Possibility in Any Year is Where Hope Lives

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Abundance Awaits

2015:  The year that Kris Carr and I became BFF’s.  And OK, I guess other things happened too…

The Year

2015 brought some miracles, for sure: In fact, this was the year that I saw Kris and Gabby speak in NYC during their “Crazy Sexy Miracles” event and began to understand exactly what a miracle is (all along I had been looking for something very particular in the miracles category when it hit me—a miracle can be a shift in perception!).

This was the year that Kris and I had the most raw, beautiful, deep, funny, spirited, vulnerable conversation (in front of 300 people at the Chopra Center).   That alone would have made it a superstar year.  But it was also the year that I got to participate in the Journey into Healing workshop out in California with my best friend M, a dream come true for the both of us: Sunrise yoga, chanting my very own primordial meditation, and actually being in a room with Deepak Chopra, among many other amazing people.  It was the year that I must have said “Can you believe that I drink green juices?” nine million times, and the year that I started working out on a consistent basis and finally figured out that what I had heard all along is actually true:  It’s good not just for your body, but your mind, too.

It was also, and this is the biggest blessing, the year that I didn’t have to have any treatment. All of my scans were clean, thank g-d!  It was the year that I thought about this constantly and held my breath and didn’t want to jinx anything, but felt so grateful for this that if I wasn’t such a superstitious person, I would have thrown a party.  Alas, I border on crazy when it comes to superstitions and jinxes and magical thinking, so I’m not even going to clink glasses on this one.  Just knock on wood and let’s move on…

It was the year that I tried to release at least some of the magical thinking. Holding some of it close for safe keeping, but also doing my best to get clear with the universe about what I want.  The year that I admitted that it is OK to want.  (Actually, that’s still hard to admit).

It was also the year of some tough times, too. Kidney stones and a stomach problem added to the anxiety because when you have cancer and you don’t feel well, you worry that everything is a something.  It was the year that things got scary with my eye when I had to go to Mass Eye and Ear suddenly throwing up and holding my head, the year that something “very small” but “unidentifiable” was found in my liver.  It was the year that I fell apart.  The year that I put myself back together again.  It was the year that I realized that I am now almost completely blind in my left eye.

This was the year that I had an idea I was able to see to fruition when I started a company-wide lifestyle blog based on health and wellness, and the year when this blog that you’re reading really felt like it grew roots.

It was the year that I saw the sun rise over Haleakala in Maui.  The year that my camp friends and I started a going-away-girls-weekend tradition.  The year that SHL and I re-lived the best day of our lives on Cape Cod, celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary.

It was also the year that my beloved, SHL, became an American citizen!  He now has dual citizenship between the United States and Canada, which I think is pretty cool.

It was the year that I realized it’s not crazy to sing Broadway show tunes in the car and throughout the house (and OK, a little bit at work), it’s crazy not to (that’s just how much I enjoy it!).

This was the year that we lost Teddy, our beloved sweet and cuddly cat, and grief spread through every limb in our body, crushing our hearts. It was the year that I was reminded that a pet truly captures your heart and embeds itself into your family in the best of ways.

It was the year that we brought Reesie, our mischievous kitten, home and the year that we had to kitty-proof our house and tie up our curtains and close our bathroom doors (because her favorite thing is to rummage through our trash can and find the floss and the q-tips and drag each around the house, chewing them because well what else would you do with it?).

It was the year that my best friend A’s kids slept on the floor of my room while I was visiting in sleeping bags, melting my heart into big Sam Auntie puddles.

It was the year that I cared for my nephew M while his parents were away and I got to really see what being a Mom would be like: Checking every label, washing behind his ears, reading bedtime stories and soothing when he was upset, praising him for a good catch in the backyard and cutting his PB&J sandwiches into squares because I know he likes it that way (just like I did when I was a kid), and letting him eat just one more cookie because hey, I’m an Auntie, and isn’t that what Auntie’s do?

It was the year that I embraced vulnerability and leaned in and said, “Yes, please take care of me.” The year that I admitted that I wasn’t sure that I could handle any of this.  And the year that I then did just that (handled it.  Most of the time.  And the rest of the time recognized that I don’t have to be able to handle everything so smoothly all of the time).

