Sunday, May 31, 2009

Another thing not to say

Two days ago, a sort of friend, there are many of those on an island, said to me, "Wow. You look like a boy." How does one reply to that? I was so hurt. The little girl in me wanted to say well, your an asshole, but I didn't. He didn't think, nor does he even know how incredibly hurtful a statement like that is to a woman just starting to grow hair back.

I just thought of a good idea. Making a list of things not to say to a person going through or finishing cancer treatment. If any of you that are on this journey, would like to add a few others here, that'd be great. Or you can email them to me. Might be a good little page in the book, but from the angle of our reaction. So that the newly diagnosed woman can laugh with our pain, and she herself not feel alone in hers.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Did it?

Today, like I said in my earlier post, I woke to a small trickle. I was so excited, but in this excitement, because it means absolutely the world to me, I protected my heart. And I am glad I did, and I am sad that I am doing that. It will just break me, and the grief of me actually not getting my period back, is somewhere in the future, and I don't need to grieve for the loss of it, if it indeed does come back, which it might.
My body is trying so hard to bleed. I still have hot flashes constantly throughout the day. The warm weather is nothing to them. Someone asked me the other day what they are like. I said its like suddenly being in Joshua Tree.
So, the small trickle, was just that. And then it went somewhere. Not sure where. Yesterday, I was standing in line at the co-op and felt my ovaries get warm and I felt a warm fuzzy feeling wash over me. The familiar feeling of my bodies signal that it would bleed soon. Then usually that night I would dream of blood somewhere, and then the next day, it would be begin.

Maybe just this month that was it. Cancer has brought me so many teachers. And angles within these lessons. So, yet again I get to learn about expectations, and let it go. I can hope, but even that too, is hard. It brings me to the future, and I again, am safe and comfortable in the here and now.

I wanted to mention a big thing that happened the other day.

I was getting a pedicure, my second since all this happened. I walked in and instead of feeling apart and separate from the female race, I was part of them, once again. I walked around and shopped and gazed at all the "things" that I could get allured into buying.
And then I sat down, with an elderly woman on my right and another woman, mid- to late 50's. I explained that this was only my 2nd pedicure in a year, and why. The 50 yr old woman said, I have had a friend who had leukemia. She went on to explain to me that she really respected her, because of the way she held herself up, and took such good care of herself throughout treatment. And then she went on to say, that her sister in law had breast cancer. The way she spoke of her, I could tell there was a bit of disdain for her. She said that with her sister in law, she hadn't respected the way she went through her treatment because she became a recluse and wasn't open to her. She said that she had given her a cancer book, and the sister in law, hadn't even read it. I said to her well, I was really sick with my treatment and maybe I didn't really reach out to too many people (or did I).
I told her that there is no one way to get through cancer treatment. No right way. Everyone reacts differently to their treatment, and its very easy, not having cancer, to think that you know the way you will act, react, and during treatment. The fact is, is that she doesn't have any idea. I told her, maybe you could respect the fact that she got through it, and she did the best and only way she knew how to. She replied, Well, she's dead.

I was so incredibly appalled by this woman. It reminded me of a few folks, early on in my treatment/diagnosis, that judged me and how I processed my world falling apart. How is it and why is it that people tend to be so judgemental of others. Measuring and balancing the way others go through their lives, to theirs. When the fact is, is that no one knows what it is like to walk and wear those shoes.
People miss the opportunity all the time, to ask and to learn, and to be insightful of others pain. Instead of opening their hearts to trying to understand someone else's pain, people close their hearts (or they are already shut) and judge. Its sad. I felt sad for that woman, but mainly I felt sad for her sister in law.

I am feeling good. My right lung, only when I take a very deep breath is starting to hurt in the slightest, of ever so slight pain. I am not concerned, I think I am fine. I am afraid to say anything to my cardiologist because I don't want to take a higher dose of steroids. If it worsens, I will though. So, my mother hens can relax...: )

Love all you mother hens.

