Updated: 1/2/03; 9:14:22 PM.
Jogger Honey
A story of a life that began after cancer
        

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Today is the 1-year anniversary of the end of my cancer treatments. I feel happy, yet a little sad. I'm happy because I've survived so far. I'm also happy because I made changes in my life last year that have made me a much much better person. It wasn't intentional. I wondered when I was going through my treatments whether my life would change when I was done with the treatments. I didn't feel like anything would change.... I made no committments to myself or promises, and I didn't really feel inspired to do anything significantly different with my life.

Yet, I guess cancer seems to have that invisible compelling force in ones life. Once you get the diagnosis, everything changes, whether you want it to or not -- that's been my experience. I have a spiritual direction that I'm very very comfortable with. I started giving my time and myself to people who have a need for the companionship through Mac the Lab, and through my hospice work. I'm much more sociable than I've ever been, and I enjoy people a lot more than ever.

On the flip side, I just lost another year, and I'm that much closer to my 5-year mortality. I told John that this morning and he said, "yeh, just like the rest of us". I had to smile at that. He reminded me of the fundamental buddhist principle of impermanence. All things are impermanent. Cancer can deceive you into thinking you have a shorter life than other people. But none of us knows how short or long our lives will be. None of us. The cancer just reminds us of this. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is it's always there to remind me that I don't have the time to fart around with bullshit. The bad thing is, I can't ever buy into the delusion that I will live forever. That mentality, that innocence is gone.


9:12:20 PM    comment []

Monday, December 30, 2002

This has been a fine Christmas. We didn't do anything special. In fact, we were going to go to John's daughter's place, but we postponed it until Saturday because of the snowstorm. It feels so auspicious that it snowed on Christmas day. It was a wonderful day of not doing anything special, and playing lots of board games.

Last night we went to see Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets. It was a really great movie, and that's special coming from me. I'm very very particular about movies. In fact, I haven't seen a truly good movie in years and years (we only go to one or two a year, so I guess my qualifications as a critic are suspect). Still I thought the movie was outstanding. John said he liked it, but I think he was mostly so-so about it. He said it was too confusing.

It still never ceases to amaze me at how, after over a year of chemo-induced menopause, I'm still not used to the hot flashes. Every time I get one it reminds me that I have cancer and it makes me certain that my cancer will eventually kill me. Whenever I start thinking of dying, I know that a hot flash either has hit me or is imminent. It was a little frustrating in the movie. I just wanted to have an escape... a few hours that I could pretend I was a normal person... yet twice in the movie I was hit, and twice felt like the world was closing in on me, crushing me, strangling and stifling me. I'm beginning to understand why women in menopause have depression problems. It's definitely psychosis-inducing to have to go through this every two or 3 hours, 24-hours-a-day-7-days-a-week.  Sheesh. Is this how it is for women who are going through non-chemo-induced menopause? Compared to cancer treatments, this is a total cake walk. Yet there it is. In my face, nagging at me, harrassing me, annoying me, aggravating me, and there's no way to get rid of it. My nurse practitioner suggested black cohosh, and other people have suggested soy. But do some research on the Internet. None of those are really totally proven safe for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Black Cohosh, even though it doesn't have estrogen properties, is thought to produce some estrogen-like reactions in the body (National Institute of Health report dated October 2002). Soy is the same way. I'd really rather try to overcome this than to go through cancer treatments again. If I liked my first year of treatments (Not!!), the second round the treatments are guaranteed to be worse. This is not something to take lightly. The lesson is, never accept your doctor or "fellow"'s suggestions without researching them.


9:52:56 PM    comment []

Thursday, December 19, 2002

2002

 

What a year this has been!   Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have been able to survive a cancer diagnosis emotionally, much less even get one to begin with!  But I did get one, and I did survive it.

 

Cancer treatments last year completely changed my life Ė not in a bad way as you would think, but in a wonderful way.  They changed how I see the world, and what I view as important.

 

Not a day has gone by that I havenít been thankful for my friends, my taste buds (which were gone for most of 2001 thanks to my cancer treatments), feeling healthy, and the pure beauty of walking this earth, untouched by the stress and the pettiness that seem to pervade most of the rest of society.

