A Cancer Poem – by Elizabeth Blue

A Cancer Poem

written by Elizabeth Blue during her treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, 2012

As I pray to the goddesses of white blood cells
to increase my cell counts
so I won’t get sick.
Won’t get a fever and go to the hospital.
It becomes more apparent
to me
than ever:
that gentle hand of grace
we call god
is in
my own body.

As I pray to the goddesses of white blood cells
to increase their numbers
so that
I won’t get sick.
I won’t get a fever
and go to the hospital.
And I imagine my fate
hinged on their fingernail
I know more than ever
that twisting fate
we call god
is in
is part of
my own self body.

Victoria told me
a shaman told her
so many ask
beg
to meet God.
And then they say:
“But:
keep my children safe.”
“Keep me healthy.”
“Don’t send me to war.”
“Let me be prosperous.”
“Let me be in love.”
“Keep divorce away.”
“Let me be beautiful.”

And Victoria told me
she thought it was interesting
the unwillingness to surrender
yet want to meet God.
We were talking about cancer I think
When she told me all this.
“Yes it is interesting.”
I agreed.

Elizabeth Blue©, 2012

I’m sharing some of Elizabeth’s poetry as I am able, selecting ones that I love, and that offer some deep wisdom, beauty and teachings for us all.

“Making You a Latte” – Poem by Elizabeth Blue

Making You A Latte – by Elizabeth Blue

latte, yoga, grief,

Latte made for Elizabeth by Sam

6.3.12
5-Close Corral Shift (at Time Market/Cafe in Tucson, AZ)

{One of Elizabeth’s last poems, written when she’d finished chemo, was in remission, and was just beginning to tell people that she’d had cancer. She had wanted to get through treatment and live as normal a life as possible, not having people pity her or treat her differently. This shows some of the sacrifices involved…and we discovered the cancer had returned only about a week after this.}

I’m making you a latte and I’m being paid minimum wage and you’re not going to tip me no matter how well I foam this milk.
You’re asking about our bagel selection and I’m making love in New York.
You’ve decided you would like a muffin, to go, and I’m editing my first thesis.
You’re in need of napkins and I’m being painted in Paris.
I’m staring out the window onto the patio and I’m crying.
You want ice and the ice machine hasn’t been filled yet and I’m getting married in the desert.
You want another latte and I’m crying wet hot embarrassing tears at 7:30 in the morning because all my yoga teachers are out there, on the patio.  And I miss them.
I miss them because I haven’t been to yoga since I started chemo and lost all my hair and confidence and beauty.
And yoga was my first love.
Even before Andrew.
And I miss it so much my heart aches and seeing the people who I practice with outside that window…they’re all together and smiling and happy and when they came inside they were all so excited to see me and they don’t know why they haven’t seen me in forever, because I never told them I was sick.
And they don’t know how much I miss them.  And their not knowing just absolutely breaks my heart.

I’m betting all the time at work.
I’m betting that the children I imagine having when I see young mothers come in, I’m betting that those (my) children are possible.
I’m betting that the weight I gain from pizza will someday melt away when I regain control and stop eating.
I’m betting that the hours I spend imagining the guy I like/love, riding by on his back are not wasted because someday they’ll make his eventual interest in me all the more exciting.
I’m betting that all the lessons I’m learning while getting paid $7.65 an hour are worth it, that I won’t forget them or this summer.

Elizabeth Blue © 2012

Elizabeth’s 24th Birthday

Dear Elizabeth,

it’s your 24th birthday, and you’re not here, and you’re very much here.  I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to spend the day, but I knew I wanted to do some ritual to honor you, and also something to nurture myself, some way of tending to my body – my “flesh and blood holder of humanity” as you wrote so eloquently.

Then a couple of days ago I saw someone announce on Facebook that she had an opening for an ayurvedic massage today, and that seemed perfect – it showed up and presented itself, so I said yes.  Next I realized this was the day to take some of your ashes up to Mount Lemmon. I know you loved it there and it was the other place I knew I needed to leave some of your ashes before leaving Tucson.

First thing though, I shared one of my favorite poems of yours on FB, A Lifetime.  It feels to me that it says so beautifully what you wanted to do, and what you did in this lifetime. It makes me happy to know you even thought about all of those things, and then that you got to experience it all…it’s quite extraordinary.

