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    Another year has gone by, and I am still here.

    It feels important to say that.  I know that there are women being diagnosed with IBC who are frightened, spooked by the statistics or just the “C” word, just starting on the incredibly rough path to post cancer life.  Unfortunately, most of us tend to get absorbed in normalcy once the heroics are over, and forget to let y’all know we’re still here.

    I fought my battle in 2007, most of all for my children.  I was damned if I was going to have someone else raise them!  Now, nearly ten years later, they are almost launched.  They were my Reason.  I am happy to say that now that the work has mostly been done, I still have ample reasons.  My son is moving out soon, and my daughter is in her last year of high school, currently absorbed in college applications.  My Knight in Shining Armor did that job very well, until I needed something else, and then he flailed.  So I am again on my own, and I am at peace with it and grateful for perfect timing and a benevolent universe that has always taken care of me.

    After I went through treatment, there was a period of quiet, of overwhelming gratitude, that invited reinvention.  At that time, I decided that I had to have meaning in my life every day, joy, service, art, fun.  This, and my children happy.  I feel on the cusp of this quietude again, as my son prepares to leave the nest, and my daughter is driving herself to her many important pursuits this year.  I really love my job, and I have lots of writing to do!  It’s been on the back burner while I raised my children, as is right and proper.  Now I am excited, curious, and sad all at once.  I had breakfast with my remarkable daughter yesterday, and got tearful thinking of how much I will miss her.  The boy is just moving a few miles away, so I’m sure he’ll show up at my house to do his laundry or raid my refrigerator.

    She is applying to colleges on the other coast, and then planning on two years in the Peace Corps.  She told me of an internship she is already considering, a summer in Kenya facilitating the education of girls.  Proud, and biting my nails.

    Surviving cancer feels epic when it happens.  After treatment, I was on a cloud of gratitude, for some long time, feeling like everything my eyes rested on was blessed.  Sometimes I wish for that same feeling, but it has given way to simple satisfaction, being at home in this “whole big beautiful mess”, to quote my friend Becky.

    For anyone reading this who just started:  normal comes again.  Believe it.  And normal is sweet indeed.

     

    When I decided that I was “not —-ing leaving the planet” because I was going to raise my kids, I had no idea what that would wet hugactually look like.  It didn’t matter.  It was a gift to anticipate, a package to open when the time was right, and I was determined to be around to open it.  I was mostly concerned about my children growing up without me.  What I didn’t think about at the time, but am thoroughly enjoying now, is what an absolute blast they are.  Teenagers are crazy and wonderful.  My mom refers to their “demented energy”.  Yes!   As long as I  maintain my sense of humor, I ride the tougher waves relatively easily.  I find that true of most things!

    You’ve probably heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge.  I wish I’d thought of it for IBC!  Anyway, I’m glad.  I had to have my dunking, but I didn’t mind.  The picture to the right is of my daughter, my son, and her friend.  They were nominated for the challenge, and recruited my son to dump the ice water on their heads.  After he did his brotherly duty, my daughter’s friend shouted “Hug!” and they chased him down.

    They tickle my funny bone and exasperate me daily.  My son thinks “school is stupid” and tested out early.  My daughter has decided she’s going to Columbia University (now I’m sweating bullets) and after years of constant squabbling, they are good friends.

    When I was fighting cancer, I didn’t know entirely what I was fighting for.  I was fighting for the surprise, for the unopened gift I didn’t want to miss out on.  If you are currently in the fight, whether a cancer, depression, or just a rotten day, remember that none of us can predict how good it can be!  So, if it sucks right now, take heart.  There is no limit to how much better it can get.

    If you want to see me get dunked, follow the link to my facebook page.  She who nominated “Mama Danu” (Emily…an exceptionally good kid) thoroughly enjoyed sopping me when I started to run off at the mouth.  Her mom and my daughter are laughing in the background.

    I love being “that” mom!

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    Euwwww.

    That was my reaction to hearing about this procedure, as my friends hit the 50 year mark and had to have one.  Then it was my turn.  If it is time for you to have a colonoscopy and you’ve been putting it off, don’t.  It is a very useful diagnostic tool, and colon cancer, like so many others, is treatable if caught early.  Polyps in the colon can become cancerous, so this is one of those diagnostic tests that is actually preventive, because the doctor will remove any polyps that are found.

    The actual test consists of a tube with a camera inserted into the rectum and all the way into the large intestine.  Being able to actually look means that any problems can be addressed immediately.  What the doctor finds on your first colonoscopy determines when it will be recommended that you have another one.  If all goes well, it will be ten years.  If they find something, it may be five.  Better to know than not!  And, it’s really not that bad.  I was in terror needlessly, and postponed my procedure twice before just doing it.

