Having Cancer Does Not Feel Good

breast-cancer-ribbon-2A few days ago the NY Times ran an article in their magazine entitled “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer” by Peggy Orenstein. Everywhere I looked people were re-posting it, adding links to facebook, emailing it to me.  Yesterday, I finally got the chance to read it.

Orenstein takes on a few important topics…   The risk/benefit conundrum of yearly mammograms…  The over-selling of “early detection” as the answer to breast cancer…  Questionable over-treatment and fear tactics…  The unchanged death rates…  And the beyond ridiculousness of the pink ribbon campaign to raise awareness –  I’m pretty sure we’re all aware now.  Breast cancer is big.  It’s wrecking havoc.  We know.  Now let’s use that money for a real purpose, like funding research to find a cure, figure out the causes of cancer, or help metastatic patients live longer.  The messages in Orenstein’s article aren’t necessary new.  But it is nice to see the NY Times giving it press and especially nice to see Orenstein acknowledging the small and often overlooked percentage of us with metastatic disease.

I personally am very leery of frequent mammograms (and other scans for that matter).  I keep reading that the cumulative effect of radiation from regular mammograms actually increases the chances of getting breast cancer.  Kind of ironic, eh?  Just like Tamoxifen increases your risk for uterine cancer.  And breast radiation may cause lung cancer.  And Herceptin may cause heart failure.  Gotta love it.  It’s a constant battle of weighing the odds.  The benefits vs. the risks.

Since being diagnosed in November 2011, I’ve gone through more scans than I care to count and my body’s been subjected to endless amounts of radiation.  In my new approach to this disease I am now saying no to scans every 3 months (as well as to radiation treatment, Tamoxifen, and Herceptin).  When my oncology surgeon recently suggested I get a mammogram & ultrasound prior to my second reconstructive surgery I opted to skip the mammogram and just get the ultrasound.  I mean, when they do find something suspicious on a mammogram they send you for an ultrasound to further confirm anyway…  So why not just skip the questionable mammogram and go straight for the ultrasound?

It wasn’t news to me that death rates from breast cancer haven’t changed in the last 20 years.  While early detection may be finding more cancer, we’re still dying at the same rate.  How can that be good?  Seems like an obvious red flag that the current approach is not working.  While many people realize this, it really sucks that the medical establishment hasn’t caught on yet.   And while I truly appreciate the efforts of researchers who continue to understand more & more about the inner-workings of cancer and how it forms and grows, I hate that what comes from their brilliant research is just more drugs and toxic treatments.

I love Orenstein for giving a shout out to us metastatic folks.  Acknowledging the paltry sums of research dollars we receive.  The terror we often strike in our non-metastatic breast cancer sisters.  Our absence from “feel-good” breast cancer events.  It is important for all those diagnosed with breast cancer to know that no one is immune from getting metastatic disease.  Denial is not going to help you live longer.  Awareness, prevention, and action will.  I know you don’t want to think about it.  But cancer can come back.

Which brings me to the point we should all be thinking about.  Why did we get cancer in the first place?  Illness is our body’s way of telling us something is not right in our lives.  When I was diagnosed with Melanoma-in-situ (basically stage 0 skin cancer) in 2008 I woke up for a few minutes, changed a few things in my diet, started to eliminate chemicals…  But never went beyond that.   Never did the deeper soul searching.  Never figured out healthy ways to deal with stress.  Never took a serious look at what wasn’t right in my life.  My body was trying to tell me something but I wasn’t ready to listen.

So now, with metastatic breast cancer I am asking the big questions…  Where did this come from?  Why is it here?  What do I need to learn?  What do I need to change?  How can I use this as an opportunity to turn my life around, love myself more, and give back to the world?

Cancer is a very complex disease.  It requires a complex treatment plan.  Simply getting a mammogram or changing once piece of the picture doesn’t guarantee healing.  I can eat 100% healthy organic food and exercise every day but if I’m not dealing with my underlying subconscious fears, childhood wounds, dysfunctional relationships, financial problems, or my stressful & unfulfilling career then true healing may not ever happen.

I’m on an endless quest to figure out what’s broken in my life and find ways to fix it or make peace with it.

The battle is multi-dimensional.  Cancer is tireless and all encompassing.  We have to be too.

