Saturday, March 15, 2008


This is getting really old. My thoughts sink, my heart aches, it's all I can do to get out of bed.

I took the anti-anxiety drug today. I'm trying so hard, but to little avail.


WSUU Upcoming Services

When I was updating my links of interest, I decided to check out the WSUU page myself. I found a list of upcoming services, and I have to say that each of them looks particularly interesting to me. I won't be attending on Easter Sunday because we're attending an Easter Brunch with the PEPS gang (and there's a certain spirituality to such events, as well - full of joy and laughter), but I'll listen to it on podcast because the services are now available online (wahoo).

March 16th “Hope is a State of Mind” Rev. Nan Geer
Unitarian Universalism is about keeping the faith in spite of and because of the evidence. Rev. Nan Geer is a Unitarian Universalist Minister serving her 17th year as minister of Free Church Unitarian in Blaine. In 1991 and 1992 she served part-time as a Student Minister at The West Seattle Unitarian Fellowship while also serving part-time in Blaine and also in Wenatchee. Nan and her husband (who does all the cooking!) now live in Blaine.

March 23rd “Ingredients of Joy” Rev. Peg Morgan
On this Easter Sunday we will speak about joy, how we get it and what joy might teach us about life.

March 30th “Building Communities of Compassion” Trudy James, Chaplain
What are communities of compassion? Why are they so necessary in our lives? What do they look like and what are their characteristics? How are such a communities created and sustained? And what implications might we draw for our congregation --one that places a high value on its sense of community?Trudy James, MRE, is a hospital chaplain, and AIDS CareTeam Specialist for Multifaith Works in Seattle. Trudy has developed and worked with CareTeams for people and families living with AIDS for 19 years. She is known nationally for her tireless work in building communities of compassion.

April 6th “Addiction, Hope and Spirituality” Denis Meacham, Associate Minister, First Parish, Brewster MA
In 1988 Denis Meacham’s life was a study in contradictions. He was a successful man of business, founder of his own publishing company. He was a college professor with degrees from Princeton and Harvard. And he was an alcoholic, struggling with a compulsion to drink around the clock. He ended up, with his wife’s help, in a detox center, and his life has never been the same. Ordained in 2002, the Rev. Dr. Denis Meacham is on a quest to equip Unitarian Universalists with the spiritual tools to overcome addictions themselves.

April 13th “Fire of Commitment” Rev. Peg Morgan
Today we will consider what it means to be much does commitment require and change us?

April 20th “The Earth Is Our Mother” Rev. Connie Yost
In honor of Earth Day on April 22nd, we will celebrate and renew our connections with our mother earth.Rev. Connie Yost is an ordained UU community minister, and founder of Earth Works Community Farm in Los Angeles, a job works community. Connie now divides her time between Hospice and Social Justice ministries in Salem.

April 27th “Stages of Faith and Congregations” Rev. Peg Morgan
Today we will look at the James Fowler "stages of faith" both personally and also in regards to how they apply to the life of a particular congregation...ours. Which stage are we in?

May 4th Rev. Peg Morgan

May 11th “Staying at the Table: The Sustenance of Right Relation” Rev. Karen Taliesin
How can we speak our truth while honoring those with whom we deeply disagree? Allowing the grace of understanding, empathy, and change to manifest itself in ongoing ways in all our relationships is perhaps our most difficult task — yet the one that may offer the very sustenance we need to survive.Rev. Karen Taliesin is a full time Chaplain at Children's Hospital, and a Unitarian Universalist minister associated with East Shore Unitarian in Bellevue. She is a graduate of the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University.

Blog changes

Small changes to the blog.

I found out that the reason that it said that I was from Afghanistan is that I had not selected a country, and it defaulted to the first one in the list. Umm, okay. I fixed that.

I finally fixed the typo under my picture.

I have begun adding labels to my posts, and I've gone back 100 posts to create new labels. In this way, if you want to trace only posts on one topic you can pull up those posts from the list on the left.

I've also updated my list of favorite websites.

A time waster? Maybe, but I've been meaning to do it "forever" and this is a good start. Apparently I had 696 posts on my blog and so I've got 596 left to go and label! I'll do it in little pieces, when I feel like it, but today I got a good start.

