Turning Points and More Reflections from Europe

My new hair cut!

My new hair cut!

Happy New Year!

Been a while since my last post…  Guess the holidays do that to ya.  I was just re-reading all the comments from my last post and decided in this moment to make one of my goals for 2014 to respond and connect more with everyone reading this blog.  You guys are amazing!  I also want to connect more with the other awesome cancer bloggers out there whose posts I read on the regular and intend to comment on but never do.  Plus, I’m finally ready to transition to a new format for my blog.  Will hopefully have the new site functioning for my next post.

It’s a new year.  Time for a fresh start.  I love fresh starts.  I try to remember that each day offers a chance at a new beginning.  Each moment can be a turning point towards something better…  (And on that front, I have to give a shout-out to fellow MBC warrior Paulette who preached an amazing sermon on ‘turning points’ last weekend at Community Baptist Church!  Thanks for inviting us!)

I am feeling positive about 2014.

Hubby and I have been on a spiritual quest since I returned from my trip to Europe.  Searching for a spiritual community we can feel at home in.  One that blends nicely with my Buddhist background and hubby’s Catholic upbringing.  We’re hitting up all the local churches; Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, United…  You  name it.  And bringing Miss M along for the ride.  Already I can see that she understands the sacredness of meditation, prayer, and being in church.  And I feel like we’re connecting more as a family since we started our church exploring too.

I continue to draw on the strength and serenity of my spiritual journey to Europe.  I feel like my whole life has shifted since I took that trip.  My depression has lifted.  My decisions are no longer based in fear.  I’m enjoying life more.  Speaking my mind.  Surrendering and feeling more hopeful.  Feeling like the challenges I, and my family have endured are about to morph into something beautiful.

I remember the thrill and joy I felt as I flew into Lisbon.  The tears would not stop coming so I just let them fall as I watched the sun rise over Portugal from my little airplane window.  And the tears continued throughout my time there…  Being in Portugal felt comforting and uplifting.  It felt like home.  Which makes sense when you consider my heritage and connections to both Portugal and Brazil.  I devoured meals of seafood and fresh olives.  I walked the magical winding streets of the Alfama District and listened to live fado music.  I took the tram to see the Monastery of Jerónimos and the Belém Tower…  (And was delighted that the trams run on an honor system with no one keeping track of who pays)…  But that’s the kind of place Lisbon is.  Friendly.  Beautiful.  Charming.  Trusting.  I fell in love.

When I went to Fatima my heart grew even more.  In this small Portuguese town Mary appeared to three shepherd children numerous times over the course of a 6-month period culminating in a “miracle of the sun” that over 70,000 people reportedly witnessed.  I had heard from a friend just how awe-inspiring Fatima was.  In fact it was this friend’s account of his journey there that inspired my trip.  But I was still not prepared for the level of magic and energy and healing that would overcome me as I set foot in the Chapel of Apparitions where Mary reportedly appeared.  Immediately I was overcome with emotion.  I was on my knees crying and sobbing, snot running down my face, puddles of tears pooling by my knees on the floor.  It was as if I felt all of humankind’s suffering at the same time as I felt the radiant and unconditional love of Mary and all ‘mothers’.  My pain disappeared.  My thoughts ceased.  Even though I was only partially sheltered from the outside I was not cold.  I stayed there for hours praying and meditating and crying.  Each time I thought I was done crying I was surprised by another burst of fresh tears.  I prayed for those closest to me, for those caught in the struggle of cancer and illness, for all of us dealing with life’s difficulties and traumas.  I lit candles and said more prayers.  I didn’t want to leave.  But eventually I had to.

Since that day my pain has all but disappeared.  The swelling in my arm continues to go down.  The tumors in my neck and shoulder appear to be getting “softer” and smaller.  My headaches are gone.  My energy is returning.  My attitude has completely shifted.  All of this despite the fact that my tumor marker numbers are not getting better and the strength and dexterity of my left arm and hand has deteriorated to the point where I can’t put an elastic in Miss M’s hair or scrape leftovers from a frying pan.

