, approximately 3-hours or less from home, and have a mostly dry 7-day forecast.

The day after my regular oncologist appointment I loaded up the truck with all my camping necessities. Backing the truck out of the driveway, feeling slightly terrified, I set a course for Cape Disappointment. This Washington State campground is settled at the far SW part of the state, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Cape Disappointment was no letdown. I lucked into a handful of days with great weather. Steps from my campsite I could watch the fierce waves roll in. I felt tough being here on my first solo camping adventure. I did take SW up on the offer to use his truck so I could sleep in the covered bed instead of a tent on the ground. I guess you could say I felt mostly tough.

I did all the hikes the campground had to offer. I now know who they rate “hiking difficulty” for – it’s for me and people like me.  I used to waltz up difficult trails in my flip-flops , gabbing the entire time. Not now. I struggle. I creep along. I get passed by most everyone. Stubbornness and determination keeps my motor running.

When the weather turned to wet and grey I decided to come home. My mission was accomplished. I proved to myself that I can take care of me. Unexpectedly, I also learned that I am a social being. I can be on my own but I really prefer to share my experiences.

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Splish Splash

nightstandFor what feels like an excessive amount of time I’ve been feeling under-the-weather.

Rather than hitting the gym for treadmill walking, I took a friends suggestion to take a bath.  A hot water soak….precisely what I need.  I am a big, perhaps huge fan of most things LUSH.  Especially fond of bath bombs and bubble bars.  I can say with much certainty after today that buying products that turn your bath water yellow are a bad idea.

Looking at nearly everything in my bathroom, to avoid the yellow water, I noticed the walls.  I examined them. They were flat. Very flat, no texture what-so-ever.  The ceiling too.  In an instant I was transported to my childhood bed staring up at the ceiling.  Heavy texture made it easy to imagine exotic creatures and unique beings.  If I were to go back in that room what would I see?

I fear that I would not see much.  I am drained.

Knowing when we need to hit the reset button is important.  The bummer is we usually notice when it is a few weeks overdue – once the reserves are tapped.  Over the next few weeks I am determined to restore and rebuild.  I can hardly wait to see what appears out of nothing.

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Happy Birthday Hijack!

Howdy folks. Spencer here (usually referred to as SW). I’ve taken over Kim’s blog without her consent for an important announcement … today is her BIRTHDAY!!

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This is from 2011 since it is also #throwbackthursday today

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Hell Yes, I’m a Movie Star!

IMG_0993I am amazing, damn amazing! I had faith that eventually someone would recognize my greatness!  (giggle, giggle)  Who-da-thunk it would be Genentech’s lung cancer group?  They were the reason SW and I were off to Las Vegas.  I would participate in a brief question and answer on the topic of Alectinib at Genetech’s National Sales Meeting.

In all honesty I get a chuckle at the way I was treated in Las Vegas. The plane landed in the neon desert and I powered up my phone.  Unexpectedly it began buzzing. A hesitant hello came out. “Hello Kim, This is Craig. It looks like you have just landed. A driver is waiting for you near carousel 20. See you soon.” I managed to squeak out an OK while wearing one of the world’s largest smiles. I turn towards SW, the smirk on his face confirms he too thinks I’m getting spoiled.

IMG_0872Before long we pull up to the extravagant Venetian, our residence for 4 days. With much effort, we found the elevator that delivered us to our roomy suite. We filled the next 60 or so hours with eating, drinking, mega loads of walking, some sleeping, and a tiny bit of gambling.

Our casual vacation turned to advocacy work at the tail end. We had dinner with a small group of delightful Genentech employees. The company was as top notch as the restaurant, Bouchon.

 

IMG_0911I observed caring, passionate, polite, and proud pharmaceutical employees. I felt honored that SW and I were sharing a meal with this group. Here I was, along with my primary caretaker/husband, changing the image of lung cancer. Here they were, changing the image of big pharma. Simply lovely.

IMG_0981The next day was Showtime! Waiting for The Admirable Jill to wave me on, I waited in an over-sized foyer. A little nervous. A lot excited. Not only would this be the largest audience, it was the first time SW would hear me mic’d up. My short question and answer session to around 350 Genentech sales reps was executed in typical Kim-Style. Completely honest. Enthusiastic. Mildly rambly. A few 4-letter words. And naturally sad.

Make them laugh. Make them cry. Mission Accomplished!

Arriving in Portland, I got no phone call upon landing. The beautiful bouquet I carried was a reminder of my stardom. I am home. Here I am no movie star. I am a princess.

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Simple Questions

There I am talking to strangers about personal details. What in the world am I doing? How did I get here? The words are just rolling off my tongue. Am I making any sense? Am I taking the audience down a path that actually leads to something? I stop talking when I hope I have come to some kind of a conclusion. The next question is asked.

