The Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society

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I’m going to India

I’m going to India. Really.  This is not something I’m just making up or wishing for.  I’m going.  Janurary. The first day of 2010.  Could there be a more auspicious day?  This is what happened:

My daughter went with me to chemo one day last year.  We spent the time chatting and visiting with some of the other women there that I’ve gotten to know somewhat.  All day a woman across the room who I had never seen before and I exchanged nods and recognition and by the end of the day, as she was getting ready to leave, she approached me and my daughter and introduced herself.  She said she’d the feeling we’d met before, as I did, and finally felt it necessary to actually come over and speak.  She had something to share with me, she said, and proceeded to describe to me a treatment she had returned from just the night before.  She was in India, Kerala, to be exact, having something called, “pancha karma”.  All the time she spoke to us I was taken by her light, her radiance.  And the story she unfolded told of miraculous doings.  By the time she was finished, it had become dark, and my treatment was almost over as well.  We promised to stay in touch and for days the stories she told me resonated in my ears.

It seems her cancer had metastasized and finally came to a point where the doctors had nothing more to offer her.  She was sent home to put her affairs in order.  Instead of giving up at that point she went to a small clinic in India that she had heard of.  A place steeped in tradition, run by three generations of doctors.  When she arrived she’d had so many tumours that they could not be counted.  When she returned, they were gone.

That was when I knew that I would be taking a journey to India in the future, and now the future is here.  I’ve gone as far as I can with chemo, so I am going to India for six weeks. My understanding of Aryuvedic medicine is that the treatments are very simple and gentle, but profound.  The mind, body, and spirit are all addressed in this healing process.  I am going with full intentions to experience miracles.  I am going to heal from cancer. I’ve put all my eggs in one basket.  There is no place else I can go at this point.  It’s either more chemo or India and I do not think I can tolerate any longer the diminished quality of life that chemo inflicts on a person.

I don’t know yet how I will communicate with the outside world once I am in the clinic, but if there is a computer there, then I will continue to blog and share my experience from there.  If I have to wait until I return, then I will fill you in at that time.  I’m excited and frightened and thrilled.  I cannot go on this journey and expect to remain the same.  Transformation is imminent.

Wish me luck!

Finally! We catch up…

Please excuse me.  This year has been so difficult.  Rebecca, the Society’s new business manager looked at the date on the last blog entry and had one word for me:  “Insane!!”  The exclamation marks are part of the word.

Hmmmmmm.  I guess I can say that insanity has been one element of my year.  Just the darkest, craziest corners one can find themselves trapped in, I suppose.  Oh, it’s probably not been THAT bad…I mean, some good things happened, too….LOTS of good things happened actually…It’s just been hard.  I don’t know how else to put it.  I sort of lost something this past year.  Hope, maybe?

Seven months ago I awoke one morning to find a lump under my left arm.  A lump the size of a small tangerine.  It was not there the night before.  After my initial panic and the swooning feeling of doom that accompanied my fear, I calmed down and tried to think clearly.  I figured a lump that explodes to that size overnight must have something to do with infection, and that this was probably nothing to worry too much about.  Wishful thinking.  I saw my oncologist as soon as he could take me, and he took one look and pronounced it the enemy.  I was immediately put on chemo and have been ever since.

I am sick every day.  Nauseous-sick.  Apparently, this is not a common reaction.  Most people get over the nausea, but somehow I still have it, and I never know when it’s going to hit.  The other day I gagged right in the middle of a meal.  I didn’t even FEEL sick.  I was swallowing and it just happened:  a wave of nausea and the next thing I knew my head was in the toilet.

Walking on the edge of nausea is not pleasant.  It basically shapes your day into one of caution and fear.  That and the crippling fatigue that comes with steady vomiting and chemo in general.  I am good for one thing a day.  Perhaps it’s the laundry.  Or maybe I’ll need to go to town for a doctor’s appointment.  A treatment.  A long phone call from an old friend.  An hour with my new baby grandson.  It hardly matters what I’ve done.  Whatever it is leaves me absolutely drained and exhausted.

I was hardly ready for more chemo.  I was still using the cane to help me walk from too much of the last chemo.  My muscles and nerves were still weak and I felt fragile  This chemo is not nearly as “harsh” as the last kind. So, true, I’ve lost some weight, and the bloom is off my cheeks, but if you didn’t know me, you’d probably have a hard time believing I am as sick as I am. .

I do, however, have my hair, and since treatments are once monthly I seem to have the blessing of time on my side.  Oh yeah….and since I didn’t lose my hair, I’m actually letting it grow, so I look like I’ve got a hair hat on.  Might as well take advantage of ugly.

Look, I’m not complaining.  I’m REPORTING.  OK?

