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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.