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Migrating…

Yellow Diaries is moving to http://blog.lisaraniray.com/

Let’s not think of this as change

But a glorious uncertainty when it comes to uniformity

Come to a new place of refuge where I can share my Battle Fatigue and ‘Sharpen your Saw’

http://blog.lisaraniray.com

I’m back from Rishikesh.

The holy city of hindus. Located in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas.

Ganga darshan.

A glimpse beyond the bag of bones.

Spiritual theatre

Passed many shaven pilgrims. I have a new vision of myself now. In this city of mystics, mendicants and seekers, my tonsured head blends in.

My dad and I sat by the side of the Ganges and dipped our fingers in the sacred river. He placed his hand on the crown of my head, leaving droplets in my pilgrim fuzz. We watched the faithful immerse themselves. Flashes of flesh, fabric flung away, a human ache meets the waters.

The waters cleanse it all away.

It is said.

More on the gathering place of the Rishis later…

On the B side, Cooking with Stella will be releasing in Canada soon.

Remember vinyl records? There was an A side and a B side.

India right now feels like the A side of my life.

A message from Dusty in Dilip Mehta’s office:

The Indian Film Festival of Las Angeles has invited Cooking with Stella to be a Gala presentation during their festival (April 20-24).

The festival would like the Gala presentation to also be a benefit screening to help raise awareness and support for the Myeloma Research Centre in California (http://www.imbcr.org/ ).

Another yellow memo:

We are very interested in educating Ms. Ray about the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research in Los Angeles, California. Our offices, located near Beverly Hills on Sunset near Doheny house a comprehensive oncology clinic and state-of-the-art research laboratory.  Our CEO and Founder, Dr. James R. Berenson is one of the leading physician/researchers in the field and has created many of the novel therapeutic drug compounds used by myeloma patients world-wide.  The Institute works with most of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies on testing and designing new myeloma drug therapies.  Dr. Berenson is an international speaker on the subject and has published over 700 professional papers on the diagnosis, treatment and potential cure for myeloma.  More information on Dr. Berenson can be found at www.berensononcology.com.
The news of Ms. Ray’s continued improvement is certainly encouraging, and I understand that she’s currently seeing treatment at Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, ONT and not Los Angeles.  I know that Dannielle and Brinda are located in Los Angeles, not far from our lab and offices.  If Ms. Ray is ever in the Los Angeles area, we would delight in giving her a tour of our impressive facility, introduce her to Dr. Berenson (sought by myeloma patients world-wide for his second-opinion consults) and maybe… get her autograph!  We are big fans!
If Ms. Ray could kindly “link” our website, www.imbcr.org on her blog– we would certainly appreciate the exposure.  If you or Ms. Ray have any questions, or would like to speak with Dr. Berenson regarding Ms. Ray’s treatment – please do not hesitate to contact me to arrange a consult.
We look forward to your response,
Cheryl A. Cross, MPH
Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research
310-406-1035 direct
866-900-1035 toll free

And here’s a must-read article about MMRF Founder and CEO Kathy Giusti. The article discusses in Kathy’s own words, her experience living with Multiple Myeloma, her advice for patients and families living with a diagnosis and describes the instrumental role Kathy’s pharmaceutical and business background has played in the MMRF’s success in advancing the next generation of treatment.

http://www.parade.com/health/2010/02/25-kathy-giusti-misson-to-cure-multiple-myeloma.html?index=2

Kathy was diagnosed at 37, just like myself.

She is a Yellow Warrior. And my special Guru. I called Kathy a few months before, in the middle of a watery moment during chemo. As the liquid burned through my veins my mind turned to crisis.

And then Kathy was on the line. She somehow placed her hand on my brow, from a distance.

And I felt calm.

Just as I had sitting at dusk today, by the river with my father.

Sometimes the world is so beautiful and so fierce I can feel my heart tear.

I would like to be around for some time more.

Bobcat just had knee surgery. With my seeking on the ‘A side’, and Bobcat healing ‘B side’, we maintain a strange symmetry. Still, I wish I was close.

And a message from Rahulji in Goa:

Please come back soon. No one does handstands on the beach with me anymore!!

And Tishani is finishing all the ganaches before we get to them…

ah yes. I haven’t written on Goa yet because I’m trying to formulate a way to do it without reference to exact location. My friends are adamant of protecting the privacy of their favourite resort.

Time is coming to flow down from a higher place to sea.

Like the sacred river.

I land in Mumbai on February 15th.

The immigration officer looks at my passport, glances up at me, looks down again then fixes me with a stare

‘Madam….’

A pause. Is my Visa legible? I really need to get my PIO card sorted.