I’m just tired of this.  Not in a spoiled baby way.  It’s not something I’m whining about.  I’m just tired of it.  My head aches.  I’ve got blisters on my feet and in my groin area. My feet and hands are hot and sensitive.  They pulse with redness.  And on the inside, it’s as if I have a neon shield around me.  Neon-like energy, but neon-like chemicals, too.  Let’s say it’s a greenish neon light or aura.  A glow that’s hot and burns.  My skin is screaming.

These are all symptoms consistent with this particular chemo drug or something like them.  And I can take it.  I thought I’d come to the end…to a place where I couldn’t do any more, but then my oncologist told me that he’d “prefer you to continue.”

That was enough for me.  Coming from him, anyway, because he’s brilliant and I trust him.  So, I bucked up and I’m going to “continue”.  That could mean months from now.  Months more of this.  I am, however, going to do whatever he thinks I must do.  Unless I just can’t. But then, when it’s all over, I have a plan.  I’ve planned a trip, you see…

I’ve decided to go to India.  Kerala, to be precise.  I met an amazing woman who approached me at the chemo clinic. After hours of staring, and wanting to know one another she had finished her treatment and before she left she came and stood by the chemo chair, where I was still hooked up.  My daughter was with me.  She told me later how excited we looked to finally be speaking to one another.  I knew there was something important that was going to happen. “ Christina” started talking to me about a place from which she’d just returned. Like, the night before!  In India! A clinic, I guess is the best way to describe it.  The clinic specializes in Aryuvedic treatments and has been run and maintained by a particular family for four generations.  There is a six week course of treatment called, “Pancha Karma”.  It is non invasive and a very gentle treatment, but, by no means casual.

Three years ago Christina was riddled with cancer.  It was in her bones and her liver and her brain, and she had just gone thru a year of chemo and radiation.  There were more tumours in her brain than anyone wanted to count.  In that small window of opportunity that presents itself to the person with chronic cancer…to a person living with cancer…before the next incident or metastasize, she impulsively decided to go with a friend to this small clinic in Kerala, India, that they’d heard about.

Over a period of three years, Christina returned to the clinic three times.  Today she is cancer free.  She hasn’t ONE tumour.

So, this woman looking at me, and telling me this stuff is…well…immaculate.  Her eyes are blue and they sparkle.  The whites are white white.  But more than how she looks, it’s the air about her.  It’s the air of health.  Health on all levels…and most importantly, a spiritual level, it seems.   There is a calm and peaceful clarity in people like she.  It is what Faith looks like, I think, because there is an absolute absence of fear of Death in some people, and they fairly glow with a kind of unshakeable confidence.  Like, it’s all right to be in the world.  There’s no shame in being human and nothing to worry about.  They believe they’re going to be taken care of.  By something great and magnificent.  They just trust this.  It is like being in the cradle.

O, how I ache for this thing called FAITH.   I am recently considering that I must practice to gain faith.  I always thought faith was something you had or you didn’t, and that if you didn’t, you couldn’t find it.  It’s about trust and lack of, and it comes from something waaaay before you, I think.  Before you were even you.

Maybe you’re taught faith.  You’re taught to believe in something.  Or maybe you’re just born that way.  I don’t know.  I can’t tell from the way people are how it works.  It seems that people with faith just come that way.   Real faith.  Genuine and authentic faith.  That’s what I’m talking about.  What if you just can’t find it in yourself?

Should you practice?  Is there somewhere or someone who can help you?  Not preach to you, but actually teach you how to believe in something?  Or is it about self love?  Honouring one’s self?  And do you have to do all that talking about it and figuring out why?  Maybe it has more to do with cynicism, and then, how do you get rid of THAT??!!

The major thing that resonates for me about these treatments in India, is the fact that one’s entire being is addressed.  Your physical body, certainly, but you’re also going to examine the mental and emotional selves, and the Spiritual self, as well.  I cannot expect to ever heal if I do not transform completely.  Without compromise.  It would be impossible for the body to heal if there were something out of wack in another part of you.  Right?  It’s a question of balance.  Isn’t it?  I heard someone say that being sick with cancer means your body became too toxic for the soul to live there anymore.  That says something to me.

I must really give it all up for this to work.  Hand it over.  I must find a way to exercise faith, in fact.  And that is why it is so significant that Christine chose to speak to me that day.

So I am going to throw everything up in the air and confront my fears and go to a strange, exotic place that I’ve never been to before and turn over my body to them, and take the risk that nothing at all will change…and take the risk that everything will.

Babz

Cancer, Love, and More Cancer

It’s Wednesday.  November 5th, 2008.  Tomorrow is the Big Event.  I’ve been gearing up to it for weeks now.  I’m still trying to find the words I need for my speech and I want to pick up a pair of slippers to match what I’m wearing, but pretty much, I’m ready.

