A Good Day

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Today was a good day.

I worked a full day (for me, which is part-time) for the first time in weeks.  As I walked into the office this morning I heard a dog collar (which turned out to be a dog bone encrusted with rhinestones) and was greeted with the most beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that I had ever seen– Dallas, my co-worker S’s new puppy!

Those of you who know me well (or heck even not that well at all) probably know that I’m a super-duper animal lover.  I grew up with dogs and SHL and I obviously have our fur-baby cats and are ourselves pretty close to getting our own dog, too.

Here are a few pictures so that you’ll believe me when I say just how cute she is!  She loves to play fetch, running down the hallway shaking her little bottom and wagging her tail.  She has what I call “man hands” from Seinfeld– huge paws for such a little girl!  Her ears are soft and floppy and they fall casually into her water bowl when she’s lapping up the good stuff.  Filtered water is best, our co-worker C (another crazy dog lover) educates us.

Take a look into my morning here (jealous much?  ;) )

After work I came home and had a little down time before popping out to the spa.  I was there for 3 hours (3 different services) and feel like a new person!  (It’s been months since I’ve been able to sit comfortably for anything like even a haircut.  I did it once but it was not pleasant).  My colorist even gave me some pink streaks and a free blow-dry as a token of kindness after my pain the last few weeks.  How sweet!

I picked up a turkey burger on my way home from my favorite, The Cottage, and didn’t get a stomach ache after eating it!  It’s a beautiful night here in Boston and my heart is filled to the brim with gratitude for being able to work, love, play with puppies, be pampered, eat my favorite foods without discomfort, and soak up this beautiful weather.

I’m not 100% and I may not be yet for a while, but hope has found its way back into my life again.

Yes, today was a good day.

xo.

Sam with tiger ears

 

 

 

Chapter 3: Closed

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A commercial made me do it.

It was for real estate.  Could have been Realtor.  Could have been Redfin.  Something with an R and a little boy with a sweet face who said goodnight to his Mom while peering at the stars because clearly she was no longer with him.  He just looked so… lost.  Then his Dad buys a new house closer to Grammy and Grandpa and at night he looks through his new bedroom skylight of stars and smiles as he says goodnight to her again, this time looking more a bit more content.

I wept, got up from the couch, and went over and emailed my nurse from the fertility clinic where our embryos have been frozen for the last 4 + years.

It was a Saturday and I knew she wouldn’t get it until Monday morning, but I didn’t care.  It felt like then or never.

“Dear Sandra,

I don’t know if you remember me, but…”

I proceeded to tell her that we were ready to let our embryos go.

How could I ever do that to a child?

I waited a few days until I heard back from her and found out what we needed to do (a notarized letter).  I brought it up to SHL as he was cutting up chicken for dinner.  That seemed liked as good of a time as ever. I told him about the commercial and started sobbing uncontrollably.

After a long embrace and talk about leaving him to raise a child by himself, a conversation that nobody ever wants to have, we also dipped (again) into even just having the energy to raise a child (or children) when very often I don’t feel well.  What would that look like?  We decided we that we didn’t want to find out and went back to making dinner.

And just like that, I heard the door close.  Softly.  It didn’t lock, but it did shut.

We are Stars

Broken

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I didn’t cry the first month.

There wasn’t really anything to cry about; or perhaps there was, but it was all just masked by bewilderment and anger.

I knew that I was doing the liver radioembolization for a damn good reason.  Some doctors thought that my immunotherapy wasn’t working, and that the tumors in my liver were getting bigger.

This could potentially stop that.

So I switched my care from Dana-Farber to MGH, who offered me this new treatment, and I was immediately so impressed with my new oncologist and surgeon.

My old oncologist promised me that I could never “lose him,” that I was just adding new people to the team now.  One of the nicest things that he could have ever said to me.

My team grows, and hopefully the cancer does not.

You don’t think about the relationships when you think about cancer, right?  Mostly you probably just think about the treatments and medicines, but the relationships with the doctors, nurses, infusion nurses, physician assistants, medical assistants and admin staff have all been such a huge part of my life for the last almost 4 years.

“You may not feel well for a while,” the surgeon warned me.  “Perhaps some nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and you may feel like you have the flu, headache, and very tired,” he went on to explain.

But all treatments, immunotherapies or surgeries or what have you, have side-effects, and you have to outweigh the good with the bad.  If this could potentially stop the tumors from growing, than it seemed logical to try it.

“I can get through it,” I thought to myself.

For the next four weeks I very often forgot that I was in pain because of cancer.  I just plain forgot that the whole crux of the issue was the cancer.  Maybe that sounds silly, forgetting the biggest thing that has ever happened to me, what is growing inside of my body, what I’m doing this all for.

But all I could focus on was how crappy I felt.  And how isolated, lonely, and scared my days were (even though SHL and my parents have taken outstanding care of me).  The doctors said that people could take weeks to heal, but they did find it was very rare that it would go on for this long (I am not being a “debbie downer” but my family will tell you that if they say, for example, 1% won’t feel well for an extended period of time, I will be in that 1%).

My best friend A came from Texas.  I had planned a Greek lunch with my Mom, an Asian dinner on the seaport for Saturday night, a hike and juice or smoothie during the day, a brunch with local friends, and then going to the MFA to see the Matisse exhibit.

We had lunch with my Mom, and that was about it.  Poor thing came all the way from Texas– I know to see me– but just saw the inside of my house all weekend.  Because at that point I had a kidney stone that was just rearing its ugly head and wanted out, on top of the liver being inflamed.  (A took such good care of me, making me grilled sandwiches and rubbing my back and we watched mountains of cooking shows together.  She’s been through so much with me!).

