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Archive for June, 2007

Eight Random Things

My first meme tagging (by Tricia) is to list eight random things about myself.

1. Lately I like using watercolors (in paint, crayon and pencil form). Since high school that had been my least favorite painting medium and now it’s one of my favorites.

2. I have a LOT of cookbooks (6 tall bookcases full) but don’t cook every day. A. makes dinner most nights. I love dreaming up good things to eat with great ingredients and I love to bake.

3. I don’t color my hair (yet but it could happen someday) and it’s naturally curly (these are not just chemo curls!).

4. I spent the first part of my childhood in the suburbs, the 2nd part in the country (woods) and my entire adult life in the city (although where we live now is in the city our backyard feels like the woods).

5. When I was in high school I won a few poetry prizes (both from my school and the community). That early recognition made it hard for me to write (I felt very self conscious when I wrote) and I barely wrote again till a couple of years ago when working with a poetry therapist at the Wellness Community. I won an art prize back then too, but that didn’t affect my ability to do art (graduate school did that!).

6. I have had a weight problem since puberty. Between my first and 2nd cancers I lost a lot of weight and kept it off for a few years until the 2nd cancer. Since then I have gained a lot (not all, but almost) of it back. If I could lose half of what I gained (and maintain that) I would be happy.

7. I have lower limb lymphedema (one of a few annoying side effects I have as a result of cancer treatment) and while it is mild I still have to wear compression pantyhose every day (all my waking hours) for the rest of my life.

8. I’ve been meditating almost every day for 2 1/2 months now.

Okay, I’m tagging Jill, Miriam & Connie!

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I just got a letter in the mail saying that my medical oncologist is leaving the state next week (the letter was dated a month ago, but not mailed till 2 days ago). So now I will have none of my original drs. from when I was first diagnosed and treated for endo cancer in 2004. Might be a good time to switch hospitals/teams, I don’t know, we’ll see.

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Losing Joyce


I mentioned in a previous post that a friend of mine was in hospice and in her last days. She died on Sunday (Z.’s birthday) after moving into the hospice house on Friday evening. The last time I saw her was a couple of weeks before she died and my last contact with her was through a couple of emails a few days before she died where we talked a bit about what our friendship meant to each one another. I was very lucky to have gotten to know Joyce and felt honored that she allowed me get close to her in the months before her death.

I met Joyce in our cancer support group, she did not live in this area but was staying with her brother here. Initially she came here to get better medical care for her aggressive cancer and ended up deciding that this is where she wanted to be for her last days. I happened to run into her brother in the hospital when I was getting radiation earlier this year. We used to be neighbors years ago but I hadn’t seen him for a long time so I stopped to ask him if he was indeed who I thought he was. He told me about his sister (and introduced me to her husband, Joyce was in a room with a dr. so I didn’t meet her then) and I told them about the Wellness Community. A few weeks later I went to my weekly support group and there she is (and there are other weekly groups, so it was another synchronous event that she ended up in mine).

Joyce knew she was dying when she joined the group, it was just a matter of time. She was able to speak frankly about the things she faced and she was also able to shed tears with us. She had a remarkable determination and spirit that touched all of us. Joyce and I also connected through art (she had run an art gallery and went to Open Studio recently, that’s one of her drawings above) and being mothers with cancer (her kids are college age). She told me numerous times that our kids were what was really important in life, that they are our real legacy not the other things we’ve done in our lives that seem so important at the time. Sometimes Joyce had a hard time putting all the words together to say what she wanted to say, yet at the same time she was very direct and had no problems saying exactly what she thought and felt.

As I got closer and closer to Joyce I tried not to think too hard about the fact that I was getting closer and closer to someone who was not going to be around much longer. I did my best to stay in the moment of our friendship and live it day by day. In the last few weeks when it became apparent to me and to her that the end was nearing it brought up a lot of emotions that I had not been facing. Besides the obvious pain of losing her there were things like memories of losing my sister to cancer a few years ago, my concerns for my own health and life, thoughts of how my death would affect my own family, how she and her family must be feeling, etc. etc. My back started hurting and the pain brought me right back to last fall and winter when I had back pain symptoms that eventually led to my recurrence diagnosis. Interestingly, after visiting with her family the night of the funeral I noticed my back relaxing a bit and while there’s still some pain (as I often have) it’s definitely lessened.

I will definitely miss Joyce, she has touched my life in many ways. I hate this damn disease and am angry that it took yet another good person way too soon. I hope that if cancer takes my life that I can live my last few months as well as she did.

Peace.

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Double Digits

Z. turned 10 today. It’s been 10 years since she was born 11 weeks prematurely and almost 9 years since I was diagnosed with my first cancer. I’m still here and so is she. I’m happy to be here, happy to be with her as she grows up, but sad too as it all goes by so fast. She’s in that time where she’s getting more and more independent and grown up, yet still needs me, even if she would argue that she doesn’t.

She’s a tomboy who loves Pokemon and hates to brush her hair. She has been wearing shorts since April regardless of what the temperature is outside. She hates girly things yet picked out a beautiful flowery dress and white strap sandals for her uncle’s wedding this summer. She has mostly boys as friends except for a girlfriend who is a lot like she is. She’s still a little girl yet she’s definitely hit full fledged puberty this spring. She is struggling to find her way in this maze of childhood moving into adolescence that her body has thrust upon her so early.

