Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stars Aligned

Wanna see a real star?  this pic's from here

As promised, here's tonight's breaking news:

As per a super cool friend's recommendation, I've been reading yet another long Indian saga (on my final renewal), Toss of a Lemon, where much of the story revolves around major milestones foretold by the stars (and actually occurring as predicted).  It got me to thinking, I could just have my stars read and see into the future, just like I always wanted (and those damn doctors refused to do!!!).  

Behold a brief review of my life, based upon the location and exact time of my birth (and how it relates to the alignment of the stars).  You may also enjoy my personal commentary (in gray) and keep in mind that I did all of this research into my future yesterday, a Tuesday.  Give it a whirl yourself, if you like...

At the time of your birth, the configuration was Pisces Ascendant ( Lagna ) rising along with Libra Navamsa and Cancer Dreskana in the third Pad of Uttara Bhadrapada. This is undoubtedly an excellent combination, which assures you of a full life of plenty and prosperity. Supplementing the property you will inherit will be your sizeable income (No, for realz?). Which means you can be wealthy. (sounds good to me)
          A decent, honest, upright individual, you have the necessary qualities to rise high in life, even make a mark for yourself. Given the will and single-minded devotion, you can make good use of the openings that will come your way. (Yes, yes, I agree with all of this)
          Not only do you have the push and drive to pursue your projects, you know how to get on with others. You will become a pet of those in power which will enable you to progress smoothly (a pet??). In the event of any opposition, you are sure to get past it with ease.
          Of reserved nature, you are a puzzle to others as well as to yourself (ok, here's where we start to lose focus - I have never been, nor will I ever be, of reserved nature). Sometimes you are yourself not too sure about what you are aiming at. This is because you build castles in the air imagining all sorts of rosy things, especially about the opposite sex(wowee). You are so sexy that you give top spot to romance, over and above all other, things in life (bow chicka bow bow). This, coupled with the desire for liquor, can cost you dearly, as you may be enjoying at a time when opportunities will be coming your way (also, if you know me, you will know liquor is not my thing. more of a chocoholic). You have got to strike a balance between business and pleasure.
          Learn to be totally self-reliant. After all, you have the requisite qualities to make a success of your ventures all by yourself. Hence, why depend upon others ? Since you are honest, you expect others also to be in the same mould. But you will realise that when the chips are down, those who had earlier given a solemn assurance to stand by you, are not living up to their word. So, make a clear demarcation between business and friendship and treat each separately. (hmmm.)
          Your health will no doubt be good, but as age advances you may be prone to diseases like rheumatism, jaundice and hernia. Take preventive steps by consulting your doctor periodically. (not a single mention of an errant blood cell? faulty prediction, magic astrologers...)
          Get over your weaknesses and get going with your work with determination to ensure a happy home. You will be lucky to have a good spouse and promising children and grandchildren, all of whom will treat you with regard, affection and respect. (children!!  plural!! oh, and respect is good, too.)
          The colours that favour you are yellow, orange, red and rose. Don’t take to blue. (but I love blue!)
          Numbers 1, 3, 4 and 9 will bring you luck. Avoid 8. (NOW. wait a minute.  I thought 8 was my lucky number ever since I was put in group 8 in the 6th grade for color day and the boy I had a major crush on was in the same group.  I'm stickin with 8.)
          Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday are your days. you can attend to major assignments on those days. The other four days are not propitious.

Good thing today's Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller (Robert Plant + Alison Krauss)
TGITT (Thank Goodness It's Therapy Tuesday)

On today's agenda for discussion with my therapist was my need for control.  We all enjoy a sense of control, or the belief that we have control over our lives.  There's a whole genre of self-help books out there to motivate people to take charge of the direction of their lives and be the master of one's own destiny. I wrestle with this a lot.

How can you be the master of your own fate, if fate is something completely out of your control?  Or, how can life be unfair and rough for some (even/especially for those who don't seem to deserve it), while easy peasy for others?  Not everyone gets tossed the same curve balls.  Some of us are born into loving, school-pushing, literate, relatively wealthy homes with middle class values, steamed vegetables, and organic breakfast cereal.  Others are born into slums, washing pots with newspaper and water, no choice but to ignore the bugs crawling up the walls.  

