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Laurie Markvart's Diary of Nothing Left Unsaid

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cancer humor

COVID, Cancer, Flat Tires, and a Silver Lining

COVID and cancer. They go together like whip cream and jerky. Or like the jagged nail in my car’s flat tire. A vehicle I drove once over the past three weeks. What’re the chances? Then again, what are the chances I’d be diagnosed with breast cancer right before a pandemic? Apparently, quite good. Too bad this wasn’t my odds in Vegas the last time I went. But see, if we look for the silver lining, we’ll appreciate the odds even if they don’t first appear in our favor. Well, except for that nail. That just sucks. But it did get me walking to the local Trader Joe’s, half a mile away and carrying two bags of groceries back home, which doubled as my day’s work out.

Okay, a silver lining. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, I was shocked. It wasn’t in my immediate family, and I didn’t have the typical cancer markers. It wasn’t in my awareness or on my tongue. But it was in me. It was growing like the garden weed I mentioned in my previous post. It starts underground, setting roots and warding off the immune system (weed killer) and settling in like it owns the joint.

How did I let cancer take over? For the past couple of years before the diagnosis, I disregarded my body, my “garden.” I was mourning the death of my mom and the demise of a long-term romantic relationship. I was adjusting to other personal and family stressors, a couple of job changes, putting the finishing touches on writing a book. I stopped meditating, exercising, and eating correctly. I stopped going to church. I was drinking more to dull the ache in my heart and mind. I put myself in unhealthy situations, ignored my intuition and God. Basically, I gave the weed full permission to grow.

So, to the silver lining, right? Well, wait a bit.

When the weed (cancer) busted above ground to where I could feel it, I was like…oh, shit, time to wake up. But, I didn’t just wake up to cancer and to be a victim of it in a woe is me way, I was like …how’d it get here? I’m not one to just accept anything. I question everything. So, why did I abandon me? I looked more in-depth as to why it happened and I created a plan that went back into the dirt, back to the source, and back to the reason. That’s where I started, and that was the journey I was on. Along with two surgeries to get it out. And then COVID came.

COVID and cancer. When conventional cancer treatments (chemo, radiation) temporarily annihilate the immune system, and there’s a hardcore virus lurking around, they don’t go together. So what do I do? Well, I considered the pros and cons. And I had time to do so because of COVID.

Like everyone else, I was forced or I say “gifted” into isolation. I was laid off, the world stopped, and I could face myself head-on. Because of COVID, I took the time to pull back, put the doctors on hold, and listen to my intuition. And to God. And most of all to my body. And to decide what was best for me. I was able to take a deeper dive on a spiritual, emotional, and physical level into “why” I have cancer. Why did I let my body and spirit get so broken that I caused my immune system to stop working and not fight cancer off? And what can I now do to heal my body and make sure this doesn’t happen again? It’s kind of like that nail in my car’s tire. Sure, I ran over it. It didn’t just appear there! But how? Well, maybe I should stay in my damn lane and not veer off into freeway debris? Perhaps I should slow down? Maybe I should have bought a more durable tire? This is my third flat tire, so I should probably make a change in my habits! And the same with my body. And due to COVID and quarantine, I can. And that is my silver lining.

During these times, I send peace, love, and healing to all those deeply affected by COVID 19 and to those who feel they’re losing their minds during quarantine…you’re not. You are not alone! We will all be okay. And its a great time to look for your silver lining.

When a Rogue Weed Invades a Garden: Cancer, Humor and Garden Tools

Editorial note: There is rightful cussing in this piece. Enjoy at your own risk.

I didn’t want to write about this. Writing about it makes it real. Until now, I’ve been in a dream state. One of denial, curiosity, fear, anxiety, perplexity, anger, doubt, joy, euphoria. Yes, joy and euphoria. It’s something else the brain does when it’s trying to reason with bad shit.

So, back to writing about it. My close friends and family told me to document this journey. Every detail, if possible. I was like, “Why? I’m fucking living it, why would I want to document it, too?” Besides half the time, I have no idea what is going on! But, even the doctors told me to write about it. “You’re a musician, a writer, that’s how you can deal with this. Plus, your submission for treatment was humorous,” one said. Humorous? Well, when I wrote it, I was laughing out of astonishment more than anything. Lastly, one doctor said, “Writing will make you feel better.” I replied, “Will writing make it go away? Will it return me to the person I was before you told me this shit?”

