Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Out with the old and in with the new

Well, things are progressing apace.
I went in for the last fill in my expander on Monday. I am now at 760 cc's & (yay!) getting pretty close to my own natural size, but not *quite*.
Yet this is all they can fill. The biggest implant made without going into specialty sizes is 800cc's. That will still be smaller than I am now, but I am opting for no reduction, just a lift, when we do the surgery.
I am planning on becoming more active (no comments from the peanut gallery!) in 2012, so my hope is that as I lose a little weight, I will become the size of the implant.

No dates for surgery yet, as they have to "ask prmission" from insurance to *complete* this surgical experience.
Which leads to a similar cry unto the heavans...
Three years ago diagnostic work showed that my big ol' knee pain was because I am bone-on-bone in both knees. I do fine with lots of bodywork & a steroid shot every 7 months.
I asked my plastic surgeon what the best timing for a shot would be, as Prednisone changes physiology pretty profoundly in regards to surgery, and I am about ready for another one.
He said a few weeks beforehand would be safest. Which puts me at: right now.
No problem, I thought, in my extreme innocence, & called the orthopoedist's office, only to be informed that my "referral perscription" had run out & I needed a new one from my primary M.D.
Except she doesn't have an opening until March!
I have explained, three times now, to different secretaries & nurses, that this is a permanent situation. Why do I have to come stand in front of her to get the scrip? Can't we do this over the phone, so I can be knee-pain-free for my surgery???

The wheels of beurocracy grind exceedingly slowly, so no answer yet.
Bah. Bah! Bah!!
(by which I do NOT mean Black sheep, have you any wool!)

So, onward through the fog, as we used to say half a lifetime ago.
I am readying for Christmas.
Christmas Feast has been my tradition for decades. I never precook, but get up at 6 a.m., put on the coffee & start preparing a huge appetizer buffet, a grand meal, then after presents, we have the dessert buffet.
After much laughter & stories, everyone leaves at midnight & I, in my stocking cap of bliss, clean up before bed.

Earlier this year my youngest niece asked if I would be hurt if I were to pass the torch to her for Feast.
No, not at all. She has two young daughters and I think for them to grow up with their mom doing Feast is appropriate & wonderful.
We got together last month to go over her menu (she is making me swell with pride with her menu!), shopping list & preparation schedule. I will be bringing one side dish (*grasping heart* Look out, Elizabeth! This is the Big One!!) & coming mid-day to be her sous chef.

I am so happy & proud.
I love doing Feast...
So, though Thanksgiving has traditionally not been that big of a deal for me, I told her sister that I may have to start doing a Thanksgiving Feast.
I am thinking of a main meat of ham. Studded with cloves and garlic. With a bourbon-orange juice reduction glaze...
Served on a cloud bed of fluffy buttermilk-chipotle-garlic mashed potatoes...

Whaddaya think???

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is there an oncology end-of-the-month bonus, or something?

That was the question a friend of mine asked today over lunch after I told him about my breast surgeon check up this morning.

As usual, a doctor in residency came in to do the pre-talk and check in before I saw my surgeon.
I filled him in with my background and all the details with my meeting with the radiation oncologist. I quoted the numbers of the faulty study that led both of us to the conclusion that radiation was not needed, told him why redoing the surgery was not an option for me, and made sure he knew that I had no "attitude" about cancer treatment, but that I felt the tumor board should be made aware of the study in question, since the assertion that a woman had a 25% chance of reoccurance if there were minimal clear borders on a full mastectomy with DCIS was just not true.
He tried to defend the whole paradigm, but I was sweetly & calmly unmoved.

A few minutes later, when my surgeon came in, he had obviously been fully briefed on the conversation I had just had with his colleague and may I be so bold as to say he was not pleased.
He greeted me, got the Reader's Digest version from me and then launched into a rapid fire overview of the four major studies that they use for statistical verification.
He was tossing out the names and case numbers of the study (I was internally impressed that he had all of that at his mental fingertips) but at the first deep breath I gently inserted "But two of those studies are dealing with lumpectomies, so they are not applicable to me."
(You need to put on your "fast listening ears" when doctors do that. I always carry a pair with me.)

He didn't miss a beat or have any visible reaction, but I could feel a definite shift in his energy.
Let's just say I won't be getting a Christmas gift basket this year...

On to tactic #2.
He asked for a detailed recapitulation of my conversation with the radiation oncologist.
I did, word for word, practically.
My surgeon then began what can only be described as a sales pitch for radiation, becoming more and more insistant. I wasn't irritated but I wasn't changing my stance either.
Then he brought out the big guns.
He claimed that the radiation oncologist had told him that I was a good candidate for undergoing treatment.
I slightly tipped my head to one side and asked calmly "Really? Why would he say such totally different things to you and I?"
To which he said, ever so slightly raising his tone, "I don't know. I will call him right now." and left the room.

I was smiling at FaceBook status updates when he returned and without batting an eye backpedalled on the whole thing.
Yep. The radiologist had told him (&, props to my surgeon,that he admitted it) that it being on the left, there were serious cardiac considerations, that the study was a "soft study" (so diplomatic!) and that the borders were probably fine given that it was DCIS and not a tumor.

But he wasn't through yet!
There was a new medication that studies have shown (blah blah blah) and if it were he or a family member he would take it (Charlie Brown's teacher's voice) and it was called (whatever) and would I be interested? It is a five year protocol...At which point I interrupted: "Oh. So it's a new type of Tamoxifen or Arimidex-like drug?"
"Thanks, no."
He tried three (!!) more times and I just kept saying "I'm not so interested.~~Nope, thanks.~~Thank you, no.", until, finally, which just ever so slightly the disbelief creeping into his voice he asked "Well, what are you planning on doing regarding the risk?"
I smiled and said "I will continue to boost my immune system and get on with my life."

I guess they don't hear that very often...

So, he made a check up appointment for three months and reminded me that if I changed my mind about the drug I could call him any time.

But my style is so very much more sitting across from Morpheus, wearing a long leather duster, and gulping the blue pill as the lightening flashes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It was the "Skye Has No Limit Benefit Concert". Indeed.

Yesterday was quite the day. I had packed the car the night before with the quilt and dozens of items for the silent auction. I went to Celebration Circle and enjoyed a wonderful time with everyone then helped set up for my fundraiser concert.

Two friends of mine from a cooking group that 8 or 9 of us have had together for years brought what looked to me like hundreds of cookies (I don't think I am exaggerating a bit) of about a dozen varieties, along with bags of trail mix and coffee for a delicious bake sale.
We had twenty four feet of table space to accommodate all of the silent auction items and my quilt which was being raffled off was displayed on stage.
People began arriving about fifteen minutes before the show and soon my niece, who was performing, had to abdicate her post at the front door.
I took over because it was the most joyous and energizing thing in the world to greet person after person who had come to support and love me. A reunion and the sweetest party ever.

The music was phenomenal! Rudi Harst and the Circle Band were absolutely electric, Sarah Bading's powerful voice was awe inspiring (her version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah brought me to tears) and Dorothy Sapyta sang with a passion that radiated from her.

Rudi reminded everyone of the essential truths of our wholeness and unlimited Beingness, and then had everyone there turn their attention to me, asking them to see me as whole and healed.

I have been in the midst of some amazing energy fields in my brief 52 years, but I have never felt the power of that kind of clear intent being held for me by so many.

I came up to say a few words, in brief expressing my deep gratitude for this journey with DCIS & all that it has forwarded in my life and in the lives of others who have shared their experience with me.
I know that to some it may sound trite or heretical, but I wouldn't trade this walk for anything.
I thanked people by name and by functions in my life, and in that day, and soaked in the faces out in the house. (we were in a theater, my old stomping grounds for many decades)

I drew the name for the quilt which went to a dear friend I have known for over a decade.

What I am seeing awaken within me is a deeper commitment to community.
I am definitely in a service to humanity lifetime, but I have been very much a hermit when not in service.
The experience of allowing myself to receive such an outpouring of help and support by so many calls me to be of service in group settings now, as well as the one-on-one work that comprises most of my life.
There is a power in the flow of being together that I have never had an understanding of before yesterday.

I know. I know. But I am a slow study.

Today I went for my third fill in the expander and am beginning to look more like myself. (At 640 cc's...)
The plastic surgeon wants to do one more fill before surgery but I am going to talk to him about size differentials and weight loss, as I hope *ahem* plan to begin actually doing something physical on a regular basis next year.
Two decades of not doing so is quite enough, thank you.

I am so grateful. So very grateful.
My heart chakra feels like a Macy's Day parade balloon, bouncing and waving 16 stories tall.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shaking the Etch-a-Sketch

Or some variation thereof...
I have had so many people in the last six weeks say to me that I look so much clearer, vibrant, at ease, happy. What I have realized with each person who expresses something along those lines, is that my body was working so hard to contain the process that was happening in my left breast. Now that the DCIS (I think of it, actually, as the comedonecrosis~~ the tissue inside the ducts beginning to die~~ that was the metabolic rock of Sysiphus) is gone I have/ am more of my own essential energy.
Even through the lingering fatigue from the antibiotics is fading, but still present,, I can feel the truth in this, and I am grateful to this beatiful body of mine.

Two weeks ago my friend came out to my house to take my own personal SCAR Project-like photograph.
It was a very easy and warm experience. When she e-mailed me the photos I must have spent an hour looking and re-looking at every shot and angle...
I love the images of the scar, the new colorations, the odd rearrangings of the tissue due to the cellulitis, and also, I must confess. the whole body images that showed me, body and face, subject to the whims of gravity and time.
What is not beautiful to our culture is so beautiful simply as manifestation.

