Number 5749

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In June 1988 I was supposed to wear number 5749 as we biked from Seattle to Portland. I had never participated in this kind of challenge before. The virgin numbers still sit in the envelope that had been mailed me. I never got a chance to take the test, or at least that test. Instead of biking between two states, I was being tested on my resolve to live.

It’s been a while since I have written about this phase of my life, though I think about it constantly.

Instead of relying on my shaky memory, I’m going to open up my journals of 1988. Since I am a sequential person, I am looking at January, 1988, though I probably need to focus on just May. Just because the cancer was diagnosed in May doesn’t mean my life was a Merry-Go-Around. January 5th I mention that “lots of stuff brewing.” But without reading instead of skimming, I don’t really know what I was referring to, though it doesn’t take much to remind me how fucked up I was.

I was still reeling after the effects of seeing family movies that my dad had thoughtfully had pulled together; instead of taking pleasure in seeing pictures of my mom and dad’s wedding, their honeymoon, and all the subsequent firsts of daughters being born and growing up, I focused on what I didn’t see rather than what I saw. I didn’t see me as a baby. I think I may have been in the production a couple of times.

I wrote my dad my response, and it probably hurt his feelings that I was more disappointed than appreciative. I’ve always struggled with this. He wrote me back and said, “Susan, it was very foolish of you to read anything in to the fact that there were no pictures of you coming home from the hospital. Just the pictures alone showed that each year I took fewer and fewer movies to the extent that one 50 foot reel, five minutes, covered several years. Obviously, the title preceeding your appearance on the scene, was a flip way of covering up my ‘goof’.”

Yes, my life was brewing, but not in a good way.

I had recently started to climb out of the hole I had dug by participating in Wings Seminars.

A close friend, Peter Büttner was dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Later on Pete, one of my strongest allies, gave me  the book Love, Medicine, and Miracles by Bernie Siegel. Had a been diagnosed yet? I don’t think so. What a valiant man.

Speaking of Valiant man. I mentioned that I had been watching Oprah and Robin Williams was on. I did refer to him as “what’s his name” so I was not familiar with his comic genius yet.

Getting a ten cent an hour raise to do inventory for RGIS only ticked me off. I do recall going on strike in Medford or somewhere cold. That’s a different story.

Does my niece Meghan still have a dent in her head? I totally forgot that she fell off the jungle gym and her mom, my sister, Pam, said in a letter that Meg would have a dent in her head for the rest of her life.

I’m thinking about you Meghan as you get ready to deliver baby number three. Prayers for speed and health.

Gotta speed the process up. The word cancer causes me to stop in my tracks, though i don’t know until after I read if I am aware of my own diagnosis yet. I sometimes wonder if I knew before I knew. I refer to Pete’s struggle on figuring out why Cancer was in his life and I ask myself if Cancer is a personal disease or a haphazard one. Do we Bring it on?

In February, 1988 I celebrated three years of sobriety. That feels like a million life-times ago.

I had a lot of people in my life. Many names I don’t remember. Many that I miss.

Fast forwarding through April, 1988. I was still playing soccer. New Relationship. School at Lane Community College and the University of Oregon. RGIS work. Kahlua Dog. Stanley Cat. Lots of writing. I was still two years away from my B.A., something I had been working on off and on for ten years.

My brand new color television, the first color television that I ever owned, had fallen on the floor and was going to cost $150 to fix. I think it sat in the repair shop for a month or so.

I’ve finally hit a nugget. I wrote my niece, Kara a letter. “I am doing pretty good considering that my body feels as though it has been run over by a train. Do you ever feel that way? Well, I have been working hard at getting in shape for a long bike trip: 200 miles in two days; that is a lot of biking…. Then Monday I had a soccer game. This time one of the goalies was out sick and so I sort of volunteered to play… It’s been ten years since I played goal and I surprised myself by still having what it takes.” (insanity.) I actually used that word, “Unfortunately part of what it takes is a bit of insanity.” I got kicked in the stomach. I was thinking that I bruised some ribs. “I will recuperate by resting and stretching out a lot.” How about surgery and cancer therapy?

I have about a week of not journaling, On May 13th I wrote from Sacred Heart Hospital where I had been a patient for a week. I was having a hard time writing about having cancer. Between the pain meds and my dad being in the room, I didn’t feel comfortable, though mostly I just didn’t want to face the truth.

I must have been home on May 16th. My dad wouldn’t let me go outside to get the mail since it was too cold outside. That says a lot.

It’s kind of funny that I even got a letter from the Weston St. Peter’s Church. Last August he couldn’t remember who I was…

And my sister Deb was pregnant. Lots going on.

Unfortunately, there’s no suspense in reading my journal, though I always discover  some ideas that I hadn’t realized until many years later.

It’s rather obvious that I survived having Wilm’s Kidney Cancer. Almost Twenty-Seven years. Almost half of my life. I wonder if this means I should get back on my bike?



  1. How scary. I am so glad you DID survive for 27 years… or I’d never have known you. And I am better for knowing you… I think! Yes, I am. I now have a place to send my books….

    1. Everything that happens in my life, happens for a reason. Every person and animal that crosses my path have a purpose. I don’t necessarily know the reasons or whys, but the answers to that question may not be important. I think I am being influenced by The Doors singing “Light My Fire” as I write…

  2. As a matter of fact, yes, you can still feel the dent. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers. I really like reading these posts, it’s interesting to read about all these things in your past.

    Love and miss you!

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