Before that, about 5 days after the liver procedure, I was supposed to have an ultrasound to figure out why I still didn’t feel well, but when we got to the doctor’s office they took one look at me and put me on a stretcher and wheeled me down to the ER.  My Mom was with me and we stayed there for about 24 hours while they did tests and waited for a room for me.  Finally I was moved to a room where I stayed for another day and night and then was sent home.

So after A came to visit I went back into the hospital to have the kidney stone removed, about 17 days since the first liver radiation.

Two days later I had such excruciatingly bad stomach pains that my Mom rushed me back to the ER, where I was admitted for what I call “after-shocks” from having kidney stones.  More pain meds.

Home.  Home is where the heart is, until you’re home for 35 days, and then all you want is to be anywhere but home.  Mexico, perhaps?  Heck I would take Natick.

The last few days my Mom has been getting me out of the house; I’m still on pain meds but so not really able to do much without her, but we’ve managed to have lunch out and do some errands to get ready for our mini-golf fundraiser coming up on June 3rd!

(Shameless plug to donate here; all money goes directly to the Melanoma Center at Dana-Farber where they are working tirelessly to find more treatments and of course eventually, a cure): http://www.myjimmyfundevent.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1166643&supid=444457597.  Click on “Give Now.”  We are so appreciative of the kindness of Team Lozier and Beyond!

What do I miss, many ask?  I miss my friends, so much.  I haven’t felt well to have visitors or try and even keep up with conversations; when you’re in so much pain, on pain meds, loopy, tired and depressed even though you miss others, sometimes you just feel it would be too much.  I miss Tulum and those amazing coffee smoothies that no matter how hard I try to make at home come out sub-par.  I miss those hard, intense yoga classes overlooking the ocean with the little shooters of green juice afterwards.  I miss having slumber parties with A at night talking about the Grammy’s and our married lives and cancer and all that other “stuff” that best friends talk about.

I miss my twin M who was here from Florida for some of the last good times that I had before this pain.  My 40th surprise birthday, eating cake for breakfast, strolls down Newbury Street and dinner in the North End.

I miss going to work and helping people, feeling accomplished, feeling productive, schmoozing with my co-workers.

I miss days without pain, days without doctors calls and scheduling appointments (4 more to go before they do the next side of my liver in a few weeks).

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  Those every day things that we all too often take for granted.

It used to seem simple.

No, I didn’t cry that first month.  Now I cry almost every single day, waiting for the time when I can tell you that I have a pain-free day.

Please, please just read these words and know that I feel broken.  Please, I beg of you, do not tell me that it will get better, that I can’t feel like this forever.  I know you just want to help, but those words seem weightless right now.   I know it’s so hard to know what to say.

I love you.

But…

I wonder:  What if I really am broken?  What if they broke me?  I long to see the gold; to know it is there.  To know that broken does not mean in pain forever.

Broken objects.jpg

A New Story

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I deserve a new story.  We all do.

Today, I will break up with my story.  Will you break up with yours?

I will say to my story, “Thank you story.  Thank you for making me who I am now, in this present moment.  I now release you out into the universe as I ask for a different, healthier path to follow.”

OK Universe, I get it.  Clearly you’re trying to tell me something.

I’m listening.

I recently wrote about my story as a cancer patient and revealed just how alone I feel.  Wrapped up, unraveling, little bits of hope and pain and fear all trying to crowd the same space.  But then I heard this quote by the wise Maya Angelou, and it goes like this: “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Invite one to stay.”

G-d?  Is that you?

I wrote that last piece for the blog quickly, the words just gushing out of me like a river that was afraid it was be swallowed whole by the ocean if it didn’t move briskly  enough.

Then that night I remembered that my free 21-day Deepak Chopra meditation started.  I logged on.  The topic?  Hope in Uncertain Times.  Touche Deepak, touché.

I click on my spirit junkie app.  That day’s affirmation?  “I will step back and let the Universe lead me today.”

I log onto my email.  A video from Gabby Bernstein.  The message?  “You deserve a new story.”

I sit back on the couch with my legs curled underneath me, resting my head on the pillows and pulling a blanket over me even though the room isn’t cold.  I want to feel secure, wrapped up in something other than deep and incessant fear.  I close my eyes and think.

This is what I have been putting out into the universe:

Sadness.  Fear.  Anger.  Jealousy.  Bitterness.  Lethargy.

Pain.

The universe responded in kind, and this is what I heard:

Stop telling yourself the same story over and over again.  You’re not just a cancer patient.  You’re not a victim.  You’re not powerless or hopeless or helpless.  It’s OK to feel that way sometimes, but remember:  Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it true.

Re-write a new story with the help of the universe.

I create one in my mind.  It goes something like this:

Dear Universe:

I’m ready to let this go.  Thank you for giving me a wake-up call 3+ years ago that I can’t hit the snooze button on life anymore.  I know I was a walking zombie there for a while.  There has always been potential inside of me to love a bit deeper, help a bit more, find greater fun and meaning and authenticity in the every day, but it slept still as the night, only awakened by the C word.  The D word.  The oh-fuck-I-better-live-my-life-like-I-mean-it-word.

I’m ready for my new story, and I hope it goes something like this:

New Cancer Protocol.  Life.  Family.  Friends.  Prayers. Fun.  Work.  Passion.  Advocacy.  Healing. More fun.  Glitter.  Unicorns.  Sunshine.  Feathers. Bravery. Iced coffee.  High vibes. Long walks. Magic.  The beach. Self-compassion (I’m talking about loving myself as much as I love all of you).  Bagels. Massages.  Puppy.  Miracles. Opportunities.  Gratitude confetti.  Travel.  Stillness.  Peace.  Love. Meditation.  Repeat.

Thank you Universe.

“I will step back and let the universe lead me today.”

