Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One Year Ritual

You can tap/click on the pictures and they'll get bigger!

I am going to go back a few weeks now, almost a month actually in a few days to June 2, 2009. My sister wendy came a few days ahead and helped me get ready for the ceremony. We stayed out at the Fern Cove house on Vashon, and started the unwinding process. We took a long walk down on KVI, a beach famous for its agates and special rocks. Later that day we sat by the water's edge with kleenex in hand and went through the guest list. Asking the question of why each of these love bugs were invited and what lesson did their love for me help to guide me in this past year. It was a chance to go back and to try to call forth those memories that Ativan has tried to place in a sleepy nightmarish zone. As the gift/lesson these lovebugs was evoked I wrote with a pink pen on the rock the lesson. I chose pink, a colour that I would NEVER have used before breast cancer. But I chose it because there is a simple allowable moment even at the grocery store now of accepting myself. Accepting that I have become a breast cancer survivor, and I find myself even buying the organic olive oil with a pink ribbon on it now. Its yet another tribe I belong to.
Everyone came that was supposed to be there. Summer gets busy and many folks couldn't make it, and for those that couldn't you were there in spirit. For a few days prior I had tried to think of a vessel that I could use to tangibly be in the center of the circle and hold all the grief, all the sadness of everyones and my ickiness of the past year. Right before everyone started coming I took a walk down the beach and came across a piece of driftwood that I felt had spent its entire life for me! It was perfect. It had been worn into a cup at the top and into a sharp pointed edge at the bottom.
To speed up this story...

I had gotten these cute butterfly cards with lots of sparkles on them. Before the ceremony started I asked for everyone to write on their cards what lesson they learned about themselves this past year, that was evoked through their journey of being witness to my journey. I told them they could share it or not later in the ceremony. Many people chose not to share, but many people chose to take part in writing their thoughts down. I did this because I feel that in life we do not get enough chances to think about what we learn and how it is that we grow and then rarely do we have an opportunity to share our growth.
My friend Jacqui formed the circle with a beautiful invocation to all the directions and at this point I called forth my Nana as she is living on the Oregon coast and is too feeble to make it out of bed now.
After the circle was formed I invoked the driftwood to be a chalice of pain, and pierced the earth with it. I asked everyone to put the initial shock of hearing my news, the sadness, the grief, every icky feeling to just channel that energy into it through the ceremony. This was one of the biggest things for me, as I wanted to let go and not carry all these fears any longer and I wanted everyone else to do the same.
I went around the circle, stepping to be inches away from everyone's faces and spoke to each and every body there, about what they did for me. And in their doing how I had to learn to open, to surrender, to receiving. This was such a huge part of my metamorphosis this past year. In receiving there is surrender, opening, letting go, ect. I recalled a lesson a past therapist and I spoke of years before. And how I was not sure how I was actually going to learn how to receive. I recalled that when you are busy giving and doing you cannot receive. Well, cancer forced me to. I had to stop doing, stop everything, absolutely everything and lay in bed and just be. Just be and receive. To ask, to be brave enough to ask, to risk, to be okay with the no's the sorry's, letting go of expectations, letting go of the disappointments, accepting, sometimes going to doc's by myself, people have lives, just because cancer didn't stop didn't mean that peoples lives stopped. I learned to be by myself. This one was the hardest. One person in particular taught me this. To be by myself. To make it through the toughest parts of my entire life thus far, with someone, but really absolutely alone. This was the hardest part.
Luckily I have such a network of love around me, that I was able to draw on. But really, that little saying, "you come into this world alone, and you go out the same way..or however it goes" is true. It is true. No one could be there with me, well except my sis and my best girls. They got it. But when you're sick, you're just sick, and all you need is someones love and someones hand on your back on your hand, being there.
Okay, back to the ceremony. So handing out everyones rocks was huge for me. For so many reasons. I wanted to thank everyone, and help them understand what it was that they did for me. How I took their deed(s) and used them to grow. To expand.
After that, my friend Gen spoke and a few other brave souls. There were many wet eyes, and kleenex being passed around. Then I went to the center of the circle and relived my initial phone call, my initial doc visits, my surgery, all the sadness, all the sickness, all the future fears, ect. and put it all into the driftwood chalice. Then I asked everyone to form a tunnel by standing infront of one another, in pairs, and they made an tunnel with their arms and I walked holding onto the chalice and walked to the waters edge and threw it into the water. Letting go of it all. As I walked through the tunnel again, I was being born again, letting go and moving forward. My friend Gen had made a crown of beautiful flowers for me, and placed it on my head. Then we ate and visited.
Very simple. Very moving. Very necessary.

