Search This Blog

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tending to Everyday Basics

My chemo brain is pretty profound. Just dealing with the everyday basics of managing a family has become a real challenge. Therefore, I have to find a new way of doing what used to come easily and naturally. Dealing with with groceries and meals is the first order of business.

The planning and executing of meals is challenging in ways it has never been before. I don't think to make meals until too late in the day. Organizing and executing a frugal shopping trip is my undoing. It's the "connect the dots" part that is such a challenge. It's like I'm in a brain fog. I can open a cupboard, look in, see food items, and see no way that those ingredients can come together to make a dish. To complicate matters, I also am unable to recall what is in the fridge or freezer. Looking at the weekly sale fliers used to mean something. I could see what could become of sale and loss leader items. Not so much any more.

I can't really explain it any more clearly. It's almost like my head is stuffed with cotton balls. Nothing "clicks."

So, I have decided that I must simplify the shopping. I shall mostly shop at Aldi. Can't get lost or distracted there. Six aisles. They rarely change. No decisions as to what is the best buy. I can flesh out what I can't get at Aldi at some other store.

Since I struggle to plan meals, I think I'm going to go with meal types. I used to, just based on my whim, come up with meals for lunch and dinner (back in the days when people were home for lunch) and shop. Now I stare at a piece of paper and think, "I have no clue what to have on Monday, let alone on Tuesday and I can't think of anything to how can I shop?"

Instead, I think if I were to know that I have to have a soup/stew meal, salad meal, casserole meal, etc...I should be able to look at sale fliers or the Aldi layout and figure out what to buy.

I hope.

So, what types of meals are out there? Here's what I've come up with off the top of my head today...what else can I toss into the rotation?

Breakfast for Dinner
Traditional (aka “grandma’s recipe box”)
“International” (aka pick an ethnicity)
Regional (aka pick a USA region)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An unfamiliar position...

So, here's a sad and unfamiliar situation for me:

Some friends and I have formed a little support group. Some call it "Strong Women" some (OK, me) call it "Crazy Cancer Club."

One of our members is dying.

She is leaving behind a husband and children, young children.

As we do so darn well here in the Midwest USA (or maybe it's a Great Lakes thing), the community is doing its best to tend to the needs of the family. Meals are being brought in. Cleaning is taken care of. Christmas is being tended to. Teachers have been met with.

It's so incredibly sad. Heartbreakingly so.

During Cancer Club meetings, we've talked about some really intimate stuff. It's one time we can laugh about the indignities we've experienced. Some of them can be quite amusing. Some, out right funny--much of that has to do with chemo brain; some, in a warped kind of way--much of that has to do with chemo brain, or did I already say that? It's one time we can talk about how precious it is to be able to poop when you need to. We can laugh about losing hair. We can express frustration about fearing that every twinge is a recurrence. It's one time where "it is what it is" can really be what it is because we all have gone through it or may confront it. Some of us have "curable" cancers. Some might be on chemo off and on for life. But this is the first time one of us has died.

And I just don't know what to do.

My love language, apparently, is food.

Another member of the club and I took dinner to the family last week. And I could not stop making food. I made a frozen meal for some later date. I made two soups. I made Magic Mineral Broth. I could have kept going.

I understand my friend, who isn't seeing people these days, enjoyed the Magic Mineral Broth.

I'm not a close friend. We've shared intimate moments. But we've never otherwise socialized.

I understand my friend is in a lot of pain.

I suppose I fear that I soon will end up similarly.

But meanwhile, I feel very awkward. At a loss for words.

I know this journey, this transition, is one that is very individual and one that we all must undertake.

Yet, I wish I knew what I could do to make this easier for my friend and her family. I feel so helpless.

And so sad.

So very, very sad.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What would you put in your letter?

I'm still dwelling on the Elizabeth Edwards story.

I feel like I've really slacked in the realm of parenting for the past year and a half. In fact, I think that I've probably really slacked for the past 10 years when it comes to my feral third son.

However, now, I'm dwelling on this letter that Elizabeth Edwards wrote for her children, in an attempt to provide for them the advice that she wouldn't be around to give later.

I have no idea what advice I'd give my kids. I'm probably not even giving them advice on important stuff now. Where to even begin?

Truthfully, on days like today and after weekends like the one we just had, it appears they take neither my advice nor my commands nor my suggestions nor my pleadings...and that also explains why the bathroom isn't clean and why, on a day school was cancelled for bad weather, that my one son had to get up at 8:00 a.m. to finish yesterday's chores...because he didn't take my advice.

Maybe ignoring my advice and my inability to provide such advice is a type of ostrich-like comfort. If it's not here, we can pretend we have all the time in the world to provide it, safely.

But I digress.

Maybe I should start such a letter. Maybe I should start such a letter here. Maybe I should do a series of entries called "Advice to my sons".

So, what would you be sure to put in your letter? What advice do you wish your mother had given you?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Purpose of Life

Some of you have probably seen this on Facebook already, but if not, here is today's most inspirational video, which is saying a lot given that it's the Season for Giving and all that and so many charities are going out of their way to solicit funds.

This very much reminds me of the way my community has embraced my family, fed our bodies and our spirits, over the past 18 months.

I think I'll choose a month in 2011 and give this guy at least the equivalent of one week of our food budget and not replace that money. We'll live on what we have around for that week. Why choose a month and not do that now? Because, after all, it is December, and since this video seems to have gone viral, I'm sure money will be pouring in.

If you want to know more, you can go here.

It never leaves

My good friend, Heather, herself a cancer endurer, posted this to Facebook yesterday:
Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.
Truer words were never written. At least nothing else resonates with more truth to me right now.

If anything, I have a history of under-reacting to health issues. Yes, I am that mother. The one who made her son play soccer for several weeks with a broken ankle before I finally admitted that maybe, just maybe, he really was hurt. I'm also that mother whose kid had pneumonia, more than once, and I didn't really think he was all that sick. Earlier this fall, I broke my hand and it took me a week to even think I should have it looked at. Um, that was in September, and here we are, coming up to Christmas and I'm still dealing with the fall out from that injury.

Yet, today, less than three weeks after having my reconstruction surgery, I have a minor ache. I can't even call it a pain. It's just an ache in the area of one of my ribs, right in line with one of my incisions.

Logically, I've just done too much today. It's hard not to, since I have no real nerve endings with which to feel pain in the area of my surgery. When I had my c-section 18 years ago, I wasn't to pick up anything that weighed more than eight pounds other than my baby. And when I did, I felt it. I felt an uncomfortable tugging in my incision. After my mastectomy, I wasn't supposed to life anything heavier than a can of pop (my surgeon's words), and for weeks, I felt it if I did too much. There was that uncomfortable tugging, sometimes painful, but a reminder nonetheless.

However, with this surgery, there really hasn't been much pain. My skin is pretty numb from having nerves cut and removed with tissue during the mastectomy. I can hold an ice cube, for instance, one my chest and not feel the cold. So, when I over do it, I don't feel my incisions. I have one tiny area, maybe about 1/8 of an inch long at the very end of one incision that seems to have some nerve endings. The other day, I thought maybe I'd hurt myself or it was infected or something, until I realized that my incision should feel a little tender when I rub it with my finger.

I'm still sleeping on the couch to prevent myself from sleeping on my stomach. I don't know why. It just seems like I probably shouldn't do that.

I have this irrational--or not--fear that I'll do my internal stitches I guess, and my implants will migrate to someplace I'd rather not have them, like my abdominal cavity. The internet is not always a good thing, you know? I read about something implant Of course, now I'm convinced that something similar will happen to me if I sleep on my side or my stomach or lift too much or or or or or...

Technically, I'm in the middle of my recovery period, and I have this ache. It's a tiny ache. I'm guessing it's from the bra I'm wearing today. Or that I lifted, pulled, pushed or otherwise over extended myself today or yesterday. I've been dealing with student portfolios, and no matter how much I try, I'm sure I'm lifting too much, even though I dragged my one son out of bed to help me get them to school the other day and had students carry them around campus for me. I cooked today for the first time since surgery. In an effort to spread out the work for some cooking projects I need to have done by Friday, I thought I'd break it up over the course of a few days, but I did get a little carried away today.

