Talking to Myself

photo 1A weird thing happened at the beach the other day.  It seems I made peace with the idea of death.  I was at the beach meditating and suddenly got this message that death wasn’t something to be afraid of.  That I had to just surrender.  Let go of all the stuff I can’t control (hello serenity prayer!) and make peace with the idea that I will die at some point.  We all will.

Then in the next breath I thought, “No, wait!  I can’t be ok with death.  Won’t that signal to my body that I’m ready to go?!?  I don’t want to die.  Not yet.”

But the more I reflect on the experience the more I realize that letting go of fear and accepting death is a good thing and an important piece of being able to surrender.  Trusting and knowing that everything is a part of the master plan…  Each challenge, every person we encounter, all our experiences.  I do believe everything happens for a reason.  And the goal of it all is to lead us to living our highest purpose and being our most authentic selves.  Striving for this will help our minds grow, our bodies to heal, and our spirit to soar.

One practice that brings me closer to living this way is meditation.  So I am back at it again…  Adding regular meditation to the end of my daily exercise.  Prioritizing my need to be still and centered in the moment,  I’m also doing daily affirmations (from Louise Hay’s book Heal Your Body) and visualizations.  When I was doing chemo I visualized dancing ladies like the Rockettes going through my body and kicking my cancer cells apart and out of my body.  Now when I’m meditating at the beach I imagine the ocean waves washing through me and removing the pain and cancer cells.

Plus, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking myself questions out loud and waiting for an answer (yes, talking to myself).  :-)   Like the day I was in pain during the hour long “rest period” before going for a PET scan.  The pain in my arm wouldn’t go away.  So I asked it, “Pain, what do you want?  What is the lesson here?!?”  And I heard back, “Humility”.   Alrighty…  Then yesterday I asked the pain in my neck…  the cancer…  what it needed.  And I heard the answer “Love”.   Ok.   Interesting what comes up when you allow yourself to just sit and be silent.

I met with my new Naturopath Dr. J on Friday.  She’s a professor here in Connecticut who just wrote a textbook on Naturopathic Integrative Oncology.  She knows her stuff.  She’s also Cherokee Indian and a deeply spiritual person.  It was hubby who found her from a simple Google search.  Go figure.  And now she’s helping me formulate a multi-step holistic healing plan…   Which involves mental & spiritual work, diet changes, supplement revisions, herbal remedies, nightly castor oil applications, hormone balancing, and regular acupuncture to help with the pain.

And Dr J was the one to tell me the good news that my tumor marker number actually went down!!  Yes, you read that right.  It went down instead of up on the most recent test.  Oh yeah!  A small decrease, but a decrease nonetheless.  I’ll take it.

In other news…  Breast Cancer Awareness Month is fast approaching.  Although I abhor most of the big pink ribbon campaigns and over-commercialized misuse of people’s pain to funnel money to large, and often toxic, corporations, I do support a lot of small grass-roots cancer organizations.  I was recently contacted by Beyond Boobs asking if I was interested in promoting their new “2014 Calendar To Live By“.  I checked out their site and was impressed.  Their work specializes in breast cancer of pre-menopausal women and speaks directly to the problems us young women face.  They offer education, support, and resources with a truly holistic viewpoint.  I already went online and ordered a calendar.  Check it out for yourself.

I was also recently contacted by Katie Ussin of Channel 2 News in Dayton.  Last year she did a piece on me for her week-long breast cancer awareness tribute (you can see it here).  This year she wanted to do a follow-up with all the women she interviewed, including me (via facetime on my phone).  The interview will air at the end of October.  I’ll keep everyone posted as to where/when they can see it.

Lately it seems people want more from my blog, more from me.  So I am finally in the midst of building a better website for gracefulwomanwarrior.com (and even learning some CSS coding in the process!)  Hoping to launch the new site in the next month or so with recipe pages, recommended reads, more resources, and possible partnerships with health promoting companies.  Stay tuned…

Also happening next month is my friend and colleague Eryka Peskin’s program, “31 Days & 31 Ways to Jumpstart Your Abundance!”  For each day during the month of October, she’s going to share tips, tools, and exercises that cover all the areas needed to live a more abundant life (health, money, sensuality, love, work, mindset, and more!)  And I am one of the guest contributors!  You can sign up for this FREE program at http://eepurl.com/C4Hmj.

All in all I’m feeling pretty good these days.  Continuing to take steps to get back on track.  Still trying to figure out how to handle my ever changing “normal”.  How to deal with the fact that my body is not what it used to be.  Some days are fabulous.  Others, not so much.

