Best o’ the Bitch, Bitch’in Life, My Bitches

YOLO, or F*ck Cancer

Drake’s got a Motto that he stole from the Strokes who nabbed it from the ancient Roman poet, Horace, who said it first in his language.

YOLO. Or as the older folks say, Carpe Diem.

You don’t have to be a dead poet or a rapper to fling the phrase around carelessly, like you really know what the hell it means. Because to really get there, you have to go right up to the edge and look down. Get all up in the Grim Reaper’s grill and know that you’ll never live the same.

I don’t have the kind of street cred you need to cry YOLO. My personal brush with cancer was fleeting. A grapefruit-sized ovarian cyst, which as described sounds pleasantly juicy, pinkish yellow, and lush but in reality was bulbous, deathly white, and potentially a squishy beard for a malignancy. Knowing that my doc picked the hospital with the best on-call oncologist (say that 10x fast) was scary enough. Grapefruit plucked, it concealed nothing but a shredded fallopian tube, and I’m done with those bitches anyways now. Snip, snip, and the coast was clear.

I am lucky. I hear you, YOLO, but I still look both ways when I cross the street and blow on Hot Pockets before I bite down.

Others of my friends have not been so lucky. Layers of skin, lumps of breast, nip of throat, bits of bladder, chunk of thyroid, lining of lung, blob of brain, even the marrow of a hipbone. I am in midlife and have about a dozen friends who’ve gone under the knife, onto the drip, and under the zapper. It’s stunning how much death lurks and how little we know why.

But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about YOLO, and what to do with that.

I take my cues from D, my friend who crossed over three years ago this week. She first tangoed with El Muerte in her teens, when DJ NHL (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) took her for a spin. I’m pretty sure it left her breathless — speechless in fact —  as she grappled with coming back to life that she’d only started to truly live minutes before. When she regained powers of expression, she must’ve known that wasting her voice on things that were petty and small ultimately was just a suck of time, air, and space. I never knew her to speak unkindly of anyone or anything, but I also never knew her to take shit from anyone, either.

We met working at Boston University’s Dental School. She was hired for the job I wanted, and I figured that since she was married and I wasn’t, she’d get knocked up first and eventually I’d get her job. D laughed out loud when I confessed that chestnut to her. She was always amused to see how shallow people could be.

I never got D’s job. What I got was her countenance, her magnificence, her humor, and her joie de vivre. Her ability to bob through life on a wave of Carpe Diem.

D took chances. I’m not talking drag racing or skydiving or gun fighting. She just made leaps of faith every day that writing would buoy her, support her, and keep her afloat. It would pay the bills, pave the way, and be her life’s work. And it was.

She didn’t do normal, regular things. She was hired to write alumni publications for dentists, and instead she created a stunning tome called Impressions. She hired an avant-garde graphic designer and wrote not about so-and-so getting an advanced degree in Endodontics or this-and-that about Implantology. Nobody cares about that (except so-and-so’s mom or this-and-that implant manufacturer). Instead she wrote about what dentists have in their hearts, their heads, and their power. Only a wordsmith could turn the mundane into the magnificent.

YOLO.

I was never that brave. I’ve known I wanted to write my entire life, but it took D getting the inevitable breast cancer that came from the radiation that “cured” her Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to light a fire under my ass. She already had a draft of her novel, a lyrical, brilliant piece — her magnum opus. I wrote tentatively, in place of donning a pink ribbon or walking in her name. Somehow making art as an expression of the fear and the grief I felt made more sense.

And that delighted D. She lived magically, with an impish husband, and eventually, a perfect elvin boy. Going to her house meant being bathed in the glow of year-round Christmas lights, the best, most eclectic music, from Springsteen to Damien Rice, Tom Waits, Billy Bragg, Natalie Merchant, and others you’d never hear again but wouldn’t ever forget. Dinner was often served, late, after glasses of wine and the best company. Art and books lined rooms filled with vintage treasure, drafting tables, and bric-a-brac from a life lived in creative splendor.

Of course a Waldorf education for her son made the most sense. D was spring, earth, and the promise of new beginnings, even as old invaders took over her cells, her breasts, her brain, and eventually, all over her body. These things happened when I lived 3,000 miles away, although I never felt the time-space continuum with her as I did with anyone else. D was present in spirit, always.