And the living with hope in uncertain times?  I am reminded– I hear you g-d, loud and clear–of a blog piece that I wrote years and years ago, that I now know, as certain as anything, will be my very first chapter.

Remember how I wrote Chapter 2 which started to outline my story?  The one with the infertility and eye cancer and miscarriage and shoulder surgery and cancer again?  I knew that I wanted Chapter 1 to be about hope.

The piece that I had already written?  It was called With Hope Comes Life.

The phone rings.  My best friend A is coming to visit from Austin at the end of the month.

I hear you g-d, I hear you universe, and I thank you.

Feathers

 

It Can Be, It Will Be, It Should Be

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Where is the most embarrassing place that you’ve ever cried?  The grocery store? Work?  How about while getting a… facial?  (A massage I can kind of understand, but a facial??).

I had just spent the past 2 days in bed flat on my back, with my knees under a pillow, a heating pad nearby, and a bottle of Tylenol next to me on the night table.  All because I had bent down the wrong way to put a glass of water on the coffee table. I already hadn’t been feeling well (fatigue from treatment, diabetes, etc.) and now this; I felt like I wanted to cry, but nothing was coming out except anger, fatigue, and boredom.

After those 2 days of taking warm showers, stretching, and lying in bed, I finally felt better.  A friend and I had plans to get facials and I was desperate to leave the house (and see her).

Usually when people ask me how I am I automatically say, “Good, how are you?”  I bet most of us do this, because really, are you going to let the pharmacist at CVS know that you’re miserable and awaiting a liver-targeted therapy and you feel depressed and anxious and if it rains one more day you may lose it?  Hopefully not.

My aesthetician at my favorite spa took me down the long dimly lit hallway and I already felt more relaxed.  I love getting facials and I don’t let whoever gets stuck working on my face get away with too much chatter about what face products I should be using.  Every few months my skin needs a little clean up and I like to do it in the most relaxing way possible.

But as she was massaging a mask into my face I began to feel a sense of being more in my body than I had been in days, perhaps weeks.  I felt myself relax into the warm bed as she massaged my feet and then draped a warm towel over my legs.  I imagined that all of my thoughts– so many I thought I would go crazy– were like clouds, definitely there in the sky (I AM THE SKY, thank you Geralyn Lucas) but able to drift away and leave just me, bare but alive and beautiful and not weighed down by weather.  So much weather.

My eyes were covered with cotton balls soaked in some kind of rose-scented something, a beautiful fragrance that trickled down from my eyes to my nose to my lips to the rest of my body, and my face felt cool and a little tingly underneath another cream.

All of a sudden I felt, clear as day, that I was in my body, in the present moment and yet so scared of what the next few weeks would bring (that doesn’t make sense, but what does these days?), so grateful to be able to care for myself in this way, so terrified and so unbalanced and so thankful and so happy and so sad and so distraught that my feelings were so out of control.

The rose-scented cotton balls became wet with my tears, and I knew that if I wasn’t on this table getting a facial, if I was home or in my car or even at work (and could close the door), I knew that I would sob until there was nothing left inside of me to pour out.

And although I didn’t want to let myself completely go, I simply couldn’t stop some of the tears that escaped and ran down my cheeks into the skin mask that she had so gently applied.  “Are you OK?” she whispered, and for a full 5 seconds (though it felt like much, much longer) I couldn’t say anything at all.  When I finally could speak I somehow managed to say “It feels so good to take care of my body, to feel warm and relaxed and to feel in my body.  I have cancer.”

“You’re going to be alright,” she murmured back, and I wondered how she knew that and then immediately understood that she had no idea whether or not I was going to be OK, but it was just something to say.

“Promise me that you’ll do this a lot more,” she said.  “It’s very important for you to feel like you’re taking care of yourself and feel relaxed amidst all of this stress.”

She was right.  I at once felt so shallow for feeling so good during a facial, and relieved that I have the time and resources to be able to get a massage or a facial or do something kind for my body when I need to.  I hadn’t realized how out-of-my-body I had felt these last few weeks, after my last treatment 2 + weeks ago and awaiting this new targeted-liver therapy.  Between the weather and not feeling well and doctor’s appointments I haven’t been exercising much, sick from low or too high blood sugar, in pain from the shot in my left eye, not sleeping well, and just generally feeling run-down.

I had mentioned to my brother how vain it felt– and dumb considering I have much bigger fish to fry– how insecure I had been feeling, looking tired and puffy and not feeling like myself.  Thankfully he totally validated my concerns and reminded me that I’m human.  Despite having much bigger problems, nobody wants to look in the mirror and not feel good/like themselves.  Thank you bro!

I also hadn’t realized how alone I had been feeling.  The truth is, your life and my life are so different.  And alike, in a lot of ways, but also so unalike.  And that’s the truth, so please don’t try and start writing out a list about how we’re really the same and cancer is just a little thing that makes our lives feel uncommon.  My life feels like being stuck at a fork in the road while others lives seem to be going right or left, with choices and paths that sometimes feel much longer than mine.  That’s just the truth.

And so, I let myself cry, and in the end I feel so much lighter.  The fear still exists; my self-help gurus help me with their books and meditations but honestly, the fear is still there.  And I know that it can be, that it will be, that it should be.

I am different.  I am not you, I do not have your life, I do not have your choices, and you do not have mine.  My road could be shorter than yours, we do not know.  But by acknowledging this unfamiliar terrain for all of us, in the end, you are acknowledging me.

