Cancer and Day of the Dead

9:45 a.m. Nov. 9, 2016 … The day after election day

Dear Diary,

There is so much I want to say to you. First, I have to write about the most important news! I’ve been in remission from advanced-stage ovarian cancer for an entire year!  I’m feeling pretty good. Some people with advanced-stage ovarian cancer never even get into remission, so I know that I am one of the very lucky ones. I’m really concerned that it might come back since it does 70 percent of the time, but as Andy often says, “Someone has to be in the 30 percent, so why shouldn’t it be you?” Maybe it will be me. Remember when I was bald as a baby’s bottom?

Staceybald2

Chemo made me bald. I felt like a bad-ass walking around bare-headed.

Having cancer was brutal on so many fronts. But it does feel good to not think about it coming back every minute of the day. Some days I don’t think about it much, but other days I feel really scared and I can’t let it go. I think this is how a lot of people feel. Attending Day of the Dead festivities in Patzcuaro gave me much to ponder about death and dying. More about this in a minute.

Like many people I know, I’m pretty distraught about the election results, but I’m trying to focus on being grateful that we live in a democracy and that people have the luxury for voting for who they want to vote for. I’m surprised more of my friends haven’t shared that same opinion on Facebook.  I’m just so, so sad that our country is so divided, but I’m happy that I’m not in the U.S. to feel this rift day in and day out. That’s a big blessing, I think.

Early this morning, after I found out about the election results, I started wondering what will happen if  soon-to-be President Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). What will I do about health insurance? What will Andy do?  Will we be able to afford insurance?  Will we go back to a system where applicants can be denied for having a pre-existing conditions? If this happens, I’m screwed. Will I have to move back to the U.S. and return to the workforce to get health insurance? Will Andy? I’m scared. I can’t dwell on this, though. I have living left to do. Sunsets to see, warm oceans to swim in, cold beers to enjoy. I just can’t focus on all this negativity! It’s not how I want to live my life. I have so much to be thankful for.  I’d much rather focus on that.

So now on to the positive. I had such a great time at Day of the Dead in Patzcuaro. I felt really happy to be celebrating alongside so many lovely indigenous people. We had an amazing time visiting their cemeteries on our nighttime tour, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. It was super cool to see so many people celebrating the lives of their loved ones, instead of mourning them. (On Noche de Muertos, many families sit graveside all night long and welcome the return, in spirit, of their loved ones. The graves are lavishly decorated, and it’s also cool that people bring the dearly departed’s favorite foods and drinks to the altars, as they’ll be hungry and thirsty when they return.)

When my time comes, I’d love it if people would celebrate my life, instead of mourn me. I’d be so honored if people would come to my graveside once a year and celebrate my spirit (and bring some good beer and vodka for me). Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for me to die if I knew my life would be celebrated instead of mourned?

The whole tradition is great. I love the fact that in Mexican culture, death isn’t something to be feared. When I was visiting the two graveyards on our Night of the Dead tour, a true sense of peace and calm came over me. It was kind of surreal. I want to keep that feeling inside me because it helped me feel no so scared of dying. It made me feel like it could be and would be OK, right?  Anyway, it was really awesome. Aren’t these photos great?  I had so much fun getting my face painted (which many, many Mexicans do in celebration of the holiday)!

dayofthedeadalter

patzcuaro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oaxaca-day-of-dead-altar-by-borisnightchurch

dayofthedeadskulls

In other news (back to the election), I now really feel like an outsider in Mexico. I feel like the average Mexican will judge me because I’m American, and they will think I don’t like them and that I support building a wall. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth, but walking down the street now feels funny. I feel like people are judging me. I decided I had to tell others that not all Americans feel like Trump and his minions do, so I posted the following on the Facebook page “On the Road in Mexico.”

“I am not celebrating the decrease of the peso against the dollar. I want Mexico to have a strong economy for all of its businesses and for the extremely hard-working citizens who reside in this amazing country. I want to pay my landlords a fair price for my lovely rental and I would gladly pay an extra dollar or two for a nice dinner out. I do appreciate the good value living here provides, but at what cost?  If you are a Mexican resident reading this posting, let me publicly state that I love your country, I love your people and I respect and appreciate how warmly I have been received since I moved here in May. Please do know that you are valued, loved and appreciated by many. I am so honored to be a guest in your country. I am sorry the next U.S president and some of my American counterparts feel differently.”

Mostly expats go onto that page, but people seem to appreciate the posting and a lot of them have made nice comments.

In other news … Life with mom is good. So far it’s been fun living in the same town with her after all these years of living 2,500 miles apart. She’s giving Andy and me plenty of space to do our own thing. Sometimes I wish she wanted to do more stuff. I’ve asked her to go swimming with me in the pool at her condo complex three or four times, but she always says no and I can’t understand why. It’s a nice pool! It’s hot. Why doesn’t she want to take a dip?  And she’s not a fan of going out for coffee, either, something we love to do. But today she did join us at Zihuatanejo’s newest coffee shop, Quattro. She seemed to like it. We went for  a pedicure this week and it was fun. I like when she comes over for dinner and when she cooks for us on the one night a week we stay the night over at her place. She’s a much better cook than I am and whatever she makes always tastes great. A few nights ago she made a fantastic shrimp and coconut milk stew. Tremendous.