    As a cancer survivor, I’m not messing around with diagnostic procedures that could save my life.  As I researched the procedure, I learned that 50% of Americans don’t do it, and an appalling number of deaths could be prevented if they did.  Knowing that knowledge is power, I did my research, but there were still questions I couldn’t get the answer to.  So, here’s the path to the least discomfort and the most peace of mind if it’s your turn!

    First of all, the dreaded “stuff you have to drink” has a very good purpose, which is to clean out your colon so the doctor can get a really good look and see if there are any polyps to remove.  The cleaner the better.  The stuff just runs through your system and scours as it goes.  The less there is in there in the first place, the less likely it will be really uncomfortable.  I may have made that up, but it seemed to work for me.  Eating lightly the day before you fast is a good idea.  My doctor had me eliminate foods with any significant fiber for two days.  It was an opportunity for me to congratulate myself on my eating habits, because I had to give up my favorite foods!  No oatmeal, no nuts, no fruit… ah well, it’s temporary. You can manage it for a couple of days, and it will make the rest easier.

    You will not be on the can all day. 

    You may have heard horror stories about running to the bathroom all day long.  I tried to get the real scoop, and couldn’t find it anywhere, so here it is:  actual toilet time is 3-4 hours for the whole jug of solution.  My doses were divided, half in the early afternoon and half in the evening.  The stomach rumbling started about an hour after I started, and the clearing out process took about 90 minutes to two hours.  Then I had a break, and went through the whole thing again in the evening.  It’s not that bad if you’re prepared.

    When your stomach starts to gurgle, the process is immanent.  Gather your supplies and head for your temporary office!

    Take care of your tush.  

    This advice came from my mom, and it was good.  Some diaper rash ointment or equivalent before you even start will prevent any discomfort.  It’s also well worth it to have REALLY soft toilet paper.

    Claim the bathroom as your very own.  

    If you only have one, send everyone else away for the afternoon!  Once the purge starts, it’s pretty continuous until it’s over.  Just accept that fact and take everything into the little room to be comfortable.  I watched back to back episodes of Game of Thrones.  A good book will also do very well.

    Have your prescription drink, a glass, a timer (8 oz. every 15 minutes or so is standard I think) and something else to drink as well.  Why?

    It is very important to stay hydrated.  

    The solution you drink is very high in sodium.  Besides tasting really nasty after awhile, it draws fluids out of your body and can leave you dehydrated, which can result in feeling  bit woozy.  All the liquid foods you are allowed are a good idea.  Enjoy that yellow jello.  Drink your ginger ale.  Keep chugging that water.  After all, you’re stuck in the little room anyway, so what if you have to urinate a lot?

    Another important reason is that it will make the I.V. easier when you have the colonoscopy.  I hate I.V’s. and I am not an easy stick, after all the chemotherapy I’ve had.  Being properly hydrated makes that part go much more smoothly.

    The day of the colonoscopy is the easier part!

    My team was really wonderful.  They know everyone is nervous about this procedure, so they tend to be super nice and reassuring!  Many people don’t remember a thing after they get the intravenous sedation.  I remember it all, and actually found it rather fascinating.  Having the tube with the camera inserted was a little uncomfortable, but the rest of it was not bad, and I could see what the doctor was seeing on the screen.  Once they have the tube all the way in, they pull it out slowly and look with the camera.  If they see any polyps, they remove them.  Then you’re done, and you go chill out in the recovery room.  The medication they gave me for conscious sedation left me feeling rather pleasant and sleepy.

    When you’re coherent enough to get dressed and gather your belongings, your support person can come and take you home.  It seems to me that it was less than an hour after the procedure that I was ready to go.  I felt fine, and once I was home I settled into bed and had a delicious three hour nap.  I woke up in the afternoon feeling just fine.

    The best part is that I don’t have to do it again for another ten years!  It’s nice to know for sure that my colon is healthy.  One less thing to dwell in that nebulous land of the unknown.  I appreciate all the evidence I get that 7 years after cancer I am a healthy middle aged lady.

    If you are about to have this procedure, I hope this is helpful, and if you’ve been postponing it, don’t!  I hope I’ve taken some of the mystery and the dread out of it.  Peace of mind is worth a little minor discomfort.


     

    This month is a milestone.  It just crashed into my awareness on Sunday, as I was taking my daughter and her friend shopping.  We were driving along, and saw a man on a bicycle with a little trailer behind him.  There was a dog in it, and the sight was just so funny!  We pulled up next to him to get a picture.  Alas, my daughter has not sent it to me yet.  I will post it when she does!

    The man gave us a big grin. The man gave us a big grin.As we were having a good laugh, I had one of those “high on life” moments I get every so often.  I get them a lot more these last seven years than I used to before that.  I think I took everything far too seriously.  What happened in 2007 was serious.  Very little after that has been!