Not to be gross

And not to get 100% excited about because its just a little, but my moon came!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A few thoughts

The thought that would like to be acknowledge in this phase of healing is mainly this one, " How did I get through that?" Really, how did I? In life, I have had many challenges. Living and traveling in West Africa was one of them. How did I manage to live like that? The answer was easy. But to many they don't know how I did. And how is it that I loved it so much?
I didn't love any of this past years hell. I didn't. I really didn't. I did however love deeply, and get to walk through this life until I die, with a greater sense of what love is. I am thankful for all this.
I am not inspired to start writing my book because I am still processing. Albeit, coming to a place soon that I can. I have filled my schedule to the max. Each day doing at least 4 massages ( I did 76 massages in May), and I took a new listing, possibly 2 more, I'll find out this sunday, and sold one house. I have been slammed. June is starting to look like that as well, with 2 weekends off.
But July, I think this will be my month of slowing down and taking care of Heather. The past few months I needed to work, I needed to start LIVING. I had tea with a friend the other day, and he said, "What fills you up?" This answer used to entail "doing" to experience something. Now, its the little things. My answer to him, "Well, I have been needing some burlap sacks for (hint, hint for family~except pregnant sis, you can't do it!) for my party, and I was sitting here before you came and the barista hollered out if anyone wanted them. That filled my soul. I have been needing 3 burlap sacks, and there they were, given to me." Those are the small things that fill my heart and make me realize that yes, I am on the right path.
So May and June, are work and Live months. Being in the present moment and enjoying just being. It is that simple. June 1st, I am starting to exercise, because this body is going to be in great shape. June 1st, I start working with my ND with detoxing my body, hardcore. She'll be hooking my port up to machine and actually cleaning my blood, ect..
And July, I am going to take a vaca by myself, and sit, and read my blog. From start to finish. Reread it, and sit with it. Sit with me. Cry. And start formulating my book.

D keeps saying how tired he is of all this, he wants to start living in the future. Well, what he doesn't understand is that I am my past, I am a Survivor and I am not living in the future. I am living in the present moment. Right here, Right now, breathing. I made it. I did it. I made it. I really did. Home feels like, I just ran a race but there can't be any acknowledgement that I ran the race because the team mates are sick of hearing about track and field.
Fuck That!
So what I do is cheer myself on throughout my days when I get to do a new thing. Like yesterday, my nails are finally long enough that I needed to cut them and use my file. That was fun. Today I am going to paint them.
I am starting to see my cheekbones, this is really exciting.
I am starting to see my stomach muscles again.
My hair is officially getting long, and I think its gonna be curly, she says with a smile.
Life is good. I am so excited.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The tender blossom