Immediately after the ceremony I noticed as I slept how much extra space around me. And I was sad and happy at the same time to recognize how much extra space around me there was now. Realizing how much space HAD been used to worry, to be sad, to feel all the ickiness. I let go of it all. I don't have to carry it any longer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

So what am I waiting for?

I have not been sleeping well the past week or so. I've been staying up really late and then waking in the wee hours and then every hour until I just get out of bed. I think the waking early part is due to the wonderful fact that it is now summer and light and bright and the birds are chirping by 5:15.
I told a friend the other day a story that I don't know if yet I believe, but seems that it is true at least right now, this second it is. And I do not yet know how I feel about it. Wether it is a good or a bad thing. It might just be one of those things that can sit in a place of "just is" and not have judgement from the various girls running around in my head.
Its that I am finding that the trust or the assuredness I once had is gone. The trust that anything is going to be there forever is gone, the trust that at any moment my life could change and never be the same is my reality now. If I told my Dad this I think he would be sad, and might even cry about it. So I won't tell him. I think he would be sad that I have had to let go of possibly one of the last youthful ways of being in this world. Mmm..I just read what I wrote and its not encompassing how deeply changed I feel. The reason I question and should explore this w/ my cancer therapist is that its coming from a place of rawness. The moment that my life was shattered and brokenness. I need to think about this more and get back to you. To me about this.
I trust inherently in everything, I just can't count on anything anymore. Maybe My Planner is having a hard time with this and that is what is feeling wrong.
This trust thing is also still coming up in my body. Like trusting that my body can carry me on a run. If the doc's are all saying go for it, why don't I? It is because I am finally getting healthy, I don't hurt, I've lost almost all my weight (now 141.5~ just 6 more to go to be back to pre-cancer) , and I am petrified of going back words. I am afraid I will have another flare up, and be back on tons of steroids and that whole nightmarish sequence of happenings. I think the older woman in me has learned to take it slow and the younger woman in my is saying, "what? What's slow?" The older woman is winning out and I would like to start trusting in my body again. This is the root of the whole trusting thing up above here, in the above paragraph. It the fact that my body failed me, it didn't fight off the cancer, and I got "IT" and that sucked.
Yes, Yes, I know that my body did really good at getting me through the treatment, but it didn't really. It behaved like a child, it went kicking and screaming and threw a fit at every bend. I had a rough go during treatment, so tough that I do not recommend newbies to read my blog before they start their journey because I don't want them to get freaked out.
I have a lot of grieving to do with this. And most importantly I don't know what to do about it. It reminds me of a lesson my Dad taught us kids over and over about trust when we were young. Whenever we did something that was bad and wrong when we were little my Dad would say, "I still love you, nothing can take my love away from you. But I don't trust you as much as I did, and you have to earn my trust back. (this would be met with huge tears from either of us kids) and then he would say again how much he loved us."
Well, that is what I feel like I am saying to my body. Yes, I sure would love to trust that I can start exercising like a feigned but I am scared. My body has built up a level of trust that it is now healthy again, but in the back of my mind, the pain of pericarditis is screaming very loudly, beeeeeeeee caaaarrreeeefuuuulllllll!!!!! Go slow!
So I leave tonight for Eugene and I am bringing my running shoes. I am hosting my sis's baby shower on Saturday. Friday is going to be spent cleaning, decorating, and cooking. I'll go for a run, and then see how I feel for a few days. That is safe. That is smart.
Trust. Its in everything right now. Opening to it, and trusting that, well you can fill in the blank. Its everything. What cancer taught me is to let go of expectations, in everything as well. So how do trust and expectations dance together? I don't know. How can one fully trust without expecting a certain behaviour or act. The tree expects that in the spring its branches will bud, in the summer that it will have leaves, in the fall that the leaves will fall to the ground, and in the winter that the leaves will decompose and nourish the trees roots. This is okay. If we saw a tree in summer lose all its leaves we would say that that tree is sick. There is something wrong. Its okay to expect that there will be leaves on trees in the summer. Its okay to have expectations, I guess it boils down to accepting. And this is the other lesson cancer taught me. Is that you have to accept that there are going to be lots of deviations in life, and that is okay. Accept things for what they are, even if I did plan to have a picnic under that tree in the middle of summer and I was expecting..you get the idea.
It all boils down to this. Very simple simple fact. I am scared. I am scared to be in pain again, I am scared to trust my body again, but I am hopeful and all the doc's are saying go for it. So, what am I waiting for?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

