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    Well, here it is. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Fortunately I am very, very busy, rehearsing for Narnia. Yes, I am the White Witch again! Five years ago, I was rehearsing. My daughter was 7. Now she’s 13, and playing the part of Susan. My husband, who I had just met in 2007, is playing Father Christmas. Five years ago I was a lot skinnier. My husband says I was scrawny. I was sporting the Annie Lennox look.

    Breast Cancer Awareness month is hard. While I so appreciate the funds that are raised for research, I detest the sea of pink and the pink labels on things so people will buy. It’s the good and the greedy all mixed together. My daughter confessed that she hates it as well. All during the month of October, she is reminded that she could have lost her mother. Two women on my support list announced that they are stopping treatment this week. It’s hard.

    All the dancing, writing, driving, working, has made my muscles sore. I am sore on my right side, and I noticed it just below my ribcage on the right side. I began to worry about liver mets. That happens every so often. An ache or a zing of some kind, and I worry. Someone on the list had a recurrence 6 years out. I don’t like hearing those stories.

    I stretch, I take care of myself, I watch the aches and pains, but mostly right now I’m having a blast. It’s family theater. The cuteness factor is extremely high, with little woodland fairies, animals, and cruelies, who are the witch’s minions. I have the most delightful little dwarf, my personal henchman, a ten year old named Amy. The adults in the show are there to do something magical with their kids. I appreciate all of them so much!

    If you want to see some great theater (really! We have fabulous talent directing this year), go to www.bayareaetc.org and get tickets to see the “Wardrobe” cast. We perform Friday night November 2, Sunday Matinee on the 4th, and Saturday November 10.

    When I started this blog, I came to know several other survivors in the blogospere. It is painful to me this October that they are all gone, all but one. At least the ones I knew well. I know it’s not because none of us survive. I know for myself that moving away from life being about cancer and into the next chapter tempts us to forget that people need to know we’re here. Many who make it get quieter, as life resumes. I have done that many times.

    For those at the beginning, know that I am one of many. It has been over five years. I’m still here. At the moment, cackling madly, turning little children to stone, singing fantastic music, and sharing the stage with my beautiful teenage daughter.

    Now, to bed.

    Well, the holiday hiatus is over. I went to one of my jobs yesterday, so I am gearing up for the routine.

    I worked on the break, but it was fun work, not scheduled work, and I could do it as I liked. I wrote some articles for Yahoo and had fun poking fun at politicians. I did a lot of reading, thinking, focusing.

    It was a tough time among my blogger friends. Sometimes when that happens I just drop out for awhile. That doesn’t help them and it doesn’t help me. What helps me is being engaged in making things better. As 2012 begins, I am again grateful that I am still healthy.

    What I was certain of when I emerged from cancer treatment in 2008 was that a life I loved would be the best medicine to get me well and keep me well. I am continuing to discover what that means exactly. Advocating for the cure for breast cancer is important, and I feel driven to do that. I also have realized lately that it isn’t enough. In a way I’ve lost track of the strategy I used to get well, the decision to really live a life that is joy to me in every way I can discover.

    Yesterday I went to work at the hospital for the first time this year. It was a difficult, sweet, rich, frustrating day. I can’t imagine doing anything else than what I did. I gave massage to four very sick children, and made a difference for them. They broke my heart and made it sing at the same time.

    A friend on an email list I follow asked us to state what we were creating in 2012. Here is what I’m creating:

    In 2012 I am doing more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.

    I am going to see my first e-book at work helping people.

    I am becoming a better and better writer.

    I am continuing my commitment to advocacy, and learning how to balance scrapping for progress with feeding my own soul and staying balanced. Donna, Susan and Jaydub, you are the winds I sail on!

    I will see my invention, which I’ve been sitting on for four years, come out of my brain and into the world. To see it and vote on it, go to quirky.com and search the Comfort Unibra. It costs nothing to join, and once you do you can vote. The inventions that get the most votes go to the next step. By the end of the year I want to see it in production. If it doesn’t make it this round, I’ll do what I need to until it does.

