Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eye on the World

Today was a quiet day in my world. I don't have an exact date for starting chemotherapy as they have to get authorization etc., but should be next week or early the following week. Rest of the day was spent doing healing things for myself and relationships. It will be a similar day tomorrow.

One of  major events for tomorrow is that I will be cutting my hair significantly shorter in preparation for the chemotherapy.  It may seem odd to some that this is major, but it is because of what it symbolizes. I've asked a friend to come with me and to help make a girl's thing out of it. The best advice I can give so far about this cancer experience is that when you are doing something that will make changes to yourself physically or have to met with people who are treating you, bring someone along for the ride as it makes it easier.

I also spent some time working on photography. My Olympus E-3 and I continue to become reacquainted. I love it, but am lusting after the E-5 to add to my collection as it has some features the E-3 doesn't.  I'm a faithful Olympus fan and have no plans to change. My friends with Nikon's and Canon's, don't understand it. I've tried to describe the reasons why I love the brand, however usually I have to tell them that only another Olympus fan would get it.

Tonight I'm grateful for the peace of healing some issues that were not right in my world. I feel lighter as I head to my bed.

Walking On Air (Howard Blake):

Monday, July 30, 2012

Broken Open or A Changing Landscape

This has been a roller coaster day. Early this morning I went to the oncologist. Test results were not back. We waited almost an hour and a half. Finally I was told that 3 MammoPrints had been run with inconclusive results. I asked the doc if an Oncotype could be run and the answer was yes. We also established that I would do hormone therapy. I left the office feeling like perhaps I wouldn't have to do the chemotherapy.

Things changed at 2:00 pm I received a call from the oncologist. They had run a successful test via the MammoPrint and I was high risk. I told him I needed to call him back. So I contacted some friends to talk with them about it, bawled like a baby and then sucked it up and called the office back. I told them I would do it. The only thing I asked was that I start it after my birthday next Tuesday. Doc agreed that would be okay. So I'm waiting for a call with the details.

In the meantime I have appointments for massage, chiropractic and acupuncture care. I'll be using these to off set side effects since they are the most available to me here locally and one of them my insurance will cover. The doc assures me that I shouldn't have many side effects other then losing my hair. Not sure I believe that one......

is the elusive truth that
they want me to trust

I know how the landscape I photographed yesterday feels. I'm feeling broken open, changed and vulnerable. It will get better....

I guess today I should be grateful there are treatments, but I cannot reconcile myself yet to the treatment.

Adam Lambert, "Broken Open":

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Where My Heart Is-The Ocean

Since things may change rapidly again in the next 1-2 weeks pending the outcome of tomorrow's doc visit, I decided to tick off one of my life list items. I've never taken my dog Bella to the ocean. So I found that Half Moon Bay had a couple of dog friendly beaches and away we went. I invited a friend, Tami to come with her dog, Kindle. We had a ball. Going early before the crowds arrive(summer don't you know) is the only way to experience it, otherwise it's like being in Grand Central Station at rush hour.

Bella was quite brave and a bold explorer till she got doused by a wave and that was enough for her. Springer's may be water dogs, but she's never quite caught onto that part of her heritage. She decided to take a drink from a tide pool before I could stop her and she had another surprise. When I got her back to the Jeep she drank a large bowl of water.

My friend and I agree there is nothing more wonderful then the smell of salty brine and eucalyptus. If they could bottle it, I think it would be a best seller. Not to mention the freshness of the wind blowing against you and sounds of the waves. Whenever I encounter it, I relax and my whole outlook brightens. But it's a tough choice. The other part of my heart is in the mountains. I think that's why it's so wonderful where I live I'm about equal distance to both and can visit them to renew my being. And there in lies my gratitude today, for the geographical beauty of Northern California and it's availability when I need it.

Claude Debussy, "La Mer 3: Dialogues of the Wind and the Sea":

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Crystalline Knowledge

From the time I arrived at the Hermitage to the time I left, I was touched by the hospitality and support of the monks there. They were not intrusive, but offered what was theirs to share..a beautiful place to gain insight into ones needs through silence, blessing freely given and illumination through spiritual direction.

