Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reporting In

 A cancer diagnosis sometimes speeds up this process. :)

I dodged the bullet on the MRI, for now. I do have fatty liver disease, and they will check me again in six months. There is also the possibility that they will want to take my gall bladder out too, after the chemo. It's never really given me any trouble but they say it is stiff and there are worries about that. There is no medicine for the fatty liver disease, other than to eat healthier and get regular exercise. I can do that. I'm already working on healthier eating and when the weather warms up, I plan on starting up with my walking regime again.

I took the photo above with my phone this weekend. We spent the weekend in the country, after a three week absence. It was an altogether relaxing experience. I meant to bring my big camera and forgot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Loose Heads and Rocks

This is what I started with, a photo of two heads and two rocks in a pottery bowl:


This is where I ended up:


My nephew sent me a text with this quote in it on the morning I was waiting to have my port put in.

It was a reminder to me, that I was still alive, in spite of the battle I was entering. And it continues to remind me that I am still alive. I have, at times, taken that fact for granted, and have not appreciated the life I have.

It's a strange thing, though--let the life you take for granted be threatened and see how quickly your whole attitude toward your life can change.

Suddenly, I see love in my life. I see people who care and offer their own particular brand of support and encouragement. I always knew it was there, but now there is a new appreciation for the connections and the feeling of being somehow held up by the love and kindness of others.

And from somewhere, there comes a new motivation to live better and healthier, and to take care of things in my life that have been too long neglected.

I'm writing this post now on my laptop while sitting up in my bed and looking out on a bedroom that is closer to being a sanctuary than it has been in years. A shelf in the closet has been fixed and clothes that were once stacked all around the room are now hanging in the closet. Clutter is gone, bags of clothing that was too large have been brought to the goodwill store, furniture has been dusted, there is a new coverlet on the bed, and there is a new to me love seat on the side wall that is ready for sitting. 

This was one of the things I wanted to do in the new year. There is still work to be done, but there has been a lot of progress made, and for that, I am grateful.

In writing that about there still being work to be done, I recognize a habit that needs to be broken. I have a strong tendency to look at what all I have not done, or how what I have done is not perfect (and in this case, not exactly pristine designer home quality improvement) and to bemoan that "failure," while forgetting all about appreciating (and celebrating) the progress I have made.

(Note to self: Notice and appreciate your progress first, then decide what else you want to do, or decide you have done all you really wanted to do. Stop making the undone things in your life out to be failures.)

It's weird. I'm in the middle of a major storm in my life and yet I feel more alive than I have felt in a very long time.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fear Less

So, my youngest daughter gave me this "fearless" bracelet with a very nice note about how well I was doing at being fearless, and how my attitude and demeanor in dealing with my struggles has also helped her with her own anxieties.

I love the bracelet and have worn it constantly since she gave it to me (even though, on first sight, I thought to myself "This child likes the bling bling way more than I do!"). Fearless. It is a very nice affirmation.


But lately, I've moved from the affirmation to the admonishment: Fear less.

Last weekend, they couldn't do chemo because my platelets were too low. We made the best of it and left Houston to head to our quiet place in the country.

This weekend, I returned and they were able to do the chemo, with a couple of adjustments in the regime. But I am low on iron and need to take iron tablets (or eat spinach, or do both). I found this out when I went for a checkup with my primary care doc, so I was not surprised at this news. But when they started the chemo, the nurse said I was low on magnesium and he had a call in to my oncologist to see if he wanted me to have some added to my chemo treatment. The oncologist said he'd call a prescription in for me.

And then, most troubling of all, I had to see the liver specialist about the possibility of fatty liver disease. He says my liver function is fine, and my enzymes are fine, but there is this one little test they do that measures the amount of scar tissue and that stupid little test says my liver is scarred, which could mean I have cirrhosis of the liver. So he recommended an MRI. An MRI is one of the few things I really hoped I would not have to endure on this journey. So I whined about it to him and he said we could do an ultrasound that would give some indication of how "stiff" the liver might be. If it isn't stiff, I assume I wouldn't need to do the MRI. But if I need to do it, I have two options (options always make me feel better)--I can go somewhere else and have an open air MRI or I can have it done there in the traditional machine and be sedated. Neither option really appeals to me. So I'd appreciate all the prayers and kind thoughts I can get for my liver not to be stiff, for that stupid little test to be WRONG.

