You read the “nutshell” version, so here’s the abridged but still somewhat more detailed account of the unfolding, unraveling, unbelievable, unexpected, unforeseeable, tale of facing what I eventually discovered was not stomach aches, gas pain, or the gastroenterological we-don’t-exactly-know-but-we-have-to-call-it-something Irritable Bowel Syndrome — no, indeed. It was Cancer — cancer in the ovaries to be specific, and a rare form of it at that.
(2000–2003: a brief medical summary)
In October 2000, I went to visit my parents in Miami for a week and was supposed to spend the following week after that in New York before returning to London, where I had spent the summer (and had no idea then that I was not going back for the foreseeable future!). Let’s just say that that Continental Airlines ticket from Miami to New York was never used, and I haven’t seen the Jolly Ol’ Blighty since then. While in London, I had what I thought were some severe stomach problems, which I intended to explore more fully with my doctors in New York after my Miami visit. The night before I was due to fly to New York, I had another stomach pain incident and could not get on the plane.
So I began to look into the matter while in Miami, and upon further exploration with a gastroenterologist, including many pokes, prods, and some very uncomfortable and embarrassing positions, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (the gastro-intestinal catch-all for “we have no idea what’s specifically wrong, so you’ll be on a crazy-ass diet indefinitely). I found out later that I.B.S. (as it is referred colloquially) is one of the most common misdiagnoses for Ovarian Cancer (I’ll address this more later). After another stomach “incident” and more pokes, prods, uncomfortable and embarrassing positions, the so-called stomach-aches turned out to be a medical situation of an entirely different persuasion, in fact a gynecological one which was quite severe relative to my initial suspicions of just having really bad gas problems. Before any invasive and therefore more conclusive procedures were done, I was told that I most likely had some kind of abnormal, possibly malignant formations around my ovaries or near my uterus, the exact nature and location of which could only be determined with surgery, biopsies, and the resulting pathology.
Along the way, in my various consultations and second, third, and fourth opinions, I had assembled my ideal team of specialists to work with me, so it did not make sense for me to relocate back to New York and begin the research/consultation process from the beginning. So I remained in Miami for what turned out to be a three-year residency with my parents, as I embarked on what I called my “2001: Ovarian Cancer Odyssey” (well, it started at the end of 2000, y’know, but anyway!), followed by the medically-acclaimed “2002 Medical Mystery Tour”, culminating in the much-heralded “2003 Cuts-Like-a- Knife-Hurts-Like-a-Mother-Fucker-Time-Heals-All-Wounds-(Supposedly)-and-All-That-Other-Crap” Tour, followed immediately by an unforeseen indefinite sabbatical/residency at Heartbreak Hotel (but that’s a whole ‘nother story — all I will say is that at the time of this writing, I still have a room & key, I occasionally go there, eat crappy food, watch re-runs on TV, and cry my eyes out, but I don’t live there anymore).
(2003–present: Outta the Box)
So, more than 3 years after I began this crash course in Life Appreciation 101, I graduated from my cancer program (with honors, of course) and I returned to New York City, brand-spankin’ new life perspective diploma in hand, a signed-sealed-delivered new lease on life in my pocket, ready to start anew. Unfortunately, this new Lease on Life did not come with a well-lit cozy 1BR apt with exp brick sep kit sep bth lrg clsts rf abcxyz. I had sublet my NYC apartment due to these unforeseen circumstances, so I didn’t have an abode of my own for my unpredicted return, nor did I have any money left in the bank, so I took up temporary residence with my sweet cousin, Susan, resting my lil’ head on her very comfy living room couch. I decided to take this opportunity for a fresh beginning to heart. I’m a-gonna fire up those back burners and start cookin’ on those tucked away dreams o’ mine.
(Epilogue: My Life in Boxes)
Because of my various nomadic wanderings during this period, for a while I had bits of my stuff all over the globe! The bulk of my New York belongings were boxed up and divided among several different storage facilities and a friend’s basement in Brooklyn; I acquired and accrued a whole set of things during my stay at my parents’ house in Miami, including but not limited to basic bedroom furniture and much more clothes (since I had originally only packed to stay for a week); then I inhabited a small corner, closet, and drawer in my cousin’s pad; I’ve since reinhabited and rearranged my ol’ 56th Street pad and moved a carefully chosen selection of my things to create my new haven, with a spattering of items including my conga drums among other things still in London! Hence the heading, “My Life in Boxes”.
. . . and so my journey goes, as I continue to heal, grow, learn, live, and laugh with a new and renewed sense of purpose, appreciation for the beauty of every moment (including those moments that seem most challenging), compassion for myself and others, acknowledging the preciousness of all that we have in this Life, and the importance of seeing and being my highest self — in mind, body, and spirit — and living my dreams.
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” — Henry David Thoreau