Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I am not a surfer. I know a lot about surfing. I have watched many hours of surfing simply because if my husband had his choice he would spend most days surfing. He has described in great detail surfing and has encouraged me to surf but I have never pursued this great love of his. Honestly, it scares me. I am not a very good swimmer - I grew up in Colorado and never became confident in the water. The few times I have ventured into the ocean I ended up with a mouth full of sand and my nose full of salt water. No, I would much rather sit on the sidelines (the beach) and just watch.

What is it about surfing that makes people so addicted to it? It is almost as if they really can't get enough - they always want another wave. I was reflecting on this the other night as I watched my husband read his surfing magazine for the 20Th time in bed.

I thought about surfing as a metaphor for life. As you look out at the ocean you see one wave after another come crashing on shore. It looks scary, it is loud and it seems like it would just overwhelm you. If you are brave enough though you can grab your board (you security blanket) and head out. You find that you have to really work hard just to get out into it - paddling and paddling - maybe even holding your breath as you duck dive under the water. Your heart beats faster as you dig deeper and push harder. Finally you are beyond the break and suddenly it is much more quiet. You feel the gentle lulling of the ocean as you bob up and down. You begin to relax and feel the serenity. Enjoy. You wait. Sometimes for a very long time. And then, you see the swell coming. Now you must make the decision whether or not to go for it. Paddle away from it or paddle into it. You decide that this wave could be just the right wave for you so you turn your board and paddle like mad. In one continuous move you jump to a standing position and balance just as the water falls away from you. You have to bend your knees - let the wave accept you as you accept the wave. You look down the face of the wave. Falling fast. Trusting. When you reach the bottom you get to hold on for the ride. Making it your own. Adding your own style. Feeling the power of the ocean beneath you, the exhilaration. You ride it all the way in and head back out for more.

We can sit on the shore and just watch our lives pass us by or we can get our feet wet, jump in, hold our breath and hope for the best. We might get tumbled a few times but in the end the ride is all worth while.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I really think it is amazing how we are all connected. I feel compelled to extend my hand, and my heart, to all of you whom I have never met. I never thought for a moment that "strangers" would ever be remotely interested in following my blog. Many of you have made comments that literally bring me to tears, and I know there are a few that silently check in. How is it that we can feel this connection across thousands of miles without a voice or image. The strange thing is that I know you are all there. I can feel it. How awesome would it be to have all of you in one room. Where I could look out and admire you, get you know you on a personal level as you have gotten to know me. In a way though I think I already do. That one big room is called our world and something drew us together - that "next blog" click maybe - but I don't think it was random. We were meant to connect. I may never "meet" you but I thank you - from the bottom of my heart. You give me strength, you encourage me, you lift me up. I am honored and blessed to call you my angels.

Monday, March 29, 2010


If anyone is going to get Alzheimer's it is going to be me. For some reason I just don't put a lot of stock in the past. I can easily memorize choreography or learn something but to catalog and retain details from the past almost seem like a waste of time to me. My children are going to need therapy someday just because their mother wont know how old they were when they lost their first tooth or took their first step. It doesn't mean I love them any less - in fact I think it just makes me love them more - the way they are right now. Fortunately, I do have photographs and I did write a few things down. I also don't hang onto things. All of their fine artwork? Most of it is in a happy little graveyard where finger paintings and chalk drawings go.

I guess I am of the nature to just move on. Like these breasts of mine. Yeah, I kind of like them but they are going to some other place in a few months. They did what they were suppose to do - fed my children, attracted my husband. Now I can let them go and marvel at modern medicine and embrace the new ones - scars and all. I may not remember the details of this life when it is over but I will most certainly remember the love. I will remember what it was like to know you - not your hair or your clothes or how smart you were - just you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I had a long talk with my sweet 12 year old boy today. He is just entering the throws of puberty with all of the ups an downs. The sudden flashes of anger or energy. Not knowing why you are in a bad mood or what is making you uncomfortable. Everything blown into a much bigger proportion than necessary. On top of this ordinary jolt into adulthood he has to deal with the very large and scary notion that his mother has cancer. I can only imagine how he feels.

