Saturday, January 31, 2009

Got Cancer? Read this......

So, awhile ago, when I was too tired to see through the brain fog and read (well, retain) books, this one was passed along. From friend, to husband, to me. Something rang out "Read this one!" (I get many book suggestions).

Now, as I am detoxing, and still healing. When my bodies says "rest", I say "How long?" and I spend my time curled up under my afghan, with my journals, and the list of books. I was eager to start this one.

My intuition served me well! I have barely cracked the book open, and already I know it is one of the top ones I have read. And I recommend this to ANYONE who has cancer, has cancer in the family, or has a loved one with cancer who can't read for themselves right now.

He is a doctor. He had/has cancer. The book is his story. The book talks about hard science. The book talks about what science hasn't caught up to yet. The book debunks some alternative myths. The book backs other alternatives and expounds on the "why" they work. This book sets you up to never give up, have hope, and keep on trying. It has put the wind back in my sails and set me on a course. VERY cool. One of my favorite lines, which has been said over and over again, yet the way he put it I loved. "Through the foods we eat, we can create an anti-cancer biolody". Tres manifique.

With so many "cancer' books, I have started to read, I end up skimming for juicy bits and leave the rest. But this one, I simultaneously have to put down for a second at the end of each pag and absorb it and go "woah", AND can't stop reading.

Please put this in your toolbox. Friends who want to understand more, want to prevent cancer, or be an advocate, please read this one!!!!!!!

One beautiful little paragraph tells us the origins of the Chinese characters that make up the word "crisis". It is "danger" and "opportunity" put together. Cool. Very very cool.

Click this image to access a interview with the author!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Extra Long Confessional and Meditation for Cancer Healing - aka: Stage IV cancer - Smage IV cancer, Bring it On! ! Don't live your label!

This entry is for all you Stage IV diva's (and gods) out there reading. I am going to raw, honest, and confessional, despite the public format. That is a little hard. I will run into people at school, the library, etc. who will read this. And they will look at me, with some fear or pity or whatever. But Whatever. This is for all you Stage IV'ers out there. I do this, because it seems like this all so taboo. I want to break down that, so we can learn from each other.
Yesterday was a "hard" day. I had a cold, energy was stagnating around me, life was starting to seem far away and I was just a by stander. An ambitious, not-done-what-I-came-her-to-do-yet 30 something mom and wife. I hadn't lived like I wanted. I had put off a few KEY things. AHHHHHHH! I was spiraling down the pit of "oh no! I didn't....what if's........", over a cold. It had to stop.

Being told you are Stage IV can really take the confidence out of you. What once seemed certain, becomes uncertain. Everything breaks down. Trusting that a new, improved self will rebuild in it's place....well, that is the trick now isn't it. I am learning to live with new limitations.

I can't have another child, probably adopting is out. OUCH.
Even if I could, could I hold this child. Literally HOLD this child?????
I wanted this job, but realized the small part about lifting 50 pounds was out....for now.
I could count on that youthful energy, and now I need to nap like a little ole lady.
etc, etc. Cue the pity party music.

And I was starting to stale, like bread left neglected on the counter. I could "see" my life, but was starting to feel fear. Getting a stomach flu, after being so sick with chemo, can kind of trigger fear. It is hard to tell yourself, it is just temporary, this isn't going to last 6 months, just 6 days. On Sunday nights, my port still starts hurting and twitching. This started a few month back. I have literally had to tell it, ALOUD, that it wasn't going to get poked and bruised the next day and to calm down. And it DOES. Woah.

But, I say this again, the most fundamental thing about healing is about living in the NOW.

And my NOW was beoming one of fear. I know, it is GOOD for you health to live honestly. To let emotions show up, observe them, and let them teach you, and then let them move on. But it is NOT healthy to let them entangled you and stagnate. When you start to feel a power struggle with an emotion, it means it has overstayed it's usefulness and it is time to take action.

Since I wasn't strong enough to dance it out, I went the gentle route and took a bath........and I cried. I cried about the biopsy 7 months ago, that hurt like hell because the anathesia didn't work (they did over 12 sample pulls....). I cried at my fear I had shelved because I had to focus on healing. I cried about aspects of this journey I didn't even know I had pent up emotions about.

I cried and cried and then........ I laughed while crying, because even though I had this outer shell of fears and saddness releasing, my inner core was SO at peace and so in love with experiencing life, no matter how it looked or how it was labeled. I laughed, because I knew this was all just a part of a wonderful journey and I was honored to simplybe alive to experience those emotions. I gave them deep reverence for the lessions they brought.