The last physical time I was with her was just a few months before her time here was up. She did a reading of her book to a loving and somewhat ecstatic crowd, and raised a bit of money so her boys could carry on. Two years before that she’d hit mission critical, having found that there was a mass on her brain. At that point, her beloved stepped down from daily work. Neither he nor D could think of anything better than being together, and so they scraped by from that time on to live in the moment. That leap of faith alone is the bravest thing I think I’ve ever known. It was not without consequences, but I can’t say that there was regret, either.

I got a couple of blessed days then to hang with D and her son while her husband took a much-needed break. She was like a tender little chick, with fuzz left for hair and a sort of addled memory, but all of the laughter and faculties I’d always known her to have. I will never forget her shaking her head and chuckling at me when I told her endless tales of the PTA, neighborhood spats, crazy Little League parents and soccer mom shenanigans.

My world, so small.

I caught myself and began to apologize, but she urged me to go on. The gossipy bits were such a fun and silly distraction to her, even as they filled up so much space in my life.

Since she’s moved on to another plane, I try to remain focused on seeing the world through D’s rosy glasses. When I find myself tripping up and getting bogged down in what just doesn’t matter, I think about something that she once wrote to me and some friends, when she found the cancer was back with a vengeance:

“I believe that all adversity is mitigated by one gigantic force — LOVE. If you feel it and give it, you will not believe anyone if they tell you that you are unlucky [as an oncologist told me a few years ago—Imagine—naturally not my doc today]. Does ‘love’ sound schmaltzy? Try passion, connection, friendship. There is something to love in every day.”

And to that, like a human beatbox, I say, You Only Live Once.

That’s the motto, baby.

YOLO.


Previous Post Next Post

22 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer F. August 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Inspirational. Thanks, Trudi.

    • Reply Trudi August 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      now if jack will only teach us some fly girl moves to The Motto we’ll be livin’ large!!

  • Reply Wayne August 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    There’s nothin’ sexier than a call from the heart. And that was rather sexy of you, Agent Roth.

    • Reply Trudi August 11, 2012 at 7:48 am

      Thank you double secret agent of my heart – you bastard, you. XOXO

  • Reply Sue August 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    YOLO!!! I hear you loud and clear– I try to remember it every day. Go to where the love is..
    You are an amazing friend and person. Love you!

    • Reply Trudi August 11, 2012 at 7:47 am

      YOLO for reals, you are an amazing friend and an amazing person and the love is right here, and always, right now. XOXO

  • Reply Jen D August 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    You take your cues from D, and I’ll take mine from you anyday, T. Thank you for being you and for sharing extraordinary D with us all – I’d be honored to meet her son, her husband one day. Keep writing, T- you’ve got the gift. xo

    • Reply Trudi August 11, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and backatcha 100% – we’re in the creative vortex together 🙂 XOXO

  • Reply Karen Meyers August 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Trud, what a great tribute to an amazing person.

    • Reply Trudi August 11, 2012 at 7:49 am

      thanks luv – came from the heart. YOLO and I’m so glad you’re in my life!!! XOXO

  • Reply Ria August 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Trud! This is beautiful; it really touched my heart. I have been watching people face death a lot this week at work. It helps me to read this, take that step back, and remember to be inspired. I’m glad you’re writing. Thanks! YOLO. Yo. Bring on the love! (if not the pink rubber gloves).

    • Reply Trudi August 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Dr. Maria – I love your pink rubber gloves, and if every doc were as kind and compassionate and cool as you, LOVE would abound in even the most sterile places. XOXO

      • Reply Buffy Drier August 13, 2012 at 11:53 pm

        Brilliant! thanks for getting me out of my small little world and out into the wonder of life!

        xoxo
        Buffy

        • Reply Trudi August 14, 2012 at 5:37 am

          every once in a while it’s good to check out the gigantic forest from the perspective of the tree we’re hanging on. Trees change all the time, but we tend to roam in the same forest. I think there’s a monkey in there too… pardon my odd metaphor but you get where I’m going with that!! XOXO

  • Reply dirty deeds August 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

    that was so beautiful trudums!!

    • Reply Trudi August 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

      thanks luv – it came from a cookie of the day place, which is to say sweet n special. XO

  • Reply the sweetest August 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Saw a link to this post through a FB friend, and I am so glad that I clicked to read. Wish I had read this earlier today instead of at bedtime, but I will go to bed with this on my heart and hope that tomorrow I will remember that I will OLO. Beautiful.

    • Reply Trudi August 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad it filled you with the spirit of YOLO and reminds you that doing all you are meant to do is all it’s about. Carpe diem, Trudi

    Leave a Reply