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Life and love in La La Land

pixabay Los AngelesThis week finds me back in Los Angeles, where we lived for four years before moving to Michigan. 

It’s odd to be back. I can’t say I’ve missed driving here, and as the traffic stretches for miles around us, I’m mildly entertained by visions of the opening scene of La La Land, but alas…it’s just traffic.

I’m not a huge fan of Southern California for many reasons, but I have one unbreakable tie here—a soul sister I would do anything for—so when I had the opportunity to help her out, it wasn’t even a question. Marine is a mom of two, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a public school educator and peer coach for her colleagues. She edited Fl!p Your K!tchen for me, and she’s now writing not one but two books herself (because that’s Marine—never do anything half way).

I thought it would be refreshing to have someone else’s voice on my blog, so we’ve sent “the boys” (hers and mine, big and little) away to play disc golf while we “work.” (Because talking can be work, right?)

We’ve known each other since 2005—tell me about your memory of how we met?

I feel fortunate that I sat down next to you in the sandpit at Shane’s Inspiration in Griffith Park. We’d been to a USC football game that day, and you saw my t-shirt and struck up a conversation because Max worked there.

You invited a total stranger to Thanksgiving at your house the next week.

You gave me your phone number…and I never called you.

But then on Thanksgiving, I took a break from cooking and took H to the park. Max was there, too. I was calling to my son, and Max approached me and asked whether I was Marine.

“Liza’s been talking about you all week! You never called….”

And that, to paraphrase the movie, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Here we are 12 years later, I’m published, you’re about to be—so tell me about your books.

One is about the past, about being a teenager diagnosed with epilepsy and having overprotective parents who didn’t want to go public. And about my grandmother, who wrapped me in this mystical belief that I have special powers and would be able to get through this.

She became an open book—I knew I would write about her life, our life, how we came to this country. I went from thinking, “I’m going to die” to interviewing family members, jotting down ideas, so this first—or, actually, second—book has been long in coming.

But I’m calling the first work I’ll publish The Eight Faces of Cancer.

Um, speaking of going public…!

The idea for this book was born when my brother demanded to join me for phase two of chemo. It was his only day off that coincided with a treatment.

I assigned him with filling the four hours it would take, which was no mean feat: we had never spent four hours together as adults without a parent, a spouse (or two) or a child (or five) around. We spent the session randomly opening Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and talking about what we found on the page.

I was struck by gratitude and by how similar we had become despite taking very different life paths. It also hit me how different the previous session had been with his wife as my companion, how each session would be different.

This disease isn’t about medicine and what it’s doing to me internally—slowly poisoning me. It’s more about the lives that have been interwoven with mine, about those who won’t allow me to give up.

When I put my intention out there to write this book I didn’t have to dig for the eight faces: they just emerged…and some are actually squabbling about getting a slot. Some are family, some are people whose paths have crossed mine, and all of them are demanding a session.

I think that cancer poisons your mind and soul as much as your cells, and to truly heal, you have to become vulnerable.

How does being vulnerable look?

You have to let these fighters help carry you through. I’ve always taken care of others; releasing that tendency and allowing myself to be carried mentally/emotionally has been the hardest thing.

What has come of it?

It’s unfathomable. I would give my life for these people. There are no barriers any more. Friends, family—it’s deeper, like my energy source and theirs have merged. It’s hard to see where one stops and the other begins: I’ve become an energy vampire.

Tell me how that plays out in the book?

The book is divided into eight chapters, each about one individual who helped shape the journey. I’m going through an internal transformation from beginning to end, and hopefully the individuals who walk with me will, too.

It’s not about material things—it’s about the deeper truths of life that resonate within each of us: we only become stronger on this journey.

You’re half way through chemo—what’s next?

I’d like to finish the chemo…and the book!

I want to continue writing, help people make connections with themselves and their lives, appreciate the present moment. See my kids grow up. Give back to those people who have given to me.

I’ve had the privilege of reading the first three chapters of Eight Faces of Cancer, and they’re amazing—even in the rough draft stage. But the real privilege is knowing Marine.

And to Marine, who asked, “Why are you here? You came because I’m dying, didn’t you?” the answer is, “I’m here because you have to live.”

You can follow Marine’s journey on Twitter, on her blog, and in a forthcoming podcast!

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