I explained to him that today - coming down off of steroids and pumped full of chemo I was feeling a bit of the same way. Edgy. Nervous. Like I can't get my heart out of my throat. Together we sat and calmed down. We looked at what was good. The sun was shining. He has good friends he can count on. We have our family and our love. We took all of those things beyond our control and let them go. We focused on what was real and now. We both started to breathe a bit easier and we both shed a tear in comfort and peace - because sometimes the tears come when what is good is overwhelming.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I am pretty much winging this whole "healing" thing. I am relying on God - trusting that the doctors He brought to me are the right ones. I am trusting that the ideas that come into my head are brought from Him. I figure a good healthy diet and exercise can't hurt and I definitely agree with a bit of the mind body connection. So.... I am trying this visualization thing. I have been for awhile - when I get around to thinking about it or when I am up at 3am and can't quite go back to sleep. I have read many stories about this visualization technique. One story was about a boy who kept shooting the cancer cells with a gun and one day he told his mother that the cancer just wasn't there anymore - they checked and it wasn't. In other stories I heard about visualizing sharks etc. Mine idea just came one day. I imagined light just radiating through my body and engulfing the darkness. I imagine the cancer as being anything that is not of myself - and dark (and of course on the ultrasound and mammograms it is dark) and lightness as everything that is of myself and healthy. I figure the darkness can only hide from the light for so long. Eventually - the light will win. In my visualization I see the dark spots just disappearing leaving a nice clean white image.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


It comes in all shapes and sizes doesn't it? We attended Julia's school talent show this week. She was in a group dance number and had also planned on singing a solo but her voice was gone after a week of incessant coughing. As far as talent goes their wasn't a whole lot (Simon Cowell would have had a hay day) BUT the fact that these kids all got up there (some of them shaking) and braved being in front of a large audience takes some guts. The best part was watching all of these kids support each other and cheer each other on - no matter what the talent was. It was nice to see such a close community that really cared about each other.

I also had Chemo #4 this week. This one has been the smoothest so far. All of my counts are back up and I was out of there in record time. I am feeling quite well for day 2. These nurses have amazing talent - I watch them as they keep these happy faces on while we are all hooked up. I know they deal with some pretty hard things on a daily basis and yet they keep smiling - for us. That is talent. They have a gift. I am trying to make being a good patient one of my talents.

Monday, March 22, 2010


John and I were very fortunate to have been able to go on an actual "date" this past weekend. We went to dinner and a movie. While we were sitting in the movie theater waiting for the movie to start we were both looking at my hands. They have become a bit tattered to say the least. Chemo does a number on your nails and hands. The skin on the end of my fingers is darker than the rest of my hands and they are much more wrinkled than before. They remind me if my mothers hands. I vividly remember looking at her hands when she was going through chemo - I loved those hands. It also reminded me of a dream I had not too long after she passed away. I was sitting on a train holding someones hand. I did not know where I was going and I didn't see the face of the person I was holding hands with. I just looked down and knew with absolute certainty that it was my mother's hand.

After I woke up from that dream I went to look up what it might mean because it was so vivid. I guess when you dream of being on a train it is like the train is your life journey - my mom was holding my hand through it. I have never had a dream about a train before or since that night.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My New Job

You know how when you get a new job everything is so exciting? New responsibilities, new environments, new people. You wake up every morning and your heart beats a bit faster with that nervous anticipation of what the day will bring. Then after a few months the excitement wears down. Now you have gotten to know everyone and the time seems to go much slower because you already know what to do, there is nothing new to look at. I think this happens with just about any job - even if it is your dream job. I was just talking about this with my brother who just started a great new job. For me anyway, that lull that comes after a few months goes away once you get into the groove of things and then life goes on regardless of your job. You start to enjoy things outside of this environment and you don't mind knowing exactly what to do and what to expect from your 9 -5.

This is now my job, and I am now in that lull. Ho hum. Not too excited to be down for another week (now that I know what to expect). The fear of the unknown that keeps you all riled up is gone. I am NOT complaining. I am much happier dealing with my 9-5 so that I CAN enjoy my life and not think about cancer or chemo or surgery every minute of the day. I think about those people who most likely have had or will have a much longer fight that I will have. Years in fact. They must just get into the groove, do their thing, and keep going. One day at a time. I am waiting to find my groove.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Today is the first day of spring and this week I did a lot of springy things. I cleaned the house but good. There is something quite satisfying about bleaching things and killing germs, finding lost dust bunnies and making the shower sparkle. I also cleaned out our vegetable gardens and got them ready for planting. A dear friend told me not too long ago that she was weeding her yard and she imagined each one of those weeds as one of my cancer cells. She told me she did a good job on her yard and today when I was doing the same it was quite satisfying to have that imagery in my head.

