Warrior, Ladybug Sightings, and the Lotus

Here is my most recent Team Lozier email update:

Dear Team Lozier,

Yesterday we learned that Carrie Fisher (i.e. Princess Leia) passed away. I like Star Wars but I must admit, I was more familiar with her work from When Harry Met Sally (one of my all-time favorite movies).  She had an interesting (and very often difficult) life. (Now there was somebody who colored outside the lines).

She was kind of a badass, right?

And the epitome of light and darkness, like all of us.

We all knew Princess Leia as a Princess and a Warrior, wouldn’t you agree? Which got me to thinking about how we see ourselves and how the world views us.  Do they ever match up to be one and the same?

I began to wonder about the toughness and grace that somebody must show to be deemed both a Warrior and a Princess. I wondered about the word “Warrior” so I looked up its exact definition, which is this: “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.”

Hmmm.

Then I looked up “brave” and found this: “Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.”

What is the difference between courage and bravery, I wondered? Hi-ho, hi-ho, back to Google I go…

Courage: “The ability to do something that frightens one. Or strength in the face of pain or grief.”

I could have looked up “strength” but I decided to just leave it at that. :)

But strength is a tough one, isn’t it? What’s strong to me may not be strong to you, and vice versa.  Is it “strong” to work through cancer treatments?  Is it weak not to?  Is it “strong” to get up and get out of bed every day when you have cancer?  What is your alternative?  (Not a good one, certainly).

I would like to be both a Warrior and a Princess I think, but for different reasons. If I was a princess then perhaps I could live in a castle and have my iced latte brought to me every morning with just the perfect amount of ice or… Off with your head! I would like to be a warrior because I think that would be much more exciting and fulfilling.

Then I thought about who I know, and how many of those people have faced adversity, challenges, and the ups and downs of life. I see that we’re all brave in some capacity.  And, if you’ve never been afraid or have never shown courage, then could that be a signal that you’re never really out of your comfort zone? And who knows what goodness lies there?

And speaking of comfort zones, I am never more out of mine than when I wait for test results (but who isn’t?).

I had my scans on Friday; the first since I began this immunotherapy treatment. The date had been on the calendar for months and as the day got closer, my fear started shoving against the door the way those monsters do.  “Let me out!” it kept saying repeatedly.

I had been using all kinds of tools to cope with the fear– mostly healthy ones– like seeing friends, taking long walks, and meditating (the unhealthy one may have been the amount of brownies that I consumed leading up to this appointment!). Also talking sometimes about the fear helps too, and sometimes just being with it silently helps as well.

Then, kind of out nowhere, I had this revelation:

When we completely avoid suffering, it only makes our fear that much worse. Whatever we’re afraid of lurks in those dark corners, but we spend so much time trying to push it out of our minds that we can never really be present in our own lives. (Also sometimes we just have to push it aside in order to be able to get out of bed every morning.  Nobody can face their suffering 24/7).  A few weeks before my doctor’s appointment I thought about the Thich Nhat Hanh book that I read a few years ago entitled “No Mud No Lotus.” The second I looked that horror in the eye and acknowledged my worst fear, it retreated– just a little bit.  Like, for a second.  That second was one of the best moments of my life.

But, like all human beings, we fear and we struggle and we try to make reason of things, and those “one second revelations” are hard to maintain because well, we’re human. I practice– a lot– the way that I talk to myself.  Am I beating myself up or letting myself “off the hook?” (Which really means just loving myself, “flaws” and all). I practice forgiveness (of myself and others), but also try to get the “ick” out of my life when it shows up. And I practice being aware of all of the abundance in my life.  “I have all that I need and more” is a mantra that I use when the monster under the bed wants to play.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  And other times, I let that monster come out just so I can look it in the eye and admit the truth that something very real exists.  It does not mean anything other than that; it exists.  But I think admitting that is part of learning to live with grief. And other times I just ignore it completely in order to continue on and not lose my mind.

The waiting for test results I can only relate to torture. Bamboo shoots under the nails ain’t got nothing on this. I can’t quite put into words how difficult it is to go home after having scans (trying to read the technologists face even though they’re not allowed to say a peep) and wait– this time for 4 days– to hear what the doctor will say.  Are the tumors shrinking?  Are they growing? (Sometimes they say that they get worse before they get better).  There were so many tumors there when I first started my treatment, are there any more? Have they spread anywhere else?  Will I make it to my 40th birthday in March? Seriously– these are the things that go through your mind while you wait.

