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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)