A curse and a blessing

He is an old school doctor, a radiation oncologist,
very thorough but bound to his script.
Well-intentioned and respected, no doubt,
but his eyes wander away from mine,
and he steps on every one of my lines.
I have to interrupt to get a point across.
Actually listening, making contact
with the human being sitting across from him—
something the nurses do effortlessly—
is not his field of expertise.

He describes the radiation process
as the nurses have already done—
six weeks of five-days-a-week pinpoint zapping
with a little chemo on the side.
He tests my balance. Can I stand on one leg?
Is my grip even on both sides?
He says I am “presenting” well, a good sign overall,
but apparently, he cannot let hope have the last word.

He scoots his chair closer. His body is too close to mine
and I have to doublecheck my grounding cord to stay balanced
and neutral as I look into his eyes. “Glioblastoma,”
he leans in to deliver his most important message:
“It always comes back.”

He offers no numbers and I have already decided
not to ask because the bleak numbers, the dire pronouncements
weighted by experience and expertise,
swarm and sting my mind, and I wake up to a puddle of tears.



In contrast, she derives her power from an older school—
indigenous pockets of ancient healing traditions
carried forward into this fragile and wounded world.
She depends on the thinnest of scripts, trusting instead
the wisdom of Now, of deep listening, seeing into and beyond me,
being moved by the creative force that moves everything.

She calls to the directions—south, west, north and east.
She calls to the sun and moon and mother earth’s breast.
We pack the painted clay pipe with an herbal feast
and pass it around, two times at least.
We each offer a prayer. I offer a song.
     “Oh, great spirit. Earth, fire, wind and sea.
       You are inside, and all around me.”
The hummingbirds buzz, the wind plays the gong.
Tiger Cloud twirls her tail and lies on my feet
as she purrs out loud, “Am I not completely sweet?”

She opens a bottle, amber-rich with mystery.
She pours the dark liquid into her palm, rubs her hands together,
claps three times and inhales the sharp scent.
When it’s my turn I rub the liquid on my badger stripe scar.
She stands behind me, sips from the bottle
and blows a fine spray all over my head.
I burst out laughing, all senses alit, my body transparent
and my borders opened. Just as quickly the laughter turns
into sobs and I stand shuddering, held in her embrace.
Then laughter again as I ride the teeter totter between
laughing and crying, the same release.

She blows the last pipeful of smoke
through my skull right into my brain.
The beehive tumor is lulled into sleep-filled refrain.
Her magic pipe of the gentle deer
calms the buzzing, smudges the fear.

1 comments on “A curse and a blessing
  1. Mary Van Pelt says:

    Really great contrast, Kathy, between Indigenous healing and western medicine. I’ve read this post several times. Certainly resonates with my own experience….Public Health, Behavioral Health, Social Services and more. Robot people who follow the rules. Good intentions but often lacking compassion. I have a number of journal entries and writings unpublished on this same topic. Thank you. Holding you and Henry in the LIGHT. mary

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