Remembering the light in 2013

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As a new year approaches, I want to take this opportunity to wish everybody that reads my blog a very happy and healthy new year. I appreciate the fact that people make an effort to stay connected with me through my words.

We all reflect as we leave one year and enter into another and for me, I have to just be honest and say that 2013 was the worst year of my life. I not only had a miscarriage, but I found out that I have been diagnosed with stage IV liver melanoma. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not unhappy to see 2013 come to an end.

Having said that, when I think about 2013 and the sadness, fear, doubt and anger that it has unabashedly brought to my life (and to my family’s life, I have to think), it doesn’t all ring painful. I can still conjure up wonderful times, as well… everything from buying a beautiful house and beginning to create memories here to a summer dinner out on Cape Cod with my whole family, to a crisp fall evening where I could smell wood burning, to running through the rain in Central Park’s NYC with SHL, to the best, most gigantic hug from my nephew, to attending the I Can Do It Conference in D.C. with Marla and getting to meet Kris Carr, to visiting Anita and her family in Austin, to having a sleepover with my camp girlfriends, to the Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Fenway Park, to singing along with SHL at the Paul McCartney concert this summer, to feeling the deep-rooted unconditional love of so many family and friends every single day. Through the darkness there can be light.

I recently read an article by Deepak Chopra called “Your Path to Joy,” (if you’d like to read it just click here: http://http://www.chopra.com/ccl/the-path-to-joy), and I think it’s appropriate to talk about it here because I believe that creating an expanded awareness of oneself is healthy, not just for people suffering from cancer or chronic diseases, but for everybody. Couldn’t we all benefit from leading a more authentic, joyous, grateful life? What a great thing to keep in mind as we approach a new year (and always!).

I have to admit, as much as I love the article, there are still many pieces to it that I am trying to understand. Deepak, as many do these days, talks about “Life Purpose,” and he says that no matter how lost or confused you feel, you still have a purpose. This is a term that I try to remain curious about, instead of judgmental. Can life purpose simply be living a joyous life? When we hear the word “purpose” we tend to think of it more in terms of titles. “I work at such and such a place doing x,y,z.” “I am a Mom.” “I am a wife.” Perhaps life purpose can be about cultivating happiness, good health, creativity, and fun. For me, I think that’s what I want it to be about.

I also struggle with the “You are safe” words that Deepak writes about. I don’t necessarily always feel safe, living with cancer. When fear arises “observe myself,” yes, but then what? I struggle sometimes living in the present moment and not letting fear gain it’s grip on me. The last 6 months have been a true testament to my willingness to let go of the different scenarios that I can play out in my head, and to reign in that anxiety that can so easily rear it’s ugly head in a matter of seconds.

It’s also important to remember that I have the strength and the tools already inside of me to handle whatever may come my way, good or bad, and so do you. As much as we think that perseverating on a situation will in fact help us to play out the different scenarios of how we may handle it, hence giving us something that we’ll need in the moment, the truth is, it really only creates more anxiety. I feel better on the days when I can remember this, and try to stay in the here-and-now.

I love the idea that infinite energy is available to me, and to all of us. Let’s remember in 2014 to play, laugh, expand our curiosity, do mitzvah’s for others, focus on health in whatever way that feels right, and create joy in the every day. Wishing you all a very happy and healthy new year, but also wishing for a passionate, loving, and fun-filled new year as well, filled with whatever purpose you and I find the most fulfilling xoxo.

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Loving and Being Loved: As good as yoga and kale

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Kris Carr gives us this wisdom recently: “I am safe and secure. I exhale any anxiety and inhale calm. As my world expands so do my heart and mind. I am willing to stay open and accept all the miracles and abundance the universe has to offer me.”

I love this. I invite this in. But the truth is, I feel as though I am going through the motions on some days, as if I should be doing more than just eating english muffins for breakfast, going to work, and catching up on episodes of Scandal with SHL. If I don’t meditate one day, or exercise another, if I eat M&M’s one day and get stressed at work another, am I letting myself down? Am I doing everything that I can each and every single day to keep myself as healthy as possible? I feel an incredible amount of pressure, and I can honestly say that it’s coming from myself. Not from SHL, or my parents, friends, doctors… Nobody is saying to me that I’m not doing well enough. Nobody but me is judging myself if I don’t get to the gym or fall asleep before I can listen to Deepak Chopra talk about perfect health. But I wonder: Should I be traveling to the depths of the rain forest to look for essential herbs that can possibly cure cancer? Should I be practicing yoga in a heat-filled room, followed by a kale shake and then falling into a peaceful slumber? I haven’t been to acupuncture in a while. Should I be trying to figure out how to somehow work part-time? Is my job too stressful? While there are plenty of things that I am sure I am doing for myself that are wonderful (spending more time with SHL while his schedule slows down for the holidays, enjoying some of my favorite foods on the days when my stomach is OK, seeing friends for sleepovers and movie date nights, taking a 3 day trip to Florida, planning a vacation g-d willing for 2014), sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like it’s good enough. Remember about a month ago when I said that I was going to come at this from a place of love? Of loving myself? Well it’s not as easy as I thought.

