Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memory Lane

Don't you love how the headline of this "Cancer Guide" reads: TAKE CONTROL...?  As if the reader, the patient, the caregiver has any control over the situation?  As if the controlling action wouldn't just be to say, "Out with you, damn pesky cells, get the eff outta here!"

It made me laugh when I spotted this at the radiation oncologist's office on Monday.  I do love my visits with Dr. Herbert - he is always reassuring and patient.  I left with a job to do:  get to the bottom of my rapid heart beat/low blood pressure.  And thus, today begins the next step of that journey, with yet another visit to my primary care doc.  Scarily enough, I am seeing her 364 days after she told me the chest xray showed a mass in my chest.  364 days.  Tomorrow is one year since the shit hit the fan.

It's all kinds of crazy when I think about what has taken place in the past year.  It was 12 months of ups, downs, twists and turns.  A very large part of me wants to just erase it and move on.  I wish I could pretend it never happened.  Dan, ever the optimist, never fails to remind me of the crazy good things that happened this year, most prominently our trip (c/o For Pete's Sake) to Disney World in January.  And what a wonderful trip it was.

I'm also the proud owner of the super-comfy and comforting Happy Chair along with some other very fantabulous goodies (c/o our amazing friends and family), we survived a kitchen remodel and gained a beautiful new nephew.  We were WELL FED!  I've learned how to meditate, I've become even closer with my husband and son and my parents and I found out how people really feel about me (mostly there's a lot of love out there).  Oh yeah, also, I'm still alive.

So, you know, there's that.  And I mostly try to think of those high points when I'm feeling down in the dumpy and like the universe has it in for me.  Unfortunately for me, those down times come and go like the weather.  Sometimes, there's so much rain, the basement floods.  Other times, the sun is shining and I can open the windows to let the breeze blow through.  Survivorship, as young as it is for me, is really hard.  I'm not sure what I envisioned (or if I even allowed myself to envision myself here) six months ago, but it probably wasn't this.

I bet it was a feel-good, movin-on, livin-my-life, no-one-can-stop-me vision.  As if I would just strong through the fear and the uncertainty.  Yeah, it's not quite like that.  Rainy days are rainy (and coincidentally, quite hormonal.  hmmm.).  Sunny days are sunny.  And there's not a whole lot of in-between.  Some days it's really really hard to feel grateful.  Like when I discover I'm dealing with yet another lingering side effect from treatment - or even something totally unrelated to treatment - that is just purely going to make my life more difficult.

My therapist accurately described this fragility today when she said I really don't have very much cushion between my core and the outside world.  There's no room for more crap, no margin for error.  When the cheese drawer in the fridge breaks, I cannot deal.  When I find out I cannot get an appointment with the cardiologist for a whole month (and that's out of SEVENTEEN doctors in the practice!), I break down in tears.  Some days are like this (terrible, horrible, no-good and very bad).


Dan came with me to see my doctor this morning, as I prefer not to go alone since being blindsided 364 days ago with chest xray results I didn't know I was going to receive.  I had another EKG done, my PC doc listened to my chest, my pulse and gave me a full exam.  She says everything looks a-ok.  Except I have this one small problem:  my pulse is high.  Like, too high.  120 today.  (Plus I have relatively low blood pressure)  It's been like this for a few months now.  Since she's already run all of the primary tests to rule out big stuff (heart damage or thyroid disorder caused by radiation, checking pulse-ox - which was 100% today), she is referring me to a cardio to get a little more specific.  I suspect next stop will be to get a MUGA scan to get a better idea of how my heart is operating besides just taking measurements (which is what they did during my echocardiogram).

a year ago.
I will keep you posted as to the ongoing investigation into my tachycardia (aren't I fancy with all the medicalese?).  For now, I'm off to bed, trying to put the past 364 days in perspective:  breathe in I'm still here.  breathe out I'm still here.  breathe in I'm still here.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


Happy Kid.
Tonight I am grateful for...

1. Wonderful friends.  My friends, my child's friends, there are good, strong people in my life that make it richer every day.
2. Cameras.  I really enjoy reliving moments of the past by watching videos or looking at photos.  Sometimes I can't fathom how quickly time passes.
3.  Nieces and nephews.  So wonderful to snuggle and play with all of the kids in the family.
4.  Being here.  I am breathing, and sometimes in sighs. Of relief, of frustration, of joy.
5.  My food prep skills. When operating on all cylinders, I can still cook and bake with the best of them. Thank goodness chemo brain didn't take that away.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank Goodness

True love.
I'm running out of ways to title my gratitude posts.  Suggestions, anyone?

At this moment I am grateful for...