Have you noticed how it feels to have these chores done? Don't you breathe easier when your house is clean and organized? I think we need to periodically do the same with our lives. Clean out all of those drawers in our heads where we store things we think we might use later but never do, get rid of thoughts that just clutter everything up. Make room for new things. Those weeds need to be pulled so the new growth will have room to flourish and multiply - providing us with much needed nourishment and the sweeter tastes of life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I have been so completely blessed with good genetics for most of my life. I have an unusually high metabolism and don't need to worry too much about what I eat. Of course in the past 7 years I have also progressively increased the number of classes I teach so perhaps that was counterbalancing the age related slowing of my metabolism. Flash forward 3 months and here I am practically sedentary for several days on end combined with the effects of chemo related menopause and snacking all day due to boredom wandering the house. A recipe for disaster. I now have a lovely flabby ring around my middle and the flesh on my arms and legs has that wonderful jello effect. I think God wants me to try on the shoes of all of my students because I can sure relate to weight related frustration. I have always had a fairly healthy diet but now I am trying to portion control, count calories and make every calorie count so my body stays strong but I don't pack on the pounds. I went from teaching 9 classes a week to 0. Now exercise on a good day is maybe 20 minutes of cardio. As you read before - getting through an hour long class of Bodyflow is a reason to celebrate.

Just so you know I am not obsessing over it. I know a few LBs wont be the end of the world - a little more to love right? I just know that getting my endurance back when this is over will be challenging enough without having to carry an extra 15 pounds around. I also want you to know that I feel your pain when the chocolate ice cream and french fries (ahhh french fries) are calling your name.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I ventured over to the oncologists office today. Had some blood work done to see if my anemia was better and fortunately it was almost back up to normal and I didn't have to have another procrit shot (woo hoo!). It is really nice that I can have my blood work, injections and chemo all in the same place. Liz is right next door and shares her office with my surgeon so everyone is right there.

I find myself looking forward to my trips to this office. There is definitely a sense of comfort knowing that everyone there already knows I have cancer and nobody looks at me strangely because I don't have hair. The staff is super friendly and all of us patients smile and give each other the "it's good to be alive" look. I am not a big support group person and even though I don't usually chat with these people it is nice to know I have something in common with them. Sometimes I find myself wanting to rally everyone for a big cheer - "we can do it!" Of course they would all think I was crazy - I think it is the instructor in me wanting to come out.

So in other words - I don't dread going to chemo. I actually look forward to it. One more notch on the belt. Next Wednesday I will go in and give my Oncologist a big hug and tell him I love him like I always do (he definitely thinks I am crazy) - thankful that he is saving my life. I will settle into my comfy chair. Enjoy chatting it up with the nurses and know that I am exactly where I am suppose to be.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Life

We spent a great day down in Santa Barbara yesterday. The best part was driving over the hills and seeing all of the areas where there was a devastating fire a couple of years ago. We drove through there about a year ago and everything was black. It was very strange to see skeletons of trees that were once tall, beautiful and green and a bed of black darkness. This time we saw nothing but this intense greenery everywhere. The nitrogen that entered the soil after the fire has made the new growth absolutely beautiful and lush. New life seems to be flourishing.

Time + Care + Light = Life

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Have you ever noticed what we do when we want to feel safe? We physically close everything up. We either make fists or slump our shoulders over. Sometimes we may even curl up into a fetal position. Child's pose in yoga is a very closed position - tucked in and looking at the floor. Does it really make us safer though? Perhaps in an earthquake or some other external physical threat where you would need to protect your vital organs. But what about the things we are afraid of on a daily basis. Are we really protecting ourselves? I think most of us walk around trying to be prepared for a fall. We hunch our shoulders and brace ourselves just in case our hearts might get broken - "your not good enough for the job"......."your child has been hanging around with the wrong crowd"...... "I don't love you anymore"....."you have cancer". We protect ourselves with not only a closed body but sometimes a closed mind. Never wanting it to be exposed - vulnerable.

