Three months, give or take. I am, in a distance measured by time, three months down the road from the diagnosis and surgery that pounded a stake in the ground and tethered me to its orbit, the one with “you have cancer” as its center of gravity. Three months is a big deal. Surgically speaking, I am considered officially healed and, having been overwhelmingly fortunate to not need chemo or radiation, can now begin the process of reconstruction. So we did just that, meeting this week with a plastic surgeon and boldly scheduling the first of what will be three surgeries and multiple procedures to restore some order to the disarray that is the front side of me. Also, I had a visit from Jubilee. There is no coincidence in that.
Let me tell you about Jube. Not all about him –there are chapters of that story that are too deep to mine for this day — but still, you should know some things, like how he was a horse, the best kind of all, wildly handsome and unrelentingly kind. I would trust Jubilee with a baby. I have.
I also trusted him with myself and that, my friends, was a very big ask at times. I was not who I wanted to be back then. I was wrapped up in thinking that winning mattered and that being a big shot at work mattered; that I could do everything myself and fix everyone else in the process.
Wrong, on all counts.
Jubilee was my steadying influence, the one who showed me the door to the place that lies beneath, where the present moment exists. The place where animals deeply communicate and you find that you no longer want to change them, make them perform, but instead see that it is your own little self that you seek to change, all in order to be closer to what they are, to live in ways that resonate to the vibration of them.
Jubilee died, tragically and too soon. That is the deep end of the story so I won’t go there, but I feel him with me always. I feel me still reaching for him. I was scared when I found out I had cancer, which is fair because having cancer is scary shit. Before I knew where my own cancer path would take me, I launched down dark paths in my head (usually in the dead of the night) where thoughts of suffering and certain death would be lying in wait. But, Jubilee was waiting there, too. And I understood that even if the most horrible of things were to happen, in the end, I would be with him and that thought was a great gift to keeping my sanity about all of this. A great, big, blessed gift.
So, now I’m putting myself on the proverbial chopping block again and, though it is for the “positive” act of reconstruction, the sheer effort of walking into a doctor’s office or hospital unleashes great agitation inside me. I am afraid, a little bit afraid, all the time. I don’t know if I’m going to win at this, ultimately. I don’t know if the next visit will be the one where someone looks at me with somber eyes and says “we found something” or whatever else is the entrance line to a gigantic u-turn in the path I am trudging.
On the day of my doctor visit, when I came home after locking myself into this next series of close encounters with the medical establishment, here is what happened: Jubilee sent me a message.
Yes, he did.
He sent me this:
It’s been a long time since those ribbons ever mattered. If you look closely, you will see they are dated from the 1990’s. A long time — way back when winning mattered to me and I was making riding Jubilee my outlet for getting my performance measured and being called good. Winning. Our trainer way back then (I salute you still, Jennifer Schuck) must have been cleaning in the back regions of the tack room to find these, but find them she did and she sent me a message, a kind message about how wonderful Jubilee was and look what she found to remind us of those great memories.
I sobbed for an hour. Look what Jubilee did. He sent me a message, saying hey, remember when we didn’t know shit and we were still winners? Remember when we did this, together?
I do remember, Jube. I remember you. I remember this. I remember who I was and who I became because of you. I would give anything to have you back again, but I would not change anything if it meant not having you in my heart like this. I love you and, yes, you are still carrying me. I think we’ve got this one.