Unsettled Weather

This past week has been a varied one, to say the least. I’ve just finished the first of my two weeks off from work, and while I’ve enjoyed much of it, it has hardly been restful.

On the face of it, there was nothing inherently unrestful about the few plans I had made for the week. It’s just that life decided to throw a few several spanners into the works. And my plans ended up including more challenges than I could have anticipated.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

First, I set myself the task of starting a blog for METAvivor. This project grew out of a desire to honor the memory of my friend Rachel, by contributing something useful to an organization she believed in and supported. Her post Trying to Stay Alive on Two Percent, includes an essay by guest-blogger CJ Corneliussen-James, president and founder of METAvivor. The two percent refers to the meager percentage of all cancer research funds that are devoted to all Stage IV cancers, to treating it effectively once it has been diagnosed. One of the primary missions of METAvivor is to raise money to fund research that directly addresses metastatic breast cancer.

I don’t have the odd fifty or a hundred thousand dollars laying around, else I would have gladly donated it to METAvivor. But I do have a useful commodity — namely, a certain amount of geekitude — that I was happy to offer. Thus, after due discussion with CJ, I agreed to help them launch the METAvivor Blog.

I expected to perform a bit of laborious wrangling with WordPress and my webhost. What I didn’t expect was that, during my first try, somehow the WordPress platform didn’t load properly. Plus, one of the plugins that came with it blocked the ability to leave comments. Plus, my webhost experienced some unexplained server crash, which prevented thousands of North American bloggers and website managers from accessing our blog and site email, databases, etc. and so forth, for three very long days. Finally, after spending untold hours trying every geek fix I could come up with, I had to completely deactivate the first launch attempt and start over, from scratch, with a slightly different domain name. Words cannot express the metaphorical hair-pulling this entailed. However, the second attempt worked. I just couldn’t check the blog’s emails for a few days, but at least I could sign in to the blog dashboard. And Facebook was still working.

Fasten Your Seatbelts…

So, that was the first three days of my vacation. Then, I had to hurry up and pack to go away to Nantucket for the weekend, to partake of the annual Daffodil Festival Weekend. This journey was planned with a sister breast cancer veteran, Cindy, who grew up on Nantucket. We are both Massachusetts natives in fact, although we both now live in other parts of New England. A friend of hers who still lives on the island generously provided us with round-trip ferry tickets and a place to stay.

The Daffodil Festival is timed each year to coincide with the blooming of said flower, which grows in profusion on Nantucket. Except this year, southern New England experienced its daffodil days about three weeks early. So, on Nantucket, actual growing daffodils were thin on the ground, but fortunately, there are silk daffodils, and millions of them were employed to decorate the classic cars, hats, people and dogs that participate in the parade that starts on Main Street, and culminates in a massive tailgate party with all manner of picnics and refreshments.

However, first we had to get to Nantucket. The sun was shining, but our ferry ride was beset by gale force winds. Which means the water was choppy. And there are no seatbelts on ferries. The one good thing to be said was that we were on a high-speed ferry, which meant that instead of the usual three-hour agony, our trip took only an hour. But it was an hour of heaving and fog and huge waves lathering the windows. And the early-warning symptoms of incipient seasickness — a bit of vertigo and a headache that makes you feel like the top of your head is going to explode. Sigh. The photo below was taken from the ferry window. It’s as good a metaphor as any for the ups and downs of this past week.

Blessedly, our dear and generous hostess took us out for dinner that night, to a splendid restaurant. And the next morning, we visited her local health club, and got to soak all vestiges of our turbulent transport in the hot tub. Ahhhh.

Next came the festival itself. Lots of color and local characters, beautiful classic cars, and the odd gale force winds, blowing off the cold water, which had everyone holding their daffodil hats while buttoned up in fleece and quilted jackets. Plus an encounter with an unpleasantly officious parade organizer who was bent on ruining our picnic. We didn’t let her, but it was a near thing, involving a sensible parade official, a politely cheerful police officer, and a lot of private cussing.

