Sappho and Erinne 1864
Amazon ABC - Alix Dobkin
I just posted this at breastcancer.org and am too tired to write an update. So, here you go!
It's lovely to see you here too, just the boost of courage I need to "come out".
We've met up at the MBC (mets only)forum at https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/8
After years of being directed to bco by google searches, I finally joined last November to meet Rosevalley and participate in the dying and death community at https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/8/topics/770023
I quickly joined the holistic health community as I've engaged holistic, natural and integrative healing for many decades.
Then, I wandered over to this community and became tongue-tied...Did I want to "come out" as a lesbian at bco? I was already involved in two often controversial communities, but much worse, I have been done with active treatment, scans, blood tests, interventions, etc. since going on hospice nearly a year ago. And, I didn’t feel that I fit in here.
When members of this community write of being done with treatment, they clearly mean finishing treatment for earlier stage breast cancer, not giving up treatment to die.
The fear of recurrence is often palpable in this community. Meanwhile, I've been living with active disease for over 25 years.
And members write about going flat as if it's new territory, while I've gone without breasts, prostheses or camouflage since early 1991.
Since I don't have a partner or offspring, I can't even bond over those topics.
So, I haven’t written.
Yet, a recent conversation with my hospice doctor has convinced me that there is a lesbian way of death that often differs from those in the more mainstream culture.
When he visited, I said, perfect timing, I’d just finished my book. He asked about it and I showed him Jeanne Cordova’s book WHEN WE WERE OUTLAWS: A Memoir of Love & Revolution about her life of lesbian activism in LA during the mid-1970s LA. (1)
If you don’t know her story, you can read more about her at her website or blog. (1,2) Her farewell letter as she’s dying of cancer in 2015, tells me I’m not the only one doing cancer the lesbian way!
My friend, Mary Bryson, did research on queer women and cancer in the SF Bay Area and is producing a series of videos and research projects called Cancer’s Margins Project:LGBT2Q Cancer Health and Care Experiences. (3) Through her, I learned that the queer cancer experience isn’t typical of mainstream culture.
And I learned of Carol Trasatto’s excellent guidebook, Conscious Caregiving: Plant Medicine, Nutrition, Mindful Practices to Give Ease, through the publication Lesbian Connection. For those who engage/enjoy holistic healing and dying, the book is a must-have. (4).
The hospice care doctor then asked me how he can train colleagues, caregivers and community members to better serve lesbian patients. I know enough of his lesbian staff to know he works well with his staff and after 5 ½ years as his patient, I know he is respectful with us. So, I opened up and talked about our issues and our strengths. I explained about community, especially those of us who came together decades ago through lesbian-feminism. I made sure to distinguish between the assimilationist and queer folks. And spoke of the special needs of LGBT folks who lived in the closet or are being forced into the closet as they need personal care of those who “love the sinner, but hate the sin” or come from different cultures and religions that don’t accept or approve of us or our “lifestyles”. He didn’t understand why folks would choose to identify as queer, since it was a pejorative term in his youth.
The hospice doctor shared that most of his dying gay men patients are supported by a partner, but dying lesbians are usually supported and represented by a partner and a group of friends.
I’ve experienced the phenomena of friends caring for dying loved ones (LGBT and not) many times…sometimes it’s a gathering of queer friends, sometimes a mash-up.
As I’m coming to the end of my very particular, very lesbian-identified life, a mixed-orientation caring circle has risen around me. I’m so very grateful and would like offer, there may be a lesbian way of death particular to us that reflects our lesbian-feminist roots.
Well, I’m exhausted again, just wanted to write in and come-out to this community, before I fade out to sleep, dream and to die soon.
Sending much loving kindness and fondness for all, Stephanie
PS, J., thanks for opening the door between forum 8 and this group! I wouldn’t have done this without you leading the way.
(1) WHEN WE WERE OUTLAWS: A Memoir of Love & Revolution
By Jeanne Córdova
(2) Jeanne Córdova: Notes from a Community Organizer
(3) Cancer’s Margins Project:LGBT2Q Cancer Health and Care Experiences
(4) Conscious Caregiving: Plant Medicine, Nutrition, Mindful Practices to Give Ease
By Carol Trasatto