I experienced all three. For spiritual direction, Father B. walked with me and gave some of the richest insights I've gained throughout this process (and they are surprisingly ecumenical). As he told me I've walked these roads with everyone one from atheist to Catholic. Without sharing too much, he gave me the task of returning to photography, poetry and music to gain/give insight and solace to body, mind and spirit. He is a poet himself and he gave me the first subject to create a poem of sorts on...he asked me to consider what is cancer to me and what is my relationship to it. Sitting inside and out at Doxa, I came up with a free form poem...this is dedicated to you Father B.

What is Cancer? (an answer to Father B.)

Cancer is the thief in the night
who stole my health's innocence.

Cancer is the alarm
that has awoken the timekeeper of my life.

Cancer is the winnower of relationships,
it separates the chaff from the grain.

Cancer is the set designer
that alters the look and feel of my body.

Cancer is the ultimate teacher
offering lessons on living my life.

Buckingham Nicks "Crystal":

Friday, July 27, 2012

All Shall Be Well

Back and still absorbing many lessons. I will share some photos and a descriptor with more to come tomorrow:

The individual hermitage I stayed at, Doxa in the twilight. That's not sky, it's the ocean on a very misty day.

One of the views from Doxa, late in the evening of the day I arrived.

This little guy greeted me when I arrived and came over whenever I sat on the balcony. By the last day he came to within a hand span of me.

I had to walk up a hill to get my meals. This is the carrier they provided to pick them up.

I caught the this quail just as I was finishing my walk last night as twilight deepened into evening. It was my last photo taken of the night.

Moody Blues, "All Shall Be Well (Julian of Norwich)":

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rising Like A Phoenix-Courage

Right now I'm embracing the legend of the Phoenix. I am beginning to understand that much of what I take for granted, what I experience and think that I know is being burned to ashes. And if I'm to arise from the ashes, I'm going to have to face the process.

Last night I actually looked at wigs, head scarfs and turbans. Today I picked up my cell and made an appointment with a local wig bank to be fitted for one next week. My greatest fear has been the chemotherapy and what it could do. I still have a trill of fear that runs through me when I consider the possibilities, but am pushing ahead. To quote Mark Twain: "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." And despite the failure of recent relationships, I will follow Maya Angelou's advice: "Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time."

Today I am grateful for resilience. It gives me hope that I will arise to a new cycle of life when I finish the burning of breast cancer. That I will be more beautiful, stronger and more glorious then ever.

Johnny Cash, "Ring of Fire":

Monday, July 23, 2012

Clouds Pour In

Today has been a hard day. First I had to fight with the State of California on my disability as they were convinced that I was being paid through another source. It took about 3 hours of effort to get it straightened out. Then I had a doctors appointment to look at what is going on. Long story short unless the MammoPrint comes with good news I'll begin chemo (even thought I've been saying no from early on). He has put me out until November 1st. I tried to convince him to let me go back around Labor Day, but we came to an agreement that he will met with me at the end of August to see how I am.

I need to go back to work as it will become financially more difficult if I don't. So I've scheduled to see an acupuncturist beginning next week. Everything I've read states it will help with the chemo side effects and hormonal side effects. Like it or not I'm going into menopause through the chemo and hormone therapy. Another thing to deal with. I'm still doing herbal compounds that are helping me get ready for that and so far my docs are agreeing with this strategy.

Why am I doing the chemo if the test comes back supporting chemo? Because of the percentages. There is a high chance I will have a reoccurrence left untreated per my discussion with my doctor today. I wish I could be one of the women who walk away and just do alternative, but I've spent my life working with integrative medicine and for now I will continue.

I'm also mourning. It's hard to feel like your life has been taken out of your control and today feels that way. Eventually I'll get through it though. It's also been hard when people that you opened your heart and mind to seem to not be with you. I wish I could just say good-bye and be done...but it's going to take some time, my heart is more of a marshmallow then a stone.  

