What do you know! It worked!

My CAT Scan in August blew me out of the water for quite awhile.  It appears that I no longer have cancer in my lungs, assuming that I ever did.  I always thought it was basalt dust, but what do I know.  So, no cancer there.  No cancer in my lymph system.  And, hold on to your hats, the primary tumor on my left kidney has reduced in size by .4 mm.  Not a great amount, but significant.  Enough for me to get fired by my oncologist.  She has sent me back to my primary care physician, she doesn’t want to see me again.  Ditto.

So, God bless Cat Stevens/Yusuf, and his music and his inspirational songs.  It worked!

As I reflect on these changes, and what it means to me and to my future, I realize that it is incorrect to lay it all at his feet, however sweet they may be.  I also credit my husband’s tender care, our dog Tara’s constant presence, living at Rose Villa with all the help that they provide.  Also the medical marijuana that I have used every night since the very beginning, early Spring of 2015.  And my diet shifts.  Sleep.  My acupuncturist, my friend the Shaman, the care I received from my Tibetan doctor.  You may recall that she said “All you need is Joy!”  And I believed her.  Doing Soul Collage Cards when the way ahead was murky and scary.  Receiving zillions of prayers. What a journey.  To now.

About a month before the CAT scan, I experienced a vision of sorts.  I was sitting in my chair, looking out our window across the Willamette River to the fir trees on the other side.  Gradually, I noticed a type of portal in front of me, in my mind’s eye, opening up to show a vista.  A little like looking at distant fields and hills through binoculars. The content of the vista was unclear, vague, shimmering.  I thought to myself, “I wonder if I have a future. Alive.”  It appears that I do.  These portals tend to be trustworthy, but I didn’t want to say anything, for fear I was wrong and would be embarrassed, made fun of.  Old tapes.  In any case, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear the good news.

My oncologist appeared somewhat frustrated.  “We didn’t do anything to create this reduction in the tumor.”  “No”, I said to her, “but I have been doing quite a bit.”  She never asked me what, and didn’t really want to know.  No curiosity.  No place on the forms for joy, I suppose.  Maybe some day there will be.  Western medicine is remarkably devoid of soul work, overall.  As if the mind and body and soul are unrelated.  Love and Joy, the best healers for all time.

For those of you who may suffer from cancer, please understand.  You aren’t doing anything wrong, nor can you compare your own journey to mine.  Every single cancer, every single person, is unique.  Kidney cancer is especially slow growing. Sometimes surgery, radiation and chemo are the answer.  Sometimes the cancer is too fast.

Cat has a great song, “Never”.  “There will never be another you!” he sings.  But “there will be another Spring.  There will be another Story. ” I listen to this song over and over again, feeling so blessed to think that I may see Spring again, that there will indeed be another story.

I hope to share that story here with you.  Wow!





Vibrational Medicine with Cat

It’s a thing, vibrational medicine.  You can look it up.  I know two dear friends who went that route, one with a ghastly cancer who used Tibetan bowls to help her heal.  10 years now, cancer free.  Another friend used her own sounds, singing to heal from an almost complete collapse many years ago.  I tried Tibetan bowls too, but once every 6 months doesn’t cut it.

Fast forward to my new love affair with Cat Stevens, Yusuf.  Its been over a month now.  I listen to his music anywhere from 1 hour to 4-5 hours a day, from his music as a hugely gifted boy to the Cat Stevens we remember, and now to the mature old man Yusuf, 4 years younger than me, all through YouTube.  Every day I discover something new, an old song, a concert I didn’t know about, interviews, and new songs, too.  Just found a new Yusuf song yesterday that I especially love, something about the editing room floor.  We all do edit ourselves, our lives.  Without the editing, there he is, stripped bare, almost unbearably intimately present.  What courage he has.  His talent is mind boggling.

But here is what I want you all to know.  It’s making a huge difference in my life.  I have way more energy, overall, than I have had in 5-6 years.  It’s the joy in his heart, the sound of his voice, his music, and the words, pouring into me, filling me up!  For me, it’s the perfect match.  Not for everyone, no doubt.  Some might respond to Bach, or Willie Nelson, Richie Havens, or whatever touches your soul.  For me, it’s the Cat.  I simply cannot get enough.

I listen daily to O Caritas, a song in latin that is haunting, a climate change song he wrote in the 70s, prophetic.  I listen to Miles from Nowhere, about death itself.  “My body has been a good friend, but I won’t need it when I reach the end!”  I listen to a new song, Thinking ‘Bout You, which is a love song on many levels.  I listen to a rocking version of Tuesday’s Dead, about changing the world “one more time”.  I watch him sing Peace Train as a young, gorgeous man barely able to contain all the energy within his soul, and then listen and watch as he sings it now, almost 70 years old, mellow and looking out over a rich and fulfilled life. He is still touring, can you imagine!  So many great songs.  And all this is just pouring into me, reversing the deadly drain that is kidney cancer.  You might laugh, those who know me well, to see me swinging and singing and dancing with him, in pure joy and love.  Sick as I am, I am rocking out with Cat/Yusuf!  Well, a very sick old lady’s version of rocking out, anyway.  It’s mine.

