Reflections on the early days of Elizabeth’s cancer diagnosis

I am surprised as I look back, at how few emails I sent out last November and December (2011) to my family and friends during Elizabeth’s early days and months of dealing with cancer.  There was relatively little drama going on, and we both tried hard to keep our outer lives looking relatively unchanged. We were both so certain that she would be fine, would fully recover as predicted (85-90% chance of full recovery) and live a long life, that we really took it in stride (and perhaps were in denial to a degree) and wouldn’t allow ourselves the possibility of this being the last year of her life.

I’ve been thinking all this time that it was mainly Elizabeth who didn’t want her life to change, she didn’t want people to know, didn’t want people to worry, pity her, treat her differently, have negative thoughts that would impact her energetically from a distance…as I reflect, I see that I was very much aligned with Elizabeth, not simply supporting her, but really not wanting the attention for myself either. I didn’t want to be pitied, to have the negativity I imagined coming from others, to be judged.  I watched my own judgements come up around cancer, as I imagined what others would be thinking – it’s always our own thoughts if we are truly honest.  I became aware of unconscious beliefs I held: that people with cancer hadn’t made healthy choices, either physical or emotional ones; that the parents of children with cancer were somehow responsible; that there was some shame in having cancer, or having a child with cancer.  It’s hard to even write this now, as it no longer feels true.

I remember when I was doing Reiki as a volunteer at the local hospital in Tucson two years before Elizabeth was diagnosed, synchronistically working with people with cancer in the same units where Elizabeth would be a patient a short time later! Some part of me was guided to volunteer there – not only working at the same hospital where she would be, but working with patients with cancer, including children, young adults her age, and people in the ICU.  I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a baby, just 2 months old, being treated for cancer.  As I watched the thought appear: “this baby is too young to have done anything to cause his cancer”, I realized painfully that that was the belief I’d been carrying for so long, that people with cancer are responsible for their illness through the choices they’ve made.  Once it came to consciousness, I was able to work with it and that belief changed.

Over time, I’ve come to see that we can make choices that may make it more likely we’ll be healthy, but they will not change whatever our soul’s destiny is. I believe we have some free will, but I also believe we are not the ones in control. I believe anytime we have some major shift, such as a cancer diagnosis, it is a great opportunity to look deeply at what is not serving, how I am not aligned, not following my heart, and dive deep into healing from that place of awareness.

Elizabeth was very private during her fist round with cancer, from diagnosis in November 2011 to her last chemo in March, 2012.  She only told her closest couple of friends and promised them to secrecy, not even telling the man she was dating. Her greatest concern, besides surviving, was living as normal a life as possible, and that no one treat her differently. She completed her junior year at the University of Arizona in the Honors College as an English/Creative Writing major, taking a full course load and getting straight A’s both semesters during her treatment.  She did tell her professors, as she had to miss some days of school with each chemo treatment and occasionally for doctor appointments or tests.

Elizabeth Blue with Blue

Elizabeth Blue with her beloved cat Blue, with her own hair

She grieved deeply about losing her hair and some of the most dramatic and emotionally challenging days were spent trying to find her the PERFECT wig that looked so much like her real hair that not even her lover knew she had lost her hair.  We spent several days searching every wig store and cancer organization in Tucson with no success, as most women who lose their hair are over sixty and don’t have long, brown hair with bangs!  We then spent hours online before finding the website that sold (expensive) wigs in styles for younger women, and made of real hair, that looked very realistic.  It also, of course, had to arrive before she lost all her hair, which she’d been told, accurately, would happen fourteen days after her first chemo.

Elizabeth Blue

Elizabeth – as beautiful as ever, with her wig

She did not write publicly and barely even privately, about having cancer until she completed her treatment and was declared in remission.

I found only a few emails I wrote to individual friends and family from that early time. I share them here.