Finally, we finished our picnic and found our way to a flower shop, to get a few memorial bouquets. When she was just nine months old, Cindy and her eighteen-year-old mother were among the 34 passengers and crew on a small plane that crashed in trees near Nantucket Airport one August night in 1958. Cindy was one of the 12 who survived. Her mother was among the 22 who did not. Years later, Cindy researched and wrote a moving book about the crash, called Out of the Fog. We placed one bouquet at the memorial plaque honoring all those who died that night. Cindy placed the second on her mother’s grave.

Later, after a much-needed nap, our hostess gathered some old and new friends to her home for a cookout. It was too cold to hang out by the fire pit, so we scarfed up dinner mostly inside. One of Cindy’s old friends at the party was a woman who was making her first social outing since finishing chemotherapy for lung cancer. She was in the midst of radiation and was scheduled for surgery to remove one lung. The other lung was, so far, okay. Cindy and I suddenly found ourselves in an impromptu cancer support session. Cancer is cancer, after all, no matter what kind, and we were happy to listen, ask informed questions and share that instant camaradery that occurs among members of the Club.

After dinner, my back insisted that I get off my feet, so I found myself unexpectedly snuggled on the couch by our hostess’s very active two-year-old grandson, who was nursing one of those perennial colds that small children seem to have. Somehow, he decided that, for a time, hurtling from one room to the next was not as much fun as looking at a coffee-table book of photographs of humans and their pets, with me providing narration. The photos were taken in countries around the world, with all kinds of people and all manner of pets, from ponies to peregrine falcons. Naturally, this involved a lot of ‘why’ questions from my rapt young companion, which I answered as creatively as I could. I felt a bit like Scheherazade.

The next day, we got up early, to begin the long and complicated journey home, from a last walk down Main Street, to the ferry ride, to the drive to the parking lot where I’d left my car, to our parting and respective car trips home — she to New Hampshire, me to Rhode Island. It was, mercifully, less windy, and once we got back to the mainland, it was warmer, too. By the time I got home, I had a sore throat. The next morning, I had my book-browsing companion’s headcold, and spent the following two days in bed.

Emotional Weather

Oddly enough, the most unexpected part of this past week was not the roller-coaster of the events themselves, but the emotions that arose with them. After working my way through the cyber-adventures involved in launching the METAvivor blog, I found myself missing Rachel and grieving for her all over again. I found myself burdened by unwelcome knowledge about cancer’s toll, by the simple awareness that my geekitude was welcomed by CJ partly because she was relieved to have help from someone who is not living with mets herself. I can’t say I was totally surprised by my feelings, but I was unprepared for their acuteness. They followed me to Nantucket. They were with me while Cindy and I listened to her friend describe her lung cancer experience. They multiplied for us both while she and I put together the memorial bouquets and visited the grave sites. On our way home, we both agreed that perhaps we’d needed a much quieter, simpler weekend, that this one had not provided enough respite from loss and cancer and heartache. What should have been a lark was more of an endurance test.

Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 03:05 pm, filed under Making A Difference, Metastastatic Breast Cancer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

8 Responses to “Unsettled Weather”

  1. Kathi,

    Your hard work on the METVAvivor blog was a labor of love (thank you again), so it’s understandable it brought feelings of grief for Rachel back to the surface.

    It sounds like your time on Nantucket was a very intense emotional time as well. Cindy surviving that plane crash, but losing her mom – what a heartbreaking story. And offering support to the friend with lung cancer also had to be very intense.

    We can keep busy (as you certainly have been doing) or transport ourselves into a different environment, but cancer, grief and emotions follow right along don’t they? As you noted so well, it sounds like life…

    I hope you get to spend your second week of vacation doing things for you. Rest and renew my friend.