 

Itís been a year of spiritual growth that Iíve never experienced before.

 

Itís been a year of facing myself and saying, ďHey, you DO have a contribution to make in this world!  You ARE important!Ē and then going out and doing those things that I think are important to do instead of waiting until tomorrow.

 

Itís been a year of finally understanding what life is all about.  After all these years, finally ďgetting itĒ.

 

Itís been a year of realizing once and for all how much I love my husband and how I couldnít have a better, more compatible partner and best friend.

 

Itís been a year of working for a great company, with a terrific boss and wonderful teammates.

 

Itís been a year of looking into my puppyís eyes and seeing that, yes, dogs truly can love.

 

Itís been a year of falling in love with all of the people who have touched my life.

 

Itís been a year of watching the flowers and trees blossoming and the grass growing, and the autumn colors changing and the snow falling and wondering, ďdid I ever REALLY look at these things before?Ē

 

As this year comes to a close and a new year opens, it is my hope that in some way you can share my view of the world.

 

May you never forget the preciousness of life.

May you have the insight to push aside the unimportant things.

May you have the inspiration to pursue the important.

And may you have the wisdom to nurture those things in life that bring you peace, joy, and love.

 


9:49:31 PM    comment []

Monday, December 16, 2002

I woke up this morning to snow falling. It was so beautiful, I didn't want to leave home. I just wanted to make myself a nice hot bath, and then a cup of hot Godiva chocolate, and curl up with my book in front of the fire. I've become such a homebody. I know it's not my cancer, because I had a strong inclination that way before. But, I went with a friend to New York to see Sogyal Rinpoche speaking. The days were so long that by the end of the retreat I was so ready to be home with my hubby and puppy. My friend was really nice to travel with. But, lying in the bed with her, I wanted so much to turn over and feel Mac the Lab and cuddle up to him.

After I got back home, I swore I would never do that again, I missed home so so much. I suppose from a Buddhist point of view you could call that clinging... wanting the security of my home and dog and husband around me. I truly admit it. However, I also admit that if my days are numbered, I don't want to spend them being unhappily separated from the people and beings I love.

I came home and asked John, "Did you miss me?" He said "I was too busy studying." I said "I didn't miss you either, so there."


7:16:22 PM    comment []

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

It's been a while, yes.  Been doing my Christmas letter, which I will post in a few weeks.  It's been a sad time.  People have been dying or getting cancer diagnoses.  Two people in my group at work had their mothers diagnosed with lung cancer in the past 6 months.  That's two people out of 5.  Another guy in my sangha collapsed with an aortic aneurysm.  A woman who worked at a church that I used to go to was diagnosed with leukemia a couple of weeks ago and died last night.  I sent her some e-mails, and also sent her my Christmas letter.  I never met her, but was hoping I could offer some support.  She never responded, but I thought I'd just keep trying to send her notes anyway.  I feel badly that she's died.  Another good friend's sister is getting chemo for leukemia.

It puts a pall on the holiday season, but also reminds me of the impermanence of life -- not to cling to it either in me or the people I love.

I met a lama last Friday.  His name was Lama Migmar Tseten.  He is a tibetan buddhist monk who teaches a very tiny group of people.  One of his students is a tibetan buddhist nun who volunteers at the same hospice that I volunteer at.  She introduced me to Lama Migmar.  He is very low-key.  They are studying a book called Yogic Deeds of Boddhisattvas.  I love their class format.  Lama Migmar teaches for most of the class, with prayers at the beginning and end, and a small meditation session just before the teaching, and then questions and answers after the teaching.  On Sundays they have meditation sessions which last for about half a day.  I'd like to spend more time with that group.  Their time works out better for my schedule, and it gives me a chance to do a little exploring with my dharma, try a new group with a different style than I'm used to.

My left chest aches so much.  I'm seriously considering getting my new implants taken out, and just living with no boobs, and falsies.  On the other hand, I can't really be sure that the problem is the implant.  It may just be nerve-related sensations as a result of the radiation and/or operation.

