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Death Sentence
Death Sentence/Sitting with a Comrade in Silence. (Mouse Over)

(Kim: That was very beautiful. I will do something tonight about the waiting room, and you and the woman sitting there in silence. My dad was tribal too...he said he wouldn't trade the life of one of his for 1000000 kids that he didn't know. My mom cared about everyone, though she probably would have made the same choice.

In my dream I was shooting a rifle, in a war that took place on a farm. I missed, even though I shot both barrels of the shotgun. Then I was in my house, still with the gun. I put the safety on the gun and was practicing holding it.

Part of the exhibit about cancer that Mary Seager and I did depicted the room (all shiny white) where a woman would get a phone call telling her she'd need to come in for another test. We got a nurse to let us record her voice as she would deliver the death sentence day after day.

I wonder who is responsible when people don't understand us?

Got a meeting at the Millenium hotel at 715...am...and it is cold...)


Dear Kim:

The glow of my good news was undercut yesterday afternoon by the probable diagnosis of another woman's cancer.

I was sitting in the waiting room and began chatting with another woman there. It is such a strange environment, emotionally, as people wait to be screened and then given their news.

They tend to either isolate and sit very quietly or to make the kind of small talk that women do, the kind of social lubricant at which we excel. Except that the small talk quickly moves into cancer talk., Do you or don't you? If you do, when did you? How did you? How are you?

It gets down to brass tacks pretty quickly.

It is now predicted that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life time.

1 in 7.

I remember when it was 1 in 11.

I thought the woman near me was using a cell phone and i was curious how she was getting reception in the building She said it wasn't a cell phone, it was one of those video games. That she was trying to distract herself.

I said I was writing holiday cards, trying to distract myself, too

Then we discussed the fact that we had both had had cancer. Only she has had a recurrence before.

They called her back in and said they needed to do yet another view.

They did that to me last year.

Scary.

They came out to tell me that I had good news.

I looked at her and knew that she thought that her news was not going to be good. In fact, she was sure of it. She dropped something she was holding.

I picked it up and asked if there was anything I could do for her. And she said, no. That whatever it was, was God's will.

And I could see that even though she is a very religious woman, she was still really scared.

I sat with her for a few minutes and then there was nothing more to do, really. So I told her I would pray for her and said good bye.

And as I was walking home, my relief at being ok--- at least--- for another year, was undercut by the knowledge that so many women are not. And that was brought home so clearly by the proximity of another woman, who was suffering.

I would never tell this story to my mother. My mother is very tribal. And the demarcations of her boundaries are very clear.

I can just imagine her saying,"But you're ok. You don't even know this woman. Why can't you just focus on the fact that you're ok?"

She doesn't understand me. Even after all these years. Or maybe, she knows what my reactions to some things might be but doesn't understand how I arrive there.

And I don't understand how any of us can take full pleasure in something when someone else's pain is so palpable.

Later,

Joan

Tuesday, Dec 20, 2005

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