November and December, 2011

to Alexandra
yes, we are feeling quite optimistic as well.  so glad she’s had her first treatment, and today is feeling well, though still very swollen.  she was in the best spirits I’ve seen her all week, and tomorrow we go wig shopping, so we’ll see how that goes!  she’s determined to have hair that looks like her own, but we’ll see once she loses it if she’s as attached as she is now…

my main worries right now are to do with insurance and financial, but I’m just trusting that it will all work out.  the wig may be a big expense, but we’ll see what we can find!   1st stop is the American Cancer Society, as they sometimes have gently used wigs free…
much love
to a friend who is a social worker at the Cancer Center:
thanks for writing – yes, that is my daughter Elizabeth, who is 21 and was diagnosed a week and a half ago with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  It’s been a huge shock, of course, and she started chemo last Friday, and is doing really well.  The prognosis is excellent, with only one lymph node affected (mediastinal), and she was back in school 2 days after chemo…

I think the emotional part of it is immense and is hitting each of us in different ways – it’s strange since right now things seem fairly normal, but at the same time not normal at all!  Elizabeth’s hugely concerned with the fact that she’s going to lose her hair soon, and doesn’t want her friends and everyone in her life to know that she has cancer – she’s aware also of how attached she is to her looks and is already able to see some of the gifts and benefits of going through this, which is amazing…So she’s ordered some very expensive wigs and is hoping one will look real enough to be able to go to yoga (unfortunately it wouldn’t stay on well enough, and she chose to forgo yoga, one of her great loves, during her treatment, rather than go to class without hair) and go dancing in.   I’m hoping both that she’s going to feel better with that solution, and also that she can make peace with losing her hair and be ok with that for this period of time…and not need to hide any part of herself, moving into a deeper experience of life.

Hi everyone,

thank you all so much for your prayers, good wishes, emails and phone calls – they are hugely appreciated and I believe making a real difference.

Elizabeth is sleeping next to me while receiving her 2nd chemo treatment.  She is doing extremely well, both in terms of her past three weeks with relatively few side effects from the treatment, and in terms of the measurable results we heard today. The blood work from today showed a huge, wonderful response to her first treatment, the doctor and NP who are working with her were very pleased.  The main indicator of the tumor has already decreased to normal levels, (meaning that they are certain the tumor has already shrunk considerably) and all her blood counts are normal or above normal, which means her body is not only responding well, but also her immune system is strong and healthy.

She has mostly felt well, with some fatigue and not great appetite, but she’s managed to eat well, getting back to her usual weight and looks wonderful.

She is hoping all this means she may have only a total of 6 treatments, as they’d said 6 – 8, and no radiation, which is a (small) possibility once the chemo is done.  She is already doing some wonderful writing about all this…and continues to have a great attitude, seeing this as a rite of passage, which is amazing to me. (Seeing it in other ways as well, i know!)

Please continue to send your positive thoughts, prayers and energy.  Thank you.

much love,

Eulogy by Elizabeth’s best friend: Samantha Salazar

This eulogy was written by Samantha Salazar, Elizabeth’s best friend for the last 4 years of her life.  They lived together for a time, then far apart for a year while Elizabeth was in Seattle – I know she missed Samantha deeply during that time, and finally in studio apartments next door to each other.   As you will see, they were soul mates, sharing many gifts beyond words, and sharing a common gift with words as well!

This brings another view into who Elizabeth was, and the beauty of her best friend and their friendship:

“First, I’d like to thank Lucia, Greg, Julianna and Jane for being so kind to me and truly appreciating the friendship Elizabeth and I had. I’m inextricably tied to all of you now, and very grateful to be so.

Trying to figure out what to say today has been one of the most draining and difficult things I’ve ever had to do and what I realized is that these mechanisms of my body, mind and language are too ill-equipped to portray with justice the gravity of the loss that I feel.

Elizabeth Blue was my soul mate. When I met her, I was blown away by the bizarre and beautiful world that was wrapped up in this tiny whimsical creature. Everything about Elizabeth was unique. Everything about Elizabeth was complex. She wasn’t only beautiful, she was so captivatingly beautiful that no eye could avoid her, and once she had hooked you, you were blown away by a beauty which was at once confident, sultry, innocent, inviting, and biting. I’ve always described her as a siren of sorts, I used to tell friends, “wait until you meet my girl Elizabeth Blue, you’ll fall in love with her, everyone does.” And I was never proven wrong. We have all been in love with Elizabeth Blue.