Peace.  – T

Finding a Reason to Live

Titi Liz & Miss M at the fountain in Bryant Park

Titi Liz & Miss M at the fountain in Bryant Park

I am back from yet another trip to NYC.  This time to meet with a potential holistic cancer team in Rockland County.   Although I am not entirely sold on this new team, the trip was not a total loss.  I discovered some tweaks I can make to my supplement & diet regime…  I learned about a few alternative cancer treatment options…  And I went through a comprehensive blood testing that will hopefully tell me even more about the state of my body and show where there is room for improvement…

And most importantly, I got to spend a weekend in NY! :-)

Miss M and I had a fabulous weekend staying with my old friend “Titi Liz”…  Miss M discovered the joys of a new train: the Metro-North…  I took her ice skating for the first time at Bryant Park and she was a natural…  We went to the Museum of Natural History where Miss M lost herself in the Hall of Ocean Life with its 94-foot long blue whale and interactive fish displays…  And of course we gorged on healthy meals at my favorite vegan restaurants…

Then we came back to Ohio.

I felt the heavy weight and sadness in my heart as our plane flew over the endless farmland and veered towards Dayton.  I didn’t want to be back in Ohio.  I don’t want to be here.  But I am.

I started reading another amazing book while I was away:  Cancer As A Turning Point by Lawrence LeShan, Ph.D.  Instead of examining cancer through the usual lens of pathology, LeShan found that using a strengths perspective with therapy clients to examine their natural talents and passions brought much better results.  LeShan shares moving stories of cancer patients who change their lives, start living their dreams, harnessing  their zest for life, and helping their bodies heal.

His book is about finding and creating a more fulfilling and meaningful life.  A life that maximizes on your natural talents.  A life that is infused with passion.  A life that you want to live.  And how making these changes can actually signal to your body and immune system to kick into gear because there is a reason to stay alive.

It makes sense.  If I am living a life I don’t want to live, full of misery, sadness, and unused potential, then why live at all?  Perhaps our bodies get sick to bring our sadness to light.  To reveal the truth of our existence.  To force us into a new way of being.

Personally, I know my 30’s were a decade full of self sacrifice and unfulfilled desires.  I continually pushed my dreams aside.  Continued to “suck it up and deal”.  Continued to put my life on hold.  Prioritizing my role as a mom, wife, and daughter.  Just waiting for the right time to make myself a priority again.

Then metastatic breast cancer came along and showed me that NOW is the time.

So I am working hard to rediscover my passions.  Finding the activities that make me lose track of time.  Remembering the happiest moments in my life.  Pinpointing the qualities and moments of every day life that bring me joy.  Figuring out what excites me and ignites me.

Which of course brings me back to NY…  My biggest passion…  The place where I experienced the happiest moments in my life…  Where I easily loose track of time…  The city that brings me to tears with its extremes…  That infuses me with its vibrant energy…

Although I cannot be there now.  I vow to be there again one day.  And until then, I will keep finding ways to get my “fix’ and keep the qualities I love about NY and the person I was when I lived there within me.

I think it’s time we all take a look at what brings us joy…  What we’re passionate about…  Our best ways of relating and being in this world…

Each one of us is here for a reason.  We all have a unique gift to give.  A reason for living.

I’m still figuring out mine.  Do you know what yours is yet?

Peace.  – T

Lacing up skates for Miss M's first skating lesson

Lacing up skates for Miss M’s first skating lesson

Riding the carousel at Bryant Park

Riding the carousel at Bryant Park

The Metro-North

The Metro-North

 

Everyone Needs A Little Rest & Relaxation

Bowen Island sunset

Bowen Island sunset

Our recent trip to Mexico reminded me of the importance of taking time for rest and relaxation.  To regroup and destress.  Unwind and do a lot of nothing.

I realize this is another integral piece of my healing puzzle.

Cancer thrives on stress.  Most diseases do.  When we are overworked, overextended, and pushed to the limit our bodies react.  We go into “flight or fight” mode.  Cortisol levels spike.  Adrenaline zips through our bodies.  If stress continues unchecked our bodies begin to break down.  Immune systems falter.  Skin reactions like breakouts and rashes occur.  Organs become taxed and begin to shutdown.  Aches and pains are magnified.  Tissues and cells are damaged.

I recently learned through the testing my naturopath did that my own cortisol levels were in a reverse curve as a result of the chronic stress I was under for the last four years.  Now we are trying to rewire it back to normal with supplements and diet &  lifestyle changes.

Despite knowing how important this piece of the puzzle is, I still struggle with making rest and relaxation a priority.  A lot of people do.