I've been wandering around my city the last couple of days seeking out places to reflect and think as cabin fever has been on me and I need to feel connected to something else. Really understand what the Red Hot Chili Peppers were talking about in "Under the Bridge".

The gratitude list has a bittersweet flavor today. I am grateful that even when I can't seem to see it I know the universe will provide the way. And from the lyrics of a song I posted recently, that while I regret some starts that had some better ends, I'm thankful for every break of my heart, I'm grateful for every scar because they are lessons learned.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Under The Bridge":

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Woman's Best Friend

I've been negligent in not introducing the one who has constantly at my side for the last several weeks since this b c thing began happening. Six years ago I rescued her from a shelter and she has returned the favor several times over. Bella is handicapped, she has a malformed front left paw. That hasn't stopped her. When we go on walks she lopes with ears flapping, tongue hanging out and going up/down she provides people who pass us with quite a laugh. She has her fans on the bike path that we walk on frequently. Her nickname is Hoover Hound. She had been starved by her previous owner so she is very fixated on food. I have to watch her because she will suck up anything that she thinks might be tasty.

She gets my eternal gratitude. She has kept me in shape, kept my spirits up and keeps me motivated. She brings joy to other people as she greets everyone with a lick and a tail wag.

She truly is a woman's best friend.

Queen, "You're My Best Friend":

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shopping Around

Taking a creative break makes it possible for my mind to relax. So adding a few decorating touches to my condo is always welcome. My decor is somewhat eclectic and I love flea market/antiquing. There is an antique shop nearby where I live that has a high low mix of items and I almost always find something. Today they were having a major sale so I went to see if a small kitchen island that I've had my eye had went down. Score.  I needed something it's size for my cafe styled eat-in kitchen . It will give me extra prep/serving space when I cook. And that's not the only thing that I'm shopping around for these days, the journey goes on....

Spent time Skyping with a group of East Coast friends who were having a reunion, but obviously I couldn't get to.  We talked about the cancer. They are in favor of the chemo....as have been most of the people I am talking to. I'm getting closer to a decision, but the final will depend on the MammoPrint results.  Spoke with another b c thriver and she had same stage as I did when she was diagnosed 4 years ago. They used a genetic marker on her to, she didn't have to have the chemo, but she said if the MammoPrint comes back high risk she would encourage me to do the chemo otherwise don't do it...

Heading off to dinner with a friend. Tonight I'm grateful for all of the Babecakes. They've been my backbone over the last several years and I wouldn't be where I am without their support.

Captain and Tennelle, "Shop Around":

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lessons Learned

Not much to say tonight except knowledge and gratitude before it went much further about a lesson learned:

naked heart seeks warmth
touching your intense passion
illusion: cinders

Carrie Underwood, "Lessons Learned":

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Retro Rad

Well apparently getting in-depth doc revisits is as likely as flamingos in a bike basket. I went in today for a follow-up with the radiologist oncologist. Put on the glamour robe and he looked at the scars. Asked me if I had any drainage. I replied no. He leaned over to write on some paper and I turned to speak to Mary the nurse. Then when I turned to talk to him again he stated I was fine and he would see me in 3 months and that was it. No chance to really talk. I should have insisted, but as I will see my primary on Monday and as he is well versed, I will talk to him. But I was stunned. Literally he was with me 3 minutes...how can he know how I really am? In the end it is as a friend said, some doctors today are not healers they are body technicians. You would think I'd be used to this by now, but still...

Went to my dentist to get some work done as I cannot do it if chemo comes along. He was incredible. He is a caring, gentle man as is his wife. He recently spend a Saturday doing no cost dental work for the community for 12 hours. I told him it's too bad he's not a doctor. He laughed and said that's his brother's job.

Oncologist tomorrow. It's hard to believe that summer is half way gone. Not the way I thought I would be spending it. To quote a retro group Banarama, it's a bit of a cruel summer.

So today my gratitude is to Dr. W for his care and his giving to the community. We need more caring hearts like him in the world.

Banarama, "Cruel Summer":

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Peering Out

It's been a quiet day. Just sleep and reflection. I'm feeling the need to get to the ocean and/or mountains to renew. It's hard when you can look out and see them in the distance, but know you have to wait to get there. But it's coming.

