Sunday, August 7, 2011


"May the odds be ever in your favor." - Effie Trinket (The Hunger Games)

As I'm sure every person affected by cancer (or any game changer) does, I can't help but question why.  Why did this happen to me?  What did I do?  What do I need to change?  Where did I go wrong?  It seems clear that if I didn't ask such questions, I'd be headed for a repeat performance, which I'd prefer to avoid if at all possible.

Still, you would think that at some point, the questions would stop.  One would accept the turn of events and continue on in the direction of said life.  I guess I'm just not yet at that point.  I still find it terribly difficult to wrap my head around just what took place last year (and that I still feel poo-ish).  I could stare out into a sky full of stars for hours and be no closer to comforting answers.  I just don't get the universe and its misguided sense of justice.  There are so many blessed people, who go decades (lifetimes, even) without knowing what it means to be devastated, traumatized by life's obstacles.  There are people who plan and carry out their plans accordingly.  People who never wrestled with illness, or homelessness, or hunger, or infertility, or even the remote possibility that things might not go on as expected.

And then there's the rest of us.  Comparatively speaking, of course things for us could be much worse.  In last week's People magazine, there was a story about a woman whose abusive husband shot her in the face (believing she was flirting with another man), completely disfiguring her (she couldn't sip a drink without an upper lip).  In 2008, she was given a face transplant and is much happier now that she looks more human.  Children in Sudan.  Innocent kids stuck in an Iranian prison. 

Comparatively speaking, I am lucky.  I have a loving family, excellent friends, access to healthy food and clean drinking water, a home, freedom, a job (if I can find a way to do it), clothing, the whole nine.  
My struggle is this:  how do I come to terms with the fact that every person is dealt a different hand in life?  You get what you get and you don't get upset.  We say this to Judah all the time.  I don't want to live with anger that someone else faces milestones with ease, while these milestones seem overflowing with obstacles for me. 

I know with certainty that there are many, many people who feel this way.  Anyone confronted with infertility is at the top of my list.  [P.S. Why in the world do they teach you in middle school it's so easy to get pregnant anyway?]  I know I'm not the only one. 

So far, the only "wise" answers I have heard are as follows:

a) You are being put through a test of wills.  If you pass, you will gain passage into the next round of life.
b) You are being presented with hardship because you can handle it.  Others are too delicate, but you, you are strong like ox.
c) You got dealt a bad hand.
d) You misbehaved in a past life?
e) You-Know-Who has a plan for us all.  It's all just meant to be.  One day you'll look back on this and say, "wow, I wonder what would've happened to me had I not had _____.  thank heavens."
f) There ain't no rhyme or reason to any of this.

We all know that no one has any definitive answers.  However, that does not prevent us from trying to come up with satisfactory explanations.  We would never have found vaccines or cures for diseases without the drive to change our own luck, not to leave the peoples' chances of survival up to just "fate". 


As I was driving alone in the car this past weekend (a rarity), I found myself listening to an old Ani Difranco mix.  I was so comforted by the fact that I could recall lyrics.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with her music and thus may be unaware that her songs have hundreds of words in them.  To be able to remember them all (way back from my high school and college days) made me feel like some synapses are firing.  Even if my brain is battered from chemo and bruised from the trauma of being diagnosed and treated for cancer, something in there is still functioning cause I can remember the words to Ani's music.  And even though my lungs didn't feel full, I forced myself to belt out more than one profanity in an effort to rid myself of the built up anger towards this whole darn situation.

For your pleasure, I have pasted some pertinent lyrics below.  The first is an excerpt from one of my grand car performances and the second is a more traditional tune whose words ring so true, I can't help but cry each and every time I hear them.

Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do
About anything at all

Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper
Dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage system and the path train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water main
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all
Beneath all get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There's a fire that's just waiting for fuel

- Ani Difranco  (Fuel)

Life has a way of confusing us,
Blessing and bruising us,
Drink l'chaim, to life!

God would like us to be joyful, even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
How much more can we be joyful, when there's really something to be joyful for? 

To life, to life, l'chaim,
(To Tzeitel, my daughter--my wife!),
It gives you something to think about,
Something to drink about,
Drink l'chaim, to life! 

To us and our good fortune!
Be happy, be healthy, long life!
And if our good fortune never comes,
Here's to whatever comes,
Drink l'chaim, to life!  
- Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof)



  1. Susan Isaacsohn BurkhardtAugust 8, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Thank you for posting this, it was very timely, as I myself was having a "why me" weekend. You expressed everything I was feeling and not able to express myself. Now thanks to you I am back to having an "I have MS but it DOES NOT AND WILL NOT have me". You were able to show me that whatever life brings us, we can and will handle it. I am glad I found your Mom on FB and then you, you are one H-LL of a conquerer.
    Drink l'chaim, to life!

  2. I think I'm beginning to believe in stories. I kind of have to, I know, given my line of work, but stories are the way that we most effectively communicate. Stories are what link us to our past, stories are what bolster us for our future, stories entertain us and nourish us through good time and bad. It is through old stories that we relate to each other, through shared stories that we fall in love, and through new stories that we discover and expand our world.

    A lot of your "wise" answers require a leap of faith, and not everyone is comfortable with making that leap (I know I'm not). But I do have faith in the power of the shared experience, and through this blog (and face-to-face conversations, and phone gossip, etc) you've been telling your story, and it is tangible and true and in and of itself purposeful. Through telling your story you've made us richer in knowledge and empathy.

    I won't presume to know what the future holds, but oh, the stories Judah already has about his mother--that is one rich little kid.

  3. "I know I'm not the only one". The meaning that is left for me is..find the others and
    see what you can do together. And if they don't wanna,move on. You'd be surprised looking back how your real plans do turn out. So please examine what you want. Dear, I know you'll
    nost likely have that. Love you so, great story.

  4. Mia - I have to vote for choice f. I think it is pretty random, and of course I am not a person of faith. I think we pretty much have to play what we are dealt. But acceptance is definitely a bitch ( wish my Mom were around to explain how she did it). As for my favorite quote: "You get what you get...", Kayla taught it to me; they tell her at day care when she doesn't eat her lunch (which is often). sending my love,