Again, I can't believe almost a week has gone by. My intentions are to write, but my priority right now is work. For all those months of laying around, I knew that this day would come, and because of that I am joyful for having a mind, a body, and a heart that innately likes to hum like a hummingbird. I have for the moment, allowed myself to work 10-13 hour days right now. My massage biz is slammed, and my real estate business is the busiest it has ever been. I can't complain about sales being made, with all the doom and gloom of the market around.
May was insane. I finished treatment, I've started coming to life, I've started to see my check bones again, my energy is starting to come back, i'm still on some meds~but we'll cross our fingers that my body is healing as it should, the list goes on and on. My heart is still wide open, and I cry a lot, but at appropriate times now : )
But come June, I have a few weekends off. That I am not compromising for anything. My survivor party/ritual will be the first weekend in June. I am really excited to stand in a circle of all the crucial people that have gotten me through this. It has taken a village to help me, to support me, and I want to look into all of my loved ones eyes and thank them. I am hoping for a lot of tears here. Which is perfect because its going to take place right on a beach, so their tears and mine, and all this icky stuff I've been through can flow to the ocean!
I'm excited to have 3 days off in a row, and hang out and play games with my family. No one knows it yet, and I dont have to worry about it, because my Dad doesn't read this~he can't handle it, and the few that do~shhhh don't say anything, Okay, I'm not going to say. But, I have some tricks and games up my sleeve, and its going to be fun.
So June is going to be more relaxing. I am hoping that this last taper off the steroids is healing to my body. I feel nervous to start running again, so I am going to listen to that nervousness and wait. My goal is June 1st. I've already started doing yoga and lifting some weights around the house, doing lunges, but nothing too much.
My mind is okay.
I learned some interesting cancer knowledge from my Aunt Barbara and my friend Shirley~both breast cancer survivors. They said that that tumor marker test, doc's don't worry about anything unless the number goes above 38. Now this is after treatment, the way they monitor if the doc's should look into doing scans, ect. It is not 100% accurate, and so its just one of the few tools they have.
Okay, so 38 and above sends off the red alert. But remember my number at diagnosis? It was 28. Now 8.8. So what my question to my Onc is going to be when I see him next on June 10, is if I was only a 28, that means that my cancer was really caught pretty damn early? And yes, I will add the word damn. Like hot damn! Like I can't freakin' believe it. This knowledge, if he reassures me that yes, it was caught very early, has and will until he answers my question, and then will continue to ride with me, will flick off my shoulder any demons that would like to harass me on a regular basis of the survivor question, "will I get it back."
The answer in the past without this info, would be a hope not, because I am a realist. I see the potential. But if this is true, then the answer will be hell no. The chances of a nothing cancer, living after the hell I just put my body through, is impossible in my mind.
On a happier note, I've always wanted to learn how to fly fish. And I am going to hear soon, if I got accepted into a Survivor Fly Fishing retreat at the Sun Mountain lodge soon. So lets all cross our fingers right this second for me, okay! Done! I'm sure I'll get in. I can't wait to wear the big hip boots, and be in the middle of the river, hopefully not falling down, learning to act like a fly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tumor Marker

I can't believe that a week has gone by since I wrote here. This is good! Last thursday I dropped down from 20 MG to 10 MG of prednisone. I felt great. I have for the first time in months and months slept like my old self, and have even been sleeping in till the late hour of 8 AM. I am still pretty amped until 11 pm, but then I go to bed and sleep like a champ. I am loving it. No more sleeping pills. And the person in me that was afraid I was getting addicted to those darn things was totally wrong. It is just like the doc's say, if when you don't need it, if you are not wanting it, you are not addicted. I was so in need of those things for so long, that I started to question myself. But now that I don't need them, I totally could care less about them.
In about ten minutes I am going to take my next tapper to 5 MG, and will stay here for 3 weeks. I am still on the other anti-inflammatories but am hopeful I will be off them by summers end.
This week I took it slow from thurs-sunday to make sure my heart and lungs were okay. They were. So Monday, I took a walk with a friend in Kirkland. And Tuesday I did yoga and lifted weights. And then Wed I took it easy to make sure again my heart and lungs were okay. Today I will not do much again and will wait until Sunday to do some exercising. D and I are going to go kyacking (oh the spelling). I have been doing loads of massages, some days doing 6 in a day and feeling incredible. I have been gardening and doing lots of real estate at the same time. Life has been about balancing and learning how to open back up to mindless stress and letting it go. I still have moments of roid rage, but can now, thank god, recognize what it is. The 20 MG's just made me a mad woman!

The best part of this week was my phone chatt with my Onc last night. He said that indeed he did take my tumor marker when I got diagnosed, even though he said he didn't, ??? and it was 28. Now it is 8.8 which means I am officially cancer free! I asked can I assume I am cancer free, and he said, "Better than that, you can scream it from the mountain tops."
The other thing I talked to him about is that my entire body pigment has totally changed since chemo. I tan within minutes and its incredible. I have to be careful now. He said that this can happen to people and he said I can thank him for that. : ) So, I got one god thing from this, well besides the obvious of being cancer free, and learning lifes valuable lessons, is that now what would take me hours of oiling and flipping to either side to get the perfect tan, comes in about ten minutes in the sun!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where am I, and what am I?