It will be most interesting to see how my CT scan is in August.  My CAT scan….  I do have hopes, so much more I’d like to do in this life.  But even if there is no change, or things get worse, it will be just fine.  Worth every minute.

And who knows, maybe vibrational medicine has much to teach us all.  I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile, check out his music, you might love it, too!



Pockets of rage and the love of Cat

Recently, I’ve discovered that I have little pockets of rage here and there, and I stumble upon them unexpectedly from time to time.  Generally, I am a pretty peaceful soul, non-violent and practicing awareness.  But then I suddenly find myself raising my voice, and the level of emotion is shocking to me, and probably to others.  I’m enraged!

Gentrification is one trigger.  I hate to see the homeless, the income disparity, and suffering that is coming with all of this, even though as a white middle class woman, gentrification does not affect me directly.  But indirectly, I see it everywhere, looking so innocent.  O look, a nice new park.  O look, a lovely new set of apartments.  O look, a whole section of Portland that used to be poor is now a vibrant section with all sorts of amenities, stores, places for food and concerts and art.  Isn’t this great?

And people who lived there for generations can no longer afford to live there.  Where do they go?  Often, onto the streets.  Or further away from the services and community that they need and depend upon. That they cannot afford.  So yeah, gentrification sucks, big time, in my mind.  And my rage just rears up and explodes.  I see gentrification as a symptom of our economic cruelty, slipping into place with very little push back.  An invisible attack that looks so nice, so good.

Because I am ill, I have very little energy available.  Rage takes a large chunk.  So I am trying to identify the triggers to these pockets and bring the power of mindfulness to bear, for self protection.    Trump of course is one, but I have stepped back from all that.  All the destruction of our country, the treason, the betrayals, drowning democracy itself…  all the killings… of course I feel it all.  We all do.  How could you not?  I refuse to let him kill me, however.

What I have found, recently, is to counteract that rage with the power of love.  I know, I know, that sounds useless, considering the situation we are all in now.  But it works.  I think love is up to the task.  Maybe just one person at a time, one village, one town.

Remember Cat Stevens, the pop star?  From the 70s?  He walked away from his music about 30 years ago, quite literally.  Just walked off stage one day.  Sold his instruments.  He is back now, singing his heart out as a 70 year old man with 5 kids, a whole passel of grandchildren, living in Dubai, his heart still overflowing with love itself.  I have immersed myself in his music via YouTube, and for the past 5 days I have not felt any of the godawful fatigue that I live with.  I feel happy, enlivened, joyful.  Replenished.  He is not naive, he sees the horrors, and he still opens his heart wide and lets the light shine through him.  I want to do that, too.  He builds schools around the world, provides relief services, steps up.  He is living in harmony with the universe, doing his best.

I believe that his soul, his music, might actually be healing me.  It’s the joy.  And the love.

Sort of odd to find myself falling in love again.  Yeah, he is a muslim, but I don’t care about that.  I am responding to the love light.  Thank you, Yusuf Islam Cat Stevens.   God bless and keep you.

And thank God for those little ear buds, so I can crank up the sound!

There is a name for my temper tantrum

Remember my temper tantrum, eating cookies and bacon and doing all the things I know that I should not be doing?  Being unwise, from a Buddhist standpoint?

Anyway, I recently discovered that there is a label for this behavior that has plagued me for decades, my rebellious nature. It’s part family, part ancestral (The Kerrs were noted as being ornery people in northeastern Scotland, eons ago) and part survival mechanism.  “Don’t tell me what to do!”

Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  

Yup, that’s me.

If you have that too, please do make friends with it.  It hold a great deal of life force within.  Sort of like having a two year old making your decisions, but with more experience.  Just watch out, it can lead to danger, too.


My Death Box

Several friends have asked me what is in my little “death box”.  So, here’s a list of files, so far:

  1. A list of tasks for Eric, after I die.  What, where, and how.  Want to spare him as much as possible.  Draft of a notice to post on FB, for example.
  2. A list of my little “treasures” and who I would like them to be given to.
  3. Who needs to be notified, and how to locate them.
  4. My Vigil Plan (2 or 3 days of active dying.  More on this later on.)
  5. How do I want my body to be cared for, after I die. (Turns out there are a ton of options! Some lovely rituals for me and whoever is there.)
  6. Cemetery choice, papers, receipts and plans on file
  7. How do I want my body to be disposed of .  (Again, tons of options now.)
  8. Death Certificate format, and who gets a copy.
  9. Obituary draft and where to post
  10. Memorial plans: photos, music, contracts with celebrant, location, etc.
  11. Will
  12. Durable Power of Attorney
  13. Medical Power of Attorney
  14. Polst
  15. Advance Directive
  16. Life Insurance papers
  17. Hospice via Providence, if applicable

That’s essentially it.  May be more files as time goes on, and I learn more.  This represents quite a bit of work, and thought and consultation, still ongoing.  With no children, and Eric focused elsewhere at the moment (he is working full time) this is my gift to make it all as easy as possible.  Is this all ready now?  Not at all.  Still working on all of it.  I plan to discuss some of the details here, as time goes on, if people think it might help.

