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Blue Sky

Five Years Later: A Cancer Story: Everyday Magic, Day 1098

Updated: Apr 30


"It's either an ocular melanoma or a brain tumor," the doctor told me five years ago. Ken, my brother Ravi, and I all gasped in unison.


"Well, let's root for the ocular melanoma then," I replied.


"They're both bad!" she answered, an excellent ocular oncologist who would turn out to travel a long road to healing with me.


All I knew a few days before that moment was that my right eye twitched and its vision was a little blurry. I didn't know from eye cancer (ocular melanoma), which was what the tumor in my eye turned out to be.


The treatment was daunting, more than I could ever have anticipated, but the world of serious illness is often bad news that morphs worse, pain that makes you leap out of bed, and many manner of meds that lead you back to the bathroom.


With astonishing good support and companionship from Ken, my family, and dear friends during the months that followed, I underwent two surgeries. One was to insert a tiny gold disk with radioactive seeds into the back of my eye, making me positively radioactive for five days. The second was to remove it. During those five days, I spent a lot of time on this screened-in porch, where I write this now, the sad dog, the late Shay, standing outside the door crying because he (as well as all other animals, including humans) couldn't get within twelve feet of me. It was a crash course for the social distancing that would come in early 2020.


Being migraine-prone, I didn't do well with the surgeries and aftermath. I spent a lot of time lying in bed with a bag of frozen peas over my eyes or downstairs in the basement at 3 a.m. alphabetizing all my books because I couldn't sleep. I couldn't tolerate light, especially sunlight on bright summer days, and often had to don two pairs of sunglasses and a towel over my head to go anywhere (obviously, I wasn't the one driving the car then).


What got me through was Ken's presence, bringing me soup, sitting in the dark with me many nights listening to katydids or inside laughing at the antics of the cat. We watched all the seasons of Northern Exposure even if I mostly listened to them while stretched out on the couch with an ice pack on my head. We were fueled and fed by all the love coming our way, expressed in blueberry muffins Forest brought over from the Merc, Kris's cauliflower pear soup, Judy's visits, Ravi's brisket, beautiful cards from many dear ones, flowers from my sisters-in-law, emails, calls, and texts full of cheerful emojis. Many friends also happily ferried me to doctor and therapist appointments as well as listened to me freak out on the phone on occasion.


All my doctors -- and there were many, all superb also -- plus my therapist and energy healer told me not to research this on the web. A rare cancer, more aggressive than skin melanomas and tricky to treat, didn't have the most hopeful survival rate. When, three months after diagnosis, I did open a bunch of tabs on my computer, as soon as I saw the numbers and headings, I shut them all, went outside, and told the sky, "Please, I want to live." Then I called a bunch of friends to help me climb down from the tree of high anxiety.


I did live and hopefully will be living for a long time, but the path from there to here has been paved with some crazy pain, a whole lot of uncertainty, scans every three months to make sure the cancer didn't micro-metastasize to the liver or lungs, and some collateral damage. The radiation in my face led to all my teeth falling apart and a massive amount of dental work I'm still not completely done with but I'm getting closer. All the dental work -- or perhaps just fate and genetics -- led to tinnitus, which I'm now navigating much better thanks to hearing aids and meditation. My scans, as of right now, are also down to every six months.


The sky the day I received my diagnosis

In time, I realized, and I'm still realizing, how this experience along with other big hard things in life, is continually teaching me to see the world anew. The light bouncing on the undersides of cottonwood leaves in the wind, the squirrel doing acrobatics from roof eave to deck railing, the face of my daughter concentrating on video editing when she was here last week are increasingly more precious and beautiful to me. "Shut up and watch that," I tell myself often. Whatever horrendous, unjust, and heartbreaking news of the world and our lives abound (and there is plenty), this is also the life force in motion.


I might have even forgotten this was the five-year anniversary entirely, but when I was looking at Facebook memories today, my post -- asking people to send prayers, wishes, and mojo to me -- popped up, along with 483 responses. I read through those responses this morning and my eyes -- my left seeing eye and my right seeing-differently eye (legally blind but still sees colors and shapes) -- both started crying. What people gave me, in their words as well as deliveries of Ritz crackers when I couldn't eat much else, lifted me up enough to believe I could get through this. Being in community with people who know and get you can help a body through all you can imagine and all you can't.


So thank you for all of you for being there for me. This is a cancer story, but it's also a love story.


P.S. I am currently working toward getting my memoir about this time, which also encompassed saving the land where we live. Keep tuned! If you know of a publisher that might be interested, please be in touch.


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4件のコメント


ゲスト
5月04日

So glad you pulled through that hellacious experience so well, Caryn!!

-Carl in the land of the big-ass trees

いいね!

I cannot even imagine what that experience must have been like. I'm so sorry.

いいね!

ゲスト
4月30日

Day 1098 is a very good day. I'm so glad you're doing well, Caryn!

いいね!

Erin McGrane
Erin McGrane
4月30日

I have so much love for you, Caryn! You are a gift to us all.

いいね!
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