At a party last night I was telling this story to a friend I've known for 26 years, and we laughed out loud (and repeatedly) at what happens to bodies with age, how we perceive that, and how we both, as artists and as feminist women, shrug.
At the end of the day, what else can one do? (and yet how we are encouraged to so profoundly do anything, anything to keep that from happening)
Let age happen. I will embrace every chapter and verse.

Earlier this week I went in for the second fill on my expander.
Since the first fill happened under anesthesia, and since I had seen every woman who spoke to the process in blogs use words in the flavor of "uncomfortable" and "painful, but woth it in the end", I wasn't sure what to expect.
I went in without any trepidation. While explaining the procedure the nurse cautioned against possible pain, aches, and, because of the distortion due to the inflammation I had, she said the expander might have folded onto a nerve. If so, when it was expanded  and the pressure was shifted, I might feel nerve pain (burning, shooting, stabbing, electrical) that may or may not go away.
I've been a chronic pain patient three times, so pain doesn't scare me, and I know for a fact that the "unhealable" can be healed, so I just nodded without much reaction.

As always, the procedures fascinate me, and this was no different.
They brought in a bag of saline & two very large syringes and filled them to the brim.
Then the nurse found the port in the expander, made for receiving more fluid, with her "mini stud finder", and marked the spot with a purple X.
("When I am old I shall wear purple...")
Then the doctor put the needle in the center of the X and guided it through my pectoralis (chest muscle) to the port below  and slowly pushed the contents of both syringes, another 120 cc's, into my expander.
I thought that having to go through my pec might be painful, but it's a thin muscle and the injection was so gently inserted that it was nothing after the first prick of entry.
There was no aching or pain during the fill nor in the days after.

I came straight back to work and dove into a very full schedule of bodywork.
I never even needed an aspirin.

In two weeks I will return for another fill and we will evaluate to see if I feel that it is up to my size yet.
Then we will schedule the surgery.

In the meantime, a group of wonderful humans have arranged for a benefit concert to be held for me a week from today.
Two hours of upbeat music my Rudi Harst and the Circle Band and the bluesy brilliant voice of my niece, Sarah Bading, to raise money to help see me through the (second) month I will have to take off after the (second) surgery.
We are also having a raffle, with many wonderful gifts to be received, including a quilt made by me.
I am more grateful than I can find language for that so many hearts and hands are lifting me up, over and over again, on this journey.

The present moment national news is very much (and rightfully so!) focused on the Occupy movement, which originally began as the Occupy Wall Street movement and has spread globally.
I follow it closely and have (as most do) my very definite opinions about it, but there are a few I know who have used their words to make a larger, deeper call.
I echo, and expand, on that.

Occupy your heart.
Occupy your body as a radiant co-creator.
Occupy every moment with love.

Thank you all for Occupying this journey with me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The bell without a clapper swings in silence

I feel that I am moving into a great inner (and probably outer) silence.
I am witnessing conversations that are happening in such volume, on so many different fronts, that while I understand them, and have compassion, I am struck dumb...

From within the cancer survivor/ still in the midst of the journey with cancer community, on a blog a few days ago the women who wrote the article made a statement "There are three emotions that every cancer patient experiences constantly: fear, anger and shame."
There was a barrage of dozens of comments, all (all!) agreeing with her and elaborating on the theme.
Thus began my being struck dumb.
I understand in the beginning, and for a good way through the journey fear would spontaneously arise; fear of dying, fear of pain and suffering, fear of disfiguration.
And anger seems to be the other side of the fear coin, in most human experiences.

Personally, when fear arises in me, I very quickly  go to a "What's up with that?" place.
What, exactly, am I fearing and why?
Because this has been a choice & a practice that I have cultivated for decades, I am used to going to the edge of the cliff & peering over.
I dissect & hold up to the light every spooky story the mind can churn out, and in the end they are all dust.
Even more than that, what I have noticed is that when we stay in fear (or feed fear) it is because we don't actually believe what we say we believe...
If we actually believed in heavan or in reincarnation, what is there to fear? We change shape, basically, and then all is well.
But if we stay in deep fear then, plainly, the internalized belief seems to be "It's just me, here. *I've* got to figure this out and power my way through to surviving, otherwise...otherwise..."
*the heart beats ever faster & breaths grow rapid and shallow*
And, as I see it, because our society at large, including the major religions, have no construct for going deeply within, nor do we have tools to deconstruct these things.
We try to dismantle them cognitively, usually with limited success, as those feelings don't arise from the same place within that cognitive thought arises, or we ask whoever we direct prayer to to remove them. Which often helps, but I know many people who pray for a release of this or that, but don't participate in their own release, and the praying doesn;t seem to help all that much, though they pray with great regularity and sincerity.

So (and please do let me know if I am in the midst of a blind spot, here) we fear death because at the core of it we really believe we are *this*; so if *this* form dies, then "what happens to me?!"
We fear disfigurement because we feel that we must be and/or should be "normal" as me and my society define it.
And we fear pain...I don't really know about this one; it is such a tangle...
Some of that is bodily self preservation, but not at the heart of it, because the body only lives in present time. When there is no actual suffering (physically) yet, but I am suffering as I imagine my pain, or remember my pain, or the pain of another...
Personally, I would begin exploring so as to dismantle the belief(s).
But here are dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands of people who don't know that this can be done, nor how to do it, and in their innocence and shared experiences, they support each other in a trifecta of Fear Anger Shame.

Shame is something, really, that is an inner response to something we have done, yes? My own activity.
Shame that we have one breast, or a face filled with burn scars, or a deformed spine and limbs, is staying in bondage to an idea that "I should be different." (because I am not acceptable in the state of one breastedness, or scarredness or crippledness...)

One of my teachers said that suffering at its core is the belief that "What is happening should not be happening."

How can the body heal in the midst of that inner state?

I saw another conversation taking place on a forum of those that had loved ones die of cancer.
I am in this club, also, as I took care of my fiance in 2007 as he went through chemo, radiation, surgery, metastesis and death.
The shared consensus there, that was reiterated like a mantra back and forth was "I hate cancer."
I understand. I do. It is a damn hard walk in many ways.
It is like having a hurricane destroy your home and then investing increasing amounts of energy in "I hate hurricanes.", instead of healing & releasing the loss the hurricane manifested.

Hurricanes just are. They always have been an aspect of weather patterns.
Cancer just is. It is increasing as the toxicity of the world increases, but cancer is a metabolic process that has been around for a long time.
So, ok,  for a while after it's over, anger/fear that takes the form of hatred is understandable.
But empowering it by finding consensus will not set you free to find peace.
And feeding hatred in this particular case also seems to feed staying in the painful in between state of saying "They should not have had the experience they had."

But they had it. There it is.
And, personally, I see things from a spiritual perspective that recognizes what is happening here in 3-D Land is *so* not the entirety of what any Being is doing. And since I cannot speak to the greater design, I simply trust it.

These are my perspectives, and I know that not everyone resonates with them.
And I have such deep compassion for the pain I see and hear in both communities, but I don't feel like I can offer any perspective in the midst of those conversations.
It would be an intrusion. So I stay silent.

I wish there was some way that I could ease even a micron of the pain there.
But all I can do is witness, and honor, silently.

May all Beings find peace.
May all Beings find release from pain and suffering.
May all Beings experience their essential radiance and the radiance of All That Is.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What grows in your garden?

You are not alive because you are breathing, you are not alive just because your heart is beating.
You are alive only in the proportion that you are aware.

It has been a sweetly awareness expanding few days.
Two days ago I noticed that apropos of nothing, I was in deep presence with the most mundane things as I was doing them. I was a radiant state of happiness just ironing, and that the sun streaming through the windows was gorgeous; and then the observing that escalated my happiness up another few notches.
I wondered, briefly, if some deepening level of appreciation of life due this slight little air kiss with mortality, is seeping into my cells, replicating with each nanosecond...

Yesterday there were a number of interesting notices about how death, or the realization of, strips the fog from our inner atmosphere.
I read on a blog which I follow that a woman who had had a reoccurance of her breast cancer had died.
All of the comments were so life-affirming and wished her Godspeed.
I smiled at the sweet force of a life that brought out joy in knowing her, rather than a dread of the shared inevitable journey beyond.

I read the eulogy that Steve Jobs' sister delivered at his memorial.
If you haven't read it, I most heartfully encourage you to Google it and read.
What a wonderful perspective to hold of this amazing being and his entire life journey, and his last words brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Last night I watched a documentary that my brother called me out to see: "The Education of Dee Dee Ricks", which I also highly recommend.
A journey of a woman who began it as a self indulgent multi-millionaire, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, whose life intersects with an uninsured contract worker who was also diagnosed with breast cancer.
The transformation in both women is truly like watching a birth: messy, full of pain, and glorious.

And then, today.
Three years ago (in 10 hours and 48 minutes) my son, my only child, went on to do The Next Thing.
His passing was dramatic to observe as a story, but painless to receive, so, ultimately, I have no complaints.
I am not experiencing any trauma today, or even sadness, simply a sweet nostalgia at the amazing, complex and beautiful life he manifested.
I am more abundantly enriched than I could ever communicate by being able to share the walk with him.

All of these reminders. All of them blossoming in beauty.
We are here to live as fully as we can for as long as we travel here.
Just love, appreciate, and when we (as, of course, we will) forget all of that completely, and are wallowing, with or without cause, to let it go as soon as we can.
Like the woman disappearing from the magician's table; gone without a trace.

My visit with the plastic surgeon was uneventful this morning.
I finished 41 days and nights (longer than Jesus in the desert!) on antibiotics just last evening.
He was pleased with the appearance of my breast, scarrishly discolored, but not inflamed with infection.
He sent me home to watch it intently, at the ready to request more meds if infection began creeping back in, otherwise I see him in two weeks for the next fill in the expander.