I’d been spending time lately sort of planning out the next move for myself.  I looked into places that I could visit where I would step into the next stage of healing.   There are clinics all over the world that have programs designed for people “living with cancer”.  Often they include education about diet, exercise and lifestyle.  Sometimes colonics, massage and acupuncture are included in the fee as well, and often you are close to a body of water, or there is a pool, so that the journey toward health is really quite luxurious.   It also makes up for the stringent dietary limitations (raw, vegan, wheatgrass) in these places, just in case you were about to mistake the experience for a “holiday”.  It felt good  to think that I was almost well enough to consider big changes and that I could, perhaps, begin to take some risks:   A glass of wine with dinner or a candy bar.   I considered that after all the sacrifices I’d made, and all the progress in respect to overcoming this disease, it was likely that my immune system  would even be able to withstand a trip to Rajastan or Mexico City.  I bought a new camera.

On Sunday night I felt a bit punky.  I was tired and sluggish, and for the prior few days had carried around a vague headache and achy muscles.  Then I found the lump.  It was under my arm, my left arm, the same spot where seven years ago they fished out lymph nodes that would be implicated in my breast cancer.  After the initial heart stopping moment, once I’d thought it through with a straight head, I decided it wasn’t a bad thing.Was I crazy?   This was a spongy, somewhat painful lump, not like cancer, and my oncologist had not detected it last week when I had a check up, so after a few deep breaths I realized I was overreacting, and cancer was probably only a remote possibility.  In fact, a ridiculous and paranoid projection.  More like an infection. Yeah, that’s right. Whew!

Monday I had a CT Scan and blood tests. Tuesday, late afternoon, I saw the doctor.  We looked at the blood tests, and the results of the CT Scan from the day before.  It’s the breast cancer, he said.  We’ve got to hit it hard with a big hammer, or you will not live past February.

Whenever they say stuff like that, I always think how do THEY know when I going to die?  What kind of arrogance gives them permission to play God?  But this guy, this oncologist, and I have been to war together.  This is not just some cold, analytical response from a relative stranger.  This man has become my friend.  My family.  I said please don’t pump me full of drugs and diminish the quality of my life just so I can squeeze an extra month or two out of this life.  Please look at me and tell me I can actually kick this thing. Tell me the truth about my chances of survival.  I am not going to go thru with this and die from treatment.  With tears in his eyes, he turned his swivel chair to me, and looked me square in the face.  You don’t want to die, do you?  I shook my head.  Then, let’s get started!   We shared a slow smile.

I’m not sure if he answered my questions, but I keep seeing that slow smile, and that is where my trust lies.  I trust the twinkle behind those eyes and the warmth that embraced me as his head moved up and down in a “yes”.  Ok.  I’m going with him on this.  I have to. So, right here, right now, marks the beginning of new hope.  I am going to kick this cancer in the ass.  Watch me.

I went straight to Walter’s office.  Dr. Lemmo.  Talk about family.  I just may be the luckiest person on the planet.  You cannot imagine the amount of love surrounding me and my family.  Honestly, think of what you can do with so much love.  I do believe one could even…dare I say?   heal.  I bet that much love could even make a miracle happen

But no matter what happens, there cannot be a better feeling in all the world than knowing you are loved.  If this cancer wins, and I do not survive this challenge, please know that it was just my time to go, because love of this quality and duration is so beautiful and so powerful that it can’t be wrong.  There are things we just don’t understand.  Isn’t that why life is considered a mystery in the first place?

So, Walter.  He and I are working out a support plan for when the chemo begins.  I will let you all know the details once it’s worked out, based on the kind of chemo, and the amount of the dosages.  There is some difficulty getting BCMedical to approve payment for one of the drugs my oncologist wants to administer, but I’m going to try not to stress out about all that right now.

And, please don’t forget the event on Thursday night.  It will be so nice to see you there. I’ll be that woman in the room that’s shining. I’ll be basking in the light from all your love.

The Good, The Babz & The Ugly

Hi.

I recovered from surgery, to take out the old port-o-cath and put in a new one. Despite the five cms of plastic tubing left in my body, two huge new ugly scars, and pain, the likes of which I have not experienced since my mastectomy. My blood results added insult to injury. The tumour markers have tripled.  The liver enzymes remain troublesome. Running behind schedule, my oncologist nonetheless closed the door to his office, in a rare gesture that would suggest a surplus of time on his hands, and gave me the goods: Nothing is working. What once worked has stopped working. He has taken me off chemo, and wants to check the numbers again in a month. There is really nothing more he can offer me, but he would like the month to think it through. I gave him a print out of a study that Dr.Lemmo found on the Internet that we thought interesting. A rather controversial treatment that reintroduces estrogen to the highly estrogen receptive body. This is like giving sugar to a diabetic. Nevertheless, in women who have built a resistance to the estrogen blocking drugs that are becoming common in breast cancer treatment (hello!) there seems to be some progress in halting tumour growth for short periods of time. He read the whole thing, another rare gesture from a very busy and brilliant man who seems, at the close of his career, to have seen it all before. Yeah, he’s heard of this, although he hasn’t done this procedure himself. Seems he recalls hearing it is very hard on women. Almost more than chemo. But, hey…nothing else is working. Maybe we’ll try that. Let me think about it.
I took the reports and that information to Dr.Lemmo, where I often get the whole hour and more when the door closes, bless him, and we talked it through. The Ukrain does not work as well without chemo. It’s not strong enough by itself. That is something we know already, but he’s been hesitant to stop it completely, because the numbers are climbing so quickly as it is. After a long conversation about things, though, he and I decided that we would stop Ukrain for the next two weeks and assess the new blood work that is due to happen at that time. I am presently injecting myself with a vaccination that Dr.Lemmo designed that works with the same bacteria that exists in breast cancer tumours. A kind of homeopathic treatment. Like heals like. He agreed with me that this healing journey I have been on has come to the place where one must choose to do things never considered before.