All this crying and laughing......I guess I am a Divine Mess. hehehehehehe. And I love myself for being a Divine Mess and asked mother/father God (however you refer to the force that binds us all and gives us life) to please allow me to let go of who I use to be, embrace my new self, with new limitations, and new wisdom, and use this NEW life, in whatever way would be of service to humanity and the planet.

And the clouds cleared. Instantly, in that moment of letting myself go and finally feeling everything so deeply. I went from being stagnated and fearful, to all out clear. It is healthy to not lose your mind all the time, but when done in the right time and place, going to the edge of an emotion you fear feeling can be the most liberating thing. And when death has knocked on your door, you have emotions you've never had to deal with before. (A great book, "A Path With Heart", by Jack Kornfield, talks about finding the edges of emotions we fear and in facing them, we release them.).

I saw my purpose. I saw WHY I decided to go through this cancer experience. I saw how it completed a chapter of knowledge in my book of life.

I got very very very clear.

I am an artist.
I am a writer.
I am a philosopher.
I am a teacher.
I am full of compassion.
I am full of hope.
I am full of love.
I am full of fiestiness.
I am a warrior.
I am a graduate of Bastyr. I know ALL about how the mind plays a role in this disease.

And what I learned is this:
I can lead others through and help them lead happier lives, despite being diagnosed. I have these tools to share.

So, if you are a Stage IV cancer patient. Please, remember, your life ISN'T over. The life you knew BEFORE is over. LET IT GO. Trust that the life the is still before you (and there is, even until the last breath) is going to be different and better! Cancer can teach us the art of letting go.

And in my newfound realization, I leave everyone with this. I do this exercise with my daughter frequently at bedtime:

We send this light, filled with warmth and vibrancy and love through her body.

We start by imagining this light hovering just above her head. This light is gentle and brilliant, with sparks of jewel like colors dancing around it. It has a sense of safety and peace.

We let this light gently enter into her mind first. It "hugs" the thoughts racing through her mind. She is still allowed to think thoughts, the light just lets her think them very very slowly.

Then the light begins to move down each part of her body. In once continuous unbroken path. Head, to face (including jaw joints, eye sockets, tongue), scalp, neck, shoulders, etc..... be as detailed as you have time/endurance for.

We imagine that anywhere the light touches, it hugs that part of the body, down to the cell, and LOVES it completely and leaves it with a sense of safety and good health.

Every so often, I say, "Your thoughts start to move slower now. Almost become very very still. And as you mind relaxes, your body relaxes." (Thanks to Cai Bristol for this tidbit!)

Once we get to to her feet, we imagine that her body is now filled with little rivers of this light, and the catch any debris that she doesn't NEED anymore (she can hold onto it if she still needs to learn). It can be fear, pain, anxiety, joy, hyper energy, etc.

Whatever it is gets carried along the current and sent out her feet. We always end it with: "Let mother earth take this energy and transform it into new energy that will be helpful for whatever tomorrow brings."

This may sound very "new age"-ish. But there is a very real neurochemical and brain wave reaction happening along with this. Immune system functions increase. Brain waves slow down, and allow a deeper sleep, and thus a more healing sleep. You begin to build up neurotransmitters, just like muscles. The neurotransmitters your are exercising and creating synapses for, become more prevelant and efficient. You have a greater sense of well being, and you are actually doing healing work.

My white blood cells stayed in the normal range my entire 6 month weekly course of chemo!

That is the essence of our Stage IV journey. Everyday, is new. Everyday is a day we are alive. And this day just let yourself be whatever you need to be to be healthy. Cry, laugh, rest, run. Whatever is true for you. So many people have an idea of what we "should" be doing, or feeling, or deciding to do with ourselves. If we practice NOW, I truly believe it leads us to a longer, healthier life (however long that may be).


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Still Here

Hi All! I am still here. Just LIVING. The couch and me started becoming friends this week, as a cold/flu toyed with me a bit. But onto the news:

There is a strangeness happening. At brunch, a friend, who had a brush with a deadly illness not too long ago, understood what was going on for me. Life around me got frozen in time. And now that I am out of the deep woods, I am having to re-introduce myself to my life.

Small things to big things have been in suspension. Like, what HAS my kid been doing in school? What?! Those tags for the car are FIVE months overdue?

Then, there are all the emotions, you can't deal with in the middle of chemo. because you are focused on doctors appointments, and treatment side effects.......well, they catch up to right about..... now. I like to call this the undoing of the indefinite suspension of time and space. I feel like I was Neo in the Matrix, slowing down time and space and dodging bullets with a ninja like grace. Only now, time is back to regular time and instead of hovering the mid air gracefully, the laws of gravity have hit and I am on the floor in a thud.

Time to deal.

So I have been dealing. Getting car tabs caught up (well, Jim did), getting clothes that fit (I gained weight with the treament....I have not transcended into a monk-like indifference to my appearence....aka...I still have a healthy dose of vainty), and buying shoes that allow me to walk pain free. I am signing up for classes to get my body back in shape, scouring the want ads, sending in writing samples, and taking lots of catnaps. Unpacking boxes, setting up shop, and doing taxes. Life stuff.

I am also doing something I have never done well before. Take care of my body. I take more salt baths, catnap, go to bed at 7:30 when needed, and just sit in parking lots meditating to rejuvenate energy that quickly drains. I am like that granny at the family reunion....gabbing away one second, sleeping sitting at the table the next. It is okay.

One time someone said to me, "I wish I had a good excuse like you do to slow down and ask for help."

My advice.........SLOW DOWN & ASK FOR HELP ANYWAY. Don't get sick. Just take good care of yourself. If you want to sit and take a catnap in the car while Little Jenny is at soccer practice, instead of running an errand, I ensure you that the world won't fall apart. We are told in this society we must be doing three things at once, or we aren't doing enough (especially us women). Pshsawh. Don't drain your adrenals to fit the role of superwomen. RECHARGE. We MUST recharge. Or we will be like the economy, and crash because we were running on fumes but rigging our gaudges to say we have full tanks. So, if you go grocery shopping, and find yourself run down, just sit in the car for TWO MINUTES, that is all I am asking, TWO MINUTES, and center you energy and ground it and feel your heartbeat, and listen to your breath. Recharge.

Anyway, I have been quiet. I was very disoriented. My body is like hot and cold water. Energetic and then drained. It will take awhile for things be feel "normal". But I am getting more and more glimpses of what that will be like if I give myself the time to recharge.

The other reason I have been quiet, I am working on two charity drives (my own creations) and hoping they come to fruition. But, you will have to check back. I hope to announce them on this site in the next week. I am putting the pieces in place before I say anymore!!!

I also have been job hunting......but I will post more on that tomorrow.

For ya!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stablizing Forces

The weekend gave me glimpses of a stabilizing force recharging and normalizing my life.
I turned 34.
I drove my car, a LONG distance.
Saw kitten faces, friendly faces, and brunched to bring in the new year for me.
I managed to cook.
I napped only once.
The couch went unused.
If you told me I had cancer, I would've scoffed and laughed.
I felt strong.
I felt centered.
I felt clear headed.
I lived a normal life.

Today, I browse job possibilites,
let some creative juices find their way to page,
watch a new generation take the lead,
revel in the sun streaming in, steaming the frost off grass and roof.

Today, I move forward.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009, wooooooooooah

I didn't get past the opening page of CrazySexyCancer Survivor before her words took my breath away and rekindled my spirit. Go KRIS! I was just telling my friend this week, that even though I am tired, I feel older, still have cancer in me, have had some "freedom" of movement taken away temporarily, etc. I would never trade in this experience, because it has transformed me in ways that have deepened my experience and allowed me to break down old parts of my self that diluted the flavor of Love and Life. I thought I had kindness and compassion before....but I realized.... never for myself. Cancer took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, "No time to waste, you can't save this for another time!!!!" I shed my old fears, because I simply didn't have the time or energy to feed them. It all had to go into healing. And to heal the body, you had better do some healing of the heart. Sure I know people who have been cured of cancer, and seem to go on auto-pilot and have their body healed. But it is the people who seem to face it, and become fully alive, unbridled and living that seem to be the people who are truly healed, even if their cancer sticks around their bodies.

There was a line in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that I L-O-V-E-D. After traveling the world for the first time, Benjamin comes home to his adoptive mother. She asks him about his journey, "Did you learn anything worth repeating?" she asked.

I would repeat this. If it meant living with what I have learned on this cancer journey, I would repeat this experience. My heart is softened, kindness is my credo, forgiving and moving on are the norm,.......what' more.....I have allowed this to be not just towards others, but towards myself as well. It doesn't mean I am not lost (I feel very disoriented in my life at the moment), or have all the answers, or don't get angry. It just means I am so deeply freed from my past fears, that I this nirvana-like-bliss allows me to see: my disorientation just means I am finding a new path, the discomfort of feeling ignorant means I am on the cusp of learning something new, and my anger tells me I am resisting admitting I am afraid of something in the moment. Life just got easier. GOT-TO-LOVE-IT.

Okay, okay, I hear you saying, "WHAT?! Jenna you nut! Life got easier with cancer?""

And this brings us back around the Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor.

Kris Carr sums it up:

A Survivor is a triumphant person who loves with, after, or in spite of a diagnosis or traumatic event. Survivors refuse to assume the identity of their adversity. They are not imprisoned by the constructs of a label. Instead, survivors use their brush with mortality as a catalyst for creating a better self. We transform our experience in order to further evolve spirituality, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Our reality changes us to go deeper.

Survivors cultivate an essence that will never be a victim to a word. (Inspired by Beth Villandry)

GO Kris (and Beth!)


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Donation Button Removed

It is with great relief that I remove the Donation Button on this page!!!!!!!!!

Here is the little blurb on the side where it used to be.


Hi All! I appreciate all everyone has done, but I think I am going to take the donate button feature down now. You got us over the hump, and let us stay on our feet through the hardest time. You have allowed us to have care for my daughter, when I was unable to do so myself. You have allowed someone to come clean when I was too laid up to do so and Jim was too overwelmed taking care of me, Bug, and his job. He became ME plus him, plus someone taking care of a very sick person.(I can't believe how insistent some of you were on this one, and I deeply appreciate it in hindsight!). You've helped with prescriptions that were $300 out of the blue, and helped us start our payment plans with doctors. And while things are tight and every dime will count, things are not insurmountable anymore.

We are taking the funds and shifting their focus around to the most pressing needs. From childcare, medical bills, and cleaning help to medical bills only. I can start to pick up Bug from school since I can drive again. We had to trade in our old manual (which cause me pain to drive and get in and out of) for an automatic that was easy to get in and out of. I want you all to know, it was money from family that allowed us to do so, we used NO funds given to us for this transition.

Now that I can drive, I can WORK and pay my own medical bills! I can't tell you how happy that little fact makes me feel.

Thank you for the fund raisers (which were heartwarming) and for the individual donations. So many people just donated without being asked. I can't stress how having the money to have reliable care for Bug was pivotal in my family not falling apart at the seams under the stress of all of this. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

But now that I can work, and cover our costs, it is time for me to take this donate button down. It gives me a sense of pride and happiness to be back on our own two feet and be able to do for ourselves.

Love your generous spirits!!!!!!!
Thank you

Friday, January 9, 2009

It is coming back?

Woah. I have had a day here and there where it feels like someone turned me back on. Energy, clarity, etc.

But what came back today took me off guard. I was sitting here, (in some pain), and music walked back into the room and I had to go over to the piano and play it out. WOAH. LOOOOOOOOOONG time a missing there Ms. Muse!

Next thing I know, I am cutting and pasting and collaging again. Here she is, my Ms. Muse card. I started on her right before this whole cancer thing hit. And today, it was easy to finish. The few times I tried to collage through chemo, turned into empty, ackward, pieces. "It" just wasn't there anymore. But today.......oh I am SO FREAKIN' HAPPY to have the creative juices flowing again. It is like a long time best friend coming over for tea and compassionately listening to your woes and laughing away the absurdities of life.

I can breathe!

While I am at it. I finally found my stack of collage cards I have made over the past couple of years. And I was missing them because in it, was two cards that really spoke to this journey.

This one really came to mind when I thought
about the support all around me.

This one came to mind when I felt Strength and Courage despite the heat. ;)

Very cool that my cards came back and are flowing again. I can breathe again!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Still and Quiet

That post-treatment/chemo is one of the toughest times in cancer-land. Depression and saddness kick in for many people, even though THEY ARE HEALED! I knew this. I am a Health Pysch major, so I MUST be IMMUNE to this....right? I have handled it allllllllllll so well, yeah? lol!

But, oh, it tis true. Now I am not really "done" with treatment. But going off chemo is a huge transition. Suddenly, the extrovert willing to share, just wants to go into the earth and be as still as a tulip bulb waiting for spring to come. That is all I want. I feel raw, and quiet and hyper aware and physically better....yet also tired on an emotional level. I think many of my friends, although unaware, are feeling the same way. Like we dodged a bullet and in the moment of it, stayed positive and looking at ways out of the situation, and now that I have a moment of safety, are feeling the fears and the saddness that were held at bay. I am not depressed, but I am cleansing pent up fear and energy. It is good.

I don't want to climb moutains, or conquer a new skill, I just want to be really really still, and let a tear streak down my cheek without cause or catalyst. I don't need to know why the tear broke loose, I will just trust it is cleansing old wounds and be kind to it and myself. My mind/body/spirit have been dismantled and reorganized and will continue to be dismantled and reorganized. That is the "gift" of cancer you hear about. Yet, it isn't easy, but is is a blessing. I don't have the energy to be anything but honest anymore. I can't fake it, act happy or perky. If I am tired, I am tired. If I am sad, I just let it sit with me, so it can tell me what it needs to and leave me wiser. I don't resist so much anymore.