Perhaps most importantly, I've updated my greeting. It's NOT all about breast cancer, it's about my life. The greeting reflects that a bit better now.

Bad Juju

What the heck is going on at our house? Really, I feel way past my limits.

I have felt lousy for a couple of weeks. My throat is still sore, I'm still phlegmy, etc.

Tessa has had a cough for two weeks. Yesterday she had a great time at preschool and her teachers said she was doing fine, but in the evening she fell asleep while Zoe was over and didn't even want dessert - home made cobbler with Husky Deli vanilla ice cream. (This is NOT normal.) Last night she woke up in the middle of the night and said, "My head hurts" and "my bones ache" for several hours.

This was not the rest I required after my miserable day yesterday. Ryan and I took shifts, but it was a loooooong night.

This morning, we've canceled our plans (my parents were going to care for Tessa tonight while Ryan and I went to a discussion/dinner at 'Chele & Dave's; the whole family was going to go to Caleb's egg hunt) and we're settling in for a quiet day. Ryan prepared 'a nest' for Tessa on the courch downstairs, and carried her downstairs to rest in front of the TV, propped up with pillows and blankets and coziness. But Ryan missed the bottom step (or two), and landed on his bad ankle, and found himself lying on the floor in agony. (Tessa was fine, he didn't drop her.) He's icing his ankle now and took two ibuprofen.

What the ****? ENOUGH! C'mon! What's next, locusts and floods? I'm TIRED! I need a break!!!!!!! I have enough on my plate. Enough, I tell you! This is getting ridiculous!

Vent over. Thanks for listening.

I read the affirmation from Daily Word today, and it was lovely. We had a family snuggle in bed this morning. Ryan brought me coffee in bed (before his ankle incident). Tessa is content to watch old Clifford episodes and snuggle her stuffed animals on the couch. I know it could be worse. I know, I know, I know. Lots to be grateful for.

But still.....

February and March Pictures

Signs of spring! We have beautiful crocuses in our garden, and the tulips and daffodils are starting to make themselves seen, as well. The primroses are happy in little pots, and they add a cheerfulness that I truly enjoy. The picture of a patch of dirt is an early picture of our garden - there's been progress since that picture was taken, but I haven't taken more pictures yet. First, it was a patch of weedy lawn; then, the whole thing was dug up, composted, and fertilized; then, Ryan took out the grass/weeds from under the bushes (to me they look like mini-cypress idea what they really are as they came with the house) and mulched it. This weekend, we hope to actually get some seeds in the ground, mulch between rows, and bury the soaker hose alongside.....

Tessa and Buttercup. Buttercup was a lovely visitor for two days, but then she was a lovely but smelly visitor. When Teacher Shelley asked, "Would you like to have her for spring break later this month?" I was emphatic with my "No, thank you." Shhhh don't tell Tessa!

Pictures from the recent visit with Grandma & Bopa, and a belated celebration of Bopa's 77th birthday...

Pictures from G.G's 85th birthday. I was very happy with the way my gift (her cake and cupcakes) turned out, decorated with fresh flowers. Kelton joined us, and he was a lovely companion, and he and Tessa charmed all the residents of Brittany Park with their excellent manners (and the fact that they're both adorable, of course!).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Surgery #9 - April 2

My next surgery is scheduled for about two and a half weeks from now, April 2.

My oncologist called in a prescription for anti-anxiety meds for me. I have an appointment scheduled with my therapist for next week.


surgery schedule

I think I'm going to try to reschedule to April. I just went to write it on the calendar, and realized that I'd miss Caley's graduation (a couple days after my surgery, in Spokane) if I kept the scheduled date, and I don't want to do that.

When I spoke to the scheduler initially, she said that there were some openings in April. I'm going to try to take one.

I need anti-anxiety meds. Ugh. I feel myself spiraling downward with all this.

Off to get Tessa from preschool. She will keep me sane, in an insane kind of way. Motherhood is always my first priority.

Is 10 my lucky number?

I'll never be a perfect 10 (ha). But 10 might be my lucky number.

I'm just back from the new plastic surgeon's office. Dr. Isac at the PolyClinic was very professional, highly recommended, and spoke kindly and rationally to me.

Surgery number 9 is scheduled for May 14. He will be removing my implants, disconnecting a muscle, tweaking, and placing a different kind of tissue expander on both sides.