Frankly, I feel like I have lost a kind of faith. A belief that I will heal someday. It’s gone. I cannot find it. I’m burnt out and exhausted with chasing new treatments and miracles. I don’t even know what I believe anymore. I know that I cannot continue to live this way. Keeping myself alive running from treatment to treatment is no way to be. I am consumed with appointments and my poor body is overloaded with potions and pills and procedures. It becomes ironic to think of my diseased liver trying to handle the amount of chemicals it must process to heal! That’s simply crazy.

This is the point in the illness where a person goes to South America to find a faith healer…or travels to an ashram in India where it is known that a guru has cured cancer in monks…or flies by plane and then truck and then boat and then burro to the small village where one can stay at the only hotel and wait for an appointment to see John of God. Really. I have to start thinking about these things.
There’s more: After several months of intense treatment, my blood cancer was successfully controlled by a drug called Rituxan. My oncologist was thrilled, because blood cancers are tricky, and with the breast cancer as well, if we’d been unable to arrest the movement of the blood cancer, it would not have been pretty. The BC Cancer Agency pays for this very expensive drug for two years of maintenance. That means that every three months they give the hospital $3950 for me to have a small bag of liquid dripped into my veins. My last treatment was at the beginning of September. Just as I was about to get hooked up, the chemo clinic accountant that arranges for payment of treatment came up to me, and informed me that there was no Rituxan anymore for me. It seems my two years are up, and the Agency will not pay. I called the Union, and the policy I have paid into for more than twenty years will not cover it. I tried my insurance company.  Then I tried BC Medical.  No go. Meanwhile, my oncologist became increasingly concerned that I was missing this treatment, and asked me to please put it on a card, or borrow the money or SOMETHING, because if I were to stop these treatments, and my blood cancer were to flare up, I would be a goner. Period.

I told Dr.Lemmo about this and he agreed that it would be a very bad thing to stop Rituxan at this point. He suggested I turn my attention to paying for that rather than Ukrain, as it is a priority.  He told me not to worry, we will make it work. I also waited for my oncologist to return from his trip to Europe, and reported this to him. He said he would personally go to the BCC Agency himself and plead my case next week when the big poohbah returns from HIS holiday. As it stands, I will need to be reimbursed for the payment I put on my card. I can no longer pay the minimum payments as it is. With close to $4000 new charges on the card, I am hooped, and hope The Society can cover this until we know whether or not we can get it paid elsewhere.

These guys are so awesome. These doctors on my team. I have surpassed their expectations for survival. They really care about me, and consider my situation something of a miracle. Oh, how I wish I could FEEL this again. This great gratitude to be alive. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not blase. I am not cynical or bitter. I am not UN grateful. It is just that I am having difficulty mustering up the joy. Or something. I’m tired. I hurt. I’m not having fun. I forget things. I’m sad. I just want to sleep. It’s so stressful. Imagine a time bomb living in your guts. What if I get an infection? What is that pulsing in my chest? Is that new? Why does my head hurt? Is it a simple headache or do I have a brain tumour? It’s just a never ending litany of aches and pains and fear. Why am I so afraid? Even stupid people die. They can do it. What the hell’s the matter with me?

I think sometimes about all the things I still want to do in my life. I said to Lar the other day that maybe we should just sell it all…oh, maybe we could end up with $25,000 or so…sell the car, the vintage clothes, the costume jewelry…all the junk around this place…and buy a ticket to Paris. Well, wait a minute…here’s the dream trip: We go from here to Montreal to spend time with the kids, then to NY to see a whole whack of great theatre. From there to Paris and then to India where I wouldn’t even worry about germs. After that, I could come back here and wait for the end. Ha ha. Larry and I laughed. So hard!