I miss the more enjoyable illusion that I had control over my life, waaaaay back when I thought I had everything under control:  family, job, finances, travel, food, health (a-duh), etc...  

This morning, I laid it all out for my therapist (FINALLY found a good one!) and told her I would be okay with all of the current transitions - the job adjustment, the 2nd child questions, the financial stress, yadda yadda - if I just knew with certainty when things would settle down.  Like for instance:  my cardiologist said, a bunch of weeks ago, that he believes I will be able to sustain a pregnancy (heart-wise) at some point in the future, but just not now. And not until we get some stability in the heart rate department.  Well, that's nice and hopeful and all, but it doesn't give me a heck of a lot of certainty.  "Yes, you will be able to someday.  That day is not today."  I want someone to tell me that next April, my heart will be healed.  A magical healer will have appeared at my door, waved a wand and made it all better so I'll be able to have a boring, uneventful, healthy pregnancy and we can all THEN pick up where we left off.

Having to lose hopes and dreams is a tough reality that comes with cancer.  That's hard for people (non-warriors) to understand because the loss is invisible.  If you're here and you're somewhat healthy, then that's reason enough to celebrate and let's forget all those other things you thought you'd have going on in your life by now.  Forget that your peers are all moving on with their ever-growing families and careers while you're stuck in the in-between place.  Just enjoy each moment as it comes.  One day at a time.  

What a load of male cow manure.  

There's a pile of grief loaded into the cancer goodie bag, even when the diagnosee survives the disease.  And that grief is for the life that was supposed to happen.  There's no memorial service or condolence card sent for this kind of grief, but it's there all the same.

Now that I've come to the end of this post, I realize I've been wallowing a bit in a pond of self-pity.  I know I am lucky.  Things could always be worse.  But I will grant myself the opportunity to be sad once in a while and save the sunshine for tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I've got another post planned with some top secret predictions about the future.... stay tuned.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Today was a ★★★★ day.  It was rainy and gray, so I had to deduct a star for mood lighting.  But aside from that, yes, I'm all in.

You may or may not recall that 7 weeks ago, I went in for my routine (ha!) PET scan (positron emission tomography AKA when they inject you with radioactive glucose, then donut scan you to see what glows, meaning it's metabolizing said glucose - sort of like a black light for cancer cells).  The results were good, but odd.  No signs of lymphoma (insert gigundo sigh of relief), and the inflammation I had previously harbored in my left lung was resolved.  However, there was some new "bronchial thickening" detected in the right lung.  Instead of a spot (which is what inflammation/pneumonitis looks like), this thickening appears as a line, like a clogged bronchiole (see exhibit a).
exhibit a - the pink branches are bronchioles, whereby air travels to the lung tissue

I consulted my pulmonologist (specialist #9 on the team), Dr. L, who could not, simply by looking at the scan, know what the line was. His plan was to put me on an antibiotic for a week, then to x-ray my chest 4 weeks later to see if the thickening could be detected.  If the bronchiole was still visible, we would probably proceed to a bronchoscopy.  Not terrible, but nerve wracking and gives you a sore throat from the tube.  Blech.

Fortunately, today's chest x-ray was normal.  No, like seriously, absolutely NORMAL.  Go back and read that again.  NOR. MAL.  Dr. L used this word, "normal" whereupon he described the image on his computer screen.  There was no trace of any beastly grapefruit or its remnants, at all whatsoever.  He said it so nonchalantly, too, as if, duh, it's fine.  I went on to explain what it looked like on the screen the first time I had a chest x-ray, a big old beach ball gettin all up in my breathing parts.  Big difference.  I think he enjoyed the moment after that.

Wow.  What an amazing effing feeling.  I took a picture of the computer screen just so I could gaze at it whenever I felt like it.  Is it wrong that I kind of have a crush on my mediastinum right now?  I could almost doodle our names together while I'm talking on the phone to it.  I even posted it on Facebook, just like all those excited pregos who post their ultrasound pictures (sorry girls), cause quite frankly, what you're lookin at here is a miracle, too.