So, there is ample reason for a little ache. Here's how little the ache is. I don't feel it at all this instant. My injured hand hurts more while I type.

So, why am I convinced I have bone cancer?

Yeh, right, because the whole cancer thing never leaves, even if the cancer itself does.

Not too long ago, I did a 13 mile run. I had a weird pain in the front of my one ankle after that. I still feel it, but it's not a big deal. And then there's my broken hand. And now this rib thing. This past spring, when I first started running, my hip hurt. I've been x-rayed, probed, palpated...I'm nearly 50 years old. I've spent the last decade or more mostly sitting on my butt doing nothing very active. My body was assaulted with chemo and radiation. And there is no reason to expect that I won't have some aches and pains. The break in my hand wasn't even serious...just a small fracture. My entire weight fell on it. If something were seriously wrong, the break would have been worse (Yes, I've asked every doctor I've seen).

Yet, I'm convinced that I have bone cancer.

I could get a bone scan. But somehow the idea of radioactive stuff injected into my body, especially after all the radiation I've already received this year, freaks me out even more.

Have I mentioned that I freak out about leukemia, too? Yeh, every bruise makes me think I have leukemia.

And then there are the dreams about radiation poisoning...dreams where my hair and teeth fall out.

Yeh, it never leaves even when it is gone.

Stupid Cancer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do YOU want to die?

Of course, we've all had this conversation at one time or another. You know the one, "Would rather know the hour of your death or has it come as a surprise? Slow and lingering with time to make your peace or fast? Fire or ice?"

But that isn't what I mean today when I ask, "How do you want to die?"

I've been thinking a lot about Elizabeth Edwards this week. She knew years ago that her breast cancer was most likely going to be the cause of her death. Of course, she could have been hit by a bus or gotten pneumonia or been killed in a plane crash. However, when you are told that your cancer is "treatable but not curable" you can probably bank on it eventually killing you. At least when it is breast cancer that has metastasized to your bones and then your liver. Treatments--chemo and radiation--can only be used when one is strong enough to tolerate them. Since the treatments themselves are ravaging....well, some people endure a long time. Others not so long.

Yet, how do you want to die? Elizabeth Edwards seems to have done it the same way she lived, with grace and dignity. At least publically, at least as far as the press is presenting it. She's reported to have posted to Facebook a farewell message of sorts:

“I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my
friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have
carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good
times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are
numbered. We know that.

It isn’t possible to put into words the love and
gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me
every day. To you I simply say: you know. With love, Elizabeth."

Ignoring stories of marital discord and harpy-ish behavior, because this entry isn't really about Elizabeth Edwards at all, those are pretty graceful words. It's even rumored she didn't write them Or that they were written a while ago and she was just waiting for the right moment to post them.


What would you post to Facebook just days before your death? Huh?

I'd like to think that I'd have the where with all to be as graceful. The reality, though, is that I'd be more likely to post something like "fuckedy fuck fuck fuck...this is so fucking unfair. Why me? Fuck, I'm pissed. Why isn't this happening to someone who deserves it?"

I imagine most of us die in the way we live, so my death will not be nearly as graceful. My life certainly isn't graceful.

If we die the way we live, I just might live forever because I'm the ultimate procrastinator. Here it is, 4:50 p.m. and I haven't gotten very far with dinner plans yet today.

I supposed this all means I need to make some changes in my daily life if I want to approach death with a right mind and right intentions.

I need to dwell on this some more. I don't want to dwell on death, but let's face it, dying is the only certainty in life. Maybe we should all think about it a little more.

How do YOU want to die?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

graphic video of today

OK, so this isn't ME or MY SURGEON in this video and my scars run vertically as opposed to horizontally, but this IS a video of the procedure I had done today.

Minus the altogether important port removal, of which I'm still in search of decent videos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Adios, Portia!

Tomorrow, the "final" step on this whole sucky journey takes place....I'm having my reconstruction surgery. Even more exciting, my port will be removed at the same time. I am more excited about having my port removed than I am about getting my squishy boobs. I'm pretty much over breasts. If I had a different body type, I'm now certain I'd have not opted for any reconstruction. If I had this body type, I'd be quite comfortable without breasts. Alas, no matter how much I run, no matter how much I work out, that particular body type will never belong to me. I'm rather happy with my rock hard, totally unnatural "breast mounds" caused by the tissue expanders I have in right now. For those of you who don't know about tissue expanders, they are HARD. No movement, what's so ever. The rest of my body jiggles. Not my boobs. This makes lying on my stomach somewhat of a challenge, but it's still manageable. I could live with these for the rest of my life. Really, I could.

But this port....the port squicks me out, big time. The surgeons and doctors all say that it's one of the "best" they've seen, but it's nasty. There's this button right under my skin, about 2" below my collar bone. And then there's this tubing that runs under my skin, up toward my collar bone and disappears into my heart. Gross. Gross. Gross.

To top it off, I have some keloidal scarring along the tube, so there's a maroon line going up my chest. I care less about how it this point, most of my friends have some sort of scarring. But I simply can NOT stand how it feels. I know the word is over used, but it really is GROSS.

However, by tomorrow night, Portia the port will be gone. She has served me well, allowing 10 relatively pain free chemo infusions and 17 herceptin infusions. However, she shall not be missed.

And I'll have new boobs. Everyone assures me that I will be able to continue to live brassiere free after my surgery heals, and that had better be the reality I face. I do not miss wearing bras. Not. At. All.

And if I don't like these boobs, I can always get rid of them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reality Bites right now

I've been really frustrated by my limitations lately.

In general, I think I look pretty good, and that's what people have been telling me. All of my doctors think I'm doing really well. I'm in better physical condition than I have been in years.

Like a lot of survivors of any sort, I think I've reprioritized a lot in my life. It's not unusual for people who have survived car accidents, severe illnesses, house fires, the death of a loved one, or any number of traumatic incidents to "reprioritze" their lives. Or at least that is what I'm claiming.

In reality, though, it's easy to alter certain aspects of my life when I can't focus on more than one thing at a time, can't remember a lot of what I "need" to do, can't keep track of time, can't stay up late, can't multi-task, can't reason clearly, can't read anything intellectually challenging....Basically when I can't be who I used to be, that makes it really easy for me to "take time" for exercise. When I'm doing that, I don't think about what else I should be doing. It's the only time I feel focused.

Indeed, it is the only time I'm focused.

I do believe the longest, most severe lingering effect of cancer treatment has been to leave me with a raging, full blown case of adult attention deficit disorder.

I might even go so far as to use the adjective "debilitating."

I'm barely holding it together teaching this semester. Not only does it take me hours to accomplish the most basic of tasks, such as preparing lessons or evaluating essays, but I frequently forget to do what needs to be done. I've missed important deadlines, for instance the deadline for submitting my Family Medical Leave paperwork for the time I'll need to take off this semester. I can barely manage to plan meals and get groceries (OK, I'm incapable of doing this and we rarely have well rounded meals). I'm always forgetting something I need to do for work, such as grade papers or upload an assignment sheet, or even develop an assignment sheet. I've had huge chunks of missing information in assignments, and I've even managed to consistently forget to assign students basic work. Um, yes. I totally omitted teaching about transitional devices to my weak, first year writers. I'll cram that in next week.

I feel like I have the attention of a gold fish. Heck, since I have HUGE memory deficits, each day is like a new trip around the fish bowl.

When I add this to my vastly decreased processing speed, I've come to realize I'm vastly different than I was before.

In the last week or so, especially as I've been getting more and more frustrated while working with students--frustrations arising because I just can't help them troubleshoot the way I used to and I find myself getting confused while working with them--I realize that I'm not coping with these new realizations very well. Partly, I'm not coping because I'm tired of struggling to cope all the damn time. It's exhausting. Partly, I'm not coping because I'm no longer eating as well as I should be, for no reason other than I've simply stopped exerting the energy needed to plan food. For the first half of the semester, I was planning my (very simple) lunches in advance. Now, I'm just not. Partly, I'm not coping because I'm just not coping. I'm tired of coping.