Surgery number 10 is scheduled for October some time (date TBD), to remove the tissue expanders and place "permanent" implants.

It makes me feel like throwing up - literally - to be planning TWO more surgeries. Just when I think I've made progress, just when I think I can handle one more surgery, I'm being asked to have TWO.

Lately, it seems like whatever I'm willing and able to give, I'm asked to give double. This is sometimes more than I think that I can bear. But of course I can bear it, because I must. I don't see myself as having a lot of choice in the matter.

Now, I can hear the counter argument, "Of course you have a choice! These surgeries are elective! Stop while you're ahead! In clothes it's not noticable! It's not like you're a swimsuit model!"

I know. I know, I know, I know. But here's the thing. From the very beginning, I told Tessa, "It's okay, honey. One day the doctors will build me a new nipple." I have clung to that idea, and so has she. I have built it up to be a symbol of my healing. No nipples? Not done. It's simplistic, maybe even childish, but while I see my chest as deformed as it is, I see myself as a cancer patient. I feel like I need to do this to get it behind me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Tomorrow I'm walking back into Cancerland by choice.

I am meeting with a new plastic surgeon to discuss my options for corrections. By my own standards, my current reconstruction status is a mess, and I hate it.

There. I hate it. I said it. When I look at it, I'm reminded of the events of last October, and the emotional fallout of that experience.

So tomorrow I'm going to consult with another PS to discuss what is and is not correctable. If corrections are possible, I would like to proceed in the spring to get it over with.

I have a lump on my eyelid along the incision and it itches like mad (and has since surgery in October). My right, prophylactic side, has scars that I can't explain and they're jagged and rough. My areola on that side looks like a wound, and it's in pieces. The nipple is non-existant. There's a weird divet in the middle of it all, and some pitting in the skin.

My left side aerola looks more normal/as I expected, but the nipple area is actually lower than the rest of the breast. There's a weird puffiness on one side of the breast. And worst of all, that breast is shaped like half of a canteloupe, and it's significantly bigger than the other breast. (Do NOT chime in here that all women's breasts have some assymetry. I know that. I am not talking about norms here, I'm talking about something beyond that.)

Because I told myself that getting this work done would be a symbol of my ability to move on....I feel like I'm bogged down by the symbol. When I see my breasts, I hate them. I don't want to hate my own body. I don't want to see betrayal, torture, pain, ugliness when I look at my chest. I don't expect beauty, but I don't want to feel so....deformed. Artificial.

I don't know if it's correctable. I don't know what the PS will say. But I'm going to try this again.

And it makes my stomach hurt. It makes me want to cry. I hate surgery. This will be number 9 in three years....averaging once every four months for 3 years. I assume it's "minor" surgery.

But I hate it.

Please pray that I don't have a total meltdown as a result of this experience. I brought out my massive medical binder to show my reports, implant sizes, etc. to the new surgeon, and just the sight of that hot pink blender has my stomach in knots. There are a lot of awful memories in that binder.

I just want to put this - all of it - behind me. And I have work to do before I can do that.

Granny's beans

I made them again. Remembered everything....and this time, it worked.

Delicious. Tessa and I love them, and I can't wait for dinner time.

Struggling today for Mama Cathy. I re-read the post updating about her. It says "days, maybe weeks." Days? No! No no no no no no noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

I will never understand this damned disease. It's no wonder I can't get my feet under me half the time, knowing how it lurks, waiting to trip women.

I also sent in my photos (myself during treatment, the 3-Day) for the KOMO4 interview on Monday. Looking at them reminded me of some really, really tough times.


This morning I logged on to the cancer boards at YSC, and was hit twice.

"Mama Cathy" (so named because of her mothering of "us girls" and her nurturing spirit) is moving to hospice. The doctors believe that her time is not long, maybe weeks.

I'm not able to articulate clearly how sad this makes me feel. Cathy was diagnosed early stage, then diagnosed with mets, and now this.

And another woman, who has posted great drama in her personal life and jokingly calls herself the Lindsay Lohan of the YSC but has a heart of gold and reaches out to every newbie and gives hope and encouragement to many, is awaiting to hear if her elevated liver enzymes etc. are mets. She's experiencing full post traumatic stress disorder and isn't even able to post on the boards right now, but we girls are freaking out on her behalf because if there was good news we think she'd be posting. So much speculation, so much fear.