After my relaxing massage, I was ready to drive up the mountain. I packed up your bundle of hair, carefully wrapped in one of your scarves, and a shovel.  I still had the hair you’d saved from when going through chemo the first time, and I know you’d intended to do some kind of burial ritual, so I wanted to complete that for you as well.  I took some flowers, and then filled a small glass bottle with some of your ashes to offer to Mt Lemmon.

I drove up with Tilly beside me, wondering all the way where the hell we were going, and both of us were relieved when I found the right spot to bury your hair.  Tilly was happy to walk around under the pine and oak trees, and I easily dug a spot for your hair in the soft ground, covered it with dirt and pine needles and put the flowers on top.  It felt like there were bears nearby, maybe watching me, and I am certain they’ll come and sniff around at some point.  I could feel their presence in the trees…

Mt Lemmon, Elizabeth Blue,

burial of Elizabeth’s hair

Elizabeth Blue, ashes, Mt Lemmon,

ashes on Mt Lemmon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got back in my car and drove further up, looking for a place with the really incredible stacks of rocks.  I asked you (and I’d been feeling your presence all day of course), where you wanted me to place the rest of the ashes – did you also love those rocks, or was I just imagining that, since I love them…? I heard you say that you do love them, and, to remember that where the ashes go is about what I want, that it no longer matters to you, you’re not in those ashes. You said that you love that I’m taking the time to do this ritual, but it’s for me, not for who you are now…I could also feel the ways that we were, and are, so merged.  That there are times that I can’t tell whether it is I who likes or experiences something, or you.

I trusted that I’d just know, and sure enough, I saw those rocks, with a parking area, and with Tilly leading the way on her leash, I realized there’s a beautiful area to walk down and among the rocks.  I’d been there before but somehow never saw that, even though there were many others walking down that way! I meandered down a path, down to where there was just the view of Tucson desert I’d been envisioning, and placed your ashes in the corner of some huge rocks. It was out of the wind, though I know not for long. And slightly off the main path, but there will be plenty of people coming through.  Along with the immense natural beauty, there was also graffiti and cigarette butts, and it seemed the right place for some of your ashes to rest.

You were such a combination of the ethereal and very much of this world. When you were little, making up words and dances (like the “hatdeck” when you were 3, and fufia and kufia – were they unseen friends?), seeing spirits, writing poetry and loving the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. Now you seem to be truly at peace, in the angelic world of the ancestors, and yet, you come down and play Angel from Montgomery today on your birthday, which I haven’t heard in months! “To believe in this living, is just a hard way to go…” yes, sometimes it is.

So, my sweet girl, though I miss you deeply, and can still hardly believe you’re gone, I am mostly feeling at peace these days. I hear that you want me to be happy, and mostly I am, though I know it’s fine to be sad too, and that crying actually makes me happy at times.  I was afraid that this second year, and now your second birthday after you died, would be harder, as some experience that.  I’ve found thankfully, that it’s easier with time.  I can feel your presence ever closer – almost merging, and yet further away, as you’re more diffuse, more spread out, though still very available when I need to connect.

I know that you know all of this, but I wanted to put it into words, to help me remember this day, and share it with others.  You make my life so beautiful, along with your sister, and I’m so grateful!

love,Mom

Notice the orbs and the lights (including purple ones) that showed up in these photos.

orb, Elizabeth Blue, spreading ashes,

One View

orb, Elizabeth Blue, spreading ashes,

The View from Mt Lemmon, where Elizabeth’s ashes were placed – note the orb and lights!

Elizabeth Blue, ashes, Mt Lemmon,

View from Mt Lemmon

Beginning to Leave the Hospital by Elizabeth Blue

(One of Elizabeth’s essays when she was almost done with her first (and we thought only) round of chemo, followed by her musings on titles and structure for the book she planned to write about this experience. God I love her mind and and am so grateful to have these writings…)

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma

Elizabeth Blue, Spring, 2012

Beginning to Leave the Hospital

March 5, 2012

I feel like I’m only now beginning to walk out of that hospital.
UMC, the day after they diagnosed me.  The day after they told me it was cancer.

I was lying in the hospital bed drugged up on morphine right after surgery (my first surgery) and my biopsy.  I looked at my mom all swollen with makeup running down my face and said to her (smiling) “If it is cancer its going to be ok.”  And she said “Yes.”  And then a few hours later they/the surgeon came to tell me it was indeed cancer.