And I have to admit, that tube of Pringles I just ate were damn good, even though I feel like crap right now.

Perhaps, along with ADHD, a lower IQ, and mental processing deficits, I'm depressed. Probably. I'll think about that. Later. If I remember. After I remember to go to my office and pick up the 60 essays dropped off there earlier today, which I'd forgotten about until just now. At 10:20 p.m. Hopefully, I'll remember to (a) exercise tomorrow morning, (b) pick up those papers, (c) grade them, (d) and to take Tynan to a movie tomorrow. If I'm lucky, I'll remember (e) that I even wrote this entry. Seriously, that's how bad it has gotten.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


That's how many miles I ran-walked today.

It took me nearly all afternoon, but I really only walked about 3-3.5 miles total.

The rest was my version of running.

I need a tshirt or jacket that says, "I'm not really a slow runner. I'm auditioning for Bay Watch."

I'm tired and achy right now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cold Headed Woman

No, not hard headed woman nor a soft hearted man, but a cold headed woman.

Something I've noticed since the weather has started to change from summer to fall is that I hate, hate, hate cold air on my head.

That seemed logical last winter, when I had no hair. In fact, kudos to bald people everywhere who live with that day in and day out, especially here in breezy NW Ohio.

However, it still bothers me. Chills me. Cold on my head never used to bother me. I despised wearing hats and tried to avoid doing so during the winter months. Yet now, the slightest breeze upon my head sends a chill down my spine and me looking for head covering.

Theoretically, I should be noticing less cold air in my head. After all, my hair is curlier and coarser than it was before. Therefore, if my general science knowledge is accurate, it should provide more insulation than my "old" hair. Plus, it's short and I wear it curly. I'd guess it is much more like sheep wool than ever before. Or a poodle's hair. And we all know that design is ideal for its insulating factors.

Yet, why am I miserable with the slightest breeze on my head. I frequently wish for a hood when I'm teaching. Right now, I'd wear a toque sitting at my kitchen table if I weren't so lazy that going to find one would be off putting. Perhaps I'm conserving my meagre energy supplies to keep hypothermia at bay.


Regardless, I'm cold. And I don't like it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Henry's Story Told

Wednesday night, 7pm EST: please plan to watch this important half hour documentary about my friend Katie's son and his battle with drug addiction. You can watch online at

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last Herceptin

Today, 15 months to the day of my official diagnosis (that is, the day my pathology came back), I will sit for my last herceptin infusion. Hopefully, my last ever. However, upon contemplation, if I could continue herceptin in an effort to prevent recurrence, I would. If I do have a recurrence, I'll have to have herceptin for the rest of my life, or as long as my heart can tolerate it. It is highly cardio-toxic.

In fact, my last echo-cardiogram indicated a 10% decrease in heart function; however, unlike MUGA scans (which involve the injection of radioactive dyes and freak me out) the "reading" of an echo-cardiogram varies from person to person, so a 10% decrease could be due to interpretation, which is exactly what my onco chalked the decrease up to. The ejection fraction was still within normal range, regardless, and I had run 5 miles the day no one is worried about my heart.

But isn't that a mixed bag: if I have a recurrences, I'll have to have herceptin for the rest of my life, unless it causes enough heart damage that I'll have to stop it. Heart damage can kill...cancer can all the way around, I guess.

Rumor has it there is a herceptin vaccine in stage three trials right now. I'd be first in line, I think, if it were available for me.

Of course, there are "unknown long term effects" with which to be concerned. After all, I think herceptin itself has only been available like I've been using it since 2006 and only since 1998 for metastatic breast cancer...

Anyway, in a few minutes, I'll leave for my last infusion, hopefully forever.

Meanwhile, I'm just about to need to get my hair cut and styled. My wonderful sister-in-law did my first trim a few weeks ago, so that it is all the same length...about 1.5". It's much thicker than it was before. It's much, much curlier. I understand that I have what is known as a "chemo-perm". I'm trying to enjoy it, and I rather hope the curls stay. Some people find they do; others find they don't. Meanwhile, I've decided to keep my hair short. Now, I just need to find a local stylist who can make it do what I want it to do. Oh, and the appropriate "product" to make it conform to my every desire and have a texture that I approve of. Not too much to ask for. Probably impossible.

I've continued my quest for physical fitness. Some might call it an obsession. My one child certainly thinks it takes up too much of my time. Of course, being the whiniest child in the family, I take his complaints with a grain of salt. He'd never be happy. It has been a change for them working days and then taking exercise classes and/or working out in the evenings. At one point, I might have cared more than I do now. Now, whatever. In fact, now, I regret the years I spent sublimating my needs to theirs, and more so, using that as an excuse to avoid dealing with my own issues. Yes, indeed, I think this is a common problem of many women, mothers especially, especially mothers in my "circle" of dedicated breastfeeders and homeschoolers. And now, looking in from the outside, I see many women who have put themselves in the position of being regularly taken advantage of by their families because of this. And I see many women who use their husbands, children, and "busyness" as an excuse for ignoring their physical (and perhaps mental) health. But all of this is material for another entry on another day.

Back to my own quest for fitness. I ran a little over 8 miles yesterday. I didn't do it quite nonstop. Yet, when I did stop, it was to stretch and deal with tight muscles, not to rest. I understand "runners" do this all the time. I'm not racing. I'm completing. I have one more "breast cancer" hurdle to accomplish this year, and that's my reconstruction surgery on November 19th. To psych myself up for that, my plan is to run the equivalent of a half marathon the weekend prior. I can't find a race nearby, and I'll be way too busy dealing with grading, planning for being out of the classroom, and generally getting ready for surgery to travel to a sanctioned event, so my plan is to simply run 13.1 miles on either that Saturday or Sunday on my own. I feel sure I can do it.

That is all well and good. In general, I feel good. I've learned to cope with the constant fatigue, which is still lingering from radiation. Some say it never goes away. My biggest challenge, the one I find most frustrating, the one that is most fear inducing, the worst perhaps permanent side effect of all of this, though, the one thing that I'm NOT doing well dealing with, is chemo-brain. I'll write more about this later, but suffice it to say, it is real, it's not going away or improving, and it has had a HUGE negative impact on my ability to live life and to function at my job. Fortunately, it now has a more professional sounding name and has been recognized by experts. Meanwhile, I am having a hard time coming to grips with, in essence, learning to accept that I'm basically brain damaged and not nearly as smart and capable as I was one year ago.

However, now I must jump in the van, drive to Toledo, and get my last infusion. I shall then celebrate by taking Tynan out to lunch and then, if the weather holds, we are going to go on a fun bike ride in one of the metroparks.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Brief Update mid-October's been so long since I've written anything here. However, this is the last weekend of the semester that I won't have a stack of essays to comment on. That means I'm giving a fair warning that this weekend, I shall endeavor to do my bestest to complete and post those posts that are partially finished and to finally compose the posts that have never made it out of my head.

One physical update: I met with the lymphedema occupational therapist again last week and my left are isn no larger than it has ever been...maybe somewhat smaller. I'd been trialing not wearing my sleeve except when exercising, and it seems that, at least for now, I'm good to go. Lymphedema can show up at any time, but at least for now, I'm good. I still wear my sleeves when I exercise, as should anyone who has had lymph nodes removed, but the daily wearing is not mandatory. I'll wear them some of the time, but it's not as important as it once was, and for that I'm relieved.

Friday, October 15, 2010

So much to write about, so little time

I have so much to write about and seem to have so little time in which to do it. Must remedy that. Next week. Oh, yes, I am the Queen of Procrastinators, in case you didn't know that already about me.

Meanwhile, I think I might be suffering from post-cancer Post Traumatic Stress syndrome or something. Or, what is it people coming back from war zones talk about...reintegration issues? I'm sure it has a real name but I don't know what it is.