  2. Thanks, Nancy. It was just one of those weeks — Murphy’s Law running amok!

    I didn’t so much mind how much Rachel was in my heart — she’s there every day and I expected to feel her presence intensely as I worked on the blog. But Cindy and I realized that there was just too much crammed for us into one teeny weekend, when what we really needed was more down-time. We had almost no time to process anything. Live and learn.

  3. Kathi,

    I am coming to the end of an intense run of things at work — not yet a vacation, but definitely downshifting. I am finding that the change of pace is stirring up my grief as well.

    I agree with Nancy in giving you huge kudos for your work on METAvivor. It will make a big difference for a lot of people to have that resource out there.

    Now keep resting up!

    Sending love,


  4. Thanks, CB. You’re so right about how changing gears can leave room for background feelings to rumble to the surface. Sigh. We all need some down time, I think. Been a tough year so far for us all.

    Well, life is almost never about getting what you want, but dealing with what you get. And I don’t have to go back to work for another week, so I’m going to ‘deal’ with that by making NO plans if I can help it. Except maybe to eat chocolate. xo

  5. I hope you have a week of chocolate-filled self-indulgence and relaxation, Kathi! The new site looks terrific – I will fix the Metavivor link on my blog pronto and read it in full.

    I hear you on the difficulty (impossibility?) of escape from sadness on this journey. I signed up for an exercise group for women post-breast cancer treatment, and had a lovely time talking with a woman there at the first gathering – to discover half an hour in that she is Stage IV. In the change room I found myself listening while she talked about difficult decisions about whether or not to pursue further treatment. It at least felt good to (I hope) be someone she felt she could talk to openly about such incredibly painful issues. But I went home with such a heavy heart, saying to my husband that I was only just fully appreciating that as well as having to deal with the very real fear of Metastatic Breast Cancer for myself, involvement in the breast cancer community meant that I was going to get to know many women who would die of this disease, and this would bring a whole different type of anguish. I can already tell I’ll be devastated when this woman dies – and we’ve only just met. A glimmer of how you feel about Rachel, perhaps. There have been moments when I’ve wondered if it’s easier to back away from the breast cancer community and be spared this type of pain, but I feel such a need to share this endurance test (as you so aptly describe it).

    On a far brighter note – sorry for a disjointed and distracted message, it’s chaos here! – my sons are very keen to check out your Weird Allie efforts. Think they’ll be getting a precociously early education in Pink Politics!!

  6. A lot of my song parodies are done with songs that are a bit ‘old,’ Liz, but there are a couple of real rockers in the mix that should entertain your boys. I was just reading your about page & chuckling at the phrase, ‘the boys were happier than crocs in a mangrove.’

    One of the poignant things for me about getting to know you recently, Liz, is that our dear Rach was an Aussie, born in Perth, later becoming a world traveler, and meeting her Beloved aka Anthony as an American in London, I believe, and finally settling here in the States near his family. Makes me tear up a bit, actually. I am decidedly not the sappy, spooky type (you may have noticed…), but it’s funny how fate and the blogosphere brought us together, and brought me a new friend in Oz, just after I’d lost Rach. I got to meet her mum and some of her college mates at her memorial; they’d come over from the Land Down Under to be here. And later, I got the loveliest email from her baby bro in Oz, who was unable to come. So, you see, I have a special place in my heart for sistahs and friends from Australia. xoxo

  7. Kathi,

    Intense weekend is an apt description! I was so moved by Cindy’s loss of her mom. I could also see how Rachel has stayed in your heart…forever…and how she would have loved your working on the METAvivor blog.

    The kid gave you the cold. Kids are such germ buckets. I can say that as the mom of one.

  8. Aren’t they though, Beth?? I’m explosed to germs every day in my job, but they’re mostly old people germs. My poor antibodies just weren’t ready for the potent 2-year-old germs I picked up!

    Cindy’s book is quite an amazing story. I don’t think anyone else had tried to look up all the survivors of the crash in many a year before she started researching it. Even though she was just a baby when it happened, she feels the loss of her mom deeply; it’s in her DNA.

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