I'll be spending three days next week in silence at a hermitage. It's run by a group of monks and overlooks the ocean. I'm hoping to hear my inner voice even more clearly as I decide how I want to proceed with the next phase of treatment. There is no cell reception or WiFi. People might think it odd for a non-Christian to spend time at a Catholic hermitage, but I have found a place like this is for anyone who needs to spend time in solitude to help hear said voice.

I might have heard my inner self more in the last two weeks, but the fatigue and activity around me has made it hard. It's odd having been out of any active treatment for two weeks.  It almost feels as if I just had a brief illness that I am recovering from and that the breast cancer is not a concern. But that will change again in the next two days. It will be back on my plate front and center.

My gratitude tonight goes to the men/women who maintain a contemplative live and are willing to open it those who need it in times of crisis and change.

Prayer Monks of Big Sur/Silent Retreat Scrapbook:

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Small Step Back

I thought I was doing quite well the last few days, albeit a few symptoms I ignored. Well was sick throughout last night and called the doc today. I have a bug of some sort so I've been told to stay down for a day or two. So it's a doc week. Wednesday it will be the radiologist and Thursday I will see the oncologist to see what the next recommendations are.

I've been dozing most of the day and listening to some music. In the 90s when I was going through a used record store I found an vinyl album called Buckingham Nicks. It was done by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in the 70s before they joined Fleetwood Mac. It has become one of my all time favorites. It's never been placed on CD. I lost the album in one of my many moves and never replaced it. Since I've been looking up some of their stuff, I ran across the whole album which had been placed on YouTube. So that's what I'm going to share tonight....

My gratitude today is that I will be traveling to Big Sur next week to stay at a hermitage for a couple of days to make the decisions I will need to make about my next treatments.

Buckingham Nicks:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Passion of the Gypsy Soul

Today was a day to share a passion for art. A friend who is a painter and I spent a part of the day just talking and planning some art pieces. We share a gypsy soul. She though has lived more of the gypsy life, traveling and painting at different places around the world. I'm trying to take some lessons from her as I am tied more to the 9-5 life and am feeling like dry desert. Before all of this began two months ago I was laying groundwork to move towards a more gypsy life style. I don't where the next months will lead, but the seeds remain in the fertile ground of my mind.

She's going to be creating a piece of art to help inspire me to live my passions every day that I have. So today I am grateful for the dance of life and light and for the inspiration to follow my passions.

Fleetwood Mac "Gypsy":

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Being Corny with My Heart

Anyone who has studied chakras from Eastern traditions will tell you that the heart chakra is traditionally affiliated with the breast when illness happens....

Today was an exercise in feeling better and working to open my heart to continued healing. The day started with making a new friend and going with them to the Farmer's Market. We have much in common and had a great time. Such a great time that we ended up making a meal together from ingredients we bought from the market. My contribution was the corn and bread. There is nothing like fresh organic corn which has been grilled with avocado oil and garden picked garlic chives.

In the in between times I spent some time with other loved ones. I spoke with  my favorite paternal uncle and caught up. I made sure I shared my appreciation of his place in my life and all he has given me as well as my love. Also spoke with some other friends and had deeper discussions then before. I'm finding that the more I open myself the more others open to me for the most part.

The most part is a reference to an ending that came today. It was a sadness for me, but again if one  of the parties heart is blocked, then the relationship will wither and die. As a friend once told me, "if you is and they isn't, don't think you can bring them to your is".

One more piece of corn. I grew up with honky tonk country. When I was young it was the soundtrack of my life as my dad and uncles played around in bands and my grandparents listened it. For the most part I've only sampled it occasionally as my music tastes changed and grew more diverse as I got older. Last night flipping through some satellite music channels I found a honky tonk music channel. Decided to listen and was transported back to my childhood. I've been listening today and it's been fun...so guess where tonight's music contribution is coming from (it was one of my Mom's favorite singers).

Tonight I'm grateful to my family members who taught me to love music and because of that love I became a musician.