Meanwhile, I've been having a pretty good time doing things I enjoy...hiking, camping, kayaking, and right now, I'm heading out to a Women's Weekend in W. Virginia with a group of friends from town.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thought for the Day (09/24/2010)

from Today's Daily Om:

Letting the Curves Take You


Trying to maintain control in this life is a bit like trying to maintain control on a roller coaster. The ride has its own logic and is going to go its own way, regardless of how tightly you grip the bar. There is a thrill and a power in simply surrendering to the ride and fully feeling the ups and downs of it, letting the curves take you rather than fighting them. When you fight the ride, resisting what’s happening at every turn, your whole being becomes tense and anxiety is your close companion. When you go with the ride, accepting what you cannot control, freedom and joy will inevitably arise.

As with so many seemingly simple things in life, it is not always easy to let go, even of the things we know we can’t control. Most of us feel a great discomfort with the givens of this life, one of which is the fact that much of the time we have no control over what happens. Sometimes this awareness comes only when we have a stark encounter with this fact, and all our attempts to be in control are revealed to be unnecessary burdens. We can also cultivate this awareness in ourselves gently, by simply making surrender a daily practice. At the end of our meditation, we might bow, saying, “I surrender to this life.” This simple mantra can be repeated as necessary throughout the day, when we find ourselves metaphorically gripping the safety bar.

We can give in to our fear and anxiety, or we can surrender to this great mystery with courage. When we see people on a roller coaster, we see that there are those with their faces tight with fear and then there are those that smile broadly, with their hands in the air, carried through the ride on a wave of freedom and joy. This powerful image reminds us that often the only control we have is choosing how we are going to respond to the ride.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Posse Party

Hey all, if you are in the area, after the Race for the Cure this coming Sunday, Sept. 26, my family is hosting a party to celebrate an end to the Year of Suck, at the Hoffman Shelter in BG city Park, at 12:30 or so, lasting until it's over or dark, whichever is first. I have no contingency plans for uncooperative weather.

We will provide meats and table service. Please bring drinks and a dish to share, if you are able. If not, we are never short of food:)

Bring outdoorsy type games if you have them (corn hole, ladder ball, Tynan is dying to play Pop we are in search of a beer pong table). If it's OK to be out but not ideal, maybe table top games? Charades? Parlor Games?

Please let me know if you plan on coming, so I can get enough meats.

phone/text: 419-308-2727
comments here....

please, please, please come.

Do I need to write a blog entry about my party anxiety? It's not pretty.....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Herceptin Infusion #15

Two infusions left!!! I'm so psyched. October will be the last month of active treatments. It's about time!! I know a lot of people say herceptin is no big deal, and in comparison to active chemo, it really is a walk in the park; however, it's like a walk in a park that has fallen into ruin, where the swings are missing seats, where the grass is strewn with trash and has more bare patches than grassy patches, and where the trash cans are stinky and surrounded by flies.

Yes, it's still a park, but....

So, I'm all burbly and tired and bitchy, all of which is compounded by the lunch I ate, I'm sure, which consisted of a turkey burger with avocado, cheese, and bacon. I so rarely eat meat of any sort any more. If it wasn't the lunch that is making me feel so horrid, then the reactions I'm getting to the herceptin are getting worse each treatment. I'm going with the "it was the lunch" theory for now.

Yet, were it the herceptin, I'd only have to experience this two more times in my life. If it's the lunch, then....damn.

I also had an appointment with Dr. Mo today. I so heart spending time with her. A good doctor will keep you alive as long as possible. A great doctor enjoys living with you, you know?

Of course, she's so busy and I'm no so low priority that I first had to see her practice doctor and this physical therapist she now has on staff. In doing so, I got to share my story at least twice. And they all deemed me doing well, doing wonderfully, fine, excellent, spectacular!

I could have told them that.

The practice doctor was concerned that I'd lost 9 pounds in 9 weeks. However, since I've been working out and eating less, that's actually rather ideal and not a sign of cancer (personally, I think he was reassuring himself, not me when he said that). He was concerned that I'm still fatigued and that my last labs showed that I'm anemic and have micro-blah blah blah hemoglobin yadda yadda yadda. At that point I mentioned that I have thalassimia and that's all normal. Furthermore, I don't feel anemic fatigue...I'm well versed in that feeling having had it all my life. However, not being an MD or someone else who knows what she's talking about, he ordered more labs and had written a prescription for iron...

Gotta love Dr. Mo, she looked pointedly at him when she came in the room and asked, "Didn't Dawn tell you she has thalassimia and her numbers were, therefore, normal for her. She can get labs done in the spring when we see her again. Now, just so you know in the future, you might be tempted to prescribe iron for someone with her numbers, but that is exactly what one doesn't do for people with thalassimia."

Vindication is an awesome feeling.

She then said that she could tell I was doing well, so let's not waste time with that. What changes am I frustrated with now that it should all be over and people probably think it's all over.

God bless her.

She then validated everything I've been feeling and frustrated with. The fatigue, she says is worse for women over 40 and under 70 who go through treatment. She also said it was perfectly normal to feel 10 years older, not just in energy level, but in joints and muscles, and **20** years older mentally.

I mentioned that I'm still having problems with my feet, and she said to use this opportunity to shop for all new shoes and better quality socks. When I told her that was what I'd been doing, she asked me for brand names and stores (she, too, has foot issues and finds many shoes uncomfortable). She told the practice doctor that this was all important information and that he might need to get his female nurses to solicit such information from female patients. And then the information needed to be passed on to his nurses so they could help other women with similar problems.

I then told her that the worst problem was my diminished cognitive capacity and not only does it make me sad, but it's really affecting my mood. She said that cognitive diminishment is now "in the books" and that this area will probably get some of the most rigorous research in the future, now that they've gotten nausea and other chemo side effects controlled. She suggested giving it a full year before I really start to worry, suggested some ways to work with it--such as exercise and sleep, reading and some other forms of stimulation--but also said that the women who notice it the most are the ones who had the most to lose, which is a nice compliment, I suppose, but still really sucks.

Although the practice doctor didn't think that Ambien would help me with this issue, Dr. Mo agreed with me that if I were to be able to go to bed and immediately fall asleep, guaranteeing a little more sleep each night with less chance of awakening, I'd find that I'd function better at work and maybe not be so volatile with my children.

Validation is nice.

So, overall, everything is going well. I don't see Dr. Mo again until MARCH which is sort of scary, but also wonderful.

I have two more herceptin infusions. And my reconstruction surgery three weeks after the last one, and then, for all intents and purposes, it's all over and I can pick up the remaining bits and pieces and be the new me.

Meanwhile, I continue to prepare for running a half marathon in November as my pre-surgery psych-up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This and That

Another fantastic Black Swamp Arts Festival in the bag. What a wonderful weekend. Last year at this time, I was whipped. I had tried my best to enjoy the festival, but it was really the first time I'd spent much time in public without hair, and I spent a lot of time explaining to people what was going on, trying to not look as exhausted and sick as I felt, putting on a brave face. This year was totally different. It was an absolute, total joy. I never once felt tired or dragging or like I just had to sit down. A good part of that is due to the fact that I'm not in the midst of chemo like last year, but a good part of that is due to the fact that I'm in much better health than I have ever been in my adult life, I think.

Speaking of being in shape, I ran 5 miles this morning. I think I shall have a shirt made that says, "Hey Cancer, I may run slowly, but I kicked your ass."

And, speaking of running, I've formed a team for the NWOhio Race for the Cure. It's called "The Posse." If you are in the area and would like to join, please do so! If you aren't in the area, you can still join and "Sleep In for the Cure." You don't have to race or even run. You are more than welcome to walk, roll, crawl, shuffle. Don't feel pressured to raise money, although that would be nice. I didn't participate last year because it was the Saturday after one of my chemo infusions, which was a crash day. But I have heard from others that it's a fun event.

This year, I'm participating.