30 Things I Learned in My 30’s

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On my the eve of my 40th birthday, as I leave the 30’s and enter into a new decade, I share with you the 30 things that I learned over the last 10 years:

  1. There are way more than 30 things that I’ve learned in this decade.
  2. I believe in miracles.
  3. Get a second opinion.  ALWAYS get a second medical opinion.
  4. When in doubt, sleep on it.
  5. Practice compassion towards yourself and others–everybody is doing the best they can with the tools they have.
  6. Meditation can save your life.
  7. If meditation doesn’t save your life, find something else– anything else– that grounds you and helps you cope with life’s ups and downs.
  8. Find what sets your heart on fire and do it.  For me, that’s traveling and I want to have adventures all over the world with SHL.
  9. Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, as long as you’re not selfish or hurting anybody else.  Life is filled with responsibility and crap; the rest of the time, enjoy yourself.
  10. Surround yourself with people who are not just like-minded in how they treat you and others, but who have positive energy/vibes.  Life is too short to get caught up in bullshit.  Leave that in middle/high school.
  11. When you feel like life throws you a curve ball and you’re in the trenches, do something nice for somebody else.
  12. Clean up your side of the street (as Gabby Bernstein says).  It’s the only side you actually have any control over.
  13. Have an open mind.  If I didn’t, I never would have met my husband through Facebook.  After all, he lived in Canada!  Where did I think that relationship could go?  Turned out, this random guy from Facebook is my soul-mate.
  14. Be authentic.  You don’t have to write a blog or post your every feeling on Facebook, but just be yourself in whatever way feels good to you.  It’s way too much energy and effort not to be.  And for what?  This is the only life we’ve got, we mine as well make it our own.
  15. The deeper you go with the people you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with, the greater the love and support that you will feel in your own life.  Guaranteed (if you open yourself up to the people who “get it” and “get” you).
  16. Nobody’s life is perfect, even though it may look like it.
  17. Find others who you can look up to; I have learned so much about love, self-compassion, healing, forgiveness and being in the present moment from Kris, Gabby, Lolly Galvin, Ella Woodward, Brenee Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Geralyn Lucas, Matthew Zachary, and many others who are constantly striving to live their best lives possible while helping others.  We don’t know it all; admit that you don’t and learn from others.
  18. If you have a miscarriage, even before hearing a heartbeat, you’ll never stop loving that baby that could have been, and wondering who they could have grown up to be.
  19. Show up for anyone and everyone who means something to you.  Whatever that looks like, just show up, in any way.
  20. Say you’re sorry.  Oh man, I know this is hard, but it can be so freeing, so humbling, and it can even take your closest relationships to a whole new level.
  21. Give second chances.  Boy am I glad that I have and that others have done so for me too.
  22. When life hands you lemons and you don’t know else the f*ck to do, follow these steps:  1) Take out some small candy bars of your choice 2) Put them into a zip lock bag 3) Put the zip lock bag on a sturdy cutting board, 4) Proceed to smash candy with a rolling pin or a cooking pan.  5) If your tears don’t taint it, turn that smashed candy into the best g-d damn ice cream cake your friends have ever tasted.
  23. Cry, when it comes naturally.  Let it flow.  Let it heal and ground you.  Don’t ever force it back inside; it will only come out in other, unhealthy ways.  As painful as suffering is, suffer.  Face it.  It allows you to be more in the present moment.
  24. Have gratitude for everything– I mean the big stuff (your family, spouse, kids, health, money to take care of your basic needs and then some, home, friends, job, whatever) to the “little” stuff (warm shower, running water, birds singing, a dog’s smile, crocuses blooming, a funny movie, a beautiful meal, coffee with a good friend, a warm embrace, a note from a loved one, a cat-like peaceful nap, a great piece of chocolate).  Then remember:  There really is no such thing as a “little” thing after all.
  25. Let the gratitude rise to the surface in an organic way.  It’s nice to keep gratitude lists and have a daily practice (I do), but there will be some days when life hands you a big bag of shit and you don’t want to say “thank you.”  That’s OK.  Be true to your soul.  Say thank you when you mean it.  That’s the best kind of gratitude, the authentic kind.  The kind when you’re eating lunch with your best friend and you realize how freakin’ lucky you are that tears just melt down your face.  That’s gratitude.
  26. If there is something that you want, go after it.  Our only limitations are in our own minds.
  27. Take your own advice.
  28. If you only read one “self-help” book, let it be something by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  29. There is no map.  Really.  We may think we are destined for one thing, but if a door closes, promise yourself that you will still live a great life, despite what you think you don’t have. You create your own journey, nobody else can tell us what great is.
  30. Love.  Love deeply, gently, authentically, without expectations, passionately, and with abandon.

31) Bonus:  Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Extra bonus: If you ever need to spend the night in the hospital, bring your own toothbrush. For the love of ug-d, BYOE (bring your own everything!).

Love,

Sam xoxo

There Always Is

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Dear G-d,

How are you?  Does anybody ever ask you that?  I know it’s usually about how we are.   Anyway it’s Sam here (chuckle, I know you know who it is), coming at you from zip code 02052.  Just wanted to say thank you for the good stuff this year.  Yeah I mean, a lot of things really sucked or felt scary in 2016 (Brexit, Syria, talk about building a wall?  Really?  David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds… TRUMP?).  But there were some good things, too, of course.

But first:

I will not compare my suffering to the atrocities that have gone on around the world, but I’d like to reflect on what kind of a year it has been for me, personally.  Is it selfish of me to talk about that G-d, when there is so much turmoil, division and fear in the world?  I pray for those who need our help, and I pray that I will figure out a way to be some kind of light in the world.  Can I pray for myself, too?  That’s OK, right?

This year I had 7 sets of scans and 6 of them showed growth or suspicious looking things in my liver.  I had 3 surgeries (almost 4 but was woken up from the anesthesia as the surgery could not be done), and countless doctor’s appointments.  Blood, IV’s, the waiting, the waiting… The waiting.  There was a lot of fear this year, a lot of unknown.

