Poems for Cynthia

I have been holding these poems in very close. They are personal and sad, all about my friend who died at the end of December. I wrote them in response to Robert Lee Brewer’s November 2013 Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge. Here’s the dedication I wrote: This chapbook is dedicated to my cherished friend Cynthia Rayvis Godofsky November 5, 1946 – December 28, 2013 At the outset I decided to write a poem about Cynthia adhering to the daily prompt no matter what it was, hoping that my words might help keep her alive at least until the end of the challenge. Thankfully I was successful in weaving Cynthia into each daily prompt, and she kept rallying throughout the month. As you will see from these poems, she had a lot of love in her life and constant loving care during her last days. I’m sure that love helped keep her alive almost a month after the challenge ended. I thank Cynthia and her family for being my muses for this November 2013 PAD Chapbook Challenge (all poems written from … [Read more...]

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Father’s Day sadness

On this day I think a bit about my dad, but just a bit. He’s been dead since 1975 - over thirty-seven years. He’s vague in a lot of ways. Yet I still remember vividly his last year and half and his courageous battle against cancer. I think he waged the battle to please my mother. His own heart wasn’t in it. Finally, and I was so proud of him for this, he said he was through. He just wanted more and more morphine to aid him in dying. That was the most courageous part. Standing up to her and dying on his own terms. Dad and Paul, 1973 What makes me more sad today is what Bob has been through. He was the father of three sons and now only one is living. His first son, Eric, was born with Down syndrome during his first marriage. He died in 2004 accidentally, choking on a peanut butter sandwich. Bob and Eric Our older son Paul was born perfectly healthy and was fine and brilliant until his first manic break at age twenty-one. He was then diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder. At age twent … [Read more...]

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Patty "Next Door"

Beautiful Manhattan Beach Sunset The sun is setting on my neighbor next door. Everytime I look toward her house - just on the other side of our wood slat fence, I feel sad. She's been battling pancreatic cancer for about two and a half years, and we were all optimistic at first because the chemotherapy seemed to be working. We've never been very close, but it's always nice to know she is there. And we're shared some good times - her daughter's wedding, a few special birthdays. We've also shared some tough times - our Paul's death and the death of her daughter's infant. We'd have conversations from our deck or patio and a few dinners together. But that's over. We tried to visit last weekend, but her husband said it is too late. She stays in bed, sleeping most of the time because of doses of heavy painkillers, and has only days left. Recently visitors arrived next door with flowers and sad faces. Made me wonder if it’s Patty’s time. She’s been struggling with pancr … [Read more...]

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Another survivor

What's been going on in my life all came into perspective when I opened the mail yesterday and found in the Cancer Support Community (formerly The Wellness Community) newsletter a survivor profile on the front page. I looked at the photo of this survivor and immediately recognized a man I’ve known at the gym for years. We’ve only exchanged Hi’s and smiles and once in a while a local restaurant recommendation – I don’t even remember how we got into that – and that’s the extent of what I knew about him. I noticed he always wore a cap, and lately he was looking thinner, but I had no idea that he has been battling cancer since 1997 – first for a melanoma that started on his skull and metastasized to his neck, spleen, liver, and colon and a later diagnosis of prostate cancer. After years of radiation and surgical treatments, as of Thanksgiving 2010 he was pronounced cancer free. And through it all I've seen this man at the gym always with a smile on his face – a guy who looks like he has the … [Read more...]

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Cancer? Not even close

I hesitated at first to share this here, but I thought why not? It's an example it is about how important it is that we also take charge of our lives. We must be the deciders of our own destiny. No one else -- even a doctor -- should tell how what to do with our own life. So here goes. I had an appointment with a breast surgeon oncologist yesterday at Cedars Sinai, and he actually entered the exam room laughing at the report about the so-called suspicious lesions in my left breast. Before he even examined me or did an ultrasound he said he felt the radiologists at the Torrance Breast Diagnostic Center put me through this stressful exercise for no reason. Then when I explained that I knew the head of the breast center in Torrance he said the junior radiologist must have wanted to be extra careful and that’s why her report was so worded. Interesting that he characterized her as a junior associate probably to indicate that she didn’t know what she was doing. I told him that’s why … [Read more...]

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The death sentence

My brother-in-law was given a death sentence this week – his doctors say he has four to six months to live. I'm going to tell the story of his illness as best I can. What it all boils down to is the choices we make in life. He chose to smoke for over 50 years. And, he didn’t smoke a little. He smoked three to five packs a day. Plus he lived with the second hand smoke from his late wife’s cigarette habit. She died of lung cancer about four years ago. After she died he decided to quit smoking. He read a book about how to quit, and when he finished the book he just did it. He quit. And he was so proud of himself. When we saw him a few months afterward he looked good and seemed fit. He was walking three to four miles a day and he didn’t show any residuals from his former tobacco addiction. And, he was determined to sell his house in Queens and move to Florida to be near his children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, his wellbeing didn’t last long. By March 2009, his knees bothered … [Read more...]

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Remembering Farrah

June 25, 2009 Farrah Fawcett died today. She was 62 – just seven years younger than me. She had suffered for several years from anal cancer and was very brave trying to fight it. Her death brought up old memories for me. I met her in the early 70s. We both got manicures from Emma – I wonder whatever happened to Emma the manicure miracle lady. I had an every other week date with my friend Carole to meet at Emma’s to get manicures and visit, and Farrah would sit right next to us. Carole knew Farrah – I think they were neighbors up near Roscomare Road and Mulholland. Farrah was in Carole’s cooking class. I remember Farrah as being friendly and sweet even though she was already a huge success. And, while we were getting our manicures, Jodi Foster’s mother was waiting for hers and chatting with us. Jodi, a little girl of about 10, was always there too. In those days, I like so many other women had the Farrah Fawcett shag haircut. I remember coming into Beverly Hills from Riverside, … [Read more...]