This Thursday I am scheduled to start a new drug – Pertuzumab (aka: Perjeta).  My oncologist is hoping it will add an extra kick to the Taxotere and Herceptin I’m currently doing.  When I asked her how long she suggests I continue with chemo her response was basically for as long as I can tolerate it.  As of right now I seem to be tolerating it very well.  My white blood counts haven’t dropped at all.  My red blood counts are a little low but nothing to worry about.  My immune system has stayed pretty strong.  And I credit all the holistic treatments I’m doing for keeping me healthy (weekly acupuncture, regular reiki, supplements, diet, meditation, etc.).  But still, I don’t want to stay on this chemo crap forever!

I’ve decided to place the biopsy on hold for now.  Once I found out that taking lymph nodes from my neck is a procedure requiring full anesthesia, a visit to the OR, and possible complications, I told hubby I’d rather just take another drug than put my body through more surgery.

For now, I am choosing to focus on the fact that I’m pain free and feeling good.  The fact that I can still function, be an active mom, and live my life is what matters.  And I’m choosing not to focus on the tumor marker numbers or the things that I can’t do, or the fact that my fingers are cracking open, my nails are falling off, my hair is gone, and my libido is shot.

With the new year upon us I am actively seeking to connect with what’s truly important.  To identify my non-negotiables and make them a priority.  For me this includes daily prayer & meditation, regular exercise or movement, healthy eating, finding time to read & write, traveling, quality time with my family, and connecting with people (those I already know and those I have yet to meet).

Here’s to a fabulous 2014 for everyone!  Let today be the turning point that leads you to discover and prioritize your own non-negotiables of life.  Each day, each moment, offers the opportunity to make a choice.  Are your daily choices in line with what you value and deem most important?

Love to all.  – T

Monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon.

Monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon.

The chapel of apparitions at Fatima.

The chapel of apparitions at Fatima.

The new church at Fatima.

The new church at Fatima.

18 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for sharing the power of your experiences. When I see that you have blogged, I sit myself down and clear my thoughts, because I really want to be open and attentive to what you have to say. I think I have told you before, Terri, but I think it is tremendously generous to share your stories. You are on a tough path right now, but difficulty has led you to so much wisdom. You are offering that wisdom up to people…and that is an incredible gift. Thanks, thanks, thanks. I wish you a wonderful 2014, friend.
    P.S. Have you looked at Unitarian? I wasn’t raised with any religion and I don’t go to church (I identify as a humanist, if pressed), but Unitarian is pretty interesting. Just thought I’d mention it…

    • Aawww Lesley… I am truly touched by your comment – especially with it coming from a published writer like yourself ;-). And thanks for the church recommendation too. Will look around and see if there are any close by. Big hugs.

  2. Beautiful heart felt post as normal from you, I am so grateful for this blog, it always makes me stop in whatever moment I am in and reset. I am reading a great book about simplifying our lives and deciding what to give value to and what to let go, just like your post it talks about waking up and truly making daily choices as to what is important rathe than dozing through the day, scanning Facebook ten times, not truly connecting with family etc etc. I do wonder sometimes how many people are truly living or just dozing.
    Happy new year to you and yours I hope it is bright and beautiful.

  3. I’m so thrilled to see the words “Pain Free” come up several times in your post. Hurray for chemo, even if the side effects suck. I’ll happily send grateful thoughts to chemo if it is giving you back your quality of life and decreasing your pain.
    It is wonderful that you have come away from your Europe trip with so many positive things. It is incredibly inspiring that you saw what you needed to do and made it happen, and with such great results. Best wishes on the quest for a spiritual oasis closer to home. Your words make me think of our day at the Cathedral of St John The Divine in NYC. I have mostly found my spiritual places outside, but sometimes it really means a lot to connect with somewhere more concrete (so to speak!). Your smile continues to have that Terri glow and makes me smile in return. Love & hugs to you and family.