Why am I saying this? I was looking at some beautiful roses 2 dear friends gave to me. When they brought them over they were closed - but still beautiful. After a few days they really opened up and that is when their true beauty shined. I challenge you to do what I did. Go outside. Stand with you feet steady and shoulder width apart. Open your arms wide with your palms facing up. Lift your eyes to the sky. Take a deep breath in and lift your heart. Feel how open you can be. Free your mind of the "no's" and "I can'ts". The "wont's" and "I shouldn'ts".

When we prepare ourselves for a fall - we don't have room to fly. When we are closed up all we can see is ourselves - we can't see the extraordinary all around us.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Saying Yes

Today I woke up feeling fantastic! The kids had the day off of school so I decided to steal their best friends and go for a walk on one of our favorite trails. I made it all the way to the end and back and was thrilled to be doing something "normal". When we got back to the car we were all thirsty so we went into the local market to get a drink. Jack and Josh asked if they could have an iced coffee and the girls wanted soda. My normal "mom brain" immediately said no - caffeine, sugar.... but I decided this one time would be OK. Their smiles were priceless. Of course it was followed by many "thank yous" and "Mom you are SOOOOOOO awesome!" (now who couldn't use a little of that?). We went to their favorite lunch place for some wraps and good conversation. Just me and these 4 kids and an incredible day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"What does it feel like?"

I get this question a lot. What does chemotherapy feel like? Well this is what it feels like to me. Everyone has a different experience and has different side effects.

Day 1 - Mostly fine just a bit sleepy from the Benadryl and a little amped from the steroids. Starting to feel like my brain is not my own.

Day 2 - Upset stomach but not unbearable. Things start to taste funny. Gurgling stomach. Skin starts to feel kind of elevated and puffy. Fatigue starts to set in.

Day 3 - More of the above. The biggest symptom by far is fatigue - not sleepy but my body feels very tired. Like I just worked out for 3 hours.

Day 4 and 5 - These are usually the worst. Coming down off of steroids. Digestion issues. So fatigued that just walking across the room takes serious effort. Heart pounding even when I am sitting still for hours. My brain doesn't work quite right - for instance it is hard for me to think about how to spell words. Shooting bone pain from the Neulasta shot.

Day 6 and 7 - I start to feel better rather quickly. I wake up feeling more refreshed and by the middle of the day I am tired again but much better than day 4 and 5.

Day 8 - Practically normal. I can do chores, grocery shop, cook etc. I wouldn't do a heavy work out but a walk wouldn't be out of the question.

Day 9 - 21 - I progressively feel better and better every day.

It is not nearly as bad as I anticipated. During my bad days they seem to last forever but once I am beyond those days it feels great to feel so much better. I appreciate every moment. I hope you never have to go through this but if you do maybe you wont be so scared.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Extreme Makeover - Soul Edition

Have you ever seen this show? I must admit I am a complete sucker for it. In fact I almost prefer to record it and watch it the next day with nobody around because I get so emotional over it. There is something so right with the world when you can see so many people giving unselfishly to strangers. If you haven't seen the show (Home edition) then let me fill you in. They find a family - a good family. People who have tried to help out their community in some way or reach out to others. The family also is usually going through some difficulty (money, health etc.) and they have a dilapidated house. In comes ABC and the Extreme Makeover crew and they send the family on vacation while they build them a beautiful new home in a week. When the family comes home they are always overwhelmed and at a loss for words for their gratitude.

I am calling this Extreme Makeover - Soul Edition because that is what you are doing for me. Granted I have not done anything outstanding for my community - I have not started a new charity or served in the armed forces. I haven't adopted struggling children or raised substantial amounts of money for the needy. And yet you are still there. Every single day. A card. A phone call. A meal. A smile. Giving - unconditionally - to me and my family. Rebuilding my soul. Why? I don't deserve such a gift. I weep every single day at the love you pour out to me - and all I want to do is give it back to you ten fold. All of you. My cup has run over and it aches at the fullness. My soul - enriched beyond measure. My angels. I want to scoop you all up into my arms and never let you go. I want you to feel how I feel. Blessed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Human Spirit