Life continues its pace anon; I am working pain free, having lunch today with my beloved niece, who is moving tomorrow to beginning massage school in another (awesome) city, and dinner in two nights with some dear friends before they head off to nirvana (in the form of the International Quilt Festival in Houston) this weekend.
What a lovely bouquet of a week!!

A warrior knows that he is waiting and knows also what he is waiting for.
The ultimate accomplishment of a warrior is joy.
~~Carlos Castaneda~~

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In praise of fermented probiotic drinks and the whole darn journey

The day after my last post my body went down for the count from the antibiotics. Today is day 36, including of course, the 9 rounds of the IV antibiotics, and though I have been incredibly generous with feeding my body mega probiotics throughout, five days ago my body just laid down.
After sleeping for 10 hours a night, on average, I was still so exhausted that I could barely function.
My whole body felt weak and woozy, my belly was upset, I was moody & I was just a misearble camper altogether.

Any panic was somewhat abated by the fact that on that same day I also saw a significant change in the cellulitis.
But, honestly, I began to feel like my choices were becoming die of the cellulitis or die of the antibiotics...
Which isn't the cheeriest of messages for friends, but that's what I was saying to people in my discouragement.

I made it through the weekend, gingerly, and saw the plastic surgeon yesterday. (more on that in a moment)
My big biologic revelation of the day was that I had 32 oz. of kombucha in the middle of the day & my belly was normal, my mood improved, and I stayed up late last night talking with a friend on the phone without morphing into a blob of inactivity!!
(Had I only done what I had planned during my month off, and started brewing my own again...But I shall contribute to the recovery of the American economy by purchasing large amounts of that miracle liquid!!

On another note, just between you and I, the cellulitis has done an interesting cosmetic dance with that left breast and the expander.
I am grateful for the honestly fascinated little kid aspect of me, that just looks at the odd shapes the scarring has created after the inflammation, & the once creamy, now purple, line of the scar with fascination.
I don't  have an emotional reaction to the visual, and in fact, in its own strange way, I find it beautiful!
The plastic surgeon is non-plussed. He says that he will be able to even all of that out when we do the surgery, and that it will look normal. (Really??? Ok. Whatever.)
Meanwhile, this is a (to me) cool part of the path, so I have a friend who is a photographer coming over later this week to take my own personal SCAR Project-like photograph.

And yes, it will go in a frame.
Happily, I might add.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A moderately sized rant about selling out

To backtrack a little bit as a preface: A year ago I read an article about how the Susan G. Komen Foundation had lost their moral compass and was selling out, as a corporation and a "brand" to forward its message, at the expense of women with cancer.
That stuck with me and I have been a bit leery about all the pinkness surrounding breast cancer ever since...

About six weeks ago I was on FaceBook at 1:00 a.m. when traffic is very light, and happened across a conversation about the Komen Foundation's president (Susan G. Komen's sister, who started it) being on the Home Shopping Network (???) hawking the latest "pink" product, a perfume.
The women having this conversation are the heavy hitters when it comes to survival & breast cancer, women who have been in treatment (chemo, radiation, surgery, rinse and repeat) for FIVE YEARS, and were just now able to have their reconstructions done.
They were beyond livid for a number of reasons.
Their first outrage was as chemo survivors, they talked about your taste (everything tastes like metal at one point) and smell (*everything* is foul-smelling, even the most innocuous of scents) are so profoundly compromised, that it felt like a personal insult to be selling perfume, ostensibly on their behalf.
Secondly, one woman did the due diligence and found out that though the perfume was selling for $57.00 a bottle, only $1.11 of that went toward research.
Less than two percent.

The hostess of the conversation said "Why don't we rename the perfume. Any suggestions?
In fifteen minutes over thirty "new names" had been suggested.
I think that for me five years ago, and for most people, it would have been absolutely meaningless, but during 2007 I nursed my fiance from diagnosis unto death, through chemo, hospitalizations, drugs for side effects, radiation, drugs for side effects, surgery and CyberKnife (a super duper radiation treatment) and in reading their conversation, all of those names of drugs and treatments came flooding back in.
I was practically rolling on the floor laughing as these women riffed on all of these names, tweaking them slightly to "rename" the perfume, and I realized "Holy crap. I'm on the inside track of cancer humor!"

I immediately friended the hostess and a number of her friends, as well.
It has been a great gift, and very humbling, to follow their ups and downs, their surgeries, reoccurances, and always their fierce, in your face, take no prisoners and offer up no apologies approaches to staying alive and thriving, with each others' support, even when they are flat on their backs.
Though my journey with cancer is like a mild cold in comparison, I am proud to be in a tribe with such strong and brilliant beings.

So. With October being "Breast Cancer Awareness" month I have been much more attuned to the conversations from withinh the breast cancer community, which oddly (or not) are never heard by the greater collective.
Most breast cancer survivors are conflicted, as the Komen Foundation has, indeed, done great things for women in treatment and for awareness regarding screening.
That said, screening only goes so far. Why are the dollars not going toward research regarding metastatic breast cancer??
That is, after all, what kills.
Why is the Komen Foundation plainly putting its corporate attention on furthering its "brand recognition" rather than on the true elimination of not only the disease(s) of breast cancer, but on education regarding *prevention* of breast cancer??
It's not all just self exams & mammograms.
It's nutrition, exercise, and from my perspective (though a corporation would never go public with this) regular detoxification, and non-exposure to estrogenic (read breast cancer enhancing substances) in false scents (including perfumes!!), plastics, BPA etc.

And, (after all this) the real thrust of my post today: the commercialization and sexualization of breast cancer.
Hard to conceive of, perhaps, but more and more prevalent.
Take a detour and go over to and read the Oct. 17, 2011 post.

Those pictures, posters, T-shirts are an outrage.
What do images of perky, perfect breasts a la Victoria's Secret have to do with the reality of breast cancer?
It is not, not, NOT "all about the boobies"!
It is all about my life and the lives of tens of thousands of women each year.
With or without "boobies" and/or with "boobies" that aren't going to go in some fantasy.

You want to know the real deal?

Breast cancer is not perky women lookin' hot at the camera.
It is exhaustion and puking, being irradiated (think a contrlled Hiroshima) and scarred.
I got off light, in the scheme of things, but because of this recent round of cellulitis, and the attendant scarring to the expander, I may or, very probably, may not have a "normal looking" breast at the end of the day.
I don't give a tinker's damn about that, either.
If you'll remember, at the beginning of this road, I was prepared to live with a flat expanse of skin, so whatever it ends up being: smaller, curled & dimpled, oddly colored, whatever, I give the hand under my chin gesture to any unexamined idea or advertising campaign by Komen that this body is any way "less than" the bodies of their models.

Not that I ever have, but I will never buy pink candy, pink ribbon dog treats, pink ribbon garbage bags or pink anything else. Ever.
Because until they get serious about metastatic breast cancer research and breast cancer prevention they are shilling the public, and misrepresenting the survivors.
And I go on the record as such.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Going to a used car salesman who tells you not to buy a car.

Fair warning, this is going to be one of those posts full of technical info...In the best of all possible ways!
I saw the radiologist this morning, and after a very comprehensive intake and exam he said that in his professional opinion I am not a candidate for radiation.

Well, yahho! But why??
Remember my three choices? The first being do nothing, with a 25% chance of reoccurrance?
Well, as it turns out, not so much.
That statistic (which, unfortunately, is being bandied about in oncology and surgical offices across the country) is based on ONE study.
Oh, wait it gets better.
It was one study done retroactively.
As he explained, most clinical studies are set up so they decide what they are looking for regarding the efficacy of some treatment, and what population they need to study to get the clearest results.
So they would then solicit doctors to find, let's say, 1,000 women in that category. 500 would receive the treatment they are investigating and 500 would receive a placebo (just keep this in mind if you are ever given the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial).
The 1,000 patients are then closely followed during the treatment and for 10 years afterwards.
A decade.
And based on all of that data they can see if a treatment protocol has actual benefit or not.
But this study was done retroactively: they decided what results they were interested in, took a number of cases from the files, separated them out into different groups and drew their conclusions.
Pretty odd way to do research, eh?

(Breaking into my late night infomercial voice)
But, wait! It gets better!!

The study, which he actually went and made a copy of, for me, was done with 574 women with DCIS and mastectomies.
Of those only 80 were found to have very close margins, like I have.
Of those 80, only 45 had comedonecrosis. (the form of DCIS I presented with)
Of those 45 only 16 were in the same statistical group as I am: under 60 and post menopausal. (The endocrine input is vital to all types of breast cancer, even DCIS depending on the type.) we are down to a study consisting of 16 women??

Yes, and of those 16 women, who did not receive radiation, 4 had a reoccurance.

As he said, yes 4 out of 16 is 25%, but in his professional opinion as a physician who also takes part in research, he is not convinced that were those numbers expanded out to 100, that 25 women would have had a reoccurance.
Especially since in research .5% is considered statistically significant
(Which strikes me as odd. Half a percent is statistically significant?? Well, ok...)
But of those 16 the statistics were only .3.
His words? "This has no valid clinical significance. I see no medical reason to treat you with radiation."

Which also means that I am also not really a candidate for further surgical intervention either!
*doing the Snoopy dance!*

Now, to get this cellulitis healed, and continue to clean up my diet and life.
And just live.
No worries, mate!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I seek a symphony of magic wands, by the way

Goodness gracious, 3-D Land is interesting!!
I've been butt-planted in this hospital bed for the greater part of  87 hours. (Yes, I did the math, all for you, my preciouses!)
I have had 9 rounds of IV antibiotics in a protocol of 4 hours on, 4 hours off, they added in oral antibiotics half way through, which after my last IV last night, was doubled to two oral antibiotics.
Needless to say, the probiotics I brought with me are getting good use & I am greatly looking forward to the quart jar of homemade raw milk yogurt in my fridge at home!