1.  My kitchen aid mixer.  It is my third hand in the baking world.
2.  My kitchen aide (husband).  We are such a good team.  You should have seen us clean up tonight.
3.  Cousins!!
4.  The grill.  Much less to clean up.
5.  Green.  We are having such a payoff from this year's April showers in our neighborhood.  Everything is blooming and growing like mad.  It's a wonderful time to live in the suburbs (remind me I said this when marching band season strikes up again). 

I realize much of this revolves around food and the house, but then, so does my life.


Day 4, One Day Late

It was a very happy mother's day.
I really did write this list yesterday, I swear.  But Blogger was doing some maintenance, blah blah blah and I couldn't post it.  Thus, I am posting Day 4 list when it is really Day 5.

Last night I was grateful for…

1.     Feeling well.  At this time last year, I was really really itchy.  I did not want to spend time outside as it made the itchies worse. 
2.     A refrigerator full of food.  Did I mention I like to be prepared?
3.     Good things to look forward to.  We still have yet to celebrate Judah’s birthday (officially) and then there’s that Hawaii trip…
4.     Friends who are family.  It’s really nice to talk to someone who understands you.
5.     Family who are friends.  It’s really nice to talk to someone who understands you.  Oh wait, did I write that already?  Well, it’s still true.
6.     My child’s voice.  Fee Fi Fo Thumb… Every day I love listening to what he has to say.  I hope he always feels his words are valued.
7.     Family.  I am very lucky to live close to my parents, who have been and continue to be essential to my recovery.  Delicious dinners, babysitting and especially moral support – I can’t imagine doing this without them.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thanks a Bunch

Genius!  I am grateful for Wegman's.
I am begrudgingly writing my list this evening.  Let me explain.

I like to plan.  I like to be prepared.  To Do Lists, calendars, schedules, outlines, wipe-off message boards, post-it notes, a fully-stocked basement pantry - these are all my close friends.  And especially now, that I am beginning to feel like a semi-functioning adult again, I am enjoying the routines that I've established to keep a rhythm going throughout each week.

This is not to say I haven't learned about losing control or having to deal with uncertainty.  I have (at least that's for sure).  I don't know if I'm really better at not knowing what lies ahead, but I feel that I am the tiniest better at breathing through the anxiety that accompanies the unknown.

That being said, my patience is being tested this week.  We'll just leave it at that.

Right at this moment (or maybe a few hours ago), I am grateful for...

1.  Happy people on the street.  It's easier to feel happy when people around you are smiling.
2.  ACUPUNCTURE.  Tonight I was told my pulses all felt really good and my acupuncturist was thrilled that I am "on the other side".
3.  Optimistic friends.  Although I often have a challenging time putting a positive spin on frustrating situation, there are some people I consistently count on to do it for me.
4.  Tivo.  It gives me more time to do things besides watch tv.  Instead of arranging my evenings around (a few, high quality) programs, I can watch them at MY convenience, without the irritating commercials.
5.  Dinner made by my excellent husband.  Buckwheat noodles, diced tomatoes, onions, garlic and cottage cheese, with a spinach/strawberry salad.  I am hungry again just thinking about it.

I feel better now.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Giving Thanks (Day 2)

Today I am grateful for...

1.  May sunshine.  It is hard to be in a bad mood when the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing.
2.  Energy.  I felt so productive today - cleaned up the house, even swept the front porch and wiped down the chairs so we could have an afternoon snack outdoors.
3.  A healthy child.  Judah had his yearly check-up this afternoon and was given a clean bill of health.  He did not drop one little tear during his shots (we cheered him on - by request - the same way he cheered me through each neulasta shot).
4. The best husband in the world.  He always thinks of me.  He is just a wonderful person, smart, funny, thoughtful, loving, reliable, and cute, too!
5.  David Sedaris.  I love falling asleep while laughing.

Note:  There are many other things I'm grateful for tonight, I'm simply sharing the first five that came to mind, in no particular order.


Monday, May 9, 2011


Fancy Familia
A large part of the Mind Body Intelligence class has focused on compassion (for yourself as well as for others), loving kindness (maitri) and gratitude.  We have practiced an equanimity exercise, where we go around the room and share one thing in our lives that is easy to be grateful for and one thing that is difficult that we are grateful for.  Or, sometimes, it's just one thing we are grateful for right now, at this present moment. 

Some days this is more challenging than others, finding something (beyond the glaringly obvious) to remember to appreciate.  And I think those are the times it's more important to dig deep and verbalize the amazing blessings many of us are lucky enough to receive - like good health, finding love, having a job, growing hair.  I think it has the power to help me keep perspective for when the going gets rough. 

So I thought I would begin a gratitude log.  Each day for the next week, I will come up with at least 5 things I am grateful for (it can be more).  I will post them here and I encourage you to try it also, either privately or feel free to post in the comments section.

Tonight, I am grateful for...

