Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Graduation -

Today is graduation day! I am released from my doctor's care and supervision. Hurray. I see my oncologists now every 3 months.

It's been a crazy month as I've counted down to this day. So many worries, so many changes, so many self-induced scares. The anxiety has about driven me nuts (or in other words, I have driven me nuts). I am looking forward to playing in the dirt without gloves and sharing my ice cream with my grandchildren, and perhaps registering for a 5k.

On another note - it is the end of the school year. I get a little melancholic this time of year, thinking about school being out - remembering how much I loved having my children home for the summer. I think about their high school graduations - remembering how they embraced the new. I think of my students, those who walked out of UVU with a diploma in their hands, hesitant and confident. I missed them this year.

I also think about my high school graduation, 30+ years ago. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that I was able to listen to music from my era and embrace that music and the memories associated with it. I had to make peace with a lot of my past, and in making peace, the good memories surfaced.

The Class of 1977 graduation song was Seals and Crofts, "We May Never Pass This Way Again." I was the chairperson for our class reunion last year, and we chose this for our reunion theme. It's been on my mind on and off since mid-August, last year.

I've sung it, quietly, as I've moved through this past 9 months. I have wanted to embrace the bad and the good; I never want to pass this way again, but I want the day-to-day moments and my memories of them to be ones of calm, peace, joy, contentment. I want to sail my ship out on the open sea, cast away my fears, and laugh while the laughin' is easy.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Social Experiment

Please tell me, who would you be most likely to donate money to -

The person standing at the crosswalk with this sign:


 Or the person standing at the crosswalk with this sign:



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taking Risks

As I've been healing, I've thought about cancer treatment as the "risk" I've had to take in order to rid my body of these nefarious cells. Cancer treatments are extraordinarily individualized, even talking to someone about cancer does not necessarily mean learning, perhaps only gathering information. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I innocently (and how could I be other with no family or friend history of cancer), thought I would be puking, having diarrhea, losing my hair, and needing to sleep. That's it! Awww, if I'd only known, but then, knowing is difficult. I mean, where was I even to begin my research? Just Googling "breast cancer" brings up 400,000,000 results! I had to take risks from the very beginning of my diagnosis.

The biggest risk I took was that of Trusting, with a capital T. Trusting my medical team, trusting others. Really, risking wasn't about my doing something, it was about allowing others to do for me. And in my "do it myself" world, this has been truly terrifying.

I think back on my first chemo treatment, I was like that proverbial lamb going to slaughter - innocently walking into the chemo room, dressed as if I was going to go teach a college course (that one I had to drop because of treatments), ready to be the healthy patient. Then - and remember this is post-surgery (and I'd had plenty of surgeries, so not a lot of innocence there), my port was accessed, and fluids began dripping into my body, poison was dripping into my body - the body I had worked so hard to keep away from poison. My risk came in not knowing what was next, how my body would react, and yet trusting my medical team, who would know what was "best" for my cancer. I had some serious side-effects, but yet I returned for more chemo treatments, more hydration, and every time I learned that my risk was a little less risky because my trust in others increased.

Six weeks after my last chemo treatment I began radiation, thirty-five treatments in all, and I had to face another risk, that of learning to trust, again. This time the trust was more easily developed, because I had learned to trust my chemo oncologists. When the burn was beyond toasted, when the pain was once again beyond any pain I had ever felt, I had to trust - there was nowhere else to go. Even when I wanted to quit, I had to risk the continuing.

A few weeks ago Scott and I drove our pickup, with new bikes in the back, to Southern Utah, our place of solace. Here I could let my guard down, being in Zion Canyon is like having a fleece blanket wrapped around me, giving me warmth and comfort - telling me I did not need to risk, and here I could trust myself, something I haven't done much of the past several months - I've been to scared to risk trusting me.


And yet that's where I am now, the biggest risk I've taken, is the one I'm taking - that of trusting myself. Trusting in the journey. Risking myself, giving myself over to a medical team, was easy compared to this leg of my journey. I have to trust in the new me, and I am afraid.

Chemotherapy #2, I'm no longer naive, and yet I am scared to death - 
I am well aware of the risks, yet I am choosing to trust.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Yesterday's Scared -

So - spiked on Percocet did absolutely nothing for my pain. I woke at 4:30 this morning, finally got up around 5am. Took another Percocet, tried to sleep, just felt like my head was in the corner of the room happily smiling down at me!