Ray Price, "Under Your Spell Again":

Friday, July 13, 2012

Breast Cancer Insurance Tanka

What can I say but looking at the insurance explanation of benefits really sparks a mix of emotions due to the words to describe what has happened to you from a business perspective and what they have paid. Creative expression is the best way to release them. I often use the poetry form of tanka from Japan for this purpose.

explanation of 
your insurance benefits
not a bill, don't pay
we have itemized you,
processed your claim: malignant

V.E. Paul, "The Health Insurance Blues":

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Letting Go

This breast cancer journey is teaching me about letting go of things especially in terms of relationships. Some of my relationships seem to be dying right now. Others are being born or are in rebirth. I think it's because you start asking yourself questions that you may never have had the reason or courage to ask. If I've learned nothing else in the past 7 weeks then I've learned this: life begins to be distilled down to essentials. What you eat, what you do, what/who you give yourself to and what you take the time for are amongst these. You decide what to keep and what to let go.

There is no logic in how I've decided.  Rather it's that you find yourself listening to that piece of your heart/intuition that has always been there, but you tended to ignore in favor of reasons you had created. You are open to sharing pieces of yourself you haven't before and receiving pieces of others that you may have not been ready for....

So today I'm grateful for those persons who are with me on this journey and that those who will no longer be I can let go with understanding.

Carly Simon, "Haven't Got Time for the Pain":


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Healthcare Entitlement vs Responsibility

Washington, we have a problem and it's called the US Health Care System. I work in this system and I know it's complexities. However, being up close and personal with it is really making me have some even stronger opinions.

First of all I applauded the Supreme Courts decisions to uphold the plan to institute what is being called Obamacare.  Having tried several years ago to get health insurance as an individual and being turned down, I'm all for striking down that you can prevent getting health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. And now that I have breast cancer, well... Certainly the plan isn't perfect and needs bipartisan work....but at least it's a start.

What has me on this tear? Two things. I received the explanation of benefits from my insurance for my June 15th outpatient surgery. I spend 10 hours at the hospital. $32,000 was paid to the hospital. . And yet they will not pay for massage, accupuncture or nutritional counseling etc to support the other side of healing. This is insanity at it's finest. I can see why we are in trouble....The second things is I went to a local employee owned grocery store to do some shopping as they offer a huge variety of products organic to conventional at a reasonable price. What I saw there was what is wrong with America and why it is costing us so much.....Simply we are a obese nation running on a poor diet and poor exercise. So many of the individuals were loaded up on sodas,snacks, fast foods etc. Not to mention more were seriously overweight then at a healthy weight. I had several organic produce items in my cart. As I was checking out I heard a sotto voice remark being made by one of the shoppers in my line about my being one of those health nuts. I probably should have just shrugged it off, but I really get tired of that mentality..So I whipped around and replied, "No I'm a just a average person who is eating to heal from breast cancer". Not much was said after that.

I'm not trying to be holier then thou, but it drove home a lesson. My parents from the time we were young, raised food and cooked regularly to feed the 5 of us i.e. not a good deal of processed food was in our diet. We weren't allowed that much junk. On occasion yes, but not that often. We were also encouraged to be active. I think that is why my siblings and I are not obese. In fact my doctor told me I was in excellent health with the exception of the cancer and why they feel I am healing well. So to change the system we have to start early and continually help work with people as they age. Another lesson that supports this comes from my dialysis clinic. Our patients who do the best are usually the ones who take more responsibility for directing their care and  are trying to stay active, eat right etc.

I was watching a show yesterday on Ayurvedic medicine. He stated that Western medicine takes out the bad, but doesn't put back in the good where Ayurvedic medicine practices this philosophy. I couldn't agree more. In utilizing the integrated approach I removed the tumor and it's effects, but now I'm taking the responsibility for helping the good come back into me.

In America we have the attitude of I can do what I want and medicine will fix me. It's time to end the attitude of entitlement. Rather we should be teaching ourselves and taking the reins of responsibility that I will do what I can for my well being and when it doesn't work, I will work with others to try and help me gain back my well being. It isn't blaming the victim, rather it's giving power to both the individual and the system to work mutually for the benefit of both.