The cellulitis is "better" but still pretty prevalent...discoloration, hardening, still somewhat painful...but the medical reality is that for the moment, all that can be accomplished with a hospital stay has been done.
I am seeing radiology for the initial consult on Monday, but plainly, nothing will be persued until the tissue is normalized.
In a week I check back in with my plastic surgeon to see what he/ I/ we think of my progress, and I start back to work on Tuesday.

The weather outside is evidentally beautiful, cooling off, clear and sunny.
I am looking forward to sitting out on the back deck, watching my girls and a boy romp about wildly.
I am looking forward to working on my recovery quilt, to sleeping in my own bed, and, though the hospital food has actually not been bad, to eating my own food.

I am not going to worry about what is going to happen, what might happen, what has happened.
That is all the noise of Charlie Brown's teacher at this moment.
I am looking forward to daily life again.

Let us all set ourselves free from reaction to our circumstances & just find appreciation for the freedoms we do have access to.
*waving my magic wand over all our heads*

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do not pass go...

For the last few days, despite the fact that I have been on antibiotics since September 20th,my breast has gone from pink to dark pink to red to burgundy, &, as of this morning, with a tad bit of swelling.
And, yes, I *have* been checking in with doctors, but the concensus was very vanilla.
Until today.

I called the plastic surgeon & said in no uncertain terms that I needed to be seen, which they were very good about. (Again.)
My doctor was at the hospital, but they had his colleague see me, & the nurse came in & took it upon herself to e-mail him photos of my autumn-colored anatomy.
Which brought him back from the hospital for a personal exam.

Long story short, I am going in the hospital for 1-3 days to receive IV antibiotics, as this is the beginnings of cellulitis~~a type of inflammation/ infection that can become very painful & hard to deal with.
We discussed my upcoming radiology experience (which of course, I had to reschedule) and the whole landscape has shifted like a snowbank.

At some point, after the cellulitis is under control, I will do the whole radiation protocol.
As I've mentioned, the usual way of dealing with this is to do a mastectomy, have the radiation, wait for six months, so the tissue can settle down, before doing any kind of reconstruction.
My plastic surgeon said that it is not a problem to have radiation with the expander in place (which, truth be told, I am rather grateful for) and/ but it will create a great deal of scarring into the tissue around the expander.
I asked if it would create so much scarring that getting it out would be a problem, and (I just love this guy!) he said "Oh. It will be a little difficult, but I've done it before. That is not a problem."
What, evidentally, is the problem is that after removing the expander & cleaning up the scar tissue, the capsule that the implant was supposed to fit in will be too compromised to comfortably hold an implant.

So we had our original "what are my options, doc?" discussion part deaux.
Again I declined a lat flap or a TRAM flap (using parts of my latissimus dorsi or my transversus abdominus, core muscles which I need for my work) sooooo *drum roll* we are back to the only option available, which is the belly fat transplant. (He had a better name for it, but that has slid off the teflon surface of my brain, that was busy processing timelines, like a perfect sunny side up!)
Yes, the long surgery, with a longish hospital stay, BUT! I will end up with a breast composed of my own tissue that should have a very real/ natural breast-y look to it.
And my Rubenesque stomach will be less so. Maybe almost flattish...
Ok. Not really going to complain about that, I must admit.

The time line for that surgery will be in the early summer of 2012. Six clean and clear months after the radiation ends.
All in all, though this is more complex than the original expectation, this is really such an easy journey as far as breast cancer goes, that I have not one single bitchy word to say.

I am waiting for the hospital to call me with my room number, so I am going to go pack now.
And then (looking right & looking left) if I still have some time, I am going to go sew some quilt blocks!!!

Oh, come on! You know you would, too!!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Batta, batta,SWING batta!!

Like baseball, you never know where the next pitch in life will be coming from...
This week I have been very lethargic (doing nothing really does take it out of ya!!) & on Wednesday I was sitting at the computer when the phone rang. It was the breast surgeon's office, who "wanted to see me right away".
So, I spent three hours imaging all scenarios that they might be calling me in for, working out my responses to each one, & just resting, centering, letting go.
By the time I was walking in, I was prepared for any old thing that cancerland might have to offer up on a platter.

The facility I am being treated at is a huge complex, housing all kinds of oncologists in different specialties; 6 floors in a huge, spread out building, that has a huge hospital that is its affiliate as well.
They know what they are doing and have been doing it a long time.
Part of their protocol is that every week they have a Tumor Board (yes, yes) that meets.
They all review each others' cases, so you have the benefit of a second, third and fifteenth opinion.

The Tumor Board decided that they weren't comfortable with the margins on one side of the mastectomy.
That is the area past the affected tissue that is definitely unaffected. They want good margins (healthy tissue) to have a gap, as it were, so that there is no chance of a possible spreading.
One one side I had 5 cm. clearance (that is great), on two sides I had 1 cm. clearance (acceptable), and on one side I had a squeaky little 0.1 cm clearance.
En masse, they did not feel comfortable with that.

My surgeon said I had three choices:
One: do nothing, recognizing that I have a 25% chance of a reoccurance if indeed, there are any cells left.
Mmmm. I might be willing to roll the dice for 10%, but a 1/4 chance just feels too high.
So that one is off the deck.
Choice two is to redo the surgery.
Excuse' moi, but that would be such a hot mess: take out the expander, remove more tissue and skin, sew me back up, put in a new expander with whatever I could safely have in my body.
Maybe another 4 days in the hospital, reacting to anesthesia, and four more weeks off, recuperating.
All of this before the planned second (which in this scenario, would be the third) surgery.
Not so excellent crazy about that option.
And behind door #3, Monty??
So, I have my hesitations about tissue health, as radiation is intense therapy: the average protocol is 5 days a week for 5 weeks.
But, of the three, it is the only choice that feels comfortable to me and my sweet body.
(Yes, I actually do ask for its feedback on these things.)

I meet  with my radiation oncologist on Wednesday, at which point we will, I am sure, set my schedule.
In preparation, I have doubled up on whole foods nutrient supplements that I do, plus more vitamin C (I've done 3,000 mg. a day for decades, but I can use even more of healthy collagen production capacity now), more vitamin E (bumping from 400 IU to 800). I already have an experience with amazing wound healing, from earlier in my life, with vit. E, so I know that will be a great thing.
And in addition, my acupuncturist has given me a healing salve to put on every day after radiation & an internal supplement that will help the body download the heat & heal, while receiving the benefits of the radiation.

Put me in coach; I've got my lucky bat and I am feeling strong.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Aces high, buddy.

I am always so amazed that we humans seem to be learning & relearning the same basic 3 or 4 dozen life lessons over & over again...Seven billion personal spins on the life processes that every living human encounters...

This little jaunt with unwittingly overdoing it, having to do some backtracking mentally, regarding my expectations of healing, and some extra care from my friends in the holistic healing community, have brought me back to the same holy grail of realization as most before me: life can change directions at any moment and one of those changes in direction will read "The End".
Humorous & heartrending that we all "know" that, yet none of us know that until mortality whispers sweet nothings into our distracted ear.
Not being able to just jump back into my life at will, brought up for me just how close I was to a chapter that would have had a scrolled "Finis" after the last sentence.
Like all of those before me, I have been asking the questions we all would benefit from asking before the tall guy with the sickle arrives whistling a happy tune:
What would I be doing differently if I knew...

It is a good season, literally, to be asking these questions.
It is a long-running joke among all who know me, just how exceptionally calendar oriented I am.
I plan things on a very long time line so as to make room for many, many things.
By this point in the year I have my next year's calendar set in beautifully polished stone. My days off are chosen, seminars to teach or take already penned in, yearly events, such as when to attend the Quilt Festival and Renaissance Faire are set, usually with hotel reservations already made, as well. Birthdays, anniversaries, monthly meetings, neighborhood holiday get-togethers, all on the H.C. (Holy Calendar).
I do this for myself, but also for my clients, so those who wish to book ahead, to have standing appointments, can choose their times with confidence.
The H.C. for next year is in my home, ready to be formatted.

So. What *would* I be doing differently if I knew...?
I'd be doing more art. more quilting, I would actually have a regular physical activity ("exercise") that I enjoyed.
I know. It sounds so very basic, but I have for lo, these many decades of my career, pencilled in everything I just mentioned, and if _____ then I would do those essential life activities for myself.
If: I wasn't too tired, something else came up, yada yada yada.
So American.
So silly.

This week as I unwrap the 2012 H.C. I will sit in silent contemplation of my life first.
I will pencil in time for Continuum and weight workouts (yes, I am a heretic that way!) and walks and dance.
I will make drawing, quilting, encaustics and multi media work a regular part of my life, not just tucked in around the edges.
There will still be plenty of work time, and trips, and all the rest.
I just had to get here first, I guess; the reshaping of the outside making room for the reshaping of my internal map.
Something lost exchanged for something to be gained.
Not a bad hand.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What to do?? Answer: D : None of the Above

You've had your yin, ladies and gentlemen, and I have got your yang, fresh out of the oven, right here.
Step right up!!!

The last two days I have been feeling so good that I thought it was time to get some work done on a quilt I've had in mind. I had cut all 700 strips of fabric before I went in for surgery, so I wouldn't have to stress my arm in any way...
The day before yesterday I sewed for two hours or more, and felt fine.
Yesterday I did the same, but toward the end I began to notice that my left pec (chest muscle) was really starting to ache in a sharp way. I began to notice that everything I was doing was left sided: reach for a block, lift the presser foot & put it down, sew, lift the presser foot & put it down, put that block on a stack to the left; get a new block...from the left.
So, I stopped immediately, took two Alleve & went to bed early.