I start sweating. Through the night I wake up drenched in sweat, often having strange dreams where people tell me that they’re “very worried” or just crowded nightmares where I’m trying to run away from something bad but my legs are like concrete.

Sean and I went to the Berkshires this past weekend just to try and give ourselves a little reprieve from it all; the snowboarding (him) and reading by the fire (me) and eating nice meals (us) was a nice distraction from it all (as much as it could be).

I was up for 3.5 hours yesterday morning before I got to talk to my doctor. Some of the longest and hardest hours of my life.  It seemed like this would be a big appointment, waiting to see if there is any indication that the medicine may be working yet.

It is.

The tumors are stable right now. There is one that they are watching because it has changed a little bit and so that is of concern, but I will be scanned again in another couple of months and if it continues to change than we’ll deal with it then.

 We’ll deal with it. If we have to, we’ll deal with it.

In the meantime, it was the first time in a year that we have gotten good news.  From last December 2015 up until now, every appointment has been either “We see something suspicious and we’re watching it” or “We need to do something like surgery or immunotherapy” or “There are more. Lots more.”  Eight sets of scans since last December, and this was the first in a year where I heard the word “Stable.”  I’ve never loved a word as much as I did when I heard it yesterday.

(This one to watch isn’t “good” of course, but all things considered, you can’t get too much better than this report).

The practice, the meditation, the body and mind visualizes, the prayers, the self-love, the suffering, all lead me to here. The spirituality that I have found since being diagnosed with cancer has, in a way, saved me almost as much as the medicine.  Because if you can’t cope, then how can you let the medicine help you fight?

Speaking of miracles, many of you know that I believe in things like lady bugs, feathers, and gratitude confetti.

A few days before, as Sean and I were packing for the Berkshires, I found a ladybug on the blanket on the end of my bed! Many of you probably know that lady bugs are good luck, but my friend Marla and I also believe that when we see a lady bug it is her sister Lisa who passed away a few years ago watching over us.

(This is what one website says about lady bugs: The appearance of a Ladybug heralds a time of luck in which our wishes begin to be fulfilled. Higher goals and new heights are now possible. Worries begin to dissipate. New happiness comes about. This insect also cautions not to try to hard or go to fast to fulfill our dreams. Let things flow at their natural pace. In the due course of time, our wishes will all come true. Alternatively she could be signaling that you can leave your worries behind and that new happiness is on its way. This species of beetle signals you to to not be scared to live your own truth. Protect your truth and know that it is yours to honor.)

Live your own truth! You can handle the truth! 

OK, lady bug a few days before doctor’s appointment, duly-noted. Then in the Berkshires I see another ladybug sitting right on my night table!  Sean says he just found it on the bed and put it there.  Two?  In winter?  Whoa.

Then as we’re packing to come home I find ANOTHER one! (I know it was a different one because this one was a deeper red with more spots than the other one).  What?  THREE?  And when we get home, the lady bug that I had originally seen on my blanket had found its way to my night table there too!  Three lady bugs and four sightings!

Kind of amazing, right? Between the lady bugs, my new-found understanding of getting a little bit closer to suffering to live a more present life, and the way that my meditation practice has been comforting me, I felt like I was (I am) on to something.  Out from the murky waters of the mud comes the lotus, remember?  Sometimes getting there is so painful, but the more I let myself authentically roll around in the awful, disgusting mud, the more beautiful and hard-earned the lotus seems when it arrives.

But I can’t give all the credit to lady bugs, my meditation practice, or all of the prayers that go out there to g-d and the universe (though g-d and the universe get a lot of props and so do you for praying for me as well). I also have to give some love and credit to the immunotherapy which is helping me to kick some serious cancer ass, as well as to my doctors and all doctors, researchers, scientists, and donors who have made creating these medicines and having them available to the public possible. Gratitude!

And so I leave you with this my friends: It is OK to make your health and happiness a priority. In fact, it is your birthright. 

We are all Warriors, Team Lozier.

With hope, love, gratitude, feathers, gratitude confetti, and lady bug sightings,

Sam xoxo

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2 thoughts on “Warrior, Ladybug Sightings, and the Lotus

  1. dear sam, i was truly delighted to read your news and i am deeply touched by your blog. i just wanted to tell you, your great grandmother, your grandfather sam’s mom, always said roses grow in manure. when i read about lotuses and mud, i thought of her. she was a warrior princess like you. she came to this country alone and faced many hardships. and, like her, you will prevail. wishing good things in the new year and may you go from strength to strength. you are always in my prayers. muh love and huge hugs, annette

    Like

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