A big reason for this is the society we live in…  With its messages about working hard and being productive…  The admonishments about being lazy…  It is built into the fabric of the United States.  The country that gives workers a mere 2 weeks vacation (while places like Brazil and Sweden get 4-6 weeks)…  The country that offers no paid maternity or paternity leave – making us the ONLY first world nation on Earth to deny parents this right.  We are clearly delivering the message that working hard and being “productive” is the most important thing in life…  And then we wonder why our kids are so messed up!?!??  Don’t get me started…

Even as a stay-at-home-mom I feel judged.  I feel the need to detail just how busy my days are.  To dispel the false perception that being a SAHM means I sit on my ass all day and watch TV.  In truth, it is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Most of my life I’ve bought into these false notions.  Believing somehow that my worth was based on how much I accomplished.  I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’ve worked steadily since the age of 15 – Sometime working 3 different jobs at once…  Often times juggling work with school to pay my way through college…   Burning the candle at both ends.

But our bodies can only live like this for so long.

When cancer came knocking on my door in 2011 I knew things had to change.

At the beginning of my cancer journey I read an amazing book – Lynn’s Legacy by Christa Johnson, MD.  One part in particular stuck with me…  Her acknowledgment that, “It is not unusual for a person to develop [illness]…. as the only way he or she can justify taking time out to get needed rest.”   Shit.  That was me.

After years of being stressed to the max and caring for everyone else but myself, I finally had a way to justify taking care of me.  How sad that the reason was metastatic breast cancer.  A part of me believes the Universe brought metastatic disease into my life so I would always have the perfect “excuse” to take care of myself.  But now my goal is to embrace self care, rest, and  relaxation for its own sake.  For my sake.  Because it is necessary.  Because I deserve it.  And not cling to cancer for justification.

So what do I do to rest, relax, and take care of myself?  I blog…  I read…  I continue go for reiki sessions…  I exercise…  I meditate…  I go for walks in the woods or head to the beach…  I take vacations…  I watch the sunset…  I chat with my girlfriends…   I spend time with those I love…   I make regular trips to NYC (which I’m doing again this week!  Yay!)…  And I’m trying to be ok with just sitting around and doing nothing every once and a while.

Most people assume the changes to my diet predicated my healing.  Although I know that is a major piece of the puzzle, I also know in my heart that it is the deeper work, the psychological work, the soul work that has truly made a difference.

Listen to your soul.  Take care of yourself.  And find some time for a little R&R.

Peace.  – T

Nature walk with Miss M at Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark

Nature walk with Miss M at Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark

IMG_5246

The Psychological Piece

One of the most important pieces of my healing puzzle has been, and continues to be, the psychological and emotional.  No matter how healthy I eat, or how much I exercise, if I do not address the layers underneath, nothing will truly change.

I believe for true healing to occur we must peel away the layers, examine our behavior and thought patterns, and discover who we are at our core.  Otherwise, the same obstacles and negative patterns will continue to repeat themselves – over & over again – and keep us stuck.  Hold us back from being the amazing beings we were brought here to be.  Whether we’re dealing with illness, addiction, weight issues, excessive spending, relationship problems, promiscuity, or whatever…   Until we look at why we do what we do and open ourselves up to new possibilities we’ll just keep going round in circles.  Nothing will ever change.

There is much written about the “Type C cancer personality” – the characteristics common to those of us who tend to get cancer (as well as auto-immune diseases).  We are those “nice” people…   Those unassertive, hard working, independent, perfectionists…  Who seem calm & rational and rarely flustered…  The dutiful and dependable ones who constantly do for others and have difficulty saying no or asking for help…   Unable to express anger or recognize the primacy of their own needs…  Trying to keep it all under control…

I was all of these things.  And for the longest time this worked for me.  People liked me.  I liked myself.  I thought I had it all under control.  I didn’t need anyone.  I could do it all by myself.  No problems here.

Then a series of horribly difficult circumstances chipped away at my defenses and coping patterns and exposed the truth.  Living that way was no longer going to work.

I’ve done a lot of peeling and a lot of changing since being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  I believe my process was three-fold…

First was realizing I didn’t have all the answers.  That I had stuff I needed to work on.  That my life wasn’t as perfect as I thought it was…

Second was embarking on my quest to understand how I got to be the person I am today…  Finding a good therapist…  Reading some good books (The Type C Connection as well as Drama of the Gifted Child)…  Being willing to hear things I didn’t want to hear…  And understanding how my patterns began and why they continued.

Third was putting it all into practice…  Recognizing the opportunity to change my thoughts and behaviors in the moment and making a different choice instead – Which ain’t easy, let me tell you…

But I feel like I’ve come a long way since being diagnosed.

Today, I recognize the inter-generational patterns of self-defeating behaviour that have been passed down to me and that I do not want to pass down to my own daughter…  The people pleasing…  The self-depreciation…  The pushing down of my feelings.

I choose to let go of trying to control things.  Life is so much easier when I just surrender and go with the flow…  Every time I feel my mind going to that obsessive planning and questioning state I stop myself.  I come back to the present moment and remember this moment is all I have…  Why waste time fretting over something that may never happen or things from the past that I cannot change.

The new me, tells people what I need and asks for help instead of expecting them to read my mind and getting upset and resentful when they can’t…  I am letting go of my attachment to being the “strong one”…  I am letting my house be messy…  And asking hubby to deal with Miss M’s tantrum instead of just glaring at him while I do it.

I no longer care as much about what other people think…  Fuck ’em…  I am who I am.

I am allowing my emotions to arise and express themselves.  Figuring out healthy ways to express anger…  Crying when I need to cry…  Enjoying the beauty in the little moments.

Although the road was bumpy, I am happy that I have arrived in this new place.  And I continue to embrace new opportunities for growth every chance I get.

I encourage everyone to take a look inside…  See what is not working in your life…  And open yourself up to the possibility of change.  You just might like where it takes you.

Peace.  -T

The Waiting Game

Splashing in puddles & dancing in the rain with Miss M

Tomorrow I find out the results of my most recent set of scans.  The results determine a whole host of things – most importantly whether or not surgery is still an option.  As long as the cancer has not grown or spread since my last scan in April I’m good to go for the mastectomy.

Friday marked the end of this round of tests and scans (5 in all) and since then I’ve just been trying not to get caught in the “scanxiety” trap.

On top of all my breast cancer exams, my dermatologist also removed a suspicious mole from my head at my appointment on Friday.  So now I’m waiting on the results of that biopsy too.  Of course the potential for having skin cancer (yet again) seems minor in comparison to having stage 4 breast cancer.  If it can’t kill me – then who cares?!??  Basal cell carcinoma I laugh at you!  I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

So what am I doing to stave off all the ‘scanxiety’?  Just trying to be in the moment.  Trying to have fun…  Spending time with my girlfriends…  Dancing in the rain with Miss M…  Going on mini retreats with hubby…  Making time for the people I love…  Reading books for pleasure (instead of just books about cancer)…  Watching trashy reality TV…  Going for rides on hubby’s new motorcycle…  Trying to be in the here & now and not allow my mind to wander to the place of “what if”.

One thing I’ve noticed lately is that by taking care of myself again – making fun a priority, meditating, listening to my heart, honoring my spirit, communing with nature, working on my mental mess – I’m finding important lessons everywhere I look.  For the longest time I couldn’t see these lessons.  I was too caught up in the stress of my life, getting through the day, being there for everyone else and not taking the time to step back, pause, and see what was all around me.  Now I see the lessons everywhere…   In my everyday tasks… In the trees and the sky…  Even in the shows I watch on TV (yes, even the trashy ones! :-).

This past weekend hubby and I went to Harmony Farm for a couples massage & mini-retreat to celebrate our 9 year anniversary.  While there I took a walk through the beautiful brick & stone labyrinth they have on site.  As I slowly made my way along the path to the center of the labyrinth I noticed how each time I looked too far ahead I lost my balance and went off the path.  I realized the key to staying centered was to just focus on what was right in front of me.  And I realized how that was a metaphor for life.  When I try to look too far ahead into the future it gets me nowhere.  To stay balanced I must remain in the moment and focus on today (and maybe tomorrow) but not much further than that.

In my own path to healing I am reminded again and again just how important it is to be still.  To quiet the mind.  To leave space for the lessons to appear.  And try not to look too far ahead.

Peace.  -T

Receiving the lesson from the labyrinth at Harmony Farm

Miss M trying out the new motorcycle

Making Sense of the Mental Mess

I just had a slight breakdown in the MRI machine today.

Part of my work in therapy is to allow myself to feel emotions.  So when I felt panicked, sad, and angry in the MRI machine today I just went with it.

