Dear Family and Friends,
1990 has been a year of completion and new beginnings for us, a time of journeys ended and journeys begun.
David completed his transitional internship program in July and is now a practicing part-time general physician with an organization called Health Stop. Gale completed her second book, “The Invisible Threads,” and it will be in bookstores by February 1991. In January 1990, we helped catalyze a workshop on personal and social empowerment in Moscow that led to the expansion and re-organization of GOLUBKA, the small non-profit group we had founded together with six friends in Moscow and Lithuania. GOLUBKA’s new mission is to distribute information and conduct workshops in the Soviet Union on empowerment, ecology, nonviolence, conflict resolution, global security, and related issues. The work is deeply rewarding and has become a nearly full-time passion for us, and our network of supporters and helpers in both countries is widespread.
This year has been blessed by significantly long visits from dear ones who live in what used to be called the Soviet Union. Yuri—close buddy, major GOLUBKA partner and all-around wonderful person—lived with us for three months in Framingham while working as an intern at the central office of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Eight Lithuanian friends also visited in March, allowing us to joyfully celebrate together the anniversary of our wacky and groundbreaking public “Soviet-American wedding” in Lithuania two years ago. In August, our dear friend Zhenya, whom we initially met in the Caucasus Mountains in 1996 and who is also now a major force within GOLUBKA, spent a lovely month vacationing with us in Ohio and California…Our warm, deep, and close bond with our community of “golubchiki” in the Soviet Union continues to be the most vital and sustaining aspect of our work there.
Yes, we have moved, and more than once, too…We left Framingham in early July, wended our way West with stops at the Omega Institute in New York for a “Gaia Leadership Training” and big Warner family reunion in Minnesota, and ended up in a delightful cottage (where David’s grandmother once lived) nestled in the redwoods on the Mendocino coast of California, where we lived for two idyllic months while David assisted his parents in building their new home/cultural center near Fort Bragg and Gale finished her copy-edits, designed GOLUBKA workshops, and spent every fog-free moment possible on the beach. In September, David kept building while Gale went to the Soviet Union for a month to launch our workshop programs in ecological leadership and environmental education in Moscow, Leningrad and Dubna. The response was overwhelming and deeply moving in all three cities. By the time she returned home, David had already moved all of our things into our old Gloucester home on the estuary, which by a miracle we were able to rent once more. It feels very good to be back with the marsh, the forests, and the beach, and we wonder how we ever left in the first place.
After this amazing and inspirational month of September in the Soviet Union, I (Gale) remember writing on the plane, in my journal, how grateful and satisfied I felt with my life, and how in some ways it wouldn’t be a big deal if the plane crashed – I felt I had already completed a half-dozen of my missions here on Earth, and I have had hundreds of rich and incredible experiences during my thirty years, any one of which would have made the trip to this planet worthwhile. This sense of inner peace and fulfillment was unlike anything I had ever know before. I felt the rest of my life was really gravy, from here on in.
Just two weeks later, a mysterious upper back pain that had dogged me a few times earlier in the year returned with new intensity. A few weeks after that, I began to feel chronic abdominal pain and the tests showed nothing until I developed a dry cough that led to a chest x-ray. The x-ray showed a large tumor (bigger than 10 cms) in the mediastinal area (upper chest). Within hours I was diagnosed as having diffuse non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. This was on Nov. 28, three weeks ago.
Friends and dear ones, there is no cause for undue alarm. Yes, it is a serious illness, but this type of cancer is considered not only treatable but curable, and I have much better than even odds of licking it completely and being around to love this big old beautiful world for a long time yet. I am being treated at one of the finest cancer centers in the world, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and my doctor is a top-rated specialist in lymphomas. For the next six months, I will be in fairly aggressive chemotherapy; I’ve already had two sessions and am doing splendidly so far.
