Friday, September 10, 2010

"Mama, will I ever have breast cancer?" Thirteen years later.

March 4, 1997

As I was sitting cross legged in the warm tub this morning,
my five year old daughter,
who has been missing a lot of time with me of late --
as I have been focusing on treatments, and needing space --
asked me,
“Mama, will I ever have breast cancer?”

I cannot tell her no.
Suddenly, the new truth is:
“It runs in the family,”
this albatross of potential carcinoma
hanging from our necks,
down our chests.

But I do not wish to plant the mental seed
of genetic fallibility
and inevitability.

So I tell her that she can do things differently
than Mama did.

For years I knew that vitamins worked,
that drinking didn’t;
that exercise did,
that coffee didn’t;
that forgiveness did,
that resentment didn’t.

But I was ambiguous in my desire to thrive,
perhaps getting more out of the suffering martyr role
than I dared get out of life as a celebration.

I started to change this rather late in life,
but as I did, the door opened for her to arrive,
and inspire me.

Now that I am surgically altered,
not so much cured as having the sick parts removed,
I must still face
and embrace
doing what works.

Living it,
and thus walking it with my daughter,
so we can change the family “run.”

The other side of the lesson to share
will be in the proof
that this has not been a tragedy.

An action has been taken which is smart,
and leaves us counting what we’ve gained
rather than lost,
blessing all that lies ahead
because of our opportunity now
to choose
to limit the loss
to a breast
(a simple pound of flesh),
to gain a life
that is long and well lived.

* * * * * * *

September 10, 2010

Thirteen years later, I know much more.
About Aspartame, and Rumsfeld’s slick slide past science to approval.
About depleted uranium, and the silencing of the United Nations.
About plastic, and fish, and the air at Ground Zero.

Even as the celebrities gather on my TV screen to raise money

for “Stand Up to Cancer”, I wonder if they get it.
Stand up? What’s that mean?
Some vague macho courage? More treatment choices?

Or, could we really dare to Stand Up --
For Life, over Profit –
and stop the corporate polluters that trash our DNA,
and buy off scientists, regulators, and legislators
to hide liability and prolong the spending?

Oh, my beautiful daughter, be Alive – every day.
Be present, be careful, be joyous.
Ask questions.  Seek truth.  Act on your compassion.
Eat simply and diversely.
Don’t wait for Godot.

That way, regardless of what mutations occur, you thrive.
And because you thrive, others do, as well.
That’s what I’ve learned.

And that’s my answer to your question,
Thirteen years later.

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