I feel like only now, approaching treatment six, (the last one please god).  Chemo round one, round two, round three, round four and round five are done.  Whew.  I still feel like I’m in the hospital.

The shock: the utter senselessness and cruelty of being beautiful and twenty-two and having cancer is just starting to wear off and the feeling has begun.  The feeling of having had cancer.  I feel like the shock and senseless and sudden, unprovoked tragedy of it all kept me mentally in the same room it all happened in until now.  Now, six months later, my mind is beginning to catch up with the body that gathered her things from that room, left the hospital, went to school and told her family and teachers she had cancer.  And got on with it.  Took the treatment like a grinding kick in the face and a wet cold punch in the stomach, week after week and sat there quietly and didn’t say anything.  And didn’t yell at god or the world or the doctors for A: letting this shit happen and B: letting the treatment, the cure be so goddamned miserable that it destroyed her feeling and her heart and her youth and made her lose her hair and the oh dear god, fucking pic line.

They called the thing they put in me a Pick Line.  THEY CALLED IT A PICK LINE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?  They put this tube into my veins and all the way down into my heart and I didn’t want it and I didn’t understand what they were going to do until they already were doing it. They exposed me to way too much radioactivity in the process and sewed it up into my skin like it was no big deal and it hurt, it fucking hurt.

Then there was this big gaping wound and a tube sewn into my body permanently and they forced a long tube into my heart and I didn’t want it and it wasn’t necessary and that was the worst rape I’ve ever experienced.  And I never cried.  I sat there and was good and quiet and cooperative because I trusted that they knew what they were doing and that they could save my life.

And they did.

But me, the real me who talks and has feelings and still can’t comprehend the fact, that cancer was inside of me, that it even could be.  The me that still can’t wrap my head around something so unfair and unpleasant could happen to the blessed child who led a charmed life.  She (that me) is still in the hospital.  Because the shock, the pure and blessed numbing shock of the news that cancer was in me froze her in time.  It froze her so the me who is numb and unfeeling and quiet and detached and removed could take over.  Take the chemo, take the treatment, take the tragedy.  And hold space for the sadness of others.  The me who I generally associate with is just beginning to de-thaw in that hospital room, shake her head and wonder how the fuck did I get here and where do I go now?  I’m hoping, I mean I think, she can come join me now.

(Musings on her future writing…)

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma

Elizabeth Blue, with Blue, Spring, 2012

The Stories We Will Tell Our Children
The journey of a 22 year old cancer survivor

By
Elizabeth Blue

Why this title is important:

Dr. Miller told me on our last meeting that all this would just be a story I would tell someday (an unpleasant one)
The realization that I want children came with having chemo and being told I couldn’t.
My children will exist because I had cancer not the opposite (strange)
This is my history
Buildings, ie hospitals and doctor offices are going to be the transitional and pivotal star points for this experience.  THIS IS THE STRUCTURE FOR YOUR STORY ELIZABETH.  IT HAS ALREADY BEEN GIVEN.  THIS IS LUCKY.  BUILD THE STRUCTURE/SECTIONS/CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK AROUND CHEMO ROUNDS AND HOSPITAL VISIT AND DR. VISITS.
Interview Mom, perhaps others as an example of how narratives vary
talk about trauma theory and troubles with perception
there is a lot here.
Now, should it be a biography or just this story?

Other ideas include:

“High Tales and Desert Winds”
“For My Mother”
“Coming Home”
Mama: How having cancer brought me back to my mother  (The journey of a twenty two year old cancer survivor.)

©Elizabeth Blue, 2012

Keep Living

A Reason to Keep Living

This is a piece Elizabeth Blue wrote, from the period when she was going through chemo for the first time. She was being treated for non-hodgkins lymphoma which was diagnosed 2 months earlier.  The doctors had told us she had an 85-90% chance of full recovery at this point.

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue, April, 2012  (photo by Jade Beall)

1.20.12

Keep Living

It’s sort of funny this thing when you have cancer.  One thing about it is when people are talking about someone who they know who has died recently, usually part of such a story is telling of how they died or what they died from.  The funny thing is when you have cancer and someone is telling a story about someone they knew who died from cancer, they chose to omit that detail.  And that’s how you can tell.  You don’t really want to ask about it (it’s a normal question, ‘how did they die?’) because you can tell and you don’t want to make the person telling the story uncomfortable.  You don’t want to make them be the one to say cancer kills to your face.