They did genetic testing because they thought I might have genes that just made me make tumors. I did not have those genes. They thought I had hepatitis C and now they say it was a "false positive." I guess they have to check everything out, and I guess I appreciate that, but at this point, it feels like a mixed blessing! I think he will have the ultrasound scheduled for the next time I go in for chemo, which will be weekend after next.

At one point, he asked if I was stressed because I was talking faster and faster, and he sometimes did that when he was stressed and I said "Yes, I'm stressed!" He then told me he was not thinking I had cirrhosis or liver cancer and keeping it to himself to come in and bombard me with the news at a later date. I told him I was not worried about that, I was worried about the machines! All he could tell me was don't worry about the machines. But I've got news for him. We fear what we fear, and our fear is not always logical!

In the end, I will do what I need to do, one way or the other. But in the meantime, I am just trying not to fret too much over the possibilities.

So yeah, right now, I can't quite manage the fearless part, the best I can manage is to fear less.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Dealing With Collateral Damage

I went shopping this weekend for clothes. I've lost weight and my pants were getting too loose for me to wear comfortably. I'm wearing a size that I have not worn in a very long time, probably since I first got married. It's hard to believe I'm wearing such a smaller size so I have trouble picking the right size, and believing I actually need the smaller size. In fact, I returned to the store today and exchanged some tops because I realized I'd grabbed a larger size out of habit and had not even bothered to see if the smaller size might work just as well, or better.

I am proud and grateful for the weight loss, and it's a nice "problem" to have, but it's a heckuva way to get there. I really didn't do anything to bring it on--my body has made it such that I really have no choice but to comply (or pay a price I do not want to pay for not staying within the boundaries now conscribed upon me by my condition). I've come to consider the weight loss as collateral damage from one of the most unsettling battles of my life.

I can not overeat without pain (mostly minor, but still, discomfort) and gastronomical distress. I now limit my consumption of refined sugar because "they" say "sugar feeds cancer." I try to avoid high fat meals (and have mostly succeeded) because "they" (my doctors) told me to. I've been called up and put on a short leash.

Some might resent that. I might resent that, at times, but only for a short while. Sugar, cakes and cookies in particular, has always been one of my greatest culinary loves. But when faced with the possibility that your bad habits might shorten your life, well, who (in their right, best mind) doesn't want to live? I want to be clear, I am referring to myself alone. There are others who can eat what they want and (apparently, possibly) slide by without consequence, but I have do not have that luxury, and I have, much of the time, a teachable spirit, so I am learning from my experience, and trying to make changes.

For me, there are now these boundaries. And rather than chafe and strain against them, I (for the most part, most of the time!) choose to accept and embrace them as best I can in hopes of coming out on the other side of this trial a healthier, leaner, and freer me. I do not want to waste this opportunity that is ensconced in my momentary suffering.

Apparently chemo makes my fingernails grow stronger. Today I painted them. The color is called "Tough Love." It occurs to me that is what I have had to do for my body and myself, practice a little bit of tough love by saying no to some of these things I want that are not good for me.

Also, I don't want to ignore the quote printed on the journal that my short little fingers are resting on. I am brave, strong, and smart. There have been days (years) when I didn't know that so well. But I'm now far more aware of it than I have been in the past. I've had many opportunities to prove it to my very own self.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Truth is Everlasting

A tag from a tea bag I had.

Again, it's been a while since I've written anything.

Chemo is every other weekend, and though the symptoms aren't totally terrible, they do set me back a bit. And with the weather being so cold, I haven't wanted to do anything but get home from work and hunker down in my bed.

