The Mother and the Wise Woman

I am very aware these days of moving back and forth between two aspects of myself, two archetypes:  one is the Mother, the personal self, the one who grieves deeply, who is angry and sad, who misses my daughter Elizabeth, who truly cannot comprehend that she could be gone, that she died.  The other is the Wise Woman aspect, the one who is completely at peace, who knows that Elizabeth finished everything she came here to do, that she is at peace, that she was always aware on some level that she wouldn’t be alive very long and was prepared for death at 22; that she is communicating with us, teaching me, even more present and available to me now than she was in life.

I am so grateful for both of these selves.  When I am fully in one, there is a witness self who can remember that there is more than the perspective I hold in the moment.  I can see that if I didn’t have the ability to access, or simply remember, the Wise Woman, I could be in hell when the Mother is present, at least when she is deep in the grief process, but with the awareness that there is another one present, I know that whatever I’m in is not forever, and that makes all the difference. Even when the Wise Woman is fully present, I am grateful for the Mother aspect bearing witness, as she is the one who connects with Elizabeth as she was in body, who remembers her love, her attitude, her intelligence, and allows for the personal aspects to remain.

Sometimes I can move between the two in a matter of moments, as when I was working with a client the other day, and the Wise Woman self was present, working from a loving, heart-centered place, listening, and not involved in my own story.  When my client asked about Elizabeth though, having seen a photo, or read about her, I moved into the personal Mother aspect, talking about her, allowing the tears to come, and then shifting back to the transpersonal. Since Elizabeth’s birthday on January 12, I am more often in that place of the personal, with tears close to the surface much of the time. I just received a text from someone whose young brother in law is in coma, and she was offering her sympathies about Elizabeth, and that made me burst into tears…and then pause, center, shift, and I’m back in this place of peace and gratitude.

I am so grateful for the years of practice of heart-centering. I know that has made an immense difference. That from the heart center, I don’t get pulled back and forth, that the heart-center can hold all the aspects of myself, all the archetypes who are present.  I am blessed to have wise and wonderful friends who listen and guide me. I am grateful to have time and space to explore these places, to go deep into the Mother self, allowing the grief to move through, and to have access to the Wise Woman archetype/self, finding the gifts and the gems within this process, knowing that there is more to come, knowing from experience that  the heart-opening pain brings immense joy and gifts beyond our imagination.

Lucia’s emails about Elizabeth – Jan and Feb, 2012

Surprisingly, there are only a handful of emails I wrote during the initial 5 months of Elizabeth’s cancer treatment.

Even on February 4, 2012, when Elizabeth had the PET scan results that showed she was in remission after only four chemo treatments, which we were overjoyed about, I only mentioned the news in an email to one friend.  I know I made phone calls to a few close friends and family, but I think I was so certain that she was going to fully recover, that there was little drama.  That day of “the best possible news”, I well remember receiving her call during a Reiki class we were teaching, and how excited she, Zelie and I were, and that we took her out for a spontaneous and wonderful celebration dinner. It felt like there was a new beginning, another chance at life and for greater healing for us as a family, and we were all three part of it and so delighted!

And in early December there was a frightening and emotional episode when she developed a cold and a fever.  In ordinary life this was the kind of cold she might have only mentioned in passing, but with chemo, her immune system was so compromised, her white blood cell count so low, that a fever could actually kill her.

She and I went to the ER as instructed, on a Thursday night, and were shown to an exam room immediately, as they do not want someone receiving chemo to sit in the waiting room exposed to all the sick people there!  But after the initial hurry to get her in, everything moved VERY slowly. She had a fever, which meant she needed to be admitted, and needed IV antibiotics, but once they had given her her first dose, they were in no hurry to admit her. We ended up spending the entire night waiting in that ER exam room, not a great way for her to rest and recover from being sick, and for me it meant alternating sitting on a hard plastic chair and searching for someone with the authority to get her upstairs to a room.

