Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dying to Live

Today is my birthday. I am 54 years old. Eighteen years ago I was pronounced dead on arrival at one of our local hospitals, suffering from a misdiagnosed cancerous tumor wedged between my heart and lung. I had Stage IV lymphoma. No one thought I'd live past that night let alone nearly another 20 years.

And live I have - sometimes with wild abandon and other times quietly and at peace. As stranger and stranger health issues crop up (due to the aggressive chemotherapy I received) and I remain a medical oddity, I triage myself and move on. Since I wasn't expected to live, no physician can predict the toll the cure took and how long it will rob me of certain abilities. Am I scared? Heck yeah.

This is why I try to choose to live each day as if it was my last while I dance like nobody's watching. That's doesn't mean I'm always Happy like Pharell Williams sings; nor does it mean I escape tragedy. Those of you who follow my blog know that I am brutally honest about the issues I face. No one is more surprised than me that I am able to face these challenges time and time again, especially the suicide of my brother, Steve Crohn.

I don't really want to celebrate this year. My brother's death occurred on August 24, 2013, just two days before my birthday. He sent me a card that arrived a few days later. It reads: "On your birthday, remember that every day is a gift. So pretend tomorrow is from me." At first, I thought it was a joke. Slowly but surely, I've come to accept that he was giving me permission to live many tomorrows even though he wouldn't be here.

At 54, I'm going to do something I vowed I would never do. I'm going to get a tattoo on my ankle of my brother's paint palette and paintbrush. The tattoo artist is working on a sketch now using his actual palette as a guide.

As I work to revise my book DYING TO LIVE: Running backwards through cancer, Lupus, and chronic illness, I am mindful of the many changes that have occurred in my life since I first wrote it. The title will change, the 'innards' will change, its scientific references will be updated and I will have to stop myself from writing a brand new book.

That's okay. I'm here; even if I had to die a hundred deaths in the past 18 years to stay.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oh very young what will leave us this time...

...you're only dancing on this earth for a short while. ~ Cat Stevens

It's nearly a year since my brother, Steve Crohn, completed suicide. I know now this is the correct term when someone attempts and accomplishes their own death. And the news of Robin Williams' suicide has brought to the fore many of the feelings I had in August 2013. Why? Where? When? 

Why? Why? Why?

The experts and the talking heads and the never-ending news feeds tell us the easy answer is unmitigated depression/mental illness accompanied by substance abuse. Both were factors in my brother's and Williams' deaths. But is that all there is?

Since each one of us is unlike another (as Sesame Street taught us),we uniquely adapt to the challenges of our own lives. As I sit here and listen to a Cat Stevens collection of songs I'm reminded of when I was a teenager in the 1970's and listened intently to each of the composer and singer's words as if they held all the truths I would ever need to know. I may have been a little Hippie high at times but, often enough, I still allow myself to think this is true. And I listen again and again and again.

Oh baby. baby it's a wild world. It's hard to get by just upon a smile. 

Circumstances change, people change religions and names, we morph and mold ourselves into our own Morks and Mindys - creatures from our own minds and worlds. Sensitive souls build armor for protection. Confident personalities mask pain in a myriad of ways. The truth of it is, however, that we all experience suffering. It's what we do with it that makes all the difference.

I am in a lot of emotional pain today; grieving fully and wholly for my brother and making comparisons between him and Robin Williams. I don't know how I will feel on the 'angelversary' of my brother's death on August 24th, or on my 54th birthday two days later on August 26th, or on what would have been my brother's 67th birthday on September 5th. I'm just letting the feelings come.

Please allow yourself to do the same no matter what your troubles are today.

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You're only dancin' on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your dads best jeans
Denim blue, faded up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will
(you know they never will)
And the patches make the goodbye harder still.

Oh very young what will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(you know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still.

Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride, oh, oooh

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You're only dancin' on this earth for a short while
Oh very young, what will you leave us this time

Monday, August 11, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop: "Tag! I'm it."

Thanks to writer and colleague Jillian Maas Backman author of Beyond the Pews, a fascinating tale of how Jillian grew up as a pastor's daughter yet found she was connected to other spiritual experiences outside her bricks and mortar church, I've been tagged to participate in the worldwide Writing Process Blog Hop. Each participating writer agrees to answer a few simple questions everyone wants to know; that is, how does a writer do what he or she does?

What am I working on? 

Oy! Everything! I'm revising and updating my book DYING TO LIVE: Running backwards through cancer, Lupus, and chronic illness that was first published in June 2013. I'm also working as a ghostwriter on two book projects and have a new client that is interested in various marketing communications materials. I try to keep up with my blog that helps educate and heighten awareness of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (www.acestudy.org) that scientifically proves if you are neglected and/or abused as a child you are highly likely to get sick as an adult. This past year, I've included writings on suicide prevention and how survivors fare since my dear brother completed suicide last August. Admittedly, I've taken a bit of a break this summer. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Raw honesty. I am not afraid to talk about anything that has happened to me personally while respecting the privacy of those around me. Those who have read my book and my blog posts appreciate the opportunity to identify with things that people don't usually talk about. I bare my soul. With client work, I always find the 'hook,' or the one thing that is usually buried within all the information they provide and that's the 'aha' moment that drives my marketing pieces.

Why do I write what I do?

Mostly to heal and to retain my sanity. I also enjoy entertaining myself and my readers. I always inject humor into everything I write and one of my favorite credos is find the funny. I have learned that even in the most dire of situations or circumstances, there is joy somewhere, somehow, some way - we just have to look for it.

Up next on August 18th is Delilah Jones of Imagine Publicity  followed by Donna R. Gore a.k.a. "Lady Justice," host of Shattered Lives radio program and premier blogger on August 25th. Donna's first book will be published soon.