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A Messy Life Musings

Canaries. Tipping Points. Deadly Toxins.

White Rose with Shadow
When I took this shot of the white rose and my shadow, I did not see the larger shadow looming behind me — the shadow of a factory spilling toxic ethylene oxide into the air I breathe. I did not see the loss of Ray to cancer. I did not see a mastectomy in my future.

Instead, I saw a moment, seized: creative play with a single rose and a camera. I saw a blue sky on a clear, crisp day. I saw children running, chasing each other in the playground of the daycare behind my home. I heard their excited shrieks and laughter, as my camera clicked away.

Canary in a coal mine.
For those who don’t know the phrase, miners would carry caged canaries down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases collected in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

I didn’t see canaries on the day I took that shot but, today, I hear their outcry in this community I love. I feel the panic of those around me who scramble to find the door out of this invisible cage within which we reside. I feel the pressure of broken trust and betrayal while the systems designed to protect us now dismiss us. I feel the heartbreak in the stories shared, all while this factory and some leaders insist there is nothing as wrong as “all that.” After all, who really knows what causes cancer in one and not another. Right? Continue reading “Canaries. Tipping Points. Deadly Toxins.”

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A Messy Life Musings

Breast Cancer. Kissing My Breast Goodbye.

Breast Cancer Bites. Kissing My Breast Goodbye

Written for every woman who lost, or is losing this intimate partner.

—–Originally posted, August 17, 2017, on my old website. Re-post worthy.—–

I find myself on the merging ramp to a mastectomy and wishing to yield, for just a moment, before this breast becomes a blurred memory in the traffic flow of life.

She is the part I must release to protect the whole, but she will not go without notice or appreciation for what she held space.

There is a body of experience in this sweet breast of mine. She and her sister were late bloomers. No doubt, I got that premature training bra because my mother was tired of fielding questions that always started with a whiny “When…”

As intimate partners go, both breasts have been first class. But she is the one that held space over my heart. For that I grieve her loss. I would love to kiss her for all that we’ve gone through together – but she is not that large nor I that agile.

Sound strange?

Our bodies are living, breathing temples that hold space for a fusion of body, mind, and spirit – from the most elemental level to the most sublimely sacred that life has to offer. And each part speaks to aspects of experience that leave imprints – clues – as to how we maneuver through and integrate events from the significant to the mundane.

Continue reading “Breast Cancer. Kissing My Breast Goodbye.”

Art, Mixed Media, Creativity

Cut And Paste Beyond Breast Cancer. When Art Heals.

Mixed medim art for breast cancer awareness by Bernadette Rose Smith

Stitched and stretched. That’s what I’ve titled this piece because that’s what breast cancer ushered in with every decision I had to make. Cut it. Stitch it. Now, stretch it beyond anything recognizable as you.

Life flew apart like confetti without a party. Not unlike my private-moment, mixed medium attempts at depicting this most bizarre journey. (And so shortly after losing Ray to cancer.) Countless bits and pieces of paper – glued, splattered, pealed back up, and reassembled with the best of intentions – were tossed in the trashcan next to me because they did not fit the picture as I had imagined.

The writer-me has freely spoken about her journey with breast cancer. The artist-me had not taken her shot at it. Quite frankly, she couldn’t get the writer to shut up long enough for the artist to quietly seat herself in the studio and ask, “How do you heal through this with art – not words?” Continue reading “Cut And Paste Beyond Breast Cancer. When Art Heals.”

A Messy Life Musings, Art, Mixed Media, Creativity

Healing Art, Mixed Media, and Paper Flowers.

Paper Flowers by Bernadette Rose Smith

I saw the vision of a woman. She coaxed me into the studio after these words popped onto the page of my journal one morning.

“He gave her paper flowers,
because he knew that she loved words.
Wax-pressed intent upon her heart,
that his voice within be heard.”

I thought this piece of art was finished when I framed and entered it in last year’s Artful Harvest show, hosted by my local art guild. Since then, she’s been hanging on a wall adjacent to my computer area. I walk by her every day.

Paper Flowers Close Up by Bernadette Rose Smith

She quietly holds space for me, like one of those tent cards that reserve your seat at a banquet table, waiting for me to venture back into the studio. Time in the studio, that once was Ray’s, comes with hurdles. It’s that grace and grief thing, creating a kind of chaos in my heart, healing through a cosmic codependency with my creative compadre, now on the other side of the veil after losing his fight with cancer. Expressing my creativity looks vastly different now as I work to heal beyond not only losing him, but also losing a breast to cancer just five months after his departure.   Continue reading “Healing Art, Mixed Media, and Paper Flowers.”

A Messy Life Musings

Dear Doctors, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer.