So I take a breath. I remind myself that I.AM.HUMAN. I am allowed to take some time to not focus solely on the cancer. I am allowed to have M&M’s. I am allowed to have a bad day at work where I get stressed out, even though it’s maybe not the best thing for my immune system. I am allowed to watch TV and not be traveling to the depths of the rain forest or praying in an Ashram right now. I am allowed to try and feel “normal.” Aren’t I? I work on the book jacket of what my book could possibly hope to say, and I wonder if I can’t get it so perfect, will others really want to hear my experience, advice, what I’ve learned (and will continue to learn) from having cancer? Does anybody ever get it perfect? Probably not. But I feel so far away from it. I wonder how to let go of my own expectations and drink in the possibility that if I am happy, creating joy spending time with my loved ones, then perhaps that is just as good as the other things? Perhaps loving and being loved is healing enough right now.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…

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Did everybody get the invite to the pity party? It should have arrived today. Let me know if you want to attend, because it’s always a good time (note to reader: I get very sarcastic at these parties). I woke up feeling cranky that it was Monday (which I promised myself I wouldn’t do, no more dreading Mondays), and sad to see the weekend go. Friday night was complete with nourishment for the soul, having a slumber party with my camp girlfriends that I’ve known since I was 10 years old… We didn’t even get to our 80’s movies; we just sat on my couch and talked and ate and laughed until 2:30am! In the morning I made french toast and the snow started. Later in the day a great friend came over to make dinner for us, we played a new game (will be perfect for Thanksgiving next year!) and Sunday Sean and I totally just chilled out at home and had a lazy, snowy day. Why oh why couldn’t Mondays still be part of the weekend?

But Monday isn’t really why I am throwing myself this pity-party. On Saturday I started to not feel well again, and while I promised myself not to get in a funk about it, 2 days in, and here I am. I paged my oncologist, as I was instructed to do if this happened, and he said that if it got any worse than I may have to go back to the hospital for another IV. I think that was what put me over the edge; thinking about having to go back there, stuck with needles and IV’s, being monitored every 20 minutes, not sleeping, not eating, not going to work (OK, so that puts Mondays in perspective. Would rather be here than there).

Thankfully, knock on wood, it hasn’t gotten worse, but I am back to eating bananas, toast, crackers, pasta, and rice. The lovely dinner that our friend made for us on Saturday night looked delicious, as did Sean’s leftover pizza on Sunday, and the hash brown western omelet that I made for him (he has a cold so I wanted to give him a little TLC, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been in the kitchen). So while everybody is out enjoying their festive eggnog and holiday cookies, I’m back to having no idea what I can eat, sticking to plain chicken, pasta, and crackers until I can figure out exactly what’s going on with my body. The doctors said that as they wean me off of the steroid (part of me wishes that I could stay on it forever, but the part of me that has to look at my puffy/bloated face every day is also kind of anxious to get off of it!), but there are too many side effects (see above as just one, not sleeping through the night 4 + weeks now as another), that they really don’t like to keep people on it for very long.

I think that one of the hardest parts of all of this is that they just don’t know if I’ll get sick again, and if so, for how long. So I need to keep the big picture in mind, which in my opinion is that if I’m sick it’s because the medicine is working so hard in my body. And if it’s working on my stomach, then it’s hopefully working on the cancer, too. When I think about it that way, missing out on some holiday meals doesn’t seem like the end of the world.

I ran out to the grocery store today during my lunch break to stock up on the plain stuff, and when I returned I saw the box in our work kitchen of donated items such as cans of food and things that one of my colleagues is taking to a shelter sometime this week. I had seen it on Friday and made a mental note to myself to grab some stuff to donate. But when I went to the grocery store today the pity-party just completely took over as I bought my bananas and plain white pasta shells (no more whole wheat anything for a while, it seems), and I didn’t pick up anything to donate. I felt like such a jerk.

And then I didn’t, and that may sound strange, but I give in lots of ways to others, whether in my work, donating to charities, or volunteering for the Cancer Hope Network. And I’m not clueless: I know how fortunate I am for everything that I have, this time of year or not.

Today is just going to be one of those days, I think. A day when the positive side of my brain needs a little rest, a day when maybe I will go home and get into sweats and feel badly that I can’t enjoy the dinner that I had planned on making Sean and I tonight. A day when I can’t seem to distract myself from the stomach aches, a day when the unknown feels bigger than me, when the anger and the sadness bubble up, and I just can’t keep it at bay. Perhaps I shouldn’t. Maybe if I give in to this pity-party today (or even for the next couple of days), I can then let it go and invite you all to a much brighter, happier, party. But it won’t be today.