We did have some great, intimate conversations that long night in the ER, and during the very first days she was in the hospital as well, while we waited for her to have her biopsy to diagnose the lymphoma.  There’s something about the isolation, the emotional intensity of waiting, the exhaustion, the drama of being in a hospital, and the real possibility of death at the age of 21 that can bring about that openness, that intimacy, sharing of secrets never spoken of before. I learned the dramatic story of how she lost her virginity, which I was almost as upset about as the fact she was being diagnosed with cancer…In the summer, when her cancer had recurred, she amended the story and shared a slightly less dramatic version, and in this truer one, she took responsibility, rather than blaming others for the circumstances. She amazed me with her integrity, intensity, courage, her youthful foolishness and survival.

Once Elizabeth was admitted and settled in her room, I needed to go home and sleep – I do NOT do well without sleep. She did not want to be left alone at all, and finally she agreed to my getting a few hours of sleep at home and returning that afternoon.  Then I had the dilemma of what to do about a class I was scheduled to teach with my partner that night and the next day. I didn’t realize at the time how frightened Elizabeth was, and I wasn’t there when one of the doctors told her she could die from this fever, which fueled her anxiety. This was one of many times when I felt pulled between my commitments, the needs of my partner and the needs of my daughter(s).  In trying to please everyone, no one was happy.  I didn’t follow my own instincts and spend as much time as I would have if I had simply listened to my heart. As it turned out, her ex-boyfriend was in town, and ended up spending as much time as he could with her, which seemed to be a great solution, but months later Elizabeth was still hurt and angry with me for “appearing relieved” that he would spend that second night at the hospital with her, even though I was there two nights and most of the three days she was being treated…We had the chance to talk about this later, during one of our days spent together while she was getting chemo, which involved lots of separate appointments and lots of waiting time, which gave us lovely opportunities to talk, listen, and heal old (and new) places in our relationship that were tender with woundings.

We had a complex relationship, as most, if not all, mothers and daughters do.  She was my adored first-born, who never wanted to share me, not with her father, her sister and especially not with Zelie, my partner.  And then she was fiercely independent and strong-willed, even calling herself “bratty”. The year of Elizabeth’s living with cancer served to bring us so much closer, giving us opportunities for healing between us and for Zelie and Elizabeth, in ways I had only hoped for.

Lucia Maya and Elizabeth Blue

Lucia’s birthday dinner with Lucia, Zelie, Julianna and Elizabeth – 12/24/11

Here are the emails to (and from) friends during these months of Elizabeth’s first round of treatment for lymphoma, which give a glimpse of what our life was like during this time:

1/5/12 from a friend, A.M. :
I love Elizabeth and what she is doing.  She is so honest with her process.  How tough it must be, I can only imagine.  To have such an illness, with a great prognosis but still uncertain in a little way.  God, I pray that it shrinks and goes away.  Her wig looks good.  She actually looked great the other day.  She is so clear about the fever (the “neutropenic fever”, which I wrote about above), how to manage it,….  And to be the Mama in this, my heart goes out to you Lucia.  How you are keeping it all together is quite amazing.

Let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Love, A.M.

Elizabeth Blue

Elizabeth with my mom in Sedona on a family vacation – January, 2012

Elizabeth Blue at the Grand Canyon

Elizabeth Blue at the Grand Canyon – January, 2012

1/9/12 email to Elizabeth (a friend):
Dear Elizabeth,
Elizabeth is doing really well – she’s had 3 chemo treatments, hopefully halfway through! She’s doing amazingly well, going to school, appreciating being able to continue with her classes and spending time with friends.  Her prognosis is excellent, and the tumor has already shrunk considerably.  It feels like a positive experience mainly, though challenging for sure, giving us some great opportunities to heal old wounds… it’s still also hard to believe this is what it looks and feels like to have a daughter with cancer. It’s still somewhat surreal….  I so appreciate you holding her and us in your heart and your prayers!

1/1912 to Alexandra (my stepmother)
thank you so much for asking!  and for your support, it makes a huge difference to me to hear…

The day went well – blood work continues to look great, the NP is very happy with the results.  E will have a PET scan before her next (5th) treatment, which will determine if she needs a total of 6 or 8 chemo treatments.  If 6, she could be done as soon as early March!  She is looking forward to being “done” and also realizing that it will be months before she is feeling all the way herself, with hair even beginning to grow in, appetite, etc… and of course the rest of her life with this somewhere in the background.

