Monday, February 10, 2014

Tender, Loving, Care

Love Tree Google image

I am in the middle of my sixth round of chemo. For my particular cancer a round is defined as one infusion of a chemotherapy drug called oxaliplatin (formerly known as "the fairy infusion" and now referred to as "the devil") immediately followed by two weeks of another drug called xeloda. This is useless information unless you have colorectal cancer. If you're lucky, you will label this as useless information and discard it from your memory.

I have two more rounds to go. It is pure hell. I am miserable.

My body is mad at me. Every minor ailment I had prior to cancer is now magnified. My gums are receding and my teeth feel like they're falling out. My hair is thinning and my face is broken out. I am nauseous and have a constant metallic taste in my mouth. I have random shocks of pain throughout my body so intense that it causes me to scream. My fingers and toes are numb and pained by the slightest degree of cold. My eyes hurt. The inside of my nose hurts and bleeds. I am exhausted. My muscles ache. Like I said, I am miserable.

This coupled with the end of my marriage, the end of my breasts, and the addition of a colostomy bag, is a lot to digest.

At times, it is difficult to grasp the severity of my illness because, despite five cancer diagnoses (two melanoma's, breast cancer in both breasts, and now colorectal cancer), I have not experienced any symptoms directly related to the cancer - to the cure (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) yes, but not to the cause. There has been nothing to feel or see. No lumps, no pains, no warning signs, no history of illness of any kind.

It is also difficult to accept that my treatment is so toxic, so debilitating, that the long term side effects will severely diminish my quality of life.

Being declared "cancer free" after radiation and surgery does not mean cancer is behind me. It means there is no evidence of disease, or NED as it is referred to. It's not a matter of if my cancer will return, but when. How long of a reprieve will I have? That's where the odds are stacked against me.  My diagnosis of a T3, low level, rectal tumor simply means it was advanced and in a bad spot. It's hard to find things that are in my favor. This is not a defeatist attitude. This is my truth.

Yes, there are holistic approaches, alternative medicines that I have incorporated into my healing, but the blueprint of my medical evaluation remains.

This is the vortex I am stuck in. It's hard to read this and not feel pity for me yet that is the last thing I need or want.

Despite the gloom, there are good days and on those days I rebound with gratitude and glee. I had one of those days last week when Monkey Gurl, my daughter Ling, pal Christopher (aka Man-Child) and I, attended a Lauryn Hill concert at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.

Image by Scott Harris

It was a magical night. Lauryn was supercharged and sassy and her band was synchronized and mesmerized by her command. Afterwards she brought her children on stage, including her first born, Zion.

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion's door
I've never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my Prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of His grace 
See I know that a gift so great 
Is only one God could create
And I'm reminded every time I see your face

The joy of my world is in Zion.

Kerry, my first born, loved Lauryn Hill and the Fugees. His birthday is Sunday, February 16th. As much as I try to celebrate his birth, it is a painful reminder of what we, those who love him with every ounce of our existence, lost.

But Kerry was with us that night at Capitol Theater when Lauryn played to a sold out crowd. And I could feel his joy as he witnessed Ling and I together - swaying to Lauryn's soulful, sustainable groove.

I love how music brings us togethers. I love that my daughter devours music - not just from her contemporaries, but from artist of different eras and different genres. It makes me think I raised her right.

After the show, outside the Capitol Theater, I am slapped out of my trance when an arrogant, twenty-something FLEA, wearing a wrinkled, Brooks Brothers shirt, rudely interrupts a conversation I am having with a lovely, Latin, Lauryn Hill fan by stepping directly between us and offering to give her a ride, "anywhere she wants" via his "car service." And then, as a sign of intent, he pulls out his old school flip-phone and asks her if she is ready for a "sweet ride."

His crudeness is awkwardly dismissed by the Latin Miss but not by Monkey Me. Because I have no filter, or perhaps because I enjoy dismantling what I surmise is the silver spooned spawn of an elitist, I ask, "Is it true that the size of a man's phone corresponds to the size of his penis?"

