Monday, February 28, 2011

Dance With Me!

I said I'd do it (here) and now there's proof:

Now it's your turn: Dance with me! (The music is Fatboy Slim, "Praise You." Download it for yourself, just ninety-nine cents!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Get Me Bodied

Yesterday's vlog. More of my videos here.
In "normal" life, too much time on the couch and too much junky starchy fatty foods is a straight-line prescription for the blues. Though chemo has everything to do with my dietary choices and my couch-potato nature of late, the result is the same. I've been feeling low today.

But then I came across the video April Capil posted on the day of and in celebration of her last chemotherapy treatment. In it, she dances sassy and silly to Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied." I was so touched by her exuberance, her shamelessness, and her implied messages, both that this too shall pass, and that life is to be lived.

So that's it! I'm putting on music now, right now and loud, and dancing around the living room. The teenager and husband in the house can scoff or join in, whatever they please. I will not be daunted. Life is now.

April's video.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


The corner is officially turned, though just barely. It's too soon to say I'm feeling emphatically better — my digestive tract still feels like it's lined with tire rubber and my saliva still tastes like ocean foam, my tongue is sore and my head throbs every time I stand up — but at least I can report that I'm no longer feeling worse and my energy is gradually returning.

Today's treat: a visit from Liz. The valentine sun glasses were a gift from another visitor. But they complete Liz's look, don't you think?

I'm nervous about the next chemo drug, Taxol, and it's unglamorous potential side effects (neuropathy, weight gain, diarrhea, muscle and bone pains, hot flashes, discoloration and even loss of fingernails. And then, when you're just about finished with the drug, loss of eyebrows and eyelashes.) On top of all that, there's the possibility of an allergic reaction with the first dose. One out of a hundred has it. It can be bad enough to kill you. But not for long, my oncologist has assured me. That kind of reaction is exceedingly rare and they keep a crash cart nearby and never have they ever lost anyone. Okay, okay, I'll try to keep it in perspective, but still. Yikes.

Drinks a la my husband: banana-strawberry smoothie, and "green lemonade" (fresh juiced apple, lemon, celery, and spinach)
For the first time I'm really worried about the needle stick. Unlike your everyday blood draw, these needles come with a sort of plastic sheath - once the needle is in, the sheath is pushed through into the vein. Last time, for the first time, it didn't work on the first try. And it hurt. A lot.

I'm worried that I'm headed down the road of chemo-damaged veins causing many more painful unsuccessful sticks followed by a delay in treatment for the surgical implantation of a port catheter - a stint under the skin near my collarbone, leading directly into a major artery. Other chemo survivors tell me emphatically "get the port." It made things so much easier for them. But I'd rather opt out of another surgery if possible, as minor as it may be.

I just can't bring myself to want a port.

Soup of the day, two days ago: my sister-in-law's black bean, plus zucchini and onion. 
Just a few months ago I was a healthy active person. The only surgery I'd ever had was dental. I did not take drugs. I did not lay around on the couch all day with a list of complaints. I did not think about surgery and needles and side effects and how to physically get through the next hour. My stomach didn't turn every time I opened the refrigerator or glanced at certain insulated water bottle I happened to bring along during my first treatment, or caught a whiff of the lotion I used to like.

On the bright side, most people feel less terrible on this next chemo drug. I hope I am one of them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Getting Through Hell, Revisited

Surviving Chemo #4. More of my videos here.

I was just looking over an old blog post written during the crisis of an impending divorce, titled How to Get Through Hell. In it, I wrote a list of five tips for weathering a crisis. Rereading, I would venture that these five things do indeed apply to more than one kind of crisis. It boils down to the one skill I keep harping on here: asking for help.

People keep telling me how I strong I am but I'm afraid I'm not showing the whole picture. I am not doing this, not any of it, alone. Much of my illusion of endurance comes from daily meltdowns along the way.

