Dust storms, The Buddha & The ‘Brance
I’ve been on Ibrance, or as I call it “The ‘Brance” for a little over a year now & I gotta say: it does not feel good.
I mean, I don’t feel like I’m literally dying, but I don’t feel awesome. I mean, I don’t feel as awesome as I think I should feel as a relatively healthy (but for the cancer & Crohn’s parts) 45 year old woman.
I woke up this morning & had to cancel all my plans including an afternoon meeting with a Budhist monk I met at a monastery yesterday & dinner with a friend.
Could I have forced myself through the motions,
through the meetings, the coffees, the dinners? (PRUFROCK, bitchez.)
Yes & the last time I “ forced myself through it,” I ended up in the ER.
So when my body says, “you are ‘Brance Beat,”
I heed the warning & try to relax. Brance does not play.
If The Brance tells you to lie your ass down, you better comply.
I am a bad relaxer.
I come from a long line of people who are terrible at relaxing.
When I was a little kid someone let me in on a family theory:
When you stop working, you die.
I mean this was a maxim that existed to justify people working long past retirement age. Gotta keep working or you’ll just die.
This inherited belief makes me a most excellent & obedient employee, but a terrible patient. How can I relax if relaxing means I am not working? Not contributing? Not making?
Yesterday, an Ajahn let me into the Buddha Room at a monastery here in town. He spoke with me for nearly an hour — I had so many questions. When I walked into that room with the red carpeting, the lush green plants, the gigantic golden Buddhas, and colorful flags, I felt overwhelmed with a sense of calm and serenity.
Anyone can be happy, Ajahn told me. Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.
I believe him.
I wanted to go back and speak with him more today, but I simply could not.
It’s like 786 degrees fahrenheit in Tucson today & I am fatigued & vaguely nauseous from The ‘Brance. I was able to shower, do a little house work, and that was about it for the day. I write this from bed. Not because I cannot get out of bed, but because it’s 947 degrees and the bedroom has the best air conditioning/fan situation.
I keep a spritzer by the bed now.
Like I’m Blanche-fucking-Devereaux.
I spritz myself with ice cold mint water because I am desperate to not be warm.
Still, the warm doesn’t feel as harsh as the cold in the midwest where I lived from birth until 38 years of age. That Polar Vortex in Wisconsin in what, 2014? Yeah I nearly lost my ever loving mind for real. One night the ground was so icy I tied Brillo pads to my boots so I could get my clean laundry from the basement machines at the apartment I was renting in Shorewood.
Brutal. My hair was actually freezing that day because it was ice-raining . . .
Milwaukee was a lesson.
Milwaukee was a teacher.
Now that I think I’ve got the lessons of that place,
I think I’m good on Milwaukee for life, really. I sort of feel
about Milwaukee as I feel about the Catholic church.
I’ll leave my thought on Milwaukee & Catholics there for today.
School starts in a couple of weeks.
Though I know it was 100% the correct decision to tender my resignation,
that I am not returning to my last school feels surreal.
I was there for seven years.
Longest I’ve ever stayed in any one job. & I stayed
because when it was magical, it was so magical.
If one gets lucky as an educator (& believe me, I know I am blessed as an educator), one gets to regularly interact with minds & hearts that are softened & alight. The way I felt in the Buddha Room yesterday? I have only felt that feeling in a handful of other places: my classroom in Flagstaff, in others’ classrooms in Kenosha, WI & Chicago, both schools on the shore of Lake Michigan. A holy feeling. A feeling of strong connection & good intention.
A feeling of peace & purpose, simultaneously.
An easy forward progression. I know I will be in the Buddha Room again
soon, & I am optimistic that my new school opportunity, educating young Americans in Tucson, will be inspiring & sacred time, as was my time
in my last school in Flagstaff. I would have never guessed, but Arizona
has been pretty damn good to me.
I felt very sorry for myself this morning. I felt very sorry for myself & I wanted someone to know what I needed — because sometimes even I don’t know what that is — but there is no such person. I mean, if I was seriously ill, I would contact my last oncologist (I’m between oncos) & I know he would assist me, but I’m talking about small to-be-expected shit. A chemo-adjacent drug makes cancer lady feel shitty sometimes: wow.
Call the fucking press.
I remember when I was but a 44 year old baby, when I just got on The ‘Brance & how my oncologist said to me during a visit, “How are you feeling on the Ibrance?” & I swung my legs back & forth like a kid & said, “I feel fine, actually.” (Which was true then.) He looked surprised, & when I noted his surprise he said, “Well, that’s just not usually the response I get from patients taking Ibrance.”
Bur while I don’t feel the dewy hopefulness I felt back in 2020, I also know I could feel a lot worse. I could be a lot worse. The whole point of the Ibrance is to keep me from being worse. We just haven’t figured out, in the West, how to make medicines that don’t hurt as much as they might heal.
As I was writing this post, I got this “alert” on my phone:
You know what I appreciated about this warning? It made me feel less guilty, as a stage iv cancer patient in America, about taking a whole Saturday to myself instead of working, making, helping because as soon as I saw the message I was like “Welp, see? Ya couldn’t have gone out in a dust storm anyway.”
I don’t even know what an “Emergency Dust Storm” is but for Ken Burns’ most magnificent Dust Bowl series. Will it be like that? Will I wake up with a mouth full of ashes like I used to in the 1990s?
I’m off to go look out my back door.
Here, have some Creedence to go: