Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

 Stage 2 is always better than Stage 3, and I’m not talking about live concerts. Cancer, baby. Is there any scarier word? Any word that scares the bejesus out of me more than that? My brother’s walk on the wild side has just begun, yet he has already picked up a substantial new vocabulary: bladder cancer, rare type, squamous cell, aggressive, nonbilharzial, suspicious, holistic, second opinion, M. D. Anderson Center, work the process, one day at a time.

Some among us have fought the monster and won. Kudos, Kathleen. And to your partner-in-health, Denny.

I Google, refine my searches, drill deep. The medical journal jargon grows more arcane by the inch. This is stupid. I only have partial information, and besides, the cheap comfort of data doesn’t add up to a hill of beans, or was that a bucket of warm spit? Whatever. By mid-afternoon, I feel like my brain has been chopped up into little pieces and fed to sharks, like my heart was thrown whole and beating into a trash compactor. 

Around 4 o’clock, I turn to Buck. “Yesterday, we said we were going to treadmill at 10:30 this morning,” I said.

“Yeah. But you were too wrought up at 10:30 this morning to do it.”

“That’s true. But I can do it now. Let’s go get on the damned things.”

I pull my hair back into a pony tail, stick ear plugs in my ears, and start walking. Not the time for literary podcasts. I need music. Loud. Full of life. I put the iPod on “shuffle” and every time it starts up with something soft and sweet, I  stab it with a finger to force it to the next song. I listen to the Gypsy Kings, Van Morrison, Nina Simone (ever heard her sing Blues for Mama?), and then — then I hear Patty Griffin, wailing out her song, No Bad News. Turned me right around. Reminded me of what I know, but forgot in the emotional melee. Here it is:

My brother has cancer. He is either going to survive, thrive, or die. And you know what? I don’t have cancer. I am going to survive, thrive and die. We all know this. Once we’re born, it’s too late. We’re in it for the ride. The point is to make it a good one, not just a long one, to figure out how to love each other and then, by God, do it.

Excerpt from Patty Griffin's lyrics to No Bad News

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news
I don't need none of your bad news today. . . 

I'm gonna find me a man, love him so well, love him so strong, love him so slow
We're gonna go way beyond the walls of this fortress
And we won't be afraid, we won't be afraid, and though the darkness may come our way
We won't be afraid to be alive anymore
And we'll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us
Till there are no strangers anymore

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news
I don't need none of your bad news today
You can't have my fear, I've got nothing to lose, can't have my fear
I'm not getting out of here alive anyway
And I don't need none of these things, I don't need none of these things
I've been handed
And the bird of peace is flying over, she's flying over and
Coming in for a landing

0 thoughts on “Don’t Bring Me No Bad News

  1. elizabeth says:

    The song at the end is a perfect ending to a remarkable, visceral post. I send good healing thoughts your way and not a small bit of solidarity on the obsessive internet-surfing thing…


  2. Gullible says:

    I send good wishes your way. Pass them on to your brother, please. Little brothers are precious beings.


  3. Walk says:

    Patty Griffin’s “Stay On The Ride” speaks of this also. Staying on the ride even though we don’t know where we’re going, we just know we going somewhere.
    Still praying for your brother and you.


  4. Shaddy says:

    I’m glad you got on your treadmill. The monotonous movement of your body can often be comforting. It lulls you and leaves you at least a bit less stressed.
    Remember we’re here and ready to read those words you will continually need to put down. Let us be the medicine that helps you be strong.


  5. deanna says:

    Thanks, Beth. Lots of memories come up from when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s still living and thriving but will die, as will I. It’s as real as the need in your good reminder to dwell on the life. We were made that way. But it’s definitely a journey and process when a dear one fights for life. Take care and hug your brother tight whenever you can.


  6. Wisdom.
    Thanks for posting the follow-up about your brother. We’ve been thinking about him and you.
    And you’re right about everything. Surviving, thriving, and dying. To take every day as the last and still hope and look for the best. All of us.
    When I was in treatment I collected survivor stories as inspiration, so here’s my favorite (after my own). The year my mother was 55, she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She had a radical mastectomy followed by months of chemo that turned her inside out. Thankfully, there are better anti-emetics now and few people suffer that way today. Mom gutted out the treatment with a good attitude and prayer. She’ll be 84 in January and is still the rock of the family.
    One day at a time, Steve will make the journey and there is good reason to hope he’ll be with you when he’s 84.


  7. Wow, Beth . This post just is everything. Again.
    Kathleen ~ your mother sounds amazing.


  8. Denny Coates says:

    One thing I learned from Kathleen’s cancer is that her journey as a patient and survivor was quite a bit different from mine as a caregiver. I didn’t want it that way. I wanted to share the journey. But I couldn’t share her journey. Even though I was by her side, I couldn’t share the surgery, the radiation, the chemo, the debilitation, the fear.
    That separateness in spite of great love is one of the amazing realities I discovered.
    Kathleen literally did everything she could do. Now your brother will do that, and there’s every possibility he’ll beat it, and survive, just as so many millions do every year.
    You can be a great support to your brother, and figuring out how to do that is what you’re faced with now. You can do a lot. What you do will come from your great love and compassion, and I know you’ll do all you can do, what you decide are the best things.


  9. “The point is to make it a good one, not just a long one, to figure out how to love each other and then, by God, do it” Amen Sister. With drum beats, good thoughts and light a friend sends love :0)


  10. Loretta M says:

    With you as his sister, I know his fight will be strong. M.D. Anderson is the place to be for his situation. Praying that 2010 brings healing, recovery, and renewal to your brother and to the whole family.


  11. I hope he is sustained by your fierce passion, your honesty–I know I am.


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