There's more than one kind of strength. There's the strength to swim through a lonely and stormy ocean. And there's the strength to flail your arms and shamelessly shout for help at the top of your lungs. The point is to get out of the water and survive. There's no wrong way to do that.

Let's face it, there are very few crises that we must endure alone. It makes little sense to quietly drown out of reticence to bother the lifeguard, or to slog on in solitude through any rough patch when help is within earshot.

Of course it's nice to be a strong swimmer. But asking for help is strength too. Both forms of strength are good to have. So flail your arms and shout. Throw yourself onto your bed and cry. Whatever it takes. And then, when you're done, take the next step along the path out of hell.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One Foot in Front of the Other

Just getting through the day. An hour at a time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Last Week

More videos here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Swimming four days after chemo. More of my videos here.

Whatever you're going through, I have three words for you: support support support. It makes all the difference.

For this particularly challenging chemo-aftermath week, I have lined up friends and family bringing food and love and DVDs and conversation, co-counselors coming by with shoulders to cry on, my husband taking the week off to support me in whatever way we decide makes sense in the moment. I asked for all of this (though I think some of it would have come anyway), and I did have to think a lot about what I wanted and who to ask. And, yes, I feel some embarrassment at the riches that have tumbled forth.

Funny how in the midst of crisis, it can still feel embarrassing to have people care about us! As if we don't deserve it, when of course every one of us deserves to be cared for, crisis or not.

Another strange thing: Though physically, I would like nothing more than to stuff my innards with cotton batting in hopes that it would absorb the indescribable acid-lava-pit discomfort in my guts, on the emotional front, my awareness extends to encompass a new layer of aftershock about the mastectomy.

When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror now before or after a shower, I am brought up short by this pale, hairless, scarred, thinner version of myself. There's a sense of disbelief, of devastation, a loss of innocence. I don't recognize the new me, not entirely.

It's been just three months since the surgery, four since I found out I had breast cancer. Not much time. I wonder how I'll be feeling three months from now? A year? Two years?

Hopefully there will be a long road ahead, and many vantage points along the way.

In the meantime, there is now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Day Down

Traditional Sunday breakfast by J, leftovers again today: buckwheat pancakes.

Tired. That's the major complaint today. But tired I can do. Tired doesn't hurt.

Not much else to report at the moment.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vloggity Bloggity

This blogging every day thing is turning me into a vlogger, especially right now while my energy is low and my Flip Video Camera is new. Perhaps the novelty will wear off soon and I'll get back to writing. In the meantime, here's a little one with my Dad, from a visit this evening. Click the bottom right corner to view full-screen:

More of my videos here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day After Chemo #4 and Still Kicking

I am feeling rather well, considering that I just had chemo yesterday. However, I felt rather well last time at about this point in the cycle. If things go as they have, tomorrow will begin a slide downhill that will last late into the week.

And yes, if you're wondering, I did the 100% chemo dose. My gut tells me 80% would have been enough. My gut also tells me I can recover from 100%. And so, like the raised-christian doubters who baptize their kids "just in case," I went through with the entire prescribed ritual.

Hopefully I don't live to regret it. No, that's not what I mean to say. Hopefully I live to regret many many things. And then live on with the fortitude to make all the necessary reparations.

This quote doesn't exactly line up, but close enough: Like Jill Conner Browne says in her sweet and hilarious book, American Thighs: The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Preserving Your Assets: "Live like you've got all day tomorrow to apologize."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chemo Limbo

I'm feeling okay but not up for much in the way of blogging right now. Here's something from yesterday, debriefing after a conversation with my oncologist. Sorry about the poor quality, technical difficulties. More tomorrow, I hope.

More of my videos here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chemo Eve

First thing this morning, Vitamin M

I'm off to the doctor to make sure my blood counts are up enough for chemo tomorrow, but before that, groceries, which I will prep tonight into chemo-friendly infusion-day snacks and chemo-friendly easy-prep meals for myself and family for days to come. But before any of that, a good long swim. And before that, a walk for the dog. Oh boy, I'd better get going.