D Day

This is the last that you'll hear of D. He and I are divorcing (another D) and he has asked that I not talk about him here. I am thankful that he allowed/compromised his private life as long as he did to allow me to write about "our" journey together. At times using his inital. Big ol' nutshell. He realized after our marriage that he rightfully does not want to have kids, I have never changed my mind.
And even if I do not get out of this chemopause, I will use my solo eggs I have (I was not strong enough to listen to reason, and begged and begged for us to make embryo's and waisted 3 of my precious 6) and hopefully that does the trick. But if not, there are lots of wonderful incredible babies in this world that are just waiting to be loved with all the love I have to give and more in this world.
Yes, this is too soon. But we have pushed it to a point, that home has been not home for years and its easier to get all the hurt, all the stress out now, than to wait and get the stress and hurt out later. Life is difficult, and beautiful, and there is never a good time to as my friend says, cleave. So, off to cleaving, and crying, and sobbing, and mourning this inevitable loss.
Lesson learned, many. Will I make this same mistake again, no way.
Its easy in life to over look what you don't want to see. Love is a coyote. Our job is to be present and not live in the future when we fall in love, but to be present and witness what is really there. The maiden, that did this has gratefully blossomed into a woman because of the past few years, and the woman in me will live in the present from here on out. So mote it be.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I am feeling more and more like "Heather". It is going to take time. The Tasmanian Devil in me just needs to calm down and relax and be gentle with myself. I want to DO, everything all at ONCE right now. I want to have fun that jumps off the Funodometer and I just don't want to stop. I want to write lots of poems, and say hi to everyone I know, and get/give lots of hugs, I am starting to enjoy life again. What can I say. I didn't have any profound thoughts of "cancer" stuff today. I enjoyed that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Almost summer photos

In my dreams

Last night, as I slept, I thought about the title of my blog. Heathers journey to health. Mmmm...

Finally, I feel like I AM this tangible road. This past year, I was on it, but there were obstacles at every bend. Like the road out to Hana, on Maui. Over 200 bends, and curves, but along the way waterfalls and sacred places to clear the heart and soul. This year has been full of this. I made it.

I am not sure why I feel like I am now "really" on the road to healing. But maybe its because I notice my body coming to life again. I see my nails growing, my heart opening further, the tiger in my starting to fluff its main and feel the growl (speaking of, I need to do more of this), and I get to call my ND next week and start the cleansing procedure. I get to take trips away, see friends, walk up hills and not feel like I am an old woman gasping for air.

The road to health, to healing, is much longer than I thought. Just like Hana. Next time I go there, I am flying past all the bends and curves, to get to my favorite spots. And I am ready to let this past year, be in the past. Phew! She says with tears.