    I am posting on this website more often! When I was in treatment, I blogged to cope with what was happening to me. Life after cancer is a different set of challenges than life in cancer treatment. Blogging has to remain what I do for the love of it, not because I think I have to accomplish something. I’ve flailed around a bit in 2011 discovering this. My focus this year is on congruence, a life in which all of the parts are harmonious with the whole, and something new and wonderful is created.

    I am enjoying my family even more in 2012.

    Happy New Year!

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    There is a progression through pink for those of us who get down and dirty into the real world of breast cancer. I liked pink ribbons in the beginning. They made me feel less alone.
    Now, the truth about breast cancer is in the front of my mind and I am annoyed by the large scale public complacency about a disease that we have been led to believe doesn’t kill people any more. I used to believe that. I had heard about mammograms saving lives and seen the pictures of triumphant women in pink hats all sweaty and beaming from their race for the cure. I was shocked when I realized that my survival was not a foregone conclusion.

    This month, I am acutely aware of sisters all over the internet who are dealing with metastatic disease. I am acutely aware that many, many women still have never heard of Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

    This last couple of weeks, I have been feverishly exploring freelance opportunities, because I want to free myself from the constraints of location and schedule. The added bonus that I love to write makes this strategy a no-brainer. I am going to a conference this month to learn more, to become a more effective advocate. The more work I can do on the internet, the more I can afford to take time to go where I can be of service. This is the desire of my heart, as I near the five year anniversary of my diagnosis.

    Another sister who first faced IBC in 2007 is struggling and it is deeply, deeply painful to me.

    One of my favorite people, Ginny Mason, said:

    “I’m on this side of the grass, so I figure I have a responsibility”. Ginny is a 20 year plus survivor, which gives us all hope! She is the mastermind and prime mover of the IBC Research Foundation.

    So, in keeping with my responsibility because I am on this side of the grass, I used my new found influence at Associated Content to publish an article on IBC. I became a Featured Contributor this last month and one of my first assignments was to write an article about any disease or condition I wanted. Of course I wrote about IBC. It made the front page of the “health” section of the Associated Content website and so far has been viewed over 5000 times in the last three days. That’s 5000 people who didn’t know, and now they do! You can view the article here. Please send it on to anyone you know who may not know about Inflammatory Breast Cancer!

    My personal agenda this month is to stir the pot as much as possible!

    I wonder sometimes where I’d be today if I hadn’t faced the beast.

    Would I still be as stressed as I was? I don’t believe that everyone has a story like mine, and I do know that some cancers appear randomly, without any precipitating event. And, some of us were a breakdown ready to happen.

    I know that for myself, facing cancer was a major, major catalyst and as I result I changed everything. What was working, I did more of. What wasn’t, I got rid of. Things I loved that I hadn’t been doing became the things I did first.

    This weekend was about writing! I wrote an essay for a contest and sent it off. I had been procrastinating about it, even though I knew I would love to do it. I finally sat down to write and set my timer, telling myself that I would just scribble for 15 minutes and that would get me started. I ended up writing an essay that made me weep, one that I feel very good about. I don’t have any grand delusions that I will win (I’m sure there are 1000′s who sent an essay) but one way or another I’ll publish it! Alas, not now.

    The other deadline I had was a provisional assignment for Yahoo. I applied to be a Featured Contributor. Before I had cancer, I wouldn’t have even applied. I would have just assumed that I didn’t have the expertise or the clout to write about Alternative Medicine, which is the category I applied for.

    The new me said, Hey, what have I got to lose? If this is for me, not doing it is wasting time! I applied and forgot about it.

    Four days later I got a provisional assignment with a four day deadline. Ace the assignment and I’m in. I ace’d it. If you want to take a look, here it is:

    My article on herbs and chemotherapy

    I was delighted with what they asked me to do, right up my alley! I got paid to write. That just rocks.

    My freelance writing career has begun. I don’t know where it will go, and that’s half the fun. After I had cancer I began redesigning my life, making it up as I went along.

    Now I am a massage therapist/teacher/thespian/writer/artist/wife and mom. I really don’t know what to say when people ask,

    “so, what do you do Elizabeth?”

    Oh yeah, and blogger. Thanks for reading!

    Ah, the work of establishing an identity, coupled with raging hormones…my children are working so hard!

    Now, what’s my excuse?

    Actually, I can’t complain because at nearly 50 I’m pretty sure what I want to be when I grow up but I’ll never grow up, ever, so I’m just going to continue having fun. As long as I do this daily I will keep moving towards what I want to be when I grow up. I was reflecting on this today as I thought about this website, which is nearly a year old, born right around my birthday last year. My original vision was to create a site that would help people, but I didn’t know what that looked like. I floundered around a lot, trying to figure out what my site wanted to be when it grew up. I noodled around the internet into the wee hours, and slowly learned how to manage my own little queendom as I waded through spam and created and trashed numerous pages. Sometimes I didn’t blog at all because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be blogging about, forgetting that I blog because it makes me happy. Today I was berating myself because the site is, in my mind, a poorly organized ramble of disparate resources, until I logged on and found a comment that told me that this weekend someone found this site and was encouraged.

    Amid the sturm and drang (storm and stress, a la Beethoven) I am coming to some clarity about what I’m doing here, and the results should start taking shape in the next few weeks.

    And my teen, my tween and I?

    My tween had a call back for the Fall musical today, and was a handful and a half. My friend called her a wild cat. She’s 12, and everything is just so monumentally imperative and urgent! I take a deep breath and try to stay on for the ride. We worked together on her audition pieces and had dinner together before her audition. My husband auditioned as well, and they just got home a little while ago, wound up probably until the wee hours tonight.

    My teenager is right on track, already on top of all of his classes except algebra, because he bombed a quiz due to girl distraction. Here it comes…

    As for me, I am suffering from too much good stuff to choose from. Much as I wanted to be in this next musical, I did not audition because I know I would be overstretched. The children’s hospital where I work is starting an outpatient pain clinic, and I am the primary therapist. I love the hospital work, I just love it! I worked on Saturday with inpatients and came home feeling blessed.

    Soon the drama club will be resuming, and there is the possibility of adding another school and another club.

    I have an advocacy workshop coming up in October and I hope to go backpacking again once more before the season is completely kaput. So alas, eight weeks of intense rehearsals would be too much, and I am jealous all the same!

    I’m writing for fun, and trying to get better at it.

    This site, however, is my baby. It is now an unruly teenager and needs to be directed!

    What I want to do here is to reorganize a little so that anyone who comes here can find resources. I want to sleuth out more great links, as well as write some good posts about ones that I already know about.

    More inspiring stories, more humor, more simple how-to’s like how to keep your fingers from going numb when you’re on Taxol for example, more just plain ol’ uplift and leg up. More tools for more varieties of hard knocks!

    As for posts, I am going to experiment and give myself permission to write about whatever I want, as I did when I went through treatment. My life was an open book, and somehow that was so liberating! A teacher of mine once told me, “the personal is the most general”, and scribbling is as good for my health as exercise and vitamin D.

    Until soon…

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    I guess I’ve been resettling and regrouping. I’ve also been sick, which includes it’s own anxieties. I had a wisdom tooth infection, then a flu/cold bug that lingered, and lingered, and lingered, and now some back pain most likely from doing something stupid, but alas go wheels and cogs.

    I really am looking forward to feeling healthy again. It’s been weeks, and that’s just a bummer for anybody.

    I also took a break from all the “cancer stuff”. Sometimes it’s just so hard. I want to do everything I can to bring hope and positivity to a really rough journey, for whoever has to take it. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to do that and not get overwhelmed by the suffering of others. Yes, it overwhelms me. I don’t like it. Who does? Cancer sucks, yes indeed.

