Here's the summary. Yes, I can be brief! Sometimes.
I'm dancing with breast cancer again, 11 years after my first round with it.
Treatment will take about six months, and I need to base in sydney to be close to the hospital for daily radiotherapy, plus access to adjunctive therapies.
I'm looking to raise money asap to cover accommodation and adjunctive medical bills. Covid was devastating for my businesses and I wasn't eligible for jobkeeper so I've been on a bit of a knife edge for the last year and this is definitely a curve ball. I'll be based around Bondi for the winter and into Spring.
If you've got even $20 to chuck in right now, that would be totally amazing, and thank you with all my heart.
And if that's not in your flow or capacity, just give me a hug and a big old smile when you see me (or a clever-boob dance, hoorah) and that's more than enough.
Big love and so much gratitude to all of you, my extended wild family.
Here's the extended mix, for those who want all the juice and know my writing.
It’s so so interesting to be back on the cancer stepping stones again. It’s 11 years since I leaped from slippery stone to stone, pregnant, cradling a precious spark of life in my womb, with every medico telling me that because of the hormonal nature of the cancer, which fed on estrogen and progesterone, that I would have to terminate the pregnancy, or I would die.
They actually said that.
My Eastern European GP: ‘Is very bad. You must terminate, or you will die.’
My initial breast surgeon and oncologist, same, without the cute accent.
I remember that first moment, hearing those words, and the fierce wolf mama in my bones rose up with a growl, ready to tear the face off the next person who said it. I felt the knowing in the rock and earth of me, that there was a way to get us both through. For both of us to live.
I fought, not for my own life, but for hers, my tiny cub, and my own life because she needed me. But it was HER first, me second. I spent nine months balancing on those stepping stones through a lightless cavern, the water black and inky and teeming with toothy monsters, should I fall. Only able to see the stepping stone I was on, and the dim outline of the next one. Following my rightness, my faith, often against all advice.
Three months of chemo while pregnant, heartsick at the thought of what it would do to her. Chemo babies are usually normal, but tiny. 3 lb, 1.5 kilos. Navigating through the churning sterility of the medical machine, fielding statistics and well meaning advice. Spending 4-6 hours a day meditating, healing, unearthing all the places where cancer could take hold. Doing my homework with fanatical passion.
The doctors wanted to take Blaise out of me at 26 weeks, put her in a humidicrib, so I could be treated with more drugs and radiation. I said, no, the best humidicrib is me. At one point an oncologist told me I had six months to live. Another told me I’d end up with untreatable metastases in my liver in a couple of years.
I fought for my daughter, fang and claw. She arrived, full term, natural birth, in an hour and a half, all 10lb of her. 4.5 kilos of gorgeous fat baby seal, her eyes open to forever and her spirit (those who knew her, know) extraordinary… it was like she had been awake and aware in there the whole time, participating with me, and she came out more present than any small person I have ever met. Both of us bald from the chemo.
I was ferocious, fierce, focused. I had to live for her. So I did.
She was extraordinary. I only got to keep her for three years until cancer swooped in after all and claimed a life, hers. Many if not most of you have been there for much of my journey since, as I have blogged my grief and lessons of loss and love, as the gift of her presence and subsequent absence has rippled out through so so many lives.
And now, here I am again, on the stepping stones. I’ve already jumped on a few of the ones from 11 years ago. My initials carved into the rock, now overgrown with moss. This time, though, the cavern is not dark, and there are perfect white flowers growing from seams in the rock, and butterflies circling in the high ceiling, capturing light in their wings, reflecting it around the wet stone walls in beautiful patterns. This time I can see the way.
Which is good, because this time, to be honest, the call to live is less strong. I’ve had almost 8 years of grief, and a part of me is tired. I’m having to dig deeper to find that fire, and as I do, on this stepping stone, it comes in a different way. Not with the ferocity of a mother, protecting her cub. That was easy. This one is harder. I’m digging deeper. Becoming more honest. Asking… what do I want to live for? How do I wish to spend this one wild and precious life? And finding answers in different places.
A year ago I did a vision quest, 4 days and nights solo in the wilderness, in the dead of winter, listening to myself, listening to that which is greater than me.
I was shown in a vision/conversation my gifts, one after the other. Gifts I had no control over, that I was born with. I’ve spent my life skipping from talent to talent, bringing those gifts into the world, yes, but also using them for my own pleasure. Those strands align so I can tell myself I am in service.
It was about 2am, though who really knows time in Quest, it all becomes one endless horrible wonderful dive into the abyssal maw of presence and unconsciousness, orouborous, dark to light to dark. Where the only way though is through and you meet yourself under all the stories and the mirror is unforgiving and you die so you can live, over and over.
Creator, Gaia, all the gods… shook me like a kitten in a giant lion’s mouth. I heard the words, clear as the stars overhead as I shuffle-stomped around my quest site, shivering, in the dead of a freezing night in the heart of winter. No moon, no way to see my next steps, my body finding the path as I danced in a ten foot circle, around and around, stumbling, finding my feet.
Voices that were one voice, exploding through me.
’You think these gifts… are for YOU? You think these gifts are for YOUR amusement?’