But then I became really sad. I always thought I would do certain things. I can’t believe that I am not going to live in NY again…or walk through India. I’ve been planning to get to India since I was in high school! I think about it all the time. I just realized that I may not make it. I just “got” it. I may not get there this time. I am so devastated to think that my time here on Earth is shrinking. And so quickly. Please do not think that I am being maudlin or overly dramatic. If I can’t whine and complain to my friends, then who can I ever be honest with? Yeah, I’m complaining. I haven’t done that before. I haven’t complained about this cancer. I’ve been hopeful and joyous and generous and suddenly I am completely empty. I’ve had nothing but gratitude and a sense of abundance. Where did it go? I don’t know what happened. I’ve been trying to figure it out. Was it that my ex-husband died? Or that two of my kids slipped. Again. And started smoking crack? Is it the constant financial struggle? The endless stress and worry about rent and food and gas? Maybe it’s the election. Global warming. Darfur.

I must find the inspiration to live that has brought me this far. I’ve lost it and I must find it again.I have so much to do. So much to finish up before I leave this fantastic world. Most importantly, I want the Babz Chula Society to work…for me…but BEYOND me. There are actors, artists that we know that are right this minute suffering the fear of not knowing how they will afford to deal with their illnesses. We know these people. If you have not heard of their illness yet, you will very soon. I want to recover to the point where I can be influential in helping others get thru their challenges. I cannot give up now. Not after all this, and after all the love and support that’s been shown to me. I must survive and be able to do something for others, or it is all for naught. It’s not enough for me to get better and that’s all. I want The Society to exist long after I am gone. And I cannot do this alone. You need to know how important this is…to me, yeah…but to YOU, too. None of us know what is going to happen. My friend, in Toronto, told me about this guy she knows who has survived AIDS since 1981!!! He’s been close to death many times, but he always pulled through. Last week he died in a car accident.

Maybe you guys are different than me, but I don’t think so. I’ve had a pretty amazing life and a fabulous career. I’ve had the privilege of doing amazing projects. I’ve maybe never made a lot of money, but often I’ve made “good” money. Good enough to raise five kids mostly by myself, and still have a car. Good enough to be able to take the kids out to dinner and a movie at least once a month and that’s no small change, folks. True, I have a good eye, so I’ve always been able to buy make up and cool clothes. There was always a TV and a sound system in the house. And after rent I still had enough money to contribute to charity and be able to help those friends of mine who had less than me. My kids could bring home a friend or two every single night and there was always enough food on the table. I was even able to buy flowers for the house once in a while. For me this meant success. I don’t think I ever really envied another’s life. Oh, sometimes I would think it would be nice to be younger or prettier or rich. Sure. I’m not untouched by envy but mostly I always felt lucky in my life. I mean, I would look around at my world and be stunned by the abundance. Most of the time. And still. I am forever humbled by how much I have.

I can say that I’m not finished here in this world, and list the things I still want to do, and plead my case until I’m hoarse, but there is no deal you can make with no one to get to stay here if your time is up. And there’s no way of knowing when it’s up until it is. So the person who cares the most about whether I get to stay or go is me. Just me. And I’m just an ordinary little human trying to hang on to life and fearing the moment when I will have to let go of it. Just another ordinary little human completely wrapped up in me me me and wanting more. But…The Babz Chula Society…well, just think of it.

I am not sure what is going to happen… what kind of treatment will be next for me. I am not sure what kind of funds it will require. I hope we can keep this society going. Asking for help is difficult and humbling.  But one cannot be apologetic.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s a simple fact:  Artists do not often come to a crisis in their lives easily.  There are seldom resources to cover the financial burden.  Think about this:  Art is what outlives us.  It is the statement that remains when our society is long gone.  When we are dust, our art will remain as our identity.

Why then, is the artist so dishonoured and disrespected?  Why must the artist struggle to be paid what he/she is worth?  When illness or accident befalls the artist, it often results in an entire lifetime of savings being eaten up trying to survive.  I know this first hand.  Except for the small percentage of artists that have found financial security thru their art, this situation is universal.  My hope is that the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society will continue to exist long beyond my lifetime, and that those very people that write the songs, and the ones that sing them…that our playwrites and our actors…our cinematographers and the artists that paint…all of them…get the respect they deserve.  My hope is that the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society can lead the way in generating support for those very people that have given their lives to creative expression.

Thank You

Hi.  This is me.  Babz Chula speaking.  I’m curled up with stomach distress from what I imagine chemo does to the intestines and general digestive tract.  Yet, despite, and in spite, of stomach cramps and chemo and cancer and all the discomforts of sickness and old age, my spirit is soaring.  And this is because I am buoyed and bouncing from your good will and your unabashed…well…love.

I don’t know if any one of you can imagine what it is like to be me right now.  I mean, on paper this situation looks fairly dire.  I certainly would not have believed you if you told me a year ago what my life would look like today.  And as dire and dreary as it looks in black and white, you must believe me when I tell you that it is not quite my reality. Not nearly.