    I’m hoping I’ll learn more at the end of April, when I go to the conference in D.C. I’m thrilled that they awarded me a scholarship! Now I really have to go dig in, and figure out how to do that and keep myself sane and happy. This is something I really want to do.

    Recently I read “The Emperor of All Maladies”. I was deeply touched by the story of herceptin, and the obstacles that came up to getting it into mainstream medicine where it could save the lives of people like me. There was a woman, waiting on the edge of life, begging to be given the new drug. Genentech would not release it because all clinical trials had not been completed. The woman died.

    On the day of her death, activists, survivors, and patients drove their vehicles in an outraged demonstration onto the grounds of Genentech, over the lawns, through the parking lots, honking their horns and and waving signs in an uproar of protest.

    More compassionate and timely studies have emerged since then. That woman did not have the power to fight alone. Because of the rest who did, many like me are still here.

    My goal in the next few weeks is to actively and deliberately, with much inward work and outward resources, find a way to be a cancer warrior without having my life identified by cancer. I need to find a way to have days and maybe even weeks that I don’t think about it, because that is healthy survivorship. I need to pick the brains of other women I admire who manage to continue their healthy and happy survivorship and be the rocks that they are for others who suffer.

    So, onward, back to life, back to rehearsals. The Wiz is opening on March 25! It’s going to be a great show. I’m in all of them, since I’m not doublecast, but to see my husband rock as The Wiz, check out the Silver Slippers Cast! Tickets are available at www.bayareaetc.org.

    Hope to see you there!

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    And for Linda, and for Pat, and others who have asked. It’s so hard to know where to start with Complementary Therapies! My first thought when I was diagnosed was that I would use all the big guns my oncologist recommended, and all the big guns from the Complementary Therapies arsenal. At the time I was diagnosed, I had been a full time professional Massage Therapist for nearly 20 years. I knew all about complementary therapies, but I had been neglecting myself, badly. I wasn’t just a wounded healer. I had been limping for a long time. I had just emerged from an awful divorce, huge work stress (the hospital where I worked was downsizing, and the pressure was on!), and my children were suffering. They were 7 and 9. I knew something had to give, but I didn’t really know how to get out of the quicksand I was in.

    When I got the diagnosis, I knew I had to fight and fight hard. I decided that I had an opportunity to heal my whole life, and that embracing that task would give me the best chance to survive. I sought healing of body, mind and spirit, and most importantly to mend the rifts between them. The word “congruence” was my operative word, and still is. So, my take on complementary therapies is really an approach rather than just a list of modalities. having said that, I pretty much used them all!

    My practices for myself:
    1. Say “yes” when anyone offered help. Accept with gratitude. Believe that I deserved the help and that giving it was a blessing to the ones who offered.
    2. Put myself first, for the first time ever in my life, no matter who it upset. I was fighting for my life, and I knew it. A total stranger told me to do this, and I believed her.
    3. Actively and deliberately sought my own happiness. It took awhile to figure out what that looked like.
    4. Made a decision to stop beating myself up, period. Nothing was gained by my perfectionism, and I was beating myself down. Now I question my tendency to self blame, and if I find something that needs to change, I take note and move on.

    I had to rely on #1 a lot, because I was not in a financial position to pay for everything I received. Still, I accepted it, and it all helped, more than the sum of it’s parts. Here’s my list:

    1. Massage Therapy. I received a massage once a week while I was receiving chemotherapy. My colleagues at the hospital did this for me voluntarily, on their own time. I will always be deeply grateful for this.

    2. Healing Touch. I received this through a Stanford University study called Healing Partners. I received one session per week for six months.

    3. Acupuncture. My mom offered to pay for this because she knew it would help. I was a struggling single mom when I went on this journey so I did not have the funds to do this. I received acupuncture once every two weeks.

