Angels and Okra


Since June I have survived with the help of strangers and a hardy core team – angels all. As I careened from triumphant retirement from an arduous (how that definition keeps changing!) long distance clinical trial year to an unbelievably short cancer vacation interrupted by a truly shocking cancer surge, I found my situation too demanding to cope with my many friends’ confusions. My rollercoaster ride, after four years, seemed to jar many friends off the course back in June just as my own vocabulary and capacity for explaining what I have always expressed as a terminal path, diminished.

It's a challenging ride.

It’s a challenging ride.

My coping attitude was, “Seriously, YOU’RE confused?”

I dropped seeing folks. I didn’t have the energy to support external confusion about my saga. I knew our mutual love was as strong as ever but that we now had contrasting needs. I couldn’t educate beyond my blog right then.

My world was reduced but then re-expanded. A trusted core stayed present and new angels stepped forward. A neighbor in a basement apartment next door started leaving flowers and cheer. Old friends agreed to host me with no hesitation as I popped up needing a bed and a toilet to puke in – definitely not an ideal guest! – and the simple yet extraordinary lengths they went to, provided deep solace. The New Yorkers on buses and street corners who saw my moments of need and were there or just stepped aside.

When I relocated to Marin County, California for care I knew NO ONE and, worse yet, this was not a community (think suburbs and small towns) that you can operate in on your own. Cars and money are required. I composed a five-sentence plea for support, sent it off via facebook and found myself adopted by a new crew of angels. They asked nothing from me and have been driving me,

Meet Charlene, a driver with style.

Meet Charlene, a driver with style.

feeding me

Meet Sylvia - cooking another healthy dinner!

Meet Sylvia – cooking another healthy dinner!

and loving me ever since only expanding the amount of love they offer with each visit. I truly enjoy my treatment visits to Marin County!

This last trek, courtesy of Angel Flight West, volunteer pilots IMG_1325flew me from Portland to California! These new angels have eased my enduring efforts to make treatment into vacations. Who has time for pre-treatment nausea when you are touring the vast and gorgeous landscape of Oregon and California at 8,500 feet? IMG_1320How grand might you feel stepping off your private plane, onto a small tarmac, bypassing the germs and chaos of commercial air travel, to find a friend with car feet away ready to take to you the next leg? IMG_1330

Cancer may suck, but angels’ rock and roll!

The power of strangers is they accept you as you are. You can either take them in or walk right by depending on your own needs. They aren’t bogged down by the complexities of your saga. It’s very simple. You have a current need. They never tell me that they just can’t track where I am when. I am there. In need. Case closed.

Thank you, Angels, new and old, obvious and hidden, you keep me going.

How does okra tie in with angels? You would know right now if my new exhaustion levels didn’t force the okra story to be tabled to the next post. But stay tuned; it’ll be worth it. Okra always is.


About marcy westerling

I am a long time community organizer with a passion for justice and founded the Rural Organizing Project in 1992. Derailed by a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in spring 2010, I have stayed in treatment since then. I am learning how to embrace livingly dying and hope that by starting a Phase One immunology clinical trial at UPenn in spring of 2013 I will have more time to find the sweet spots of thriving while terminally ill.

45 responses »

  1. Your Blog is always so full of cheer and hope and gratitude to all .. Marcy …. I just want to be like you when my time comes .. brave and hopeful.

  2. I’m happy to hear there are so many angels still on earth and that they have found you. Thank you for continuing your blogs despite all you’re going through. We love you. Appreciate so much your efforts to stay in touch.

    • I think our culture lacks models on ways to die. Death is mainly hidden. It is a strong choice to even read a blog like this. In this blog you get one dimension of how I live and die. We are all dying. Looking in on how I face its approach to me is the purpose of the blog. Let us all teach. Let us all learn. Xoxoox marcy

      • Amen that,Marcy! I so recognize that and “die” to emulate your example! Thank you for sharing your life with the world. I linked one of my posts to yours, btw. I hope you don’t mind.

      • Marcy, we haven’t met in person but I am so grateful to you for this sharing the way you do on your blog. It is education of the heart and soul. And in so doing, it is a healing for our broken culture.

  3. You made this environment for yourself, Marcy, by reaching out in good faith and good humor. It’s an important lesson for those of us who tend to crawl inside ourselves, to no good effect. Love you anew.

  4. Hi Marcy. I’ve been a silent watcher of your blog for awhile now. I just wanted to express my deep felt thanks for your effort. I’m wishing you well…

  5. The kindness is inspiring; your courage, tenacity and power of expression are inspiring. You have always been one with amazing vision and a broad view so the coastlines and topography you are seeing reflect back what you have long shared with so many others. Hoping this next treatment goes gently on you but blasts the cancer.

  6. Your writings are amazing dear Marcy. Because you truly are. Thank you for digging down deep to share this journey. I am in awe and in full agreement with another poster. Angels attract angels.

  7. Marcy, you are so good at finding angels and encouraging others to go beyond what they think they can do. You continue to amaze and make new friends wherever you go with your courage and determination. Keeping you in my heart always. Hugs.