    Seven years from tomorrow, I received the diagnosis of Stage IIIC Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  My first thought was for my children.  I was determined to see them grow up.  I have done that, and what a wild ride it’s been!  They drive me absolutely nuts many days, and I treasure it all.

    The hard lesson that cancer taught me was to put myself FIRST.  That goes against everything most of us were taught, especially people my age, the baby boomers.  I’m right on the tail end of that wave.  I remember June Cleaver and all those nice ladies who took care of everybody.  I remember the Enjoli commercials.

    “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never never let you forget you’re a man!”

    Oh good grief!  Puh-LEASE!  Nobody can do that and have any juice left.  I call BS.

    Self care is sexy!  It means that I approach life on full, not on empty.  I am convinced that I am alive today because I got the message.  Not only am I alive, but I have a really good laugh most days, and I don’t sweat the small stuff.  I do hope you’ll indulge a little motherly pride, as I post pictures of the offspring I was determined to raise.  They are feisty, demented, gifted, amazing teenagers with larger than life attitude, and I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!

    What always comes up when I feel full to overflowing like this is the continued commitment to giving back.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have to do this.

    I just set up a new website for massage therapists, because I feel so blessed to have been doing this work for the last 23 years.  I also know that massage therapists and other healers tend to give and give, as I did.  I have a very different viewpoint now!  You can check it out at www.thriving massagetherapist.com. 

    leaping over small children to break a board!

    leaping over small children to break a board!

    exuberant girl!

    exuberant girl!

     

    My cast is coming off on June 11. It will be exactly 6 weeks and three days from when I injured it. If the doctor’s office was open on the weekend I might’ve made it six weeks to the day!

    I decided when I injured it that I would be derailed for a short time as possible. Unfortunately, when you ask a doctor how to make it heal quickly all he usually have tell you is drink your milk and keep it immobilized. Not satisfied with that, I went online and did my research.

    I learned that anti-inflammatories during the first week are counterproductive, because the inflammation response is part of the healing process. So, I took Tylenol instead, and got to work on my guided imagery. I have a whole crew of the little osteognomes in there, bridging the gap across the fracture, wielding huge knitting needles.

    After the first week, the doctor was pleased and startled by how fast healing was underway, but dismayed that it had moved out of position just a little bit. He wanted to discuss surgery. I decided that those booms were going to move back where they belonged.

    After a week of pulling my fingers, tapping on the bone where it wanted to move, supplementing with calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, and lots of fresh food and rest, my doctor was startled again.

    He thought perhaps that my wrist was aligned properly because the x-ray was taken at a different angle. I told him, “No I did that!”

    That was May 14. We ditched the splint, put on a coolerriffic purple cast that lets me bend at the elbow, and he told me he’d see me in four weeks to have the cast removed. Woo hoo!

    There is always more to a healing story than the doctors tell you. It felt great to take charge of my recovery. I’ll be back in business in less than three weeks.

    17 days and counting!

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    I broke my wrist nearly three weeks ago. It has been quite an education.

    About a year ago I became very concerned about the state of my bones. I have a friend who went through menopause at 35, and found out at 45 that she had osteoporosis. I went through menopause at 45, due to chemotherapy. Last year I asked my doctor for a bone scan, because I was concerned. I asked several times for a close look at my results, but was told that they were not significant.

    Fast-forward to April 27. I was racing up the stairs to the Canada College Main Stage theater, in a big hurry because I had to braid my daughter’s hair. She was playing Tiger Lily in Peter Pan. I knew she would be stressed because I was late.

    I tripped and fell forward landing on the stair. As I broke my fall time stopped, and I observed to my dismay that my wrist was bending in a way was never designed to bend. I knew I have broken it.

    The ER department at Kaiser did an excellent job with my wrist. I was in and out in three hours, with my wrist reset and in a splint. One good thing that came out of it was that I asked the ER doctor to look at my bone scan. My suspicions were confirmed. I have osteopenia. Very mild, true, but present all the same.

    What I think is cause for concern and what other people think is cause for concern often varies wildly. I love my oncologist. She’s wonderful. However, osteopenia is only relevant as it relates to osteoporosis. Even then, the question she asks is, is it time for Fosamax?

    That’s not my perspective!

    I decided at that time to take on my osteopenia. I also decided to use everything I know to heal this broken wrist in record time. So far my doctor has been startled by my progress. The cast comes off June 11, six weeks and three days after I broke it.

    So what have I learned? Nobody takes your health is seriously as you do. Today’s doctors are wonderful at what they do, but their vision is often limited. My bone doctor. who is excellent at what he does, could only offer “drink milk and don’t move it” as instructions to heal fast. I found many more options than that!

