Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fuck Cancer

I was going to post this on Friday, November 23, which would be the six month mark since Kate died.

But I'm tired of these anniversaries.

I just need to let time "run like a river/ to the sea."

Also, on Friday I'm going to the ACC to see The Who perform Quadrophenia, plus more.

Ah, 1973.

So, here it is, the end. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.


This is going to be the final post on this blog. As I considered what to call it, the answer seemed obvious: Fuck cancer.

It is now six months since Kate died, half-a-year since the cancer's final swell. Her body could take it no more. It stopped.

I have strong, strong images of her final days, weeks, months, but those are not images I want to dwell on (nor do I want to forget them).

Kate never wanted the cancer to define her. She wanted to live her life, the one she chose, as much as possible, until the final moment, and she did.

She lived with hope and laughter. She lived with care for others. She loved her garden and her kitchen. She loved her children and her books. She loved her family and friends. She loved me.

She loved life.

So fuck be to the cancer who took life away from her.

It has been six months of too much to summarize. We have not moved on, but time passes. No great resolution will happen that will remove our grief. There is sadness without end, but there is also pleasure. Laughter. Homework.

There is a deep awareness of the void, and also its equal: hope. "The thing with feathers," as Emily Dickinson said.

In the past month or so, I feel a new kind of calmness. An acceptance.

There is no escape from the grief, I must simply live it. Follow this river / to the sea, as Bono sings in U2's "One Tree Hill."

I don't know the journey of the river, just as we couldn't anticipate the cancer, or how it would "progress."

But the ocean, the sea, death is the destination of life. And with acceptance comes a release from fear.

The journey may be long, the journey may be short, the journey may be hard, the journey may be pleasant; one never knows, exactly; one must simply live it.

John Cheever has a short story, "The Swimmer," about a guy who swims his way home through his neighbours backyards. I was remembering that recently, too. Life as journey, not destination.

Because it is what Kate would want, as surely as anything. That her peeps would keep having fun, keep being real, stay alive in the deepest sense and grab all that life has to offer.

Keep "kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight," as Bruce Cockburn sang.

We have her as an example, but no longer as a companion. This is very, very hard and doesn't get easier.

Owen has grown over an inch since Kate died, and this is the strongest example I have that change, like the Dude, abides. I must stay in the present, stay engaged with the eternal now, even if Kate has left the now for the then.

But she is also everywhere, and we will be constantly remembering that, and bringing her into our moments, acknowledging her presense in our moments.

But it's not the same. And we will be constantly trying to figure out what that means, too.

Part of this blog these past months has been about tracking that process, which will continue. I will be blogging in the future from my personal blog (michaelbryson.com).

This blog was our marriage/wedding blog, and it is right that it should close. The wedding is over, the marriage is lost.

"Why is the measure of love loss?" This is the opening sentence of Jeanette Winterson's novel Written on the Body, which is also the title Kate used for a post on Auntie Cake's Shop on January 29, 2012.

Kate was taken from us bit by bit over the 22 months she had cancer. That loss sped up in her final months, and it consumed her in her final days.

Fuck cancer. Fuck what it did to her. Fuck how it took her and distorted her. Fuck the pain it gave her.

Praise be to Kate for being true to herself through it all. Praise be to that eternal soul, whom we cherish and who will be with us always.

Kate is the bravest person I have ever met, and the most honest. Qualities that continue to inspire many.

Here is Kate's post in its entirety, followed by Emily Dickinson, once again that poem about hope and feathers.


Written on the Body is a novel by Jeanette Winterson. A book about lovers, one who has cancer. It is the first time I read a book about love and loss, and it resonated, even in my 20s. There was a passage about finding a stray hair on the collar of a coat, the hair of her beloved, now deceased. I recall when this first happened to me; finding a hand written note from a friend, deceased, in amongst some unrelated papers, and how it bit right to the core.

Winterson writes so beautifully on the way in which finding such a memento can devastate. But the book is also about metamorphosis. Moving from one image of oneself to another (Ok, I think it is.)

