Thursday, September 29, 2011 with extra added torture!

nurse dina, please report to the e.r....STAT! nah! not a title i ever sought. dr. dina~medicine woman would be kinda neat, but not nurse dina. not until now.

cancer is a dirty whore, to paraphrase my awesome friend, rea rea of the universe! my beautiful mama is battling it now. after a 5 1/2 year breast cancer remission, that dirty whore, cancer, showed up again and is pirating my mom's brain. bitch.

it's always been there...this black, looming cloud called cancer. mom's mom, pat, was diagnosed in 1960 at the age of 36. there was no chemo back then and the doctors tried a "mustard chemo" that burned her innards, and the radiation left actual grill marks on her poor body. modesty was of the utmost back then and my mom says that she never was shown the ugly scar from her mom's mastectomy, but she caught sight of it one afternoon when she was about 16. she was shocked that it was a large railroad scar from her mom's shoulder across her torso to her waist. her mom was standing in her bedroom in front of a full~length mirror, sobbing at the mutilation of scars left on her body by the "treatment
s" that were meant to save her. on my mother's 18th birthday, pat stetson died at the young age of 39, leaving behind three teenage children. i never witnessed the relationship between my mom and the grandmother i never met, but i know that my mom was never the same. her birthday has always been marked with great sadness. my mother had her first cancer diagnosed, and shortly thereafter, had her lumpectomy on her 60th birthday. april 6th...a day marked with such sadness.

i've always had vivid thoughts and dreams, for as long as i can remember, about what it might be like when my mom died. in none of those thoughts ever did i imagine a quick passing. she wasn't going to be hit by a bus or drop dead of a sudden heart attack. it was going to be cancer. TA~DA!!!! heeeeeeeeeere's brain cancer! and it fucking blows!

i have shocked myself at how well i've kept it together. i've always envisioned that it would be a constant stream of tears from both me and mom. how would i ever stop crying? the thought of being in that scenario was such a frightening one to me. but surprise surprise! being strong in my mom's presence has been easier than i thought. i keep m
y tears to times when she's napping or when i'm in the shower or in bed. but i wanted to show her, while she was still somewhat lucid, what a strong daughter she raised. the skills i have are inherited from her. dad~jack and i have been total care-givers. and while it breaks my heart to have to feed her, change her and bathe her, there is something almost precious about giving back the same love and tenderness to the woman who made me and raised me to be who i am now. she is a child. and she is so sweet. i look at her face and don't really know how to feel. it's confusing that she has aged 25 years in her just her face since i was here in april. her skin is loose and paper thin. remember those 3~d optical illusion pictures they had in the mall which, if you stared at it, eventually you would see this picture of a tree in a forest suddenly turn into a dolphins frolicking in the surf? well, i stare at her face a lot. i stare and see my mom so old and frail looking, but then suddenly i can see through all the aging and she seems to morph into the way she looked when she was young. she's still there.

i've been here at my old home for over 3 weeks. until just a
few days ago, snippets of my mom's personality were coming out from time to time. when i kissed her or told her i loved her, she would smile at me with the biggest smile. it wasn't always easy for her, but she managed to smile her beautiful smile and tell me she loved me. at times, she'd forget my name...and i always quizzed her with simple questions like "what's my name?"...just trying to get her brain to keep sparking! one night, i asked her what my name was. i could see her frustration as she tried and tried to tell me what i wanted to hear, but she just couldn't think of it. i was heartbroken inside, but i didn't let her see it. i didn't want her to feel bad. about a minute later dad~jack walked into the room with a bowl of fruit and exclaimed to mom that he'd found a new kind of fruit at the grocery... something he'd never heard of before. he held up a plummish looking fruit and very slowly, my mother turned to look at it. "oh, a pluot!" she said. she remembered a pluot, but not my name. i immediately went from feeling sorry for myself to laughing hysterically at the ironic, absurd way the brain works. it's really fascinating! she started calling me tennille. yes...tennille, from the 1970's grammy winning pop music duo captain and tennille. wtf mom? i have no idea where she came up with this. again, the brain is a fascinating thing!! short of cutting my hair into a dorothy hamill~esque bowl cut, i've embraced my alter~ego, entertaining my mom with my musical stylings, singing "love will keep us together" and "muskrat love". i should note that dad~jack has not sported a captains hat or joined me in a duet.

dad~jack and i make a pretty great team. our days have consisted of full~time care of my sweet mommy. i like hanging out with him, except when i'm trapped in his car while he plays creepy gospel music or that awful 1950's texas hillbilly music. i see him chuckling at my obvious discomfort, much like he did when i was 14 or 15 and he'd drive me and my friends to santa cruz. when we'd pass a car full of cute boys, dad~jack would crank up his ferlin husky cassette tape at full volume. can you say mortified teenager? but the torture aside, i enjoy hanging out with my grouchy, opinionated dad~jack. i know he appreciates the help and i'm sure he appreciates the company too, even when i return the torture by bringing home gluten~free, organic hemp milk "ice cream" sweetened with agave when he specifically asked for "real ice cream". he's a work in progress. my mom told me to take care of him, so i'm doing it the only way i know hounding him about his health and asking him every day if he's taken his meds in my alternative, all organic, natural, pierced, hippy mom way. it works with my kids.

the last few days have bee pretty rough for mom. she's been suspended between conscious and comatose, sleeping most of the time, staring off into space when awake. her heart rate and temperature are up, her blood pressure is down and her appetite has substantially decreased. her body is shutting down, but damn it! she is hanging on because she's so strong...she always has been.

my great friend, susie manley, said to me "i wish everyone we loved could just go on forever but the fruit on the vine eventually drops off and feeds the soil for the next spring. you are the fruit, she is the fruit, your babies are the fruit. it's the cycle." i know she's right. i try to find comfort in that. and i know that at the end of this journey, i, too, will change, just as my mom did when her mom died. i will come out of this stronger and wiser, just as my sweet mama would want.


  1. Beautifully written. You're a rock, but please feel all that you need to feel so the emotions and energy can morph and change freely over time. I don't envy the process that you are in, but it is essential for each of us in one way or another. I am proud of you for finding some beauty in dark times, after all, this is the dualistic nature of our existence. Everything is not always bad and not always good. I love you, Dina. While I know that your coming home will be in sad times and consumed by feelings of defeat, I am still eager to see you so that I can hug you and be with you. Thank you for being a blessing to me in so many ways.

  2. Life is so ... life. It was a gift to be sitting today at Lucca drinking a few mimosas (ha!) and writing my book of poems, and reading your blog, the spontaneous connection of women who are speaking. Fifth chakra, baby, fifth chakra for the women who weather storms and take care of people, the maidens, the moms, the crones, the ones who makes the world go round.