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Laurie Markvart's Diary of Nothing Left Unsaid

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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

“Karma Burrito” from “The Cut Collection” – Scenes, scenarios, and passages cut from my not-yet-released memoir.

This is the first post in my “Cut Collection.” A group of scenes, scenarios or passages deleted from my not yet released book, Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: a Memoir.

I kept these “cut” pieces in case they’d go back in the book, but at this point they’re scrap. But not the kind of scrap you throw. They’re saved like a baking spice, used once and then shoved back into the kitchen cabinet to maybe use later. Expiration date: unknown. 

I think karma is a “thing.” It’s defined as A powerful action bringing upon inevitable results good or bad in this life or the next. Yup, that’s a big “thing.” If you believe. I don’t practice Hinduism or Buddhism, but I respect both and dabble with some of their concepts and beliefs. Especially this one. I do think what we put out, we get back. It’s the whole “universe” thing. So, if I see someone in “karma peril” (I just made that up, I think?), I’ll mention it to them. This happened in my life, and I wrote it into my memoir. And then I cut it. But, I cut the scene only because it didn’t move the full story forward. Yet, the situation did happen, and I do believe it’s worth sharing. If anyone can learn from someone else’s “karma peril,” good karma then!

Cut Scene from the book: “Karma Burrito” 

Who:
Laurie Markvart – a forty-something singer – waiting to audition
Stephanie – a forty-something friend of Laurie, along for support
Trey – early twenties singer, fresh out of college – waiting to audition
Jacob – early twenties friend of Trey, along for support
Jackson- thirty-something, experienced singer – waiting to audition

What: A group of five acquaintances (including a pair of two good friends) is waiting with over 8,000 other attendees, to audition for the reality TV show, X-Factor. The group is in their third hour of waiting. The scene is told from the perspective of the author, Laurie Markvart.

Setting: Los Angeles Sports Arena parking lot. Warm weather, in the upper 70s, but comfortable. Most people remain calm even though everyone is packed in like sardines within galvanized safety/police type barricades. There has been no announcement from organizers. There is tension in the air for the pending audition, but most of all, excitement is prevalent – just like the energy of a crowd waiting to go into a major sporting event. Except, those who are waiting are the sporting event.

When: May 2011, Los Angeles

“KARMA BURRITO” FROM “SOMEWHERE IN THE MUSIC, I’LL FIND ME: A MEMOIR”

“I am starving! I’m gonna look for food,” Jacob announces to our group. He departs and makes his way through the crowd, tapping people as he slithers through the shoulder to shoulder attendees.

“I wonder if we’ll ever see him again?” I say with a laugh.

“He better come back. I’m his ride!” chirps Trey.

A mere five minutes’ passes and Jacob appears from the crowd, right back to his stance at our circle. He hasn’t broken a sweat nor lost his breath.

“Whoa, that was quick,” Stephanie says.

“Yeah, there was no line for food. The worst part is getting in and out of this crowd. But I got an awesome burrito. Check it out.” He shows it like a prized turkey he shot for Thanksgiving.

I must admit; the burrito looks damn good, beans, cheese, and chicken oozing out of the wrapper. I’m getting hungry. It’s almost noon, and we’ve been standing here since 9am.

Jacob takes a big bite and in between chews offers, “I don’t know when I’ll eat again. And I’m low on cash, so this is good!”

“How much was that?” Jackson chimes in.

“Eight bucks,” Jacob slowly replies his mouth full. After a gulp he continues, “But check it out, I gave the girl a ten, and she must have thought I gave her a twenty because she gave me twelve back. So, hey, I got this badass burrito, and I made ten dollars.”

With a quick snap of my head, I say, “You didn’t tell her?”

Jacob eagerly stuffs another bite in his mouth, cheese dripping off his lip, “Nah, I need the money. Oh, well, too bad for her.”

“Wow, that is bad karma,” I reply like a school teacher.

He lifts his head, sheepishly, “What do you mean?”

“Well, you just put something dishonest out into the universe. You lied. Don’t you know that what you put out comes back to you?”

After my brief rant, I look around for support. The rest of our group have their heads buried in their phones, or they’re not listening.

Stephanie looks up, eventually, with a snicker, “Laurie, it’s bad karma to call someone out on their karma. It’s like double karma.”

I shift my attention to Stephanie annoyed she may be killing the point I’m trying to make to the kid. Tapping my foot, I reply, “What are you talking about, Steph? If that’s the case, you just called me out on my bad karma by telling Jacob about his! Isn’t that the same? Are we now at triple karma?”

Steph looks at me with a blank stare, wrinkles her face in confusion and looks back at Jacob. “I’m confused now. Whatever’s,” she says, diverting her gaze back to her phone.

I adjust my footing and unfold my arms. I’ve been holding them tightly against my chest ever since Jacob disclosed his shenanigans. Maybe I need to lighten up.

“Look, I’m not the karma police, and I shouldn’t call you out on it because I don’t know the true deal with karma, but my point is, that girl is now short ten bucks, and it could get her in trouble,” I say. Stephanie hums the Radiohead song Karma Police. The entire group chuckles, except me. I nudge Steph’s arm with my elbow. She stops.

Jacob squirms a bit in his stance. He takes his final bite of the burrito, rolls up its foil wrapper and shrugs, hesitantly smiling in my direction.

Maybe he didn’t get my point, or he really needs the money. I do remember being that age. Short on cash and common sense.

©Laurie Markvart

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