BEEYOUTEEFULL - you could go for a swim in that rib cage
To add to the stars of the day, my mom and I frequented the highly touted and much revered Federal Donuts for our in-between-x-ray-and-dr.-appointment lunch.  We scored both hot donuts AND seats at the counter, where we dined like Philadelphia royalty on crispy coconut curry (korean style) fried chicken.  Probably not the lunch of champions (or Kris Carr, for that matter), but definitely worth beating cancer for.  It was a well-rounded meal, though, complete with protein, carbs (a honey donut) and a green veggie (tiny japanese pickles).  Delish.


In other news, last night I became CPR certified!  And discovered that I know way more about medical jargon than I did 2 years ago.  Proudly, I was the only member of the class who knew the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest.  Woo Hoo!  Yeah.  And I know how to attach an AED if someone has a port or a pacemaker (front and back, just like on a baby - take that!).  There's a strange intuitive feeling I have that there's a reason I am required to take CPR for my new job (will get to that soon enough, hopefully it will stick).  Fate-ish, if you will.

Since having the living daylights scared outta me last night with regards to children choking on edible objects, I have instated a new house rule.  No children are to be eating anything remotely food-like (or otherwise) unless they are in the sightline of an adult.  Don't mean to frighten you, but did you know that for every minute a child loses oxygen to the brain they lose 10% of their brain function??  Now I can add fear of choking to my list of worst case scenarios.

I decided I think that everyone should be required to take a cpr class along with being required to have an infant car seat to take the baby home from the hospital in.  And also a parenting class along with the birthing class.  There are a lot of classes that need to be taken by a lot of people (still referring to the new job) who become parents.  Wowee,  so many haven't a clue.  No judgements being made (today), I am here to help.

Hoping I am never given the chance to test out my cpr skills.  But I think I'm ready if the need should arise.  Call 9-1-1!  Get an AED!  Begin compressions.  The only question is, if I'm the one that goes down, who else knows what to do?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

True Love

Yantra Mat
Who needs roses on Valentine's Day?  So overdone.  My honey did things right this year:  he got me a Yantra mat!  It's like a bed of nails, but made of the same plastic as Legos, atop a foam padded mat, that you can roll up in a handy little carrying case with a strap.  The idea is that by applying acupressure to many points all at once, increased circulation will improve general health.  Better circulation means more oxygen to more body parts, and we all know that oxygen is only a good thing.  I never heard of anyone getting too much air...

I'm going to follow the guide on the website and start off with ten minutes on the mat each day for the first four days, then increase to 20 minutes up to the 2 week mark.  After that, it's suggested that you lay (in a multitude of positions) from 20-40 minutes each day.

Totally rad, right?  Pokey meditation!  I'll report back about my progress, today being Day 1.

Goals: reduce stress, neuropathy, muscle tension, and fatigue (can I also wish for a reduced heart rate?)

This is not my first foray into alternative medicine - I've been receiving weekly acupuncture treatments for almost 3 years now (since before my lymphoma diagnosis), I LOVE massage therapy (including reflexology and manual lymph drainage), and I've been known to take an herb or tincture every now and then.  Last Spring I took a meditation class, which was an awesome introduction to proper positioning and practice of different types of movement (qi gong, yoga, and guided visualization).

I've argued with a handful of mouthy folks who think it's all quackery and a waste of money.  I say, I don't expect these therapies to cure cancer, but if they relieve the stress of dealing with it, it's money well spent.  Meditation >< medication.

Have you experimented with meditation?  Would you?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feel the Burn?

"The tendency to run away from suffering is there in every one of us.  We think that by seeking pleasure we'll avoid suffering.  But this doesn't work.  It stunts our growth and our happiness.  Happiness isn't possible without understanding, compassion, and love.  And love is not possible if we don't understand our suffering and the other person's suffering.

Getting in touch with suffering will help us cultivate compassion and love. Without understanding and love, we can't be happy, and we can't make other people happy.  We all have the seeds of compassion, forgiveness, joy, and nonfear in us.  If we're constantly trying to avoid suffering, there is no way for these seeds to grow."