I am struggling too, trying to parent this moody, passionate, creative, energetic, difficult, happy child and at the same time dealing with my health issues. I mostly try to stay in the present but there are times when I am fearful and sad about what may lay ahead for her or so overwhelmed by my own situation that I can’t really give her what she needs from me at a particular moment. Mommy guilt. No one can rationalize that away from a mother, it’s just something we all feel at times and are often stuck with.

So Happy 10th birthday my sweet girl! I hope that we have the time to go through the difficulties that mothers and daughters go through as they grow up and that we have the time to get through it to the other side where friendship (or at least tolerance!) is reached. I love you.

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School’s almost out!

Just a quick note to update as it’s again been a while. I’ve been really busy with all kinds of things and am hoping to come up for air next week when Z. is done with school. A. started work this past Monday (YEAH!) so I’m back to the picking up after school thing (awww, I was so spoiled this year with A. doing the drop off and the pick up most days), but it’s the last week of school so I really made out 🙂

Lots of cancer stuff going on lately, most notably that a friend is moving into hospice (to the hospice facility, she’s been in hospice at home for a while now) and I’m really sad that the end is near. We’re new friends, we just met a few months ago, but we’ve gotten close quickly. My emotions are all mixed up between thoughts of her and thoughts of myself and thoughts of my late sister. A few days ago I twisted and turned while lifting heavy things at the grocery store and my lower back is unhappy. This on top of stress is causing pain and the pain reminds me of the pain I had last fall that ended up being diagnosed as a recurrence. So my mind is going to places I’d rather not go. I’ve been trying to use the mindfulness practices I learned in the research study I was in recently (for women with cancer and stress) in dealing with all of this stuff. I do think it helps, along with the (mostly) daily meditation. But it’s still been hard.

Some nice or should I say flattering news. I had some paintings up at The Wellness Community’s Celebration of Hope last week (there was a small show of work from Open Studio) and a woman expressed interest in buying both of my paintings. The works in the show weren’t for sale, but I was summoned from my lunch to meet her and we exchanged emails. It took me a while to contact her and I haven’t heard back from her but it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care if I actually sell them, it was just nice that someone wanted to buy them. I still have to photograph them, but they are two acrylic paintings on canvas paper that are entitled Pain and Relief. They were painted on the same afternoon last fall, a few weeks after my back pain began (I was pretty much in constant pain at that point) and I painted the pain in one and the imagining of being pain free in the other (abstractly).

Z.’s 10th bday is this Sunday. 10 years!! It was almost 9 years ago that I began having symptoms of stage 4b vulvar cancer and here I am seeing her 10th bday. She is definitely not my baby anymore. Puberty has hit (for real, menstruation, pimples, and definitely the moody hormones) and it’s challenging, but I am so proud of who she is and how she’s grown. She’s strong, confident, knows who she is, smart, creative and passionate.

Well, off to bed, tomorrow is Pet Day for her class at school and poor Calvin is going to have to make a trip to school in his cat carrier (where he will stay) and be around dogs, hamsters and whatever else the kids bring in. Meow!

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Freeing the junk

Wow, it’s June already and I haven’t posted in a while. A. still hasn’t started work so many of my free moments at home lately have been spent with him trying to get things done around the house. We moved into this house almost 4 years ago and a month later my sister died from complications of breast cancer. As time passed I lost any enthusiasm for unpacking, putting things where they belonged or making things look good. More time went by and I started to feel a little better and began to do more things around the house when bam! I get my 2nd cancer diagnosis and I’m laid out from major surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for a good many more months and while we have certainly done a lot of work since then, a lot has gone by the wayside. The recurrence this past December and subsequent treatment put me back into overwhelmed mode. An example (one of many), Z.’s playroom floor went from ankle deep to knee deep to hip deep since my 2nd diagnosis and surgery and my reaction to it was to close the door (and usually to sigh or moan loudly and if Z. was around to tell her to please clean up her playroom which was beyond impossible for her to do at that point). Now that she is about to turn 10 it really is time to get rid of the many outgrown toys and books that are overwhelming the room (and not just the playroom but her bedroom and the other rooms of the house that they spill over into). This photo was taken last October, it only got worse since then, despite attempts by Z. and A. periodically to put things away and A. and my attempts at further organization (which included replacing the broken bookcase with a taller one).

Something kind of snapped in me recently and my long standing overwhelmed reaction to it all has changed into feeling a great need to take care of this now, while I am well. As more time goes by I am more and more focused on living for today, taking that family trip, eating that great meal, going to that concert, growing those tomatoes, and getting my house in order. I have a friend in hospice, truly living day by day, and friends in treatment for recurrences and along with my own uncertain future health status I am feeling a need for getting my surroundings in order. We redid and organized our office and today we brought 12 paper grocery bags of ancient personal papers to one of those giant shredder trucks. It was so satisfying seeing two giant trash cans of our junk being loaded into the truck shredder. It was freeing. I am tired of being bogged down by junk, and boy do we have a lot of it (three packrats in one big house, a recipe for disaster). So, little by little (because I am also not going to spend all my time doing this) I am going to tackle this enormous project and each day I clear a little away my mind will get lighter and freer.

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