But first, to those of you bumping up against my dare in yesterday's post: yeah! You're right on the money. Whatever gets in your way about asking for help (shyness, a sense of unworthiness, embarrassment because you feel like you're supposed to be able to do it by yourself) this is exactly the crux of the battle. Asking for help, moving into that uncomfortable zone where those feelings reside is the way to shatter limiting beliefs about who you are and who you are supposed to be. You ARE worthy of help. You ARE important enough. You ARE human like the rest of us and therefore vulnerable and fallible and worthy of real, safe, supportive connection with others of your kind!

Go for it! I've got your back.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Dare You

The jacket was inherited years ago from an uncle who died of cancer. When I wear it I think of him. The scarf was a gift from dear friend M - thank you, love!

You won't catch me referring to cancer as a gift. No way around it, cancer sucks. There are many many more fun and exciting efforts I would rather be rallying my troops around instead of the effort to save my hide.

That said, it is quite amazing how people will come through for you if only you dare ask. These last few days I've been doing just that. I've decided to face this one last round of Adriamycin/Cytoxan and do it in style - with plenty of support of all kinds - hand-holders, soup-makers, distraction-deliverers, dog-walkers, etcetera. And I have been asking for all that I need and want. From everything I hear, this is the worst part coming up, so I'm pulling out all the stops.

I am a champ at facing challenges solo. It feels so hard to ask for help, and to be clear about what's helpful and what's not, I'm often so discouraged that I convince myself it's a fruitless pointless effort and I don't even try. It's easy to think that going it alone is better. But it's not. I promise you it is not.

This song was sent to me today by my friend G. It's a good one, don't you think?

Now, for those of you who aren't in my immediate world and are asking what you can do, here's something: join me in fighting for your own best life.

I dare you: whatever challenge is on your plate at the moment, ask for support. Even if you think you don't strictly need help, even if it feels embarrassing, even if you feel guilty doing it. Help is good. Not just for you, but for the helper too. We all need excuses to be closer to each other. Isolation sucks.

A few ground rules for the dare:

1. Choose something small - company on a long drive or a challenging hike, a follow-up "how was it?" phone call after a high-stakes interview, someone to go with you to the doctor's appointment you dread. Envision it exactly the way you want, and set out to fulfill that vision. Be very specific about what you want and when you want it. Make it a one-time thing (for now) with clear and realistic parameters.

Salad was my challenge today! It's not a pleasure to eat like it should be, but I found I'm well enough finally to almost enjoy it.
2. Ask someone special, and ask them specifically. A mass email plea for support is appropriate sometimes (hell, I sent out two today!) but in this instance, pick someone just right for the task, someone from whom a "yes" would be a thrill. Be sure to tell them why you picked them. This is a major compliment - be sure to give it. Allow room for no, and if that's what you hear, even if the person has trouble saying it, accept it graciously and go ask someone else.

3. Offer nothing in return but your undying gratitude. It doesn't mean you can't ultimately pay back, or that you won't one day pay forward, but challenge yourself to trust that whomever you're addressing will be pleased to do something for you, simply because it's you.

Mix and match soup: the last of my Mom's borscht plus a scoop of my own plain squash and mushroom concoction. Delicious!

4. Be gentle with yourself. If asking for help is a skill you haven't developed, don't expect to do it perfectly first time out of the gate. Consider this a practice round. You'll make mistakes, you'll feel awkward. But that's the only way to learn.

5. Share your experience, your failures and successes. When have you asked for support? How did you feel? What happened? Post a comment below. Do it anonymously if that feels better. Let's inspire each other!

If all of this seems overwhelming, you're thinking too big. Start with micro-steps. Ask for directions, for help carrying bags in from the car, a glass of water. You can do this!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Soup is My Friend

More of my artwork here and also here

As chemo takes its cumulative toll, my tongue, mouth, and throat are increasingly sore. Food, even plain water, tastes funny. On my worst days, it's difficult to swallow. But soup goes down easy.