I woke this morning with swelling so profound that, in clothes, I look totally even side to side.
Admittedly, they put 400 cc's of fluid fill in my expander during surgery, but that is *ahem* nowhere near my natural size.
And the pain had increased.

I talked to the doctor on call for the weekend and, through my tears, told him what I was seeing & feeling, sure that I had unwittingly created some major damage to my healing.
He said that 95% of women do this same thing; that at day 10-12 we are feeling so much better that we begin resuming normal daily activities before the tissues are anywhere near ready for that.
He had me do some circulation tests to make sure that the swelling isn't endangering the sutures, and, thankfully, all is well in circulation-sutureland.

He did tell me to get back on my pain meds for a few days (so yes, I was sleeping on the couch with the dogs all day...) & to do (hear this in Sgt. Schultz' voice from Hogan's Heroes) NUSSINK!!

So all my cheeriness has become mulch today.
Even knowing that, gratefully, I have not hurt myself, I must now just sleep & watch TV for two weeks.
I might possibly get to read if I can go back off of the meds in a few days...

Is that a curl I feel growing right in the middle of my forehead??

Friday, September 30, 2011

I am the Great and Powerful, uh, Oz?

Two koans are working on me today.

Yesterday a friend sent me an e-mail saying that I seemed very cherry throughout this process, & was glad to see that.
I am glad also, and wordlessly beholding all the myriad, kaleidoscope ways that humans stand in fear instead of simply witnessing what is.
Well, of course it is the stories, mantras of remembrance or projection, resistance or hallucination, that we stand in fear of. The witnessing is bare, simple and clean.
Thank the forces of All that I have steam-cleaned,, power-washed and polished my gunk all along the way, so that witnessing was possible once the die rolled this way...
I really had no dialogue cued up in my head/ heart/ cells ready to mambo across my mind.
Not because I am a natural yogini.
No, because I have been elbow deep in the greasy kitchen sink of my mind for years.
(*cue the Wizard of Oz song, as the green lovelies polish the Tin Man to meet The Great and Powerful.)*

The second koan is similar.
Every time I undress and see this new formulation of breast, I stop and stare. In wonder.
It is so new and strange and beautiful in its uniqueness; the partial fill, breast-like shape that in clothes, actually, does not even draw your eye toward it, yet the long line of stitches that cross from underneath to almost two-thirds of its span.
Nippleless and what will obviously be a "great" scar (as in not Frankensteinian)
And I stare at the spare beauty of it, like a railroad track bisecting the frozen Siberian tundra, wondering how could a woman look in the mirror and bewail herself as misshapen, horrible, less than?
But I know that so many do...

I wish for us all the silence of acceptance, the cheerfulness of each sweet and normal day, and, whether scarred by surgery or just deeply kissed by Gravity, the smile in the mirror when we see that Ah!
This, then, is how it goes for me!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scars are the stories of our survival

Ten days ago.
The surgery went well. Before taking me in, they sent me off to radiology, where they did the "bracketing" portion of the procedure. That was amazing!
An older female radiologist, who was still plainly in love with her specialty, and had the energy of your favorite aunt, was teaching a younger female radiologist how the procedure was done.
It is very delicate stuff. While I stood, stock still in front of an Xray machine, Dr. Auntie lined up my previous breast Xrays so that they were in perfect alignment...Then she had to insert two wires marking, exactly, the parameters of the DCIS, so that the skin above them could be removed during the mastectomy.
But! The skill and artistry came into play in that she had to mark them with me standing, while figuring out the drop of my breast as I would be lying down on the table!!

I don't, of course, remember a thing. I was in recovery by early afternoon, Tuesday.
Tuesday through Thursday were a blur of horrific nausea. (Think sailor on bender of cheap rum on the high seas during a storm. Yeah. Exactly!)
I do remember one of the female surgeons mentioning that she sees this a lot: women who have had mastectomies having violent reactions to the anesthesia...
Even through my haze, I immediately understood that if this is a pattern, then this is an energetic issue~~the retching reaction to losing such a culturally, personally & in-the-tribe-of-the-feminine part of our bodies...

I came home Friday the 23rd, & slept through Monday due to the pain meds.
I took myself off of them & the pain has not been that bad.
I am still very tired on many levels: healing from the surgery, detoxing the anesthesia, just resting psyically & emotionally, but I am doing really well.

Yesterday was my post-surgical check-up with the breast surgeon.
He told me that my insistance on mastectomy was a very good call, as when the sent my breast to pathology it showed that I had, not 2 1/2-3 cm. of DCIS, as the biopsy had indicated, but 5 (let me spell that out: FIVE!) cm. Since I had decided on mastectomy, it was no trouble to get clear margins.
A lumpectomy would have (he said) turned into an unprepared mastectomy.
So. Good for me.
Pathology also showed that the DCIS was in 16 out of 41 tissue samples throughout, & was a nuclear grade 3/3.
This means that the Universe was definitely intervening to keep me on the planet, because it was about to shift into its virulent mode.
But. It was caught just in time & is all gone now.

During the surgery, the plastic surgeon put in the tissue expander & did a partial fill, so I have not had to see myself recapitulate puberty from the ground up, so to speak, on the left.
Everything that post-mastectomy women say is true: the pain is not that bad, but the drain (necessary to drain off blood & lymph from the inside for the first week) is a big pain-in-the...yes!
The plastic surgeon removed that today (jubilation!!) & will take out the stitches in another week.

My friends have been so amazingly supportive & helpful on all levels. I am speechless at the amount of  love & care that I am being surrounded & sustained by.

And my dogs (all 5 of them) are cuddled around me in a we-got-your-back pack mode, at all times.

My cup runneth over.
Well. Not yet.
But let's give it a few weeks!
Ah, the miracles of medicine. Life, abundantly preserved, and cleavage.
*happy sigh*

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Half Moon Morning

In the wee, tiny hours of the morning, black as squid trolling the darkened waves, when only monks arise to the sound of bells, when the quiet holy of humanity are about their silent work: the boy rolling papers to be thrown on dewy lawns, milkmen of old, filling their carts with clinking bottles of fresh, raw milk, I am here.
In silence. Awake after what is truly only a nap of a night's sleep.

I showered as one enters the baptismal bath, the mikvah; ready to be dunked thrice and to arise alive in a new way.
I am about to enter a holy journey.
I washed each unbejeweled inch of me knowing that it will never be just this way again.

Soon I will see headlights turn in as a friend comes to take me to the hospital.
They will shine directly in my face as I sit here in my office, clicking silently to you.
That light heralding departure, arrival, transformation.

I am grateful to have been scheduled this early, that I may share this time with chants of Gregorians and Buddhists somewhere far, so near to my heart that I hum along in soul. The lift me into the bright lights and busyness of pre-operative preparations, again washing and marking, sanctifying unknowingly.

I will awaken later today reformed.
How Mysterious that I will be less, yet more whole.

Like Quasimodo, I swing at the end of the rope of this morning, deaf to what others might hear, yet in bliss at what shivers wildly through my body.
I am my own Esmeralda, also, seeing beauty with such love, at what others might turn away from.

So much is here.
This dark morning of rebirth is mine.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Doing the Queen's wave

Hi everyone. Just an update to say that I am still here...
The last two weeks I have been working, almost literally, every waking moment, since I will be going a very long stretch with no income.
So I am exhausted beyond words.
Today I spent some time with a friend, napping &, honestly, too tired to actually do the very long list of things that need to be done to prepare to go to surgery on Tuesday.

Tomorrow I will do what I can.
The day after tomorrow is surgery.

I will be back with insights & experiences near the end of next week, when I am home again.
I love you guys.
Au revoir.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We'll return after this message from our sponsor

When you get to the edge of the map, start drawing.

I left my keys somewhere. The ones to my happiness, warp speed and real-time stop motion.
Have you seen them?

Transformation requires time.
When time is not available and transformation is inevitable, leap the gap, that inner night with the lightening storm of the gods.

Name one thing. Anything.
Now realize you have no idea.

We meet ourselves constantly.
Every form, person, idea and memory.
They are not reflections. They are you.
Just try it.

Cellular reproduction never has to fight to have great make-up sex.

The sound of the waves in the distance and the howling of the hurricane: lullaby.
Shhh. Hear it?

I was wondering how to get your attention.
I was. Wondering. How. To get your

This day will not be your last.
But it is someone's last and someone's first.
Celebrate the arrival on both planes.

I meant every word I said.
Even when I spoke in tongues.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wax on, wax off

Just a bit o' waxing philosophical...
I had a great conversation with a friend last night. She said she really loved reading my blog; she loved my perspective and my writing style, but...
(You knew I was going there, didn't you?)
But reading it was really triggering her fears.
I have actually had this feedback from a few friends; that it is graphic for them, that it makes them feel vulnerable & uncomfortable at times, that they feel the essential human fears very clearly when they come here.

I asked her what fears she was finding herself in contact with.
The fear of death.
The fear of cancer.
The fear of disfigurement

Some of the bedrock.
So, as I love to do (and she does, also) we explored each idea in a long & rich conversation.
At the end of the day there is no formula for integrating these basic human experiences, but the main thing is to stay in relationship with these boogey-men. Don't run from the room, don't give in to pat answers, don't be afraid to feel what you feel.
We both talked about the illusion that we all live in that "everything is ok". That sounds fine, even desirable at first blush, but the idea itself has, often, some trembly inner trepidation that no, indeed, everything is not ok...
That the world is painful and challenging in myriad ways, that the unknown happens all the time, but most of the time "the unknown" happens on TV or over the water cooler or on an internet posting.
As long as (fill in your blank) my health is fine/ the kids are ok/ I still have my job or house or spouse, then I can face anything.

