an open letter to my community

An open letter to my community near and far,

As the dawn of my last of twelve chemotherapy treatments approaches, I look out over a sun bathed, snowy landscape that is alive with abundance, glistening with hope, calm with delicacy and protruding with possibility. If I’ve learned anything since I was diagnosed with cancer on July 16th, it’s a snippet into what gratitude feels like.

And this is it.

I am overcome by the emotion that my body, mind and soul are experiencing as the last treatment approaches. I still have an impending February surgery, yet even knowing there is this big triumph still to come, my gratitude for you and eagerness to get to the other side of this ride cannot be subdued.

During the last few days, I have found myself almost constantly reflecting on these 6-months. I recall the months of stomachaches that doctors and I wrote off to diet related bloating. I distinctly remember the night my ache turned into pain; July 4th – we had just eaten wood fired pizza in San Francisco and were about to board a boat to watch the fireworks with our newly married friends. And I cringe at the memory, 4 days before I went into the hospital, while trimming sheep hooves, when the pain in my stomach got so unbearable that I screamed and yelled at our sheep and our farm helpers. (Needless to say, there was relief to know it wasn’t the sheep trimming or the helpers that made me so angry!) And of course, there’s the moment when the world stopped for a few moments, when numbness and fear overtook my entire being…When, in the hospital, post surgery, the surgeon came into my tiny room filled with 8 hopeful faces of my nearest and dearest and he told us my cancer was Stage 3 and I would be needed 12 sessions of chemotherapy.

These memories are real and feel important to hold onto a while longer. But no longer are these the memories the ones I play over and over in my mind. Perhaps these ones will never go away, but they are certainly fading. These memories have been overtaken by beautiful images of what it means to be part of a community. They have been overtaken by expressions of love, care and selflessness. It’s these warm memories that I hold so dearly in my heart, that kindle the fire in my soul and melt the darkness out of it – just as the sun melts the ice off the pond’s edge.

How do I thank you for all you have given me? You have cared for me in so many ways during this time when Steve and I needed it more than we knew. These are some of the gifts you have so generously given us. These are just some of things we thank you out loud for:

Thank you for the 100’s of sticky notes and letters that plastered my hospital walls with radiant color of love and humor. For the railing you built before I got home from the hospital so I could safely walk up and down our deck stairs to get inside our home. For organizing and rearranging our yurt so the hospital bed would fit and we would still feel comfortable in our home. For cleaning the mouse poop out of the corners of the back room. For endless deliveries of local food, grown with love by people in our community; and for meals and groceries that continue to nourish our bodies. So much gratitude to our farm staff, for ensuring that our mushroom CSA, our sheep, our dogs and our ducks were all taken care of while we completely checked out to focus on care for me. Thank you for the incredible fire you ceremoniously lit to bring healing light to my family, my caregivers and myself. And thank you to those of you who attended the fire and brought your healing energies to share with our land and me. We are thankful for our CSA members, whose emails, stories of personal cancer journey’s and gratitude for our honesty helped us at a time when we knew we couldn’t do anymore. To the Piggery, for the fresh meat bones you gave us so our friends could make bone broth for me – a specific order from the nutritionist. Thank you for the numerous rides to and from doctor’s appointments near and far, for the notes you took at those appointments, and the help deciphering what the hell we were hearing at each of those appointments. Such tremendous thanks for the endless stream of cards, emails, notes, gifts, texts and pings of love from those I know well and those I haven’t spoken to in decades. These notes have not stopped for even one single day since July 16th and each one holds so much meaning to me. For the cards and gifts from unknown people, including a recent delivery of coffee and chocolate from a “Hector” in Costa Rica (who is this Hector person anyway..?) I am still humbled by the time and energy you put into creating an incredible fundraiser to help us get through this journey with less financial stress. I’m thankful for each individual and business who donated, attended, sent warm words, played music and provided strength to us in the perfect way you knew how. For the dozens of intricate coloring book gifts and movies that have kept my chemo brain from truly freezing up on itself. We are deeply humbled by the two families’ – one whom we have never met – who graciously gave us their houses to live in during this winter so our life would be a little simpler and warmer. And we are thankful for you, who helped us move out of the yurt into the first house and from the first house into the home we are in now until April. For the deck chair you gave me so I could sit comfortably while healing for surgery. Thank you for the times you offered to walk our dogs because you knew we were too tired or unable to give them the exercise they need to be happy. To my dog Vida, who never leaves my side whether I’m sleeping, hiking, walking, cooking or lounging on the couch. To the students and teachers at Mighty Yoga, who have knowingly and unknowingly supported me as a teacher to offer you my authentic self during these 6 months, for the meditations and intentions you have offered me and for showing me what strength and commitment truly looks like. Thank you to my family and to the farmers who have brought us or mailed us medicine in forms of tea, elixirs, juices, ginger and turmeric roots, tinctures, mushrooms and wholesome meals. I continue to be deeply touched by the willingness of many of you who share your knowledge, your stories of cancer triumph and personally hard experiences you’re going through so I know I’m not alone and I too, will get through this. To the organization who recently offered me a job as Director, entrusting I will be strong and healthy to take on the charge. And thank you to the endless amount of healers who have kept me strong during these 6-months through massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, yoga and energy work.

I have learned many things on this journey. Too many to list today. But one thing that will stick me forever is that it is in our nature to care. Your nature and mine. It is in our soul to nourish. It is our blood to connect. It is our heart to heal. While many of the gifts we have received are from people we are close to, many are from people we have never met, from people we have met only once or knew a long time ago. And every single gift has made this journey just a little bit easier. None of us are alone. No matter how much we might want to be at times, we simply are not. I will never forget this gift and I will spend the rest of my life believing in the power of connection and community. And I will remember the lessons of selfless care that you have taught me and only hope I can pay them forward as humbly as you have.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart to the bottom of yours.

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One thought on “an open letter to my community

  1. Dear Elizabeth—- I am so deeply touched by your amazing words, thoughts, emotions—your maturity way beyond your years–perhaps this painful unexpected trauma in your life gives new perspectives and meaning to life— friendships— connections—support—and appreciation of life! We are all thinking and praying that you will again resume a “normal” life with Steven—your environment, that you so clearly love—- I wish that for you and thank you for sharing so much!
    Lovingly, Ellie

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