In my garden, the irises are starting to grow. Melinda, who died last year, loved irises, and everyone who was touched by her planted irises in her memory.

These are some of my favorite cancer girls. Please pray for them. And please pray that I will find peace somewhere in all this, remembering that they are not me, and that their fate may not be my own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Watch Me Model

I have been asked to be a survivor model for the NW Hope and Healing Fashion Show, "Style '08." This is your invitation to come and watch me possibly trip down the catwalk, modeling boutique fashions from Seattle area boutiques, including my favorite, Carmilia's. It's for a great cause, and you can learn more at , and you can buy tickets at that website, as well.

Simple Supper

Okay, so I don't feel like cooking, but I had some chicken (boneless, skinless thighs from Costco, puchased in bulk and then seperated into plastic sacks, some of which I froze for later use) and a bunch of veggies that needed using. I don't feel creative today and we have some chores to do and I promised Tessa a good snuggle/reading session, so here's what I've made for tonight's dinner (simmering on the stove now):

Chicken Vegetable Soup
1 container organic chicken broth
cut up chicken (bite sized pieces)
misc. vegetables -
dried thyme (I'd use fresh when it was growing in season in my garden!)
splash of white wine (optional)

Chop up all ingredients, throw in one big pot, season. Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer. About 10 minutes before serving, add a small pasta of your choice. Serve with salad, home made bread.

DONE. This meal took less than 10 minutes. I'll simmer it for a while, then stick it in the fridge, reheating it for dinner. Ryan will take some to work for lunch tomorrow, and we'll have it then, too. I could have skipped the pre-made broth, but since I had it, I used it for the extra flavor.

It's not a funky meal. It's not ethnic. But it's good, basic comfort food. If I'd had celery in stock I would have added that, and parsnips would be good too, but since I didn't have them, I didn't go out to buy them (unnecessary). But this reminds me - I had a yam that needed to be used. Gotta go - I'll cut that up and add it too.

If I'm lazy I'll skip the salad. We're getting plenty of veggies - even greens - in this one pot meal.

Edited to add: I realized that I had a yam and a sweet potato, so I chopped those and added them in as well. I think Ryan is less enthusiastic about the greens (kale and chard) but Tessa and I liked the whole thing.

As part of not wasting, I'm using up some other fridge ingredients today, too. I had some pre-shredded cheese from another recipe, and I had some herbs that Heather shared with me when she left for Hawaii, and these were both needing to be used (or they'd go to waste soon). My solution? Cheesy herb bread. I've really focused on making healthful, high fiber, whole grain breads, but this loaf has some butter, two kinds of cheese (the other is parmigiano reggiano), and 3 of the 4 cups of flour are white flour. If I'm still awake when it's finished, I'm not sure I'll be able to restrain myself from having a hot slice! I do have a weakness for cheese, and the fresh herbs smelled so good when I added them.

Frugal & Environmental Living

I am finding some success with my frugal living and environmental goals, and I'm very proud of myself. I've been at it for about a month, and I can not believe how little I have purchased in a month, or how much we've cut the grocery bills. It's harder to see the impact on the earth, but our trash is approximately HALF of what it used to be, so that's something tangible, at least, and I'm proud of it.