The chemo causes my fingers and toes (and nose!) to tingle when they get cold. Sometimes when that happens and I am walking, it's hard to walk because I can't really feel my toes and feet. So I prefer staying out of the cold, which is unfortunate because I do like winter. 

All things considered, I am doing well, though I do sometimes feel slightly like I am in a state of limbo. But that's okay, it's winter, a season of dormant rest, and so, I shall rest.


Sunday, January 04, 2015

What Do You See, Little Stone Angel?

She walked into the cemetery clutching two bunches of artificial flowers. Flowers and hair-she's obviously no good at arranging either of them. But every single time she enters the cemetery with her carefully chosen artificial flowers, she has high hopes of hitting perfection with her flower arrangement. Most times she is disappointed. Today was one of those days. She had to walk away with an inner sigh and an unspoken "It's good enough." Some things are okay being good enough. She didn't sit on her grandmother's tombstone as she usually did. She didn't sit on her son's vault as she usually did. It was cold. The concrete would have been cold.

All she had was silk and plastic. How could she expect perfection?

All she saw that day was imperfection and impermanence.

There was a lone poinsettia stem nestled between two graves that had blown from a nearby Christmas bouquet.

There were dead branches from a plant that had long ago seen its better days.

There was a stone that somehow got moved from its spot on a vault, leaving virgin concrete as white as the woman's thighs exposed and shining for all to see.

And there was Golden Jesus, nestled between silk fern stems and red poinsettias, with his arms beckoning wide.

Last, but not least, there was this pouting angel. She may have been the one who took the walk through the cemetery, and the one who wrote this accounting of the activities of the woman who can't arrange flowers or hair.

It gets lonely in the cemetery. Sometimes she likes to think about the lives of the people who visit the cemetery. The living ones. The sad ones. She may have imagined the part about the woman sighing and thinking it's good enough but she did not imagine the woman's sadness.

(When I write about my grief, I worry that people will think I am drowning in it. I am not. But there are times when the feelings wash over me, and sometimes I deal with that by writing about it.

My son's best friend, the one he was working and living with in Pennsylvania when he died, came by to visit us before he left to go back to work in Colorado. In about a month, he is moving back home for a while. He was a very good friend to my son, and my son to him. We had a very good visit, talking a bit more about the night he died, and the days before that. We told a few stories and shared a few laughs and good memories of my son. That's the other way I honor my grief, by remembering the stories of his life.

My youngest went by to see the friend and she texted me to say seeing him made her miss her brother so much more, that it was like peeling a scab. It's never been that way for me, though I know it has been that way for my husband. But this time around, he seemed better able to deal with seeing the friend, and got to ask him a few questions about our son's last days, which seemed to help him. Healing does come, but the scars always remain.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thoughts on New Year's Eve

I thought I'd surely write more on this journey, but things were a bit wobbly at first. I'm slowly settling into the routine of cancer fighting while simultaneously trying to continue living a worthwhile life! I've had my second chemo treatment, suffered through several days of nausea and am now feeling a little better and thinking about the coming year.

I guess I have not said it here, but I will be having chemo in Houston every other Friday for six months, twelve treatments in all. So the first half of my new year will be somewhat consumed with getting well. But I want more in my life than just fighting cancer. I know I want to live less wastefully. And with more awareness and intention. I want to live deliberately. I don't yet know exactly how that will look in the coming year.

Practically speaking, my house is a wreck. I want to clear some things out and lighten things up. I want to make room for serenity in my home. I want to fix some things that have been broken for a very long time. I am speaking both literally and metaphorically. 

I want time for creativity and art making. I want to do small kindnesses for others in ways that only I can do. I always have such good intentions. I want to make good actions.

I want simplicity. I want to take better care of myself. I want small rituals and consistent routines in my life.

I want less of my time spent mindlessly perusing Facebook!

I want to blog more.

Most of all, I want to live several more years. Cancer free, please.

That's all I have for now. 

A very Happy New Year to each of you....