The funny thing is that when you have cancer, if you’ve had it for any length of time you had to come to grips with dying long ago.  You’re sort of over it now (that is if you’ve established that you’re probably not going to die).  You’ve dealt with that possibility and, in a sense, moved on.  You kinda have to move on.  You kinda have to move on from that idea of death if you have any intention or expectation of living.  I think of a friend who has cancer (an uncurable kind she will live and die with, but probably has a long time to live).  She told me that at first when diagnosed she was very depressed.  For about a month all she could do was be sad.  And then a friend said to her: “Tita, you can’t die while you’re still living.”  And now she sees beauty in everything because it’s what makes her so so happy and want to keep living.  I think that’s the thing, you know, you’ve got to find that thing that makes you want to keep living.  For Tita it’s beauty.  

My Godmother recently asked me what my thing was, that thing that I want to live life for.  At my age there are a lot of obvious potentials to want to fulfill.  (Having children, a husband, a career, etc.) but these aren’t palpable things you get to experience right away if you beat cancer.  They’re a bit far off in the future to put that desire in your hands, a desire strong enough to make you want to live as much or more than you’ve ever wanted anything before.  

What came to mind for me was the carnal.  Wanting to live long enough to have that amazing feeling of heartbreakingly beautiful sex with a person after you’ve wanted and been imagining it for months.

That’s enough for a twenty-something person to want to keep living another day, truly beautiful sex.  It doesn’t even have to be actual sex, it could be just the idea of it.  The idea of the hunt or the chase and the exuberant feeling of wanting someone and guessing that they might want you too.  Some days that is quite enough to keep me alive.

Elizabeth Blue ©

Hospice – last week of August, 2012

Slipping Closer to the Edge…

These writings are from about a month before my daughter Elizabeth Blue died.  She was at home and needing 24 hour care, having had a stroke following unsuccessful surgery and chemo to remove the cancer that had spread to her brain. She was in a peaceful state of grace that is hard to capture in words and images.

August 24, 2012: a group email

dear ones,

again, I’m not sure how long it’s been since writing, but when I start to receive texts and emails asking what is going on, I can feel it’s time to share more outside of this small and yet expansive, world I’m living in.

Day to day, it’s hard to see change, much like when you have a newborn baby, and can’t see how quickly she is changing because you’re so immersed. But when I look at photos of Elizabeth now, I can see that her head is more swollen, and I know she now has a bump on the back of her neck that is very likely another tumor, or one that has spread, so there is evidence that the cancer is growing.   She has also had several episodes of muscle tremors, with her heart racing, which is uncomfortable for her, but responds to muscle-relaxants. It is likely a sign of neurological symptoms from the tumor, and may indicate other symptoms to come.

Some days she seems even less able to track things in a linear way, but this seems so natural now it’s hard to notice the change.  Today also for the first time she said her mind was busy when I asked (rather than quiet), using her hands to show me “chatty”.   She often uses her hands to communicate, though she is able to speak. She has said she is “doing work”, working through some things internally on this journey that need to be completed.  She is aware of the support she has, from all of us, in addition to the unseen forces.

There have been many visitors, (including the nurse and nurse’s aide 2 times a week), which she seems to enjoy though gets tired quickly. She says yes to everyone who has asked to visit, though I limit the schedule so she (and I) aren’t too tired. Often I am happiest when I have time alone to just sit with Elizabeth, like the other morning when I played Coleman Barks’ album, his readings of Rumi poetry, and we listened together, which was a beautiful way to start our day.  The physical tasks of feeding, changing, turning her, giving medicines at the right time, etc, often take up most of the time in the day, but I try to find times still when we can simply sit and be…

We have fewer people here, which is easier in some ways, harder in others.  Tashe and Terri (my sister and sister-in-law) were here which was immensely helpful. My mom is leaving this weekend, and it’s been wonderful to have her. She’s been patient and generous with me, even when I’m not at my best, not as patient and loving as I’d like to be.  Julianna (my younger daughter, 19 years old) heads back to NYU on Tuesday, and I’m going to miss her terribly.  She’s been home all summer, the longest time we’ve had together in many years and I’ve enjoyed every day with her.  During this difficult time she’s been just amazing – so loving, supportive, thoughtful, helpful, generous and just beautiful to be with. She is ready to go back to school, and though I can’t imagine how I could function in that world now, I can see that it will be a good place for her right now.