My goal is to complete the event (I try not to call it a "race" because that's intimidating) without walking. I can complete 3.5 miles fairly easily when I run by myself. I've run more than 5 miles at least twice now. I'm slow, but I can do it.

So come on out and join me! After the event, we'll have a brunch-ish type gathering at the Hoffman Shelter at BG City Park, conveniently located near the playground for those of you with young'uns. My family will provide burgers, dogs, and chicken. Bring your own drinks and a dish to share and join the fun! Tynan would like us to play GatorAde Pong, so maybe we'll work that out. Bring corn-hole if you have it? Ladderball? Bocce? other outdoor type games? I'm going on the assumption the weather will be WONDERFUL!!! If it's not, um....we'll cope, somehow. Maybe charades? Win-Lose-or-Draw? Poker? Trivial Pursuit? Parlor games?

If you don't participate in the Race for the Cure, feel free to stop by anyway! It'll be fun.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life in the "Normal" lane

So, I've been absent from here for a while. It's not that I haven't thought about blog posts. In fact, I regularly compose them in my head. It's not that I don't sit down at the computer any more. Those of you on facebook know that's certainly not true.

I don't really know what it is that keeps me from blogging, other than it is harder and harder to sustain the intellectual energy required for longer pieces of discourse. I can snap off facebook updates easily, probably too easily. Certainly, I do that too frequently. However, crafting and sustaining coherent larger pieces of discourse just seems beyond my capabilities lately. In fact, I'm barely able to sustain coherence long enough to get the writing done that I need to do for work.

This is partially due to my cognitive capacity being damaged from chemo, for sure.

But even more so, I think it is due to the fact that there have been so many changes lately, over the past four months or so.

For one thing, I'm back at work, so I have to expend energy in that direction. More on that in another entry. For another, I'm going to bed a lot earlier, with the exception of tonight. For yet another, I've been getting up earlier in the mornings, but I'm not yet capable of figuring out what to do with myself during that time, being newly converted to being awake during the early hours. Furthermore, I'm no longer watching much tv, which is when I used to do quite a bit of writing. I just can't bring myself to watch tv any more. Sort of like those people who eat a favorite food to the point it makes them sick and then can't eat it any more, I no longer can really tolerate watching tv any more. I don't even have much of a desire for any of my favorite shows, to the point I can't even order the dvds from Netflix. I'm also using quite a bit more time exercising, so that detracts from the time I used to be able to devote to my blog. In fact, it's not unusual for me to be physically active for two or more hours a day. For instance, last week, I met a friend and ran in the morning before going to teach, taught from 9:30-2:30, then did a 2 hour bike ride, and went for a pedicure. Sure, it was only 7:00 by the time all of that was finished, but when one is typically heading for bed by 9:30 or 10:00, there just doesn't seem to be enough time to blog.

And I do miss it. I compose entries in my head whilst running and biking. I will admit that I don't while in the midst of the exercise classes I've been taking. Mostly what runs through my head during those is not fit to be printed where it might be read by those with tender sensibilities. Maybe those who have survived basic training in the military could read it, but the rest of you are probably better off without.

But the changes a friend asked me to write about, the new normal, are still becoming apparent.
For one, I no longer enjoy or crave animal flesh. While not by any means a vegetarian, I certainly won't go out of my way for meat and rarely consume it. In fact, last week, I made lasagna for Sunday evening dinner and bought the Morningstar Farms version for myself because the idea of the meat in the lasagna just turned me off at a deep, visceral level.

Second, I'm really enjoying life quite a bit and I'm generally not being bothered by little things that used to bother me. When I am bothered by little things, those kinds of things that really don't matter in the grand scheme of things, I'm much more aware that I'm being bothered by silliness and recognize it for what it is.

Third, I have gotten quite a bit stronger. In March, I could barely sustain 60 seconds of jogging followed by 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Last week, I ran 4.5 miles without any walking and wasn't tired. I stopped because my feet hurt and because my back hurt. OK, so "ran" is probably a misnomer for what I did. But I can certainly say I was truly "jogging."

And, finally, as of today, I've officially dropped yet another pants (jeans) size. That's about 7 sizes in two years and probably 50 lbs in the months.

But really, I have a lot more musing rolling around in my head, and someday, I'm sure I'll sweep them into a corner, sort them out, and turn them into something sharable.

I promise.

But meanwhile, off to bed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Words to live by...

I found this in my friend Marti's blog today.

I will not die an unlived life

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

- Dawna Markova

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New step into the new year

I dismantled the power alter in my bedroom today.

I've kept one pink boxing glove and one pac-man oven mitt.

The rest has been dispersed throughout the house.

Being Thankful

From today's Daily Om:

"Beyond Counting Blessings"

Often when we practice being thankful, we go through the process of counting our blessings, acknowledging the wonderful people, things and places that make up our reality. While it is fine to be grateful for the good fortune we have accumulated, true thankfulness stems from a powerful comprehension of the gift of simply being alive, and when we feel it, we feel it regardless of our circumstances. In this deep state of gratitude, we recognize the purity of the experience of being, in and of itself, and our thankfulness is part and parcel of our awareness that we are one with this great mystery that is life.

It is difficult for most of us to access this level of consciousness as we are very caught up in the ups and downs of our individual experiences in the world. The thing to remember about the world, though, is that it ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, gives and takes, and is by its very nature somewhat unreliable. If we only feel gratitude when it serves our desires, this is not true thankfulness. No one is exempt from the twists and turns of fate, which may, at any time, take the possessions, situations, and people we love away from us. Ironically, it is sometimes this kind of loss that awakens us to a thankfulness that goes deeper than just being grateful when things go our way. Illness and near-miss accidents can also serve as wake-up calls to the deeper realization that we are truly lucky to be alive.

We do not have to wait to be shaken to experience this state of being truly thankful for our lives. Tuning in to our breath and making an effort to be fully present for a set period of time each day can do wonders for our ability to connect with true gratitude. We can also awaken ourselves with the intention to be more aware of the unconditional generosity of the life force that flows through us regardless of our circumstances.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yet another step into the new normal...

I have emptied the bulletin board which was full to overflowing with all the cards and other small tokens of thought given and sent to me while I was in treatment. I have them all in a safe place, but it is now time to take another step away from that period.
Thank you wonderful people for all the encouragement and love. I couldn't have done it without you.
I will never forget.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reclaiming my life

For the past week or so, I've had this insane "nesting" urge. It's very similar to the irrational urges I got when preparing for a new baby. I normally have the urge to tidy up and get things in order before starting a new school year. Sometimes it happens. Frequently it doesn't.

However, for the past two weeks, I've felt compelled to get the house in order.

Sometimes, I'm not all that quick. But I've finally figured out where this insanity is coming from.

We closed on this house on May 5th, spent the month of May painting, laying floor, and moving in slowly. My husband had a pretty serious ankle injury and wasn't able to do much of the heavy work, so Nathan and I did most of it. We were officially in the house on Memorial Day weekend. One week later, I headed out to score AP exams for a week. Returned on a Thursday, and then on Friday headed out for a weekend of camping with the boys in W. Va, all of which was followed by out of town visitors for a week and three weekend soccer tournaments....and on July 20th, my world started falling apart and I got my pathology report on Friday the 24th. On Aug. 10--one year ago today--I had my port put in and on the 13th had my first chemo.

In other words, I just never really got the house together. Sure, I got stuff put away, and it looked like we were settled, and to a large extent we were. Yet, I never fine tuned the house. Certainly, as the year progressed, things just began to spiral downward. Today, for instance, I finally got through a pile of paperwork that included the pathology report from my initial mammogram as well as forms that I never turned in when enrolling Aidan in school last fall.

I've been experiencing quite a bit of anxiety over starting back teaching this semester. At the same time, I've been incapable of doing any productive work toward getting ready to teach. Totally incapable of even knowing where to start. This is producing even more anxiety. It's not like this August is any different than any other August in the past 20 or so years. I'm teaching the same classes, using the same books...but I can't remember how to access my e-book, am frozen in indecision as to what to put into my Achievement Requirements, and basically can't even begin to begin.