Last night while reading the story of another cancer warrior Leah Putnam on her site Wholy Cancer,  I was reminded that cancer is not some foreign object inside me.  It is a part of me.  Created by me.  My own cells – only mutated.  So I can love it.  Because loving it means loving myself.  Healing it means healing myself.

In the meantime, I’ll keep talking to myself and asking the big questions.

Peace.  – T

Scan Results and Messages From Above

Going back to basics!

Going back to basics!

First, I have to say thank you for all the amazing comments after the last blog.  Wow!  All that support, encouragement, love, and vulnerability had me laughing out loud and wistfully pondering big questions about life.  Thank you guys!  At some point I may actually get around to responding individually because there was so many points I wanted to speak to.

And all the love couldn’t have come at a better time.

On Wednesday I got the results of my most recent set of scans.  It wasn’t what I had hoped for…  But it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be.

The good news is, that the ultrasound of my arm showed no more deep vein blood clots (which is awesome!) but there’s still some circulation problems – restricted flow, and superficial clots in peripheral arteries.

The not so good news is that my tumor marker 25.29 level is up again (from 35 to 70 to 90 now).  Bummer!  And the PET scan shows that the cancer is trying to set up shop in my body again.  There are clusters of cancer cells spreading from my thyroid area, through my chest, and into my left armpit.  Serious bummer!  Most of the spots are pretty low on the SUV scale and may still be associated with inflammation from the surgery & stress of the move.  But a few seem pretty serious and may partly to blame for the circulatory issues and pain I’m having on my left side.

I’m trying not to freak out.  But the first day was hard.  I shed some tears.  Even thought about just giving up for a moment.  Then I said, enough with that.  Let’s look at the positive…  The cancer hasn’t spread anywhere beyond the immediate chest area which is great news.  There were a few suspicious spots in my leg but they didn’t light up on the scan – so i’m not wasting my energy thinking about them!  My energy is still good and I’m still living life.

Still, my body is definitely not happy.  The pain is nearly constant.  Luckily it’s just a dull ache.  Nothing deep or sharp.  But still totally annoying!  My poor body is screaming out to me to make changes.  To stop neglecting myself.  To slow down.  To reassess.  To get back on track.

So I’m going back to the basics.  Re-reading Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy, Diet and maybe even doing a 21 day healthy eating cleanse.  I’m trying hard to get my 8 hours of sleep each night.  I’m assembling a kick-ass healthcare team.  I’m making time for meditation, visualization, and affirmations.  Doing my daily exercise.  Drinking my green juice & green smoothies.  And adjusting things in my life to help make this happen.

What else can I do???  Well, my oncologist offered me what western oncology has to offer – meds.  Period.  Either more chemo meds or more anti-hormonal meds or meds to stop my ovulation.  No thank you.  At least not for now.  When i go inside and ask myself what feels right.  It’s not taking more meds.  So for now i’m going to forgo pharmaceuticals and give this healthy living thing everything I’ve got.  With my awesome team of doctors, naturopaths, functional nutritionists, reiki healers, support groups, and therapists I truly believe I have the chance to kick this cancer again.

I have a new naturopath on my team who is awesome & brilliant.  She and I are meeting next week to come up with a plan of action.  I’ll keep my oncologist up-to-date and then we scan again in another 3-4 months and take it from there.

Yesterday morning I went for a run through the woods and ended with a meditation on the beach.  I looked to the sky and asked my mom for help again.  I cried and I tried to visualize the waves washing through me and carrying the cancer away.  I breathed in the salty air.  And tried to shift my energy.

Later that day Miss M and I were cleaning the house when I saw a little red fox pass by the window outside.  I knew it was my mom talking to me – sending me a message of hope and support.  When I looked up the symbolism behind the fox it said foxes bring energy of magic, increased awareness, and opportunity.  The fox reminds us to enjoy life & have fun.  The fox is trickster and reminds us to be adaptable and curious.  And just the night before my cup of chamomile tea had held the message “be curious” on its tea bag.  Hhhmmm…  The universe (and my mom) are definitely trying to send me a message.

So I’m going to remain curious and aware.  Keep thinking outside the box.  Trust my intuition.  And stay open to the magic and messages that appear around us every day.

Cancer – you don’t stand a chance!

Hugs,  – T

Miss M took this shot on one of our nature walks.

Miss M took this shot on one of our nature walks.

Local beach beauty.

Local beach beauty.

The Ups & Downs of Life

Nature walk on the trails next to our new house.

Nature walk on the trails next to our new house.

It’s definitely been an insane couple of weeks…  Ups and downs…  Pain and joy…  A little bit of everything.  I guess that’s life, eh?