Today I am grateful for the health care that I have received, but I am also grateful that there is a chance to change it and make it better so that it is around for generations to come.

Lindsey Buckingham, "Go Insane":

Monday, July 9, 2012

Traveling Back to Well Town

A couple of the books I've read during this time talk about being made to move out of the town of Well Town and into Breast Cancer Town when you are diagnosed. The metaphor was used of trying to get back to Well Town  but that some the residents want to keep you into the ghetto at best. Well folks I've got news for the norm...I plan on moving back to Well Town. I'm moving back into the best residence I can find...

I'm now almost a month out from surgery. Today has been the best day I've had since the surgery. I called the oncologist this am and was told that they would call me in the near future with a time for an appointment.  Well, the longer the health care system waits to bring me back in and the better I feel, the more reluctant I am to let them give me therapies that they say will make me better as I am better. That is they want to make me sick again in order to prevent a re occurrence. So my reluctance to make a U turn is understandable.

I'm eating a diet that many nutritionists have recommended, I'm using supplements. Tomorrow I will return to the gym to use machines. I'm doing work on emotional/spiritual issues. On Thursday I have an appointment with a naturopath for a consult. Why do I feel instinctively that these things will do more for my long term healing in terms of not having an re occurrence then chemotherapy?

Today I'm grateful for all the folks who look at "alternative ways" to get people like me back to Well Town...they may not always be appreciated  by the mainstream,  but I'm glad they are out there trying to give a different point of view.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, "End of the Road":

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I'm done with radiation and seeing my surgeon for the time being. Next step will be the oncologist in the next 1 or 2 weeks to discuss next steps. Still running very fatigued and my brain is mushy. Apparently there is some evidence for radiation brain also. It's not major, but still...It's a weird sensation where my breast is healing. It almost feels like it is "sticking" together as if there was tape between the tissues. Still having burning also in the lymph node areas, but better then it was 2 weeks ago.

On the sad front. I called my dad and step-mother to check in and found out that my step-brother Mark died of a heart attack. We were not close, really not in each other's lives. However, my step-mother was exceptionally close to him. She has been available to me a good deal the last few weeks and I wish I could be there for her right now. She may come out to California to spend some time with me.

My gratitude is to the residents of my condo complex who check in on me and who have helped with the little things. They have made my life easier to live these days.

So that's about it. Sleep, watch TV, walk, do some exercises, and eat is the tenor of the last couple of days. Doc said it's not unusual and will get better in the next few weeks. 

Heart, "Ring Them Bells":

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Celebrate the Ironic

Happy July 4th. I slept for 11 hours and got a late start. However the 24 hour surgical bra and I parted company! I'm able to return to normal bra wearing. Happiness fireworks are rocketing! I've been reading different cancer books and my 2 favorites are Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips and Cancer Vixen.  Crazy Sexy Cancer has ideas for staying sane and writing on your bathroom mirror is one of them. Loved it. Will be doing more. Cancer Vixen which arrived yesterday is a graphic novel about a New York cartoonist travails with cancer. It was hilarious. I felt like she was channeling aspects of my life. I haven't laughed so hard in weeks.

Speaking of laughing. I picked up yesterday's mail and opened it this am. I received a letter from @#Care. The group that manages my HMO.  I thought it would be a summary of some of the issues we had been discussing. Instead it was a reminder that I was overdue for a mammography screen as it could be helpful in diagnosing breast cancer and I should call to schedule as soon as I could. Call my sense of humor dark and perverse, but I howled. My friend Gail joined in the laughter when I told her and said it was one of the best examples of irony she had heard in awhile.

Will be spending time with friends later, but coasting as I'm still very tired today.

My gratitude today is to laughter. One of the great healers. Oh and for the fact my State Disability has been approved. I won't have to worry about my finances while I'm off!

Another two fer for the holiday. 

