The sign of the phoenix

On this morning’s walk a bird dropped from the sky, dead at my feet. I nudged it, just to be sure. Nope, not a breath of life in it. And I smiled.
I smiled because I realized that it meant I have changed, permanently, irreversibly. The old Liz would have viewed it as an omen of things to come. But the new me sees death as shutting the door on things that have passed. The ending of a chapter, and the beginning of a new one.
I smiled because even though a new chapter brings its challenges – I mean, what would a good story, or good life for that matter, be without challenges? – it also brings opportunities and hope.
I smiled because it means I’ve let go of a lot, so I travel lighter.
I smiled because I’m ready for what this new life holds.
And it holds a lot of promise at the moment. For one, a new med regime I’m on is working. My numbers are rocketing downward, almost back to normal range. That means the cancer is being held at bay. Good news, yes. The challenge is that the biopsy sample was not enough to get a good genomic read on the cancer cells. And with this medicine working, my oncologist isn’t motivated to do any more until the cancer presents as a problem again.
The drug combo – Exemastane, which sucks the estrogen from my body, and Everolimius, which goes into the cancer cell and turns of “switches” to keep it from growing – has led to an all-over body rash. Gratefully, one of the advantages of Memorial Sloan Kettering is that there’s a doctor for everything. I saw an oncology dermatologist, and two creams and a pill later, it’s virtually gone.
I smiled because I’m getting a lift from new friends I’m making since getting involved with a group called METUP which advocates for more research funding for metastatic breast cancer and removing barriers from clinical trials, so those of us who could benefit from cutting-edge research can be a part of it. It’s based on the AIDS activist group ACTUP, which held die-ins to bring attention to the number of people dying from the disease that in the early 1990s had no cure. Today, people with AIDS live long, healthy lives with medication. That’s where we want to be.
This week alone, I sent out press releases on the group’s behalf, made follow-up press calls, fired off a letter-to-the-editor when a newspaper reporter refused to cover a die-in planned in Philly this weekend and emailed my congressman to oppose changes to the Affordable Care Act that could end up killing me. I’m not just talking the talk, I’m walking the walk.
I smiled because I’m heading to a Women Reading Aloud writing retreat this weekend thanks to a scholarship for writers with cancer. It’s named for a sister warrior I knew who has passed on, but whose spirit I’m glad to embody.
I smiled because I’ve just tripped across a literary agent who’s written a children’s book that I’ll be writing about. We’ve only spoken briefly, but agreed we need to get to know each other better (and I haven’t even told her yet I have a novel in progress).
I smiled because I’ve been asking the God I pray to to take away my anger and replace it with resilience, to replace my inertia with motivation, to replace my ruminations with creative energy. I smiled because the bird, a phoenix,  tells me it’s so.

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3 thoughts on “The sign of the phoenix

  1. Love hearing your healing and uplifting words. Keep up the fight!!

  2. April this is so uplifting. Thanks to all of your work and everyone joined with MET UP., Even though I could not go to the Die-In in person, I was so glad I could join all of you on the live feed with my picture joining in. I’m so happy you are doing so well. It’s so important to celebrate the great moments! xoxo- Susan

    1. Thanks Susan! You’re absolutely right. There are enough losses with this disease, it’s essential to celebrate the wins. Thanks for sharing.

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