I know, I do. I know now more than ever who and what I am. Its actually a wonderful place I am in or at right now. Not like before, where I stood on the edge of a cliff and new I was going to jump and surrender. Now, its a place of two worlds. Worlds that I love dearly. There is so much Love. There is the "old" Heather, the pre-cancer that is just amazing and I love her so much. And then there is the "cancer" Heather. And I too, Love her so much. Many of my tears come from her. Well, many of them come from this "new" Heather too. I feel like I am in the middle of two worlds, two destinations, and in those places comes the three. The three places, the three selves. Do you guys remember one of my earliest posts when I spoke of how cancer was claiming a prescense (damn it, the chemo stole my brilliant type A, love of spelling) in the room? I forget how it went. But how it goes now, is that cancer is now at Swedish Cancer institute. It lives there. My cancer lives there. It is not with me, it is not in my hands, it is not in my fate, it is not a part of my NEW life, it is on Madison street, in Seattle. Not a part of this life. I told my Onc yesterday that I wanted him to teach my how to do my own breast exam. He began to do so, but then I started to panick. And I realized that if I do monthly checks myself, I am going to freak myself out. I am going to be checking constantly and panicking myself about a lump, because my breasts have lumps. Their dense. So, I told him, I can't. He said, not to worry, that I'll be in there all the time, and he can do it. Great! I'll have him do it. It will be his responsibility. I can let go of all these worries, and just be in the present moment with living. Reclaiming my life, my health, my laughter, my sheer joy for adventure and for love.
So....I am in this place of coming together. How incredible!!
My hair is getting longer and I now can really see a difference if there isn't goop in it. Its fun to smell pretty again. I'm excited to wake up early tomorrow and put on my gardening gloves and pull some weeds. Some city weeds. If I was on Vashon, I'd have to get ready to get in line to catch the ferry. Which is an adventure as well. But, right now, pulling my own weeds is better time spent. Although, visiting with a friend in the ferry line, melts my heart. There are the two worlds again. Being in the city is all about Time and Energy. And being on Island is all about Love. I realize how silly it is that Time and Energy are winning out at this moment. I do recognize this. For the first time in my entire life, I see the value of Time and Energy, and see that it gives my heart a chance to Love myself and mellow myself out. Which grounds me. Which enables and will enable me to put out more love. And the Love I speak of on the island, is Love being received and given, but in small quick doses. But it is deeper, more nourishing. Some day, life will be slower again, and I'll chop my own wood again, and build my own fire, and sit and watch the fire speak to me and tell me stories. Until then, I will enjoy pulling my city weeds.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A rat race in my head

I have so much going on in my head, in my heart, in my body, in my mind, in my everything. I am enjoying it all immensely. I enjoy it all so much, that I get overwhelmed and then I cry. I need to start writing here more often again, because I need to process stuff.
Today was an all day doctor visit day. I saw my Cardiologist and he thankfully has started the steroid taper, tomorrow I go from 20 mg to only 10, for a week. And then to 5 mg's the following thursday. I am excited to start this process. Nervous that I will have another reoccurence, but hoping that doesn't happen. He said he wanted me to wait to start excercising until Monday. I told him that I am finally feeling better. Its taken almost two months to regain my body energy from the last attack. Pretty incredible really. I kept thinking I was all better, or back to normal, but weeks later, I can tell you that I feel totally different than I did a few weeks ago, and am totally ready to start exercising. I want to start going to boot camp, but he said wait a bit longer. At least until Monday, so that I can if I do have pain in my chest, know what caused it.
Then I went and saw my cancer therapist, and talked body stuff. Good.
Then I gave a massage.
Then I went and had my yearly eye exam. Got the eyes dilated, and didn't bring with me a pair of sunglasses so drove around with those instant unfold plastic wrap mock sunglasses. Funny.
Then...I went to see my Oncologist and waited in the lobby for an hour to get in, and got my first Tumor marker test, and another chest x-ray. I am of coarse nervous, about the whole base line thing. I am nervous and afraid that my cancer will come back some day. You know, I am so young. I am only 34, so what if it does? That's the base fear, right? I can try to be in the present moment, and do that well. I really do. I found myself asking Kaplan all my questions, and then looked at him, and said, "Really, does any of this matter? REally? What I really want to say to you is, will my cancer ever come back, and will we catch it early, and will I live?" That is the core of it all. I am scared. I want to cry. And I do cry. I have a long life a head of me, and I just don't want to ever go through this again.
My body is starting to come alive again. For the first time since chemo, I have had to start bathing everyday because underarms are starting to say, Hey! We are here!! Not in an offensive way, but soon, I am sure I will need deoderant again. Kaplan said he they don't know why the body does all these strange things, but thumbs up that my body is starting to work again.
My house sit ends tomorrow, thank God!! Phew! I can't wait to be home and to dig my hands into my garden. This miserable spring is not helping my veggies grow. I desperately want to do a fast, and cleanse my body in a super serious way. But need to not do that. I know this. I need to wait to till I'm off all these drugs. Which is the same answer I got when I asked K when I can get my port out. I need to wait to get off the steroids. They inhibit healing.
I'll get my tumor marker tomorrow. Supposedly it will be my baseline. What if its high already? I was just a stage 1, so I calm myself down and tell myself my chances are super low. But then again, my chances were super low initially and I got it. Shit happens.
Which brings me to the obvious that we only grow in hard times. I've been thinking of this idea, and am not sure I agree to it yet. I have grown deeply in and with love, so not sure if I agree to this. I of coarse have never grown as deeply as I have this year. I was telling my cancer therapist today, that I need to bring my old self up to par with my new self, and I told her I was afraid I might forget all that I learned. She said that was impossible. I think she's right. How lucky am I that I got to learn all that I learned this year, at the age of 33 and 34? I am serious!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A week of non-rest