At 2pm, headache like crazy, I decided to take a Loratadine (Claritin) remembering that it helped with sinus headaches last year. And - tada - no more headache!

The MRI - $2800, Percocet - $10 for 10, Loratadine - $10 for 30. Peace of mind and head - priceless.

The end -

Friday, May 17, 2013

Scared -

I've had a headache all week. I don't usually have headaches. I called my radiation oncologist - they said to call if I had any concerns, any new pain.

Goodness - this trying to figure out the new me is emotionally exhausting. How do I know what pains are warnings, what pains are just pains? My entire body is foreign - so everything is a wonder to me. Nothing about me is familiar. It is the oddest place to be, particularly because I "knew" my body pretty well, and now, nothing fits.

MRI this afternoon. Up all night last night worrying and wondering. What would I do if I had brain cancer? Would I choose treatment, keep me comfortable, am I happy with where I am, how long would I have to live, where else would "it" travel? These concerns are real, yet also imagined.

Good news is there is no tumor, nothing, except for a small deviation in my septum. Whew! But - what is causing the pain? Allergies? Stress? A headache that got out of control because I didn't control the pain? The beauty is my medical team cares - honestly jumped in, made the appointment for the MRI, stayed late in the office to read the MRI and talk with me, 5pm on a Friday night. They didn't want me to worry over the weekend. Blessed.

So, this weekend, get the pain under control. How? Caffeine, Aleve, Ibuprofen, oils, massage haven't worked. Percocet, sleep, and de-stressing is the prescription from the doctor. As much as I hate pain meds, I'm surrendering to this script.

One concern down; I can do this, I can do this, I can do this . . .

On a gentler note, Tempest said to me yesterday, "You're my favorite grandma." Awww -





Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Post-treatment Fears and Hope

Fears
My chest is sore - it's back.
I've gained weight - I'm never going to heal.
I'm always tired - will I ever regain energy.
I'm teary - is this emotions or cancer?
Hotflashes - hormones must be working, but what can I take/do?
Waiting -
Anniversaries -
Loved ones, friends, acquaintances diagnosed with cancer -
My body aches - do I need hydration? How do I know what I need?
I have to visit the oncologist and my heart rate goes up -
I'm having a tough time concentrating -

What are the long-term effects of my treatment -
I will always need to be insured - financial responsibilities

Easily fatigued - naps, night-time sleep

Short of patience - 
Panic attack - or is it my heart? Was my heart damaged during treatment?
What am I supposed to do with what I've learned - adjusting to "this" life - 
            Establishing a "new normal" - how long is change?
            Very consciously determine what will and what won't be a part of your new life. 
            Some things will be the same, but finding meaning may be different. 
Overwhelmed - I can't do/be it all - not even 75% of all!

Depression/Anxiety -
Post Traumatic Stress -
Irritable - 


Coping
Confront
Distant
Self-control
Social Support
Accepting Responsibility
Escape - Avoid
Planful Problem Solving
Positive Reappraisal

Education
Find a safe place to share fears and distress
Pace life to avoide being overwhelmed
Friendships
Find a cancer'less identity
Spirituality
Reinforce past adaptive strategies for coping under stress and uncertaintiy
Support from community
Writing

Diet/Nutrition
Exercise
Meditation/Mind-body
Relaxation Techniques
Energy Therapies (Qi Gong; Reiki)

Hope
A belief that a positive outcome lies ahead.
Comfort in knowing that others have survived this treatment, this uncertainty, and I can too. 





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In The News -

Living Beyond Breast Cancer, lbbc.org, has asked me to be one of their bloggers! This is a pretty big deal in the Breast Cancer world. This organization has been very valuable to me - answering many of my questions regarding type of cancer, treatment, side effects, and support. My first post is today! Big Whoot!

http://livingbeyondbc.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/cancer-a-risk-a-surprise-and-certainly-an-adventure/

Monday, May 13, 2013

Zion -

Respite time in Southern Utah - amazing. We spent 2 days in Capitol Reef, 1 day in Bryce, and 6 days in Zion (not Zions). We love, love, love Zion Canyon and the tiny town of Springdale. We travel to Zion and Springdale whenever we need a break, time-off, a rest. We've been visiting the area for 6 years, probably 4 times a year. We stay at the same place, we call it our second home.