  8. Oh Marcy, how I love to hear from you! You navigate your world so fully, so completely and you’re rewarded with so much love. I know so much of this has been agonizing for you, but you make it sound like some kind of adventure nonetheless. Thank you for the generosity of spirit you show in sharing it with us.
    Many hugs and kisses to you, and lots of okra too.

  9. the heartfelt and beautiful prose of a woman who has no boundaries in her capacity to bring love to her………. a woman a lovely brave woman……… and fantastic photos of the world up at 8,500 feet. I look forward to our weekly chats Marcy……… the pleasure has been all mine.
    Marcy – I can only hope to LIVE like you!

  10. I’ll be staying tuned to see how you manage to turn my negative feelings about okra inside out 🙂 and to see how and what you’re doing. Much Love.

  11. This was my post today on FB.

    Ok the cat is out of the bag. I start Chemo on Tuesday for a recurrence of Ovarian and Breast Cancer. I will be having treatments on a 21 day cycle on days 1 and 8. I am confident that I will be in remission again very soon. I am going to enjoy my weekend with my daughter Krista on her 13th birthday. WE are going to have a haunted House (really just a hallway) party. All are welcome!

    I am starting my first recurrence and I pray that i have the help of friends, family and strangers that you have had thru this journey.

    Strength and courage you have it all Marcy. Even thou I hate it myself when people say things like that; You and I are just doing what has to be done so we can have a future and to be here for our children and husbands. It really never feels like a choice but more of an obligation. I never feel very strong or courageous just following a path and showing up for appointments that have been made.

    Just know that when you are so tired and there are no more options left you are not weak nor timid. It takes even more courage to face “the slow march to death” head on and accept it. I pray you have a miracle and the cancer disappears or a cure for all of us facing cancer in whatever form it appears.

    Your devoted Blog follower,
    Debbie (South_Florida_Deb on Inspire)

  12. “The power of strangers is they accept you as you are. You can either take them in or walk right by depending on your own needs. They aren’t bogged down by the complexities of your saga. It’s very simple. You have a current need. They never tell me that they just can’t track where I am when. I am there. In need. Case closed.”

    Ain’t that the truth. I can not be honest to my Parents, Aunts, Uncles, Brothers and Children as i am with the people on my different support sites. My Friends and Family are so scared of the truth and mourn so much the anguish of my treatment and inevitable Path of this terrible disease; I have to put up a positive and strong front for them.

    • Sometimes letting down your guard helps them, too, let down their guard. I know it’s hard but collective naming of the worst fears can be liberating. You all are walking around the same elephant in the same living room. Mortality.

      warmly, marcy

      On Oct 10, 2014, at 6:26 PM, livingly dying wrote:

  13. I’ve never been a fan of okra, but have been a fan of yours for many years. You are a blessing and I’m so thankful for your many angels.

  14. Marcy, love and caring thoughts fro eastern Oregon. Looking forward to hearing about okra” Three community organizers walked onto a sand bar…

  15. I’ve always loved okra! Will wait patiently.

    I join you in your gratitude for helping angels. But I’m also sure you bring it out in people. I mean — how could there be a cuter pilot than the one pictured here?

    You’re the best, Marcy. Whenever you are too tired to communicate, just know we all completely understand. YOU are our focus.
    Love, Jean

  16. Marcy: You’re always in my mind and in my heart. You continue to be my teacher and I thank you for that.



  17. Your spring Camp Mak-A Dream cabin-mate admires your writing. I would relish the thought that your YouTube comments and blog will be made into a book soon including pictures and follower’s comments. Every single day I look forward to your next chapter knowing how chemo rounds and the dying process rob us of energy and brain cells. Somehow your brain manages to keep sprouting new content for the dying process. At my bedside upon my own demise I have ask family members to read your blog to me. What better story is there? Thank you so much for your writing, your giving to this cause, your personality and the opportunity to know such an inspiring dear person. By the way the roller coaster picture says so much about our OVCA ride. Thanks for everything. May more angels be yours.

    • Carol, thank you so much for pointing me toward Marcy’s youtube!

      I missed the release announcement and just en-joyed seeing and hearing Marcy, after meeting her through only the written word.

      Marcy, have you considered linking to the youtube from a few spots on your livinglydying home page?

      Marcy, I too am a lifetime activist for justice, women, peace, and our beautiful, sacred earth.

      Illness has transformed my life and my activism and now I work for those who face illness, dying, death by speaking and writing about these taboo topics. I feel fortunate that I’ve outlived my prognoses by many years, even while being in the thick of cancer.

      Marcy, thank you for being another light shining.

      I see you. I recognize you. I respect you. And have come to love you.

      May many blessings, many angels, many miraculous experiences enfold you and hold you.

      love, Stephanie

  18. Dear teal sister….

    What you have found is unconditional love disguised as angels. It is all around us and we find it when we look with a loving heart. Your heart is full of love. I see it in your writing.

    Keep loving, sister ♡

  19. well, Marcy, I don’t know if I agree with you that Okra is always worth it – but I certainly empathize with your challenges. Thank you always for the time you spend and the hope you share and the pathos, too. Even with the subject matter and its personal nature – your writing always entertains and informs.

    Hugs to you always. Ben and I hold you in our thoughts through our days.

    If you have the time and energy, visit our latest web site to see what we’ve been up to.

    [?] Judy

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