Tagged: hippie shit

TL;DR: Laurel asks the universe a question. Gets answer.


As a Jewish person (by choice, by conversion, the hard way, over a year, in NYC) I feel connected to the white haired, angry yet helpful G-d of the Old Testament.

As a person who was raised in the Presbyterian church, I do also love me some Jesus. (And a good old-fashioned Protestant hymn.)

As a dyed in the wool, former- Dead-following, ecstatic dancing, sage burning hippie, I feel connected to the earth and the stars and the turning of the wheel. I believe in magic and fairies and elemental forces.

I know to some people, these things are mutually exclusive, but this is just my way. I know there is something bigger than us.

And while I might not always know what to call it, I do talk to it every day.

In times of trouble or doubt, I ask for direction and most importantly, I ask for my answers to be delivered in ways that I can easily understand. Then I go and do mountains of research and tap every human resource possible; all the while looking and watching and listening for signs.

And I always get them.

Taking time off chemo to undergo that pesky brain radiation had the expected result. My disease has advanced. Again, I landed in the hospital and now I am two steps back. On oxygen again, weak, behind the eight ball. Now the question I faced was this: would my current treatment still be effective, or had the time off given the cancer an edge? If so, what would my next treatment be and would it even work? I had just sent off a fresh biopsy to Paradigm for analysis and the results were disappointing. The sample taken was too small, there was nothing to report.

That left me in a tricky spot. Should I just go for the next thing and hope for the best? This would mean I could never go back to my old treatment regimen and would never know if I could have gotten more mileage from it. On the other hand, I could give my old protocol another week to see if it would finally kick back into gear— but in doing so, would risk further advancement of my disease in the case it was really tapped out.

So, I asked. “Help me out here. Show me in ways I can understand.”

When I woke up, this was the first thing in my inbox:


Okay. I  guess I can see how a decision making app created to help a person select a vacation destination or a new expensive camera might also aid a chick in pursuing various chemo options. I download the thing, run the numbers and sticking with the current treatment comes out ahead. Barely.


I send an email to my favorite witch, Paige Zaferiou. I ask her to throw some cards on my behalf. Here, in part, is what she reports:

The short-term outcome of staying the course is the Daughter of Swords. This indicates a potential need for study, schooling, learning of some kind. . . This card can also indicate that a message is coming to you, and it will contain important information you do not yet possess . . . Finally, the card I pulled to determine whether you should truly stay the course is the 10 of Cups. That is the card of YES, of happiness, and wishes come true. . .

Okay. If I’m smelling what she’s stepping in, I keep going with the old stuff, but keep an eye out for some new info. Mmm hmmm . . .

Lastly, I hit up my favorite random bible quote generator and here’s what it kicks out:


Old Testament, natch. I see you,  YHVH. (But also, Christians sometimes refer to the Book of Isaiah as “The Fifth Gospel”, so I see you, too, Jesus!) I take this one to mean I should listen to my gut. Which I do. I tell my oncologist I want to give the old stuff one more chance. Just to be sure.

Fast forward to yesterday’s chemo.

I am focused, determined to make the most of this. I go alone and I don’t even read. I rest quietly, imagining the great General Patton standing in front of an ginormous American flag, like the opening scene of the movie “Patton.”

Just like in the movie, he yells,

“I don’t want any messages saying ‘I’m holding my position.’ We’re not holding a goddamned thing. We’re advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding anything except the enemy’s balls. We’re going to hold him by his balls and we’re going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We’re going to go through the enemy like shit through a tinhorn.”

I don’t know what a tinhorn is, but in my mind I see a tiny Patton step off the edge of the stage and into my IV tube. As he gets sucked in, another mini general takes his place and does the same. They march into my bloodstream. Kicking cancer’s ass.

Wait. Something is wrong. The back of my head is on fire? I sit up, confused. Itchy. A nurse walks past my door, looks my way, does a double-take, reels back in. I look at my arm, hand, see my veins bulging like snakes. Suddenly, there are six nurses in my room. There is a great deal of rushing around. Someone squirts a huge dose of Benadryl into my line after the generals. I fall over sideways, like a bear shot with a tranquilizer dart. “You could have warned me” I say.

What I didn’t know, is that on or around the sixth dose of Paclitaxel, some patients suddenly display an allergic reaction. For those that do, this signals the end of this course of treatment.

Aha! The missing information!