- Thich Nhat Hahn, Your True Home

This sentiment is one that is echoed many times by meditation philosophers and wise learned folks from different faiths.  Feel the pain, don't run away.  Forget the tylenol, just breathe and notice and observe and feel it all.

Eh, I'm not so sure.  For one, pain and suffering are not really fun.  We don't run towards the bad stuff, thinking it will shape our characters, guide the direction of our lives and build character.  We make life decisions based on what will make us happy, keep us (and our families) safe, and most successful.

On some level, I agree with this notion that you cannot truly cultivate compassion for others without an understanding of suffering.  We all suffer in some way, small or large, be it insecurities or abuse or illness, we have choices to make in the ways we process our pain.  Today I'm thinking about the ways I try to avoid it or make the unpleasantness go away.  I distract myself most days, with busywork, concentrating mental energy on something outside of myself.  If I can't sleep at night, I read a book or listen to guided imagery, rather than be left alone with my thoughts.

I'm not a monk.  I do not expect myself to be devoted to thoughts of my own suffering and that of others.  But it is interesting to think that without allowing myself to feel sad, I don't allow myself happiness either.

As a parent, I struggle with this conflict often:  clearly, a child needs to experience difficulties in order to learn how to problem solve, to learn compassion and empathy and to be able to identify and express feelings.  But I don't want him to be hurt or suffer.  I want to protect him from this mean world and all of its unpredictability in a lovely little bubble.

Then there's this other nagging practicality:  pain is often a symptom.  When our bodies feel physical pain, it is a message being sent that there is a problem lurking under the surface that requires attention.  We are supposed to find a way to detect the problem, which will in turn, resolve the pain.  Right?  I'm not sure that just sitting in my armchair, observing my discomfort, is always in our best interests.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I'm thinking I should have a lime green "SURVIVOR" diploma.
A friend's recent blog post got me thinking about experts.  What makes someone an expert on something?    I've always taught my students that good writers write about what they know (thank you, Lucy Calkins and Teacher's College).  I'm pretty sure the same rule applies for grown ups too.  So how do we know?  From reading lots of books and articles?  From listening to lectures?  Watching videos?  Well, yeah, sort of.  But also from living it.

Makes me think of the scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin William's character reminds Will (Matt Damon) that all of his knowledge is based upon what he's read and not what he's lived.

I'm pretty sure I've made this clear before, but let me say it again.  I have not gone to school to become a healthy living guru.  I have not earned a nutritionist certification (hell, we went to Elevation Burger for dinner last week as I was in DIRE need of their french fries - both mentally and physically).

By chance and luck and stars aligned - and okay, I'll give a teensy credit to modern medicine - I have lived through a fairly serious illness.  I've done my research (reading, listening, watching), talked to doctors (many), heard what my acupuncturist and massage therapists had to contribute, and tried to use common sense to balance it all out.  Making some sense of the world we live in and how to best navigate it, for me and on behalf of my awesome kid, is my part-time job now.

While I don't always practice the best nutrition sense (some days are for peanut butter patties, some are for extra salad), I do my best to use good judgement in the choices I make for my family.  They're mostly reasonable and not usually crazy overprotective.

One note of pride: I've had several people contact me to tell me how reading this blog has made them think about their own choices and how they can make small changes to improve overall health.  It makes me gleeful!  If you've made a change (new water bottle?  stop nuking your food in plastic?), please share below.

Thanks for reading, following along (feel free to actually click "join this site" on the side bar), and contributing your own expertise to the conversation.

Next up:  I convert my co-teacher with the help of an iPhone.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Being 34

flowers, rainbows, and balloons: just as it should be
Alright, so it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I do realize that relatively speaking, 34 is quite young.  Although I've read enough Indian saga stories (A Fine Balance, A Toss of a Lemon) to know that in many other cultures, I'd be a granny by now, if I were still around at this age.  But I never had a hard time facing my birthday before this year, which took me by surprise.

ummmm.  couldn't wait to dig in.