We are truly amazing creatures. We have this unbelievable desire to survive, to endure. I vividly remember seeing my mother's body a couple of weeks before she passed away. There was no possible way that this thin, frail, body could still be living - it was only her spirit that was keeping her alive. As much as it is a huge bummer how I feel after chemo it is hardly agonizing. I know that in a few days I will be feeling better. I think about people with chronic illnesses. I think about those children who have to wonder where there next meal is. I think about all of those who suffer endlessly. And yet they still endure. They strive to survive. We are so strong. Our environment and surroundings are only a small part of the equation. Our bodies a small piece of the puzzle. There is so much more and I think we all feel it. Know it. How can we even question the existence of God when so much of who we are is not something you can touch or feel. Our spirit is so strong, so powerful it was made to stand the test of time. Eternity.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Climbing out of the rabbit hole

The kids and their grandparents went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D today. I think it was quite appropriate considering I have felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole for the past couple of days. Those crazy commercials for the movie give you a glimpse into my brain and I am now starting to feel a bit more like myself. I have learned in the last 48 hours what it means to be "still" - I mean really still.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Drugs, Drugs and more Drugs

Yesterday was round 3 (hurray! 1/2 way there!). As it turns out I am anemic so they had to administer even more drugs through my IV. I counted them up on the way home and yesterday I had 11 different drugs running through my body along with who knows how many CCs of saline (talk about bloated). Very strange to think about when I don't even take vitamins. Even though I feel a bit different I thought about what I could be feeling if I didn't have these drugs. Many of them counteract the side effects of the chemo. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, infection, blood transfusions.....(making you sick yet?). Modern science has come a long ways since the days my mom was fighting this same disease. I feel a bit like a test tube but I am not complaining. Today I take 4 drugs orally and have one injection. Tomorrow I am down to 3 drugs, the day after 2 and the day after that only 1. I think I was the $10,000 woman yesterday (or close to it) - thank God for insurance.

I also had an ultrasound on the tumors - they are shrinking and that means this is all working. Thankful, thankful, thankful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My twin

Well, here it is. Me in all of my bald glory (you know you were just dying to know what I looked liked) - you see the resemblance between me and Lord Voldermort? Just kidding. Actually, I do have a point. In Harry Potter Lord Voldermort is referred to as "the one who must not be named". You see they are all afraid that if they say his name he will magically come back and their pretty little world will be changed. I think it is the same for "cancer". Whenever I say it I can see the slight cringe on peoples faces ("oh, she said it - ah!"). Well I am just going to say it all of the time.... cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer. It is funny that the more you say something the less weight it has. Try it. Why should we let this stupid little cellular glob have so much power over us. I say we defeat the darn thing and the only way we are going to do that is by looking it square in the face and saying "I don't think so".

By the way, I think this is going to be the new trend. I can just see all of you running out to get your heads shaved..... just know that I started it ;).

Monday, March 1, 2010


You know there are a lot of theories out there regarding manifest destiny. I am not sure that I agree with all of them. You see, I don't think that I brought on this cancer myself. I believe that my body, maybe like my mother's, was predisposed to make a nice little home for this cancer to grow when I turned 40. I don't think my thinking had anything to do with it. I was not afraid of it. In fact I was very pro-active about it in the last ten years with yearly mammograms and self exams so that I would not be afraid. I think of those people who are absolutely shocked when they are diagnosed with a disease - sometimes something they have never even heard of before. Did they bring it on themselves? No. How can we go around thinking that everything bad that happens to us is by our own bad energy? Earthquakes? Fires? I don't think so.

I do however believe that we have a choice in how we deal with these events. I choose to have a very positive outlook on things - for the most part I always have - long before this diagnosis. I have been labeled little miss sunshine for awhile. But why not? Why not choose to live in the most positive way that you can? Why not spread around good thoughts and energy?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Ahhh that age old question. Well, I think that our view on what is "bad" is all relative. I can see how this "cancer" has already brought me closer to my husband, to my children and my family and friends. I can see how it has made my life richer and more meaningful. I know that when my mother passed away I was very, very sad. But if she had not - I never would have met or married John. My life would have had a different direction and I can almost guarantee that in that direction I would have faced an equal or greater challenge than losing my mom at a young age.

We can choose to dwell on the negative and live in an unsatisfied state - perpetually standing still - or we can choose to take those challenges and learn from them and move on. I am choosing to move on.