Tag Archives: life

Cancer Free

It has been two years since my breast cancer treatments concluded and I am happy to say, I am still cancer free. Beating cancer was one of the hardest things I have ever done, being free of it should bring joy. Yet, I have to say this statement (being cancer free), with a little trepidation. I am anxious every time I feel a twinge of pain, or when I do my monthly self exams.  I am always afraid of finding a lump. When I visit my oncologist, my apprehension increases to a point of ridiculousness weeks before I actually see him.

As it turns out, this persistent anxiety is pretty common in cancer patients. There have been a number of studies done (one noted study was done by Lancet Oncology) that confirms anxiety is prevalent among cancer survivors and their families. “Our findings suggest that anxiety, rather than depression, is most likely to be a problem in long-term cancer survivors and spouses compared with healthy controls.”

I thought, when my treatment was finished that everything would get back to normal. I would go about day to day life as if I just recovered from a cold or the flu. No. That’s not how it has played out. My day to day is to have at least one episode of anxiety during the day and at least one as I go to sleep.

Are they detrimental to my well being? No. I get through them. I have learned to breath deeply and appreciate the little things that bring joy into my life. I reached out to my psychologist who taught me how to ride out an anxiety attack and how to see the good things in my life. I have learned how to cope with the devastation of my diagnosis and the possibility that cancer may return. Make no mistake that this is an easy journey. It is not. Some days are easier than others. My mantra is to remind myself that I beat cancer once, and I will beat it again, and again, and again.

I am a survivor.

 

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Filed under Arbitrary Thoughts, Breast Cancer

Further Thoughts on Racism

My son is Vietnamese, my next door neighbors are Korean, across the way is an Englishman married to a Philippine, and next door to them is a Latino family with the cutest dog you ever saw. This neighborhood sits at the edge of a town where white skin is the majority.

Am I racist because I live in a predominately white town? No.
I have my predominantly white tribe that I feel comfortable with. Does that make me racist? No.
Did a few feathers get ruffled when I posted the statement, “I am racist.” Yes.
I made that statement to make a point to myself. To “try it on” for size. I found the taste bitter and the fit much too small. The narrowness of it all pinched my beliefs.

I have struggled with the idea of hate in any form, especially racism. Why do people hate? What has happened that created such a strong, unforgiving feeling? I wonder what kinds of things would make me hate to the same degree a Supremacist hates anyone who is non-white? We, as humans, bleed the same. We are born and die. We laugh and cry. Our bones break and heal. So, why do some people hate each other so deeply? Recently I read an interesting article where several anthropologists talked about the subject of race. Their agreed conclusion is that children learn racism at a very young age. Through listening to conversations they learn who is important, who is better, and who isn’t.

Let’s say a mother is in a conversation with another adult at the playground, and her child overhears her say, “It’s so great that we have a black president.”

The child just learned a lot about the world from this remark. She learned that there’s a category called “black.” Every other time she heard the word “president,” it didn’t have the word “black” in front of it. She learned that this new term is really important. And she learned that her mother is excited or angry or sarcastic about it, depending on the tone of voice.

Dr. Michael Baran

From a simple statement a child now has a seed planted that will grow into love or hate. Through further conversations, statements, and emotions that are associated with any specific race (Black, Asian, Jewish, Latino, etc), the child forms their view, positive or negative, on that entire race of people.

With today’s technology, this world has become quite small, yet it has great riches in the multitude of diverse cultures. To hate any single group is like cutting off a limb just because it has a freckle. We need each other, in all our faults and strengths. We need to stop hating. We need to teach our children about the beauty in all people. Instead of talking about the color of each other’s skin and who’s culture is better than who’s, it is time to celebrate what we really are. Humans. Plain and simple.

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Dinner with Children

Growing up I was taught that children should be seen, but not heard. The only place appropriate for shrill giggles was outside. I have three siblings and we did run wild around the neighborhood. We could get loud, very loud. The rules were strictly enforced so when we passed the threshold of the back door our voices lowered and our giggles hushed. Unfortunately, the golden rule of not being heard was enforced more than I liked. The freedom to express opinions, talk politics, religion, or sex were all off the table.

I am a parent now, but unlike me, my children have been raised to be seen, heard, and expressing their opinions is encouraged. Our religious beliefs are openly discussed, we grumble about the state of politics, and we get loud together. My kids are now young adults so going out for a sit-down dinner is getting more rare. When we do get an evening out we put our cell phones away and enjoy each other’s company.

The other night, we had one of those rare evenings that brought not just my family, but also my brother, his wife, and my elderly mother to the dinner table. Unfortunately, we were seated next to one of “those families”. I assumed that they were a husband, a wife, and a female friend, along with four kids under four feet tall.