    4. Guided Imagery. I believe this had a huge impact on my treatment. I used it to keep my blood cell counts up, to maximize the effectiveness of my treatments, and for healing after the treatments were over. I’ve already written a short article about that on the pages for Complementary Therapies. Excellent Guided Imagery CD’s and MP3 downloads are available from Health Journeys.

    5. Support: I went to an Art and Imagery support group. This was a combination of Guided Imagery and using art therapeutically. It was very helpful. That program closed at the hospital and I really miss it. I also found my Caringbridge site to be a huge source of support.

    6. Counseling. Fortunately for me, this was available through California Cancer Care where I received my treatments.

    7. Laughter! I didn’t do “laughter therapy” (whatever that is…I haven’t tried Laughter Yoga but I have a friend who’s into it and loves it) but at the time I was diagnosed I had been attending a comedy improv class every week, and I made sure to continue. I timed my chemotherapy so I would be up for my class, and I didn’t miss a single one! Even after my surgery, I couldn’t play, but I could watch. I’m convinced that laughing my head off every week was very good for me.

    8. Exercise is very important! I took advantage of the “Living Strong, Living Well” program at my local YMCA and did weights, cardiovascular exercise, and whatever else seemed like fun. I also did yoga at home, and some chi gong. I had a couple of videos and they worked well for me. I have a chi gong video that offers a 10 minute sequence for cleansing, called simply “chi gong for cleansing”. I am convinced that my complete recovery from surgery with my range of motion intact is because I did yoga.

    9. Nutrition: My doctor told me, “Eat what looks good to you”. I wanted to be a martinet about what I ate, but I had decided to accept all help so I indulged in comfort food when it was offered. What I did do is create a smoothie that covered all the bases, and I had that every day during chemotherapy. Now I’m a bit more careful, but not super strict. I find the information on “Food for Breast Cancer” useful and I read the research they publish.

    10. Cultivate hope, actively. I read everything I could get my hands on about recovering. The book “Remarkable Recovery” was my constant companion. I read the stories over and over, especially if I was feeling worn out by it all. The gist of what I got from it was that beating the odds was about doing it how you do it best, and it’s different for all of us.

    11. Self expression and creativity. Everybody has her own way to do this. I found blogging, and loved it. I also got tons of support online, which was a huge help. I picked up a paint brush for the first time in 20 years or so. As I went through radiation, I was also rehearsing for a musical, again for the first time in 20 years. For you it may not be this sort of stuff, it may be something else, but whatever it is, it makes your spirit hum! If you’ve forgotten what that is, it’s time to discover it again!

    12. Prayer. Whenever anyone offered to pray for me, I said yes, by all means please do! Acknowledging that my life was worth praying for, and allowing total strangers to pray for me (I was on a ton of prayer lists) was an important act of self love. There is research that supports the effectiveness of prayer, and I believe deeply that true self love sets all kinds of positive cellular happenings in motion.

    13. Substitute “Feel Everything” for “stay positive”. I heard that stay positive stuff all the time from well meaning people. Being a Pollyanna does not help. Neither does denial. What does help is honoring what you feel, give it expression, and keep things moving. I didn’t elevate my lousy mood by pretending I didn’t have it. I blogged, “feel like crap, going to bed” and then later absorbed the messages of hope from my friends on my guestbook. I cried my way through a few infusions, and then felt better. After I cried I could make art or settle into my warm bed with some hot chocolate. Everything is allowed!

    There’s my first stab at it ladies, for my dear IBC sisters and anyone else this may help. If you have any questions about what’s here so far, or want me to elaborate some more, please send me an email at elizabethdanu@rocketmail.com. What you tell me you want is what will be in Part Two. In the meantime, I am sleuthing out links and resources.

    I hope this helps!

    Love,
    Elizabeth

    Like the conscience in old cartoons, My Own Death sits on my shoulder, reminding me to pay attention and treasure my life.

    I was noodling around this evening as I often do, looking for cool juicy stuff on the internet, and my meanderings brought me to an article written by a Palliative Care nurse. She writes about the common regrets she hears from the dying. I was deeply moved by the article, because what happened to me is that I got a second chance, so every regret that she listed was a change I had the opportunity to make in my life.