It was the year of trying to look at myself in the mirror with something that didn’t resemble a mean girl, to not compare myself with others, to not feel like I need to look a certain way or be a certain way to be happy (aren’t we women, especially, taught that if we’re not thin/pretty/young enough something is “wrong?”  Surely we can’t be happy?).

It was the year of living my truth.

It was the year that Kris’ husband Brian read my blog post about her impact on my world and I got to share with those who wanted to feel it just how much of a difference one person can make.

It was the year that I realized just how truly torn I am about not having children. The year that I admitted that it may be my biggest regret in life, and the year that I admitted to myself that if I’m being honest, I actually maybe don’t really want to have children after all.  The year that I felt selfish for feeling so free with SHL, not having any kids.  The year that I realized these comments will make some very uncomfortable, and others say, “Whew.  Just like Brene Brown teaches us, she’s trying to move past the shame of feeling like something is inherently wrong with her—can’t physically have children; maybe doesn’t want children (shouldn’t everybody want children?)–, and therefore, cut off shame at the legs and move on.”

It was the year that I realized that cancer may or may not always tie me down in some ways, and that maybe, in lots of other ways, I really just want to be free.

My Hopes

My hopes and dreams for 2016, I think, could blossom with barely any water, that’s how at the surface and ready to pop they are. At the heart of everything is the I hope that I won’t need any treatment, that my cancer stays stable, that I feel and am healthy.

But just as important to me are my family and friends, and I pray that you are healthy, too. And happy.  That you find joy in the smallest and the biggest things.  That you remember what it’s really all about (whatever “it” means to you).  That you talk to yourself in those quiet moments when nobody else is around the way that you would talk to your best friend—with love, empathy, and a sense of humor.

I ask the universe to help me find a life that’s more balanced. Less time feeling like I’m just “plugging away,” and more time “plugging in” to those that I love and connecting with those who remind me that I am not just alive, I am living.  I ask for the opportunity to expand my writing to reach even more people; to help as many people as I possibly can in whatever way I possibly can.  To remind those who are fighting anything, we can dwell together in possibility.  We can rest here and dream here and wish here and remember, together, that possibility is where hope lives.

I wish for the chance to get up and speak to whoever will listen about how doctors can interact more humanly with their patients, and how patients can advocate more patiently for themselves. I ask for the occasion to be able to let the world see my light.

I crave the gift of travel; to be able to continue seeing the world not through anybody else’s eyes but my own. To understand the world in a way that you really only can when you travel.  To eat new delicacies and see new architecture and meet people that you would never otherwise meet and feel the air in a different part of the world (yes, it feels differently depending upon where you are).  Oh how I dream of seeing every nook and cranny of this big, beautiful world.

I wish for us to see things with compassion. I wish for the fear to, if not disappear, not overtake our lives.  So hard when we see the world spinning madly out of control.  I wish that we hold on tight to each other.

Wishing each and every one of you a very happy and healthy New Year with unicorn sightings to remind you that you are unique, green juices (or smoothies!) to give you strength, crystals to heal you, meditations to soothe your busy brains, mantras to give you good energy, and a little bit of peace and quiet to remember that it is within that space we are all perfect, just as we are.  xoxo.

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My 10 Year Cancerversary

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Hope

 

“I look like such a mess,” I muttered to my Mom, focusing on my thick wavy hair consuming my face and my eye that looked so red surely even people and not just cars would stop at the sight of it.  No makeup on this day, no energy, not even good balance as I hung on to my Mom’s arm.  “Wait a sec,” my Mom said somewhat sternly (for her).  “Remember, that’s not good self-confidence,” and as she said the words she put her hands on her hips and took a wide step out with her legs.  “Oh yessss….” I joined in, nodding my head, doing the same.  “My super power is”…. I trailed off trying to think of something cool.  Just then a woman walked into the bathroom and did a weird kind of dance around us, clearly not wanting to engage in whatever the heck it was that we were doing.  I giggled and whispered to my Mom, “My super power is making strangers uncomfortable!” and then we got the heck out of there, laughing together all the way down the hallway.