Am I just the girl with just the message?

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It’s been difficult to wrap my mind around writing this blog post.  It seems easier to take my most recent scans and follow-up appointment with my oncologist and put it away in a vault somewhere, not to be thought of again until the next time.  That may seem like a strange thing to say given that thank g-d I got good news at the last appointment, but the truth is, the experience opened up something in me like Pandora’s Box, and it’s been difficult to close.  When I really let myself feel the fear, as the doctor was leaving the room, I began to weep and my mind and my body finally admitted that holding onto the terror of this first follow-up appointment was exhausting, and more than just a little frightening.  

What I am so immensely grateful and relieved to tell you is that my most recent scans last week show that I am stable right now.  This means that thank g-d, nothing has grown or spread since the last MRI.   My doctor is happy about this (as happy as an oncologist can be).  The treatment that I received, even though I couldn’t finish the course of medication because I got treatment-induced colitis from it, could be in my system hopefully for months or even years, so it’s just one step at a time for now. We all need to continue to pray, meditate, energize, etc. that the KACP works! This was a baseline scan to see what’s going on, and I’ll be scanned again in another couple of months because they need to keep a close eye on the tumors. As time goes on, we will have a better idea of just how much cancer butt I am kicking w/ the medicine that I have received, combined with the holistic steps that I am taking as well.

For the time being, though, my focus continues to be on creating joy every day, taking care of myself physically and mentally, saying no when I need to, saying yes to things that I think will inspire me, meditating, laughing, and focusing on positive visualizations (of which I have many).  

It may seem strange that I didn’t walk out of that doctor’s office that morning last week whistling; instead, I felt a fresh batch of fear.  I can only say that it is too hard to put into words what it is like to think that you may have to live month to month, scan to scan, while seemingly the rest of the world (at least, most people that I know) continue to move forward in their lives, raising their families, planning their futures.  So I do what I can to do the same, to plan, to move forward, to live life not on the edge of a cliff, but on a great long stretch of beach instead.  I don’t want to live month to month, scan to scan.  I am doing everything that I can to process the fear, let myself feel it, and then try my hardest to stay in-the-moment.  We are only given today.  I have realized lately through the good grace of my therapist (yes, when you struggle with fertility, then have a miscarriage, then are diagnosed with cancer for a second time before the age of 37 you run, not walk, to find yourself a good therapist!) that actually going over every single scenario in my head of what could possibly happen is not going to help me.  In fact, it is only going to create even more anxiety.  In reality, no matter what happens, I already have the strength (and the tools) inside of me to deal with it, good or bad.  That knowledge in itself has been incredibly helpful and has strengthened my confidence in myself, and my ability to stay more in-the-moment.  

I am also working on brainstorming how to possibly turn this blog into something else, a book perhaps?  For such a long time I thought that I needed to have it perfect before I could ever hope to publish my writing, or offer something to somebody else that could possibly inspire or motivate.  Through the help of my life coach and Kris Carr’s new Spotlight Crash Course, I am beginning to see that it may be OK for me not to have all the answers, not to know how to do it perfectly, and still just start.  Today I wrote what I thought could be the back cover of my book jacket.  It probably stinks (ahh, there are those inner “gremlins,” telling me that I can’t do something!) as it’s the first time that I’ve ever tried to do anything like that, and I’m still not even completely sure what this could even begin to look like.  But heck, I tried.  

 

I’m still working on what my core mission could be, but my initial thoughts are helping others to live a more authentic and happier life, with or without cancer, or any kind of disease. Since I’ve been diagnosed I’ve had a lot of crappy days, but I’ve also let go of a lot as well. I don’t dread Mondays anymore. I don’t carry around as much anger or resentment at others in my life who I feel haven’t lived up to my expectations (I’m working very hard on accepting people for who they are, and being grateful for what they do bring into my life and not what they don’t give me), I say no more when I need to understanding that my time is just a precious as anybody’s, and when you focus on creating joy every day, the universe gives you more joy (even in something seemingly “small,” like having your husband come home early for dinner). So it’s not that I have all the answers, and it’s not that I don’t have bad days and road rage and nag my hubby to do chores and sometimes, want to stay in bed with the covers over my head (case in point: Since work is kicking my ass lately, if I had any sick time saved up, I would have taken a mental health day today). But I do have a unique perspective on what life is like with cancer, and that in turn perhaps gives me a unique perspective on what life should be like for anybody: It’s our birthright to be happy, cancer or no cancer, disease or no disease. And maybe I’m just the girl to pass along that message to others.