(I've publicly poked fun at a man's penis before and it didn't go well, so you think I would have learned my lesson)

She laughs.
I laugh.
He shouts,"You know what you are?"

When I don't answer he steps closer and repeats, this time with conviction,
"Do... You... Know... What... You ARE!!!"

All I could think was...
Please don't call me an old cow, please don't call me an old cow, please, please, PLEASE don't call me an old cow...

(Yes, this has happened before)

"You... are a SCRUB!" he barks.

A scrub? Really? I'm a scrub?

"But a scrub can't get no love," I say.

"Do you know what a scrub is?" he asks, ignoring my clever retort.

At this point, I have no choice but to get all TLC on him.

A scrub is a guy that thinks he's fly.
And is also know as a bust-er.
Always talkin' about what he wants 
and just sits on his broke ass.

"Pretend I'm Left Eye," I say and then break into a pitiful robot dance while singing,

NO, I don't want your number 
NO, I don't wanna give you mine and 
NO, I don't wanna meet you nowhere
NO, I don't want none of your time...

True, I am off-key and my robot looks more like a rag doll, but I am having fun at his expense.

There are a few blurry parts after that. I might have mentioned that I was a "Kennedy." Typically, I only use this line prior to major surgery when I beg the OR staff not to let another Kennedy die.

Blushed crimson with rage he shouts, "At least no one from my family got shot in the face," and then he follows that up with, "My family's been here since 1642, my family's been here since 1642..." or something that sounded very Mayflowerish.

At this point I realize that he is unstable so I move one step closer and shout..."LOVE!!!"

Not just once, but over and over and over again.

I add a peace sign, which I think in all honestly started off as a two fingered, evil eye hand sign (something my mother is famous for) and then I soften it into a sign of solidarity.

Luckily, my daughter has a cluster of handsome men surrounding her and when they realize Ling's Mom is in trouble (causing trouble) they bravely back up my LOVE chant.

With a chorus of LOVE in full force, Monkey Gurl pulls me out of the crowd and away we sway.

Clearly my Shannonigan's will not earn me the mother of the year award but it will give my daughter something to hold onto long after I'm gone.

The gift in my cancer is being astutely aware that my time here is limited. As I continue to search for my life's true purpose, I call upon the wisdom of artists - musicians, poets and visionaries - to lead me towards the positive. Steadily I weave moments into memories.

xo, MonkeyME

“There were a number of different reasons I left... But partly, the support system that I needed was not in place. There were things about myself, personal-growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it.” Lauryn Hill when asked why walked away from fame.


  1. Sounds like the concert was healing in more ways than one. TLC would be proud.

    1. :)))) thanks Caatherine! Music is very healing.

  2. Oh, my! That guy is still wondering why his plan didn't go well! I hope you are listening to lots of good, healing music. In whatever form that healing takes.

    1. Thanks Nancy! lately, I'm stuck on funk and its fun

  3. What a beautiful tree!!! And what a hilarious story at the concert!!! Oh u do make me laugh.

    My Buttons passed on Monday. He went peacefully. It has been a terribly "ruff" week for me. I have kept myself busy to the point of exhaustion. I miss his furry little face so and his big big big puppy eyes.

    U are always in my thoughts--

    1. so sorry to hear about Buttons. not an easy time for you so I am glad I was able to make you laugh. {{{{hugs}}}}}

  4. That is for certain a great memory for your daughter. I guess we are all here as long as we are supposed to be, aren't we? Your writing is always so raw and honest and real. If you leave this earth before I do, I will miss opening your blog and reading what you have to say. You matter to people, I hope you know that. Sending good thoughts and big hugs.

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  6. Loving thoughts to you, Dear!

