Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Waiting.  We wait for a bus, for a vacation, for the end of the movie, for word, for forgiveness, and in my case, for forty-two years.

I was twenty-five that morning when I dropped my daughter off at my parents home on my way to work and my mother greeted me with a look of stricken grief and an outstretched hand in which she held a small newspaper clipping.  From the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle's Op-Ed page, it was a brief letter to the editor from a healthcare worker blowing the whistle on the high incidence of thyroid cancer linked to the 'miracle cure' of x-rays administered twenty years earlier to patients in the Rochester area to treat neck, throat and face ailments.  As I read, the world turned from color to grayscale and I felt as though my eyes were seeing the printed words through a tunnel.  My stomach turned and I had to sit down.  I could see the doctor's face, feel the lead shields on my eyes again.

My mother cried as she told me how sorry she was, that she didn't know, and that if they hadn't radiated my adenoids to shrink them, I would probably have gone deaf.  And there it was.  Not only was there the radiation to treat acne that I remember from my teens, but another potentially cancer-causing dose when I was four years old that I had never even heard about.  Had I been older, maybe I'd have taken this news with a little more equanimity, but as a single, working mother still trying to feel comfortable with adult responsibilities, it walloped me blindside.  

Tests, examinations and scans followed, and no abnormalities were found.  This vigilance continued yearly for the next 37 years, my mind eventually reassured by the fact that the onset of this cancer generally occurs within twenty years of the radiation date.    At 24, I had already passed that mark for my first exposure; at 35 I passed the second, and although I felt somewhat out of the woods, I continued to have yearly blood tests and physical exams.

Eventually my thyroid began to increase in size and get lumpy, even though functioning properly, and I was referred to a new endocrinologist who performed yearly ultrasounds on it - the same doc using the same machine each time.

"It's big, it's ratty, come back in a year," was what he'd say.  And I would.

And then, this fall, the pronouncement:  "It's big, it's bumpy, your thyroxin levels are normal, but I DON'T LIKE IT.  It needs to come out."

Two months later I write this with a grin that just doesn't want to go away.  That "ratty", big, properly-functioning gland came out two weeks ago, and it contained a very tiny (4mm) papillary carcinoma - the cancer most commonly caused by radiation.  It's gone, removed, done with.  It's so strange to feel elation over the loss of a functioning body part, but that is what I feel.  

I wish I could tell my mother that she did the right thing when she accepted the radiation treatment for me, a decision she mourned deeply.  I'm so grateful for all the years I have sung and listened to music, for being able to hear my friends and loved ones and the natural sounds around me.  I am so grateful to the medical team that brought me through this surgery at precisely the right time and finally vanquished the shadowy devil from my subconscious.  My wait is finally over.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


FaceBook.  FB.  Time-sucking, discount-store blog.  "Friends" you've never met on the outside of a screen feel your pain and share your excitements with a simple click; causes and politicians can be supported with the touch of "Share".  Surely this is Nirvana.

I used to blog regularly, at times doing the literary equivalent of attending Black Friday sales in the wee hours, searching for the perfect word or turn of phrase to complete the day's post.  Now, through FaceBook, I take on the evils of real Black Friday with a mighty click.  Climate change:  Click!  GMO crops:  Click!  Romney's dog on the car roof?  Click!  Click. Click. Click!  

Back in the real world, there's an insect for that, although the Click Beetle's clicking tends to scare off predators because of its sound and action, not its support of causes.  The mechanism is a spine on the prosternum which snaps into a corresponding notch on the mesosternum.  Not only does it create a clicking sound, but it can bounce the beetle into the air, so it's useful when the critter is on its back and needs to right itself.  Evolution has not yet provided our click beetle with an "Unfriend" button.

                                                It was Karan Cross of http://www.thewildinside.blogspot.com who "got me on FaceBook," as they say.  As anyone who sells handmade items will tell you, social networking is a way to spread the news of what you are creating, and, being a smart dealer, Karan made it easy for me to try the drug.   It quickly progressed to being the first thing I do each morning with subsequent fixes throughout the day.  The personal page was soon supplemented by a Wizened Eye Photography page.  If you want people to "Like" your art, it isn't necessarily good to mix personal observations, loves and hates with the more dignified artistic self you wish others to see...  Or, put more succinctly, I soon had two f***ing FB pages to manage.

Inevitably, the question "Why?" arises.  I sip my morning coffee and click to see what's new.  A high school classmate posts a new photo of her granddaughter, stunningly beautiful and sparkling with personality.  Click!  A distant neighbor describes a morning's activity in Ireland. Click!  A cartoon makes me laugh out loud (or, more precisely, LOL).  Click!  A new painting is unveiled, a hand-crafted silver bracelet displayed, a haiku shared.  Click, click click!  Awareness of someone's need or illness is made.  A dinner recipe tempts me.  Whispers and shouts from around the world, taken in nibbles that I swallow- or left as crumbs on a plate for other scavengers of cyberspace to forage.

And so, although it doesn't fend off enemies or right me when I'm on my back, like the beetle, I'll keep on clicking.  My FaceBook friends, thank you for being a part of my life.  This post's for you.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Northern Angels

These days I am acquainted with many wonderful and amazing people because of my art.  In these artists there exists the possible, the unusual, the unique, the weird and the beautiful, expressed in form, movement, sound, image, rhyme and probably a dozen other sorts of vents for the fire within.  One such person is named Hope, and besides being a wonderful digital and photo artist, she is also a healer.  I learned this because I mentioned having to fit a volunteering commitment in around a health issue.

Holding a small mixed media sculpture in front of me, Hope asked me to place my hands on two blue stones which were intregal to the piece.  She held stones on the opposite side and closed her eyes.  As perhaps a minute passed, I could feel a slight tingling in my arms, and then she opened her eyes and smiled, saying it had worked and that she could also feel my energy coming back to her.

Twenty-two hours later I was standing in line to pay for a delicious plate of organic, vegetarian food at The Table restaurant in Ottawa's west end.  A young woman in front of me struck up conversation, as women will often do when sharing such a wait.  Her wavy, shoulder-length hair simply parted, she radiated a glow that didn't come from make-up, and she brought to mind a painting from a long-ago art history class.  Yes, the food is wonderful, no it isn't the first time I've eaten here.  "I'm excited because I think there are things here my grandson could eat!  He's allergic to lots of things; soy, dairy," I said.

"Do you mind if I pray for him?" she asked.

That statement somewhat startled me, but I don't think I let it show.  Good grief, I thought, another wack-o Christian, but I replied sure, if she'd like to.  I imagined she meant later, so it was quite surprising to hear her - still glowing and radiating that beautiful, peaceful smile - speaking words of blessing softly beside me.  Even more surprising was that no particular god or son thereof was being mentioned. 

"What is your name?" she asked, "Judy," I answered, and she ended her words of blessing with "and his grandmother, Judy, to whom he brings so much joy." 

And then she turned and walked away.

I joined my husband at a small table near the window and told him that I thought I had just met an angel. 

Were the encounters with these two women coincidence?  I'll never know, but they profoundly impressed me and gave me a great deal of food for thought. 

The painting posted here is Botticelli's Madonna.  I have not been able to find the image that came to my mind at The Table, but this one is similar to it and would be perfect if Madonna were radiantly smiling. 

My life is indeed blessed.  May prayers and healing be affirmed.