So next week it will be just Zelie (my partner), Elizabeth and me here, and we’ll see how that goes. Zelie is wonderful – patient and loving, and really sweet to see the two of them together. Greg (Elizabeth’s father) continues to come every week from Friday to Sunday, and brings Elizabeth treats from Berkeley and good company as he sits with her for hours each day, and he just cooked us all a wonderful dinner.  We may call on friends and hospice volunteers more, taking up offers of meals and perhaps just to come and sit with Elizabeth so we can do errands or have some time for emails and maybe even some breaks…

It doesn’t feel like Elizabeth’s ready to leave us yet, and yet we are aware it could happen at any time.  Most days it simply feels like I’m caring for her while she’s very ill, disabled, but really hard to see/believe that she’s dying.  The hardest day for me so far was going to Elizabeth’s apartment for the first time without her, and seeing all her belongings: her artwork, clothes, lists of things to do, all the outward ordinary objects that connect me to her in her previous self, all the ways we spent time together, the gifts I bought her, the stories of getting these shoes in Seattle, or that friend who made her that drawing, etc…it was just heartbreaking. Then a couple of days later I went back, and already it had shifted, and was much easier…so time continues to help, and continuing to be present to whatever degree possible.

I’ve been in the process of writing this in bits for days, as that’s how life is right now, and this feels broken up and unsatisfying, as some of the days do.  There’s an unsettled quality right now, and also an immense amount of love and gratitude in each day. Grateful for all that has been and all that is.

love and gratitude to you all,

Lucia

We managed to take Elizabeth outside in a reclining wheelchair to the backyard last week, which she’d really wanted to do:

Elizabeth Blue. hospice,

Elizabeth Blue on her expedition outside, 8/2012

Elizabeth Blue, hospice, wheelchair,

Elizabeth with Julianna and Greg, 8/2012

Elizabeth Blue, hospice, reclining wheelchair,

Elizabeth with Grandma, 8/2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2012 – from Lucia’s Journal

Tonight I had the thought to tell Elizabeth that I would willingly trade places with her, sacrifice my life for hers, and then I realized how arrogant that was, the idea that my life was better then hers, my situation, my potential future, better than hers.  I saw in that instant that her life and situation, however long, has nothing wrong with it, nothing that she needs to “trade” for.  I shared this all with her, and she agreed, nodding.  I finished by saying that I wanted her to know that if I could, and she wanted, I would willingly give my life for hers.

Motherhood – by Elizabeth Blue

A short and heart-wrenching piece written by my daughter Elizabeth Blue, while she was in the middle of her first round of chemo treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which ended her life on September 23, 2012. This was written 4 days after her 22nd birthday.

Motherhood

Monday January 16, 2012
7:57 PM

I just burst into tears. I was looking at a friends new baby and wedding pictures and I was getting teary eyed at them. I got up, closed the computer and went to use the bathroom. When I came out I thought about my daughter and the people I would want there during my labor and her birth. I thought about Victoria coaching me through labor and pain and telling me about her experiences and I burst into tears. Truly uncontrollable sobs. I’m still crying. I thought about how I might never have that and I could barely stand it. Something just months ago I thought I would never want, I want. I want so badly, so much, to be a mom. I want so much to meet my daughter Chloe Cricket Benjamin Blue. I imagined her having the same birthday as me or the day before and how it would be the best birthday present god or life or anyone could give. I want to meet her. My daughter: Chloe Cricket Benjamin Blue. I want so much to know her – the thought of not knowing her brings tears to my eyes and I can’t stop crying and sobbing and wailing knowing that it is possible it may never happen. I miss her and I didn’t even meet her yet. I tried to reason the tears away wondering if I’m hormonal or had too much coffee or am hungry. But none of these things were true and even if they were it doesn’t matter. I just want to meet her I just want to know her. I want to be born a mom, anew and born with her into a new life: the clan of motherhood.

Elizabeth Blue ©