I thought the house sit job out on Vashon would be a great idea. For years I have been longing to move out here. It just happens, that my massage practice more than tripled over night this month, and then my real esate business got the busiest its ever been, and 99% of all that work is in the city. Not on island. So, I have been leaving early in the mornings and like last night, didn't get back until 10 pm. I have only had a chance to have dinner with a few friends once. Moving to the island is totally out, at least not until my life is in a place that I can slow down a bit more.
The time alone has been wonderful. I do enjoy and am warmed my the heart connections out here, the lone peacock cry, and the stillness. And maybe being on the steroids and being agitated doesn't help me get to a place of relaxation as well. Not sure. All I know is that I am never on island it seems, and so I cancelled my month long jaunt for June/part of July out here. Its just too much. I need to be in the city, with all my stuff, and start to live life around that. Not more change right now. I need to integrate my selves first and then, maybe I can do crazy stuff later.
I was too late on renting the covered shelter at the park in WS. Which is fine. I am thrilled for the new plan. I've rented an incredible place on island, that will house my family for the weekend, and then I can invite a few close friends to celebrate my life. I am excited to do this. So, sorry all. I will have the rager (haha) next year!
At a drop of a hat, anything can and does throw me for a loop. I cannot wait to see my cardio on Wed to hopefully get the steroid reduced. Here's a great example.
Last night, I massage a new client couple. The wife I don't see, as she's putting the kids to bed. I massage the husband, wash my hands, (now the whole time wiping my eye with my shirt sleeve because its still a wee bit watery) and I'm in the kitchen washing my hands and the wife comes in. Introduces herself by saying, did he tell you what happened to me this week? She got pink eye on Friday (a few days ago) and she wanted to know if I wanted to give her a massage still. It was incredibly difficult for me to not want to strangle her, as she now has put me at a huge risk of getting this. Its very catchy. She didn't even call me and give me the chance to make my own decision if I wanted to walk into her house. I was so pissed. INCREDIBLE! I was as gracious as I could be. But when she said, well call me if you get it, and I said, "Oh, I will. Because I'll have to cancel with everybody." I mean, please. Right? Oh, here I go again.
So, the normal Heather might just be upset for a few minutes and then let it go. But the steroid Heather was upset and cried all the way to the ferrry, on the ride across the water, and then I even woke up in the middle of the night and rehashed it some more.
All the time, trying to calm myself down. I think its one of the lamest things that a client has ever done in my 14 years of practice. The husband could have warned me. Or earlier in the day, when I spoke to her to confirm the appointment she could have mentioned her eyes were all itchy, weepy. and oozy from Pink Eye! Okay, well. now I am laughing. Some people, I don't get!