Elizabeth Beautiful. Elizabeth Bizarre. She had stories which grabbed you by the throat and choked you until tears ran from your eyes. She loved to dance and was infamous for a move she patented which we called the worm. She would write never–ending canons about CATS and sing them all day long. She was a muse to photographers and painters. She wrote poetry and developed complex character voices which reflected the subject matter to perform them with. She drew hilariously uncanny images of human-nosed alien cats, the queen of hearts, and bear shaped balloons. She listened to Angela Davis speeches as she cleaned house and walked around town. She read constantly about social justice and feminism. She loved the Black Panthers. She wanted a white kitten to name Lil Elizabeth. She cherished her own cat Blue over most anything else in life, and he her.

She was the most loyal and dedicated friend I or anyone could fathom. We spent countless hours milling over ideas for our project of creating a network of sisterhood amongst Tucson’s women, a group we appropriately called the Grown Ass Women, or GAW. The tenets of GAW were that we understood it’s hard to be a female bodied individual in today’s society and through sharing experiences, providing emotional support and friendship, curbing girl-on-girl envy and hatred, we can make it a little easier and safer. We wanted to show girls it’s okay to speak out, you must be confident, and each and every one of us is sickening and strong. Although we never got to take GAW to the heights we imagined, one of the most interesting things about this experience for me in particular has been the number of times I have heard from friends and strangers alike that they mourn my loss with me because when they would see she and I out and about, they saw all of the things we wanted to portray, that our friendship inspired them through our confidence, loyalty, and love.  I know this would make her so happy to know.

I can’t talk about all of the lessons and character which my tiny wonder imbued within me, it would take as much time as we were friends. But there is one thing I’d like to share with everyone today. Within our friendship, we always tried to make a practice of turning negatives into positives, and that is what I would like to try to do right now. Know this, the passing of Elizabeth Blue is a tragedy no doubt, but there are some wonderful things to come of it. There has been a phenomena occurring since Elizabeth went into hospice which some of my friends and I have talked about and referred to as “The EB Effect;” 2012 has been by far and away, one of the most difficult years for the people I know. But as of recently, I have seen a change in the people who surrounded Elizabeth and loved her and cared for her. For some, it had been a surge of creativity, a revitalization of their artistic identity.  Some have written songs about her. For others, it has been the security of finding a home, or a job, or deciding to go to school, the opportunity to go on tour or star in plays and movies.  Some of my friends have found companionship with very special people.  And I have come out of this situation with unshakeable confidence and urgency to keep reaching out to people, keep being strong for people, and to never hold back any amount of love. Even though Elizabeth has left this earth, I know she left knowing with a certainty that I loved her, that she was the best friend I’ve ever had. Our whole friendship, we dedicated so much energy to letting the other know how much we loved each other, there were no words unspoken, no feelings left to express. And I hope it provides some comfort to you to know, that Elizabeth being the celestial, other-worldly, alien goddess that she was, seemed to know her whole life that something like this would happen to her. She was born an old soul and she was too big of a person to be contained in any human body. She documented herself through countless journals, short stories, voice recordings, videos, poems, planners, and pictures.  Before she went into the hospital for surgery, she confessed stories to me which she had never told anyone, made me a painting which I had been asking for for years, and left a note on my door in the morning just to say hello. She was at peace when I visited her thereafter, and had the depth of the universe in her eyes. I lost the person that understood me the most, and the person I understood the best and I do know this: Elizabeth WOULD want you to cry, because it’s flattering. But don’t let those tears only be of loss, let them be tears of enlightenment and appreciation and inspiration. Let them water whatever arid planes lie within your soul and carry on.” ~ Samantha Salazar

Obama Poem ~ in the Huffington Post!

Today, the day before the November, 2012 presidential election, Elizabeth’s poem about Obama was published in a blog on The Huffington Post! She wrote this poem when he was first running for president in 2008, when she was 18. She always hoped that it would get to President Obama, and it’s getting closer by the hour.  See the Huffington Post blog here…

I am such a proud mama!! I can see her big smile, she would be SO happy.

Welcome to the Arizona Cancer Center


Elizbeth Blue

Elizabeth Blue, 2010, before cancer

‘Welcome to the Arizona Cancer Center’

An emotional reaction and relog of my first experience at the Arizona Cancer Center when I was sent there to have blood drawn before chemo on Friday.  Today (11.9.11) is Wednesday.  I am very swollen and can’t breathe that well.

