Friday, January 7, 2011


Feeling Downright Snow White-ish . . .


Or When Life Gives You Poison Apples, Make Apple Strudel.



Dreams are a wish your heart makes.

The season of gift giving is over and yet, as I take time to reflect upon the last few weeks of 2010, I am left to wonder about the meaning of “gifts” in general and what I have come to know about gifts in my own life, in particular.

According to the dictionary, a gift is something given voluntarily, without the expectation of receiving something in return. And if we are fortunate enough, some of us are given the gifts of talent or aptitude. And let’s not forget the legal definition of gift – “a voluntary transfer of property or of a property interest from one individual to another, made gratuitously to the recipient.”
I am pleased to admit over my lifetime I have been the fortunate recipient of gifts in each of these categories.


But in the past couple of weeks, I have received a gift that doesn’t really fit neatly into Webster’s definition. Of course, I was tickled with the sweet gifts from friends – chocolates, special soaps, meals made and meals shared, time together.  
Japanese ornament for 2010 from J├╝rgen
And I was especially delighted with the thoughtful presents my dear husband gave me for Christmas which included this beautiful Japanese ornament – our 2010 ornament – to add to our growing collection I place every Holiday season on our little Smith and Hawkins wire tree replica. It takes the place of the real trees we used to have every year my mom-in-law, Gerta, came to us for Christmas. Then, we always had a Noble fir with real honey candles, which she’d bring from Germany. We would light those candles every evening and each time we did, we’d say, “Now it’s really Christmas.”
Nowadays, I say that when I finish decorating this little tree.
Our Little Tree - 2010
But the one gift, which came disguised as a ‘poison apple’ is the one which seems to be the most profound on a deeply personal level. On December 17th I went through a painful bone marrow biopsy, the results of which were used as a medical base line to determine the stage of my cancer (stage 4) and the prognosis (intermediate as opposed to good or poor). The lymphoma is, in fact, in my bone marrow and in my bones.
Dr. K called me with these results the week after Christmas. According to him and from all he had told me beforehand, this was not unexpected. So I took it in stride. After all, there is still apparently nothing to be done but wait for those pesky symptoms to show up – the night sweats, the fevers, the anemia, the tumors – before they will begin treatment (chemo). The plan is to see Dr. K. every three months for a physical exam and blood work and if after a year of these appointments, nothing has changed, I’ll see him every six months.
That all seems reasonably doable. I’m feeling fine physically except for the occasional backache and I'm looking good according to everyone who sees me these days. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You look terrific!” in the past month or so. I think it’s not so much because I look terrific, but because I don’t look sick. But, all right, I can take that in. I look terrific! 


And until I see Dr. K in three months, I won’t have to think about having a terminal illness. In fact, lately, I’ve been thinking how we all suffer from a “systemic disease with no known cure”, as Dr. K so succinctly put it when he first described the type of lymphoma I have. The disease is called “being human”. Every one of us will die of something at some point. No one gets out of this life alive.
So that was that until the ‘poison apple’ came this week in the form of the final piece of information from the bone marrow biopsy. I have an abnormal gene formation, a trisomy 12, which according to my Google research, is a prognostic indicator of the disease. This was the test I thought I would decide to have or not and without knowing was already done through the biopsy.
The prognosis is not good. According to the percentages of patients with this particular abnormal gene, I will be dying sooner rather than later from the lymphoma. Of course, I could always be in the smaller percentage of those who live a bit longer, but then I could win the lottery, too.
Big inhale. Bigger exhale.
So here is the gift – the “Prince” I’ve found having taken a bite of this poison apple. It’s very simple. In fact, it’s my real “wake up” call – a real slap upside the head (not the gentle kiss promised) telling me, “Wake UP, you idiot! This is your life! THIS is the day you have. There is NO and there has NEVER BEEN a guaranteed tomorrow. Take this day and make the best you can of it. Whatever crap occurs, deal with it or not, but take what’s good of the day and be grateful for it.”
And that’s what I’m trying to do each and every day. I’ve never felt more alive, alert and engaged. My Snow White-ish days are over. No more singing “Someday My Prince Will Come.” 
My Prince "Today" has come and we’re going out on the town. Feel free to join us.