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We need more healing thoughts

Here are the "Nextdoors," our next door neighboors. They always give their names and say nextdoor afterward, so we've taken to calling them the Nextdoors. That's the fun part. The not so fun part is that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last November and though she says her tumor marker has gone down from to 420 all the way from a starting point of 2600, she is having a hard time. She recently wrote: "I am on chemo again and I know it's working but it's a challenge. I have been a hermit in hiding, because that is my way of processing all of this....I have a hard time concentrating on my beautiful life, the positive things, like my beautiful children, a loving husband, a happy and healthy father...but the numbness in my hands and feet, the deep deep pain in my hip, and nausea tend to rear their heads and distract me. Then I get teary and all that I can do is take some stupid med that makes my life fuzzy. I am told to be peaceful, rest, and take in this chemo the best way that … [Read more...]

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We need healing thoughts

Two weeks ago my brother-in-law, R, got the results of a final test that showed he indeed had Stage 2 lung cancer, and he was told to come back to see a surgeon this week. Waiting two weeks seemed a little cavalier to me. After all cancer is nothing to take one’s time about. But he seemed okay with it until yesterday, when the surgeon told him that another tiny spot was found on his other lung. If this new spot is malignant, it means that his cancer is spreading even before he has surgery to remove it from the first location – his left lung and three lymph nodes associated with that lung. Anyway, this all started several months ago. During a routine physical exam prior to knee replacement surgery his doctors discovered that he had a heart blockage that needed fixing before he could undergo the knee surgery. That surgery happened and once he was fully recovered, he went back to his doctor in preparation for knee surgery once more. And, that is when more tests revealed he had sus … [Read more...]

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I’m passing the purple hat

In keeping with the friends theme, a friend sent the following to me yesterday -- in honor of women's history month and in memory of Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with cancer. IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER - by Erma Bombeck (written after she found out she was dying from cancer). I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day. I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would never have insisted … [Read more...]

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Another kind of writing workshop

Last Saturday (February 21) I took my next door neighbor, recently diagnosed with cancer, to The Wellness Community in Redondo Beach for a morning of guided journal writing. I had taken a writing workshop with the leader just a few weeks before so I figured this was a good time to introduce my neighbor to TWC and to be in a safe writing space. I hadn't been to the facility for quite some time but knew it well -- as its first Development Director and then member of the Board of Directors. Little did I know what a confront the session would be for me. The leader designed the workshop for cancer patients and their families, and since I'm not either, my first thought was I need to get out of here -- and fast. The morning looked like it was going to be way more heavy than I was prepared for. Plus the writing prompts came on fast and furiously -- we wrote five minutes on eight different topics. But, I stuck it out -- I wrote a little bit about cancer in my life, but mostly about how … [Read more...]

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Praying — or whatever you call it

My next door neighbor found out sometime in middle November that she has Stage 3 cancer of the pancreas. She has an inoperable tumor the size of an egg in the center of her pancreas that the doctors say had been growing for the last year and a half. We had dinner with her and her husband last night, and I felt like I was an inquisitor. But, I wanted to know if there was this kind of cancer in her family. It just seemed to me such a rare thing to happen to someone so seemingly healthy and so young. What she said was very interesting. She had none of the risk triggers for pancreatic cancer – no family history of cancer of the pancreas, she doesn't eat fatty food, she is not overweight, she has no diabetes, she's not an Ashkenazy Jew, and she was/is an avid exerciser. But, there was one thing that links her to this malady – she has a history of ovarian cancer in her family that is linked to breast cancer, which is one of the risks for getting cancer of the pancreas. Now that see … [Read more...]

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Wishes for 2009

This year ends with bad news about two people I've known for years. My dear friend's husband is having surgery tomorrow to deal with his prostate cancer. And, my next door neighbor will begin chemotherapy for her pancreatic cancer when she returns from their annual holiday ski trip. Right now, I'm reeling from this news about people so close to me -- and so young, and my hearts and thoughts are with them as they proceed on their journey to recovery. Friday I spent some quality time with two of my women friends. We had lunch and walked along the beach in Santa Monica remarking about the absolute beauty of our surroundings and being thankful we lived in the mild Southern California climate. Even Catalina was out that afternoon. Sure we had a little wind and I had to borrow a pair of gloves. But, it certainly wasn't so cold that we could see our breath. During our lunch conversation, one of the women asked what we wished for in the new year. I wished for more rest and no deaths. … [Read more...]

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Two submissions

I sucked it up, I bit the bullet, I caved. I submitted to Sentient Publications -- the negative one -- and I also sent a query to the Levine Greenberg agency. I have a few more on my list to get out next weekend. I made up my mind that I cannot let one rejection make me do U-turn, as Cameron calls it in "The Artist's Way." This past weekend Northrop Grumman participated in the Relay for Life. I didn't race, but I did contribute in memory of my friend and colleague, Adele Yates -- another victim of lung cancer. I can't believe she's been gone over five years already. Really, in the scheme of things what's more important? A friend or relative sick and dying or getting published? Seems like a simple answer to me. … [Read more...]

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