Another thing I love, is that I get to hold other sisters hands, all strangers linked by a common thread. A friend said to me yesterday that I should do rituals for other woman when they are done. Or help them with creating their unique way of moving forward. I like this idea. Life is so expansive and open. Ceaseless, endless opportunities to grow, to love, and to usher others. I feel blessed to be on this road.

Wow! What a weekend

I'm not sure what is going to happen with today, but yesterday! It was summer. Summer on Vashon. I had such a great day. I know some of you might want to hear about my ceremony, and I am happy to share it, but I am waiting on a few more folks to send me the photos!
I needed yesterday really bad. I have been working pretty non-stop 14 hour days it seems and have been enjoying it but needed to force myself to stop answering my phone. It was no problem. I actually liked not doing it.
So again, picture it (for those of you that are Golden Girls fans) Sicily (my case Vashon) the summer of 2009, beautiful sunny day, riding the ferry over with the Puget Sound glistening so that I had to wear sunglasses. Mmm...lovely!
I thought a lot yesterday. I reflected a lot yesterday. I felt free yesterday. Free from so much that I have been holding on to. The ritual/ceremony really allowed me (as ritual does) to physically, mentally, spiritually, and ethericallly let go of Fear. Phew! When its gone, I realize how much free space in and around my soul was about it. Even though I tried desperately hard to not hold on to it.
Anyways, I got to the island and raced over to my friends house and laid by their pool. I was so healed by it. It was one of those pools that has a real waterfall that is forcefully rolling over rocks/boulders, with all the real noise effects. I sat out and visited and laid in the sun, nude. I am a total nudist. I don't get much opportunity for this unless I am with my hippy friends. I felt for the first time, okay that I had my surgery, okay that I was still over weight, and mostly beautiful. One thing that has been difficult this past year, since surgery is not having anyone close to me look or touch or just acknowledge that "it" the breast is still beautiful.
Then there was a concert at one of my favorite beaches on island, so I got dressed and met my other good friend Peggles down there. She just had a little girl, Mirette. I met them down there, to a rock band, that was not to our liking. So, we took a stroll and I listened to her. What a wonderful change. I had no big health drama to talk about. Ahhhh!!! Startin' to live again. The rock band got old quick, and we were thirsty so we walked up the giant hill, and I mean giant to our cars. What happened next was GREAT!! It didn't bother me at all, and I wouldn't have stopped once but did for Peggles. She just had a ceasarean and she needed to. I didn't. Again, what a change!
As we drove she asked me if it was hard to be around little ones right now because I want one so badly. I told her it has been in the past year, but I'm over that now. Or today I am. Sometimes its hard, but there is no reason to not keep my heart open to this, and in this past year I learned how to cry, pretty much at a drop of the hat. Not that I would cry like a baby, over a baby, but I might cry a bit. Someday.
Speaking of, to back track. Friday I went and had the ultra sound of my stomach. Because of that spotting, I've spent the past week getting my hopes up, and out of the present moment, which is lethal! The good news is that I have started sweating again, and I do feel my ovaries getting warm and there was unexplained spotting.
So, I go get on the table and this very nice tech lady says to me during the examination, "Well, it looks really pretty in there, really clean. You won't be having a period in the next month." I broke into tears. Big TEARS. Tons of tears. Tears that rode home with me, past the call to my Dad-even though he cheered me up a bit, and then, I had to bring myself back to the present moment.
After she said the comment, I said, "What? What does clean and pretty mean?" She probably would have totally phrased her whole initial comment differently if she hadn't assumed that I had had the kind of breast cancer that they induce premature menopause on purpose as that type of breast cancer feeds on estrogen. But mine doesn't. And I am in this limbo state solely because of chemo. And Clean and Pretty means, no lining to slough off. Which equals, no period next month.
So I started to cry, maybe like a baby. BIg tears. I told her I didn't want the radiologist to come in and talk to me more about my "results", I'd heard enough. I will wait to hear from my Oncologist. I took the exit out the side door, so I could continue crying. I was devastated. The ritual and my life has been about processing cancer and every other single factor about it, EXCEPT this pre-menopausal thing. As I am really hoping its just CHEMOPAUSE. The amount of grieving if it doesn't return, I am simply not strong enough emotionally to deal with that, and its premature. It can take a woman over a year to get it back. So, I've got time. And hope is again my friend.
Okay, where was I? On a glistening island full of friends and love. Oh, yes! That is right. SO, Peggles and I went to the island tea shop and drank a cold mango green tea freeze, and visited and visited. We sat next to old friends on island. One of the ladies daughters that I've known since she was 3, graduated yesterday. I asked her how it was for her today. And then I told her one of my favorite stories of them. And we all laughed. How incredibly beautiful to be a mother. What a treasured gift.
We visited for a long while, Mirette was a little princess of sleep and waking to eat. She is only five weeks old. Before we headed down to hear the reaggae band that it seemed that the whole island was going to descend onto the beach for, I called my friend Nate. Old friends just take my heart away.
He met us down there. I watched Peggles migrate to the other mothers and her openness to learning from them was gift for me to witness. I watched lots of young beautiful girls and boys enjoying themselves. I saw two sisters, twins, that I used to massage when they were, maybe 3 or 4. I still hold the images of there tiny little bodies, but asked to find out that they are now 17! WOW!! Community. I love it.
We watched the sun go down, and hiked back up the hill and went to Peg's to eat a late night quiche and caught the late to depart 10:40 ferry home. It was via Southworth so it took almost an hour. I just visited with another old island friend, and loved every minute of it. I cannot wait until I can chop wood, stack wood, make a fire, plant my garden, pull my weeds, and drink tea with my friends as I swat away the island mosquitoes. That day, is just down the road. I can almost see it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Start Living