Since I've begun making my love affair with soup public on this blog, I've heard that some of you find find the prospect of soup-making intimidating. I've also received some requests for recipes.

I am sorry to report, I rarely use recipes. On the bright side, you don't need them either. If you know a few basics, it's very difficult to mess up soup.

I like this kind
Here's a simple place to start, you can make this in ten minutes: miso soup.

Miso is a Japanese ingredient, a savory, salty paste of cultured bean and grain, and it comes in many flavors. It's delicious and good for you, and it makes soup-making a snap. You can find it in the refrigerated section of any good health-oriented grocery store.

The fastest and cleanest-tasting way to prepare miso soup is to put water over medium heat, add to it some diced veggies and maybe some tofu (or a little leftover chicken, cooked noodles, whatever you like). For veggies, I recommend starting with carrots and scallions, mushrooms if you like them, perhaps something green and leafy, or some frozen peas. Or scratch that — use whatever you have on hand.

For more depth of flavor, saute your vegetables for a couple minutes before adding the water. Really tender greens like baby spinach can be added at the very end, when the soup comes off the heat.

The ratio of water to solids should be about the way you'd like it in your bowl. Simmer five minutes or so or until the veggies are done or close to it (they'll keep cooking in the hot water even when the heat is off).

To serve: put a splash of the hot liquid in your bowl along with a generous spoonful of miso. I recommend getting two kinds: a mellow white (sweeter) and a red (stronger). Try using a little of each. Combine the water and miso well, then fill your bowl with soup and stir it up. If it tastes too bland, stir in more miso.

Voila. Now you know how to make soup. Without a recipe. And if you were asking for the recipe for yesterday's soup, saute the onions and celery in a little olive oil before adding water and everything else I mention. There you have it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

To all my sisters fighting breast cancer:

And to N, thanks for the snazzy new hat:

And, FYI, tonight's soup: Cannelloni beans, kale, celeriac, onion, celery, carrot, red bell pepper, sweet potato, mushrooms, corn, and white miso.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Squaring Up

Thanks for all the feedback, the thoughtful comments and emails. I'm beginning to think maybe I can survive one more round. It will be hell, but I'll be well supported.

If this chemo cocktail is what it takes to stay alive, I don't think it's a stretch to suppose that by reaching out to me you are contributing to saving my life. I'm not on board with both feet quite yet. In fact, I left a message for my oncologist tonight. But you are helping me face it. Did you ever think you could save a life with an email or a blog comment? Well, maybe you can.

Yesterday, my family went to our local co-op's 31st birthday celebration. Thirty-one cakes were contributed to the festivities, free samples everywhere, all the store's stock was on sale, and local musicians provided entertainment. It was nice to see friends and community members, to receive caring attention, to celebrate our thriving food cooperative, a rare thing these days, and to enjoy the music. I filmed a song by the folk band The Electric Trains and am uploading it now to share with you.

In the meantime, seven random things:

1. I discovered in the last 24 hours that both ketchup and hummus taste scorchingly toxicistically spicy. I know, those are not words. But I thought french fries and ketchup were going to be my standby comfort foods. I thought hummus would always be my friend. No such luck. I think I'm entitled to make up a few new words.

2. I have patches of stubble on my head. Today even that is falling out. I'm trying to think of it as a good thing: chemo is doing it's job, killing the rapidly dividing cells.

3. My breakfast this morning: buckwheat pancakes, maple syrup, almond butter, raspberries, cranberries, and plain soy yogurt. (I know with estrogen-sensitive cancer, I'm not supposed eat soy, but it's one of the few things that tastes like it should. And dairy just doesn't digest right, even in the best of circumstances.)