Speaking of cancer (was I speaking of cancer? oh well), I looked through my PalmPilot and realized I have my 3-month oncology appointment next Wednesday.  Time flies.


10:54:23 PM    comment []

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

ok, I'm here and with new boobs.  My left chest is pretty sore.  The doc had to really scrape out a lot of scar tissue.  Even then there's no guarantee it'll stay gone, so it might harden up again.  The right side is nice.  It's not like a real boob by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to the baseball-hard tissue expanders they're heaven to me.  And no chemo port any more!!  I don't know if I'm happy or sad about it.  When I first had it put in, I thought I'd never get used to having it in me.  After almost 2 years of it, though, I was rather attached to it.  But you have to maintain them -- technically you have to get them flushed every 5 weeks.  Mine worked after not flushing them for months.  But I was buying time.  The insurance company would have eventually cut out supporting it.

I spent the week after the operation in bed, popping Percosets.  What a great drug.  I painted favor bags for the holiday potluck we're having, and watched TV the whole time.  It was quite refreshing to be doing just fun stuff with no responsibilities.

This week I graduated from hospice volunteer training.  I have some final paperwork and a TB test to do, and then I'll be ready to start volunteering.  Last night I went to a reception they had to memorialize people who have died.  A sort of gathering of the grieving families.  I spoke with some of the people who had lost loved ones, and practiced the things we learned in class.  Listening is such an important skill in this field.  Listening, and not imposing your own stories or controlling the flow of conversation....  giving the other person the privilege of saying what they want to say in whatever way they want to say it.

I felt a little silly and kind of fake at first, just standing there smiling, and nodding and trying to go with the flow of the other person's comments, and show enough interest to ask questions, but not talk enough to control the conversation.  I don't think I was completely successful, but the two people I talked with responded so positively to me that I felt very encouraged that maybe I might be good at this.  I'm looking forward to doing this.  December is an absolutely crazy month, though.  Work pressures are incredibly intense, and we have the potluck party in a couple of weeks.

A LiveJournal friend, Leah, wrote about a friend, Jeff, who died of Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He was 25.  It's heartbreaking.  His best friend wrote a beautiful, touching last entry.  I'll be thinking about Jeff for a long time.  May he rest in peace.


9:57:11 PM    comment []

Sunday, November 24, 2002

I had a full weekend.  I'm running around getting craft items in preparation for my holiday party.  I'm having my second reconstruction surgery on Tuesday, so I wanted things to keep me occupied for the time that I had off.  As though lying in bed reading my book wasn't enough!

I asked my plastic surgeon to give me the tissue expanders and my chemo port so I can bring them home.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  She doesn't understand.  Maybe you don't either.  Or maybe you do.

Believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to Tuesday's surgery.  They're going to put a drain in me, which I'm not happy about, but other than that, it'll be really nice to get these tissue expanders out.  They have been like rocks I've had to carry around for the last 2 years.  And I've gotten over the discomfort from my chemo port, but still, I think it'll be a really novel experience to reach over and touch my right chest and not have it sitting there.

I left explicit directions to my surgeon to sew me up and leave the port in if she finds any tumors.  It's always in your mind when you've had a cancer diagnosis.  It never goes away.

Last week at hospice training our volunteer coordinator/teacher told us if we didn't get our butts in gear and get our Living Wills done, she was going to have to re-think whether we were ready to do hospice work.  She wants to make sure we've all thought about our deaths in detail, and the things that we want.  I think it's not only because it means we've come to peace with the concept of dying, but also I think she thinks it's important because it puts us through what each of our patients has had to or will have to think through in their lives.  I'd been working on mine for a while.  I already have a rudimentary one, but this one is about 4 or 5 pages.  It's a hard thing to do -- to try to figure out exactly what you'll want/need at the time of dying -- and pre-mandate it.  Once this is signed and filed, it becomes a legal document.  So if you say "no pain meds", then if you so happen to be in agonizing pain, they won't give you pain meds.  What if you're comatose and in agonizing pain?  All these questions make it really hard.


8:37:55 PM    comment []

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