Love Letters to Life
The worst day became the best day with a flip of a switch from lights out, “I’m gonna die”, to lights on, “I’m stayin’ alive”. Life has the final say.
Love Letters to Life began as a daily writing and painting practice of gratitude after Pamela had a near-death experience in 2018 that left her health and life compromised.
Each morning, she wrote and posted an online letter with an image from her artwork, letting friends know how she was doing, what was happening, and how grateful she was to be alive.
Then just a year later, on January 14th, 2020 at 2:30pm, she was diagnosed with cancer: Aggressive Large Cell Lymphoma between her heart and lung, and Stage 4 Slow Cell Lymphoma throughout her torso.
Pamela’s bones were hollow and not making red and white blood cells fast enough for living. She went home slowly from the Cancer Center feeling numb and thinking, “Chemo is not for me”.
Going out into the desert to die under a cactus tree seemed like a rational plan being that she lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico where there’s desert and cactus.
But that evening, at 10:00pm, she received an extraordinary email:
“Hi Pamela, I found your website on Ancestry.com. Your profile came up as a Parent/Child match. I reside in Connecticut and am adopted, so I wonder if you might be my mother. You can check out my profile on Ancestry. Please let me know either way if you would like to learn more as I’d be happy to connect with you. Yours truly, Tracy”
Pamela opened the link to Ancestry.com and there saw a photo of a radiant, smiling face that looked like her twin but younger.
The baby girl who Pamela released for adoption 51 years ago, when she was fifteen years old, found her via their DNA match and emailed on the very day Pamela was diagnosed with life threatening cancer.
The worst day became the best day in a matter of minutes with Tracy’s miraculous and timely arrival, flipping the switch from lights out, “I’m gonna die” to lights on, “I’m staying alive”.
Her ferocious, mother-love kicked in, giving the energy, hope and courage needed to go through ass-kicking chemo and going bald: she lost all of her signature, beautiful, long hair.
At the same time, an unprecedented pandemic, Covid-19, spread throughout the world with catastrophic speed and deaths, taking the life of Pamela’s closest male friend on Jan 15th, 2020.
Covid-19 sent everyone, everywhere into self-quarantine except for front-line workers.
No cure. No commerce. No travel. No visits. No help going to chemo. No life as we knew it.
There was no slacking off for Pamela on any of the daily have to’s: multiple doctor visits, hospital procedures, chemo treatments, medications, healthy meals (she couldn’t taste) and physical therapy.
Between February and May 2020, Pamela received six R-CHOP chemotherapy treatment. In June 2020, a Pet scan came back cancer-free, cause for celebration. But due to the Pandemic, no travel to see family. Self-quarantine was still required.
Blood counts continued to be low and in March 2021, another Pet Scan and bone biopsy revealed the lymphoma was back in new places. Pamela was told on April 1st, Stem Cell Replacement Therapy was recommended but not available in Santa Fe, NM.
However, Pamela’s only desire on April 1st was to meet her daughter Tracy who she had been communicating with for 14 months. Her oncologist said, “Go tomorrow”. On April 2nd, Pamela boarded a plane for Connecticut and on April 3rd, Tracy walked into Pamela’s open arms. They had a week of “visits”, time to hang out, be with family, talk and be together.
April 14th – September 10th 2021, consisted of undergoing Chemotherapy in Christus Hospital for two months and plans being made to move to Denver, CO for the summer to be hospitalized at St. Luke’s Presbyterian and live in a hotel while having out-patient care with the Colorado Cancer and Blood Institute. Stem Cell Replacement Therapy was like having an atomic bomb set off in her body. Brutal. She had 100% fatigue and many side effects.
The Pet scan in November revealed the Lymphoma was still in Pamela’s body. There were a few options: Tee Cell Replacement Treatment in Denver, CO, the possibility of being in an Immunotherapy Clinical Trial in Santa Fe, NM, or doing nothing. Pamela didn’t want to undergo the toxic levels required of Tee Cell treatment. On January 3rd 2022, she became the first patient in the world to begin Phase Two of the Immunotherapy clinical trial.
In March 2022, the first Pet scan results since trial treatments began were promising. 60% of cancer cells gone and no new growth. It is a two year trail so the beginning looked good.
Every day, Pamela continued to write a letter of gratitude posted on Social Media, thanking Life for sending in an army of love and support in all sizes and shapes and surprises.
Some of those letters had their share of moaning and groaning with tears and fears, and on those days, her family and friends sent Pamela bigger love.
The Love Letters to Life helped her feet keep moving, her heart keep loving, her life keep living, one breath at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time.
The result: Healthy, hopeful, and strong, in spite of the odds.
The gifts: Living in the moment and loving life with all the odds behind and ahead.
Love Letters to Life is Pamela’s Big Thank You to Life and a message:
Have hope no matter what the circumstances.
Miracles Happen. Worst Day. Best Day. Lean into Love.
Pamela Markoya is an artist and writer living in Santa Fe, NM. Her daughter, Tracy, lives on the coastline of CT. They have a loving relationship, getting to know one another via Zoom, phone calls, and social media after 51 years of separation. Another in-person visit is planned for April 2022.
March 2022 © Pamela Markoya
Excerpt from Julia Cameron’s recently published book,
THE LISTENING PATH: The Creative Art of Attention, 2021
Interview with Pamela Markoya, Week Three: Listening to Our Higher Self
Julia Cameron “I pick up the phone and call Pamela Markoya, a Santa Fe artist I have known for several years. I know that she approaches her art through listening, and I ask her to lunch. I believe that she actively listens to her higher self in the process of creation, and when we meet up later at a Japanese restaurant, she confirms my belief…”
Pamela Markoya “My practice is to sit, breathe, and listen,” she starts off. “My writing is an art form meant to be shared. I write love letters to my beloved, with the knowledge that they will be read. Literally, for writing, I put the ink pen to the page and listen to hear the words and write what I hear. It is as though my listening ear is connected to the ink. I could be surprised, and often am, at what’s written.” Pamela sips at her tea and gathers her thoughts. She continues. “I stop writing when I don’t hear anything. The voice unfolds one word after another, distinctively. It has intonation, lyricism and color. Often there’s humor, and I really ‘hear’ the letters coming through with humor and levity. “
“When I paint”, she says, “I breathe and clear everything. Although it is a visual art and informed by what I see, I listen to the brush, and there’s a very clear direction. In the process of mark-making, I rarely change anything. The mark-making is a language I listen to.”