That is where we accidentally have kissed the flypaper in a big, old passionate way.
Because Life will have its life-like way with us, and one of our constructs will be shaken or crumble without warning. When that happens we come face to face with the truth.

This is impermanent, unknown and powerful, this life.
And everything about this life is wild and precious, sometimes intimidating, often exhilerating...But it's not me.
The mind's first panicky response is that this must be a lie.
Even if it true, then I cannot stand in the face of this.
If my things of beauty or people of beauty are taken away then how can I go on?
Then the mind collapses in a quivering, helpless, sobbling heap.

That's a good thing if we can just stay with it.

Here's what I have noticed. That everything we call emotion has a sensation.
We know this~~ the knot in the stomach, the heart on fire, the numb head, the legs like jello~~but then we try to think our way out of that. Even after we know that we cannot, the decades being the merciful and repetitive teachers that they are.
We try to understand, to talk ourselves out of it, to rationalize, to categorize, while we take medicines or substances or yummy treats to make the sensations abate.
Never going to happen. They keep bringing us home to the body no matter how hard we have our hands pressed to our ears, chanting La-La-La I can't hear you!!
So. Just feel what you feel. Don't label it or try to understand it. Just feel it.
And then...notice that there is probably a stream of words happening in your mind, even unintended.
Notice, but don't invest. Let them become the background traffic noise while you attend to sensation..

Sometimes amazing things arise.
Maybe I can't think of Skye's mastectomy in detail because it makes me feel shaky in my I felt when my kitten BooBoo was run over...but they told me not to look, and not to cry because BooBoo was in Heavan now..and then mommy took me inside and daddy went outside & BooBoo was gone when I went out front later...and I could never talk about it...
Shaky diaphragm feeling + story + never being allowed to feel what I felt = a trigger for trauma later.

We all have a trunkload of these experiences,personal & intimate & largely hidden. The concept of feeling them only feels scary because we haven't had the resources to feel them before.
But you have the resources now.

If my journey is uncomfortable for you, I would encourage you to stay engaged with the mystery of that discomfort. Therein lies the key to freedom.

I have the car completely waxed with Philosophic.
Buff it to shine, sweetness.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Past the treeline and still climbing

I have a photograph of myself, taken 14 years ago, sitting on a small, butt sized ledge, at the top of the Continental Divide. My hiking buddy took the picture from above, looking down at me (because there was no way he was sneaking down onto that squeaky ledge) and I am radiant. Sweaty & smiling, as on top of the world as one can get for about 2000 miles, I think. And below my dangling feet was a whole lot of empty space before more ledges, empty space & mountain.
Delicious. The air is thin & pure.
I love it up there.

Today feels like the top of those Colorado mountains.
All the logistical movement is taking place; last meeting with the breast surgeon, ultrasound of the affected breast, declining the (completely unneeded) class on the lymphatic system post surgery, & putting my name in the hat for a study on yoga & breast cancer survivors. (what the heck?!)

I may not look back on this chapter as a "favorite" snapshot in my life later, but the views are certainly unusual.
And I don't mind looking down.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The sacrament is every disaster and joy

A Sunday that, while still hot, has a touch of actual Fall in the air, has me contemplative.
The surgery is set for Tuesday September 20.
I have two weeks to make as much hay as possible while the sun of full mobility is still shining on me.

Walking down the street today, the correlation was made clear, like the silent swoop of a large bird, the movement drawing my inner eye up.
The surgeries that I had in '97 made sure that the pre-cancerous situation then did not run rampant in my body, like the Texas wildfires that are burning even now...To be safe, alive & whole I gave up parts of my body. And never thought twice about it.
Cancer dance redux, I will also give up part of my body, an offering on the altar of Wholeness.
A larger part, a more obvious part, with more steps to it.
But it is the same dynamic.
It makes me wonder what, in the multidimensional scheme of things, I am designing/ participating in?
I don't know that I will ever have a cognitive answer for that query, and that is fine.

Then later in the evening, I had the image of the surgeons working on me, cauterizing, lifting, cauterizing, lifting tissue. My tissue. My breast.
Inch by mammary inch, lifting, lifting my breast away from my body.
And as they lift, a blinding white-gold light shining forth like the light of a million suns.
At first a beam, then a band of brilliance, then a sheath of radiance, then, as they lift the breast completely off,
the room being filled with a pulsing starshine that no human eye could bear, unshielded.
But they will place the breast on a tray, "Get this to pathology, after labelling..."
They will clean, dab, cauterize again & do the rest of their surgical gifts for me.
Nothing to see here, move along, move along...
But the Light is me.
Is for me.
Is showing me...something that I will live into.
This is the way of it here. Always more than one can ever conceive of is recvealing itself.
And it looks like just another day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not the golden trinkets!!!

Today was my meeting with the plastic surgeon and, oddly enough, I was more agitated driving to his office than I was to the breast surgeon's. It was just that much closer to home plate, for one, and I was a bit nervous: what if he was a pompous ass? What if, somehow, he was going to hamstring the smoothness of this whole experience, as it has been gliding along, so far??!

Not to fear. Again, a consummate professional with nothing to prove, no ego to reenforce.
So down to biz.
After going over the case history, we talked about options for reconstruction.
I already knew I was not opting for a lat flap (where they take a piece of your latissimus dorsi~~the big wing-like back muscle on bodybuilders~~to create a shelf at the breast & move your own belly fat up to become a breast) or a tram flap (same idea, only using a portion of an abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominus) because, doing the work that I do, I cannot offer up any of my core strength in trade for a breast.

FYI, though, women: I had a friend who had a tram flap years ago, & because they "fill" it with your own tissue, it is completely natural looking and feeling. A perfect "breast"; none of the firm-to-hardness of an implant.

They do another kind of tissue transfer now, also, where they take no muscle for a shelf, they just move your own belly fat up & shape it as a breast.
But, it is a much longer surgery & recovery time, and the possibility of tissue failure, which means the transferred blood vessels don't find their home in the new neighborhood and the tissue dies, resulting in additional surgeries.

An implant is just fine for me.

So, I was measured & told how the procedure would transpire:
After the mastectomy. my plastic surgeon will put a tissue expander under my chest wall muscle (pectoralis major) & then put in the drains to remove fluid (blood and lymph) that will be building up in the area after the surgery, but cannot be allowed to stay, because infection might arise.
Women always say that the drains are the most tedious part of the whole thing.
Which, in the scheme of things, is not too bad, really!

The drain will be taken out a week later (hence the tedium!) & weekly I will go in to the plastic surgeon's office to have increasing amounts of saline put in the expander until we reach my size.
Or, actually..."almost" my size, as without moving into the realm of Hollywood/Vegas implants, they don't make them the size I have been walking around as. Gratitude to Mama Nature.
My mother would have fallen over on her bed laughing at that one!
So, after many trips in, gradually inflating to evenness, we schedule a second surgery (I swear I just heard Bullwinkle moan!!) to remove the expander, exchange it for the actual implant, & *sounds of angelic trumpets* do a slight reduction & a lift on the other side so they will match as much as possible.

Cue Nina Simone.

I asked him about time off of work, & when I explained what I do, he shook his head & looked down, doing the body-use math in his head.
Meeting my eyes he said "I don't want you working on anybody for four weeks. Then you can go half time for two weeks. before a full schedule again. You cannot chance any bleeding or inappropriate internal scarring in order to have the best result possible."
Which was about what I was figuring.
Except by then I'll be back in for surgery #2.

There will be an intermission while our beautiful dancing girls and adult libations bring a smile to your face.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

All in all, this is fabulous, I do recognize...
And, if you were wondering about my title tonight, the funniest part of the whole thing is the nurse who was having me sign sheaves of pre-surgical papers, reminded me that I could not wear any jewelery into surgery.
But. But.
These tiny, almost infintessimal gold wires in the curl of the thick, inner part of my cartilage in two places on my left ear?
My body heals very quickly if I take piercings out, and (with a slightly can-I-have-the-car-keys wheedle) if I can just leave those two? And, well, my solid gold belly button ring, also???
She reminded me that the reason they have that rule is that if something should happen during surgery and they had to drop the paddles on me to bring me back...Any metal in my body would cause the electricity to arc...
Creating, shall we just say, a Green Mile moment in the O.R.

And then I started laughing uproariously.
Because I have more whiny resistance to losing all my body jewelery than my breast.

It takes all kinds, Mr Barnum...

Monday, August 29, 2011

My friends are pollinating bees

No logistical news to report until after my meeting with the plastic surgeon on Thursday. Meanwhile I am experiencing a support I have never been in a position to receive before.
Friends are mobilizing to help with money and food, being with me when I am in the hospital, offers to come clean my house, help with the doggie tribe (oh, brave souls, indeed!). Friends who can listen to me in wild woman mode, & those who cannot, but offer me other gifts as I deepen my understanding of the hows & whys of my own inner processes.

In short, this Mystery is still unfolding.
Thank you all for folding me in your arms/ humming wings.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quantum molasses

The meeting with medical oncology was just fine yesterday.
I realized about half way through, that I had, unconsciously been braced for resistance from the doctor.
But, no. I explained myself, he explained things from his perspective and then said "Well, I don't think I really have anything to offer you."
The inner smile that lights a thousand lamps was mine.
And then he made an appointment to see me in four weeks, "We'll meet again after your surgery, just in case you've changed your mind."

Everything is beginning to move now with much more focus.
I have the meeting with the plastic surgeon next week; 6 days after that I go in to sign all the release & permission to treat papers...
Which tells me that it is probable that three weeks from now I will be in a new configuration of my body.

I am weary, weary.
I began to tell clients today. Everyone will know soon when I call to rearrange the famous H.C. (Holy Calendar). It will be interesting to see how everyone receives and responds to this.

