I’ve decided to wrap a black belt around my brain tumor and see it not as an enemy but as a formidable Sensei. I am bowing into it and requesting that it teach me :
- About asking for prayers and help
- about receiving help instead of clinging to the role of helper, the strong one.
- about trusting the honorable professional help that exists in this hospital even if the doctors and nurses are strangers… but not for long because we go straight to love and connection and humor
- the brain tumor is catalyzing love and healing across former abysses and impasses such as with my cousin Kat. It’s fucking amazing that after five years of no contact she would reach out to me and I would reach right back. She even offered to give Esperanza a temporary home, a generous offer although I realize no matter how much time I have left I need Esperanza home because she is part of my healing and she is my hope
- the tumor is also giving me a chance to take a good look at my negative self-talk and to transform it into nonviolent encouraging words. For example a couple days before going to the doctor and coming up here to Denver, Henry and I were outside putting up the wood paneling and the finishing touches to our new Hay and horse shed and that involved drilling holes and screwing the boards onto the rails .I noticed that I would inevitably drop several screws into the dirt if I tried to pick them up with my left hand and to be completely honest when I would drop the screws I would say to myself Kathy you fucking klutz. I know I’m not alone in that kind of negative self-talk but it was so vividly counterproductive and I had to switch my approach and attitude right then in the moment. I began to talk to my left hand as if it were a child and I would say pick up just one screw good good okay now hold on to it. Good job, now flip it around so the pointy end goes into the hole… okay keep holding on to it because now I have to set up the drive so I can screw it in okay keep holding on…good good. I had to take the time and for me that’s a challenge to slow down and be kind to myself like I would a child or my horse. Or hopefully a student or husband or family member so thank you tumor for reminding me of that.
There have been many prayer circles supporting me. Another cousin Cinny in Santa Fe got together with her women’s pipe circle group and they held a pipe Circle for me and the surgeon even though many of them don’t even know me but they were willing to do this on the strength of Cinny’s love for me. Similarly my black belt friend Jamie Zimron is in Jerusalem right now and apparently she spoke to her Israeli and Palestinian aikido friends and they sent prayers not knowing me at all but on the strength of Jamie’s love for me. Actually the operating room felt really crowded and that puzzled me. I think now that it was crowded with wonderful generous spirits who were supporting me and the surgeons. My horse Esperanza was in the operating room too and I know that because when I came out from under, my grabbing muscles in my legs – my adductors – were trembling as if I had written her bareback for quite some distance
All this to say that if I wrap my a black belt around my tumor and bow into it as I am endeavoring to do I’m able to see it as a gift to help cut through the bullshit and negativity — to cut through all those illusions that convince us that we are separate from each other and just blast right through that. We’re not separate. We’re all about love and presence and connection.
Today I’ll have a chance to speak with the doctors and see the post-op MRI. They were pretty sure that they removed 90% of the tumor without damaging my sensory and motor action on my left side. The tumor was in the parietal lobe of my right brain pretty well entangled with the sensory and motor part of the parietal lobe. It was a dicey operation. I still don’t have full intelligence in my left hand . I’m using the voice typing feature of Google docs (A true pain in the ass) because my left hand is still typing garbage but let’s hope that the post-op MRI gives good news . Let’s pray for the miracle of neuroplasticity!
Meanwhile they’re going to send the tumor to pathology to biopsy it and determine exactly what its genetic signature is so that we can formulate subsequent therapy. I hope that I’ll be able to get most of that treatment in the San Luis Valley and not have to come up here too often.
To backtrack a little bit, when Dr. Stevens laid out the prognosis, option number one was I could simply go home and I would probably live three two more four months because this was an aggressive and hungry tumor (the same kind of tumor that John McCain and Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden’s son had). I thought about this option and and quickly rejected it because I’m not done yet. I have sculptures to make, paintings to paint and people and horses to love. I have my incarcerated students to respond to and and I have my dear sweet husband to savor as long as I’m able (Today is his 71st birthday).
So I went with the option which gives a prognosis of 18 1/2 months up to 5 years. Let’s go for more than 5 Years at the very least! To do this I know I will have to improve my relationship with straight allopathic medicine; those of you who know me know that through my entire life I have preferred to stay away from doctors and hospitals so hahaha the universe is playing a good one on me.
what is strange and wonderful is to actually realize that I feel grateful for what has happened and I hope I am able to maintain that gratitude. It’s an amazing major shift in my spirit and in my heart and I am humbled. Thank you sensei.