4. J's snack this afternoon. It was sitting there, minding it's own business and looking pretty, so I photographed it: apple, dates, almonds, peanuts, and a cup of soy milk.

5. Tomorrow I'm commuting to a far away to pool because my local one is still closed. It's been too long.

6. I survived a college tour today on behalf of my stepson who really really wanted me to come. (He's a junior already. Where does the time go?) I was dreading it, unsure I had the stamina, but I did and it's done. Phew.

7. As usual, Millie is too cute.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I did get a salad down today, but it was scratchy on my throat and, after one or two bites, tasteless. Finally, I resorted to this: mint chocolate coconut milk "ice cream" and gluten-free almond cookies. Not too much better, taste-wise, but at least more fun.
Physically speaking, I've turned the corner, pulling myself from the mire of the most recent dose of chemo, though my stomach and throat still feel tainted, as if I've recently eaten a salad dressed in motor oil.

Mentally speaking, however, I'm not quite there. I am seriously unsure that I can endure another round of this particular brand of chemo.

If I were to stop everything right now, I can imagine recovering most of my sense of physical well-being in maybe a year's time, but I fear another round will put me over the edge. I'm afraid my last spark of health will be permanently and inextricably smothered, and I'll limp along lamely, coughing and spluttering and toxic forever more.

I'm not considering quitting chemo altogether, or forgoing radiation and hormone therapy. I'm just thinking, maybe just maybe I can skip this last dose of Adriamycin and Cytoxan? Please?

I know some of you reading have been through this. I'd appreciate your insights. Can I truly ever expect to feel well again? Will food ever look good, will it ever taste good? I can deal with the baldness, the fatigue, the rawness in my mouth, nose, throat, and okay, full disclosure, even the hemorrhoids and constipation and diarrhea and hell, I can even endure the occasional bout of nausea. I just hope that one day I can stop feeling like I've been poisoned. Is that too much to ask? Because if it is, I have some very serious thinking to do.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Turning the Corner

I began to feel better yesterday afternoon, just a slight relent on the inner-squeeze. Even so, I'm truly not sure I can handle another round of chemo next week. If you ask me in just the right tone, I'll be reduced to tears at the thought of it.

On the surface, I look like I'm doing okay - I can smile and joke and I can even walk the dog.

Oh how I'd rather be flat on my back with a virus. At least I'd have the sense that my immune system is taking care of me, that deep down the foundation of my health is intact. Chemo creates a far more insidious unease, where the core sense of health is shaken while the peripherals remain basically intact. I am trying to describe the indescribable here. If you can't imagine what this feels like, good. I hope that never changes for you.

For today's blog, I'm bringing you yesterday's first attempt at vlogging. The music is my own composition, my own recording. I've set it up so that you can purchase the track from iTunes for a dollar (okay, to be exact, 99 cents) but it probably won't be available there until March 1st. I'll keep you posted.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hitting the Wall

Thank you Amy and Olivia! You made me cry, which is a good thing.

"If you had cancer in the sixteen hundreds, they would have bled you," J~ said to me a week or two ago. "They believed cancer was an excess of black bile." He was reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.  His tone conveyed amusement, or perhaps relief that we're not in such barbaric times, but I felt none of that.

I felt, instead, the weight of the future, when new knowledge casts today's approach in a similar light. If I'm lucky enough to live a long life, I expected I'd have to contend with that.

I just didn't expect to have to contend with it now.

Two days ago it was all over the news: a new study shows that if breast cancer is in the lymph nodes, it doesn't necessarily support your future health to remove them. Lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system, after all.

This study points to a paradigm shift in cancer treatment: getting all the cancer out surgically is less important than once thought.

Hearing this latest development, I recalled how I imagined telling the surgeon, "Just take the cancerous nodes, leave the rest." I knew she would not have been okay with that. I pictured her shaking her head, smiling sadly at me. I would have felt foolish to even suggest it. If only we'd known. Though this study addresses cancers less advanced than mine, there could have at least been a conversation, a possibility... But what can be done? We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.

