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I am fighting for my life and you re so cavalier with yours.

Dear Kim:

Having cancer means both a renewed appreciation for life and a fairly constant low level of anxiety that roars in your ear like a sea shell held up to summon the ocean.

I am very sad about the death of Dana Reeve this week from causes related to lung cancer. Her personal devotion to her late husband Christopher Reeve for over a decade after his paralyzing accident was inspiring. And perhaps even more inspiring was the way they both used his accident as an opportunity to contribute to the wider community. To lobby for stem cell research, changing insurance laws and to educating around disability issues.

After Christopher Reeve died in 2004, she announced her intention to more fully resume her acting and singing career. Instead, she was diagnosed with lung cancer this past August and died scarcely six months after that. She was 44 years old and leaves behind Will, their13 year old son. I can't begin to imagine how that young man must be feeling or the sense of loss he will sustain throughout his life.

Who is to say what is a life well lived. We each make choices and have to decide what we find meaningful. I admired Dana Reeve tremendously and wish she had had more time to sing her song. Although that was quite a duet she did with her husband for so many years

As for myself, I am now feeling scared. I had pneumonia pretty badly last winter and had a hard time shaking it. I have some scar tissue in my lungs from the radiation I had for breast cancer eight years ago. I know my lungs are not what they used to be.

My lungs?

Shoot.

This ole grey mare, she ain't what she used to be. . . .

I know that exercise is one way I can try to build up my lungs. I reminded myself of that as I sweated on the treadmill this afternoon.

But even with exercise, I don't know what I can do to further protect myself. I am afraid of lung cancer and I had never even thought about it until about a year ago.

(Kim: When I hear someone say "I'm afraid of . . . " I think that 1) yes, they are afraid and 2) but maybe fear is a state of mind and not so attacted to an object. In fact, I'm wondering if we create cancer and other diseases by letting them occur. I'm even so crazy as to imagine that we could learn to stop aging from occuring . . . but I also think that we should be able to walk through walls (though the technique escapes me)."

For a while, I had a girlfriend named Laura shortly after I completed my treatment for breast cancer. She was young and cute and smitten. I will never forget sleeping with her. How easily and beautifully we connected sexually. How gently she tended to the wounded part of me.

I will always be grateful that she helped me return to the pleasures of my body after the assault of surgery and radiation. After the devastation of the diagnosis.

For a while, we had a sweet and cozy fit together. But it didn't last long.The more I returned to my life, the further we drifted.

I could deal with the fact that we were so far apart intellectually and professionally. Although that wasn't ideal, I figured I could get that kind of stimulation elsewhere and so could she.

But the disparity in our physical values became too loud.

I started going to the gym to try to get my strength back. I even bought a family membership for the two of us. She would rarely go. She preferred to sit outside and smoke, waiting for me.

I was incensed. One day when she was impatient waiting for me, I remember screaming, "I am fighting for my life and you re so cavalier with yours."

She said—and rightly so—"It's my life. I can smoke if I want to."

Of course she could. She could and she did. But it was a deal breaker for me. It is one of the reasons I left her.

Later,

Joan

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006

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