I guess that’s all I want to say for now. Thanks for listening. I gotta split. Mom has a friend in town whom I haven’t seen in years. We’re all going out for a nice dinner tonight and I’m going to meet her new husband.

Adios.

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16 thoughts on “Cancer and Day of the Dead

  1. Another beautiful blog post. You have once again brightened my day. You perspective on what it’s like to be an American in Mexico post US election was something I didn’t even think about. Continue to Live Well – Happy & Healthy in Mexico my dear friend! oxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YAY!!! re the one year remission! You not only can do this, you WILL DO THIS! After all…you already are. : ) I am so happy for you. Only face the direction you want to go. God said it came to pass He didn’t say it came to stay. Bless you.

    P.S. Any chance your mom would share her recipe for shrimp and coconut milk stew? That sounds sooooooo good!

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  3. Ah, yes. Living with ovarian cancer. I can relate. I haven’t officially been told I am in remission but one doctor said I had nothing to worry about!! And that made me happy. I live in the state of Nayarit and was diagnosed here in Mexico. I have used Seguro Social for all my treatment and cannot say enough good things about the system. I know a lot of folk have wildly different experiences with IMSS, but for me, I have nothing but praise.
    So yes, we go on each day wondering what’s next. Always a fear in the back of our minds. I guess one day, if I am luckily, the fear will slip away. Looking forward to that!
    Bueno suerte with your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on your remission anniversary! That must feel pretty darn good. I completely understand and agree with you about the election. Although we have no serious pre-existing conditions, my husband and I both receive health insurance through the ACA, and it has been a very good thing for us, since we receive a subsidy. The insurance we have would be completely unaffordable without it. We have discussed returning to Mexico, given the election results, but I hadn’t thought about the fact that Mexicans might hate us now! Hopefully this will pass in time. No one seems to seriously think “the wall” will be built, as it is far too expensive. Suspect it was just one of those campaign promises that turns out to be meaningless — except for the damage it does to US-Mexican relations. Sigh. We love Mexico and the Mexican people and hope that they will understand that more than half of the voters in the US did NOT vote for Trump and, indeed, dislike him as much as they do! I hope you won’t suffer any ill treatment because of your nationality; that would be a real shame.

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    • Thank you for your comment and for reading my blog. The last few days have been tough but we seem to be handling it OK. We are in a tourist town and Mexicans usually are quite lovely to tourists here. Still, it’s a sad time for our nation. I hope we can heal quickly.

      Stacey

      Liked by 1 person

      • First I must tell you that I love your story. Your so brave to follow your dreams in light of what you’ve been thru and continue to fight. Your an inspiration to others!
        I’m a Canadian and live only 45 minutes from the USA. It’s funny because as Canadians we watched your election very close and would weigh in on it like it was our election. Even here the conversations with friends and relatives would sometimes take a heated track as opinions were shared about Trump. The USA has always been like a big brother to us. I not a fan of Trump however I have faith that he will do right by the American people. He seems like the kinda guy who wants to wear the hero cape lol.
        I can see where it would be hard being an American in Mexico right now following his ignorant comments about Mexicans. He needs to educate himself better……. just because there are a few bad apples in a bunch it doesn’t make them all bad. So many kind people in this world with big hearts that stretch further then our own back yards. I listen to the news each morning and hear of violent acts both here in Canada as well as the USA by Canadians and Americans we need to remember that before we judge others. If it helps I can send you and your hubby a couple of Canada t-shirts lol (a disguise until the dust settles). You’ll have to learn to say “eh!” at the end of each sentence too.
        Well thanks again for your story it’s refreshing to read. I wish you and your hubby all the best. Soak up the sun and have a cold drink for all of us who are cheering you on.
        Lavarre

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  5. Your resilience, optimism, and love for life — even in the face of cancer and the shocking results of Tuesday’s election — are such inspiration to me and no doubt to the many other people who read your blog. Go Stacey!!

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  6. Thanks for this article; it really helped… on both issues of coming to terms with death and coming to terms with the election (no comparison implied by putting them both in the same sentence). I’m 41 and consider myself pretty spiritual, but I’ve been struggling with both these topics. I generally believe things work out for the best, but I never took an election so hard in my life; I had to stay off social media and away from TV pretty much since it happened. It was so upsetting. And on the topic of mortality, well, all I can say is I always thought I would grow old gracefully and accept the end with wisdom and serenity – so it’s come as a real surprise to find out how scared I actually am. I enjoyed reading about a different cultural approach… it’s funny I watched a cute animated movie with my kids a while back called “Book of Life” about this Day of the Dead celebration, but even then the message didn’t quite sink in… I guess because it was just a cartoon with a typical love story at its center. Anyway, just wanted to tell you how much this article was appreciated.

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