Having four pint sized kids is a wonderful mix of riotous behavior. I love watching a pack of kids run and squeal. Their joy is so contagious and I can’t help but smile. That is, I love it when they are zealous at home or outside. At some restaurants, like Chuck E. Cheese, it is expected that kids are running everywhere. Screaming laughter should fill those types of restaurants, but at a casual steakhouse where the atmosphere is quiet and patrons want great conversation, kids should be seated and hushed just like everyone else.

“That family” next to us was the epitome of what should never happen at a peaceful, sit-down restaurant. The mom and her female friend were fully engrossed in their cell phones. I can only assume they were texting one another because they couldn’t hear each other with their children running circles around their table screaming. Their male companion (I’m guessing Dad) sat in stupor like an overwrought father who has spent the past four years under child-induced distress.

When the kids actually did sit down they turned on their own cell phones and watched cartoons with the volume set to maximum. In the mean time, we patiently sat and tried to have fun. We did attempt “the looks” in hopes the moms would catch a hint that the kids were bothering us, but in the end that failed. My mother, who is 87, turned to the mom sitting at her back and said, “You need to control your children. They are being very disruptive and rude.” The mom was quite put off about the whole affair. She immediately packed up her kids and tersely informed my mother,  “Your opinion was so helpful,” then stormed from the restaurant.

We were happy to enjoy a quiet meal, but it left a negative taste in the air that took awhile to clear. Once the staleness settled, I noticed another table near us. There were four adults and five kids (three under four feet tall). The children were coloring and talking quietly among themselves, and the adults were having a lively discussion. I scanned the rest of the room and everyone, young and old, laughed and talked with one another. It reminded me that most families are not out of control, and that “those families” are in the minority. The vast majority of children will grow up to be great parents and their children will too.

Put the cell phones and iPads away. Enjoy dinner out with the kids. Let them be seen and heard in all the appropriate places. This is a fun world to be human in and even more so when you have dinner out with children.

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The News

I realized that I haven’t checked in to this blog in awhile. It isn’t because I ran out of dust bunnies to flambe. There are so many things rolling about in this country’s dark corners that there is enough fodder to last centuries. I have followed some of the stories about our political woes, and how our country is being kicked into a corner to play alone. This post is not about all that. I think enough bloggers, reporters, editors, facebookers, and the rest have beaten it all to death.

By reading the newspaper (yes, some of us still read those paper things filled with news), watching the television reports, and listening to the news blips on the radio, I had begun to think that the only thing happening in this little blue ball we call home, was political. It is crazy how the media has been fixated on all of it. So here are a few headlines that I thought might strike a more interesting note.

Fires Burning in Ten Western States — Thousands and thousands of acres of land have burned and the headline is relegated to the bottom of page three? A Boy Scout facility and two homes in California are gone. Burned to ashes. Over 62,000 square miles has burned in the US this year alone.

Drink More Coffee, Live Longer — I love the idea that drinking more coffee can extend your life. Cool. Do you suppose that it has to be caffeinated or do decaff drinkers get the same perks? I am a 60/30 drinker. I can have a tad bit of caffeine, but pump it up to full octane and you’ll have a full blown bitchy hurricane on your hands.

coffe-cup

Her Twins are Here (somewhere) — Beyonce (in her floral glory) has posted photos of her twins. The full length Goddess-like image is all about her. Like the news of the wildfires, her sweet babes are barely visible among the floral noise.

beyonce-babys

Volcanic Cauldron Ready to Blow? — Yellowstone is a volcano waiting to blow, but the latest news on this front is actually old news. The headlines are apocalyptic, but getting through to the bottom line I found that it is rumbling like it always rumbles, and the “big blow” is a long way off. But, just in case you’re wondering what will happen to your house? Here’s a quick look at the blast zone.

yellowstone

Same News, Different Day — The world does spin on its axis, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and the news will continue to be biased toward whatever headlines will sell the most papers, create the most readers, and fill the biggest data banks (not to mention the size of their checking accounts). We, as news consumers, will have to wade through the mess to get to what we really want to read about. For me, I tend toward turning off the television, putting the paper aside, and opening a good book with a nice cup of coffee.

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Facing Death Changes Everything about Living

Halloween was over and gearing up for Thanksgiving should have been a piece of cake. Last year, I didn’t make anything for Thanksgiving. I was a “no show” for Christmas, New Years, Easter, my birthday, and Mother’s Day. I didn’t make it to any of the celebrations between November 15, 2014 and June 15, 2015.

