Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From Oaxaca

I titled this entry "From Oaxaca" because that's where I'm writing it from, and because it's now where I'm from. I can't believe the moments leading up to our coming here:

1. A mastectomy with a little added surprise--removal of all my lymph nodes because the sentinel node had two borderline miscroscopic foci of cancer. Madonna really said it best: "Borderline, feels like I'm going to lose my mind" because I keep almost having invasive cancer and almost having complications, but no test really commits. But they "round up" on my diagnosis and go for more aggressive treatment.

2. Coming down off the Vicodan a couple weeks later, I picked a fight with Steve at a new vegan restaurant called Nutshell. What a shame to D.T. at a cute cafe with wall-sized paintings of Bigfoot painted by...Bigfoot. We're trying to be vegan-ish now because milk products are some vile stuff according to my favorite book on cancer, The China Study, given to me by Andrea, one of my wonderful Portland friends.

3. We got our asses kicked at the Mexican consulate in Portland and couldn't get our FM3 documents to live in Mexico. So, like many who have preceded us, we will attempt to get the papers in Oaxaca instead.

4. Our car did not sell until 10 hours before our flight out of the country.

But now we're here. In less than a week, we've enrolled Maxito at Colegio Teizcali for first grade, stood in the long line at Provedora on Independencia with his list of school supplies, met my future employer, made some new friends, met some old friends, visited the Zocalo, stalked the location of our apartment from 10 years ago, went to our old favorite veggie restaurant El Manantial, and, most importantly, found a favorite produce stall and staked out a lady selling fresh tortillas, both near Max's school.

I'm already feeling the pull of daily life redefined. We rush around, do typical over-planning, worry over trivialities, but it's all in Spanish and it's all in Mexico.

Our adventures to come: Steve finishes covering all 7 of Max's required notebooks (of different sizes, with different interior papers) with the required yellow laminated paper; I locate some agua fresca de tuna fruit; Genevieve turns 1 and spends the day wrestling and high-fiving; Max runs up some pyramids at Monte Alban.

My deep gratitude goes out to all who showered me with love and support during this dramatic month. You brought me here, to Oaxaca!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Test before Oaxaca

What I want to know is who started that metaphor of fighting cancer? It's in my body, and I don't want to fight my body.

I want to take the cancer cells to tea and talk to them about the situation. Could you just sit there, in the ducts, not doing anything? I won't burn you and you won't go forth and multiply.

Megan said that, when she worked at Hospice, a patient told her he visualized a gnome in his body, stacking the cancer cells in his arms and carrying them out of his body.

She said maybe I could imagine a Swiffer sweeping the cells away. Yeah, I do love Swiffer. But have you ever noticed that those microfiber pads don't really clean? Try Swiffering the floor, changing the cloth, and then Swiffering again. The second cloth comes up dirty.

And breast tissue can't be dirty. That's what I've learned in the past whip-fast week and a half, when I had one foot out the door to go to Mexico and found myself at Kaiser for a routine appointment.

My aunt had said that I was supposed to get a mammogram when I turned 40. I had an extra hour between my appointment at Kaiser and when the prescriptions were going to be called in, so I wandered over to the mammogram dept. to make an appointment. I didn't think they'd get me in before August 4th, my date of Oaxaca departure, but I thought I'd try.

"Your lucky," the receptionist said. "We've just had a cancellation. Come back in 15 minutes and come on in."

I did and they did it and the next day they called me and since then I'm on a whirlwind tour of stage zero microcalcifications which cover my mammogram film like a starry sky. It could fool you into thinking it was beautiful.

Tomorrow is my surgery. But that's not what I want to write about. I want to thank that woman, wherever she is, who cancelled her appointment for her mammogram. You may have saved my life, and you have certainly saved me much trouble and sorrow. I'm sending you my gratitude and also my wish that you never have a starry sky inside you.