|Michelle, beautiful as always, with her son (my nephew), Cody|
This post may seem scattered, and is probably not proof-read as well as it should be. But, my heart is heavy, and a darkness lingers. My thoughts have a need to get out, trumping all other topics I could be writing about right now (I have at least 20 drafts going at once at all times, and few of them ever actually make to publishing anyway).
Cancer. No one is safe. I'm starting to think that everything really does cause cancer; that our environment is toxic, as well as the air we breathe, all the food we eat. Too many people are dying from this horrific disease, and it seems, often, to come from nowhere.
As I write this, Craig's older sister is in the last days of her life. We are 750 miles away in Indiana as she lies on her couch in Virginia--sitting up occasionally, being attended to by various loving family members and hospice care. It's been hard to think of much else but Michelle, as each one of us knows she is dying, right before our eyes, and there isn't a single thing to be done. Soon after her diagnosis, Michelle began a blog to keep everyone updated, and she was very active on FB. Her diagnosis--stage 4 colon cancer--was a formidable shadow, but her heart and spirit remained bright and positive. Some days it was easy to forget she even had cancer. Some days, when she still looked healthy and there were still options laying out in front of her, the cancer seemed beatable. We visited her on vacation in July, and everything seemed possible.
However, in mid-September, right around her 45th birthday, Michelle's blog became silent, her FB presence all but disappeared, and she settled in for a very difficult, painful, vicious battle. Cancer began to win. It's been heartbreaking to witness, and we've been helpless.
I used to think that preventing cancer was key--eat the right things, avoid pesticides, exercise. But what are the right things to eat? And if toxins are everywhere anyway, even in the air we breath, water we drink, and products we use, how much prevention can we really hope to achieve?
Cancer is terrifying and it's enough to throw your hands in the air, especially when the person who is dying of cancer was the shining example of a 'clean' life--organic diet, lots of exercise, a health nut. Now, was Michelle that person? No, admittedly not. She always loved to wrinkle her nose at me when I professed my love of veggies...had a sweet tooth like no other, and would exercise as much as most of us ordinary people (barely). Though Michelle never claimed to be a health nut, others who are health nuts don't really seem have a pass. Just a year ago a friend of mine I'd met online WAS the poster child of health, and cancer struck her down, viciously and fast. Cancer may have plenty of 'known' causes, but it has just as many unknown causes, and it strikes seemingly willy-nilly, to more and more people every day.
There are things that are obvious. Don't smoke. I quit years ago and will never look back. Don't play with asbestos. If only that could be said with humor; but since many people have died from cancer directly because of their unwitting exposure to asbestos at their past jobs, there is no humor at all in that statement. Known causes of cancer can and should be avoided. What about the sun and skin cancer? For ages the rule of thumb was to slather on the sunscreen so that those UV rays wouldn't screw up our skin cells...but now there are studies out there that say the sunscreen itself can cause cancer. It gets tricky, and like I mentioned already, it's hard to know what things are hurting us. Red meat? Some people swear it's the key to health, but some link it to many diseases including cancer. But then, there are studies that also link cancer to the eating of grains. Studies, studies, studies!!! So many, all with conflicting information!
Though the studies seem to often conflict, and though it seems that if we listened to every 'professional opinion' we would truly just have to stop eating anything, never leave the house, and live in a bubble, there is ONE thing that I know will not contribute to any cause of cancer.
My vegetables. From my back yard.
In a world where it's easy to feel like I have lost all control of my own health and destiny, the garden provides a small bit of calm. The more veggies I can grow in my little organic garden, and the more I can fill my diet with those veggies, the better.
Though we are entering winter and my garden is mostly gone for the season, I have some of the produce canned and frozen, and I always have my sunny summer photos to keep me inspired.
Maybe I can't predict when or how I will die, and chances are pretty good--statistically speaking--that I, too, could enter into my own fight with cancer. But while I live this life, I can fill my body up with nutrient-rich, pesticide-free food from my own little 1/6 acre of land, and feel like I've got the tiniest of handholds on a steep rock wall. Even if my veggies provide no true protection against my future demise, at least I can find peace, among my veggies-- the sun warming my body, life and energy flowing in and around me as the garden plants reach up toward the warmth-- and feel like I have something to protect me. Or at the very least, the calm I feel from the garden itself will help me see the world with clarity, and allow me to let go of my anxiety, of my helpless feelings.
*In the middle of writing this post, news came that Michelle's father unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. He had been by Michelle's side for weeks. As of publishing, Michelle is still fighting, viciously, with hospice and family members at her side.
We truly never know when, or how we will leave this earth. Hold your family close, breathe in each moment, capture each memory with your heart and don't let go.
And, keep growing veggies.
*Update: Rest In Peace, Beautiful Michelle
September 4, 1969- January 5, 2015
*This post was shared at the Homestead Blog Hop