I’ve learned some really hard lessons this year, G-d, and I suppose I should start with that, because it’s always nice to end on a high note (that’s why SATC went off the air after 6 seasons).

Anyway, I didn’t ask for these lessons, but we never really do, huh?

I have learned that the dark and stormy days are just as bad as you think they will be, and you can’t sugar coat the bad stuff.  The stuff of life.  But I’ve learned that leaning in to the suffering, at least a little bit, can actually help to release some of the fear.  I’ve learned that I’ll probably always be afraid but also, it’s cool to live for today.  And if you don’t know what to do, sleep on it.  I totally learned that this year.

I have learned that some fractured things stay fractured.  Some things unravel and never get tied back up again.  Other things slowly form their way back to some kind of normal semblance and you can’t imagine how you ever got through that tangled web of difficulties.

But you did.

I’ve learned that fear can be felt in all different parts of the body, not just the stomach and the heart, but even the tippy toes.  Fear can live everywhere, and if you don’t learn how to manage it, it can take over your life.

But then I found the mantra, “Everything I need, I already have,” and it kind of changed my life.  I wanted to believe that you and the universe (are you one and the same?) had my back, but I was stuck between being afraid to think anything was certain, and the painful uncertainty of life. Stuck between some strong magical thinking, and a body that I did not know (or understand).

Somehow, learning to stay in the realm of hope, living right underneath it (for the most part), and having a sense of humor combined with the warm comfort of spirituality and love, can heal.  Oh yes it can.

At the end of December we tend to think of past years, saying goodbye to the old, rejoicing in the rebirth of the new.

I remember ushering in 2013 with SHL and friends, feeling as though that was going to be the year that we got our baby.  Instead, I got cancer.

I’ve never been a resolution kind of girl.  I just don’t see how all of a sudden I’m going to stop craving chocolate and start craving 5am workouts between 11:59pm on December 31st, and 12:00am on January 1st.

I do the best I can every day.  Some days I really “mess” it up, and other days I nail it with such gusto I feel like I should be on the cover of a magazine.  Most days I’m somewhere in between.

(Another thing learned in 2016 is that “mess” is actually just life.  So you either embrace it and live your truth, or you miss out BIG TIME).

A friend recently sent me an email from a motivational blogger with some intriguing questions with which to look back on the year, and to set some intentions for the coming year.  One of the things that she asks is:  “What do you want to let go of?”

I thought long and hard about this one.  I’m not a hoarder per se, but I do still have some birthday cards that my 3rd grade teacher has sent to me over the years, a signed baseball that an old Minnesota Twins player gave me at Fenway Park back around 1986, and an old broken necklace that I never got fixed and is totally out of style, but I just can’t bear to get rid of.

Here is what I do want to let go of:

  • Self-loathing
  • Carrying around responsibility that everything I eat, drink do or say has caused my cancer.  Carrying around the “It’s my fault” clause.
  • Fear of heights, but only for the good stuff like going on a hot air balloon ride.
  • Control.  Especially of my spouse.  It grows out of anxiety and now that I know that, I am finding it a little bit easier to let go (and admit).  But it’s hard, and I’d like to try and continue working on this.
  • The “little things.”  I’m constantly aware of this (while giving myself some space on it; just because I have cancer doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes want to give somebody the finger for some silly little reason), and I think it needs to stay on the list for 2017.  Dishes in the sink, getting mad when I let somebody into traffic and they don’t thank me (SHL says not to do it for that reason, but it’s just a pet-peeve of mine!), people not doing what I think they should be doing at work.  Get.Over.It.  Focus on the “bigger stuff.”
  • The “mean girl.”  I was never a bully as a kid, so why would I bully myself as an adult?
  • The thought that I can’t do something.  I hate when people tell me that I can’t do something (“You may only live for _ many years.”  What do you know?!  Or  “You can’t pass this math class.”  Well looky here, I just got a B).  And yet, I tell myself that I can’t do things all the time.  “You’re not (fill in the blank) so you can’t do it.  I”m tired of telling myself that I can’t do something.  There are only limitations if you believe that there are limitations (thank you for the reminder M!).

So no resolutions.  Instead, intentions.  This is what speaks to me and has in 2016. So here is what I intend for 2017:

I intend to start every day with a fresh, clean slate.

I intend to believe in myself and my capacity for greatness.

I intend to keep tapping into my potential.

I intend to love greatly, deeply, and authentically.

I intend not to hold back on life.

I intend to say YES to things that I want to do, and NO to those that I don’t (within reason).

I intend to write, speak my voice, help others, share my wisdom and my faults/mistakes/lessons learned.

I intend to stay healthy.

I intend to continue tapping into all the happiness that is available to me.

I intend to live in the light.

I intend to keep singing show-tunes around the house, in the car, at work…

I intend to never stop sneezing the “Kobrick Sneeze.”

I intend to eat a hot fudge sundae any damn time I want.

I intend to eat a rainbow of healthy foods in between the ice cream sundaes.

I intend to move my body.

I intend to help others.

I intend to vacation/travel the hell out of 2017.

I intend to live with hope.  (That’s so my jam. Wonder if that term will still be popular in 2017?).

I intend to be the best wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, social worker, and cancer advocate that I can be.  This doesn’t mean striving for perfection, this means living my truth.  In this way, I will be good for those that I love, and good for myself.