Dear Doctor, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer.

He didn’t have to die. Not the way he did. I write these words not for drama sake nor your pity and prayers. I have been silent, up to this point, in order to deal with my own health issue. But now that I am finished with what I hope to be my final big deal in this breast cancer journey, it’s time to speak up.

PLEASE NOTE: The article below was originally posted on my old blog. I am re-posting due to the latest revelations about the ethylene oxide emissions in my community. I am stunned. You will find the link to the update article at the bottom of this post. 

— — — — — — —

February 6, 2018

Denial never sustainably served anyone. I am not sweeping this under the rug. Consider this post a tiny ripple in a vast ocean of health care despair; urging attention, focus and advocacy for solutions in a health care system that breaks as many hearts — in what they miss and dismiss — as the diseases/conditions they work to cure.

“… Ray lived only 50 days beyond diagnosis and most of that in a hospital. And now, I am left to digest that it was a slow-growing cancer, missed by a medical system of specialists and primary care that only looked at their piece of the elephant. A blog for another day.” — Why I’m Not Fighting Cancer Again,  July 2017

Today is another day. Why today? Because on February 6, 2017, I was not sitting at a keyboard in front of a computer screen. I was sitting in the emergency room of a hospital an hour away from home, terrified that someone I loved lost his footing and fell between the cracks within the medical community that was supposed to help him — to the point that suicide now appeared his only option for relief. Continue reading “Dear Doctors, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer.”

A Messy Life Musings

Ray Died. I Got Breast Cancer. Ethylene Oxide. Medical Mayhem.

Covington Georgia Courthouse

In 2001, Ray and I bought a house in a neighborhood not far from a plant that uses ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment. It is a mutagen, meaning that it alters genetic material in cells, and is known by the EPA to cause cancer.

Ray and I didn’t know all that stuff when we moved into our 100-year-old mill house. Didn’t know that we needed to. We were excited about the creative venture of remodeling our new home, and looked forward to experiencing what life had to offer in Covington, Georgia, a small bedroom community east of Atlanta.

March 26, 2017, Ray died of cancer, found too late. Stage IV metastatic. In his liver, lungs, spine, and brain. Just 3 months after he died, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, invasive lobular carcinoma. The medical devices and supplies used in Ray’s final days at Emory Hospital, and used for my mastectomy at Piedmont/Rockdale Hospital, might very well have come from this medical equipment plant. A plant now on the radar for emissions that could have caused the cancer that took Ray and my breast.

With documented leakages, and questionable self-reporting of the emissions leaving their facilities, I guess we needed to know all that stuff after all. The watchdogs entrusted to do their jobs were sleeping, it seems. Or looking the other way.

Does anybody else see the irony here? A company that makes its money supplying hospitals and doctors with medical equipment also supplying hospitals and doctors with patients?

I can only label this as “full circle medical mayhem.” Continue reading “Ray Died. I Got Breast Cancer. Ethylene Oxide. Medical Mayhem.”

A Messy Life Musings

Competing with Your Past. Bernadette’s Messy Musings Takes On Bernadette’s Musings from the Messy Room.

Do Your Thing. Blog post by Bernadette Rose Smith in Bernadette's Messy Musings

Ever find yourself in competition with an old version of you, one that you’re trying to grow beyond because it’s in your best interest to do so, but it seems the world around you isn’t quite ready for the change—or even set against it?

Frustrating, isn’t it? And kind of scary when you are crawling out from a dark place, and your eyes haven’t adjusted to what the light-of-possibility has to offer you. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in any attempt to embrace a new life while moving on from an old you. Particularly if those around you react as if you belong to them, because of the role you play in their life.

Since I lost Ray and my breast to cancer, I have been vigilant in shaking loose from the bad stories that surface, in finding ways the present-me can thrive and coexist in peace with the past-me while she transitions through the sense of loss she feels some days.

A Glitchy Leap of Faith is Better than No Leap at All.
When the bots booted me out of Bernadette’s Musings from the Messy Room, (Bots. Bandwidth. Blah-Blah-Blah…) I chose to embrace the blank canvas forced upon me, and set about the business of creating a new home for the “next chapter Bernadette.” (About Now)

A few days ago, I decided to see how the new site was doing in the search engines. I typed in Bernadette’s Messy Musings, the present me, and Google showed Bernadette’s Musings from the Messy Room, the past me. So, I typed in Bernadette’s Messy Musings WordPress, and still got Bernadette’s Musings from the Messy Room. I typed in my name; pages and pages from the Messy Room stared back at me. Continue reading “Competing with Your Past. Bernadette’s Messy Musings Takes On Bernadette’s Musings from the Messy Room.”