Kool and the Gang, "Celebration":

Alanis Morissette, "Ironic":

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Brachytherapy Day Five Finished

I finished radiation today. It was a fairly quiet finish. They took the catheter out, taped me up, and sent me on my way with an appointment to return in two weeks. I have an appointment with the Dr. E on Thursday. Still no word on the oncologist. I made a call and will hopefully find out what is going on at the appointment. Just feeling very tired, but got my first shower, no more half baths. It's the simple pleasures that make life satisfying these days.

My other major thing today was a new air conditioning unit. They were here early to late and had to deliver the new unit via a hundred foot crane. I managed to grab a series of shots. No more mid 80 temperatures. 

Not much to say. Just gratitude that I am finished with one more segment of this journey and going on to the next.

Off for a nap...

Bonnie Raitt, "Right Down the Line":

Monday, July 2, 2012

Brachytherapy 4.5 or Light and Shadows

I was up early this am to start the next to last day of radiation. As I watched the morning light pour in and illuminate the living room, thoughts of how this process has been much like a photograph rolled through my head. The experience of this is similar to the light and shadow process.  That is how you perceive it, how you frame it and what you ultimately take of it.

While I do appreciate the light of the providers of my allopathic experience and that they are giving their all to save my life, I also see the shadows of what we are missing in our current provision of healthcare and how it could be better. Every person brings their ideas to healing and what it will mean for them. I am lucky that I can partake of several choices.

This weekend a friend Quinn ( and she gets my gratitude for today) sent me an excellent article she had found and I want to share it here because there is so much I agree with and it has insights I have yet to reach and experience. I hope it helps others:

The Things I Wish I Were Told When I Was Diagnosed With Cancer

Posted: 06/28/2012  8:00 pm

Your relationships are about to change. All of them. Some will get stronger. They will probably not be with the people you would expect. The people you want to handle this well might not be able to for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons will be selfish. Some of them will be entirely innocent and circumstantial. All of them will be forgivable because no one plans for cancer. Carrying bitterness or anger won't help your recovery. Fighting for anyone to stick with you won't cure you. Those who can, will.  

You will be determined to have more energy than you do. You will convince yourself that you are thinking straight, are able to handle all of this and do not need anyone. You will run out fuel. Your body will change first and your mind will follow. You won't lose your mind, memories or sensibility. It will all come back. But, you will be different. You will never have the same sense of self. You should embrace this. Your old self was probably really great. Your transformed self will be even better. Give into what is happening and trust it.  

You are going to feel fear. Even if you are normally stubborn, confident and seemingly invincible you will finally find yourself admitting that you are scared of something. Cancer is scary and incredibly confusing. The unknowing will eat at you worse than the disease itself. You'll need distractions. Music and sleep will probably be the ones you resort to most. Reading will become difficult. So will watching TV or movies, having conversations, writing and basically everything else. They call it "chemo brain" for a reason. You will feel normal eventually. Just a new kind of normal. When you feel afraid let yourself lean on those around you. Cry. Be vulnerable. You are vulnerable. There will be time for strength, but never admitting weakness will cause anxiety to mount and your condition to worsen. Let it all out. Yell if you need to. Sing when you feel up to it. Sob uncontrollably. Apologize for your mood swings. Treatments and prescriptions will often be the cause of them. The people that love you will understand.  

The people that love you will be just as scared as you are. Probably more. They will be worrying even when they are smiling. They will assume you are in more pain than you are. They will be thinking about you dying and preparing for life without you. They will go through a process that you will never understand just like they will never understand the process you are going through. Let them process. Forgive them when they don't understand. Exercise patience when you can. Know that those that were built for this will be there when you get to the other side and you will all be able to laugh together again. You'll cry together too. Then you'll get to a place where you will just live in the world again together and that is when you know that you have beaten this.  

The sooner you recognize that you are mortal, the sooner you can create the mentality for survival. There is a chance you might not make it. Just like there is a chance that you will. Don't look at statistics. You are unique and what is happening inside you is unique. Your fight is yours alone and there are too many factors to compare yourself to others that have had your condition. No one will want you to think about death, but you won't have a choice. You will think about it from the moment you are given your diagnosis. Come to terms with it. Calmly accept it. Then, shift every thought you have into believing that you won't die. You are going to beat this. Your mental focus on that fact will be more powerful than any treatment you receive.  