I started to make a list of all of my blessings and all of the fun that I had in 2016 which immediately put me in a better state of mind about what I had deemed as a really crappy year.  Maybe you should try it too!  Here is my list…

Thank you 2016 for the girls sleepover with my camp friends, Ireland with my Mom, Spain and Morocco with SHL, surprising A for her birthday, being in Miami w/ M, forming really beautiful new friendships, loving my old friends, going to the beach with my nephew, having my brother sit with me for my first treatment this year, finding gratitude confetti, having the time off work to deepen my spiritual practice, meditation, my spiritual teachers (Kris, Gabby, Glennon, Deepak Chopra, and lots more), meeting Geralyn Lucas (a-mazing), applying skin masks with my cousin (thank you for living over a Sephora!), feather tattoos (also courtesy of my cousin), street tennis, the best Mexican brunch ever, finding the Super Woman pose and doing it w/ my Mom whenever things get stressful, the love and snuggles that I receive from my kitties, SHL’s US citizenship, sitting on the Schwartz Panel for Compassionate Care, speaking to Jimmy Fund fundraisers, getting a piece published on the Dana-Farber blog, nurturing my relationships with the ever-amazing Cancer Hope Network (Hi Sarah!), going to NH for my birthday with SHL and having him serenade me on the street with a random guy’s guitar, all of the beautiful flowers and care packages sent to me during my recoveries, finding the joy in adult coloring books, all of the abudance of love and generosity by those who support our Team Lozier Mini-Golf Fundaiser (raised over $14,000 this year!  Major props to you guys, my parents, and to Josh & Katie at Dana-Farber/Jimmy Fund who help us so much!), gratitude to SHL for cooking so many delicious meals for me (who knew I married such a little chef?), game nights with new friends (who me, competitive?), red lipstick, Red Sox, cozy socks, my first (and last) wheat-grass shot…

And last, but never least, I am so grateful for the immunotherapy that I am receiving at Dana-Farber.  I am grateful that it seems to be helping, I am grateful that I can get the treatment, and I am grateful for my doctors, nurses, and everybody who gives of themselves at Dana-Farber.

You know what’s so cool, G-d?  As soon as I started to think about the GOOD in 2016, all of those awesome things just came rushing back!  And the bad just kind of took a back seat while I got to relive some of the light-filled stuff.  Huh, there was more than I thought.

There always is.

Wishing you all a bright, love-filled, super healthy and amazingly happy New Year. Bring it on 2017!

Peace, love, health, gratitude confetti, unicorns, green juices, ice cream sundaes, miracles, feathers, ladybugs, warriors, and love.

Sam XOXO

Thinking about the joys of 2016, here are some of the “Greatest Hits:”

 

 

 

#tbt Are We There Yet?

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A little “Throwback Thursday” to my life after I moved back to Boston.  This is just before I met SHL and started two new jobs, and after kidney stones, being bed-ridden for two months over the summer with a bad back, cortisone shots, and problems with my eye.  Written on January 18th, 2008, from my previous blog, Breathing Under Water– Letting Go To Find Myself.  

Greetings from the land of one dazed and confused girl.  Apparently I’m a chicken and apparently I’ve been running and apparently I have no head to speak of.  Talk about all over the place– The last couple of weeks haven’t been that busy, but they’ve been busy enough that I missed a scheduled appointment this morning with my back doctor.  Just didn’t show up.  I opened up my calendar this morning at 10:17am and there it was, in bright purple:  10am with Dr. Limke.  SHIT!  I can’t remember the last time that I did something so flaky (Yes I have my flaws but forgetting important doctor’s appointments isn’t one of them!).  I suppose considering the fact I’ve been busier than I have in months I am definitely feeling the ramifications of what it’s like to be a real human being again.

I shouldn’t complain, I know:  After all, I have been begging the g-d’s above to turn me into a normal human being day after day.  And yet here I am, maneuvering the dating world, socializing with friends, traveling, and working my ass off in 2 jobs, and instead of being grateful for the hectic life I am leading, I am, simply put, exhausted.

They say that the busier you are, the more productive you become, but I’m still in the phase of needing 10 hours of sleep just because I have a job!  I’m not proud of it, but the truth is, I’ve become one hell of a lazy human being (the more pain you’re in and the more physically inactive you become, the lazier you feel) and now that I’m challenged again it takes an immense amount of effort just to get out of bed in the morning and tackle my to do list.

None of this diminishes the fact that I have a life once again and that I am beyond hopeful that this life will turn into something utterly fabulous (if it isn’t already).  Sure, it’s about the journey and not just the destination, but sometimes (come on) don’t we want to get there already?

I myself am often like a little kid on a long car trip, fumbling with my play toys in the back and itching to unwind myself from my seat belt and stretch my damn legs already.  “Are we there yet?” my brother and I used to whine to my parents on long car trips, and now I find that my manners are even worse as an adult.  Thankfully as a kid my parents were expert at keeping my brother and I entertained… And they always played games with us, even in the car.  But now that I am 30 there is nobody to entertain me, or occupy my mind, no big brother sitting next to me to bug, no games to play, no clock to tell us when we will arrive.

So I wander.  I wander and I try and I learn and I screw up and I do it all over again the next day.  I wonder if someday I will get to where I want to go, and then I wonder if I even know exactly where it is that I want to go.

But it has begun, my life here in Boston.  I am finally working, and not just working, but working my ass off.  I am challenged and stimulated and I can’t just nod my head and zone out:  I have to really pay attention!  I have people depending upon me, counting on me, believing in me that I am not the fraud I think I am but that I have some real kind of skill.  If they only knew, and I wonder what will happen when I am finally found out.  I imagine my world crumbling all around me, left with nothing but an empty bank account and people standing all around me laughing, like in a bad dream or something.

It is around this time of year that I also begin to feel tired and strange and messy and sad, and I know that it will happen like clockwork because my 6th month checkup with my surgeon is in just 10 days.

I am more predictable than I like to think, at least in terms of how I will feel each and every January and July.  I do better in between those months, even seeing my oncologist, though the MRI’s don’t really ever get easier.  And then, in other ways, I am not who I ever thought I would be; I seem to be having more fun and dating more and being way more open than I ever thought I would be (for example, dating a 24 year old).  Life doesn’t always have to be so serious, and it doesn’t always have to be measured with dollar amounts, or who we associate with, or what we decide to do with ourselves in our free time.