So much has happened since I wrote last. I wanted to write after my ceremony, but wanted to wait to get the pictures to upload here. But, I'm still waiting on those from a few other friends.
Where to start? I'll start from now and work my way back.
I've been selling a few homes this week, and its exhausting. I need a vacation desperately. I have been doing lots of massages, but this month I have kept my weekends free. This is nice. I feel good. I feel like a rooobbboottttt right now. I am so tired that its hard to think. I need to drink tea and wake up a bit.
Wednesday was a fun day. I went to all my doctors in a row. My eye doc, said that my left eye will continue to heal and he thinks will get better. I ordered some amazing eye lash stuff that has been proven to help eyelashes grow. I have been waiting on this one, but now that they are coming in so incredibly slow, and I want to use mascara, I thought I'd give this a whirl.
Then I went to see my Cardiologist, and he said no more steroids! Yippeee!! I was thrilled. And if everything goes good, I can stop taking all the other anti-inflammatories. I skipped happily over to my Oncologist, who was very behind that day. I waited for a long while to see him, and got in and spoke just for a few minutes. Everything is good. He said that tumor marker tests generally are all over the map. He doesn't want me to be alarmed if this one goes up to 14, that doesn't mean anything he said. The only thing he would be concerned about is if my tests steadily went higher and higher. And no, he won't wait to do extra testing if my marker ever reaches the 20's. Even though they usually don't worry until over 38, since mine was (and anything below 38, is considered cancer free) but since mine was diagnosed at 28, his antennas will go into high alert he said. So there you have that. Good to know. I am not afraid of that happening at this point. He graduated me from every month, to every two. I get to see him again in August. I told him about the whole kind of bleeding thing, and he ordered an ultra sound for today. He said that there could be a lot of blood up there and because of hormones it can't come down. If this is the case then he may want to give me hormones to trick my body into getting back to normal. I of coarse, hate this idea.
What is next on the list of taking care of Heather things, is for me to call my ND and start the cleansing process. I think this will kick my body into gear, naturally.
So, that was wednesday. The rest of the days are spent working. One of my massage clients said that she thinks I dove into work because I was trying to prove something to myself. That is highly possible. I also think that I've been laying around for so long, that once I didn't have to, I went crazy. Its all or nothing baby! I have taken the weekends off. And last weekend was my ceremony. I will talk about that later. Another post. It was perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer is just around the corner