I have a treatment every morning.  Three mornings a week it is Ukrain, and on Tues and Thurs I have an extensive colonic with an implant of coffee and herbs.  Once every three weeks I have chemo in an IV, followed by two weeks on and two weeks off of a series of oral chemo drugs.   This is all to address my breast cancer.  Once every three months I have a “smart” chemo drug called Rituxan, for my blood cancer. It is often accompanied by an IgG treatment.   During the day I take as many as 40 pills, some are medications, and some are supplements.  I drink, on any given day, from two to ten powdery mixtures ranging from greens to various clays.

Every morning, before I leave the house, I sit in a far infra-red sauna for an hour, and follow that with a cool bath.  I try to do this nightly, as well.  There is dry skin brushing, supplements, massage, when available, juicing when I’m really together….and all sorts of small and constant little attentions that healing demands. The difficult part, however, is not this.  It is getting from place to place.  Somehow, this just takes the jam out of me.  All the driving.  The getting in and out.  Going up stairs and down.  The waiting, the gas prices, stupid drivers, and road construction.  I often weep at the wheel….even at the simple thought of being home, in my bed.  Please understand, I never weep out of self pity.  It is always sheer exhaustion.  Tears of fatigue.  More like sweating is to exercise.  I just cry.  For all of it.

Often I nap when I arrive back home, but eventually, I get down to what has become the business of my life.  Perhaps some day soon, when it becomes clearer, I will be able to call it a livelihood.  Right now it is the period of transition that comes with the Transformation that this challenge of cancer demands.  I often wish I could pick and choose the things…the qualities.. .the values…of my former life.  I wish I could keep some things and discard others.  But the reality is that it all goes up in the air, and you don’t get to keep the things you like about yourself, and lose the things you don’t.  It all goes up in one big smokey cloud, and all you can save from the fire are bits and pieces…often not even things that seem to fit together.

I get thru my afternoons doing the Babz Chula Society business.  I receive another  very lovely letter of support, and I maintain that my life is the luckiest kind one could ever wish to live:  A life busy with the business of healing, and currently filled with letters of support and loving thoughts from people all over the world.

Throughout this week, of all weeks that have come before in my 61 years, I’ve been deeply stirred by a kind of magic.  Magic, but real.  OK.  Magic realism, if you like.  It has crept into my world.  Many candles are burning in our home and flowers are arranged in gorgeous array.  Several strangers and casual acquaintances, as well as dear old friends and family, dear family, have come forward to offer support.

Miraculously, one of my liver enzyme counts, raging some 400 points above scale a mere 14 days ago, has lowered to just above 200.  And my sweet boy, my lovely youngest male child who suffers currently in respect to a dark and ugly episode from his past that has returned like a recurring bad dream, most amazingly has found a kind of grace and dignity as he faces its evil memory.  I am floored by what I believe is love, manifest.

I mean, despite and apart from the powerful dose of chemotherapy I received at 2pm this afternoon, I am floored. That is, laying on the floor, unable to move, except for my fingers clicking along as if on automatic….and, I guess, my brain, for it is all true what they say about chemo and brains.  Stupid. And tired.  Stupidly tired.  A bad combo, this chemo brain.

So.  This is what I mean to say:  we never forget an act of kindness.  Even if we cannot quite place the face or circumstance, our body memory has registered the gesture and it is in a sparkling moment of reflex that one recognizes what is familiar.  I must remember that wanting credit for these gestures dilutes the power that they generate, and neutralizes the very act of generosity itself.

The ego just wants to win.  No matter what.  And it will win at any cost, even by trickery or cheating.  No qualms.  No conscience.  Our hearts swelling with pride at our own goodness is really nothing more than smug satisfaction.  There is a big picture.  A really big picture.  It is not about good or bad, or right or wrong. It is just this:  Nobody gets to go home until we all get to go home.

There’s no first place or last place.  No win or lose.  So, I think, that if l am able to get there at some point that I should not worry about whether or not I am “well enough” or “strong enough” and that I need to simply get to India as soon as I can, or Southeast Asia, or Eastern Europe or Main and Hastings, and that, I must begin to speak to and do for others and attempt to inspire in them some sort of generosity…small gestures that move out and up…tiny acts of courage and humour…moments of lightness and mirth.  This world can seem so damning.  So dreary and sodden.  Healing is needed in every corner.  A finger to point the way home.  A light to shine upon the path.

I am so often lost and alone.  So often swooning in fear and terror and lacking in faith. I pray for the strength to leave my ego behind.  And it is surely strength I need, because the ego is a muscle to be thrown down and wrestled to submission.  I ask to be spontaneous.  To simply trust my impulses.  To “do” and not to think about “doing”..  I pledge to you that I shall set aside practice time each morning so that I may become a gentle, peaceful warrior, skilled and adept at service.  For one day it will be my great honor to support you as you have so generously given support to me.

