No Wine Before It's Time

The sun really never came out today. Since, there wasn’t any dark clouds either, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that… Maybe, do a little walk outside and write a little inside… listening to Classical KUSC. 

So, this past Sunday night, I had another big scare: I experienced a very significant loss of blood. My blood pressure dropped to low. Upon seeing a nurse practitioner (as my oncologist was away this past Monday), she called immediately for a GYN appointment and further prescribed meds for my chemo-related side effects. I was at the gynecologist office not so long ago when a section of my CT scan appeared suspicious. Luckily, my Pap test and biopsy came back normal (always a fear when you have the BRCA gene, also the gene mutation for ovarian cancer). And this time again, the findings from the ultrasound—normal. My excessive bleeding was due to chemotherapy. And, after knowing me for three years, my GYN believes last Monday’s chest pain, shortness of breath was chemo-related, too, not anxiety-based as noted. I thought so, because I’ve had a lot of nightmares in my life.  Hard to believe a dream of a bloody rabbit (post: Dream into Reality -- The Velveteen Rabbit) could produce such horrific heart pain… Hmm… 

All so interesting… For the first time in my chemo regime, my neutrophils have dropped to a low .69 and unless that I get that number back up … clear up the sunburn in my mouth (also due to chemo), my chemo treatment #5 (A/C #1) maybe delayed. I don’t see that happening actually. Today, I feel pretty good. Weird… still kinda rocking it—in a crazy way. 

Chemo has created a host of side effects, which come and go through treatments, beyond the very recent blood clotting and mouth/gum problems such as temporary hair loss, fatigue, nausea, muscle and joint pain, constipation to just the opposite, excessive thirst…

What do I hunger for? What does anyone of us hunger for? Some, it’s as simple as—good health, a good laugh ... or maybe, just a sweet slice of watermelon.

If only chemo weren’t necessary to survive Breast Cancer… I’ve seen people turn it away and pass away quickly, including my own paternal grandmother.

So, the other night in my dream, I was praying… while standing. Two other women were kneeling with their backs against me. They felt terrible for something… I have been deeply hurt by others, without saying…

I’m on a collective journey here. It’s not all about me and my healing…

In another recent dream, I saw a beautiful vineyard, fields of red ripe grapes, after climbing what appeared like Mt. Everest, and escaping a tsunami. I’m ascending above an overwhelming circumstance…

I contemplated what all those grapes meant that I saw in my dream. In Christian dream dictionaries, it represents the Blood of Christ, associated with blood and sacrifice.

Reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s quote... 

“We must let go of the life we have planned, 
so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” 

All we—the circle of cancer survivors, caretakers, supporters, doctors, nurses, family and friends, our pets—can hope for… is that all this hard work and effort will pay off in the long run. That we will persevere to complete our “unfinished business”... however long that maybe. I’m hoping for at least 30 years. O.K. 40, or how about 50, dear Lord?… make me a good bottle of wine.


Dream into Reality -- The Velveteen Rabbit

“Real isn't how you are made . . . It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” ~Skin Horse, Mentor in “The Velveteen Rabbit”

It’s a children’s novel first published in 1922, written by Margery Williams. One that I almost forgot about called “The Velveteen Rabbit” -- the story of a stuffed rabbit and his quest to become real through a child's love.

This is my story of the Velveteen Rabbit and How "My Dream" Became Real:

This past Monday, my fiancée and I made plans to visit our local cemetery: Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes. Remembering fallen soldiers and police officers. But, at 10:00 am, instead of attending its 26th Annual Memorial Day Observance, I was admitted into the ER with intense chest pains.

I woke up from a nightmare, one in which I was getting ready to go to the hospital actually. My cousin, around my age who also has cancer, and his fiancée had just left (when one of his doctors had a heart attack). Then, I noticed something in the crack of the doorway. What could it be? My lit’l Sonny (100 pound Labrador puppy) turned around to look at me: His face was bloody red. Behind him was a dead lop-eared rabbit. I wasn’t sure if he was the hunter or if this rabbit of Velveteen variety was already sacrificed by another.

Waking up from a nightmare is never easy. But, I’ve never experienced this type of pain EVER upon rising, where my chest felt so tight. I could barely grasp air, as if my lungs were filling up with the ocean. My fiancée was naturally very worried, as I’m mid-way through extremely potent chemotherapy for breast cancer: He rushed me quickly up to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to rule out a heart attack or blood clots in my lungs.

Luckily, we had no morning rush hour traffic due to the holiday. But, we needed to take Sonny because our local Doggie Daycare was closed. I was dropped off—alone—in I went, scared out of my mind, even though, everyone felt as if I was calm as a cucumber.