“Welcome to the Arizona Cancer Center if that’s appropriate…?”
“This is her first time here”
“Would you like entertainment? I have some singing dogs in my office.”
“I have five Chihuahuas at home.  Do you have any dogs”
“No a cat.”
“Peggy can you help me with this?”
“I have slippery veins”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Peggy is bobbing around and won’t stop trying to find different ways to look into my eyes.
They’re swelling up with tears.  ‘welcome to the Arizona cancer center, if that’s appropriate.’  ‘This is her first time’ ‘welcome to the Arizona cancer center, if that’s appropriate.’ ‘ This is her first time.’
Tears well up behind my swollen eyes and I hope they can pretend along with me that I’m crying cause they’ve got a needle in my arm and are moving it around hoping to poke a vein, hoping to hit time saving gold.
They will.
“I just had surgery yesterday”
“I mean the day before.  I had an IV in”
“You have one in now?”
“No they took it out, it was in my right arm.”

A woman behind a curtain is wheeled out.  She has one eye or a bandage over one eye but I can only see one eye.  She is pale and large and her arms don’t fit in her wheelchair.  I think she’s wearing maroon.  
“They destroyed my arms in the hospital” She says, to no one in particular.

“Who is your Doctor?”  Peggy asks.  
Dr. Miller
“Dr. Tom Miller”
“Oooh the best.”
Yes.  The best.

The other one brushes my hair away from my shoulder, or maybe this is before, when I first sat down.
“Such pretty hair”
“Thank you.”
It is pretty, its long and soft and just the right color of fawn brown and the way my bangs frame my face is the way it looks best and how the fuck am I supposed to live without it.
It will be gone soon.

‘Welcome to the arizona cancer center, if that’s appropriate.’
‘Its her first time’

“Can you hold this for me?”
I wipe a tear with make up in it.  There is blood on my finger from the gauze I was holding on my arm.

‘Welcome to the arizona cancer center.  This is her first time.’

A old woman who is also a patient asked if I liked purple earlier but I was wearing blue and said yes because she was probably an angel and even so I wasn’t that nice to her.

“What’s your cat’s name?”
I’m changing my last name to Blue to match his and maybe if I change my name the cancer will go away my mom’s girlfriend says.

“Male or female?
“Peggy can you help me, its nearby there right?” Twist twist twist needle in my arm.
“There, look its in.  Male or female?”
“What kind of cat?”
“Oh my god I used to have a bengal!  They are the best cats.
“Yes, they’re very smart”
They are.
“Well maybe she”
“can give you some comfort in this time.  You might even want to get a little treat for him or her since she will be helping you so much.”
Maybe some chicken.
“You know what my cats used to love?  I would get them a whole plant of catnip.  They loved that, I would put it in a planter, they would love that.”
“Yes, they really do love catnip”  I’m sobbing now.  There is a man asking where to go, they say he could go outside if he wanted.  
“Its too cold, its under 90 degrees.”
No really, he’s serious.
“I thought it was nice out” The nurse says quietly to me.
I would have killed killed killed brutally with an axe to get to breath this kind of air had they kept me in the hospital one more day.  Had they kept me inside I would have killed killed killed myself with the infectious danger of cold air to feel it pulsate through my lungs.
“I think its nice out today too.”
We talk more about the weather.  She’s blond from West Virginia.
“You have the good tape” When she starts to bandage my arm
How the fuck, did I learn in 5 days the different kinds of tape used to cover gauze and why they are good?
“Yes, I heard they were using it on horses for years before they even thought to use it on humans.”
“You can go now.”
“Ok. Thank you.”  Peggy is nowhere to be seen.
I don’t know if  I should say ‘thank you, I’ll see you later’ or just ‘thank you good-bye’ so I just say thank you and rush outside because I just remembered I am a feeling being and that I’m crumbling to pieces and I’m still whole inside and these people aren’t and that woman I wasn’t nice enough to in the lobby was probably an angel goddess sent by my ancestors or god and when she left she said to her husband/son ‘c’mon let’s give this youngin some privacy’ and I realized then and felt guilty.  