Zion is the Hebrew term for respite and sanctuary. Scott and I can rest, ride bikes, hike trails, and clear our minds when we're in this area. We have never grown tired of this place, finding something new to do every time we enter this space.

The Mormons take on this classic Christian tune, is, "Zion stands by hills surrounded. . . . Zion, zion, lovely zion." This rings true to us, every time we go. Zion - fills our souls, and we both have needed this respite, this sanctuary. In fact, don't we all need a place, a physical place that feeds our intangible soul? Do you have such a place?


 

Visiting with Autumn and Daniel and family.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

ABC's

I have mentioned the games I play in my mind when I'm stressed or can't sleep. Last night I played the "ABC's of Gratitude."

A -Asparagus. A sure sign of spring.
B - Breasts! Goodness my left boob has had more than its share of trauma, and it is still alive!
C - Cancer. I'll be writing about this for years to come, but for now, yes, I am grateful for cancer.
D -Death - it is in dying that we find birth (or at least that's been the case for me).
E - Empathy. I have developed friendships with folks who have been where I am. I am grateful for their experiences.
F - Friends, Family. 'Nuff said.
G - Green. The color, the scent. Green is the color of Hope.
H - Hope.
I - IV Therapy. Got another tank full yesterday (in my arm - hurt like a mutha).
J -Jokes. I love laughing - at myself even.
K - Karma. What goes around comes around. I've seen this in action, I believe in this concept.
L - LearningU. My work has given me the opportunity to be engaged, even on the yucky days. This company has been such a great support.
M - Medical Staff. I'll write more, but I have had the best care. Kind kind kind people.
N - Naps!
O - Optimism. I'm a realist, yet I've learned if I look for the good, I can find it. 
P - Paint! The smell, the color, the cover. Fresh, refreshing.
Q - Quiet. I cannot get enough of this non-sound.
R - Running. Last August I was just beginning to run. This May, I hope to begin, again.
S - Sun. Please, please, more sun!
T - Travel. So blessed to have the health to begin beating the blue roads.

U - United.
V - Victorious!
W - Walker - yup, through and through.
X - X-ray. Hmmm, haven't heard back on my EKG. Better follow-up.
Y - Yawns. Seems like that's what I do most afternoons and evenings. A sign to breath a little deeper.
Z - Zzzzzz. Hopefully I'm asleep before I hit here, please!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Man (TTFN FB)

Scott is bumpity-bump years old today. Happy Birthday to him.

Scott is not a fan of today's technology.
  • He hates his cellphone; it really is a piece of junk, but he's afraid to get a new one, he wants only to take calls, nothing more. 
  • We have Netflix, a TV, a DVD/VCR play, a Roku box. If any of these have "issues," he hollers at me, although I seldom watch TV, I can usually figure out the issue.
  • He forgets our e-mail address, sometimes confusing it with a web address, and he seldom checks his own account. 
  • He doesn't like sending or receiving e-mails, texts. He'd rather chat in person.
  • He'd rather use the phone book to look up a number, although I can find the same thing in seconds, compared to his minutes of hunting and frustration. 
  • He has a hard time with me being on the computer when we could be "watching TV" or other, together. I've told him the computer and music are to me what TV and Netflix are to him. 
  • He does electronic billing, but if he has a question, he has no idea how to find an answer. Unless it's hollering for my help. Or better, swearing at the computer!
  • He doesn't understand much about online education, online chat, Facebook, Travelocity, etc., and he really doesn't care to learn. 
  • But - he likes his Kindle, finally. 
So, I'm going to give Scott the best gift he never asked for. I'm taking a month's break from Facebook. Facebook has been my social world for the past 8 months, but with good weather and better health, I'm branching out, reaching out. I'll keep blogging, but I'm saying "Adios" to FB until June 1. Ya'll have to keep me honest now, so if you need to get in touch with me, e-mail me: wearehome@fiber.net, or call me.

And - if you want to wish Scott HBD, send him a text! He probably won't respond though! 






Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 

~ William Ernest Henley