Nope. There’s something else. Today, from my oncologist:

We looked back at the genomic analysis from early 2014 and it highlighted that TOPO2A is expressed in the cancer cells, which could mean that this is one of the drivers of the cancer.  Inhibition of this enzyme could therefore be an effective strategy.  Liposomal doxorubicin would be the best drug with which to pursue this.

Now THAT is what I call news I can use. I start my new treatment next Thursday.  I am happy I did what I did. I may have lost another week but I know now, with certainty that the treatment had done all it could. I never have to say, “I wonder if . . .”

I am confident the new stuff will do some good for a good long time.

I am grateful to whatever force it is that guides us if only we ask. And listen. And if you haven’t seen it, “Patton” is a really good movie.






I’m soaking in it


Of all the cancer treatments I’ve been on, my least favorite was Affinitor. Why? Because they told me not to take baths! (It makes the skin on your feet peel off.) They also told me, “not to clap my hands” (?!) but I didn’t give a crap about that rule, because I am not addicted to generating applause.

I am, however, addicted to long, hot baths.

Baths have now replaced all my former vices— and I had plenty, let me tell you. Like any good gateway drug, it now takes more than some cut-rate epsom salts to get me off. (Plus, so much of that store-bought product comes with extra chemicals.) So, half out of necessity, half out of curiosity, I’ve become a bit of a mad scientist. Bathtub gin, bathtub meth— pfft, let’s make some REAL bathtub drugs! Who’s getting in with me?

Kava/Damiana Soak for Magicks and Happy Thoughts

(I order my herbs and muslin bags from Mountain Rose Herbs, they’re organic, and fairly priced.)

I must preface this one by saying I am a bit of a hippie. This bath smells like Stevie Nicks’ dirty laundry and the water you soak in will be a sludgy brown color. (It won’t stain your skin or tub though.) If you can get past those two hurdles— embrace them, even—in my experience, this bath is pretty doggone rewarding.

Mix 1 cup kava  and 1/2 cup of damiana in a pot and fill with water. Bring up to a boil and then simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs into a muslin bag and tie. Give it a squeeze and toss into the tub along with the “broth” you just made. Light some candles. Get in and float away . . . see what happens next.



Choose your own adventure

When I tell people that I’m adopted, often they’ll say, “Oh, did you ever think of finding out who your ‘real’ parents are?” My mom and dad told me that I was adopted when I was really young. I don’t remember the exact words that they used, but they must have framed it in such a way that the news gave me the impression that while they weren’t directly responsible for my genetic material, they WERE the people who were supposed to raise me. I still feel that the people I called mom & dad are the parents I was supposed to have, and I’m not curious about my supposed other “real” parents; but I do feel just a slight bit of worry that they’re gypsies, or circus people and they might be missing teeth and/or living in trailers. It’s just a hunch I have.

I like the idea of baby spirits floating around on clouds, carefully selecting their parents. That’s why when Fireboy and I kicked off our IVF journey I made a fancy brochure that touted all our most appealing features. I was really going after the sophisticated, discerning baby market—the way a five star hotel would lure choosy guests. My informative brochure showcased all the benefits of selecting us as parents; from instant Ivy League legacy status, to our wide variety of in-house pets, to the high level of tech support and extensive library—including the complete and final print edition of Encyclopedia Brittanica! Swimming lessons! Travel to exotic destinations! Organic, home-cooked meals! I was really surprised when time after try, we had no little taker.

Then again, having me for a mom probably won’t be all gravy either. While I still remember each and every song, game and art project I picked up in during my 12+ years of teaching, I can’t run very fast anymore. I spend the better part of one day a week hooked up to an IV. And, if we’re being honest, I just might not be on this planet for very long.

I was in college when my mom died. Her death gutted me in a way I probably still haven’t full recovered from, but I loved her with all my heart and if I had it all over to do again—floating around on a cloud, clad in a heavenly diaper—browsing to discover the one perfect mom for me—I’d chose her again in a minute. She was and is, my “real” mom.

So, it makes my heart sing that there’s a baby that’s chosen me for a mom. Finally. A baby who assembled a team of brilliant doctors and a dedicated surrogate in order to incarnate Earthside. And while I might not be this little person’s “real” mother in the eyes of some, I know what the deal is. Also, while we might not be technically related, because this kid picked us, and the trouble it’s gone through to get here—I already like its style.



Meanwhile, back at the ranch

The last few weeks have been a blur. I had a strong intuition I had to leave Vegas. For good, or else I would end up in the hospital there, and die. I heard a voice say it. I don’t remember packing, or driving away.  Just showing up at Katie’s house with a bulldog, and a parrot and Brett. Poor Katie. Anyway, I ended up in the hospital just like I knew I would, but I didn’t die, so I must’ve done the right thing.