This year, I get to have a summer. I am one of those girls that absolutely loves to go to the beach, lay out in a bikini and lay in the sun. I love to sit out on my deck and read, watching the sun set, or as it will be in a little longer, the sun rise. The roses from the pixies and roses picture (down below) are just starting to bloom the past few days. I remember that picture. My sister drove up to Seattle from Eugene to hold my hand because that was the day I was brave enough to cut my hair from shoulders length to the pixie cut. I needed support. She took a good pic of me. Vanity is starting to trickle back in waves of fierceness. I am really sick of my pudgy cheeks and want desperately to see my cheekbones again. I think I've lost tons of weight the past few weeks, now that the steroids are lessened.
Yesterday I took my longest walk that I've been able to take in a long while, I need to get in my car and actually drive it to see how many miles it is. It took me a few hours, I'm guessing 8 miles. I'm not sore at all today, and I want to do it all over again. Especially since I can't sleep and I could leave right now. But I am going to force myself to take it easy today, because yesterday on the walk my lungs, both of them were kind of burning towards the end of the walk. They felt fine after my walk, and even right now okay to breath in deeply. I am sure I am fine. I am so sick of this leash I have around me, that I've been forced to have around me. Okay, a more positive spin, I sure am thankful that I've learned to slow down a bit and listen to my body. I actually don't know if I learned to slow down, but I sure did learn the listen to my body bit.

I am getting very excited for my party this weekend, and to be around all my family and friends. I can't wait to hold my sisters hand, and kick her butt at some board game.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Call

Its been a year, today that I got the call. The one that I hear still today in my head, "Heather, unfortunately you do have cancer. You need to come down here as soon as you can. We saved a 3 O' clock appointment for you."

That's it, a real simple call, that took this last year down a path that I just can hardly believe I was strong enough to get through. I am so thankful for every single day and every single lesson I had to face, endure, and learn. I just can hardly believe it. I use the hardly because I am starting to process that yes, I did go through that. It wasn't just some horrible dream.

I've found myself the past few days reliving different things that have happened, things that I had forgotten. Chemo really has "brought" many of my memories somewhere. I was speaking to a friends Dad the other day that is a 9 year survivor of Colon cancer and he said, "Why don't the doc's tell you that your going to lose your memory?" I don't think the doc's understand the brain enough to boldly be able to tell all of us scared out of our pants chemo-virgins all the possible side effects. If he had told me, I don't know if I would have gone through it. I'm sure my family would have talked me into it, but who knows! Last year was horrible. And I don't think the doc's understand why chemo effects spelling for us. Its weird. I also think that one of the main reasons I can't readily remember what I've gone through, or each chemo ( I seriously can't), is that it was safer for my brain to hide those memories from me, so that I could get through it. Like an abused person, stuffing those memories. I understand that.

Like I was saying, I am re-remembering things and yesterday I found myself sobbing as I was driving down the freeway. I had just made my dinner plans at Saltys on Alki with a few friends that can't make my celebration on Saturday (whhhhooooooo hooooo, can't wait) and I told her I really wanted to be outside facing the water (its going to be the rare 84 here today) and she wasn't sure if that would be possible. She asked if I had a special anniversary or bday celebration. I told her its my one year from being diagnosed with breast cancer. She then replied, "I will make sure you have a table." I thanked her, and started to cry. I just had made my dinner plans, to celebrate the end of my old life, and the beginning of my new life. So, yes I am thankful. But I am sad. The sadness is deep and I think the only thing that is going to heal it is for me to write my book. To go back, read it all, and cry for it all.

This weekends ritual will be huge for me. I am really looking forward to honoring the rites of passage and to allow myself to honor all the friends that were my support that got me through this. Without every single body, every single heart, my journey may have been impossible. I am so thankful for all of your support and wise words on here.

There were many days that the only contact I had was seeing the comments left, or the emails sent for you shier ones. Thank you.