I am so grateful for my challenges.  They inform my life.   They make it worth my living it.   They give the inevitability of my death great value and meaning,  Unlike before, when I chose not to contemplate dying.

These challenges bring color to my cheeks and a hearty robust contradiction to all the things that cancer threatens to do to a body.  I laugh more than ever.  Deep laughter. Belly laughter.  I cry, too.  More than ever.  Deep crying.  From my soul.   And more often than ever for the other guy.  Really!  This is truly the blessing.  I just find myself losing the ability to separate myself from another.   From the “other”.   Just more looking out.  Less “me me me”.

I used to spend more time looking at myself and now all I can do is look at you.  You are so beautiful.  I cannot turn away.  How can I possibly stop looking at you? I love you so dearly.

And I thank you for the all the beauty you’ve brought to my life.

Babz Chula

Update from Babz

I do not know how to clearly relate to you my most recent
experiences…with this whole ordeal. My body’s response to the
combination of chemo, Ukrain, and Real Life is profound. There is a
treatment of some kind every day. Three days a weeks I have Ukrain,
where the procedure is what takes my energy, for the after effects
are minimal, except for crushing fatigue. Chemo, on the other hand,
takes only an hour or so, and I leave feeling the same as when I
arrived. It is only after a few hours that my body starts to “get”
that something has happened to it. And, my o my, what a something
that is!

I will be far more articulate in explaining it all, once I get my sea
legs. For now, I would like to send a message to those people who
supported me with emails, donations and ebay bids. I would also like
to thank all those that organized events in my honour, and continue
to do so.

I am in the midst of intense treatment. I’m afraid there is very
little more that I can do besides get up in the morning and get to
another doctor’s appointment, and subsequent treatment….and then
get home to bed. Please excuse me for not being able to attend some
of the events, for not answering my telephone, my emails, and for
being generally unreachable and unresponsive.

I kind of hate the way I feel right now. Puffy and swollen, I think
my skin shines a bit greenish these days. It’s as if I’m Superwoman
and someone’s trying to kill me with Kryptonite. Something is
definitely zapping my strength. Something that feels like nothing
else I’ve ever known before. Something from outer space. Something
that fell to earth, perhaps. Whatever it may be, I intend to fight
back. I intend to smash it out of my way in one last superhuman
attempt to rise above. Rest assured. I am going to win this
battle. I am going to survive this latest challenge.

Make no mistake. I will survive because of you. You have given me
the healing power of Love, and it is the greatest weapon of all.
Healing lives in this Love you have given to me, and it allows me the
power of Transformation. It has made me stronger than I’ve ever been
before. Strong enough to withstand the fear, the pain, the tears.
Strong enough to become someone I thought I could never be. My
gratitude is forever.

I promise to keep you abreast.

See? I haven’t lost my sense of humour!! Even with thinning hair
and a puffy, green face, I can STILL be funny! Cancer, schmancer.
Let’s have some fun! Promise me. From now on…no feeling sorry for
one’s self…no “poor me”…and definitely no “poor Babz”. I just
won’t have it. My life is abundant. I am the luckiest person in the
world! That is because of you. Thank you. So very much. You fill
me up. I could not be happier, and I will never stop telling you that.

Love. Babz Chula

Welcome!

Two and a half years ago you saved my life. You gave me two and a half more years to live. To breathe…in and out. In this amazing, miraculous world. To love…for two and a half years MORE. I got to stay alive and be in the world! You did that. For me.

I worry that you do not know what that means to me. I’ve been concerned because I was not able to thank you all properly. You need to know that I am thanking you by being alive today. I never forget you. You did this.

I am in trouble again. It’s bad. It’s dire, actually. Having two cancers simultaneously is complicated enough, but this is crazy: maybe even so rare that you will never know another person in your whole life that has this happen to her or him. That doesn’t make me feel one bit special, incidentally. If it did, this wouldn’t be so difficult. This business of asking for help.

In August, throbbing pain and tenderness led me to discover three new tumours in the mastectomy area. My breast cancer was back, and I started taking injections of a very potent estrogen blocker to augment the other blocker I was already taking that was no longer doing the job.  Conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments were only briefly considered at that time, as the effect either procedure would have on my bone marrow, and consequently, my blood cancer, would have a serious negative outcome. Treatment, therefore, consisted of extremely high doses of Vit C and Lipoic Acid administered intravenously three times weekly, two colonics a week, with coffee and herbal implants, twice daily far infrared saunas, an austere and restricted vegan diet, and specific supplements. Basically, the same stuff I’ve always been doing…only more.

Although I was able to hold the cancer back, I was not able to keep it away. My breast cancer has moved to my liver. A small lesion was removed by ablation about three weeks ago. We HOPE the ablation was successful. Won’t know for two months or so when it is safe to do another CT Scan. Yeah. It was awful. Very scary and painful. So now I’ve metastasized…it’s on the move. This damn cancer is on the move. Fuck.