1. completing the meditation class.  I really did learn a lot about myself and about how to let my body and my breath lead the way.
2.  hummus.  I never met a hummus I didn't like. 
3.  a tidy house.  I always feel better after the countertop is wiped down.
4.  my roommates (both 2 and 4 legged).  I love typing away while listening to the sleeping breath rhythm coming from different sides of my bedroom.
5.  time.  I am so lucky that I have the time that I need to heal from this past year.  There are many (too many) people dealing with cancer who do not - financially or otherwise - have that freedom.  I don't want to call it a luxury because it's really a necessity.

Okay, your turn.


Monday, May 2, 2011

In All Fairness

Lotus Flower: click HERE for an explanation
Many apologies for my absence.  Much has been going on in the past few weeks.  There was Passover, of course, and I've been busy healing.  Between weekly meditation class (more detail on this later), check ups, acupuncture, psychotherapy and massage, it's a full time affair.  Yoga got the boot for a few weeks there, since I was still healing from the port removal and then I had a nasty cold for the past two weeks.  I just did not have the strength to spare.

Luckily, I think the cold is on its way out.  I may head back to yoga this week, depending on how my lady parts are feeling.  Since I don't want to get too graphic here (wouldn't want to gross out my many male fans), I'll just leave it at that.  I'm a woman, and I've got hormones, and I've got lady parts.  Unfortunately, they're all slightly incommunicado since the chemo storm of 2010 hit home.  Coming, going, up, down, happy, sad... it's all a little confusing at the moment.

This morning, prior to meditation class, I saw my therapist for a little TLC and support.  I am really working on my biggest obstacles lately, which include anger (at being dealt this crap in the first place), jealousy (of others who have the good fortune to never hear words "cancer" or "infertility" spoken about themselves), sadness (at having time and much much positive energy taken from me), guilt (not being happy enough with what I've got when some don't even survive through treatment) and fear (so much uncertainty lies ahead).

I am pleased that my therapist is not the kind of person who expects me to slog through this manure in a way that denies how I feel (I had a therapist in the distant past who thought the answer was not to explore my emotions or get to the root causes, but to distract myself with "other" activities - you'll have to wait for the published version if you want the full story).  In fact, spiritually, I think I am more in line with her than with the Jewish prayerbooks I grew up with.  She's quite familiar with Buddhist principles and employs many a Buddhist analogy.

We got to talking today about how scary it feels to fall through space.  And especially when I have zero trust in the universe to catch me.  Last year, around this time, the rug (aka Planet Earth) was very rudely pulled out from under my feet.  And while I was so fortunate to have wonderful family and friends to cushion the fall, I am only now starting to stand up and look around for that dirty little rug puller.  Who is to blame?  Why did this happen?  I demand to know the truth.  Justice must be served.

Truth be told (if nothing else, you know I'm honest), I can be a little vindictive sometimes.  Wonder who I got that from?  I will credit myself enough to say I've improved over the years and I at least attempt to see things from someone else's POV before ripping into them with a chainsaw.  But I am having trouble with the fact that there's no one at whom I can direct my revenge in this case.

I am pissed.  I was backed into a cancery corner and given one viable treatment option.  I can only hope that it worked (I mean permanently) and that I don't have to find a second line of defense against these blood sucking biotches.  But while I'm busy trying not to hope too hard, I get to deal with the aftermath of being injected with poison and invisible death rays.  Cause let me tell you, no one gets off easy.  You can't begin to imagine the side effects that can show up months and years after treatment (if you have the good fortune to make it that far).  I know I sure did not have a cotton pickin clue.

It's all been challenging to move on from.  I dread my next scan (6 more weeks), but would have one right now if it wasn't for all that frickin radiation.  I would have a scan every morning if it were safe.  Just to know nothing new is stirring.  I've been having neuropathy in my feet and lower legs in the past few weeks.  Each time I feel it, I've been walking.  Nothing heavy, just around the block, or a few blocks from the car to a restaurant.  It's a tingly, burning sort of numbness.  Like right before pins and needles kicks in, you might feel something similar.  Fun times.

Plus I'm still dealing with this piss poor breathing situation, which Dr. Henry concurs will probably take a few more months to heal.  Boo.

It might seem as though I'm complaining here.  You know what?  Today, I am.  And I've come to the conclusion (through weekly therapy and meditation) that I'm allowed.  I can offer myself just a teensy bit of self-pity.  And if that means I blog about feeling like a turd and being angry about what I've been through, so be it.  The last thing I need to do is defend myself against all of those cheery, plastic cancer survivors out there who live every moment to the fullest, never dwelling on how poopy this all really is.

If I were truly able to switch my moods like a tv channel, I might change to something brainless and distracting, that wouldn't give me nightmares or make me cry.  I might.  But I'm thinking I owe it to myself to see what happens here first.