And “are we there yet?” can sometimes be the most fascinating question of all: The one that precipitates an opening up of our eyes, the one that tells us to look out the window at the scenery and to take a deep breath… the one that reminds us we are heading somewhere.

Goodbye drinks with friends in NYC in March of 2007, right before I moved to Boston… Now I know there is no “there,” it’s everywhere.  It’s you, it’s me, it’s now.  XOXO. 

goodbye-drinks-in-nyc

My Thanksgiving Gratitude List

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These days we hear the word “gratitude” thrown around so much that I can only hope it is not one of those “buzz” words that we have started to tune out.  And hopefully it’s not just at Thanksgiving time that we actually take a moment to step out of our busy lives and look around at the good.  Did you know that there are now lots of studies out that showcase how keeping a gratitude journal (or just mentally stockpiling as you go) can actually be beneficial to your overall health?

I love Thanksgiving.  Anybody who knows me well knows that it is my favorite holiday Though I am a big lover of giving gifts, it is a nice time of year when no gifts are actually required; it’s simply about being together, having fun, eating comforting foods that we’ve been eating on this day for years (our traditions are rich just like I bet yours are) playing games, and cuddling up with a good movie.  There’s also some mandel bread lying around which reminds me of my Grandma Jeanette (who always had some in her freezer in case somebody was nice to her at the hair salon, the bank or the dentist).  Nobody will play $100,000 Pyramid with me any more (rightly so).  And on any given Thanksgiving you can usually find a few people upstairs in the loft watching football, a few people downstairs on the couch napping, smells of stuffing and pineapple souffle (yes, pineapple souffle wafting through the house (it is a family favorite and sooo good) , maybe a game of mah jongg or backgammon or Balderdash going on in the corner, and maybe (just maybe) the women are getting a little rowdy while checking on the turkey and giggling like not one day has gone by since we were all in the kitchen together checking on the food.  Snacks are out, apple cider is out, maybe some deer wander through the backyard.  This year our surroundings will be different this year (we’ll be in Florida instead of West Virginia or Virginia), I know that good memories are to come, and I can’t wait for the sunshine, warmth, and palm trees to help us create these new memories.  As long as I’m with those that I love, I could be in Timbuktu and be OK (though I’d prefer Florida).

Though I think about my blessings every day, silently to myself or in a journal, this year I wanted to just share a few with you before the holiday.  So here goes:

I’m grateful that even though I’m treatment, I can travel to be with my loved ones this Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful that my relatives and I love each other.

I’m grateful that my relatives and I like each other.

I’m grateful that I can eat my favorite foods on this holiday.

I’m grateful that my treatment doesn’t fall during Thanksgiving week.

I’m grateful for warm showers, meditation, gratitude confetti, green juice, blueberry smoothies with bee pollen, and warm cozy sweaters.

I’m grateful that each member of my family plays an integral part of my team from research to hand-holding to calmness to making me laugh to sending me feather tattoos.

I’m grateful that my friends forgive me for not calling, emailing or texting more.

I’m grateful that even though yesterday I was so tired I cried, I was still able to go out for a walk and enjoy nature.

I’m grateful for autumn in New England.

I’m grateful that my co-workers (and my boss) seem to miss me and send me nice notes telling me so.

I’m grateful that my nephew loves to cuddle, lets me call him Pop-tart (and hopefully will until he goes away to college), and keeps me laughing.

I’m grateful that my best friend’s kids want to FaceTime with their Sam Auntie so that I can tell them just how much I love them.

I’m grateful that my best friend A has the wisdom and heart to walk this path with me– all with such grace on her part.

I’m grateful that my best friend M has taught me the value in meditation, patience, and compassion.

I’m grateful that my Mom is my best friend.

I’m grateful that my husband is my best friend.

I’m grateful that he gets me.

I’m grateful that I have a beautiful office where I am writing this from.

I’m grateful that my family would go to the ends of the earth for me and my health.

I’m grateful for my doctors, researchers, physician assistants, medical assistants, nurses, nurses who give me my infusions, people checking me in at Dana-Farber, my surgeons, my nutritionist, and everybody who has ever smiled at me or said a kind word to me at any of the institutes/hospitals where I have ever been treated.

I’m grateful that my oncologist hugs me when he sees me.

I am grateful for the nurse Alexia Marcous who took care of me when I was in Brigham & Women’s Hospital after my surgery last February.

I’m grateful that my surgeon wants to do everything he can take to help me, and bonus:  He has a great bedside manner!

I’m grateful that there is a shot that can help with my glaucoma. Having said that, I am also super grateful for Ativan.

I’m grateful for the support of the Cancer Hope Network.

I am grateful that I can sleep every morning until I need to.

I am grateful for naps.

I am grateful for my kitties who cuddle with me and sit on my chest and purr and make me pet them instead of looking at my phone.  They are reminders that nothing on my phone is as important as what’s right in front of me.

I am grateful that through my meditation and spirituality practices these last few years, I have learned how to let go, forgive, and find freedom in the unknown (sometimes).

I am grateful that Facebook has kept me connected to so many kind and awesome people.

I am grateful for the Jimmy Fund.

I am grateful that my husband understands my need for coffee.

I am grateful for YOU.

What are you grateful for?  xo.