I'm seeing my Onc on Wed as well. I will not be touching my eyes today. When the get wet, I will have to dab them with a new tissue, and then wash my hands immediately, just in case.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm exhausted

I have had a few days of full on 14 hour days, and I'm exhausted! Phew! The steroids are keeping me agitated and full of energy, while my physical body is tired. Its hard to explain because both are with the physical body, but they are happening simultaneously. I'm drinking lots of coffee to give me energy, and then feeling like I need to calm down. If I don't drink coffee I need to nap. And I have to work, so napping isn't an option. Today it is though. I am on island this morning, and went to the local coffee shop and relaxed, visited and am now home and am going to lay around for a bit. I am so tired, but then my mind is racing so I can't sleep.
My friend Ang left on Sunday, and I was really sad all that day. What sucks, is that all my best girlfriends live in either Canada or California. Those relationships are ones I've had for over a decade and there is so much life experiences and sharing that's been shared. Its hard to duplicate the depth.
I have enjoyed immensely being on island and being held by my community. I love walking into a coffee shop, grocery store, you name it and visiting and sharing with folks. Hugging people. In the city I am "hug" deprived! Well..Norman the parrot is making some incredible noises and he can whistle Andy Griffith trailer! Incredible!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Da island life

I’ve started my house sitting job out on Vashon Island. The house is right above one of my favorite sunset beaches, Lisabuela! There is a Golden Retriever~ Foster, who has officially gotten my heart, and a Gray Congolese Parrot that has a 300 word vocabulary and noises to boot. It freaks me out!
My friend Angela is here and Its been great having someone that wants to walk down the street and hold on to me, or sit next to me on the coach closely and hold my hand. It warms my heart. I have been thinking a lot about how in life we learn lessons and then implement them and then forget them, and then have to re-learn them. This seems to be what happens to me at least. So, with that being said, there is a “Cancer” Heather and a “normal” Heather. Lessons learned throughout cancer that I need to integrate into “normal” Heather so that I do not loose the lessons learned. I’ve worked to hard with some of these life changing newly formed habits.
And one of them that keeps showing me that I need to do this quickly, is not stressing over anything. Everything, will be fine until tomorrow, nothing is going to change the present moment with stressing about anything so I might as well not stress and just be in the present moment stressfree.
Choosing to stress over anything, and I mean anything is 100% worthless way to expel my energy. I learned this lesson as most of you witnessed with whether or not I was going to worry about my cancer. I have no control over it, so I have learned, I will repeat that, I have learned to not go there. In the beginning I had to force myself, and focus on being a little Buddha. But then it got easier, and easier for me.
So, now that I am all done with treatment, and I still have my port in, I just have to not allow myself to question or worry about the fact that my Onc. wants me to keep my port in for a few more months. Yes, it does symbolize the very real fact that my cancer could come back. But do I need to “go” there. No. So, I stop myself from going there. And you know what happens? I am spending less and less time thinking about “cancer” and more time thinking about me.
Which brings me to , “ Hey, I am super stressed out now, and I don’t want to be.” What is there to stress about? Well, I get really overwhelmed easily now about everything. I need to start practicing letting things go. For instance, this week, I brought out a new townhouse listing. In the past, the old Heather would have worked until 11 pm making all the blogs, all the websites, uploading all the photos, creating the words, the marketing, the flyers, ect. And getting it all done in one day.
Impossible! Instead, last night, and this evening, I forced myself to stop working at the descent time of 5:30. I didn’t let myself get down on myself that I wasn’t finishing everything right then and there. Well..for a minute I did. And then I stopped myself, didn’t let myself stress myself out and said to myself, “Its okay if I leave this until tomorrow. You deserve, and you need to take care of yourself.”
Integration. That is what this time alone on Vashon is going to be for me. Last night Ang and I tried going for my first big walk since my last hospital stint. My heart started hearting when we were walking up the gigantic hill. The old Heather would have gotten hard on myself, but the new Heather just had to say, That sucks. I really want to walk up that hill, but I can’t. I need to take care of myself. Basic. Right? Its going to get easier!