Then it was out of the hospital, time to start the new chemo. I don’t know how I didn’t expect it to be different this time – I’m so much weaker. Did you know I now have ruched skin? I have more folds and pleats than a 90’s Valentino gown. I am thinking about creating a puppet theater where my arms will star as the front legs of famous elephants through the ages.

Finally the big day arrived even though my insurance carrier, Blue Shield, to whom I pay nearly $700 per month for a PPO plan, is balking at covering one of the medicines my oncologist wants included in my latest protocol – Perjeta (aka Pertuzamaub) a fully FDA-approved, aready-on-the-market HER2 breast cancer drug created by the nice folks at Genentech.  Why? Nobody knows, and while the insurance people push their papers around, there’s just this cancer taking a casual stroll through my body so I guess a decision maker somewhere said, “Ah, fuck it, two out of three aint bad…” so I will get only Herceptin and Gemcitabine this go-round.

I get what I get, and I don’t get upset. They hooked me up to the tank and the view was very pleasant out the window of the Mayo Clinic and Hil and Fireboy came and we chatted and I soaked up all the medicine like a thirsty loaf of french bread and then it was time to leave.

As I started down the hall it was as if with each step, I sunk an inch deeper into the floor. By the time I made it to the nurses’ station I felt as though I were knee-deep in linoleum. Someone put me in a wheelchair. Somehow I got home and then crawled into bed and then I started barfing. I felt like a doll with a hollow plastic body. I slept and retched and eventually, I started hallucinating. When I could, I’d pry my eyes open to stare at the geometric patterns spreading off into all directions. Millions of teeny plus signs on top of plus signs on top of plus signs. Chevrons. A flashing black and white snake that strobed the entire room. I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Not even water. As the days went on I had the sense things weren’t going well, but I also didn’t really care. Rather than the panic I’d been choking down for the last few months, I was starting to sense a strange relief nudging in. I felt as though a giant pair of scissors were descending from the sky to clip me from a silk rope so that I could be freely tossed, cartwheeling in slow motion, on to a giant pile of pillows.

Katie crawled into bed. “Don’t leave me.” she whispered. “You’re my sister.” I told her not to worry, that I was going to handle shit for her, I would pull strings and she wasn’t going to have any more problems again, ever. Like in the afterlife I have some deep mobster associations, or juice or something. I think that’s what I said. I think she laughed. Maybe I dreamed it.

Every third or fourth time I opened my eyes, Hil was rubbing my feet. They were 100 miles away but it still felt good. Once, I opened my eyes and she was standing on a chair, attaching a string of party lights to the ceiling. Another time, I peeked through one eye and she was hanging bones and lace and folk angels on a hook over a chair. Through it all,  I dry heaved constantly into a silver ice bucket.

This went on for six days. When I opened my eyes Hil was gone. She left behind magic wands made of driftwood and string and a pair of magical, bejeweled Mainifesting Earmuffs from Beezy which I now wear to bed every single night.



Katie works on a paint by number painting of labradors in the evenings. She got us berets to add to the art colony atmosphere and we wear them while she fills in the spaces with her brush and I sit on the sofa and Fireboy feeds me on the hour like I am a helpless baby bird.

It feels like the medicine might be working. I don’t know which will disappear first- me or the cancer. Let’s find out, shall we?


Yesterday I watched the sunrise light up the fog over the Oakland hills. A cold breeze floated in though the open window. Today I woke up in Scottsdale. The sky was cloudless and the air conditioner made its empty nothing sounds. Since I left Vegas I’ve been staying in the homes of friends while they are away visiting places with tall trees or speaking in southern accents. I can feel these people I love around me in their candlesticks and books and dishes, and I sleep in their beds, but I don’t see them. It’s like everyone got raptured and I’m left to roam through their empty apartments.

When I was a little girl, I used to fantasize about being able to slip into people’s houses and rifle through their things because they were out, or sleeping or unable to see me because I was invisible thanks to a magic spell. In my imagination, I would stroll right on in through the front door and try on their clothes and read their grocery lists. Later, when I was a teenager I’d dream of being locked inside a fancy department store overnight – again, mostly just to try on clothes. God, I love clothes. Sorry, I digress.