Some small examples of my success:
- Got free canisters on Freecycle to hold my flour, flax, etc. instead of buying some ( - check it out!)
- I visited Target yesterday with Tessa to buy one thing, for which they were out of stock, and I left Target without buying a thing!
- We are using up what is in our refrigerator, and not throwing it away
- I am re-using the plastic sacks that I get veggies in at the grocery store, keeping them out of a landfill
- I am buying a LOT more local stuff than before
- I am planning meals around vegetarian options and around what's on sale, more than starting with a "what do I feel like" list and going from there
- We're having pizza night at our house once a week so that my family (Ryan & Tessa are pizza lovers) gets what they like without feeling deprived, and the costs are very low when I make it myself from scratch (with yeast! amazing!)
- I am consolidating errands to drive the car as little as possible, and walking to pick up Tessa from preschool (which Shep appreciates)
- Sharing seeds with the neighbors so that we get great variety in our veggie garden without having to buy zillions of packages (which have more seeds per package than we could ever use)
- While Tessa was out, Michele came over for tea at my house (served with china cups just for fun) instead of my going out for coffee and being tempted by sweets and spending money on the coffee
- All catalogs go instantly to recycling, and with them my unknown desires for stuff I've never heard of that I "must have"
- Going to Metropolitan Market and getting their free item without buying anything else (except what's on sale or already a very good deal)
- Walking two blocks to my doctor's appointment because then I can park on the street for free instead of paying $6 in the parking garage
- This week for fun we attended a church potluck and we're going to a free jazz concert - we're getting out and having a blast without spending money (and we'll take the bus to skip the hassle and expense of downtown parking for the concert)
- making home made waffles instead of buying pre-packaged ones
- still making all our own bread (and making it for others' as well)
- using reusable bags for ALL shopping, not just groceries
- lowered the temp of our hot water heater (safer for kids now, too)
- still have the house at 66 degrees (down from 70 five years ago, 68 last year)
- using up all of the stuff in the downstairs freezer so that we can unplug it, hopefully next week
- switching almost 100% to cloth napkins (which I already owned) instead of paper ones
- got rid of all of my "toxic" cleaners (on Freecycle) and now using exclusively environmentally friendly ones
- using old yogurt containers for vegetable starts instead of buying specialty containers
- Ryan dug up the whole vegetable garden by hand instead of a mechanized rototiller

I spent $20 on consignment stuff this week - I got an Easter flag (new in the package, usually $12.95 and I paid $4 and it makes Tessa dance with happiness) and some 75% off china teacups from their antique sale for my tea parties with girlfriends and Tessa, as well as a hand mixer (the kind where you turn a handle), two aprons, and a wooden rolling pin that looks like it was somebody's grandma's, and that Tessa and I will use for making cookies. No new stuff produced, no packaging at all. It's not "buy nothing" but it's pretty darn close.

Individually, these things don't mean much. Collectively, they ARE making a difference. We see it in our bottom line, and more than that, I feel it in my thinking. I worry that it's not quite yet a full habit, and I still struggle with bits and pieces, but I do feel good about the progress I've made, and continue to make.

It's important to me to list these succcesses. Too often I see all the things that I'm doing wrong, failing at. I could list that here, too, but I won't. I will just point out that I'm learning, and growing, and trying, and that I'm at least glad for that.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A huge sigh of relief

On Friday, when I picked up Tessa from preschool, I spied on her as she was playing at recess (I was there early). She was running around, interacting with kids, playing a game with two other girls, and laughing. No shy wallflower, she was utterly engaged. Her teachers (both of them) came to me and said, "Boy, Tessa sure changed! She was really out there today, playing and engaged," and I smiled and agreed.

It seems that Mama's coaching on how to interact might have made a little difference, with huge payoffs.

And today,we were validated again. Tessa was at "spirit play" (something akin to Sunday School) at WSUU, and the children were doing the stone soup story, and in charge of putting together the vegetable soup for the congregation to have at the social hour. At the end of the children's church, when it was time to pick Tessa up, Teacher Donna said, "Boy, Tessa really came out of her shell today!" and told me a similar story to what I'd heard on Friday.

This is music to my ears. It's not that I don't know my own child (gasp - that feeling felt AWFUL), or that she's incapable of interactions, it's that we just hadn't taught her the basics, since she's usually surrounded by children she knows well and doesn't have to try so hard.

I am blessed to have a child so willing to learn, and to take a little direction from her parents.

Tomorrow, we have a playdate with Kate from preschool, and this is part of our plan to help Tessa feel more comfortable at preschool.

Buttercup is doing well, by the way, but at this point when I walk into Tessa's room there is a distinctive odor. I keep scooping unmentionable things out of Buttercup's cage, but it's distinctly less fresh than it was when we got her on Friday. I may break down tomorrow to buy some new bedding because yechhhhhhhhh. I think I'm remembering why I vowed not to have any pet rodents, no matter how cute they are. And I think I'd like to have Buttercup overnight, more than I would like to have her for the weekend, if we do this again. It's not her fault - she lives in a cage, what else can she do? - but rodent poop is gross, and the fact that it's in my daughter's room is even more gross. She returns on Tuesday, adn although she has grown on me, it will definitely be time to say good-bye.