Of course, life has changed and will continue to change, as this has become a new organizing principle in our lives! I am now tethered to my hospital for weekly treatments and will not be traveling anywhere for some time. David has postponed his trip to the USSR (our original plan was to live there for three months this winter/spring) but may still be able to go for a few weeks in January. But we are continuing our GOLUBKA work as before, relying heavily on our new living-room-to-living-room electronic mail connection with Yuri. I am quite functional, most days, and can sit at the computer, write and make calls as usual. Although I can’t say I feel well, my good days are very good indeed, and if all of you could see me singing, dancing to African jazz, writing, holding business meetings, and so on, you would be very reassured!
I could go on for a long time about all of the amazing insights and learning that have already been engendered by this experience. I am feeling very strong and positive, and I am convinced this is an incredible opportunity for exploration and growth for me. There have already been so many great moments: walking the beach with David after the initial diagnosis and joking about what a boost this would be to my career; bribing the surgical nurses with promises of chocolate chip cookies (later duly delivered) to stay late for my tissue biopsy so that the process of specific diagnosis and treatment would not be delayed; singing “Amazing Grace” on the operating table, with my surgeon’s permission, during the biopsy when he could not find the node right away and had to go deeper than expected; a fantastic chanting/healing ritual with our friends Rick and Amy in Maine; sacred circle dancing at the “Findhorn of Cape Ann” just two miles away; daily delicious fruit smoothies; meeting my oncologist for the first time and seeing the big blue button on his jacket: “DON’T PANIC.”
I feel as if I have been chosen for a very special advanced training program in life, a course that will immensely enhance both my own spiritual growth and my work for the planet. Of course, I will write a good (maybe bestselling?) book out of all this, making the connections between my own struggle with cancer and the metaphoric cancers (nuclear weapons, environmental toxins, destitute shantytowns) now burdening the Earth. In fact, in my heart, I believe I grew this tumor because of the very deep and profound relationship I have been cultivating with the Earth and the Goddess in the last few years, and especially in the last six months. I think that I simply began to manifest in my own body what is present in hers. Thus I feel closer to the Earth than ever before and feel a strong and tender sense of support from the universe. As I work to heal myself, I know that in a very tangible way I am also working to heal the Earth. This process is not a diversion from my activism, but rather an integral and exciting new phase of it, one that will give depth, richness and authority to my writings for many years to come.
In the meantime, I do face a number of short-term challenges. This letter is our big announcement to the extended community. Many people have asked what they can do to help. I have been giving some thought to this, knowing that it can be helpful to have some guidance as to what forms of support will be most appreciated. One possibility is to donate a copy of a favorite music tape; especially good dance tapes, meditation/relaxation tapes, folk, classical, and any kind of international music. Another is to send a copy of a favorite poem, about anything as long it is a poem that has personal meaning for you; I’d like to collect these in a loose-leaf binder. Still, another is to send a recent photograph of yourself, as looking at photos of dear ones never fails to give me strength on the harder days. Of course, letters, phone calls and prayers are always good, as is anything else that your imagination or intuition inspires you to do or send. Please remember that this will be a long journey and I may need your support more in a few months than I do now. If you do call, I ask only that you try to do it during daytime hours on the East coast if at all possible…I cannot believe how fortunate I am to have such a fabulous and courageous husband with whom to share this adventure. We celebrated our three-year anniversary just before I fell ill, and our marriage becomes more of a blessing all of the time.
There is another very tangible way all of you can help and support me during this time, as well, and that is to purchase and help promote my new book, “The Invisible Threads.” I will not be able to do much publicity work and can really use your help. You will also be supporting and nurturing the people whose stories are in the book—the brave independent activists working for a better world who live in the Soviet Union, and who are going through very difficult times of their own just now. Much of the last three years of my life have gone into the new book, and I truly believe all of you will find it useful and inspiring, or I wouldn’t have the temerity to so openly ask for your support in this…For those of you who don’t already have a copy, my first book, “Citizen Diplomats,” is being released in a revised paperback edition at the same…
That’s all for now. The river of our lives has veered into a swift and beautiful steep-walled gorge, with challenging rapids and spectacular views. We can’t know for sure what is ahead, but the ride so far has been great. As this time of darkness before Solstice draws to a close, we hope that you feel in your own lives the miraculous renewal and rebirth of the season.
Gale and David