I have over the last year and a half gone through my own transformation. Emotionally, yes, and you have borne witness to it. However, there is something nagging at me which needs to out. Truth be told, I physically feel like a different person. I am no longer the Kate from before. I am Kate from now. And it is a difficult thing to wrestle with, this change in my physicality. I can look in the mirror and not recognize myself. I barely know who this person is and it freaks me out.

In my mind's eye, I am 130 lbs, evenly distributed over a 5 ft 7 in frame, with long blond hair and blue eyes.  Funky glasses. Colourful dresser. In the mirror, I am pushing 150 lbs with short stubby reddish hair, and fold of flesh where none where before - bloated  from drugs and chemotherapy. Also, huge parts are missing. I am a deformed version, with more fat and less hair. And basic black with some colour. This sounds so terrible when I say it, but frankly, it's needed to out. I need to face it, and acknowledge. I am barely recognizable to myself, and what I see, I don't like.

People say "You look great" - when we meet. My friend Ginny a while back sent me an article from the Star on what to say / what not to say to someone with cancer. Right at the top of the list was - best not to say  "You look great" - even better, don't talk about how they look - or something to that effect. Basically, don't point out the glaringly obvious. Focus on how happy you are to see them,  not on what they look like - because obviously, it's changed.

At first I thought that was bunk; who cares!? but now, I completely 100% absolutely get it. I really feel people are actually lying to me when they say that. Because, we all know, I do not look great. Or more, I do not look like before. How could I?  Last week, at the zenith of shittiness physically, bloated like a beached whale, and kitted out in new size "14" shirt - there was no way I looked "great." I had coffee with a girlfriend, and I thought to myself, Oh My God. I used to look like that. I used to have a recognizably female form. I had two boobs. Shirts fit me, for God's sake. I had a head of hair to be proud of. My lips did not have a greyish-vampire like pallor.

I mourn this loss, just like I mourned the loss of large part of my body and my hair last year. This time around, it's my waistline that has gone AWOL. Along with the slender wrist, the svelte neck. Everything has a new benchmark of size. For me, it's horrible. And I am tired of people telling me not to worry about it or let it bother me.  Why must I be relentlessly positive about it?  Of course, there is no answer, no right or wrong. Because you know, cancer writes itself on the body indelibly and you get what you get. I will never go back to that form - that Kate is irretrievably gone.

So, cancer has written itself all over my body and I fucking hate it. There it is.


“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Tree Hill

We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill
We see the sun go down in your eyes

You run like river, on like a sea
You run like a river runs to the sea

And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground

It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea

I don't believe in painted roses
Or bleeding hearts
While bullets rape the night of the merciful
I'll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill

We run like a river
Run to the sea
We run like a river to the sea
And when it's raining
Raining hard
That's when the rain will
Break my heart

Raining...raining in the heart
Raining in your heart
Raining...raining to your heart
Raining, raining...raining
Raining to your heart
Raining...raining in your heart
Raining in your heart..
To the sea

Oh great ocean
Oh great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kate-ism XX

I think this might be the last one of these, but I wanted to get these two in:

"Dishoner" = conditioner (a Naomi-ism)

"Coaching moment" = Well, you won't do that again, will you?

Monday, November 12, 2012


Owen and Naomi: "This isn't a mountain. This is a hill!"

Then, upon reaching the observation deck: "Whoa!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Dear Old Human Experience

From Marilynne Robinson's Paris Review interview:

“The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

White running shoes

This is a photo of my white Nike running shoes.

I've brought them out of storage lately as I continue my new routine of going to the gym three times a week.

These are also the shoes I wore in October 2006 on my first date with Kate, at The Only Cafe, a hangout of mine since the 1980s.

She never forgot the shoes (and she was fond of telling that story), but she did forgive me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kate-ism XIX

"You catch more bees with honey" = Being sweet is a good strategy