And I have not seen a single person here within ten years of my age except the receptionist and she smiled at me like she was going to eat me alive like a spider meal with all her fake overblown kindness and handed me a buzzer like I’m at a restaurant and wouldn’t let me go outside or do anything except offer me some coffee or tea but coffee weakens your goddamn immune system bitch and I’m trying to strengthen mine because I’m going to have chemo soon and that’s why I’m quitting smoking, duh, to strengthen my immune system and that’s why I’m not getting my gorgeous tattoo worked on that my mom thinks may have caused the cancer.  All because one of my doctors (Dr. Brown) who I like and trust as much as you can like and trust a person you have talked to for maybe an hour total and only met twice and along with her ‘presiding, Dr. Miller (the best)’ she is supposed to save my life.  I’m doing all these things to boost my immune system because she says they will help me to not get an infection during chemo and therefore will stay alive.

And I’m sitting here writing this in my slutty halter top dress with my bleached out jean jacket and cowboy boots and cheap sunglasses and runny make up and you could see my bandage covering the cut from the biopsy if I removed my jacket but that’s fine.  I’m sitting here dressed like this because its how I always dress so fuck you.  And I’m sitting here with make up dried up and down my face waiting waiting waiting until its time to go to a different hospital and get my heart checked to see if it can withstand chemo (they think it can).  And I’m writing because I realized that’s what Mehron and Ava and I would all do in that situation and that this is a part of me now and I am a writer and I will write it all.  

And because I remembered that I am a whole living, breathing, feeling, animal, being.  
And that I am sensitive to emotions and things and one eyed people and needles and surgery around and in me.  And that this place is crazy and maybe I’m not so I need to relay it to you all.
And also because the difference between the visionary and the crazy person is that the visionary comes back.  I’m trying to remember this.
As I sit on this beautiful day in the garden of the

‘welcome to the arizona cancer center, if that’s appropriate?’
No, its not.
‘its her fist time’

‘welcome to the arizona cancer center, if that’s appropriate?
No its not.
‘She has a cat.’

‘welcome to the arizona caner center, if that’s appropriate?’
‘Its her first time’
No its not.

‘if that’s appropriate?’
‘If that’s appropriate…?’
‘If that’s appropriate.’
‘if that’s appropriate if that’s appropriate if that’s appropriate if that’s appropriate if that’s appropriate if that’s appropriate.

No its not.

“Welcome to the Arizona Cancer Center!”
“No its not.”

~Elizabeth Blue ©

My emails the first week of Elizabeth’s last year: November, 2011

These are the emails I sent to family and a few close friends when we were in the first week of discovering that Elizabeth had cancer.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hi all,
I am writing because Elizabeth is in the hospital today, waiting to have a biopsy on a mass that is in her chest.  She’s in great spirits, with a positive attitude and just mainly having a hard time waiting for results, and wanting to be home.  She’s been having swelling in her upper body, and some pain, and for a few weeks no one could figure out what was going on, so it’s nice to have some of the mystery solved at least.  We are grateful that Ann Marie (our family friend and Elizabeth’s integrative doctor) is close by to support us in this process.  We don’t know what it is, though it’s about the size of her heart, and we are hoping that it’s a benign tumor that can easily be removed.

I am asking you to hold her in your prayers, asking for the most benevolent outcome, whatever will serve her soul’s highest purpose…

Elizabeth feels strongly that she doesn’t want people to be worrying and would like to keep all energy as positive as possible. Thank you!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hi everyone,
here’s the latest update – Elizabeth is scheduled for surgery tomorrow afternoon (Monday).

She asked that we all pray for a miracle, that the tumor be benign, that it be easily treated and removed.  All prayers, love and good wishes are welcome!

Thank you thank you thank you.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

(to her acuptuncturist) Elizabeth has a large mass in her upper chest, right side, in front, wrapped around her vena cava.  She was at UMC til Tues eve, after they did a biopsy and confirmed the diagnosis of lymphoma.

today she was supposed to have a port inserted, to start chemo tomorrow at the cancer center, working with Tom Miller (we haven’t met him yet but the Fellow who works with him, Ursa Brown, followed E at umc and she’s great – he’s supposed to be the best in the country for lymphoma, and there are some integrative oncologists there as well). they couldn’t do the port due to the location of the tumor, so had to do a picc line instead.  she’s doing mostly really well, dealing with the pain ok, and emotionally mostly pretty well… with some meltdowns too.  we’re all in shock and moving thru our emotions as best we can.  I’m feeling my way thru how much to take care of her and how much to let her be independent, which is tricky. but she’s pretty clear about what she needs and so far i’m comfortable with supporting her in all those ways.

energy and prayers are welcome. i know there’s a naturopathic oncologist in town, but haven’t gotten that far yet.  it feels like doing the first chemo is primary, and hopefully will give some relief from the symptoms, esp the swelling, and then i can begin researching complementary things.  also our integrative md friend is working on those angles too…


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hi everyone,
thanks so much for your emails, prayers and love.