    With ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

    =^..^= <3

  7. I loved reading this cause while cancer is funny and stupid at times it is also painful. thanks reminding us.

  8. Your wise words...Love Love Love Love Love....followed by your two fingered evil eye hand sign...a signature moment...and I'm soooo glad your arm didn't come off in my hand...



    1. I just now see that your name is "Monley Gurl" not MONKEY Gurl. A new playa name is born!

    2. Monkey (or Monley) GurlFebruary 11, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      Hahahahaaa!! Good catch, GM!!!!!!

  9. Shannon! So happy to see a new post, so happy to feel the life in your words, so sorry to hear your oxaliplatin pain, and can taste the metal in my mouth and the tingle in my feet.

    It gets better. Honest. Never the same, no where near what you had in the past, but better. I hope that somehow helps.

    And I love your presence - in the moment, in the days. You are a shining example of carpe diem, even though you feel like you have been discarded by life right now. I will email you more support, because this blog is not mine to hijack.

    Snow falls from the sky
    Cold makes snowflakes possible
    Spring returns again


  10. *huggles*

    No words, dear... really...

    With much love...


  11. I'm with "Red Shoes" in the above comment. No words.....Just huge hugs! Love ya, Shannon!

  12. *tears* because I am so proud of knowing you, and of you. and I wish I could be hanging out with you more. But we'll be there in the desert. <3 I fucking LOVE how you dismantled that asshole. Damn, you're good.
    <3 xoxoxoxo DB
    Missing the shite outta you when I read you.

  13. aghhh - Shannon, I am so sorry for the misery of the bucket of fuckedness chemo. good you were able to have some respite and revel in being with the ones you love at the concert, and to know that Kerry was with you. i will be thinking of you and his sister, Ling on his birthday, sending you my best wishes for comfort, and hoping you will feel his presence with you then, as well. i love the beautiful photo of you and Ling, your smiling faces framed with ethereal and happy love. i laughed so hard when you got all up in rude dude's bidness and went all TLC on him. good Ling had her posse to lend to the Shannonigans

    please know i think of you each day, and that i love you,


  14. This was a great post. I laughed harder than I probably should have.

  15. Love those Shannonigans! Sorry chemo and cancer suck so much. Sending you love.

    You effing GO girl!

  17. As my dad would say, "Give em hell." Sounds like you did! I'm proud of you on all accounts!

  18. Six down, two to go. You can do this. Keep plugging along. Oh and--the concert story? Hilarious. Thanks for the laughs.


  19. It's been a long time since I've visited your site. I'm so sorry to hear of your diagnosis and the struggles that you now have to face each day. This post was lovely and a testament to those that love you of how strong you are. The essential element of what makes a life worth living is here: love. And, I love - LOVE - that you now have the courage to say what you want. We are all raised to be aware of what we say and how we act and I think, to a certain extent, that limits us in the end and oftentimes we carry unnecessary baggage with us because we failed to leave it where it was meant to be. I like you. I really, really like you. Blessings....

  20. I'm screaming "LOVE,LOVE,LOVE" right with you!!
    So jealous that you got to see LH sing live!!!!!!

  21. Keep up the "Shannonigans"
    Love you!

  22. Your heart and your courage are simply amazing. I have no words to express how I feel right now. (Which is bad for a writer, ugh) but maybe I feel a sense of pride. Yes, that's it. Pride. You make me proud. Thank you for that.

    And, I could totally hear you with that guy. the pretentious douche. I thought of the TLC song too and now it's stuck in my head, so thanks for that =P

    Many hugs to you.

  23. Lauren Hill went on tv saying that she didn't need any more white people to buy her records because she makes music for the African race, and then fame kinda walked away from her.

    1. your idea of *free thinking* sounds very limited, bias, & bigoted... YOU can use a big dose of LOVE !


  24. Melanie here…I guest blogged for the big C and me awhile back. I was dropping by to check on you and omg this post had me truly LOL. I love your sense of humor. =)


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison