Thursday, May 20, 2010

New chapter, new book

I am approaching my Cancerversary. It has been nearly five years since I found that little lump that changed everything; nearly five years since I got the phone call that confirmed that my life (and body) would never be the same.

When I was first diagnosed, five years felt like a magical number, and sort of mythical. How would I make it? I figured, back then, that if I was lucky enough to make five years, I'd certainly have acquired some sage-like wisdom. I thought I'd have it all figured out.

Naive. Very naive.

Five years out, and I'm still learning so much about myself, my body, my life, my feelings, my family, my friends, my world. I have more questions than answers, and I'm not a sage of any variety. I have not become enlightened, I have not learned how to focus only on what's important, I have not learned how to avoid frustration at small things because I have dealt with such large things.

And yet.... I have learned a great deal. How could I not, in five years of intense living? For five years, I've walked on a tightrope, with surgeries and drugs and treatment reminding me, and my body's own problems shouting at me - there had to be some lessons in there, and I hope that I have learned them well. I am nowhere near the top of the mountain, but in my meanderings, I've learned a few things, and I hold those lessons near and dear, hoping that I won't have to relearn them.

I am stronger than I ever knew possible. I am no longer afraid of pain - I don't exactly embrace it, but I know how to deal with it. I know that it passes.

I am blessed with amazing people. My family - birth and chosen - and friends are really the greatest gifts of my life. I hope that I honor them in the way that they have honored me.

I am still social, and have many outgoing qualities, but I am also an introvert. Realizing this is a huge "aha!" moment in my life that explains a lot about me. I treasure my alone time, and I am better learning how to use it. Walks on beaches or in forests, time alone with a book, or working in my Dreamery all fill my soul in a way that a crowd of people could never do. But come and sit with me, just one or two of you, and I'm filled, as well. I need to find balance in this, but knowing what I'm looking for is at least half of that solution.

I am a deeply spiritual person. Finding a faith community has been so important to me, and I'm not sure that it came out of having cancer, but certainly out of becoming a wiser version of myself. Having rituals like candle lighting, or singing of hymns, or listening to wise sermons, fills my soul and reminds me of why I am here.

I need poetry and art in my life.

I always was, and always will be, a nature girl. It is necessary to remember that in order for my survival.

I need to put my hands in the earth and grow things.

I need to live my values, whether that is in parenting, or environment, or creativity. I need to identify what I value, and live it fully. There is no cheating with this - even when the world doesn't notice, I notice it in myself. I'm not talking about being honest or being nice (although those are excellent values that I share), I'm talking deeper. Standing up for what is right, showing compassion to those who do not seem deserving of it. Doing what I love in the way I love even when the world thinks I'm crazy.

Being Ryan's wife is a blessing. We have weathered some seemingly impossibly hard times, and there was a time where I really couldn't see the way out, and my heart was broken in millions of pieces. Together, he and I have gotten wiser as we've gotten older, and we belong together.

Tessa is the greatest gift of my life. My dreamy child, who constantly has dirt under her fingernails, who laughs and cries with ease, who surprises me with both her thoughtfulness and her absentmindedness. My girly girl companion at tea parties, my art museum friend, my seashell finder, my picnic mate, my hiker. We drive each other crazy pretty frequently, but when it comes down to it, she gives me the strength to stay alive when nothing else could. She is a gift, and I don't know how I ever got so lucky that I could become her mother.

I must write.

I am constantly seeking what Thoreau so famously wrote about:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”

I'm getting better at living. I will not run away to the woods (and I don't think that my mother will volunteer to do my laundry so that I can do so!) like Thoreau, I will take that harder path, and try to live my truth in the middle of a busy world with so many demands in it. I will Live. I will be deliberate. I will find joy, and I will cry when it's time to cry. I will count my blessings daily, and I will not forget to gasp with delight when I find the perfect shell.

I write today from my dreamery, surrounded by seashells and candles and a cup of hot tea and a cat curled up on the chair. My vision board has the word "Happier" in the middle of it, and that is what I am working on. Deep, meaningful happiness, encompassing all that I believe in.

It is a lifelong task, and I hope that I am given a long life to work on it.

And with that, it is time to close this blog. It has been a marvelous tool for my healing, and I am deeply grateful to each of my readers for following me along this crooked path, for cheering me on, for hoping and praying for me, for crying with me, for celebrating with me.

There is no "done" in cancer, but this chapter is closing. I am entering a new phase of my life, and I wish to write "for real" and I wish to spend more time living and less time doing things that I once associated with cancer. Many people keep cancer blogs and then leave them after about a year, and I took five. Perhaps I'm a slow learner, but that's okay. It's on my own time, and I know when the time is right.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

My dreams are beautiful, and I am passionate about living them. I do not know what the future holds, but I am hopeful.

I will see you out there in life, living. Adieu!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Morning stretch

Today, West Seattle is sunny, with a prediction of sun all weekend. Ahhhhhhh.

This morning, our family will do some chores, including re-securing Tessa's beloved swingset with concrete. (She often uses it for an hour a day - what a fabulous investment!) I'm going to see if we still have that old clothesline pole, too, because if we're mixing concrete for the swingset, why not put the pole up and start using it at the same time. It's something I've been meaning to do for ages, anyway. There's nothing like sun and wind dried clothes - especially bedding. They smell fresh and fantastic, and the reduced energy usage makes me happy as well.

And then, we're heading to the beach. I want to share my recent beach experiences with my family, and climbing around on rocks and looking at sea creatures and hunting for seashells is definitely my cup of tea. This is my choice of Mother's Day activities for myself; family time in nature. Tomorrow we'll go to church and to a family barbeque, and both will be wonderful, but I wanted to make sure we got some play time just the three of us as well.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Seashells II

Today I went back to the same beach at the same time, but the tide was farther out. I took my time, climbed on the rocks, laughed at some beautiful shorebirds who were creating a ruckus, and continued my quest for the perfect seashell.

Thankfully, once again I did not find what I was looking for, so I will have to go back soon. But I did find a perfect silver dollar sized sand dollar unexpectedly, and a perfect little clam shell just the size of my thumbnail, both halves intact. I also found a corked wine bottle floating at the edge, and so I retrieved it and looked for a note inside, but alas, it was empty. It did make me consider sending a note out to sea myself, though. What would my note say?

This afternoon is chores, chores, and more chores, and I'd rather sleep. But my morning on a beach was just what I needed.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I am re-reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "A Gift From the Sea" right now. Actually, I just finished it, and I plan to re-re-read it, because it is speaking to me so deeply and profoundly.

I don't want to write a book review here, but if you are a woman who is seeking balance in her life, and you're finding yourself running around like mad, and you wonder how life got this crazy, then this book is like a soft breeze from the ocean. It was just what I needed. It has nothing saccharine about it, and it manages to be deeply philosophical and restful at the same time.

The book is infiltrating my dreams, and the dreams are beautiful. In these dreams, I'm running on beaches, discovering beautiful shells, walking alone in the beauty of a beach day. Most of my dreams this year have been nightmares, and this is a gift like I can not describe.

This morning, I took Shep for an overdue walk (when I have surgery the poor boy is neglected), and headed to a favorite beach of mine. I tied Shep up (no dogs on beaches in Seattle was a good excuse for the true solitude; he could see me from where he was), and walked on the beach by myself for fifteen minutes, looking for shells. I found all kinds of lovely bits to take home with me, but not the exact shell that I was looking for. This is excellent, because it will remind me to keep looking for it.

I found a tidepool with two small sea anenomes, green fingers outstretched, and a hermit crab in a beautiful shell beside them. The beach had waves of red seaweed on it, and the color contrast was just so striking. I found two perfect white stones.

My to do list is as long as ever. Laundry is perpetual. I've already done the Tessa routine, and gone grocery shopping, and put things away, and made myself lunch. I'm still deeply tired, and in a few weeks if I'm not well then we will start exploring chronic fatigue syndrome - there must be SOME reason that I'm so wiped out. The garden calls, and the house needs dusting, and so on and so on.

But I am taking more time for myself. Walking Shep was good, but walking by myself on a beach is better. Like Lindbergh says, the shells are a reminder of my true self. I am the girl who walks on empty beaches.

I'm doing my old bedtime rituals again, too. Hot baths, candles, herbal tea, poetry. I love to fluff up my pillow, put on pretty pajamas, and crawl into bed an hour before I intend to fall asleep. Books, classical music (I'm particularly into Beethoven right now), poetry. And sometimes, just silence, and watching the candle flicker.

I plan to spend my life looking for seashells.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Catching my breath

Today I'm trying to catch my breath. My friend Laurie treated me to a lovely pedicure, and I felt pampered and spoiled, and now my toes look pretty. (We just need to warm up the weather so that I can show them off in open toed shoes.) I'm changing sheets, doing laundry, and generally trying to catch up on some of what I feel behind on.

And I'm catching my breath. I'm still very tired, and my neck gets so very achy in the afternoons, but I can manage these things. It could have been so different for me, and I know it. Actually, I know it very well. A "breast cancer friend" is experiencing a new mets diagnosis right now, and my heart is broken for her. This disease never stops.

In perhaps good news for me, I just saw this article:
I had two kinds of cancer: DCIS and IDC. My DCIS took up 10cm of my breast, and the IDC was in three tumors sized 2.1, 1.5, and .2 cm. I've always considered this a negative in my prognosis - as if one tumor wasn't enough, I had four, and two types - but this new research says that maybe it improves my prognosis somehow. Is it a correlation, because I didn't qualify for a lumpectomy? Is it some other thing? I do not know, but it gives me a bit more hope.

I have lots of catching up to do in my life, lots of thinking about life itself, and it is an honor to be granted that opportunity. To explore, to think, to plan.

I'm working on my best life now.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Just got the good news - ready to celebrate!

Huge sigh of relief. :-)


I woke up today feeling human.

And optimistic.

Oh, how I have missed my optimism.

My thyroid meds might be working, I might get excellent news from pathology, and I might be able to move on with the business of living.

Today, I am embracing life and tossing the painkillers - the pain is to quite manageable levels and in the afternoon when it flares I'm going to take Motrin instead of the dizzy-inducing meds that were prescribed.

Carpe diem, family and friends. And my greatest love to all of you for loving me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A mother's care

Today I am the recipient of my mom's care. In addition to vacuuming and putting away dishes she is currently on a run to pick me up some won ton soup.

Best of all is just having her here, telling me that she loves me, and supporting me.

I'm doing okay, up and down still but in the expected way. A little burst of energy and the thought "oh good I'm better already!" followed by "ohhh I'm a bit dizzy and I think I'll sit down again..."

Lots more herbal tea, wearing my favorite pajamas.

No news from the doctor yet, and not expecting anything 'til tomorrow at earliest.