My proudest physical achievement

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A little flushed from running and still donning my sweat-rimmed t-shirt, but I’m as happy as a clam. 

Yep. That’s it! My arm bent at a 90-degree angle. Flat on the floor. Fully able to “goal post” both arms.

Previous to a bilateral mastectomy and radiation treatment, I struck this pose without a moment’s hesitation. I’m sure that you do too. It’s simple, right? Yes, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Think of wall squats. Place your back against the wall squat down to a 90-degree sitting position and hold. Pretty simple. Until you hold. And hold. And hold. And hold. And hold… Still simple, but it’s not so easy anymore, is it? 🙂

Same here. I didn’t realize that I was unable to maneuver in this way until I went back to yoga after my treatment. Honestly, how often do we lie in this position on a regular basis? Probably not too often. In class, we were cued to lie flat on our mats and goal post our arms. My right one went right into place, but my left one remained halfway between the mat and the sky as I curiously analyzed this new found anomaly.

I quickly realized that my pectoral muscles were tight and restricting the movement. But it took me several months to realize the role that my scapula, back muscles and shoulder played as well. I was determined to regain this mobility and flexibility.

And this week, I got there.

I’m happy to be here for the obvious reason: Increased range of motion allows me freedom of movement. But I’m proud of myself for having the patience to get there. It was slow. It was tempting to force it.  But it was necessary to be patient and listen.

This wasn’t a question of fortitude. I’ve got plenty of that, but it’s usually fueled by a desire to achieve. This time, it was fueled by a desire to give a gift to my body — the gift of freedom. Freedom from pain, from restriction, from adapted movement. I refrain from thinking of or referring to my arms as my “good arm” and my “bad arm.” That’s dangerous territory.

More than a year later, my shoulder blades both glide smoothly up and down and back and forth. And my neck stretches comfortably in both directions. And my pectoral muscles flex and stretch. And I can rotate my shoulders in full, smooth circles without pinching. I didn’t push myself beyond what my body was capable of. I didn’t “power through.” There is no such thing. I diligently and consistently exercised these muscles and bones centimeter by centimeter, listening to my body on the way. Whenever I got a tingle in my arm, I backed off. Pinching nerves is serious business. Whenever I started getting a heavy feeling, I stopped. Lymphedema is no joke.

And because I worked with my body and didn’t force it, my arm is able to lie flat on the floor at a 90-degree angle. And wave hi!

Inspiration

When you finish a draft of a poem, or a short story or novel, you make sure you go out and celebrate all night long because whether the world ever notices or not, whether you get it published or not, you did something most people never do: You started, stuck with and finished a creative work. And that is a triumph.— Andre Dubus III

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I’ve been making time to write on a regular basis. In fact, I work on my book everyday. That doesn’t mean that I sit in front of my computer and compose daily, but I think through, sort out, develop, remember, discover and engineer nearly constantly. So much so that I’ve started texting myself thoughts and ideas, writing notes in my phone, taking pictures, saving articles and capturing quotes. I’ve had conversations with four key people who played pivotal roles in my experience with cancer to discuss their treatment in my book. And then, usually 3 to 4 days a week, I sit down at my computer to make sense of my notes and pin down my thoughts.

I’m enjoying every minute of the process — for a change! My sister and I always talk about how process sucks, generally. I mean, we all love to move into a new house and have it all set up just the way we like it. But the process?? No thanks. This is where my growth comes in — I’m learning to relish the process.

To say that this book is important to me is a whopping understatement. Therefore, I’m giving to it the vigorous and sustained effort it calls for. And in this endeavor, I’m recruiting every bit of inspiration I can muster.

I’ve been running again. Running clears my head like nothing else on earth. I love to sweat and accomplish my workout with zeal. I feel so full of pep when I’m done. And that’s why I run first thing in the morning. It’s the best start to those three days a week.

I do yoga, including asana practice, breathing and application of the sutras to all areas of my life.

I go to beautiful places — the river, the mountains, the beach, my yard.

I cultivate my vegetable garden, my flowers, my plants and my trees. I grow grass and spread mulch. I weed, prune, water and talk to my beauties.

I clean. To me, a clean and neat house (and garage and sidewalks and patio) afford me the clarity I need for my cluttered mind to be organized and spilled out onto paper.

I listen to music — on the radio and in person. Michael and I went to the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness concert in April and it is one of my favorite concerts to date. First, it was in Charleston, SC so we got a little romantic getaway in there. Second, it was at the Music Farm which holds only a few hundred people. Third, he’s incredibly talented. Lastly, he’s a cancer survivor. I didn’t not know that. I’d seen him previously at Fiddler’s Green in Denver, CO, but he didn’t talk about it then. This night, he did. He performed the hell out of a song that he wrote when he was with Jack’s Mannequin called “Holiday from Real.” And he beautifully and poignantly sang “Swim.” He dedicated this song to survivors in the audience and invited us all to become part of the Bone Marrow Registry. I felt like he was talking to me. And, I guess he was.

I learn German and plan my trip (now less than 6 weeks away). I’m super grateful to my gorgeous and brilliant (and patient) teacher, Marion, for helping me get this far! I aim to be able to hold an entire conversation with you in German.

Most of all, I remember that I am human. Writing a book takes time, patience, editing and editing and editing. Thanks for the reminder, Aaron, that I can always rewrite what’s been written but I can’t rewrite what’s not.

Andiamo!

“Swim”

You’ve gotta swim
Swim for your life
Swim for the music
That saves you
When you’re not so sure you’ll survive
You gotta swim
And swim when it hurts
The whole world is watching
You haven’t come this far
To fall off the earth
The currents will pull you
Away from your love
Just keep your head above

I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
A crack in the armor
I swim to brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I’m not giving in
I swim

You gotta swim
Through nights that won’t end
Swim for your families
Your lovers your sisters
And brothers and friends
Yeah you’ve gotta swim
Through wars without cause
Swim for the lost politicians
Who don’t see their greed as a flaw

The currents will pull us
Away from our love
Just keep your head above

I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
Cracking me open now
I swim for brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I’m not giving in
Well I’m not giving in
I swim

You gotta swim
Swim in the dark
There’s no shame in drifting
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark
Yeah you’ve gotta swim
Don’t let yourself sink
Just find the horizon
I promise you it’s not as far as you think
The currents will drag us away from our love
Just keep your head above
Just keep your head above
Swim
Just keep your head above
Swim, swim
Just keep your head above
Swim

Grateful beyond measure

 

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Wow! You guys are awesome. After my most recent post, in a matter of just a few days there were hundreds of views of my blog, countless comments on my Facebook post, several inbox messages, texts and even some new blog followers — all in support of my book. That is amazing! I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you all so much.

Cause for Celebration

Yesterday was a banner day in my recovery. A full two and a half years after my diagnosis, the healing power of my body continues to amaze me. I won’t say why here — I’ve gotta leave something for the book!

The fledgling state

My book is unfolding smoothly. I have a preliminary foreword and introduction drafted, and I have a working title. I have developed a structure for the heart of it, and I have a pro tem table of contents in place. Now that the bones are established, I am ready to flesh out the body. I will begin that stage in earnest next week. For now, Zach is on Spring Break, and I’m taking full advantage of our time together. So far, we’ve hit two state parks and have plans for the Raptor Center and Latta Plantation. The weather is perfect, and he is willing to indulge his mom on these adventures, so off we go!

Because book writing is so new to me, I have no idea how the process will play out or how long it will take. But I do know that I feel inspired by the encouragement I continue to receive. I know that I am on a path that is good and true, and I will follow it wherever it leads.

Be a follower!

If you’re a regular or new reader and want to begin following, just click on “+ Follow” in the bottom right corner. It’ll prompt you to add your email address. That’s it! And there’s nothing creepy about it. I don’t get to know who reads it; I only know the number of people.

Sharing my story

Welp, here goes nothing, folks!

