Tag Archives: heartbreak

For Sophie: brief interview with hideous woman

Here’s for the lovely, charming & talented Sophie, who’s asking 5 random questions for her blog.

Though she be but little, she is fierce.

Though this little experiment only partially relates to cancer,  I elected to post my response here rather than clogging up her comments. Continue reading

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“I’ve got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow…”

-Frank O’Hara, “Morning”

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Dead girls’ legacies

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book  for $1 in the Goodwill store. Tucked inside its pages was a 1994 note from a doctor to an airline:

_______’s daughter has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Please change _______’s ticket so that she may be with her daughter.

And I was taken aback by the way it broke my heart.

Maybe because I wondered how the book, with its fifteen-year-old note, had ended up in Goodwill to begin with; when I buy things from thrift stores, dresses and coats, my mother always jokes: “You’re wearing a dead girl’s clothes.”

And I thought of my own legacy of books, and how the breast book looked incongruous among my other Goodwill buys: The Twits, The Snowman, Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine, Thank You Amelia Bedelia.

I can’t help but keep up my collection of children’s books for my hypothetical future kids, even though, it seems now, they are likely to remain solely a figment of my imagination.

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Goodbye, Brittania.

cumbria 007oxford 029at the top of st mary'strafalger square100_0002100_0032winter 059100_0055em & big ben

Thanks for all the free health care

and the Shakespeare.

I leave behind one of my breasts,

a biohazard box of post-chemo needles,

and the greatest man I know.

(I know we’ve had our differences,

it’s not exactly been all Shelley-and-Keats with us but

IMGP7259you’ve kind of been the love of my life.)

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they sent me out into the wide world

I don’t know, I felt like I should say something.

It’s my intention to maintain a steady presence in the BRCA/breast cancer ‘blogosphere’ (that absurd term) in pursuing this project, but things are/will a bit sporadic due to an impending major emotional breakdown.

This week I’m leaving England. Yep, this is the big one.

Packing up years of your life is an impossible process. I’ve got these great heavy bulging suitcases to drag across the ocean but everything inside them seems absurd.

And I’m tired of always leaving everywhere, of living my life in intervals of one year or less. So many suitcases, so many disposable things. Disposable friendships and connections too. Review of the past five years: Eight months in Oxford as a visiting student, two months in Brooklyn as an intern. Senior year at Vassar, two months teaching in Lancaster, Oxford for the year-long master’s. A year living with K in Shepherds Bush, like grownups, then six months on my own in a closet in Bayswater. That was supposed to last longer, being there, but I missed too much work from the chemo and couldn’t pay the rent.

It’s kind of like cancer evicted me from my life.

So for almost six months I’ve been living with K & his family in the countryside. It’s nice, but it’s not my home. Now I’m going ‘home,’ and that isn’t my home either. I don’t know what I’ll do, or how long I’ll stay.

I wasn’t supposed to return to America under these circumstances. I thought I’d finally be striking out in my proper place, in Ann Arbor, feeling purposeful in my Ph.D. and putting down roots somewhere, finally.

A nomadic existence doesn’t mix with illness. There isn’t any comfort in it; there isn’t any stability. An awful Heimweh — being homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. Sickness for a place I imagined I would have someday. With grownup things in it, like winter coats and spice racks.

Instead the only comfort and stability in my life came in the form of K, and now I’m leaving him too.

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting: the emotional upheaval of learning you have cancer it’s pretty awful, but it doesn’t hurt as much as a broken heart. It was one of the first things I thought when I was diagnosed, as I tried to measure my own response. Now I have to trade the cancer for the heartbreak.

And I keep thinking how apt are these lines from Mahler:

Die zwei blauen Augen
von meinem Schatz,
Die haben mich in die
weite Welt geschickt.
Da mußt ich Abschied nehmen vom allerliebsten Platz!
O Augen blau,
warum habt ihr mich angeblickt?
Nun hab’ ich ewig Leid und Grämen!
[The two blue eyes
of my darling
they sent me into the
wide world.
I had to take my leave of this most-beloved place!
O blue eyes,
why did you gaze on me?
Now I have eternal sorrow and grief.]

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