Please keep in mind that I am aware that I could quite easily live another 2-3 years or more, but I have no way of knowing, I see signs of demise, and so I want to die in peace, without worrying about any of this.  I will be busy elsewhere, it seems!

I am a planner and always have been.  If you are not, forget it and just enjoy your life! It all gets done, one way or another.  Here at Rose Villa, I see some people planning on having their children deal with it.  I didn’t think that my little fur girl would be up to the task.

If this is helpful to you, then yippee!



Previews of Coming Attractions

One of my biggest fears, psychologically speaking, is to be accused of being the little boy who cried wolf.  In other words, becoming so focused on this dying business that I holler for help or a warning to my loved ones, when it isn’t really necessary.  It’s just so darned hard to know now, and I don’t want people who love me to be taken by surprise if possible.

This rash is an example.  Turns out it is both/and.  Another koan, of sorts.  My skin is dry because I am old, because it is winter, and because, when one is dying of kidney cancer, one’s skin is exceptionally dry and bingo, a rash.  Not a sign, this time, of imminent demise, but the cancer has a role in it.

I learned some new details about what this death might look like.  Of course, we might all go up in a radioactive blast, if the news has any validity at all.  But I mean, if I end up dying from this cancer.  For those who are squeamish, stop reading.  But here it is:  my feet and ankles will swell up so badly that I won’t be able to put my shoes on.  I will be nauseous and throw up, a lot.  (Already do this, several times a week.  Not a good sign.) I will become so confused that I will not know that I am confused.  (This happened in September of 2017; I thought I had a small stroke. Lately, my mind is cloudy and uncertain.) I will be covered with another obnoxious rash.  So, I get to itch to death?  That makes me laugh.  Sort of.

The things that I already know about include lots of pain, blood in my urine, swollen kidneys, people asking me to do kidney dialysis.  None of that sounds like much fun.  However, this is what it might look like.

What I do know, myself, is that nothing so far has gone like my oncologist predicted.  Because, in my experience, doctors do not factor in spiritual practice, intentions, missions, and the impact of love itself.  One’s community.  And the presence of all the angels and saints and spiritual guides and ancestors watching over us from who knows where.  Prayers, both received and sent.  Blessings, both received and sent.  And always joy, the immense healing power of joy.  And nature, which holds it all, for me.

So this is what I pledge to you:  I will not sound the alarm unless I am freaked out and need help.  I will continue my spiritual practices and continue to hold on to not knowing, and stay open to help from all sides, this one and the one up ahead.  I will work to help others dealing with dying and grief, and I will make sure that my book on transforming the fear of death gets finished and published, one way or another.

Bless you, each and every one.  And, as my old friend Annie used to say, so far, so good!



Teetering on the Edge

As a person living with a terminal diagnosis of cancer, I often lose my balance when something goes wrong in my body.  Because maybe it is the cancer making itself known in new and unexpected ways, and how do I know?  That question comes up over and over again.   Before cancer, it didn’t occur to me that I might be in real trouble.

Today in my Zen Buddhist Sangha here at Rose Villa, we talked about not knowing, having an open mind, beginner’s mind.  It helps us to stay soft and receptive.  But I have to say, I do not like to not know what is going on now in my body.  I do not like it one bit.  I have an active aversion to this.  I want to know.  Once I know, I’m good with it.

A few days ago, I found myself covered in a very itchy rash, mostly on my arms and legs, but also around my neck and back.  My skin is tight and swollen and the rash reminds me of when I was a little kid and got poison ivy to the point of going to the hospital.  It’s not that bad, actually, but holds that memory for me.  I’m up at 3 AM writing this, because the itching is driving me crazy.

I called an advice nurse last night who was fantastic, really listened to me, and then told me, among other things, that when someone’s kidney function goes haywire, people can get a rash all over their bodies before death occurs, and that can happen quickly.  Terrific.  Back to the edge.  I didn’t know this rash piece, and now I do.  Previews of coming attractions.  Is this it, my time is up?

Today I got a blood test and just read the lab report online that indicates that my kidney function is doing fine, so the rash is about something else.  Yippee!  I shall see a dermatologist shortly, to see what might be causing this, and what might treat it.  I was only teetering on this particular edge for about two days.  A memorable two days, looking into the abyss.

We learned some more about my blessed kidneys, and other forms of suffering yet to come.  Another scare released.  Seems to me that I get to die in slow motion, which is both pretty darn wonderful, a great teaching, and not exactly fun.

Meanwhile, a report from the strategic wisdom front:  I have put together the beginning of a draft of my obituary, with Holly’s immense help.  We are planning to print out my blog and make little booklets for people who might like to have a copy.  I don’t seem to be having a temper tantrum for now, always a good sign.

Over all, I am doing well, just itching, but not dying anytime soon.  Whew!