I am wary of sharing this, more because I feel so inward right now. But I know people are watching and I don't want to shut you out. Also, I am doing to this blog, to maybe help those on the "outside" learn about what might be going on on the inside of a friend or loved one. It is so hard to approach us. I know. Might you say the wrong thing? Might you acknowledge the cancer TOO much, or not enough? Will the missing eyelashes spook you and you might worry about offending me by staring and saying....."weird".

This is why I LOVE kids. Every kid I know is so purely honest. I have lots of kiddos around me, here is a list of my favorites:

Four Year Old Girl: "Why don't you have a bald head? Is your hair going to fall out? Does that mean you don't have cancer if you still have hair?"
Five Year Old Boy: "Does cancer hurt? Are you hurting right now? Does it make you sad to be in pain? Do you feel pain all the time?"
My daugher: "Where are your tumors? (I point). Can YOU feel them without touching them (some I say)? Why did they get there? How come there are so many?"
Five Year Old Boy: "You look a little different? Is it the cancer making you look different (I say no, the drugs...always positively) Are you feeling better? (yes) Does that mean we will get to see you more? I miss you."
Four Year Old Girl; "Can I get cancer from touching you? Well how did it get into you then? Why did you body forget to kill the cancer cells? Do kids get cancer or only old people like you? (hehhehehe)."

I love that they, without any fear, just ask. I wish we could undo the social stigma of asking honest, compassionate questions without brushing off uncomfortable answers or needing to help. Kids are Guru's of Compassionate Listening. They ask what is on the minds of many of you, and I love them for that...they just ask, and learn, and move on. I like to be direct and honest with them without an agenda or needing anything from them. I want to teach kids not to be afraid. And I LOVE the deep deep look they give me. Like they are looking straight through my body and deep into my soul, with such a curious look on their face.

Finally, I know many of you were waiting for Test Results time. In general, it is "good" news. The doc says I am where she was hoping I would be at this point. No going back to chemo. In general, she said, my body doesn't have any active sites, except below my armpit on the left. Most all of the sites have shrunk to a size they can't detect anymore. And there are a couple of areas they are keeping an eye on, because the cancer MIGHT have spread, but they can't tell for sure. Yes, I know. We alll think of this as definitive. But let me tell you, there ain't a thing that is in cancerworld. They can't see below a certain size, so they can never really say. They watch for patterns, and look at many factors to make certain calls. It is too widespread in me to ever say "All clear" and I am not all clear right now. One site is still active and growing (very little but growing). So, onward we go!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Bullet Point Update

Fact Number One:
It is snowing - again. For an area that rarely ever gets snow, we were SHOCKED to look outside and see that in the matter of two hours (of cooking and taking down a well loved Christmas tree), that 2 -3 inches of snow had come out of nowhere! WT??????? I am not sure where I live anymore! But I have NO snow gear. I think it is high time to buy some decent boots so I can go out and enjoy! Since we rarely get more than an inch, I don't have good boots. Or jackets, for this. Strange.

Fact Number Two:
I have been quiet because we have all been snowed in, and Christmas break was afoot. A hubby and a child at home for three weeks (are we looking at FOUR!) YIPES! They have kept me busy busy busy. No quiet contemplative time to type. I am stealing a few minutes to put out an update.
(I thought I would tomorrow, but looks like I have a kid at home again!)

Fact Number Four:
I have had a stomach bug. Hence, one more reason not to write.

Fact Number Five:
I had my triple dose of Herceptin last week, right after a PET/CT scan. BLUGH. Not a nice combo. I get the results of the PET/CT scan back Wednesday. I am nervous.

Fact Number Six:
How is the transition going? Strange. Another reason for not writing. So much is going on in my mind/body/spirit. I just feel the need to cocoon up until Spring.

Fact Number Seven:
I am still tired, but not all the time. I just get tired easily and still need downtime/rest time. Kind of being on this side of it now, and seeing my body still struggling because of the ordeal of chemo, I am going to be kind and give myself January to tweak nutrition/food, exercise, and drain this overworked lymphatic system with the aforementioned food/exercise/sleep and a variety of other methods, including more acupuncture.

I am tickled at all the phone calls, 6 in a matter of hours, but I am still healing. Chemo is done, and now the real work begins. I am backlogged, but do plan to catch up with all the Loving Supportive Folks who give me calls and emails, real soon.

Okay, my few minutes are up.

Love to everyone!