Since my happy trip to Kenya, I've felt unusually tired and unable to breathe properly. You might say, "You're 70, after all!" But I am a lively and active 70 and this has been so unlike the me I know that I sought medical advice. Seeking advice was complicated by changing insurance (I quit working full-time), changing doctors and plans, and, after finding a wonderful new doctor, going through all kinds of testing.

It is now four months later. I have cancer. I knew that four months ago but the kind of cancer I had was without symptoms and therefore without consequences. All of that has changed. I've completed two rounds of chemotherapy (every 28 days) and have, for the very first time in my life, experienced what it is like to be disabled. I have not lost an arm or a leg--only my normal energy, physical activity and general good spirits.

I am often a shit-storm of negativity--criticizing my husband, my children and step-children, our lifestyle and just about anything that grabs my attention. I am sorry when the shit-storm passes and I apologize. But the storms can hardly make anything better! I don't even feel a moment's personal relief in releasing my venom.

I feel nauseous for the first week after chemo and the medication to relieve it is minimally useful. A good stiff drink only makes me feel worse. Nothing tastes as it did before. Virtually everything tastes like it has been slowly marinated in a tin can.

I want to be with people--with my grandchildren and my step-daughter, with my friends and my classmates in adult education classes at UCBerkeley--but I don't often trust myself to have the actual energy in the moment to sustain positive connection. Alone, I have just been lonely or sad.

A few weeks ago I actually heard what my friend Pat had been talking about for a month--a class called Awakening Joy. As I explored the website, I read that this is not a course about Pollyanna strategies to ignore pain and suffering but a course to awaken joy even in a time of great pain and suffering. I will put myself in the live hands of the program this evening. More to come.