All of a sudden his smell bothers me; everything bothers me because this cancer is scorching my skin from the inside. I cannot stand odors, my eyes are dilated and sensitive, and light hurts me. And my bones, Grandma, my bones!

I feel like I’m a prisoner in the Tower of London; tied to the rack where my limbs get stretched a little bit more with each turn of the wheel. Slowly but surely, how much this suffering hurts me. Still, I remember the birth of my first son hurting a thousand times more! That pain I was supposed to forget, but thoughts of infanticide remain tattooed on my forehead. This new pain lasts for days varying in intensity like waves entering my brain, my bones, my heart.

I see a tree outside I can change into. I stare at its bark and I become the tree. Since I was very young I’ve played this game, out of curiosity with nature and animals. Now, when I meditate, I see the similarities with this childhood game.

There is a bird now, perhaps a raptor, with sharp claws digging into my neck, squeezing my throat, making me bleed and never letting go.

In my stomach a desperate rat eats my insides away, carving my death with stubborn determination. I sit up on the couch and barely opening my eyes I look out the window. It is beautiful Tahoe, the pine trees softly moving with the breeze, squirrels running on the porch. A Blue Jay squeals, and I cover my ears.

Feeling the need to move, I rise to the occasion. My hips remind me that I’m being poisoned with chemotherapy. I feel a rod of steel going across my hips, stiff, aching, so painful I question if I will ever walk again.

I lean forward to rise, and my ribs remind me that it’s not just my hips, but every bone in my body. Pins and needles attack me from every angle. I look for a way out of this reality, but there is no escape and nobody here to help.

I left my husband before cancer. Now I sit here looking out the window wondering how nice it would be to have a husband to take care of me while I’m sick. Oh fuck it! I have myself to pick up the pieces. Who needs a husband anyway?

I make one more effort and I slide the window open; a little breeze comes in to touch me. Slowly I inhale the smell coming from outside… Jeffreys, ponderosas, cedars, and aspens, all from this mountain paradise.

I am not giving up. I rise again and I can see the Lake. Then and there I decide to play again. I become the water. Closing my eyes I leave the forest and the animals behind. I am diving into the lake; in its blue waters I will heal my pain, my disease, and my lonely heart.


Pam Warman 2011

Bona Fide Books, Tahoe Blues, short lit on life at the lake. Editors Kim Wyatt & Erin Bechtol.