I am anticipating putting myself to bed like a third grader tonight~~if I see 9 p.m. with open eyes I will be surprised.

Let sleep nourish me, and dreams inform me.
I walk into that ocean with arms opened wide.
Embracing and welcoming the Mystery, morning is just moments~ and light years~ away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Salt in my mouth and riding the green waves

Well, I have definitely been "off the surfboard" for a couple of days. Not in the present moment, worrying about (= , for me, getting angry about) what will happen, how it will work out, all the usual suspects.
Thanks to a few good friends with meaningful insights, compassion & patience with my bear-with-foot-in-bucket self, & the ability to let me rant, I am back on the board...
The ocean, even when choppy, looks soooo much better from up here!!

One friend asked if I'd seen the pathology report, and I said no. Then, later, I thought how could that be?! THAT is so unlike me!
I went back into research mode &, as I was reading & making notes, I remembered those phrases & myself asking the doctor "What does nuclear pleomorphism mean?" "And comedo necrosis? Necrosis means tissue death, and so...?" "What does the cribiform pattern indicate as opposed to another pattern in DCIS?"
Ok, now that's the me I know.

So, I watched a few videos of a full mastectomy...
I know, I know, but I've been in gross anatomy labs (human dissection) dozens of times, I have surgery books, & pathology books, & pictoral gross anatomy books, so it is all known territory for me. There's no "ick factor".
And, that helped. As I watched it step by step, realizing that will be me soon, I gently spoke to my breast with my intent: "That will be you. That's what will happen. It will be ok. Thank you for always being here, so beautiful & present for me all of these years. Thanks for letting me know before it got unmanageable. I love you."
And then I watched some more.
I watched films of the different types of reconstructions; I felt my body's responses to each, which gave me, actually, more pertinent information than just the cognitive knowledge.
Big exhale!
I am feeling much more centered again.

Tomorrow I meet with medical oncology to tell them "from my own mouth" why I am choosing the path of treatment I am.
Here's a nice tidbit to bring in with me:
DCIS with lumpectomy: survival rate of  87%
With lumpectomy & radiation: 92%
With lumpectomy, radiation & Tamoxifen: 94%
With mastectomy, no radiation, or Tamoxifen: 98-99%

It's good to me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My mistress is the sea

Today a friend of mine spoke, on her blog, about the need for some silence for a while, and that that got me the slow, lazy way that thinking happens after some great acupuncture, which I also had today.
When she said she needed more silence, less busy-ness in her world, my mind began a series of associations like an old movie flickering on.

The scene opened in my clinic 14 years ago. 1997 was full of "the adventure of healing" I had 2 abnormal PAP smears, followed by an abnormal biopsy, followed by an in-office surgery to my cervix.
After healing, the should've-been-perfect PAP was abnormal, as was the next biopsy, followed by a big ol' in the hospital surgery.
The quarterly PAP's the next year, & the biannual ones for the next two years & every one after that have been fine.
But a ten days after the second surgery, after having flown across the country and back, and jumping back into my clinical schedule that was unmerciful (though I still couldn't feel that then) I began hemmoraging at work.
I called my doctor, who, of course, had me come right over. When he examined me he said he was at a loss to understand what he was seeing. All the hemmoraging and clotting, which had started out of the blue, was coming out of a wound the size of a pinhole, he said.
"I don't know why that would happen.", he mused.
As soon as he said it my body told me, in words in my head, why & I simply replied "I do."
There was nothing medical to do so he sent me home.

My body said "You have to stop."
I knew what it meant. Stop working every waking moment six days a week.
Stop making my life about what everybody else needed.
Stop ignoring myself.
It took years and years to turn that ship around, but I started then.

So when my friend spoke to slowing down, being more silent, and that movie appeared out of the recesses of partially learned lessons, I asked my body, "Is this more of that? More needing to be present for me? More dropping of context? More silence inside?"

Yes. It feels like a yes.

I don't think it will take as long this time to turn that ship. I used to kid with my friends that I was trying to turn the Queen Mary back then; that you could yank on that wheel a long time before any movement would be seen in its path on the sea.
I sail more a 20 foot yacht these days...
Still not a speedboat, but not a behemoth.

When I look at my compass, so far, I see the moon.
I am slowly moving my head, trying to understand what the bright reflection, the craters, and the lunar pull of all tides means. I am used to seeing  North South East West.

I hear the moon as she swishes the oceans within.
There will be a new sailing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Random does not exist

Some vague recognition is playing like a movie heard in the next room...
Things are always arising and dissolving in the world.
There is some design to it that cannot be seen, like fractals: the order inherent in seemingly random or chaotic movement.

Someone has her soul-love leave his body
Someone restores her mother's fig tree
A drought settles in, deep and wide, over the land
Two animals are saved and have a home
A breast prepares to leave
A heart begins to receive

I can almost see the shapes in the random smoke, almost make out the voice in the background, the words it whispers, sweet and low, to each of us.
And then I blink.

Something is balancing here...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Words as disease; reassessment as cure

This is a topic, actually, that has been near & dear to my heart for over two decades: precision and truth in speech.
It started for me when I suddenly became glaringly aware of the words that were flying out of my mouth, & the mouths of those around me, that were so amazingly toxic & (the key, for me) not even vaguely true.
Like "That just kills me."~~"That purse is to die for!"~~"You're getting on my last nerve."~~And the ones that bother me the most: "War on (cancer/ terror/ poverty etc)"~~"Fighting (homelessness/ child abuse/ hunger etc)"

Now, that first group you may say (as I did, lo, those many moons ago) oh, they're just funny sayings. They're colorful & nobody takes them literally. What's wrong with that??
Well, for me, it just became about speaking truth. None of those funny/cute sayings are literally true, but they make the violence of our speech transparent to us, which can make us numb to the effects  that my, or another's, speech may engender.
If you still think I am being silly, just ask yourself honestly, does anything in you bristle, as women, to hear phrases like "little lady~bitches~she's on the rag~great melons~ho~sweetie (when used by a man who doesn't know you; especially when you are a subordinate in a business setting)"
If we're honest, one or more of those probably don't feel comfortable for a variety of reasons. But the (usually) men who are saying them might defend these as "just something I said, don't take it so seriously".
So, I began to get very conscious of what was coming out of my mouth.
Because what is coming out of my mouth, is what is going on in my head (where else would it have come from?), at least subconsciously.
And what is going on in my head is affecting my cells. Literally.
(See the book Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert, a scientist who did the work proving that every thought~~in words, or just experienced as an emotional state~~changes the chemical receptors on every cell in your body.)

The second group, "War on..." & "Fighting..." are ridiculous if really looked at.
How can you have a war on a concept? Or fight a multidimensional human experience?
Who could drop a bomb on an activity (domestic abuse) or go give a black eye & bloody lip to a socioeconomic problem (hunger)?
That's just crazy speech &, again, we become deaf & blind to the violence we participate in when we speak this way.
In truth, we want to end, transform, overcome, educate about, bring relief from, heal and/or make these things obsolete. So why don't we just say that?
Just bring your awareness to your speech, listen to friends & TV, look at headlines & articles with an eye toward that inquiry.

Pardon my language, here, but I saw a piece of graffiti about 21 years ago that transformed me forever about these ideas:
Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.

I still quote that graffiti to this day.

But what has that got to do with me & this particular journey I am on??
Well, with any major disease process or trauma people respond from their heart, trying to speak to what is happening. And we are influenced by the speech patterns of our culture.
So, if you have said one of these things to me, I am not offended, nor rebuffing your concern & love for me, but I would just ask you to sit in open inquiry (or prayer, or meditation; whatever is true for you) about the inner state behind these phrases.

"It is so unfair."
Fairness as regards to life is a false concept; fairness only applies to board games or business dealings

"You don't deserve this."
If you would say that an evil person does deserve a "bad" life experience, then I would simply notice that the construct is based on a punitive worldview. Personally, I think deserving & undeserving are only true in contests with stated rules & are completely false concepts as regards to life in general.

"You've been through so much already."
I know this is said from love, like "Oh! Make it stop, world!", but there's no quota on life experiences. Every single human has a bacoodle of painful experiences happen to them; it is not damaging unless it either overwhelms the capacities we have at the moment or if we resist the experience with all of our might.
Neither of these things is happening to me, so I really am ok. And I love you for loving me so much!!

"This disease is the enemy."
This is also said about Alzheimer's, an incredibly painful process for the loved ones of the person with the disease. But, again, just speaking truth, no disease is an enemy. It is a biologic process.
Healing, not adversarial fear or hatred, is what is needed.

"You can fight this and win."
Cancer is not a war. I am not interested in fighting against a misdirected physiologic process in my body. Fighting has a winner & a loser. (subnote: Dying is not "losing". As my fiance used to say, with great gentleness & humor, as he was dying of cancer, "Nobody gets out alive. It's ok.")
Fighting requires~at the bodily level~adrenalin & cortisol, two of the "fight or flight" hormones. They send out a distress signal to the nervous system, keep us out of the parasympathetic nervous system, where relaxation & (!) healing occur, and create oxidative stress (= damage to the tissues of our body).
That doesn't seem very practical self-talk if one has a disease...

So, as Forrest Gump said, "That's all I have to say about that." :-)

I love you all.
And that I, most assuredly, mean literally!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Calling James Brown

Because doctor's got a brand new bag!!

The meeting yesterday was perfect. And informative, so take note, ladies.
In brief, I am lucky enough to have the head of breast surgery as the man who will be operating on me. He has no ego, no agenda; he has been practicing medicine long enough that he has nothing to prove.
That being said, had I not been well informed, articulate & confident in my decisions, I am sure that the "algebra equation" would have ruled the day.