As I discuss my journey, vivid memories pop into my head. Some good. Some disastrous. Many dark, tragic. Lost in my autopilot-rambling-mode, I don’t skip a beat while the recall slideshow takes place. I choose to share my story with the objective that something I say will click with someone. Perhaps I will find that needle in the haystack this time around.

Exhausted from the day; nestled up to my warm husband and leg-room hogging cat, Yam, the mind begins to process. The slideshow involuntarily replays, it is unstoppable.

The clips are nonsensical. Why is this happening? Me, dentist, and X-rays in a room. “Listen, I’m playing the short game here, if this is potentially going to bother me in a few years, I’m not doing it.” “I’m interested in getting a copy of the document that states my student loans are dissolved when I die; my lawyer needs the document for my estate plan.” Stop please. “What is the reason for adding your husband’s name to the electric account Ms. Wieneke?” “Welcome back! So, you’re in remission now?” Two Tylenol PM and a chaser of water, now.

I sleep hard. Evidence is left at one corner of my mouth. AM arrives and I stagger to get my caffeine fix. Warm cup of joe in my grip, eyes widen, hint of a smile appears, Nina Simone singing comes to mind.  …And I’m feeling good….

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Cool Day in Seattle

Days ago I was offered tickets to the Seahawks game.  While in a state of blur I of course said, “hell yes!”  Heavy sleep, interrupted by the 7am alarm Sunday, made me second guess my decision.  You see, I have a pattern of overexerting and crashing.  By 7:12am I knew I my decision to go was crazy.  I rallied and managed to leave the house by the planed departure time of 8am.

Me in the driver seat and SW as copilot we made great time to Centurylink Field thanks to the WRX.

IMG_0638Pre-game field passes and tickets were generously given to us by Chris Draft and The Chris Draft Family Foundation.  It was pretty darn awesome. Standing on a field with 67,000 seats surrounding you was quite a jaw dropping experience.  Knowing that in an hour each seat was to be filled with a shouting fans made me shiver.  We got to watch the players warm-up before the game; sideline view proven again to be top-notch.  Such large strong men that are damn fast!  And, some had pretty swanky dance moves.

Making it to our seats before kick-off was a major accomplishment.  I managed to walk up countless ramps and 30-something stairs.  Reaching the chair gave me the feeling like I, a one woman team, had personally won the Super Bowl, elated and exhausted.  Assigned tickets placed me next to Lung Cancer Survivor Jessica Steinberg.  As always, we had a hoot together.  Thankfully she had her LUNGevity blanket to keep both of our laps warm.

IMG_0675Seahawks ended up winning 20-6.  (Go Hawks!)  The game was good.  The crowd was entertaining.  Traffic was manageable.  My hot apple cider was free. Successful!

I got us and an order of Thai food home at a reasonable hour.  We betrayed one of the few House Rules.  We filled our bellies in bed while Guardians of the Galaxy gave us something to zone out on.

It was a great way to spend a Sunday.  Thanks again Draft Foundation!

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“So….What do you do???”

The dreaded question comes up when interacting with strangers at parties.  This time of year it is on overdrive, when parties with strangers runneth plenty.

It is no longer only the smarmy guy at the bar who asks, “So….What do you do?” It feels like parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends all seem to care what people do.  More often than not the do refers to, “do for income.

I’ve never been a fan of this line.  For starters, I’ve never felt that my job really defined me.  Yes, it did a part of me, yet not all of me.  Now I like that question even less.

I never seem to come up with the right answer.  The “I don’t work” line is a firm no-go.  That leads directly to the, “No, I don’t have children,” answer.  I get the head-tilt and furrowed brow back.  Oh, if I did not have manners I’d love to unload on them.

It seems that I am not the only person who feels this way about this simple-minded question.  This article

A Kinda Snobby Question You Need To Stop Asking When You First Meet Someone

does a fine job at explaining what questions we should be asking and what answers we should be giving.

 

 

 

 

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It’s About Time

While taking a few moments to admire my lit-up shiny & sparkly Christmas tree with my morning coffee in hand, I noticed something very peculiar going on.  My cats, technically my cat, Yam, and SW’s cat, Dyno, were in sync staring due north at a blank wall.  I ended up watching them for about 15 minutes.  Collectively I think there were 3 twitches.  It was so odd.  Then my deep study was interrupted by my own full-belly laughter.

Who in the world has 15-minutes in the morning to watch cats watching nothing?  I do.

I may be horribly sick but damn, I love the way I get to spend my time.

FullSizeRender-4As of late, I’ve been spending my time reading and re-reading a new to me cooking blog called Generation Y Foodie.  Sadly, it is no longer updated.  Favs so far include the bacon corn chowder and chicken corn chili under soups.

I am looking forward to the stuffed delicata squash tonight!

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