It had been a long day at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston, but it wasn’t over yet, and we were just doing the best that we could to try to keep our sense of humor intact (this is essentially what has gotten us through the last ten years).  My Dad had just reported that there is a social psychologist and associate professor from Harvard Business School who is making the TV circuit and has even done Ted Talks, and she’s been spreading the message of the benefit of powerful and positive body language. One of the things that she encourages people to do, say before an interview (or anything where your self-confidence is shaken), is to take some private time and puff out your chest, put your hands on your hips, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Try for this two minutes:  It’s supposed to invoke a sense of confidence.  Hence the bathroom stance that my Mom and I were trying to perfect as I looked in the mirror and before I went to get an injection in my eye.

It’s been, dare I say it, a grueling last week and a half.  Between having to go to the Mass Eye and Ear Emergency Room one Saturday afternoon (all while vomiting and holding my head, it turns out that I’ve been growing some abnormal blood vessels in my eye and it’s creating a dangerously high level of pressure in my eye) and my scans (4 hours worth) and the follow-up with my oncologist (nerve-wracking doesn’t even begin to cover it and “don’t hit the panic button” but there is something very, very small in my liver that at the moment is unidentifiable), and being told that I have a huge kidney stone that may have to be intervened upon, plus a two-day professional development conference in Boston taking half of my weekend hostage, I now stood here waiting to get an injection in my eye and feeling how most must feel when they’re put in a straight-jacket.

I’m keenly aware that things could always be worse, but for once, I kind of just wanted to sit in this place and feel sorry for myself.

After being stuck while traveling to Austin and having that trip down there take 13 hours, missing work and coming home to a bad cold and then strep, I tried not to let the upcoming scans dictate my mood every second of every day, though it was hard.  Just a few days after my scans, I had been told by an on-call doctor that if these injections in my eye didn’t work, well then, surgery (glaucoma, he said?), or possibly… his grave voice trailed off on the phone.  I immediately felt like I was falling, though I was planted firmly on the couch.  Lose my eye, I thought.  Lose.My.Eye. I had gone through treatment with two men at the time back 10 years ago (we all just happened to be going through the process at the same time and our appointments were always near each other’s) and one had eventually lost his eye, I remembered.  I thought about living with metastatic cancer and only having one eye.  I thought about all of the times that I had been told I had such pretty blue eyes and how shallow that was and how none of that mattered except for my life, and yet… I wanted to keep my eye.  So desperately.  I wasn’t sure that I could go through anything else quite so traumatic in my life.

My surgeon who I have known for ten years and who is the best doctor in the world for ocular melanoma (in my humble opinion but probably in most people’s opinions as well) had never cracked a joke with me, in all this time (a very calm, quiet, matter-of-fact man).  Didn’t matter, as long as he was caring for me I knew that I was in the best hands (he pretty much invented the proton beam therapy that saved my life), but still, it was amazing to hear him joke with me yesterday.  I think it was the tears that did it.  I told him what the on-call doctor had said to me over the phone, how I didn’t ask him about anything than a quick question about the injections, how he just started giving me all of this really scary info that I didn’t want (or need, quite frankly).  He said that person is in training and waved his hand away like, “Don’t listen to him,” and that he would take care of it (and sure enough, about five minutes later, I witnessed him in deep discussion with this resident, giving him a what-for, by the looks of it).  It felt good to know that my doctor was taking my concerns seriously.

I looked around the doctor’s office and couldn’t help but remember that 10 years ago I was being diagnosed with something that I had never even heard of.  My parent’s were away on vacation on a boat in the middle of nowhere.  I lived alone.  I called my friend from work when I got the news and she came to the doctor’s office to get me and bring me home.  I remember her cleaning out my work tote bag and finding a banana that was about to rot.  Why do I remember that?  I remember calling my cousins.  My parent’s were frantically trying to get off of the boat, one of my best friend’s was in India buying things for her upcoming wedding, and my other best friend cried on the phone when I told her.

My brother immediately raced to my side, taking the train from Maryland where he lived to New York City, where I was at the time.  He set up every doctor’s appointment for me; called family friends in the medical field to find out who the best were, to get opinions and second opinions.  He got our train tickets, our hotel reservations, and basically made sure that I didn’t fall apart on his watch.  I remember being scanned to see if the cancer had spread to anywhere else in my body, but looking back on it, not completely understanding the consequences of those scans. I remember that I was never alone.  I remember being in awe of my brother and his ability to just completely take over the situation and take care of all of my needs at the most terrifying time in my life.