On a high note, I am absolutely LOVING our new home in Connecticut.  We’re slowly settling in.  Finally unpacking the last few boxes.  Making this house our home.  Getting to know the neighbours (who are lovely).  Bicycling down to the beach.  Getting used to the oceanside weather.

People thought I was crazy to let hubby put an offer in on this house sight unseen.  But I know my man.  I know he has good taste.  I know he understands what’s important to Miss M and I.  I trust him.  And he knocked the ball right outta the park.  This little seaside home is truly our little piece of heaven.

On a slightly lower note…  I’ve been in some serious pain the last few weeks.  From a dull ache in my left arm, through some major cricks in my neck, pains in my shoulder and breast, and lots of swelling.  Ugh!  Originally I’d assumed it was just from the stress of the move or sleeping the wrong way.  But when it persisted I started to get worried.

Luckily I had two doctors appointments on the calendar last week.  The first with my plastic surgeon in NYC who said I looked fantastic and that the swelling was likely related to the blood clot and not the surgery or overexertion.  We measured my arms.  Confirmed the swelling.  And agreed I needed to speak with an oncologist.

Fortunately, three days later I was scheduled to meet with my next potential oncologist.  Dr. H.  Oncologist #2.  With Oncologist #1 being such a disaster, I was praying this one would be better.  And thank god she was.

Dr. H was gentle, calm, knowledgeable, and kind.  She respected my choices and my time.  She had read my file before our appointment so I didn’t have to waste time telling my whole story again.  And she agreed with my plastic surgeon that it was probably an unresolved blood clot in my arm that was causing all the drama.  She told me Coumadin doesn’t work with all cancer patients and switched me to a new injectable blood thinner: Arixtra.  It’s been three days since I started the new meds and I swear the swelling and redness and pain is getting better.  Hallelujah!

But I’m still thinking, “What the hell is this blood clot situation all about?  Why does it keep coming back?”

My darling Louise Hay (who now has an app for finding the underlying roots of physical symptoms) says it’s all about “closing down the flow of joy”.  And my nutritionist too suggested I try to figure out “what is blocking my flow”.  So I am trying to dig deep and figure out the answers, find my flow, and open up to joy.   And I will speak more to these questions in my next post on our other blog – Be Your Truth Pact – in the coming week.  So stay posted.

But for starters, I’m tackling items on my bucket list and getting back to my social work roots.  I signed up for piano lessons and next week I start a training course with the Prison Mindfulness Institute.  They bring meditation and mindfulness practices (including yoga!) to local prisons in order to help prisoners grow, transform, and heal.  It’s not a full-time social work job – but it’s a start.  I’m also joining Bernie Siegel’s famed ECaP support group (which I’m over-the-moon excited about).  So lots of good things on the horizon.

But of course the recent health issues took hubby and I back down the path of fear.  Realizing how quickly things can take a turn for the worse.  Thinking about the possibility of chemo again, or even death.  Reminding us how important it is to prioritize self-care.  So we agreed I need to take a little time-out from all my trips and traveling.  Just stay put for a while.  Batten down the hatches.  Get settled in to our new life here.  Get back into a routine.  Back into juicing, exercising, meditating, resting, nesting, and finding more balance.

Which means, unfortunately, that I have to cancel trips to NY (including my Gestalt psychoanalytic program plans and my cousin’s husband’s next gallery showing in Chelsea with its kickin’ afterparty)…   Plus a long over-due trip to Bowen that I’ll have to postpone.  Sigh…  Such is life.

The other thing I continue to do is analyze my dreams.  I believe our dreams are a window to our soul and subconscious.  (And since we operate close to 80% of the time from the subconscious I figure it’s important to get in touch with what’s going on in there).  My dreams this week all involved difficult or horrible situations that I was able to overcome (getting my car unstuck from the sand…  rebuilding a brand new kitchen in a burned down house…  and successfully kicking out home invaders).  My subconscious seems to be telling me that life is gonna be tough but I will overcome.  Which is exactly what I’ve always felt deep in my soul.  From the time I was diagnosed.  That this is one crazy difficult road to go down…  But it won’t kill me.  Not yet anyway.  Not for a long time.

It ain’t gonna be easy.  But I’m up for the challenge.

Peace.  – T

Hubby & MIss M frolicking at our beach on Long Island Sound.

Hubby & MIss M frolicking at our beach on Long Island Sound.

Miss M & I at the top of the Empire State Building!

Miss M & I at the top of the Empire State Building!

Hubby & I celebrating our 10 year anniversary.

Hubby & I celebrating our 10 year anniversary.