 

Where I Live

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“Please g-d, find me,” I think to myself, though I know that g-d is already near and always has been.  I release some sort of anguish that lies inside of me until I sound like an injured animal.  I am alone, in my car, crisp fall pieces of the season tapping against my windshield and thick red trees still adorned with leaves despite the fact that it is almost Thanksgiving.  I live in a beautiful wooded area of Massachusetts and cows with long brown streaks greet me through the setting sun; I see one meandering slowly down to a stream for a drink of water.  On the next corner a beautiful wooden fence (so New England) stands between me and three gorgeous horses who are always wiling about eating grass without a care in the world (every time I see them it makes me want to go horseback riding again overlooking the Tetons standing grandly in Jackson Hole, in the lush green hills of Cong Ireland or through coffee plantations in Costa Rica with my Mom.  This all makes me think about the richness of life, the travels, the different cultures, the experiences that I carry with me.  It makes me think about taking a breath and being alive).

The tears brim in my eyes for what feels like forever, and I admonish them not to fall, though I know it is way too late for that.  They feel hot and tired, just like my body.  And when do I release them I feel a great sense of relief, as if this batch of tears has been brewing like an overdone tea kettle that has been whistling longingly asking for me to finally let it go.

I wonder what it will be like to be alone.  I think about a box of wrapping paper that sits on my top shelf in my front hall closet; ribbons all tangled up together and bows of different colors situated perfectly and soft pieces of felt and markers and cards and things that I do not use.  Because of where the box is every time I hang up my coat I see it and think of it.  I long to use it, but I am not really the “crafty type,” and now with things like Amazon I hardly ever wrap gifts to give in person anymore. I love this box because pretty things make me happy, the thought of giving gifts makes me happy, but it mostly sits alone on that top shelf in the closet where the only other guests are old hats and an umbrella that we never use.

I wonder if this is what it will feel like after I am gone.  If I will feel beautiful, but not really needed anymore.  Saved for posterity, but still, dusty and distant.  I wonder if heaven is what I think it is (somehow everything is white like in the movies) and I wonder if those I leave behind will ever be OK.

It is too painful to talk to my loved ones about, the crushing fear of death, or how it will end.  If this will be it, or if it will be many years from now.  I cannot fathom how I could ever leave behind my husband, parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and friends.

So I talk to strangers.  I tell them how tired I am.  How I’m being treated for cancer and when the woman applying my lip gloss in Blue Mercury asks me why I need a “pick-me-up” (because what better what to say fuck you cancer than a new lip gloss), I tell her that I have cancer.  Why would I do this?  The words just slip out quickly and I long to pick them back up again, but they’re out there now spilled all over her beautiful make-up free floor and there is nothing that I can do about it.  “What stage?” she asks, and I get ready for a drama-filled face before I say, “4.”  Yup, there it is.  Her eyebrows raise and her mouth frowns and she looks me in the eye and says, “I’m so sorry.”  Her genuine compassion touches me, but I feel the need to tell her that I’m not gone yet, that I’ve actually had Stage IV cancer for years now.  Somehow telling people that legitimizes my space in the world.  Like, “I’m here.  I’ve been here.  I will continue to be here.”

She says that anytime I want my makeup done for a “pick-me-up” she can come to me, or I can come back into the store.  I wonder if this is using my “cancer card” but I don’t get anything for free, so I don’t think so.

I go into Magic Beans a few hours beforehand (maybe this is why I needed the new lip gloss today) to buy a baby present for the woman who cuts my hair. I argue with myself all the way to my haircut appointment today.  “You don’t really need to buy a baby present,” I think to myself.  After all, we’re not friends per se. We’re friendly because she cuts my hair and she’s very sweet.  But she’s been cutting my hair now for about two years and she does a great job.  I want to do something nice for her, I’m glad that she’s returned to work.  So I go into Magic Beans and pick out a lovie/teether and as it’s being wrapped in paper with puffy white clouds on it (so good for a baby, I don’t know why, maybe because babies are so soft and squishy like those clouds) I see a pregnant couple shopping for strollers.

I give the baby present to the woman cutting my hair and she loves it and tells me all about the things her two month old is doing now, giggling in his sleep, sleeping for 5 hours in a row, smiling.  She shows me a picture on her phone and says it’s the best thing in the world.

I’ve brought this upon myself.  Magic beans, the lovie, the gift wrap.

I wonder how I can live in a world where– according to others– I’ll never get “the best thing.”

She can tell something is up and asks how I’m feeling.  I tell her, since she’s been out on maternity leave, that I have taken leave from work, they’ve found more tumors, and I’m now in treatment again.  I hear myself say “I’m so tired,” and I finally turn my face up to look in the mirror (I’ve been trying to avoid mirrors lately) and as she cuts my wet hair I see it in my eyes.  The fatigue.  The fear.  The gremlins.

I ask my inner-ally to stop by for a visit, I really need her right about now.  She always visits me on a beach, and so that is where we connect.  I tell her that I’m scared:  What if the treatment isn’t working, how can I know?   I’m so tired which I think means my body must be working pretty hard at fighting this cancer.  That gives me hope.  (Being fatigued is a common side-effect of cancer and most treatments and it fazes nobody at Dana-Farber when you tell them that you sleep at least 10 hours a day now).  I feel a little bit sad because I can really only do one thing a day now without needing a nap.  I’m also somewhat worried about going back to work with such little energy, but I’m also scared not to work (what would that mean?  I cannot let this cancer define me but yet it is such a huge part of my life.  I struggle continuously with this).

We talk, for a long time, my inner-ally and I. And in the end I finally drain my tears until it feels like there is nothing left.  I imagine the tears that I have just shed inside of my body, pouring over my liver and the tumors, washing them away.

I imagine what my life would have been like without cancer.

But I can’t.

All I can see is that unused box on the top shelf.  The puffy white clouds.  The tea kettle begging for relief.

All I can do now is wait until the next collection of tears build up and wash over me, like the waves at the beach where my inner-ally lives.  Like where my hope lives.

And where, I remind myself, I live too.