After he went over the specifics of my diagnosis, he began with "We will be doing an extended lumpectomy..."
No sir, & here's why I don't want that. At which point, he replied, "Yes. I can see your reasoning for that. All right, so we can cancel radiation. We'll be doing a sentinel node removal..."
No, sir.

A sentinel node removal is a standard part of surgical cancer care; they remove a lymph node nearest the surgical site, to test & make sure the cancer hasn't spread. If there are cancer cells in the node, they keep removing lymh nodes until they test cancer free.
This is a viable choice for most cancers, but it leaves the lymphatic system compromised and vulnerable to the possiblity of lymphedema.
The lymph system is the liquid cleansing system of the body, and part of the immune system; lymphedema is a backing up of the lymph fluid, usually into a limb, creating a puffy swelling which is uncomfortable, and can create further damage to the tissues if normal drainage is not restored.
One of the things I do is Lymph Drainage Therapy, so I am very familiar with what is it like living with lymphedema, and how challenging it can be.
Since I have a non-tumor based cancer, there is virtually no chance that this cancer has spread, hence, no reason to potentially damage my lymph system.
His reply was "Well, you're right. The odds are only 1 or 2% that it has spread. So no sentinel node removal.

Now, we very often put women on Tamoxifen or a similar drug..."
No, sir, we won't be needing that. Again, since this is a non-tumor based cancer (tumorous cancers feed on estrogen, hence the use of estrogen blocking drugs, such as Tamoxifen) there is no need to take a drug which has, as its main side effect, endometrial cancer in 7-10 years after use.
His relpy? You guessed it: "Yes, I see your point, so no post surgical drug therapy.
Do you want a reconstruction? (yes) Good. I will arrange for you to meet with the plastic surgeon to choose your best method of reconstruction. I will save as much skin as possible to allow for the greatest coverage."

When he called his clinic manager in to arrange for everything, and went over all the steps for her, her eyebrows went higher & higher.
He ended with "Ms. Daniels is very well informed and has thought about all of her options. This is the way we will go.", and shook my hand before leaving the room.
She told me that one of the appointments she would be setting up for me would be with medical oncology (chemo, Tamoxifen etc) because my choices were "so far from the standard care" that they would take a bunch of heat from the head of medical oncology unless they heard it from my mouth.
No problem.
But isn't that interesting? If most women had gone in, they would have come out with an appointment for an "extended lumpectomy" & a sentinel node removal, radiation afterwards, & possible Tamoxifen.
And, I am not being unkind here, but that means: a surgically altered breast in a very profound way (!!), possible damage to their lymph system, a series of radiation treatments (radiation is like microwaving; it heats from the inside out, hence the tissue damage & scarring after radiation) & then, possibly, an estrogen blocking drug for 5 years. (the standard of care with those drugs) Which, if you are still menstruating, would slam dunk you into menopause, & would create the need to monitor you for many years to see if there are any side effects.

I am telling all the details, just so you ladies can have a deeper understanding, should you ever need to have it, not to villify the standard of care.

So! Excellent outcome!! Of course, doing a mastectomy & a reconstruction on the same day = two major surgeries in a day = a longer recovery time = more time off of work...Oddly enough, I am not stressing about what that will mean monetarily.

Let grace find its way to me unobstructed.

It is 104 degrees today. The shadows of the tree branches on the driveway are like lace.
I am sleepy and peaceful and can feel the subtlest shimmer in my body, the shimmer that happens as the unknown is approaching...But here is the fascinating part: it is not the shimmer of waiting, in a movie, for the vampire to leap out, or at the top of the rollercoaster, looking straight down to where you will be plummeting shortly...
It is the shimmer of standing in the airport, waiting to catch sight of the beloved, who has been gone for so long, knowing that the sight of their face will make your heart race before you throw your arms around them.

Isn't that strange??
I am smiling. It makes no sense, but it feels good.

The Adventure continues.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Medicine as algebra

Interesting day. I met with a woman at CTRC (Cancer Therapy & Research Center) about the money dance.
A couple of hours of great conversation & enough signatures to give me flashbacks of signing a mortgage, I have a mixed green salad of state & federal dollars that will cover much of the upcoming experiences, financially, & let me pay the rest back at a reasonable rate.
That's a relief!

But the most fascinating part of the day was a phone call I got from the surgeon's team~~the surgeon that I meet with tomorrow, mind you. A very sweet young man said "We have your appointment with the radiation oncologist set for such & such day and time, will that work for you?
I let the pregnant pause hang in the air that extra telling moment, & said"No. No, that won't work. I won't need radiation, because I am not having a lumpectomy. I will be talking to him tomorrow about a mastectomy. So take that appointment off the books, thank you."
He was so sweet & sincere when he said "Well, you just call us back after you two talk & we'll make a new appointment."

*sigh* I let it go with him, but wow. That is stunning!
Here's what I see happening so far in this journey:
Abnormal mammogram: book biopsy & push lumpectomy.
Very suspicious biopsy: immediately talk  about lumpectomy. (though, as a woman, she let it go the minute I said no way)
Meeting with the "buffer doctor": very strongly advocate for lumpectomy & against mastectomy.
Before the meeting with the surgeon: call to *let me know about my appointment with the oncology radiologist* for after the lumpectomy.

Notice how I, the patient, the actual woman with cancer, the actual woman who will live the rest of my life with the bodily decisions made around this, am not even present in the equation???

This is stunning, but I don't think many, or possibly any, breast cancer patients notice this.
There are a number of reasons for this:
Most people are terrified of the idea of receiving a cancer diagnosis, & go into a frozen shock/trauma response if they get one.
I was with my fiance when he got his, and he called it "going glassed". He freaked out & froze to the extent that he asked me later, repeatedly, what had been said & discussed.
So, what happens if a woman is alone when those discussions happen, as I was?
Well, if she goes into shock/trauma, she won't remember the details (IF any were given!) &, probably will stay in that frozen state for a while, & will be *bingo!* a very compliant patient.

Also, most people only interact with doctors throughout their lives when they, or a loved one, is sick & vulnerable. So they are never fully "on their game" when communicating with doctors.
Compound that if they have subconscious programs running about deferring to doctors, "doctor knows best", "don't question the doctor" etc...

Most people have no knowledge of their bodies, of how things work in the body, and of anatomical language.So when a doctor starts explaining things to you, most people are lost by the end of the 6th sentence. Because things are critical, & moving so fast, & they think they wouldn't understand it even if they made the doctor repeat it, they just let the sea of words roll over them & nod.
(I MUST interject here: please remember that a doctor, surgeon etc IS YOUR EMPLOYEE. A highly trained employee, with exceedingly specialized knowledge, but they work for YOU!
Even if insurance is paying, they still wouldn't have a job if they did not have patients to practice on.
And *do* take note of that phrase!)

And, last, but not least, most people are absolutely infused with the beliefs about cancer (what??? this is a uniquely modern, and Western perpective, not "the truth"), about "what you should do if you have cancer" & "what the statistical rates of survival are".
I must say about this last part: a pox upon this stuff. Wait until the drought is over & burn all of this rubbish out back while you have a beer!

Regarding the other three aspects, by education, 23 years of working with chronic pain patients & acute soft tissue injury in holistic health care, & grace, I have none of this running.

I am grateful for that, but here's the thing: with the exception of Dr. Dakini, these physicians were sitting in front of me, watching me not freeze or "glass", listening to me explain my understanding, & asking good questions. They also listened to me say *what I want the outcome for my body to be*, but because it doesn't fit the algebra problem of "treating cancer" that they already have "solved" on the chalk board: they literally don't hear me!
Or see me. (Dr. Bob, who kept condescendingly nodding when I was calmly assuring him that I would not be freaking out between appointments)

If you cannot be superimposed on their chalk board equations of whatever you are there for, they will probably keep pointing to how the equations "always" give the answer they are espousing.

Screw the eraser, my loves! Get a power washer & clean that board!!
Make the physician talk to YOU, listen to YOU & figure out how their training can best serve your needs, not the needs of some bunch of statistics & preconceptions!!
And there is almost always more than one person who can assist you with their medical knowledge; do not (I repeat do not!) be afraid to ask for another doctor. He or she will continue practicing medicine for their whole career, but this is the ONLY opportunity you have to participate in this particular healing journey!
Yep. It *is* all about you! ';-)

So. Tomorrow the surgeon.
I have decided to go in with an attitude free of preconceptions (of him) & see if I can support him in doing the same.

Wiggle your fingers in my general direction in a magical way.
This will be interesting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beauty, opportunity and recognition

Sunday is a day of rest, they say. After staying up til the squeaky wee hours yesterday in fun & nourishing ways, I spent the day very slow & sleepy.
A dear friend of mine & a very gifted artist came over today to do preliminary sketches for a stylized portrait of me. I asked if she would, so that I may have my breast (s?) memorialized in the most beautiful way I can conceive of.

I say it the questioning plural as today I talked to my next door neighbor who had a DCIS diagnosis & treatment six months ago. I will have more information to gently cover my questions when I see the surgeon on Wednsday.
He is my snow globe: turn me upside down and let your answers cover every surface, sir.
After my conversation with her a whole new realm of possibilities (read "unknowns") that I had not considered have been presented.

And, less than the actual procedures, it is the time off work that makes me go wide-eyed.
More than wide eyed. I would say "frozen", but it is not exactly that. More like being on my way out of the tractor beam as the unknown crew member on the Starship Enterprise gently depresses the levers. I am glittery and diffuse; the shape of me still visible but being disassembled to be reassembled elsewhere.

And isn't that the perfect metaphor for these life transitions?
I am becoming less that form that I have been to be able to land on a new planet of experience.
My reference points are changing. I will not know who I am until I am in the new place.
Just realizing this helps.

Touching my transponder, I am signing off.
This Lt. Uhura. I have arrived safely back in the present moment.
Over and out.