However, I'm getting closer. As I've started to reclaim my life, I'm starting to reclaim my house, and I actually have some concrete ideas about how to reclaim my teaching.

I will have a syllabus by the end of the weekend. I will have 5 complete writing assignments composed by the end of the weekend. I will have accessed my e-book and popped a link to it into my Blackboard shells by the end of the weekend.

But the time I go to bed Sunday, I will have everything I need for the first week of classes.

And all with a week to go.

Metamorphosis Journal

I'm not sure what this activity was really called...maybe an "Intention Journal" or something like that....maybe "journal" wasn't in the title at all; however, it's an activity we did at the yoga retreat.

I'll just admit up front that I'm art opposed and artistically oppositional. I don't do crafts. However, one HUGE change that has come about over the past year is that I'm really super attracted to color now and a way I wasn't before. Odd, but true. Even more so, I'm drawn to colors that I previously found annoying, such as bright colors.

So, when I was presented with this activity at the retreat, I was less than enthusiastic. I had set as my personal intent to be receptive...palms turned up during meditation and all that to receive, so I didn't totally discount the activity. But I wasn't sure what I was going to do.

Yet, I started cutting as instructed, just focusing on images that appealed to me. It was a little too touchy feely for my comfort zone, but heck, I was 0ver 700 miles from home, doing yoga with strangers. If that wasn't the place to explore outside my comfort zone, nothing is. So I did.

Anyway, as I've said in at least one other blog entry, I've been having trouble formalizing and articulating how I've changed over the past year. Working on this project, though, helped with that.

The interesting thing is that I had images sorted, but they just weren't coming together on the page for me, until it occurred to me that I had to create backgrounds. Then it all fell together.

I've only done four pages total, but I intend to set time aside over the next few weeks and months to continue working on this project.

The cover has the Chinese symbol for 'live' on it in green glitter and the quote says "The purer the attention I can pay to whatever I happen to be doing or working on at the time, the fuller my life life experience."

Inside the front cover:

The page representing the more active me....and my physical goals (as I am far from "buff" and may never actually become so). I especially like the quote on the bottom right that says, "Someone who's got what you've got is out doing what you're not."

The yoga page...after all, it was a yoga retreat and the activity was in the "yoga off the mat" time slot. I am going to be more diligent about my practice.

Spiritual pursuits, calming, centering...

Thought for the day (08/10/10)

I'm newly returned from a wonderful yoga retreat and have lots I want to say, but I also need to get some things taken care of around the house so I can return to work (I guess technically my contract starts today, but I have no obligations until later this week).

Meanwhile, this spoke to me this morning:

‎"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew."
---Saint Francis de Sales

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thought for the day (08/06/10)

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”
― Bill Watterson

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In Celebration... that the word I want to use? Celebration? Maybe "honor" would work better.

Anyway, to mark the beginning of the New Normal, I have sorted through all my chemo hats and scarves, kept some, donated some, giving some to others who are currently without hair due to chemo.

I feel a little creepy keeping some, but I think I'm a little too pragmatic to get rid of things that worked super well, just in case (knock wood) I should ever be unfortunate enough to need them again. Creepy, right?

I also kept some that were made especially for me, out of love, by friends, some of whom I've never met in person. That seems less creepy. Keeping those hats and scarves is very similar to keeping baby clothes, right? Of course, many of those hats were knitted, and therefore I'll also be more able to wear them with hair. A few of the wonderfully warm, stylish, and comfortable fleece hats a friend made me fit so well when I was bald that I won't be able to wear them now that I have hair.

On the other hand, I wore those fleece hats the most when I felt the worst, and looking at them now makes my stomach clench in memory.

Also, now that the Year of Suck is over and we have a new normal in our lives, I cleaned off the corner of the kitchen counter where I kept all my meds and supplements and that kind of stuff. It's empty. And I found an area in a cupboard where the few I'm still taking can be kept, you know, like normal people do. It's not the focus of the kitchen now. Instead, I also got a new pot rack to hang up and that's the focus now. Something normal and healthy like utensils for cooking food to share with loved ones. I'd show you pictures, but for some reason blogger isn't allowing picture uploads at this moment. They are on facebook, though.

Slowly, I'm also finally getting around to figuring out how to live in this house. You see, I got diagnosed 50 days after our official move-in date. During those 50 days of "old normal" (must come up with some better way to refer to that time--BC almost works, except that it is also the commonly used abbreviation for breast cancer), I was out of town for 9 days doing AP scoring, there were three weekend soccer tournaments, and we had out of town company over at least a week. So, while we were "moved in" it wasn't like I had the opportunity to really "settle." And for the past year, things have just devolved from that point. For instance, today I finally cleaned out the very first junk drawer...the drawer that I just randomly stuck stuff in during the month when we were working in her before we moved in...things like receipts, and hammers, and extension cords, and whistles, and fertility goddess necklaces, and exercise ball plugs, and freezer tape, and Buffalo nickles. You know, that stuff that you just need to put down, but you don't really deal with it.

It feels good, like I'm reclaiming my life whilst reclaiming my house.

I'm so excited

Tomorrow I get to meet face to face with a long time internet friend and someone who has been quite helpful and supportive during this past Year of Suck: Gena Ram.

Gena, having had breast cancer herself several years ago, just stepped right up to the plate and provided an awful lot of support to me, especially in the early days when it was just all so horrible. I'm not sure what I would have done without her.

She also organized a huge Posse of caring people, probably including many of you reading this, to provide support in both concrete ways (financial) and emotional.

And tomorrow, I get to meet her and spend a weekend with her at a yoga retreat for breast cancer survivors.

As I've said elsewhere today, I rarely get school-girl giddy, but I really am giddy with excitement about meeting Gena and this weekend. However, moreso about meeting Gena.

I know many of you were helpful in making this happen, and I'm so very grateful. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Second Chance

My friend, Katie Granju, gets no second chances with her son, Henry.

However, for those of us who are still in this world and have children, friends, family, spouses, lovers, neighbors, and acquaintances in this world, her recent blog post is a must read. Do it now. Don't procrastinate.

We DO have second chances.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Herceptin Infusion #13

So, a year ago, I was heavily in the head swirling, crazy ass early days of cancer crap. Those were certainly maybe the worst time of the whole year. I'm guessing, based on email records, that I first met with my onco on July 29th. I know I had my port put in on Aug. 10.

So, on Aug 3, a year ago today, I was in a really weird place...looking at all of what was ahead of me as an unhappy, scary, adventure that I was just going to have to suck up and do.

So, I did 10 total rounds of chemo, six of which included herceptin. Now, I'm wrapping up the chemical part of all this, by finishing out the 17 total herceptin infusions I need. Basically, that's a year, but I took a several month break from herceptin while I got to enjoy the shittiness of OTHER cardio toxic chemo drugs over winter.

Yesterday, I got my 13th herceptin infusion. In general, the only side effects are that I get irrationally bitchy and experience a few days of increased fatigue. The previous infusion caused a couple of days of nausea. But overall, it's not bad. In fact, many women with recurrences get herceptin for the rest of their lives.

By this point, I breeze in, chat up the wonderful infusion nurses, breeze out.

Yesterday, I just felt so good. The nurses always start with a medical history, and I was able to report absolutely NO problems. I've even had less neuropathy. Mostly, the painful part is gone. No more shooting, stabbing pains when I least expect them. Usually. Fatigue, yes. I know given my current level of activity, that is hard to understand.

Sure, I've been kayaking, biking, running. I've been organizing my house. I'm going on a 3 day yoga retreat this weekend. But what people don't see is that I don't do a whole lot more. I'm not cooking dinner for my family. I'm not cleaning house on the days I exercise. And I'm really not exercising much on the days I clean house. Until Aug. 1, I wasn't cleaning house. I'm not organizing people's schedules, nor dealing with any professional responsibilities. I eat. I sleep. I exercise. I go to movies. And, well, that's about all.

I watch tv and hang out on my laptop.