So there I was, splayed out in superman position – boobs expertly positioned to drop into two little cups, arms totally straight so I wouldn’t kink the injection line, trying not to put too much pressure on my chemo port (which is hard to do when you’re laying flat on your chest) – And then the jackhammers start.  Oh boy.  They give you headphones with really loud music to help drown out the noise.  But it’s really hard to overpower the sound of jackhammers.  Then half way through they pump the injection line with some awful chemical that turns my mouth to rust.  And I’m doing my best not to move at all because if I do I will have to start the whole process over again.  And I REALLY don’t want that.

So I just started to cry.  It was either that or a full on panic attack.  I tried to do my counting meditation…  Counting up to 10 and back again…  Imagining myself on a beautiful beach, drink in hand…  And just let the tears fall and the emotions come.

These are the days it sucks to have breast cancer.

But I’m really trying to allow myself to just be with suckiness.  Because a big part of my problem is my inability or unwillingness to feel or express my feelings.  Especially the not-so-nice ones.  And as I’m discovering, this defense pattern of repressing and denying my feelings is not good for my health.

Last night I was up for hours reading the “Cancer Report” by John Voell & Cynthia Chatfield which summarizes a ton of info from varying experts about the mind-body connection in cancer patients.  It was one ‘aha’ moment after another for me reading those pages.  These doctors and researchers show how our minds are directly connected to our health outcomes…  How stress weakens the immune system…  How catastrophic life events precipitate cancer diagnoses…  How cancer patients almost always have the same personality traits which develop in childhood and continue into adulthood (being highly conscientious, compassionate, having a need to make others happy, a tendency to carry other people’s burdens and be caretakers, reluctant to accept help from others, having long-suppressed toxic emotions of anger, resentment, and/or hostility, being unaware of the presence of deep-seated emotional problems & conflicts from childhood, and often suffering in silence).  The personality traits describe me to a “T”.

The researchers go on to discuss how working through these issues in psychotherapy, eliminating stressors, and making life changes that are in the best interests of the patient (instead of everyone else) can often make the cancer retreat or go into remission.

Of course this is easier said that done.  Even for someone like me, who is a trained clinical social worker and aware of the mind-body connection.  But time and time again, it is the people who get out of the bad marriages, leave the stressful jobs, distance themselves from the negative haters in their life, change their defense patterns, and go after what truly makes them happy that go on to live long healthy lives.

Through my readings, and my weekly therapy sessions, and my new level of consciousness I am making strides in the right direction.  I am more likely to speak my mind now.  I am becoming more aware of the repressed feelings.  I am allowing myself to feel my feelings.  I am asking for help.  I try not to worry so much about what other people think.  And thanks to this blog, I am no longer suffering in silence.

So thank you everyone for encouraging and supporting me in this journey.  For giving me the space to unload and work through my feelings along this breast cancer journey.  It is often hard for me to pour out my own fears, thoughts, and emotional upsets in person.  But through my writing, I feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction.

Love to all.  – T

 

Let The Scans Begin!

Tomorrow commences the scanning ritual I must now endure every 4 months for the rest of my life.  Except this time around I’ve got some extra scans thrown in for my surgery prep.  It’s so freakin’ time consuming.

My schedule tomorrow includes a 10am injection (for my afternoon bone scan), an 11am psychotherapy appointment (in another town), a 1pm bone scan, and then a routine EKG and chest x-ray.  Insane!

The week continues with an MRI and PET scan.  Plus, I have an appointment to visit my dermatologist for my 6-month check-in to make sure the VERY early stage melanoma I had surgery done on in 2008 does not come back.

On top of this, I’m trying to coordinate all the details and paperwork for my upcoming surgery on September 13th in NYC…  Filling out medical forms…  Fedexing scan reports…  Obtaining biopsy samples…  Coordinating temporary housing referrals…  Booking flights…  Figuring out logistics…  Getting blood-work done…  It’s never ending.

I don’t even know how I’m feeling about the surgery itself.  I haven’t had the time to just sit and think about what it’ll be like.  Or maybe I’m purposefully trying to NOT think about what it will be like.  How scary this is.  How much pain I’m going to be in.  How incapacitated I’ll be.

Instead, I just keep focusing on the here & now.  What I have to get done in the next 24 hrs.  The fun moments and memories that are constantly evolving around me.  The beauty in the sunset.  The beauty of my daughter.  The beauty of nature.  The beauty in celebrating my 9 year wedding anniversary.  The beauty of being back home in Ohio and sleeping in my own bed, next to my husband.