‘Why you no have hair?’

And while it’s tempting to lean forward and whisper, ‘Shampoo- very expensive’ I’m travel weary and mindful of my special cargo. World’s best and possibly freshest stem cells. My yellow babies are crying out for a nap.

‘Because I just had a stem cell transplant’

One can never look sincere enough for an official.

‘For the Cancer’ I offer helpfully.

Officer Shirodkar nods knowingly.

‘Yes, yes. Medical tourist.’

And with that, I have no choice but to surrender to this place.

India is my most complex lover. And I’ve had complicated relationships. Believe me.

With this infuriatingly endearing exchange behind me, I touch the soil of the most infuriatingly endearing land I have ever known.

Who am I showing up as?

A courtesan, a wounded child, a seeker, a poser, a believer?

A celebrity?

Or just a medical tourist.

buh.

‘Alighting Point’ it says in the Chennai airport. And its a good place to begin. I cannot comprehend the whole. Not yet. But the narrative needs a place to begin.

And India moves quicker than my eye.

I’ve packed wigs for my Rado store appearances in Bangalore and Chennai. Not to pretend. Not for approval’s sake. But because it occurs to me that my scalp may be shiny. Don’t want to blind any photographers during our store promotions.

Ok maybe I am a little apprehensive. It’s my first public appearance.

So I trot out my ‘First Lady’ hair helmets for Aarti and Ujjala’s approval. Will it be the flirty bob or the heavy, long mane? I’m just going for less Nancy Reagan and more Michelle Obama.

At some point the ‘Nancy Reagan’ lands up on Aarti’s head.

‘When one is fat, there are certain things you should not do in public…you should not eat chicken legs- or wear a short hairpiece’

Aarti’s delivery rivals Ricky Gervais. Or any other comic of the moment.

And she’s beautiful. Even without working to be less weighty.

Which brings me back to my own pilgrimmage. I’ve got the shrinks. I’ve shed my steroid induced wetsuit, my immunity is no longer making jokes at my expense. I’ve shrugged off my fat brush moonface like a heavy winter coat.

But I am not what I was before.

Now I can discern the difference between an image that communicates and one that manipulates.

Mostly I see India moving towards the second of the options.

So I feel expansive in new ways. I will not beat my flesh back into size zero submission. It has to be enough just to radiate health. Which in my case, is as hard won and precarious as any Bollywood starlet’s latest role.

At the store opening, I will be interviewed by Barkha Dutt. The ‘First Lady’ of Indian television journalism. I find myself tugging self-consciously at my First Lady hair. One of the PR girls expresses concern over the impending interview.

‘She makes people cry. She makes them reveal things they never have before’

Another yellow warrior.

Bring it on.

Tug, tug.

Afterwards, someone brings me the India Today. On the cover is an image from my blog. I’m thrilled- and puzzled. This is a surprise. I’ve always wanted to be featured on this cover but somehow the Indian version of Time neglected to let me know. Kinda like your friends organising your Birthday party, in your neighbour’s house. You hear the commotion next door and wonder why you weren’t invited- and isn’t it weird no one’s shown up to wish you on your big day?

Infuriatingly endearing.

And thanks.

Because mostly it strikes me:

This is an image that doesn’t manipulate. At least I hope not.

Thank you India Today for urging people to see and feel.

Illness is alchemy.

Back to Business

Back to the business of blogging

It’s been a while. Of moving from highlight to highlight. And then not writing about it. Cause the heart is not simply suspended in a body. It’s also linked to time and place.  So there’s a heavy in my chest, after all these months of membership in the Cancer Club. And if there’s a way to separate it all, I haven’t figured that one out.

‘Take a break.’

That’s Doc Galal. First appointment after the stem cell transplant.

‘I mean now take a break from the disease. No thinking about cancer, no writing about cancer, no talking about it either.’

Sure thing Doc. Except…

Minutes ago, in the waiting room, a row of faces swivelled towards me as I sat down.

‘Are you Lisa?’ Pleasant expressions up and down the line.

‘Ah, yes.’ Flash of pride.

A pause. Barometer changes. Brows lower.

‘Update your blog.’

Buh.

I’m pulling myself from the wreckage of my body. Operation stem cell reboot is a morphine-memory. My blood counts climb, I no longer count an IV pole as my closest companion, my father is relieved of his cot duty and I’ve banked all six seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

No offense Larry, but I’d rather not see you for a while.

So why the anxiety now?

I’m touching shadow instead of  bright. Having less real problems and more imaginary ones.

The crisis is over but the healing has just begun.

And dammit if there isn’t a protocol for how to witness your own rebirth.