My entire life is up in the air right now — where will I live? Am I going to live? Am I going to lose my hair? Where’s my genius doctor? Will I ever feel like my old self again? — I know that it’s only fitting that I’m spending this time in literal limbo alone, drifting through quiet and unfamiliar rooms and you’d think I’d be happy my childhood fantasy came true, but it turns out I liked it just fine in my own house. I already had everything I wanted and needed. More than any night turned loose in Neiman Marcus could give me.

Today at sunrise, Manchester and I took a walk through the wash. It was still cool and the desert animals and their sounds were all around us. Manc was scared, and stuck close to my side. As we were walking, I came across a shed snake skin. I picked it up and it was fresh and damp. When a snake outgrows its old self, it simply wriggles free and leaves the past behind. Snakes don’t cry because they’re changing. They don’t desperately, fearfully cling to their old skin. I don’t understand this transformation. I liked my self the way I used to be, but today I’ll take another lesson from the snake: maybe letting go shouldn’t be so hard, maybe if I let the past slip away gracefully, something new and beautiful will be revealed.


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Hi mom

I’m housesitting right now and right next to the desk where I do my writing is a cork board. On said cork board is a business card. A shaman’s business card. On the card is her photo and she’s been staring over my shoulder for five days now.

It’s not like a headshot, it is a shot of her head but she’s not looking at the camera. She’s looking off to the side, not smiling but she has a slightly bemused expression and her eyes hold a challenging, “What?” She looks like she might be mean if you met her at a dinner party, but I think if you’re a shaman and journeying around in other dimensions and whatnot, you better be kind of a badass. I like my shaman tough.

So I sent her an email and she called me. She didn’t beat around the bush at all. There wasn’t any airy-fairy getting to know you kind of talk. Our entire conversation lasted about five minutes. She said, “What’s up?” So I told her about the cancer and I told her that I’ve been feeling stuck lately. She said, “Laurel. Your mom wants to help you. (my mom passed away when I was in college, fyi). Why aren’t you letting her help you? Hang up the phone right now and go talk to your mom.”

I didn’t really have any snappy comeback, who would? So I said okay and I hung up and I did what the bossy shaman lady told me to do. I don’t know if my mom heard what I had to say, but it felt good anyway. This is a picture of her. My mom, not the shaman. I miss her.


File under: things that don’t work

I like to think there’s wisdom in folk medicine. I had a horrible earache once and I read the cure for that is to stick a whole garlic clove in your ear. I did it and it was creepy, but it totally worked. So now that I have lymphedema (or as I like to call it: Lunch Lady Arm) I thought why not check the Google and give some down home remedies a whirl?

Thats how I learned all about cabbage poultices. I had a special helper that day who was totally into it.


Verdict: It didn’t do diddly squat, but it was entertaining.

cabbage arm

The multiverse and the moth

So it turns out that everything we learned in school about atoms and stuff is wrong. The Theory of Relativity, Newtonian physical theories. All wrong.

Recent research supports a new hypothesis that we’re actually living in a holographic multiverse. Supposedly, it looks like this:

Um, yeah

It is believed that quantum relationships regulate all the processes that go on inside this crumpled up piece of wrapping paper at the bottom of God’s recycling bin. Not at the speed of light (not even close, Einstein) but at 20,000 times the speed of light. Relationships which occur and change, all with the mere act of observation.

Every time I get a scan, I consider this stuff as deeply as I am able, with my non-scientific brain.

When the PET scan follows the trackers through my body with its glucose-vision, what changes does the watcher cause inside me? While my body surrenders under the machine’s electric eye, in my mind I imagine my self slipping through the origami folds. I slide right down into the one in which I live cancer-free. That one. Not this one. I am the switch operator who moves the tracks. The train goes left, rather than right.

I briefly come out of anesthesia during my lymph node biopsy. I hear what sounds like a nail gun being fired and my entire body shakes in reverberation. Later, when I wake up again for good in the recovery room, it feels like someone kicked my armpit’s ass. We will know the results next week.

Walking past my kitchen today, I notice a frantic flapping on the inside of the window sill. It’s a big moth or something, lord knows how he flew up 21 stories to begin with. I open the balcony door and for 15 exhausting minutes try to get him to land on the bristles of a broom so I can chuck him out the window, but he’s not cooperating. I wish I was brave enough to touch him so I could help him, but I’m not — so instead I give up. “Stupid bug.” I think to myself. “If he would just relax and stop flapping around like an idiot, I could help him.”

If there’s something bigger than us humans, I bet that’s just what we look like to them. Stupid bugs flapping around for no reason.