Written on the Body, #20. May 13, 2020. Mother’s Day and Beyond

Hello — I know it’s been about a month since I’ve written; the days seem to slide by — as someone said, “day, day, day, day.” On the other hand, I am feeling well, and the time at home would pass pleasantly — as neither Roger nor I have work to go to, and most of our family is too far away to see regularly. We do miss their occasional visits; Zoom calls are great, but not like seeing family and friends in person. I know this Mother’s Day was strange — with few hugs and face-to-face visits; perhaps waves in the yard of a nursing home, or a zoom call, or meeting in person but 6 feet apart. I spoke with my son and his partner, and also thought about my mother Viola, my grandmother Rose, my great-grandmother Mary — all in memory now — and my two living aunts, one each on my mother’s and my father’s side, both (coincidentally) named Jackie.

Meanwhile…as Stephen Colbert says… my son and his family continue to go hiking on Vancouver Island, in relative safety and isolation; he just sent me an amazing photograph of rock formations in an embankment:

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somewhere on Vancouver Island,

I have just passed the first year of chemotherapy treatment: as I told my oncologist, I have had a much better year than I expected when I was diagnosed in February 2019. I am not only alive but enjoying life — even in the midst of the pandemic, which has now, like the cancer itself, become something I am living with, along with many others. My heart goes out to people who are ill from this, or who have lost loved ones, or who are struggling financially — and to people to have no homes to shelter in, or only makeshift ones.

In terms of my treatment, the oncologist wants to try a new drug (one newly-engineered in the past few years), specifically for people with my type of cancer and who have been on another gold-standard drug for a while (Herceptin, one of the 3 meds i have been taking). This combination has stopped the cancer from spreading further (beyond my esophagus and liver), and actually helped shrink the esophageal tunour. It seems that a few of the liver lesions are becoming resistant to the drugs, as often happens, and this new one could help overcome that situation. It sounds promising, and is supposed to have only mild side-effects. I am waiting to hear about the details of the treatment protocol, but it will probably start in late May or early June. I’ll keep you posted!

I have been doing some editing, helping a friend with poetry about the pandemic, and also writing some new poems — partly in response to contests on-line. CV2 magazine still had its annual contest, giving poets 10 words (a few ordinary, some extra-ordinary or obscure) which you have to incorporate into a poem over one weekend (48 hours), 48 lines or less. Do you know what peristeronic means? Neither did I, until now. And the Power Plant, a gallery at Toronto’s Harbourfront, had its first ekphrastic poetry contest – poetry about art, specifically for poets during the lock-down. They showed 5 images of art installations that had been shown at the Power Plant in previous years and invited poets to choose one to write about. It was fun and interesting (even though I didn’t win). Won’t hear about the CV2 contest until July.

I am very impressed by how many writers, artists, musicians, even theatre people and dancers are finding ways to publish and perform work on line. The Art Bar in Toronto is continuing its weekly Tuesday night readings, with poets creating videos at home. My friend Jaclyn Piudik did one this past Tuesday and I will be one of the poets featured on July 21. Stay tuned for more information. Also J.J. Steinfeld in P.E.I. had a play, The Star of David, performed at an on-line theatre festival in Jersey City, Eleanor Albanese did a facebook launch for her new novel, “If Tenderness Be Gold,” from her daughter’s backyard in Montreal….and there are many more examples. Congratulations to all! Not quite the same as being there, but way better than nothing.

And here is the link to an interview that appeared in the Saskatchewan-chapter newsletter of CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers). I wrote it several months ago — before COVID-19 was front and center, or even about to make its entrance onstage — and I was actually surprised to see that I mentioned how I enjoyed writing in “cafes, trains, planes,” and other public places. Maybe again someday — or maybe not. We are moving into a very different world, I think, even when the worst of the crisis is over. Whenever that will be. We are becoming familiar with living with uncertainty. https://skcanscaip.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/meet-our-national-members-ellen-jaffe/

I do get a bit overzoomed sometimes, and need time-outs. I’ve found a great oatmeal cookie recipe to make, and also bake our favourite muffins. I read books that have been on the shelf for a while. We managed to do our tax returns by Zoom and email — kudos to our tax people, Artbooks, for helping to keep their staff and their clients safe,and still do the work. And we’ve made some food for a neighbour who has been quite sick with diabetes. I have a cousin in New York who had a mild case of COVID-19, and know about a friend’s uncle in a nursing home in Ontario who died from the virus. The pandemic has certainly shown how nursing homes and long-term care homes really need reform of their policies and ways of operating.). And I am saddened by the news that a friend is very ill with cancer — though she is at peace, and glad to see the May flowers one more time. So each day continues to unfold.

Be well. Be safe. As my friend Sharon said before she died, 4 years ago, “Enjoy everything.”

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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