It’s been a busy week, with lots of tests, iv access line placed, etc…Friday, yesterday, was packed: we met Elizabeth’s main doctor, and the final pathology report confirmed what they’d believed- “large B cell non-hodgkins lymphoma, mediastinal mass” which means a type of lymphoma that’s located in her mediastinal lymph node, right in the center of her chest.  The mass is pressing on the a major vein, so she’s continuing to have lots of swelling in her face and neck, which is the hardest thing for her right now.  The cancer is fast growing, but not spread anywhere else, both of which are good, as it is expected to respond well and quickly to the chemo medication. They did a bone marrow biopsy yesterday as well, but they are not expecting anything  to show up there.

Elizabeth started chemo yesterday too, with lots of additional meds to help prevent side effects.  They stopped partway through, as she had a slight reaction to one of the drugs, which is very common.  Today she’s receiving it with no problem, sleeping deeply.  She will receive treatment as an outpatient every 3 weeks, and we’ll see how she does with the side effects, hopefully she’ll feel great and be able to go to school.

Greg (Elizabeth’s father who lives in Berkeley) has been here since Weds and Elizabeth now has a really clean home, with food and clean laundry and filled with love. It’s been great to have his support for her.

I’m also so grateful for all Zelie (my partner) is doing – taking care of me, our animals and our home, as well as being with Elizabeth…

love, Lucia

Out of the Blue

On Friday, November 4, 2011, my world completely changed. My older daughter Elizabeth, 21 at that time, called me as I was finishing a qi gong class at home.  She was in tears, having trouble breathing and said something was wrong, she was in so much pain she was headed to the Student Health Center again.  I knew it was serious, as this girl doesn’t cry, and has a very high pain threshold. I immediately said I’d meet her there, jumped in the car and tried to center and calm myself as I drove.  As I walked in to find her, the kind doctor was telling her to go to the ER at UMC.  We asked if she could go home, drop off her car and pick up a few things, and he said yes, but not to delay.  He also called ahead and made sure she knew to tell them she was having chest pain, so she’d be seen quickly.  Apparently he had a very good idea that she had mediastinal non-Hodgkins lymphoma from looking at her, as her face and neck were quite swollen, and that a large tumor wrapped around a vein was causing the swelling. She’d been having pain in her right upper chest for weeks that another doctor had been dismissing as allergies, and treating her with prednisone.

We didn’t learn the exact diagnosis until after her biopsy on Monday. However within hours of arriving at the ER, her chest x-ray showed us a large mass in her chest, about the size of her heart, just to the right of it. It was shocking to see. Elizabeth was healthy – she’d rarely been sick, had been treated with homeopathic remedies most of her childhood, ate organic whole foods, was a vegetarian since age 14 and had been a dedicated yoga student much of her life. How could she have a mass the size of her fist in her chest? How could she have cancer?!

Our dear friend Ann Marie, Elizabeth’s doctor, came to sit with us as we waited hours for her be admitted.  I walked outside with her at some point, and started sobbing on her shoulder, “no, no, no, no, no….!” I was worried about all kinds of things, from the cost of the yet unknown treatment and her limited insurance cap, to her being able to complete her semester as a junior at the U of A, to how she would cope emotionally with the diagnosis of cancer, but I did NOT think she would die. That was not in my world of possibilities yet. I couldn’t even imagine my world without Elizabeth.

We were moved very slowly and gently into that reality, and for that I am deeply grateful. For the eleven months we had after this day, nine of them believing and trusting that she would have a full recovery and live a long, healthy life, and the last two months knowing she would die, I am grateful. Every moment was a blessing. She and I did a lifetime of healing in that time, she lived fully and richly, and in the end, she became love itself, showering us all with love, and in a state of grace that I’m blessed to have experienced in this lifetime.