It’s so much more fun to think about the beauty that’s all around me in the present moment than to think about the pain and stress of my upcoming surgery.

At my last reiki appointment with Renee she brought me the tarot card of Power or Strength (Renee pulls a new card from her tarot deck each week to give to her clients as a spiritual check-in and reminder of where you’re at).  Reading the power card refocused my energy and reminded me to continue on my path.  It spoke to my unlimited power as a spiritual being and how keeping my body, mind, soul, and spirit balanced can help me overcome any obstacle in life.

As long as I do my best to stay balanced – take care of myself, relax, have fun, eat well, exercise, meditate – I can deal with everything else.  It’s only when I’m not attending to my basic needs and internal balance that I get off kilter, feel stressed, have all sorts of pains, and get overly anxious about everything.

But now when I feel myself veering off course and reaching my tipping point, the new Terri makes a conscious effort to re-balance as quickly as possible.  It’s not easy.  But I’m trying.

Maybe it’s time we all take a step back and assess how balanced we truly are and try to realign ourselves before we get so unbalanced that we topple over.

As I go through the next few weeks, I know that remaining balanced is key.  I also know that through my connection to ‘The Universe’ I have the power to make it through anything.  We all do.

Peace.  – T

Finding Happiness at The Sweetest Place on Earth

Our host Cheryl, Auntie L, Auntie ‘Cole, and me loving life at Sugarland!
Photo credit: Heather Pelz

Tractoring around Sugarland.
Photo credit: Heather Pelz

Eating apples off the tree. Yum!
Photo credit: Heather Pelz

I’ve just spent the most amazing weekend with a bunch of fantastic people on a gorgeous farm on Salt Spring Island. Pure heaven.

The magic began on the journey there, when Miss M, Auntie L, Auntie ‘Cole, and I took a tiny 12-seater float plane from Vancouver to Salt Spring Island. Taking off and landing on the water… What an experience. And the views of the mountains rising up into the sky, the majestic ocean with the boats criss-crossing below us, the islands, and the sun blasting through the clouds… Wow! And then to arrive at Sugarland Farm and be greeted by the most amazing hosts… Watching Miss M run around barefoot with all the kids, playing freely, having fun… Going around the farm, picking fruit right off trees and eating it… Fresh apples, berries, plums, figs… It was like being in another world.

They call Sugarland Farm the ‘sweetest place on earth’, and I couldn’t agree more.

While I was there I had a great conversation with one of our hosts about finding happiness. Neither of them ever imagined they would be running a farm on Salt Spring Island. But they are finding such happiness there. It really speaks to them. And more importantly – speaks to what they want in life.

We spoke of how so many of us continue down a path that is not truly in line with what we want. Whether it’s choosing a certain profession or college major to please your parents… Buying lots of “stuff” because media/neighbours/friends/family (fill in the blank) say you need these things to be happy… Living in the city when you really want to be living in the country… Endlessly saying ‘yes’ to everyone’s requests when you really want to say ‘no’…

It is so important to get clear about what is important.

For our hosts, happiness was waiting in the simple pleasures of farm living. Getting back to the land. Raising a family. Living in nature. Growing their own food.

Talking on skype with hubby the other day, we agreed to get out there and have fun – now. Not to wait. To figure out what makes us happy and just do it. Not to wait till next month or next year. Do it now. Take that vacation. Get a babysitter and go out dancing. Buy a motorcycle. Spend time with people you love. Travel.

Having metastatic breast cancer has definitely taken my life in a very different direction. But I also see that it has brought me to a better place. It is forcing me to look at myself. Reevaluate my priorities. Ask the big questions. Figure out what I want. I will never say that having cancer is a gift. But i recognize how having cancer has woken me up and redirected my path in a good way.

Thank you Sugarland for the magic and the memories. And for reminding me to go after what’s important.

Peace. -T

PS – The folks at CBC mentioned that people in the US might have difficulty accessing the radio interview I did on the Fear Itself program. So if you’re having problems, here is another link to try:
CBC – Fear Itself mp3

20120820-000206.jpg

A Sigh Of Relief

After a bit of a rough week I am feeling a lot better today. Mostly because I found out the aches and pains i’ve been feeling are likely side effects from the Herceptin i’m taking.