The good news, though, is that my blood cancer seems to be resting right now. Oh, it’s still there. I feel it: restless and uneasy. A beast in fitful slumber. So, time is precarious and very precious. I have to jump on this immediately. Keep my head. Stay clear. Do not panic.

You see, at this point, there is really not much available for me to do. I think I’m already considered kind of a miracle case…a success, at the very least. No one really expected me to survive this long. First breast cancer, involving my lymphatic system, and then, three years later, an indolent, incurable blood cancer displays, having been there all along, hiding way beneath the surface, for probably, oh, ten or fifteen years. Another positive aspect, however: You cannot imagine how much this explains! Mostly that I’m NOT crazy!!

That’s when the first fund raiser went up. So amazing. I’m still reeling from it. You are amazing and I love you.

I am not the person who fears death so much that I would travel into the jungle to find the guy I read about in the National Enquirer who reaches into your abdomen and pulls out a chicken liver. I mean, I want to live, don’t misunderstand. I want to live so badly and I will be so sorry to leave this world when it is my time to go. Life is fantastic. It’s not always easy, but it’s fantastic. Isn’t it? Isn’t this one amazing ride?

I don’t think it’s time yet for me to go, yet. I still have so much to do. Maybe everyone feel that way. It’s never the right time, is it?  But…I really do have so much more to do. I have a one woman show to write and a film I want to make about how my Dad died in a fiery car crash when he was 27 years old. I have grandchildren, a new one coming in the summer! I teach them things. Things no one in the world can teach them, but me. They need me. My mom is in her 80’s. She has become a child again. She plays with the same stuffed animals that my grandchildren play with. She needs me, too. My kids, my Larry. How will I ever leave them? How do you get to a place where you are all right to go? What does it take? Who do I think I am, anyway? Someone special? How come I get to live when so many others do not? I will never stop asking these questions. I will die asking these questions.

So, there is a treatment that my naturopathic oncologist, Dr. Walter Lemmo, and I have discussed, that we think can work. CAN work. We don’t know if it WILL. Think of it this way: Cancer likes sugar. A lot. We make the cancer vulnerable by starving it, and then we lure it with sugar and then we kill. Kind of sneaky. It’s war, though. All’s fair in love and war. Yes?

Once you get cancer, I think you always have it. I mean, you had it before, but your immune system was strong enough to fight it. If an immune system is weakened, the mechanism that usually fights the cancer breaks down. Then you get it. The issue, then, is how one LIVES with cancer. My own experience has taught me that Transformation, and nothing less, is what is necessary if one desires to stay alive. And, even then, there are no guarantees.

For me, there were many transforming moments. I know that I am not the same Babz that had a mastectomy six years ago.

I spend a lot of time thinking about Death. Life and death. This is a great gift. I never allowed myself to think about it before. In fact, I avoided it. Who wants to think about death? But, now, I find I’m grateful to be able to contemplate my death. It has informed my life, and I’m glad for so many things that have happened. The abundance in my life is staggering. I’m even, well, especially, grateful for the challenges and difficulties, for I’ve been blessed with so many insights and revelations.

These treatments are very expensive. I will need three treatments a week. For a year or two. We are going to start with three months, and then re-evaluate the situation. Do some diagnostic tests and assess things. I will share all my thoughts and observations with you. Involve you all as much as I can. There will be miraculous things that happen. Imagine being involved in a miracle! I believe in things like that. Maybe we will discover a way to cure cancer. I am hopeful. I believe that if I can get these treatments, then I can survive. I want to be able to teach what I know about cancer, what I’ve learned, to others. It breaks my heart to know that some people are terrified when they find out they have cancer. I was there, and I know how that feels. If only there had been someone to help me then. I would have suffered so much less. I want to be the person that says the right thing to a newly diagnosed parent, frightened by the idea of leaving children behind when death comes.  I think I can be of some help to that older person…the one who is in their eighth decade and is all alone. So frightened. I think I can help the person who fears death and lives with stress and panic.

This “Society” will be my legacy. I know that true Healing lives in the gestures of generosity that we make to alleviate the suffering of others. I know this because when I am speaking to one of the many people that call who have somehow received my number from someone and need counsel, I can feel myself getting better. I know this because I can actually feel my pain subside when I am speaking to a cancer patient who fears death. My hope is to become well. Then I can use the Babz Chula Society for the benefit of others. Artists who find themselves , like me, suddenly dealing with a critical illness. I never thought something like this would happen to me. I always figured I could sing or dance or act my way out of a crisis. Symbolically, of course.  I don’t know another artist who doesn’t feel the same way. And I know of no one who anticipates that something like this is going to happen to them. I pledge to be there for those who find themselves facing illness and death. I pray to be able to live long enough for that pledge to reach fruition. I thank you all for your support.

Babz Chula

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