    • Wow Stevie! I almost forgot about our visit to St John the Divine. Thanks for bringing up such a lovely memory. That whole visit was great (even though I was over-the-top preggers!). And I am eternally grateful to you for lugging the family rocking chair (originally from Portugal!!) across the country so I could sit in it & breast feed Miss M. You’re the best!!!

  4. Great post as always. Danny said he agrees with you on all levels of Portugal with the exception of the tram, he thinks it’s scary. lol So happy that you are feeling better and continuing to fight on. Much love to you!

  5. I’m so glad to see you feeling upbeat and positive. I think you had your own kind of “healing miracle” at Fatima. It’s so fascinating to listen to your stories.
    I was rereading some of your older posts about shunning Tamoxifen and such. I’m supposed to be starting mine this week but have yet to fill the prescription. What horrible choices we face constantly! I really don’t want to take it.
    Can you tell me what you’re taking or doing specifically to keep your white cell count up? Mine is still low 3 months after chemo. I’m afraid the cancer will come back if I don’t get it back up to “guard the gates”.

    • My darling Ms. Allen… Yours is one of the blogs I always intend to comment on… Not sure I’m doing all that much different from what you’re already doing to boost the blood count & immune system. Here’s what my Naturopath has me on:

      – probiotics (i take GutPro organic capsules), Methly Factors liquid B vitamin, Actifolate, Astragalus, Host Defense organic mushrooms (Turkey Tail, Stamets 7 & My Community: 1-3 capsules 2-3x/day), Cal-Mag Citrate effervescent powder, L-Glutamine, Meriva-500 Curcumin (aka: turmeric), Vit D, PectaSol-C Modified Citrus Pectin, Calcium D-Glucarate, Chromium Polynicotinate

      Once i’m off my blood thinners I’ll be taking CoQ10 again as well as fish oil and Resveratrol and maybe Vit E and Vit C.
      Hope that helps. xoxo

      • I forgot to mention the Melatonin (20 mg before bed)… And the 2 TBSP of ground flax seeds each day… And I forgot all the other stuff too… In addition to supplements, I’m doing acupuncture 1-2x/week, reiki every other week, getting 8-9 hrs of sleep each night (or at least trying to), eating a “mostly” vegan plant based diet, juicing & blending… And of course all my spiritual & mental work :-)

  6. I think focusing on being pain free and feeling good is one of the best things you can do for yourself! My numbers are rising fast and I’ve just decided I have to go with what I’m feeling and I feel good.
    I loved reading about your experiences on your trip! I’m jealous and so happy you were able to do it!

    • Thanks Tammy. I read your recent blog post and was bummed to hear about the rising tumor markers. But am happy that you’re feeling good. One day at a time… Sending you strength & love to get through the next phase of your journey.

  7. I am so happy to hear that you are pain free and feeling at peace with your life!I can also relate and feel for you in your issues with your hand…I hope it is temporary and will be well again soon.And thank you for the reminder to connect with what is truly important! I am currently using a cane(the arthritis has flared up in one of my feet)which I trip over,drop and forget CONSTANTLY…but one of the best lessons your dear mother taught me was to laugh at such things.That is HUGELY important,as I am a walking Laurel and Hardy skit.And the trust you have in your intuition about treatments…magnificent.May you live and laugh and love and be connected to yourself and your family.I thank you for your wisdom.

  8. I am so happy to hear the joy and awareness from your trip is still glowing within you!
    I am thankfull that you were able to go on your journey. Reading about your time in Fatima brought me to the edge of tears. When you talked about staying until you felt like leaving I was so glad you were on your own schedule.
    I don’t know how you do it, but the spark of happiness shines through in your posts. Thank you so much for sharing.

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