Facing death does a funny thing when it comes knocking. It changes everything about living. On November 15, 2014 I was diagnosed with Stage 2, invasive breast cancer. The “BIG-C” knocked on my door. It was the last thing I could imagine to show up. My family’s health history is healthy, hearty, and we live forever. Nope. “I’ll never get cancer,” is what I always thought. When I received the news my world tipped over in a blur. It landed on its side and everything spewed out onto the floor. I stood over the mess of my life with an empty stare. My gaping mouth wouldn’t close and my knuckles dragged along the ground. The news pulled me to my knees and I wailed like never before.

Life’s joke was on me this time, and the questions started to tumble through my mind. What happened? What did I do wrong? Wasn’t I living a good, moral life? Had I laughed about exercise too long? Was my diet so horrible that my body broke? What do I do now?

I was forced to face this head on. I had no choice. Breast Cancer would kill me just as surly as if I were hit by a train going 60 miles an hour, only I’d die a much more slow and painful death. I had nine months to a year if I did nothing. A year and a half on the outside. Somewhere I found a bit of strength that was buried deep inside my soul. It was a tiny spark. The one that people tap into whenever they face a crisis. The blind faith that promises everything will turn out as it should. It was the light of that small flame that got me through those first few weeks.

In the short time between my diagnosis and the start of Chemo I was poked, prodded, photographed, MRI’ed, CAT scanned, biopsied, and looked at by more people than I could have imagined possible. I consulted with doctors, nurses, friends, relatives, and (of course) the internet. Friends volunteered their stories of mastectomies, lumpectomies, chemo therapy, radiation, lymph nodes and reconstructive surgeries. They told me about the many who survived and the few that didn’t. I went vegan, then raw, then I got sick from changing my diet. I found a new taste for freshly squeezed vegetable juice ( in case you are wondering, kale juice is really gross). Organic foods filled the cupboards and exercise was no longer a 4-lettered word.

My life was changed forever. There was no going back…only forward. For a short time, I flayed through each day without direction or focus. Time was not what I had an abundance of. I wanted to know what my options were. I had to do a LOT of research. I needed a lot of information in a very short period. I had to decide if I would follow the traditional treatments or some other, alternative, method.

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This is the end of Part 1 of a multi-post story.

Look for Part 2, “Decisions for the Rest of My Life”, coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer! 

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Filed under Breast Cancer, My Cancer Story

A Puzzle

It is funny how some people fit into life just perfectly from the day they are born until they are taken away in a fine pine box. They are like puzzle pieces that have the perfect shape, and colors that fit just where they are supposed to.  They are able to see themselves and their lives stretch out before them and with so many possibilities they find their place in the puzzle early on.

There was a man I once knew who attended college to learn an entirely new language then spent his life creating things from this language. It is fascinating to see how a series of odd numbers, letters, and symbols could be strung together and, once completed, could come to life and help a scientist solve a theory, or a student to write a term paper. He continued to expand his knowledge through books, seminars, and real time learning. He problem solved his way through his career and, in the end, found himself at the pinnacle. He was no longer the student of this language, but the master and teacher of it.

On the other hand, I never quite fit anywhere and found myself wandering through my life flitting from place to place and job to job. I did the obligatory fast food gigs and waitress jobs that are needed to be able to say on an application, “Hey, I really do have experience and I’m actually good at any task that is given to me. Please hire me.” Money was not an issue for me and found that the less money I earned the easier it was to find a job.

From one little job to another I learned many, many things, but never really mastered any one of them. I rebuilt car engines, repaired jet planes, and built mouse traps. I completed four years of college and spent twelve years in the photography industry (which, as it turned out, to be my longest stretch in any one career). I designed jewelry, sold skin care treatments, and made the best chocolate candies your mouth could ever experience. I wrote stories, painted landscapes, and sculpted minor monsters that never terrorized any hamlet or town.

I spent a lifetime doing all of these things and find myself here in this small town doing yet another minor task in a world that is filled with so many major possibilities. I long to turn the clock back so I might find that one thing that I could do for all my days. To fit just right in a jigsaw puzzle. There are those pieces that, with just an arm and a leg, hold two large parts of the puzzle together, or the one that fills part of the edge holding the rest in place. A jigsaw puzzle is what I am a part of and I know that in the end, I will be the final piece of the puzzle. The one piece that has been tested and tried in every place of the puzzle, never quite fitting anywhere, never quite the right shape or color. And, when that last piece is found, and it is held carefully at just the right position, and slid down with a final gentle tap, the puzzle will be complete. All of the pieces would have found their place and with that final piece I will finally find my place. Then, and only then, will I die.

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Filed under Aging, Arbitrary Thoughts, Dreaming