Anyway, it's chemo that's got my attention now, and these last few days, I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you, it's been really really hard. I feel twisted and squeezed from the inside. It's difficult to stand upright, a strain to focus my eyes. Everything in me, every cell says stop this poisoning. It's killing me. It's suffocating me. I cannot endure it.

The thought of another cycle leaves me whimpering.

From what I hear, many cancer patients describe their chemotherapy side effects as "manageable." What does that mean? I cannot fathom...

With the latest news, all my doubts rise to the surface. How long will it be until we know that chemotherapy is barbaric too? There must be a better way. There will be a better way.

J~ stayed home from work to be with me today. As I write, he is cleaning the kitchen. Next, I will shower and dress and we'll go out with the dog. As my friend K says about her daily run, "fresh air and forward motion." That's all there is. Get through today.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Law of Averages

1. My stomach is a mess.
2. No sugar-coating, it's not just my stomach. I feel terrible.
3. My car broke down in my neighbor's driveway this morning.
4. Millie's line for outdoor romping broke today too.
5. And just now I heard via email that somehow, presumably by mistake, all the water was drained from the pool last night. It will take days to refill.

On the other hand:
1. An owl in the backyard this morning. (I stand corrected - it was a red-tailed hawk.)
2. Walked twice, morning and afternoon, with Millie and friends.
3. K and G brought groceries over, kissed Millie, hugged me.
4. A knot in Millie's line has rendered it at least temporarily functional.
5. TWO care packages in the mail today. Thank you R, thank you C!

PS. It's time to admit it: I've uploaded videos to YouTube. So far they're almost exclusively short-short poor-quality videos of Millie as a puppy. But you're welcome to look at them. Cuteness cannot be overrated.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I'm sure it doesn't make sense to enforce any new disciplines right now, but I'll admit, I've been thinking about making this a daily practice, this blogging thing. No promises. Just thinking about it. It seems to do me good...

Savory soup for breakfast from dear friend N: spinach, tofu and sesame, plus a wad of sour pickled red cabbage from the fridge, to enliven my taste buds.

I'm in the thick of the chemo-mire today. Foods taste off, my stomach feels funky, energy is low. Luckily, I was blessed with visitors and phone calls which helped pass the time. And though food didn't exactly go down easy, at least it went down, and it was beautiful to look at.

Later: onion, potato, spinach, mushroom, ketchup - whatever it takes.

Millie, on the other hand, would simply like for it to stop snowing now.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Another Day in Chemoville

To add to the weekend series from my previous entry, this evening's picture I think makes the trend apparent: it's been a downhill ride.
I got in the pool this morning, out for a walk with the dog too, but the rest of the day has been super low energy, spent on the couch. Food is seriously unappealing, though there are three exceptions:
1. Home fries and ketchup.
2. Plain vegan borscht (beet and cabbage soup) with  a squeeze of lemon and a spoon of miso.
3. Mint chocolate chip Rice Dream.

N~ helped me make the home fries today. The soup is in the fridge awaiting the energy or some help to heat it up. And J~ is headed home with frozen treats.

It is easy to sink into feeling like a victim of cancer, and a victim of the treatment. I can get into a mindset that I'm somehow a failure in that I'm submitting to this torture willingly. I suppose it's a similar feeling a parent with a sick child must feel: powerless, impotent, like I should have been able to protect my child/self from this.

But then I remember that this is a fight for my life, that undergoing chemotherapy and then radiation and hormone therapy will raise my chances of being alive and cancer-free ten years from now from a measly thirty-five percent to a much more promising seventy.

Then I think about everyone cheering me on and helping me through, and it hits me that there is a crew engaged in the fight with me.

It's incredibly touching to feel on such a visceral level that my life matters.

Thank you all.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Chemo Aftermath Weekend #3

Saturday night, doing surprisingly well.