I chillax at Portage Quarry and hang at the City Pool in the evenings.

And that's about all I can do.

The mental fatigue and fuzziness is the worst. But more about all of that later.

All in all, though, I feel great. I love my new hair. While it isn't perfect, I really like my new body. I would keep my rock hard, tissue expander boobs for ever if I could. Really. I really, really like them. Really. I'm happy with them.


I'm starting to be able to verbalize some pretty significant changes in me.

But best of all, from two infusions ago--six weeks ago--I've lost 7 pounds.

It doesn't feel like it. I don't feel any different. But, according to their records, I've lost 7 pounds.

And that makes me happy.

Thought for the day (08/03/10)

"You only lose what you cling to."

Some of what I have to say...

How to tag this?

"...cancer brings a profound sense of community. It's really the best thing that came out of my cancer. But by bringing connection, community also brings loss. It's inevitable and often painful.
But that sense of community is so good and so strong. Harold Kushner captured its essence when he wrote, 'What cannot be achieved in one lifetime will happen when one lifetime is joined to another.'"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I have so much to say...

....I'm sort of overwhelmed with the emotions that have been surfacing as I hit anniversary after anniversary of the whole cancer journey. I didn't really expect this. I was told it might/would happen, but, like so much in life, until you visit that point, you just don't get it.

I have so much I want to say, but I just don't know where to start. Meanwhile, I leave you with before and after pictures:

Before (taken in Feb. 2007):

After (taken July 2010, after a year of cancer treatment)

Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm liking my hair

I'm enjoying having hair again. I"ll probably never have much more because I'm liking it short-short. One advantage is that I can change it up much more easily short-short. Meanwhile, since I must, must, must get off my doofus and accomplish something today, for your viewing pleasure, I leave you with

Sunday, July 25, 2010

One year ago today...(part 2)

I got the results of my path report.

It still makes my stomach clench to think about that day.

In fact, that entire week was horrible.

After a long, horrible week of no sleep, not eating, hoping for the best but expecting the worst, I got the phone call while at the BG/Otsego Soccer Tournament.

This weekend was tourney weekend again. It was so much more enjoyable this year. In fact, I don't remember much of last year's, other than where I was when I got the phone call and, almost word for word, what was said. When I did my shifts taking admission at the gate, I could barely count or make change. I was actually sort of worried about working this year because my brain just doesn't work as well as it used to, but compared to last year, I was brilliant.

I've got a lot more to say about this past year, but I'm burnt out, a little sun burnt, and quite tired, so, although I'm sort of drained at the moment, in general these days,

Friday, July 23, 2010

I run...

I was just thinking the other day that I'd like to get a running shirt that says something along the lines of "I run for those who can't."

Then tonight as I was looking for music to add to my ipod to listen to while I'm running, I stumbled across this song, which I hadn't known existed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thought for the day (07/22/10)

"You can throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat from your face"
--freely paraphrased from a Gatorade ad

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Good News about lymphedema

Lymphedema is annoying. One's odds of having problems with lymphedema increase with lymphectomy and even more with radiation of the lymph nodes, both of which apply to me.

However, there is no way to predict if or when symptoms of lymphedema will show up; furthermore, once one is symptomatic, damage is done and one is more likely to have future problems. Treatment is annoying and time consuming and not all that highly effective. In moderate to severe cases, massage and wrapping need to be done twice daily. Therefore, it is best to avoid lymphedema if at all possible.

In the past, women were told to baby their arms, to restrict activity, to avoid exercise. Common sense says that this is not logical, since the lymph system only moves fluid through muscle contractions. New research shows that exercise, while not improving symptoms also does not make them worse.

One way to minimize the chances of lymphedema is to avoid injury or infection to the limb. Another way is to wear a compression sleeve like I normally do, especially when exercising, flying, or driving long distances. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure, I guess.

So, I wear my sleeves. If anything, they remind me to pay attention to my arm, to not cut off the circulation by carrying heavy things on that side for long periods, to notice any swelling, etc. I don't mind wearing them. They aren't hot. They aren't any more annoying than other items of clothing that most women wear on a daily basis that I don't have to or won't wear, so I guess it's a fairly even trade (you guys can have your bras, hose/tights, heels, and artificial fibers; I'll take my sleeves any day).

I go on a semi-regular basis to have my arms measured and to check in with an occupational therapist who specializes in lymphedema. I saw her today, and my arm is smaller than it was, appears to only be swollen in one specific area, and otherwise, for a hot humid day, looked great to her. In fact, officially, I do not have a diagnosis of "lymphedema."

So, maybe as long as I pay attention to it and am careful, perhaps this is one bullet that I'll escape.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One year ago today...

...I first started down this path.

I'm not even sure what to say beyond that.

What a bummer of an annual exam that was!

It's been a freaky week, flashing back to last year.

Sort of makes me want to puke, just thinking about that week.

Thought for the day (07/20/10)

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't.

~Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thought for the day (07/14/10)

Once you shift your focus from yourself to others and extend your concern to others, this will have the immediate effect of opening up your life and helping you to reach out. The practice of cultivating altruism has a beneficial effect not only from a religious point of view but also from a mundane point of view; not only for long-term spiritual development but even in terms of immediate rewards.
---Dalai Lama

Friday, July 9, 2010

Body Drama

Have you seen this book? My goodness! Had it been around when I was younger, my life would have been quite different, that's for sure. Who knew how many different types of ta-tas there were?!?! Or, even more shocking, pages 118-119 with 24 pictures of ho-has.

I never knew about stretch marks and what cellulite really was when I was young.

No, seriously, this book is a must have for anyone with young women. It might be a must have for anyone with young men as well. It certainly doesn't make womanhood either glamorous nor mysterious.

And the pictures aren't re-touched, that's for sure, which is why it might be a good book to have lying around for guys to look at. These aren't models' boobs.

If nothing else, the information on how to make an emergency pad could be invaluable.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A sign of the heard it here first...

In celebration of my new normal, I have agreed to let Tynan try homeschooling again next year. It's not "pure" homeschooling, as he'll be enrolled in a public, online charter school; however, he won't be spending his days in a classroom "waiting patiently," which is how he has described his last school year.

The plan right now is that his father will be nearly 100% in charge of his education until such time as the husband is gainfully employed. All schoolwork is to be 100% completed by the time I return from teaching. I am not to be bothered by this at all. Tynan shall prove his worth, so to speak, by reading at least 1/2 of the required novels before school starts.

When (notice, dear readers, I say when not if) his father becomes gainfully employed, we shall revisit the plan; however, if it means enough to Sir Tynan, he will either (a) agree to going to someone else for "home" schooling or (b) become independent enough that he will go to school with me and either work in my office or in a hallway, without whining, procrastinating, or otherwise being a negative ninny.

So, we'll see. The adequate public school is right down the street, and will be quite sad to see him leave, I'm guessing, after seeing his state achievement test scores (significantly above the school and district average). Should staying home not work, then he can be enrolled in a matter of 30 minutes on any given day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Getting My Girl On, part 3

Today was girlio day with Sophie.

While I can't say my teen years were terrible, I also can't say that I appreciated them for all they were worth. I mean, can any of us? Looking back, though, it does seem that at 13 girls are standing on the edge, ready to spring into life. I dunno, I can't really find a good metaphor. But they are so full of life, energy, hope, dreams....or maybe not quite. Maybe a workable metaphor would be more along the lines of a piece of fruit, on the verge of being ripe...although maybe that's too sensual to use in relation to my sweet niece.

Anyway, she's just entering a wonderfully exciting phase in her life, and it's enjoyable to watch. It's even more enjoyable because, ultimately, I have no responsibility for her success or failure. That burden lies on the shoulders of her parents.