While I was killing time at Penn Station yesterday, waiting for the Long Island Railroad, I googled Herceptin side effects and found people complaining about the following:

– Sore ribs, backs, and bones … Check.
– Weak fingernails and cracking skin … Check.
– Random headaches … Check.
– Feeling tired all the time … Check.
– Brain fog and memory problems … Check.
– Nausea and dizzy spells … Check.

Before my google search I just assumed all the symptoms meant the cancer was coming back, growing, and spreading. And I was definitely starting to freak out. But now my mind is at ease (for the moment at least). And oddly enough the pains seem to have dramatically lessened since I found all this out.

And, as always, it feels fantastic to be back in NY. Being here does wonders for me as well.

Despite a nearly 9 hour journey to get here, Miss M and I remained upbeat through it all… The delayed flights… The long waits… Transferring from cars to buses to planes to trains… I swear Miss M is the best travel buddy ever.

I noticed that I too, was handling things better than usual. The old me would have been stressing about timing each connection perfectly, anticipating Miss M’s every need, and trying to get to the end destination as quick as possible. But the new me just went with the flow. Made decisions as I went along. Arrived at the train station and boarded the next available train instead of stressing over the fact that we had just missed the previous one by 2 minutes.

As I said in therapy last week, I am keenly aware of my patterns and self-defeating behaviours, now my challenge is to accept the curveballs life throws at me and make different choices. Turn my patterns upside-down. Interrupt the self-defeating actions before they take over.

Each day offers a new challenge. And while I certainly have my bad days, I remain determined not to let life’s challenges take me down.

Right now, I am focused on the magnificence of summer in NY… Spending time with family and friends… And getting ready for my surgeon appointments (that are now confirmed for Monday and Tuesday next week).

I really am one lucky lady.

Peace. – T

Therapize Me

So a few weeks ago I stopped seeing therapist # 2.  Damn, it’s hard to find the right therapist.

But I still need to find someone.  I need to understand what’s going on in my head.  I need to look at the patterns & defenses that may have contributed to the development of my cancer.  I need to process the grief of losing my mom.

Seriously, if anyone knows of an outstanding psychotherapist in the Dayton area please send the info my way.

Even though I’m not in therapy right now I continue to find other ways to “do therapy” on my own…  Most of this comes in the form of various shows on Oprah’s new OWN network (her Super Soul Sunday series in particular) as well as lots and lots of books.  And of course this blog.  Thanks everyone!

The most recent book I am reading is The Type C Connection: The Behavioral Links to Cancer and Your Health by clinical psychologist Lydia Temoshok, PH.D. & Henry Dreher.  The general gist is that certain personality types or more likely to develop cancer than others.  The cancer prone “type C” personality is a self-sacrificing perfectionist who takes care of everyone else, is dependable, calm, usually unassertive, and unable (or unwilling) to express all their needs and emotions.

I’ve mentioned this whole concept in my blog before…  How I see myself as a type C personality (striving to be a balanced type B person).  And I can see how stuffing down your feelings and putting yourself last is bound to take a toll on your body and soul.  And then the emotional crap ends up manifesting as disease of some kind or another.  Mine (as with many type C personalities) happens to be cancer.

Let me be clear that in no way is this a “blame the patient” sort of thing.  We are who we are for a number of reasons – genetics, parents, environment, pivotal life events…  They all shape the people we become.  My own unique mix of events has led me to develop some of the characteristics of the Type C personality.  It is what it is.

The last few days, as I watch Oprah & read my book, I’m realizing how important it is to recognize all the different parts of myself.  Even the parts I don’t like – or don’t want to look at.  The parts that aren’t so pretty.  When we try to ignore the pieces of ourselves that we don’t like (or think others won’t like) we just gloss over the truth and present a false self to the world.

I am starting to see that I can’t be my healthiest, most fabulous self until I embrace my whole being.  Warts and all!

This is also coming up because tomorrow I’m off to Columbus to do a radio interview about living with fear for CBC (The Canadian Broadcasting Company) – Check it out on twitter and facebook.  So of course I’m thinking about my fears.  And recognizing how important it is to feel my feelings, no matter how yucky they are, instead of dismissing them like I usually do.

So what do I feel?  I am scared of getting really sick.  I am afraid of dying.  I have resentments.  I can be jealous.  Sometimes I just want to be totally lazy.  I get angry about stuff.

Can someone get me a good therapist please???

Peace.  – terri