Fast forward now to this day, and thankfully, I wasn’t alone either.  I was nervous about the injection in my eye; all I could picture was a huge needle coming right at me, with no ability to close my eyes so as to at least pretend that I was on a beach or something.  “It’s nothing,” my doctor said in his cute Greek accent.  “But can I take something, if I need to?”  I asked.  “Like an Ativan or something?”  (I had very carefully stashed that bottle in my purse that morning, along with three other pill bottles and five eye drop bottles).  “Sure,” he replied.  “You don’t need it, but you can.”  “Can I take two,” I asked?  Then my Mom piped up, half-kidding.  “Yes, can I take one as well?”  Nervous laughter.  “At this rate, you’re going to be making me take one!” my doctor belted out (never heard him belt anything out in my life, he’s very quiet and calm).  We all laughed and he patted my hand and told me that most people have good responses to these injections.  It’s amazing how in the eye of the storm (excuse the pun) just a little joke, a little “it’s going to be OK” or the simple touch of another human being makes a patient feel like they’re being heard, like they’re a real person who is being seen for who and what they are:  Human.  Vulnerable.  A vulnerable human being who just needs compassion and hope.

The injection was scary, I’m not going to lie. Washing out the eye.  Numbing the eye with drops and a needle.  Holding the eye open with a wire clip.  Inserting a needle into the eye.  I found out that I need to have two more, 4-6 weeks apart of each other.  My eye felt like it had a treasure chest of crap in there afterwards– maybe an eyelash?  Some sand?  I mean, who knew what was in there.  But I had my eye.  I was leaving with my eye.  And praying that the rest of the injections would work.

I’ve been doing a lot of praying, lately.  And meditating.  And keeping g-d close.  It’s been a frightening time in my life, and that’s OK to admit.  I’m beginning to realize that the more vulnerable I am with others, the more I admit that I am scared and need the support, the more I realize that I will never, ever be alone. And I’m so grateful for that.

It turns out, being authentic only makes people want to be closer to you.  Isn’t that amazing?  Just be yourself, and you will be loved.

 

 

Even in the Darkest of Skies Lie the Stars

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You are the sky

 

There are days when I have to search for the light.  These are the days that I wonder where my spirituality has gone.  How can something be so present and then so mysteriously gone all within a matter of days?  But it’s not really gone, of course.  My budding spirituality is like the sky.  Present.  My sadness or worry or mere numbness are the clouds that sometimes cover the sky.  Even on the days when it’s cloudy as hell, you still know that it is there.

On these days, the dark days when the light doesn’t seem to exist anywhere, that oh so familiar icky feeling of guilt sticks to my ribs like a big hearty stew on a cold winter’s day.  It just sits there, making me feel sluggish and tired.  Guilt, just like that big bowl of stew (or more relatable, perhaps, Thanksgiving pie) feels like the right thing in the moment, but always looking back on it, I see that I didn’t need it.

I understand that the more cognizant of the guilt that I am, the more that I can begin to release it.  My guilt is somehow tied to magical thinking:  If I complain, then I’ll really be punished. The truth is, there are going to be dark days, and my gratitude for what I do have never truly disappears; it sometimes just needs to wait in the wings while I get mad as hell.  I try to pretend like I don’t need my Adavan or I don’t vomit rage all over people on the roads with me on these days, spewing out how much I love meditation or just how helpful I find exercise to be (mainly because I believe that people would rather hear about my cool Chopra practice or my love for all things #ShrinkSession than the fact that all I really want to do on these days is sleep).  Completely true things– both mindfulness and movement have totally changed my life.  But the real truth of cancer is that sometimes even coping skills won’t get you through the terror.  Let’s be real about this whole cancer thing, OK?   There are going to be times when all the meditating and working out in the world isn’t going to take away your fear.  Sometimes you just have to sit with those uncomfortable feelings and recognize that it’s real and human and raw and totally unfair, but that you will get through it and that the fact that you have to even “get through it” is so thoroughly disgusting and unreasonable and amazingly arrogant of the world to ask a person to do, but there it is anyway.

And when the clouds melt, that is when you remember what really matters:  The real you that lives and breathes and carries silent hope no matter what the sky looks like.  The silent knowledge and comfort that the sun will still shine, the moon will still wink, and the stars will still carry our wishes throughout the universe, no matter what.