    Everyone who faces life threatening illness and survives gets a second chance if they choose. I am so grateful that my second chance came while I was still young enough to have more years to enjoy my children, and to follow the passions that I had forgotten on the back burner for so many years.

    The little annoyances and aches and pains that make me afraid are the reminders of my commitment to myself. None of us knows how long we have. Am I doing what I want to be doing, what matters most to me with each day that I have?

    Susan said in her blog, “please don’t pity me. I have work to do”. I am certain that the passion she has for this work of the heart that she does will keep her alive. I feel deeply that my passions keep me well, and feeding them is a smart survival program.

    Today I joined my daughter and my husband for the audition workshop for “The Wiz”, the musical that Bay Area ETC is doing this spring. Part of me thinks I don’t have time, and that I have other important things to do. This article was a timely reminder that doing what I love is the most important thing I can do, and the fact that I get to do it with my sweet family makes it all the more ridiculous not to do it. So, this week I’ll be warming up the pipes, practicing my cackle and hoping the director can see my diabolical side!

    go here to be reminded.

    I just posted my Everyday Health blog after losing an entire post to cyberspace. AAAAAARGH!

    I did this after taking my 13 year old son Christmas shopping. He hates shopping, but he liked it when I took him to dinner. Things are a bit tight for us, as they are for so many, but “the Bubbee” (their nephew, our grandbaby) is of course going to make out like a bandit.

    Drove up to Mill Valley to see Jean. Always feel plugged in to the Main Source after I see her. 3 hours total. It’s midnight, and I’m still busy, doing stuff, glad I can do it. I guess I’m slowly getting back to my old self again, even though I’m older and creakier. I’ve heard it can take up to three years. This is my third NED Christmas, one of many more I hope and have faith.

    Here’s a sweet picture to tweak your curiosity. I’ll tell you more of the story in another post! For now, let me introduce my wonderful mom and her friend Neville.

    Now, to get my happily pooped self to sleep!
    My son is watching videos of the Annoying Orange. Yes, it is annoying. So glad I’m going to bed.

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    I had to laugh when I saw this!  I found this on the website, Planet Cancer.  A laugh is good medicine!

    This is an excellent website, focusing on the needs of younger cancer patients in their 20′s and 30′s.  However, this ol’ 49 year old lady can still relate!

    I actually remember my baldheaded days with fondness.  I finished chemotherapy in June of 2007, so the remainder of the summer was spent deliciously bald.  The breeze on my head was very soothing.  I didn’t bother to cover my head at home, and sleeping that way was soooooooo comfortable!  If it hadn’t been for the circumstances surrounding my bald experience, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I had an especially good time with it during my comedy improv class.  There was always an opportune time to whip off the scarf, hat, or wig!

    I must admit though, it got old when my daughter would get mad at me and call me “Baldy”.  I was also annoyed that the hair on my legs was the last to go and the first to come back.  Not fair!

    Top Ten Reasons Being Bald Rocks

    Posted by courtney • December 14, 2009 • Printer-friendly

    10. Topless tanning.

    9.  No hair in your soup. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

    8.  No haircuts, no shampoo, no styling – can you say low-maintenance?

    7.  No lice. Ewww.

    6.  When on the run from the police, you can hide out in the melon section of the grocery store.

    5. Magic Marker skull tattoos.

    4.  On really hot nights, a cool satin pillowcase is better than sex. Like you’re getting any.

    3.  Low maintenance = more time on your hands = higher blood counts (Yeah, you know what I mean!)

    2.  You can join the Bald Hall of Fame.

    1.  Aerodynamics, baby!

    *     *     *     *

    For anyone reading this post who is currently bald, here’s a riddle I made up when I was bald.  I know, my funny bone is peculiar….

    Q:  What is a bad hair day on chemo?

    A:  When you can’t get your eyebrows to match!

    Bald is beautiful!

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