Then, loving people came through:  friends, and family, and Facebook.  Having your birthday on FB is so rad.  100 people you may or may not have spoken to in 15 or more years write you happy messages - you can't help but smile.  I felt loved.

My bake-tastic husband fixed me a Heavenly Lemon Pie (this is as close as I could get) and I tried not to hog it all.  My mom made cinnamon buns (healthy ones, I swear), there was a sesame sweet potato pastry from Paris Baguette Bakery, pizza lunch at Jules, and dinner at Penang, complete with the roti canai deliciousness, and a fried coconut ice cream pre-dessert treat (bonus restaurant serenade).  Fab.

And today, for the first time in I don't know how long, I actually wanted to freeze time.  Judah, playing on the front porch with his "sister" (a blue smooshy lizard aptly named Lizzie), a warm pile of laundry in the living room, sunshine poking into every possible corner.  Bliss.  And I wanted to just stay in that sunny moment when nothing bad was happening.  Kairos time, if you will.  It struck me because for the past few years I've been in search of the fast forward button, wanting to push through the misery, depression, the fog of frustration and fear to the clear skies of normalcy.
a moment in Kairos time

I don't know if normalcy exists for anyone at all, or if it's just an illusion we cling to so that we can get through each day.  If I thought every day about ALL of the potential for terror that looms, I would need a lot of Ativan.  With refills.  (Have I ever mentioned that the only news I watch on tv is The Daily Show?) So we obviously can't dwell in a place of possibility all the time, but really need to try to be present.  I'm working on it, not constantly future projecting.  And today happened naturally, no effort required.  Yes.

ps. Enjoy a Mat Kearney song of the moment:  Closer to Love.

most amazing handmade just for me mug!!  thank you thank you nina!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Birthday Brats

birthday 2010 - sleeping the flu off on my left side
You'll forgive me if I'm not all that excited for my birthday this year.  A survivor (with yet another clean-ish scan in her pocket last month) perhaps should be elated to be able to celebrate this day.  Last year, I was happy, toasting to myself with a purple orchid martini.  Today, however it feels like a reminder that the past two years were stolen from me and I am still mourning the loss.

I know, I know.  I'm lucky to be here, and doesn't that put things in perspective, yadda yadda.  Yes and no.  I am lucky to be here, but every day doesn't feel like a gift.  A few days ago, it felt like the fog was lifting (sunshine helps) and I had a great day.  The day was happy, from start to finish.

But sometimes it's hard to distract myself from the fact that my life is different now.  My body is different.  The hopes and dreams I had for myself and my family are up in the air.  The visions of the future are all question marks and cloudy bubbles.

Of course I know now that in reality, the future is that way for everyone, and was that way for me before, I just didn't know it.  There's still so much grief and anger in what is not.  And what I fear may never be.  New normal frickin sucks.

It's difficult not to compare myself to all of the happy, functioning, thin, rich, well rested, fertile, professionally satisfied, healthy people out there.  Yes, mostly people put out there what they want you to see (extra specially on Facebook), but leaving out the bad parts isn't quite lying.  And I do wonder how people who are just meeting me now, no concept of the past few years, see me.
birthday 2011

I used to love my birthday with a passion, reminding everyone within a 30 mile radius of the countdown as soon as MLK day had passed.  The day has very rarely lived up to my expectations of what a birthday should be (the most incredible day all about you so special favorite things love balloons ribbons rainbows everywhere) and a few years ago (probably when I discovered that birthdays are supposed to be for the moms) I docked it down to just hoping for a good dinner out and a candle stuck into something yummy.

This year feels like poo for a couple of reasons.  Last year I was fresh off of a clean scan and basking in the no-cancer glow.  This year I am turning the same age as a friend was when I met her and started babysitting for her awesome kid(s), who just had his bar mitzvah last year.  So, a) that means I'm old and b) my life looks so different from where hers was at this age.  Silly, perhaps, but that was the image in my mind's eye of what it looked like to be this old.

Tomorrow I will celebrate the blessing of being alive for another year.  I will eat roti canai.  For dessert, there will be husband-made heavenly lemon meringue, with a candle.