I gave my name, which was already in the system of course. I’ve been to Cedars-Sinai several times already, and was seen right away. There was a huge crowd in the ER waiting room, and I was very fortunate to jump to the top of it in seconds.

And this is where things get really weird… I was taken to room #11 and on my way there… I passed by no other than the Velveteen Rabbit painted on the wall. Well, my heart began thumping even more, just like a rabbit would. This is like out of my dream or should I say -- my nightmare. That dead lop-eared rabbit from my dream has been resurrected on the wall.

I recall further what I had seen in my dream: When I saw all the blood, I screamed, “Somebody help me!” The last words I had said… before my fiancée came running.

It was for real: Being in the ER with heart pain. Waiting the results was a psychological experience, which had turned me more inward. Well, my lab tests came back positive for a blood clot(s) in the lung(s). And, just as I was about to head down to get a CT scan of my chest, the good news came in. For me, that is: My results were negative actually. Mixed up with someone else’s tests -- I presume. I could see how this could have possibly happened: It was crazy chaos in there. My chest x-rays came back good, so did everything else, the other exams/tests to rule out something serious. It gave me the sudden relief that I needed going into the next phase of chemotherapy.

Five hours later, I was dressed and waiting in a chair across from Room #11, to sign out with atypical chest pain; anxiety based in undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. To their observance, it appears to have caused the tightness in my chest, as they also noted my anticipation of Adriamycin a.k.a. “The Red Devil”. (What I've conquered so far some of: Side Effects of Taxol IV :: Continuation - Side Effects of Adriamycin) I am concerned about its potency and its effect on me. Did you read those side effects? I have several relatives who experienced rare severe side effects on it. Perhaps, it's the reason for the nightmares as of late, like the others -- with the monsters and the mice -- the earthquakes and nuclear fallout/destruction. Luckily, I escaped it all, in my dreams that is; now, to transcend it to reality ... my hope for restoration.

As my oncologist said to me the other day, “This is the real deal and you’re really living it.” Yes, unfortunately. Everyday, I experience something new. The other day, I lost close to all my eyelashes. I’m beginning to feel like one of those Egyptian cats, totally hairless. Thank God for a terrific oncologist and nurse from The Bronx who cracks jokes and makes the situation so much better.  Brings some humor into this drama.

So back to the ER: Sitting in that chair, listening to all the sounds… the voices, and even the screaming … was chilling; the violent shake downs, break downs, as family members lost their loved ones in the ER. It was hard to hold back the tears. They kept coming and coming. I’m not sure how many people left the earth that day while I was there, but it wasn’t my time yet.

What I’ve learned on Memorial Day: Death is real and you can go in a flash. Just need a mind that's willing to relax...

When I came back through the ER sliding doors, my fiancée and Sonny were waiting for me. They were so happy and likewise. Sonny almost jumped out of the car’s window, paws wide open. He stood in between my fiancée and I for a few minutes, always wanting to get the first kisses.

What a wonderful warm feeling to be loved just as you are. In battling breast cancer, I feel as if that I may have aged years overnight. And, I maybe launched any day now years ahead of my time into chemically induced menopause (or sometime through the next 4-cycles of A/C). So far not; but that doesn’t seem to be a concern right now. Killing every last cancer cell is. And, what a wonderful feeling going home, a temporary home that is… It’s a small condo, nothing big or fancy, but it’s filled with love.

Now, I think about my Velveteen rabbit in my dream that was killed and became alive on that ER wall… how I almost forgot about that children's story.

Who was that rabbit? What did it stand for? Well as the story goes, of “The Velveteen Rabbit”… He became the boy’s best friend. Even when the Rabbit became shabbier in time, the boy still loved him regardless. Sadly when the boy fell ill with scarlet fever, the Rabbit had to be burned. When the Rabbit cried a real tear -- came the Nursery Magic Fairy -- to tell him how real he was to the boy; then, kisses him, and brings him to the woods. Makes him real to everybody. He soon becomes a real rabbit, and finally, joins the other rabbits. When the boy saw the Rabbit, he thinks this is he; but he never knows for sure.

Just have to believe -- there is no bottom. The Love in you doesn't die. That Love survives death and resurrects. There is a continued life beyond the visible one.

If anything on this past Memorial Day (when Sonny first arrived), it has revealed to me even more through my dreams and the eternal aspect of life: Even the strongest of people can break down. And, there is a God. Comes through the beauty of people we love. As my fiancée said, “We'll do one thing at the time. One battle at the time, and WE WILL come out of this stronger than ever before. I will be there every step of the way, smiling.” It has allowed me to move on, become more alive to more than just a dream, into the grand scheme of things. As De Lubicz once said, “If you observe well, your own heart will answer.”