After a decent sleep in this morning, we headed out to an early viewing of Eclipse. Not really my cup of tea, parts of the story make my skin crawl, and I'd be horribly upset if I weren't able to remember that it's really just fiction. Reading Tolkien didn't make me believe in Orcs and rings that lead to addictive behaviors. Reading Nancy Drew didn't make me able to shrug into clothes. So, I'm assuming that Eclipse won't harm Sophie. At least my big boys came home from seeing it appalled at the behavior of the guys. Overall, though, it was a more enjoyable film than the first two in the series. I dread the last, but this was watchable. It was also my favorite book, I think. They all, all but the last which I think is an abomination, blurred together.

After Eclipse, we had a wonderful lunch at Poco Piatti. We started with artichokes and hearts of palm; next, Sophie had calamari and I had Shrimp Saganaki and salad. It was awesome! While we were waiting for our food, I gave Sophie a bracelet to commemorate her coming of age, so to speak. I'm not normally touchy-feely, but this just seemed like an OK thing to do. The food, though, was probably more memorable.

We concluded the day by spending a couple of hours at Plato's Closet. I'd post the picture I took of her that we sent to her mother....Miss S dressed in multi-green satin hot pants, a rather risque top, and 4" heels....but I'd need permission from both her and one of those people mentioned earlier who are, ultimately, responsible for her outcome:) In the end, she made some really wise, yet fun, choices, and I also sprung for some light, mind-candy summer reading. Of course, for my own child, I chose something totally different. But then, I am responsible for his outcome. I am soothing my conscience with the assurance that the wonderful school Sophie attends, her highly literate and well educated parents, and the house full of quality literature that she lives in will serve her well, and will offset the crap I gave her today.

One difference between my boys and Miss S that I noticed today was that I can barely, just barely, get my boys to try clothes on. Only under pain of "I will NOT buy that for you if there is any chance in HELL that we will have to return KNOW I stink at being able to keep track of receipts..." will my young men enter changing rooms. Yet, today, Sophie spent quite a bit of time in the changing room, trying on item after item after item. Meanwhile, during that time, I was snapping pictures of various tee and polo shirts and texting them to my boys for their approval. In the long run, that's so much easier than actually bringing the boys shopping with me.

How did we live without such technology? How would my life be ever so much diminished without my girlio? Good questions to ponder.

Independence Day 2010`

I suppose on some level, this entry should be about how on this July 4th I'm free of cancer and regaining my independence. But to be
honest, I haven't thought about that at all today. Instead, what I keep thinking about is what a wonderful community I live in.

It well and truly is the absolute best in the nation.

Hyperbole aside, I do live in a wonderful community. On the surface, it doesn't look like anything special. What makes it so wonderful is the people within it. This is very apparent over the July 4th holiday.

It's cool enough that the Boy Scouts go around town and put little American flags in the tree lawns, but also for the last few years, the holiday has started with a July 3rd Hog Roast at the home of Brenda and Roger. Every year, it gets larger and more people are involved. There's a core group of men who prepare the hog the night before, including splitting it down the center. This is usually accomplished with the "assistance" of quite a few young helpers, mostly boys, who find the idea of using a hatchet and hammer on a several hundred pound dead animal quite fascinating.

The following morning, many of the same men start the roasting. Later in the day, friends begin to gather, each family bringing a dish (or more than one) to share. At the height of food-heaven, there are at least three grills going, not counting the roasting pig flesh, and two large tables of food, ranging from veggies to hummus to salads to desserts. Kids of all ages play all sorts of "traditional" kid games....pick up games of kickball and football, soccer, kick the can, cops and robbers...and some games invented at previous hog roasts, including the ever popular one where two children each hold an exercise ball and run pell mell into each other. That game is always fun, until someone gets hurt and some parent puts the kabosh on it. The swing set is always swarming with the younger set, and there is always a kid or two, or three, or four or more on the side wall of the yard, which also happens to have the Preamble to the Constitution inscribed on it in sidewalk chalk for all to behold. I don't think I've ever seen a significant child squabble.

The adults mill around, tending grills and children, quaffing cold beverages of all sorts, including the adult sort, and doing what adults do best: talking. At some point, instruments are brought out.

What makes the whole thing incredibly representative of our wonderful community is that for that one night, we become a village. Children are tended to by multiple adults. Older children tend younger children. Adults flow seamlessly from group to group. Regardless of marital status, religious (or not) background, family size, race...about the only thing everyone has in common is a progressive political bent, but to varying degrees. Everyone pitches in to make sure that the magic works.

And work it does. Here are two examples: 2oo people, at least 1/3 or more children, and only one bathroom. But that's never an issue. Magic or miracle, you decide.

Example two: At this year's Hog Roast, the teens in my family (my own two plus the two cousins) were ready to go home; I was tired; my husband was willing to leave; the two 10 year olds were NOT ready to leave. Nope, no way, not at all. It was just fully dark and the kids had been looking forward ALL DAY to playing cops and robbers in the dark. ALL DAY, mom, ALL DAY, and you want us to leave NOW, JUST WHEN IT IS DARK, THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!!!
A friend who also had two children who were going to play cops and robbers in the dark stepped right up and offered to bring the two 10 year olds home when she left with her family. Magic.

As if that weren't enough, the very next day, July 4th rolls around.

Many of us wander back over to the Hog Roast for pulled pork left overs. In years past, we've spent the afternoon of the 4th at Brenda and Roger's, hanging out with friends, eating left overs, people showing up throughout the afternoon and evening with side dishes, kids continuing to romp. This year, however, with the cousins (and my husband's sister, their mother) in town, my family hung out at home. Grandma and the Uncle came over. The kids slept most of the morning and then chilled for most of the afternoon, playing ladder ball, football, and soccer in the yard, eating popcicles, and hanging out. The adults chatted on the patio until it got too hot and humid and we moved indoors. Normal stuff.

As darkness approached, most of us headed over for the fireworks.

I think Bowling Green has the most spectacular fireworks in the world. I'm sure there are better shows, but few places offer such a wonderful atmosphere. For at least 13 years, we've sat in the same spot, on the same hill, with the same people. The kids have simply grown up doing this. It's expected. It's tradition. We don't see some of these people at any other time of the year. Just on the hill beside the Rec Center at the fireworks. Of course there are many other places to view the fireworks, and I'm pretty sure most people go to their own favorite spot each year. I love to be on the hill, though. Kids play frisbee and catch at the base. Little kids roll down the hill. As it gets darker and darker, more and more people gather, most sitting in family pods on blankets. Kids running around, visiting with friends, making new parents anxious, then BAM! The first firework goes off and everyone scurries back to their spots to settle in and enjoy the show.
This year, a local church's bells also played patriotic music during the first and last parts of the show. Nifty.

This was a special year because, like so many communities, including several around us, Bowling Green didn't have the funds to provide a fireworks display; however, we didn't let that stop us. As a community, we pulled together and said, "This will not do." There were jars in nearly every store for donations of change. Churches worked to raise funds. There was a Facebook campaign. Local businesses donated money. Individuals donated money. We needed $16, 000 and we raised $16, 195.49. On top of that, Bowling Green also won a $10,000 grant from Liberty Mutual to help fund the fireworks.

Because that's how we roll. We are awesome. Our community rocks.

As for my family, we walked home after the fireworks, and some friends came over for ice cream. Sixteen kids and six adults. Believe it or not, there were left overs.

Now, at nearly 2:00 a.m. there are three kids settling into the family room, one asleep on the living room floor, and three man-size teens upstairs ready to sleep. In theory, those three were supposed to be sleeping in a tent in the yard, but it's too hot.

So, while the focus of July 4th is on "independence," in truth, for me at least, the observance of this holiday is about inter-dependence. None of this great weekend could take place if we were independent from one another. It's our connection, our interdependence, that makes this all work. We have to become dependent upon each other to make life work smoothly.

To be dependent, we must be able to trust that others will do their work and they must be able to trust that we will do ours. We must be able to trust that others will look out for our best interests and we must look out for theirs. We have to be able to believe that the roles we all play are necessary and equally important.

Beyond the history, beyond the "My country 'tis of thee," beyond the obvious "begone, ye British overlords" what July 4th means to me is interdependence day...a day to express the connections and ties within this wonderful community.

Oh, yes, and I completed my second 5K race, too.