    And on the fun side? Using your non dominant hand creates new pathways in the brain. That’s been great for me. My ADD and chemo-affected brain seems to be far more organized, and my research shows that this is no accident. My left handed writing is legible and about as neat as that of a first grader!

    I also purchased the Dragon dictation system. That’s how I can write this post even though my right hand is basically useless! I never would have done that if I had broken my wrist. I am finally at work on my first e-book, which has been on the back burner for years. What else is there to do?

    When I broke my wrist, my massage therapy practice was in huge growth mode. This interruption was aggravating, but I am making the best of it.

    For anyone going through cancer treatment, it is important to know that chemotherapy is rough on your bones. Early menopause also puts you at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. When I went through treatment, neither of these was my concern. I just wanted to survive. Looking back, I believe that part of why the treatment my was successful was because I was thinking about the future I was determined to have. I do wish I had known about my bones!

    What have you done for your bones today?

     

    Tomorrow is the audition workshop for the next eTc Mainstage show, Narnia.

    Five years ago, skinny and rockin’ the Annie Lennox look (super short hair), I worked out my angst on stage singing amazing music, turning little kids into stone, and cackling madly. A week from tomorrow I will audition to reprise my breakout role as the White Witch of Narnia. I can’t wait!

    The last time I played the White Witch, I was scrawny and exhausted from radiation treatments. It was still an absolute gas. My daughter will accuse me of being cocky, but I’m confident that I’ve got a pretty straight shot to do it again. This time I am not scrawny (alas, I could be a little scrawnier!) and I am tired from momming and working, but it’s a nicer kind of tired. I can work with this kind of tired. Pacing can be done!

    Time to choose a song and a monologue…

     

    A plague on stupid people with big mouths! Is it my imagination, folks, or do people with cancer just have “advise me!” signs on their backs?

    I am on vacation at the beach in Yachats, Oregon. We were enjoying the local farmer’s market, and I overheard a man telling someone, “yes, people often get better results if they fast during chemotherapy” OMG. I had to stop and see what the deal was.

    This vendor was telling a woman whose husband has Stage 4 esophageal cancer that her husband should fast. I wish I had gotten more upset. I was polite, so the man did not get what an absolute jerk he was being. Not only was that clueless, it was bad, destructive advice. Where do people get the idea that they’re qualified to give medical advice?

    I wish I had thought of what my husband said.

    “oh, did that work for you when you were on chemotherapy?” I wish I had thought to say this.

    I spent quite a fair bit of time talking with the woman. She was really happy to talk with me. Cancer is such a lonely journey sometimes. Her husband can barely hold down water on a good day.

    Chemotherapy is so rough on a person. Food in the belly and strength is necessary to stay on track. An empty stomach is a guarantee of worse side effects. Very few cancer patients can afford to lose weight. Getting food from the plate and into the belly of a cancer patient is hard enough.

    This beanhead didn’t even have the grace to be sheepish or embarrassed.

    I’m sure he meant well. I just don’t understand why people think it’s cool to give advice to cancer patients. What is it about this disease that invites potshot expertise? I just don’t get it.

    When I was being treated for Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I had friends telling me emphatically that I should use complementary medicine exclusively, and another telling me that soy shakes could save my breast. That person is no longer my friend, and it makes me sad. Such advice was rubbing salt in my wounds, dangling my dearest wish before me in the most painful way. If I had heeded any of their advice I would be dead today.

    My best friend figured out that she had been in the wrong and sent me a wonderful card, and remained my staunch supported through the rest of it. She admitted that she just didn’t want to see me suffer through those horrendous treatments. The problem is that I had no choice.

    When you have to take a nasty pill, others telling you that you should not take it and take something else instead is not helpful.

    For those of us in the trenches, we have to learn to tune out well meaning but foolish people.

    My rant must end now. My children want me off the computer. I just knew I would feel better after I got this one off my chest.

    Back to being on vacation…

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    I am working on an e-book, with the needs of the newly diagnosed in mind. Will you help me come up with the right stuff?

    Click here to take survey

    Thanks!

     

    Oh Joy!

    I can now approach my comments without terror, no longer having to sift through miles of spam to get to what my readers are really saying! Wow!

    I confess, I am a computer moron. I am a dinosaur from another era, from the generation where there were geeks (who later went on to earn insane amounts of money) and the rest of us. In high school I remember being told by one of these geeks that the day would come when I would swipe a card at the grocery store and the funds would come from my bank account right then and there. I scoffed.

    Now, we all have to use the computer or flail helplessly in the modern world. Facebook overwhelms me. Trying to set up a captcha made me want to take a nap.

    Enter Strata…my computer goddess to the rescue!

    Now I can do what I do, because she does what she does and will teach me how to keep it going. With my creative sparks free to fly, released from their technological drudgery and confusion, I can create this site to be what I want it to be.

    Yaaay!

     
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