Her attitude is really great though, very positive and quite appreciative (mostly…) of the support she’s getting. She’s having to learn how to be less perfectionist about her school work (tho she did get 3 A’s last semester!), to prioritize her health.

The treatment itself went fine, long and uneventful!  And though I’d offered for E to stay here last night, she opted to sleep at home, and I imagine she’s still sleeping!  I cleared my calendar for today and tomorrow to help if needed, so we’ll see.. seems when I make myself available she doesn’t need me so much, and only when something comes up where I’m not available does she feel very hurt and that she’s not my priority…but we’re working this dance out.

love, Lucia

Elizabeth Blue

Grandpa Paul visiting Elizabeth – February, 2012

2/3/12 to Sally
I’m waiting now while Elizabeth has a PET scan, which will tell us if she needs 2 or 4 more treatments. A bit stressful!

She’s ok physically, but stressed, not happy right now, not getting support at all from her closest friend nor the guy she’s been dating.  We are going Monday for a photoshoot with Jade Beall. I want to document and honor this time of transition, so I’m glad she said yes. (This ended up being postponed til April.)

It’s really hard today, I’m just close to tears all the time… (my partner and I were really stressed and arguing) We are bringing out so much old anger, resentment in each other… I’m so tired and needing support, feelings hormones swing like crazy, and feeling really vulnerable. I’m tired of not feeling supported for who I am, as a mother, etc..

Sorry for the download, just needed to release some. Thank you for listening.
love you too. Thanks for being.
Love,
Lucia

2/4/12 to Kathy (a friend)
so nice to hear from you after a lovely day of teaching Reiki, and really good news about my daughter’s health – the cancer is totally resolved!

The tumor was right near her heart, on the right side…sure feels like we’ve been through a dark and scary time, though transformative and healing, much like a sweatlodge!!

love,
Lucia

2/11/12 to Matthew (a friend)
I can’t remember if you know even that Elizabeth was diagnosed with lymphoma in early November?  It was a huge shock, AND she’s doing really well, with 4 of 6 chemo treatments done there’s no sign of active cancer on the PET scan last week!  So she has 2 more treatments and though they’re intense, she’s been doing quite well overall.

She lost her hair, has a great wig! Still going to school at U of A, hanging out with friends, etc.. trying to live as normal a life as possible.  It’s been quite a journey for us all, and a true opportunity for healing among her and me and Zelie.  Some huge shifts have happened and I believe more are in the works!

Otherwise, things are moving along, with lots of work right now after a really slow couple of months – perfect timing really, while dealing with E’s first couple months of treatment, etc.. The universe truly takes care of us!

love, Lucia

Elizabeth’s March trip to NY to visit her sister, Julianna, and friend, Andrew:

Julianna Meagher, Elizabeth Blue

Julianna, taken by Elizabeth on her visit to NY – March, 2012

Elizabeth Blue, Julianna Meagher

Elizabeth, taken by Julianna in NY – March, 2012

Elizabeth Blue

Andrew and Elizabeth, while visiting in NY – March, 2012

3/8/12 to Alexandra:
It is an exhausting journey, but hopefully will be done soon!

Elizabeth’s next (and last) treatment is set for the 21st, but could be moved to the 28th depending on her white count. (Her white count was so low that two of her treatments were delayed til they came up to a level that wasn’t so dangerous, which caused quite a bit of unhappiness and tension, as Elizabeth wanted to be done, and the not knowing was very difficult.)  She is flying to NY next week to spend with Julianna (her sister), as they have the same week off – I’m really happy they’ll be together and that she’s feeling well enough to do that.  E does have a small blood clot in her arm, near where they’ve been giving chemo, but they’re not worried, just recommending heat and baby aspirin… I’m a little worried, but hope it will resolve soon.

much love,
Lucia

Elizabeth Blue

Chemo drugs for Elizabeth’s last outpatient treatment – March 21, 2012

Elizabeth Blue heart of hope

The gift from the nurses at Elizabeth’s last chemo treatment – March 21, 2012

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

11/13/12
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
L
11/19/11
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.

12/2/11
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,
Lucia