Sunday night, tired and a bit sick to my stomach.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and coming to terms with the road ahead, I thought about an annual winter weekend retreat I've attended for many years running. It's a workshop attended by a state-wide community of peer counselors, some of whom I've known and loved and felt loved by for close to twenty years.

By pitching myself forward in time, picturing these people as my witnesses, I was able to grasp a few strands of the reality that faced me: I would soon be bald and scarred and sickly. I would still be myself. I would still be loved.

All of this was so hard to fathom. But every time I put my mind there, it became just a little more real and I'd break down crying.

The workshop was this weekend.

In spite of chemo on Friday, I managed to attend most of the event. I let people take care of me, fetch me tea and pillows, ask questions and care and really listen to how I was feeling. I lay in the arms of trusted beloveds and repeatedly cried my heart out.

In a burst of well-being Saturday evening, I joined a group of beginners practicing Capoiera, a Brazilian martial art set to music. I'd been introduced to it in my twenties, enjoyed it, but hadn't played since.

And at one point, I got to share mastectomy war-wound show-and-tell with a woman who'd gone through her own breast cancer saga thirty years ago. Her scar was just the thinnest silvery line. It didn't occur to me that mine could ever look that tame. It was very encouraging.

When the weekend came to a close, it struck me: It's true. I am bald and scarred and sickly. I am still myself. And I am still loved.

And I'm fighting for my life.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Three Down

Chemo #3. Earrings were a gift from B~, my chemo nurse. She made them herself.

I quit the Avastin trial today. More bad press put me over the edge. The doctors I talk to are passionate about this experimental treatment but I have been on the fence. They've seen amazing things happen - in SOME people, and serious side effects rarely, and only in people with other health problems complicating the picture. Coming from a place of fear for my ultimate survival, it seemed worth the risk. But then again, I don't always want to come from that place.

It was an emotional decision. It is very hard to walk away from anything that might just maybe save my life. I can't say I'm 100% confident in my choice, but this walk away felt right.

And this time my night-of side effects are significantly milder than they were the first two cycles. Almost no nausea, no heartburn either. Just tired. Going to bed soon.

I had M, K, and G with J and I at chemo today, and their presence made the whole thing almost fun. Came home to a gift of food left by P, and then a visit, and more food brought by W later in the evening.

One last thought:

Buddies are good.

Millie agrees.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Sunday evening sky.

Earlier this week as I drove to the food co-op, I was brooding about cancer and chemo and side effects and my possibly shortened life. I had Halima Bashir's memoir  Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur playing on CD. It's a gripping story, but that's all it was to me at first, a story.

Suddenly it hit me that it was real, that this woman was real and her experience was real and, in a certain and very tragic way, it was not unique.

And then it hit me that my experience is not unique either. People get cancer every day, go to chemo, shave their heads, make the best of it.

It wasn't a bad feeling. I felt no shame as I noted my self-involvement, nor bitter despair contemplating all the suffering in the world.

At the same time, I realized that comparatively, what I'm going through is not so bad.

And then I felt something inside me brighten and expand.

Rain and sleet last night and today. The world is sealed in ice.

I'm not sure I can rightly describe the shift. It reminds me of that day when J~ and I came across the car accident. I realized that I am still very much alive, very much a conduit of the pulsing electric current that is life itself. I remembered that I still have plenty to offer to this world, and plenty of pleasure to take in the process.

Back in October when I was first coming to terms with the fact that I have cancer, when my prognosis was not yet determined and the prospect of death loomed large, I shared a thought with J~. It may sound trite, but here it is: More than anything, before I die, I want to give away all the love in my heart.

Of course I will fail, I realized as I spoke. The more I express, the more love I'll feel, so I know this is a losing proposition.

But hell — as someone recently reminded me — none of us gets out of here alive.

Sometimes success is not the point.

No holding back.

My brother's kitten, named after my surgeon.

Millie and my neighbor.