Your doctors and nurses will become your source of comfort. You will feel safe with them. If you do not feel safe with them you need to change your care provider immediately. There is no time to waste. This shouldn't be a game played on anyone's terms but yours. When you find the right caretakers you will know immediately. Do not let insurance, money or red tape prevent you from getting the treatment you deserve. This is your only shot. There is always a way. Find those hands that you trust your life in and willingly give it to them. They will quickly bring you a sense of calm. They will spend time answering your questions. There will be no stupid questions to them. They won't do anything besides make you feel like you are the most important life that exists. They will never make you feel like they don't have things in control. They will be honest and accessible at all times. They might even become your friends. You might celebrate with them over drinks months or years after they have cured you. They deserve your gratitude, respect and appreciation daily. If you get upset at them during treatment know that they'll forgive you. They get that you're going through something they can't imagine- but they understand better than anyone. They see it every day and they choose to be there because they want to make the worst experience of your life more tolerable.  

You will need to find balance after treatment. Start by seeking balance during treatment. Eat well. Sleep well. Listen to your body. Explore meditation. Experiment with new forms of exercise that aren't so demanding. Embrace massage and other body therapies. Go to therapy. A therapist will be able to guide you through your journey in ways you could never fathom. Do not be too proud to speak to someone. You cannot afford to store up the intensity of the emotion that comes with fighting a life-threatening illness. Let it out for yourself. You will begin to hear your voice changing. That voice is who you are becoming in the face of mortality. Listen to that voice. It will be the purest, most authentic version of you that you have ever known. Bring that person into the world -- strengths and vulnerabilities and everything between. Be that person forever.  

You will inspire others. It will feel weird. People you haven't spoken to since grade school will be in touch. Ex-girlfriends, former colleagues... even people you felt never wanted to talk to you again. The influx of interest in your seemingly fading life will be greater than any living moment you have ever experienced. That support is what will shift a fading life into a surviving one. Be grateful for every message. Be appreciative of each gift and each visit. There will be moments where all of this attention will make you feel lonelier than you have ever felt in your life. In a hospital room full of people with messages stuffing your inbox, voicemail and mailbox you will find yourself feeling completely alone. This is when you will realize that you could afford to have a stronger relationship with yourself. That only you walk this earth with 100% investment in you. Make the investment and use this as an opportunity to reexamine your self-worth. Love yourself more than ever and recognize how much love there is for you in the world. Then start sharing that love. You will come to see that even when you are the neediest person you know you can still be giving. Giving will make you feel better than taking. 

When you get to the other side you won't believe it. They will tell you the disease is gone. Everyone you know will rejoice and return back to their lives. You'll constantly wonder if it is coming back. Slowly this feeling will fade, but cancer will always be a part of you. It will define how you see the world moving forward. You're going to feel like the future is a funny thing to think about because the present is going to suddenly seem incredibly important. Keep moving. You'll be more productive. You'll understand who truly loves you because they will still be there. You'll want to meet new people that connect to the newly evolved version of your old self. You'll want to let go of those that don't "get" who you are now. You'll feel a little guilty doing it. Then, you'll move on. You don't have time to waste. The greatest gift you've been given is that you now understand that and you're going to make the most of every second. You're going to be the most passionate person you know going forward. Translate that passion to a greater purpose. Be fearless again.  

I was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 27. Now 28, I have been told I have no trace of the disease in my body.

Jeff Tomczek is a freelance writer and the founder of C2Bseen

There was a double dose today of music in the treatment room, so I'll share the same with you. One is a salute to my East Coast friends who I miss with everything I have and the other is for my West Coast friends who are here as much as they can be. You all have my gratitude and love, I wouldn't be making it through this without you.

Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York":

Santana, "Put Your Lights On":

Beginning Yet Again

  "Never feel guilty for starting again." -Rupi Kaur These days being a flaneuse has been more mental than physical. I moved to Ar...