Yes, I have many doctors, and I know how many kids they have, the last time they had a vacation and what they had for lunch. I find getting to know the people who touch my body is essential. I’ve had four doctors touch me in one afternoon in what felt like doctor speed dating. I didn’t find it invasive but exploratory. I knew they needed information. No pride or prude here. And yes, I joked through most of it.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned doctors. I’m talking about the MD ones. And this MD group came into my life like a bunch of line dancers, yanking me into their frenzied world. It was January 2, 2020, when one of those doctors called and said, “Laurie, they found cancer cells in your breast biopsy. I’m sorry.” Now you know where they were touching me during doctor speed dating!

The funny thing is before the doctor delivered the news, she didn’t ask me if it was a good time to talk or if I was sitting down. Do doctors do that anymore? Ask if you’re sitting down? Well, shit, when you do hear that, you can pretty much determine the outcome of that conversation. So maybe they’ve ditched it with 1990s flannel. Actually, I was sitting down. I was in my car about to hop onto the 210 Fwy on my way to get my son.

I was expecting the call, just not the news. I already had a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. All at my own doing because even though I have no family history of this and do not meet breast cancer criteria, I felt something alien in my breast, a small irregular mass. Enough to make me think well, that’s not right. But, I thought the doctor would tell me the mass was just hormone-related and benign. (DM me to ask me what I felt in my breast. I think it’s vital to give insight into this because most women or their partners DON’T know how it feels! Early detection is KEY!) So, when I got the call, on instinct, I pulled over to a street parking spot with a view of the gorgeous Pasadena City Hall. I was amazed to find an open spot! Near city hall!

Once the doctor delivered the news, and she told me potential next steps, I hung up. My view of city hall became blurred as I sobbed and shook like having a mild seizure. It was one of the loneliest out of body experiences in my life. Then all I could think of was my son and how I’d tell my teenager about something I knew nothing about.

I was also crying not because of the word cancer, but I was merely stunned. And frankly, cancer is just a word. Instead, let’s say…some of my cells started a different party in my body that isn’t cool. It’s like the loud party people living next door, and they don’t know when to chill. Dang…even for me THAT is not pressing. I love music and parties, and I’d want an invite. How about this: I plant a beautiful garden, and a strange weed grows. Yea, that’s more like it. And that weed grows out of control. So, let’s not get hung up on the word cancer. Instead, I got a rogue weed in my garden.

Okay, back to writing about this. Yes, I have stage two breast cancer. Or stage two garden invasion? I do know the specifics, as in the type, expectations, possible treatments, outcomes, and all that jazz. But I won’t write about those right now because I’m still in the trenches. And, it’s all-new words, terminology, and practices of an alien world in which I’m still a foreigner. But as for those doctors of mine. Damn, they’re excellent tour guides. And yes, maybe writing about it is a good thing.

Also, I was sobbing cause I was like shit…this is a joy kill to my “it’s gonna be a great 2020” mantra! Plus, it was January 2. I was still recovering from New Year’s Eve! I was like, give me a couple of days to recoup before you bomb me with this news! Then I heard a horn from an anxious driver behind me wanting my parking spot. Really?! Oh, that’s right parking is a premium whether you have cancer or not. Obviously, he assumed I was leaving. No, my fellow motorist, I’m not leaving. I just arrived somewhere; I didn’t know I was going.

I’ll share more when it’s right for me, and when I feel it will benefit others also dealing with a garden invasion. Also, when I don’t have the pain. I’ve already had two surgeries (the first step in this madness), and while my garden is intact (they’ve come a long way in how they eradicate garden weeds! Okay, I’ll stop with the analogy! For now.), but I am exhausted. Lastly, I’ll write more when I not only know what my doctors had for lunch but also dinner. And when I can fathom how to pay my medical and personal bills while being a freelancer and having the most basic of insurance. Yes, this is all part of the cancer scene. Top healthcare should be available to ALL! That is for another blog.

I can say this unequivocally…the woman I was before January 2, does not exist anymore. The musician, writer, mother, and friend is still there, but she’s even more passionate about who and what she loves. The woman who was worried about aging and body image has taken a back seat. Actually, she’s in the trunk. This isn’t the time to worry about that bullshit. So ladies of all ages and sizes…let that shit go. Just be healthy and embrace your beautiful garden.

Best yet, some other woman has joined my excursion. She has far more stamina, humor, brute strength and simultaneous fragility, humility, clarity, peace, self-love, and undeniable trust in God, her family, and friends. If that phone call on January 2 had been benign, I’d be that prior woman, and I wouldn’t be falling so madly in love with this new one and writing about her and her garden tools. Mantra stands: It’s a great 2020! ~ Laurie Markvart

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