I’m feeling the need to write some therapeutic words. Re-reading some of my blog posts, it suddenly dawns on me how annoyingly optimistic I am. I tend to start out with some dread concern, then talk myself right into things being fine. I didn’t really even realize I do it, but I guess maybe that’s why it’s therapeutic. For my mind anyway – my body not so much, it turns out. For things have taken a turn for the worst.*
You know that breast cancer that I ridiculed as an underachiever (see January 15, 2019), as a dolt (see September 6, 2014), as a coward, and stupid, an arrogant conniver (see March 28, 2014)? It turns out sneaky bastard is a more accurate moniker. It is now in my spinal fluid. Those breast cancer cells are backstroking through the tender crevices of my brain. They are running the rapids of my spine on the flow of my slick bodily fluids. They are docking on my nerve endings, throwing parties big enough to dam up the flow. This is a very bad, bad situation because they are now protected from the cancer meds I am on by my blood-brain-barrier, that tight layer of endothelial cells meant to protect the motherboard. Cancer cells in my spinal fluid, swinging from my nerves, even swelling my brain, have finally been determined to be the cause of the year-long mystery symptoms that have been making me miserable.
Me & Whinny, and on color film!
So here is today’s annoyingly optimistic story. It unfolds at the barn where you met Little Bo Peep, my dream pony who dragged me (see January 21, 2020). But a year or two had gone by, and my world then revolved around Whinny, a tall, lean palomino pony. I was leading Whinny out of her stall and she stepped on the head of a kitten and crushed it. But the kitten was still alive. I froze, not knowing what to do.
In swooped Big Cheryl, called me an idiot, then promptly drowned the kitten in a bucket of water.
Big Cheryl** was about 17 and had some sort of informal responsibility for running the barn. She was buck-toothed and wore coke-bottle-bottom glasses that made her eyes gigantic. Zeppelin and Creedence be damned, she unapologetically played classical Spanish guitar like a mother fuckin’ riot, as they say. She guffawed with abandon, but also gave the impression that she could and would kick the shit out of you if you crossed her. Big Cheryl would threaten to kill you if you touched her blind horse, Golden Ruler. We were all afraid of her.
I can still see her tanned, sinewy forearms holding that Picasso-faced kitten under water, and recall wondering whether I was in for some punishment. But that was the end of it. We both just shared a sad moment for the kitten.
I’ve always looked back on that day as a positive one, that story as inspirational. Who else but me could twist that story into an inspirational life lesson about the courage of decisive action in the face of trauma? The quick-thinking mercy delivered by an unapologetically unique young woman; the tug of guilt and regret, the warmth of forgiveness, felt by my young self. The happiness of not getting my ass kicked. Something like that. The story of the day I killed a kitten – what a great day! Pretty twisted, eh? So if you think cancer will kill the optimist in me you are wrong.
*At least until my next post, already in the works, which I assure you is also not lacking in optimism, and for good reason. Sorry/not sorry.
** She was not big, only older, and needed a way to be distinguished from Little Sheryl.