Courtesy Zen Treasure Maps

Courtesy Zen Treasure Maps

The accidental journey is never an easy one. Your life becomes a sort of map, the end point of which is the pirate’s treasure, the buried hoard titled health. The problem is that this map is not an easy one to read; there are branches and forks along the way. False leads and dead ends pepper the path; and yet, you push on, towards your goal, with steely determination. This perseverance does not come without cost, for it demands great focus… and the fallout of such focus can be a sort of self-absorption; you see the world through the eyes of cancer. Everything seen, touched, heard, echoes with the whispers of “me.” A friend is pregnant – will I live to see the baby grow? A nephew graduates – will I see him launch his new life, new loves, even children? What will happen to my mother, my brother, my family? Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends… will I bear witness to their lives? Will I grow old with my husband? Will my illness take its toll upon him? And.. what about me?

I chose the road called Modern Medical Treatment. In some ways, it’s still an unpaved way, filled with potholes and littered with debris. My treatments have not been easy; my body doesn’t seem to understand that we’re trying to save it, not kill it. My attempts to reassure and comfort my self have become a clusterfuck of missed communications; everything has been lost in translation and so, with my last treatment, my body waged war. Against the treatment, and against me. I went into a massive auto-immune response. I was punished for allowing such chemical insults and injuries to be injected into my body. I was forced to pull over, and wait out the storm, courtesy of Cedars-Sinai. I was finally released from my imprisonment room on Wednesday, and am now recovering at home. Everything has slowed down; even the writing of this blog takes a Herculean effort, for my within my joints still linger the last vestiges of this battle.

And this is, I hear, not even the war.

During the days of confinement, I drifted in and out of reality. Though the fog of pain and medication obscured my journey, I still remember much of what happened… and I don’t. I was there, and I wasn’t… and yet, there were moments of great clarity, when something would sound like a foghorn, breaking through the dark veil, giving me something to hold onto, an anchor of reality, a moment of perspective.

For me, this anchor was five words – “Code Blue: Labor and Delivery.”

The ward that I would have normally been housed in is under partial reconstruction, and so, I was placed in an overflow unit, off of Labor and Delivery, next to NICU. Even when my door was closed, the communication center was quite audible, which allowed me to hear and process those five little words.

Code Blue. Labor and Delivery. Bitterly reminiscent of the famed flash fiction novel, often attributed to Hemingway: “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”

When faced with tough times, people say “At least I have my health.” I cannot say that, but I can say at least I have my life, and all I could think about then – and think about now – is that somewhere, on the third floor, was a family’s worst nightmare come true. Either a new mother or a newborn were fighting for their lives. Or worse, both.

Somehow, that realization lingered in my room, and finally, the fog cleared, just a little, as those little words gave me the beam of perspective to cling to, and allowed me the strength to drag my battered body into the shower Wednesday morning. I sat in the chair as the warm water ran in rivulets over me, washing away the pain and tears.

I have my life. I have my family, and friends.

I have perspective.

12 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. very powerful. that you are able to receive these moments of clarity in the midst of your own fog is awesome.

    also, i wouldn’t be too hard on your self re self-absorption. The constant pulse of death makes selflessness damn near impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Brian:
      I don’t think I am particularly hard on myself; I’m just aware of my journey. The awareness rarely comes mid-step, more often, it’s only after I’ve passed a particular point, and am able to turn around and see what I’ve just traveled through… but this post leads me to my next, which I’ll try to get to as my joints settle down a bit more. It’s about those around me, that I think of as my mentors. Thank you for reading! Enjoy your weekend.


  2. Reblogged this on Red Crested Chatter and commented:
    My dear friend Anne Lower is living with cancer, taking us along on her journey, sharing her perspective. As always, she writes like the expert she is: showing us, not telling. See for yourself.


  3. Life is a gift. And so are you are Anne. My grandma would say, “The rain washes all the bad away.” In the Melody World, from this point forward, each time you shower it is really rain washing the bad away. Love you. Keep showering.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Though I don’t really know you, I want to say something, because I am moved. Your journey is witnessed and told so well by you. I continue to hope that these painful times become a small memory in a largely awesome and healthy future, and soon.
    Health and happiness- xoxo


  5. Pingback: Perspective | Princess Scribe's Blog

  6. It is odd how we are both on very different Accidental Journeys. Our paths sometimes run parallel, sometimes diverge, but the emotions run deep and often the same. It seems as if we have nothing but to walk this lonesome highway together with friends, family, companions, often alone. Where this twisted path leads remains to be seen. Keep walking, one foot in front of the other, let the rain wash away whatever it can. Find what peace you can, and know you are not alone.


  7. Anne, I can’t thank you enough for writing so beautifully of this ridiculous, self-absorbed torment we are living. It still makes no sense to me with absolutely no cancer on either side of my leviathan Irish Catholic family. I can’t describe fully the pain and loss associated with this particular big C – luckily you have for us all. So many things I want to do but hesitate because of fear of breaking something or fatigue. Is the pain that’s started shooting under my arm– from the upper neck issue–or 4th stage breast cancer catalyzed by the poisonous drugs that have helped and hurt. I’ve become a hypochondriac since ignoring the increasingly chronic, misdiagnosed pain along my spine for 6 months, that fostered so much damaged and still recovering from a year and a half later.
    Are you in any worthwhile group in LA with people dealing with this mystery.
    Thank you for your insights and eloquence.


    • Joan, I know how you feel. It’s perfectly normal to begin to question your body when it has so disloyally turned on you; the origins of MM are still a mystery. Plus, we humans are questioning beings and, if you are like me, it’s also understandable to arm oneself with as much information as possible. My new Onco ran the total of x-rays that I have had in 11 months, and the number was 37. 37 bursts of gamma rays, without including my radiation therapy. It’s very frightening. Which will kill us – the disease or the treatments?
      In terms of groups, there aren’t any MM groups local to me; I think the closest Odin Glendora and, as I can no longer drive, that’s quite a haul. There are, however, several online groups in places like Facebook. I hope that you are able to find the support you need. Smart Patient is another forum that has s dedicated MM spot; I highly recommend it. The majority of the people are compassionate and empathetic, and a great deal of research and treatment information and advice are shared there. xoxo anne


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