I have been overwhelmed by gratitude for your undying support, interest and help throughout my cancer treatment. Writing this blog for two years was truly a bright spot in a time in my life that I was challenged physically, mentally and spiritually — almost beyond my capacity. The kindness, love and positivity that were elicited from it got me through, unquestionably, the most difficult time in my life.  I learned more than I ever thought I could and grew in ways I didn’t know existed.

And now, I’ve decided to take my development a step further by writing a book.

Yep! My autobiography will not only share my story but will offer information about the lessons I learned and how they can have meaning and value in all our lives.

I have met with a woman who coaches authors and speakers, and I now have a direction and a focus. I’ll be using my blog posts as a launching pad. I am grateful that I took the path of writing to heal. It allowed me to process, in the moment, a wealth of experiences and information. And now, it provides me with a living diary — a sort of memory surrogate during the times of stress, brain fog and fatigue that I navigated during those two years.

I will update this blog as I progress in the writing process. Please join me on my path! I invite you to follow this blog and invite others to do the same. I also invite you to comment to offer your insight on:

your most memorable post

a theme that stood out to you

what you wondered that I never said

any other comments you wish.

Any encouragement would be greatly appreciated as I take on this project. I’m energized and ready! As always, thank you for being a part of it all.

“Fear can have a seat in the car, but it can’t drive.” — Liz Gilbert

 

 

My final post — Drive fast and take chances while you can

I’m retiring this blog as of this post. While I enjoy writing, this is no longer the forum I choose. I am setting up a private travel/family blog that I will use to post photos of our trips and special occasions. Now and then, I’ll write updates on my life and learning as well. The new blog is mostly for my mom who is not on Facebook. It’s also for me to have an outlet to write about things that matter to me.

I’m out of energy for being angry at/saddened by/disappointed by/frustrated with/confused about/overwhelmed by the medical community. It’s become clear to me that each person has to be their own advocate. And seek information for themselves, like I have. With the internet being what it is, there’s little excuse for being uninformed.

Remember to ask questions. Inform yourself. Seek options. Be open. Know that thoughts are more powerful than anything. Find the joy. Believe that love conquers all.

The Untethered Soul

The larger reason for me discontinuing this blog is that I am letting it go. All of it. I’m done trying to figure out if I’m “safe.” Who IS?? Right now, I’m healthy and happy. And that’s all any of us have — the present moment. I’m moving forward. It’s possible to move on without being completely done with something. I still have to have check ups. And I am still helping my body do its magical, wonderful thing. And I’m done feeling like this time is a continuation of my treatment.

So I just decided — I’m done. I’ve come up with a new wording to explain to my new medical professionals that I went through treatment and what my current status is. And that wording does not involve the word “cancer.”

“Cancer free.” Ugh. Would you ever say that when your new dentist asks how you are now? Hell no. And neither will I. It’s an awful thing to drag around. So I’m not. I’m setting it down. And moving on. Free of the worry. Free of the burden.

As my friend Josh recently reminded me, it’s time to drive fast and take chances while I can. Thank you for everything, Josh. I hope they find a cannon big enough.

Free your mind, and the rest will follow

Before I sign off, I’d like to talk for a minute about my recent Craniosacral therapy treatment. I won’t go into detail about what that is. I’ll just say that people who are in my shoes should definitely check it out. It’s been life changing.

During my first treatment she drained my liver and kidneys. She helped rid my body of the remaining anesthesia. She released the heat of radiation. She cleaned out the brain fog.

Since that treatment, I’ve slept. I won’t go in to reasons why I wasn’t sleeping, but the symptoms are gone. Not just better — gone. I no longer get headaches after long sessions of studying German. It wasn’t because German is hard (it is), it was because my brain was still repairing from the cognitive impairment caused by chemo and anesthesia. Gone. Shoulder pain? Gone. Muscle weakness? Gone. Restriction? Gone.

Know what else is gone? Feeling like it’s my job to convince people around me that it’s not voodoo, hogwash or witchcraft. It’s all there. You just have to open your mind.

I may be a late adopter of technology, social media, television shows and more. But I’m the first to adopt ideas. Possibilities. Opportunities. The things that matter.

Tschüss and Auf Wiedersehen!

Goodluck and Godspeed!

Drive fast and take chances while you can.

I’m gonna let you go now.

Namaste.

Guten Rutsch!

Our German friends use this phrase to wish each other a happy new year. It literally translates as “good slide” — as in, sliding into the new year.

And slide we did!

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Yep, that’s a beer! 🙂 

I love fresh starts. And the new year gives us a great opportunity for one. I am not a fan of resolutions (you’ve heard me complain about that before), but I have recommitted to my positive, healthy lifestyle. I’m committed to a practice of self care, exercise, clean eating, education (German and spiritual) and yoga, both on and off the mat.

Every year, I like to do something new. This year, my main new thing involves travel. I’m exploring three new destinations: Charleston, SC, in February; Cuba in May; and Germany in June/July.

Also new on this year’s line up is college, starting in August. Been there, done that. But this time will be so different — and exciting.

I’ll also be experiencing salsa dancing for the first time. As part of my yoga retreat to Cuba, I will be taking part in a cultural exchange which will include dancing, art and storytelling.

My mantra for 2017 is: I am impeccable with my word. I take nothing personally. I make no assumptions. I always do my best.

This mantra is patterned after The Four Agreements, which I read years ago and am currently re-reading as the subject of our yoga book club at Be Yoga. I love the positive support and encouragement that I’m getting from my fellow yogis.

Weihnachtsferien (Christmas Holiday)

In the course of 9 days: Aspen came home; Kerrianne flew down; Megan drove up; we visited with Cheryl, Brian and family; we spent a day with Rick and Ann in Asheville — and when I was done blinking, it was over!

I am leaving my trees up for a little while longer. After all, they’ve been up for only 41 days. But who’s counting? I just love my trees.

Even after taking down the decorations, I will continue to be so grateful for the wonderful memories and amazing gifts I’m left with.

There are three special gifts I’ll call out. The first is a Shutterfly photo book from Aspen. It is thoughtful and tear producing. The second is an Ancestry DNA kit from Michael. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. In a short 6-8 weeks, I’ll get my results. I’m anticipating lots of German. Maybe some British? Irish? Norweigian? Time will tell! The third is a silk and camel hair wrap from Kazakhstan from Kerrianne and Aaron. It’s a vibrant pink, and I can’t wait to wear it.

Das Neue Jahr

For the first time in a long time, Michael and I were empty nesters for five whole days. Zachary flew to Colorado with Aspen at the end of her Christmas visit. He was so excited to see his friends and celebrate the new year with them.

Michael and I took this opportunity and ran with it!

We had fun doing a little of this and a little of that: going to movies, eating out, shopping. Then we spent the weekend in Asheville at Biltmore. We stayed at the beautiful new Village Hotel on the estate and had a blast at the New Year’s Eve party. We had two days to duck into some shops, tour the Biltmore House, dine at three of the restaurants, tour the winery, enjoy some estate-made ice cream, fawn over the animals in the barnyard, take some naps, eat, drink and be merry!

It was a fantastic weekend. So much so that we bought an annual pass. I’m interested in seeing the house and gardens during other seasons as well as taking in a concert or two.

 

Zach came home Monday night and returned to school yesterday. It was a whirlwind for us all. And a great one!

 

Rocky Mountain High

Later this month, we’re flying to Breckenridge to ski and spend Aspen’s 19th birthday with her. I’m hoping to see some friends while I’m  there. I’m looking forward to snowshoeing and spending time together in our mountain retreat.

I continue to feel well and receive gifts of healing on my journey. Thanks to Ann, I believe I’ve found a local Cranio-Sacral and lymphatic drainage therapist. I’m continuing with my rehab exercises to isolate and strengthen my triceps, techniques to relax my sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles and restore flexibility to my cervical spine. I’m at the point in my recovery now where I’m dealing in nuances, targeting specific areas.

I am grateful for my health, my abundance and my prosperity. May 2017 bring health and good luck to each of you!

Viel Glück und Gesundheit im 2017!