Amidst all the mixed signals, Jess points me in the direction of some relief.

Go see Anne Davis. She’s gifted in the ways of the body.

Anne is a cranial sacral therapist. My mind is so busy these days, I have no space to admit the ‘what’. I’ve never tried this therapy before and I’d rather know nothing about it. I want to melt into the bed and leave the sentences at the door.

But wouldn’t you know it. Anne spreads me thinner than a shrimp roll wrapper and then she speaks..

This is your time to sit back and watch. The period of action and treatment is over. It’s like you have thrown a pebble into the lake, now you only need to set an intention and watch the ripples.

Cool. A hint.

I take this as a cue to leave Canada.

I hope I’m not running away. In my experience the act of physically extracting oneself from a confusing situation means you end up carrying all your baggage with you . And I don’t mean the checked in kind.

But this idea of simply being, getting out of my own way, is appealing. Certainly less action oriented than ‘picking up the pieces’. And while nobody offers a blueprint on what to do after checking out of the Cancer club, the idea is that you do something.

Anything?

Maybe I need a mission statement. I’ve taken to reading a lot of self-help, financial books in the vein of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’. And it seems that to be wildly successful, you need to have some sort of plan. Which never occurred to me before.

So here goes…

I want to make visible what wasn’t before.

Or…

from a Borges poem which Sol sent:

I’ll try to make more mistakes- I won’t try to be so perfect.

Probably won’t find that in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Somewhere, somehow the pursuit of perfection has lodged itself in my very marrow. From making lists to vaulting over myself to achieve, these manifestations of a lack have seeped into the deepest, most secret part of myself.

A lack.

If I don’t try to be perfect, it will mean that I am.

All I’m trying to say is that I do not want the Cancer to come back.

Therefore something must change from before.

See- I have become more logical. Thanks Robert Kiyosaki.

I’m reminded of Michael Pinto the undertaker in Bombay.

‘Grave Problems Resurrected here’

That’s so not gonna happen.

Not on my resurrection.

That’s why I’m posting from Landour. Seven thousand five hundred feet above sea level.

Or according to the Lal Tibba Binocular Complex:

‘Highest peak of mussorie  from where you can see an exhilarating all around view of the Himalayan ranges through the most powerful binoculars.’

I’m in India. Posting from a higher place.

To see what I didn’t see before.

Most exhilarating view.

So this new chapter opens with a message from Aarti calling for Rado…

Oops. Dinnertime here at Landour.

More tomorrow…

Resolution 2010

Yellow Signs 2010

A quick yellow post-it

I’m out!

Looking for the first yellow signs of 2010

Stem Cell Transplant:

It was an odyssey. A trip to the core. The marrow had its way. Now I’m full of cheerful stem cells, like fields of sunflowers I travel inside and watch them turn their small, yellow faces towards me. They giggle and beam.

Go forth and multiply.

I am thankful to the care and attention I got at Henderson Hospital in Hamilton. I will write more.

Thankful to my father. Yellow thanks to Bobcat, Noni and Chris, Tina and Peter and Rose all super commuters. They came to infuse yellow into saline drip. Giggle, laugh, talk, read me out of my Diloted drowse. Shamim and Hanan for daily calls. Doc Raina for daily mantras, daily prayers and daily SMSs. Sindi for the inspiration. Namrata for keeping the sisterhood aflame. Deepa for words to float by.

Many Yellow souls unfolded before my bleary eyes.

And thank you Yellow Diarists. Know that your love and support hit the mark.

Time for a nap.

Napattack!

That’s just how it’s gonna be for a while.

To all Fellow Yellow Diarists, Enlightened Friends and Supporters

There has been such a constant outpouring of love and generosity since I began the Yellow Diaries. As I prepare for the final leg of my treatment for Multiple Myeloma, a lot of you have asked how you can continue to support this journey.
First know that I am grateful for all your open hearted responses already.
Second: please do not illegally download the films into which Shamim, Hanan, Sheetal and I have poured our creative energies. Purchase The World Unseen and I Can’t Think Straight from the Enlightenment website and you will be supporting not just the films we created, but future film projects made with passion and integrity. Without this support, there will be no more. In addition, we the artists collectively cannot sustain ourselves financially if you are watching the fruit of our labour for free. Think about it- its difficult enough to remain true to your vision and passion. Working with Shamim and Hanan has been deeply inspiring and I would like to work with them again and again. I would like to continue to make my living as a actor committed to working on projects which illuminate and provoke. This can only happen if you express your support by buying the films.

Happy Holidays and a Yellow Wish for all-
Love,
Lisa

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