It was like being hauled before mum and dad and slapped, resoundingly. I felt a life-sized shame burning me from the inside out. My life-sized shame. It was true. I’ve been skipping from writing this book to these songs, to this workshop, giving my talents, sure, but not launching them into the world, not really. Four books written but unpublished. So many songs, played around campfires, never recorded. So many ways I baulk, at the last minute, and do not finish what I start because there’s the next fun shiny thing to play with.
I came out of that Quest resolute, and recorded my first album in three months. Sent my latest book off to editors. The album is finished now, the most finished thing I have ever done. Releasing in August... keep an eye out for Gigi&Lovetank. Book number one, She Wolf, still with a bit of editing, then needing a cover and ready to go.
But obviously, apparently I’m still procrastinating, and mum and dad gave me a full year without the next slap, which has just landed, ka-thwack… It’s like I can’t be trusted to leave it to myself, so they’ve given me a deadline.
Haha. Dead. Line.
I have the ability to pull a rabbit out of my butt when there is a deadline. When it’s down to the wire. I feel like I’ve just been given that goad. Like the gods have turned up the heat under my heels. Upped the stakes.
When I knew the cancer was back, about 4-5 weeks ago, the very first thing I thought was, o fuck, this is inconvenient. I’m going to have to get cracking editing those other three books. And how will I go recording video clips with a bald head? Wigs I guess. My thought wasn’t on who I’d leave behind if I died, although my niece Amy, who is the closest I have to a daughter since Blaise left, is a very strong pull to life. But really, in the sudden light of that knowing, cancer is back.. I felt the shape of all the unfinished business I have.
And that’s the fire this time around, there’s my passion, there’s my call to life. I’m not afraid of death, not at all, I’ve been dancing with the grumpy old bastard for the last 11 years and I’m quite ok with dying. Dying before I’ve finished these works… that’s a no. That’s a colossal waste. To get all this lifeforce and squander it… no. That’s just a no.
So all this talk of death and dying is just what happens for me, when cancer is in the picture. It’s the Capital R Reality of this conversation. Cancer shines the light on death, on my attitude to it, on everyone around me and their attitudes.
And hallelujah, my early warning system worked. I knew cancer was back before I found any lump. I recognised the glittery energy prowling through my system. It feels like a layer of powdered glass, gritty and hard but powder-fine, a tendency to anger, a rigidity and lack of softness. A closing off toward love.
I’ve been working with what I call Cancer Creature for so many years now, I can feel its footprints in the mud and dust of me, can track the places where it drinks, the caves where it hides. I know the wounds where I call it to me, feeling its power, feeling that it is a friend.
This one was a cracker, in a session a couple of weeks ago… a small plaintive lost part of myself believing I needed to hang onto it because ‘It loves me. It loves me so much it will never leave. It loves me so much it would even kill me and die with me.’ Not logical, this isn’t what I intellectually think! These are the unconscious places where I dance, where we all bury our incomprehensible landmines of self-sabotage. Don’t worry, I healed that, and now can laugh at that belief, and bring that lost part into my own heart, giving her the love she yearns so desperately for.
This is the work, these are the stepping stones. And this time, I caught it early. I KNEW it was there, and went in for scans, and yes, there it was, that small pea. This time I am not pregnant, my body is not a soup of hormones to feed it. This time, the lymph node is clear; the creature has not escaped to rampage through my body. This time I’m older and wiser and familiar with the process. This time I don’t need chemo. The stepping stones I am on have already diverted from my old path through the black black water. There is so much more illumination. I know the work.
And I have a deadline. For me, cancer is a dance with death, and as I have written many times before, he is really just an old shyster with halitosis, dancing close with a rose between his teeth. I know his whispers. I’m not ready to dance off into the dark with the old bastard. I know I’ve just made the transition to older men, but not that one, not yet.
So please, if you are worried for me, know this. I want to be alive, I am galvanising, marshalling my resources, which are considerable. I have way way way too much work to do to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet. Unless a piano falls out of the sky and it’s just my time, I’m not going quietly into any night, good or otherwise. This is a wake up call, but I’m listening, I’m reading the mail, I’ve caught it early, and the prognosis is awesome, it’s a call to attention, to presence, to dig in and uproot the next layers of no on my way to yes. And you know me. I do my homework.
Thank you to everyone who has messaged me with offers of support. I feel so loved, so held, so cherished. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing community. I’ve had chicken soup home delivered, lifts to and from the hospital, ears to listen and shoulders to lean on and arms to melt into. Thank you.
And I have had so many offers of ongoing support. Friends saying… tell me what you need.
So here’s what I actually need.
I can’t live in my bus going through treatment for the next six months or so. I need to rent a place asap in the eastern suburbs, so I am local to the hospital for radiotherapy, and close to all the adjunctive therapies. I need to raise money as covid blew up my businesses, we weren’t eligible for jobkeeper, and the coffers are sadly bare.
So if you can chuck in even $20, I’d be super super grateful. And I am totally aware that lots of my friends are in worse financial state than I am, so if that’s you, it’s totally utterly ok, just give me a hug when you see me next! (Or keep an eye out for the Gigi&Lovetank album in August/September and give it a listen. There's a track on it, She, which is about Blaise.)
Thanks for reading, and for your beautiful heart, in whatever way it resonates. I feel very very blessed.
I’ll keep you all posted.
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