Cancer – A Lonely Hike

Cancer

A hike alone

With watchers on

too far away –

I guess

I

want

them 

them

all 

that

way.

Cancer

An ugly hike

Cat Scan today

along my neck

of nodes

where they will carve

..and help themselves

to what is there,

and shouldn’t be.

Cancer,

a lonely hike

to doctors

techs

and nursing staff

that care

I’m sure,

then hurry fast

to sit in traffic

headed home –

a home without the cancer-ed ones.

Do

repulse 

them

fast

away?

Cancer

a lonely hike

and yet somehow

the flowers

brighter

than

before

between the naps

and numbing lips

numb tong

and

deadened

finger

tips.

The ridge on lonely cancer hike

jagged

still

all brilliant blue

with

what’s beyond,

will

I

come

through? 

Will lonely cancer

strip away

the song

I sing

on laundry day,

Will carve of knife

now help itself

to softened hands

that

I

now

hold?

This

dust

to

dust

on

Cancer

trec

My lonely hike

to who knows where.

And though I don’t know where I go

one foot to next

and

I

hike

on.

 

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The Day I Said Grace And Meant It

Ya, I’m one of those who says Grace. 

In private. 

In public. 

In the cafeteria. 

In a fancy restaurant. 

And when I’m eating food alone. 

To be honest with you, it’s always been a struggle for me to make it more than just something I rush through.  I’ve tried to remember I’m talking to God when I rattle off “Dear Jesus, thank you for this food, Amen”.  For a long time I’ve tried, rather unsuccessfully.  Until just the other day….

There I stood, cart and I, far isle of Super Supplements.  I had reached out to a number of fitness guru’s, asking their best advice on how to get well.  A friend had told me about a product.  There it was.  I stood before it, silent but shouting a prayer out to God.  “God, do I buy this stuff?  Do you hear me?  I need your help.  You know if You don’t act, I’ll have another anaphylactic reaction.  You know I can hardly eat a thing already, and now it’s reactions to grains, nuts, nightshades.  Please, I’m down to greens and berries… had an anaphylactic to bone broth.  God, don’t let this collagen cause a reaction.”  As I stood there shaking and shouting in the silence, Peace showed up.  And I knew.  Almighty God, He is the only one who can make what I put in my mouth a blessing to me. With peace about it, I placed the product in my cart and headed for check out.

The Blessing, for me, has always been about thanking God for the food I eat.  Thankfulness is good.  I guess I just missed the part about the prayer being a request, asking God to bless what I’m eating.  I realize this idea might be taken too far.  “Lord, bless this Mega Big Gulp Red Bull and Onion Rings to the nourishment of my body.”  On the other hand, some of us react to cashews and oatmeal.  Prayers aren’t magic words that give us what we want.  Prayers are heart cries.  Laying out the case before God who already knows about the reactivity in a body, and knows what might help.   

Saying Grace..

… asking God for what I don’t have

… asking for what I can’t get

… asking for what I don’t necessarily deserve

… asking for what I don’t know how to fix. 

I’ll continue to eat my spinach, cabbage, my blueberries and collagen.  I am fully aware I might become allergic to these at any time.  And I ask that God’s Grace might alter the contents of every bite, making what I take in a blessing to my body.  It’s no chore, to Say Grace.  It’s life. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless his holy name. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all his benefits. 

Blessed be God, eternal king, for these and all his good gifts to us.

Psalms 103: 1,2

 

Surrender – I Hate It.

I hate words like surrender.  I hate actions like surrender.  I hate to surrender.  And what I hate I’m attempting.  And don’t like it.  It’s been two years and a few months living a jellyfish status.  A new me brought on by a total thyroidectomy February of 2015.  A self I have never known. 

Weak.

Sloppy walking. 

Buzzing head. 

Awkward.

Clumsy. 

Fumbling words. 

This past week I hit my limit.  That same day I heard a talk on the radio about a famous swimming champion Michael Phelps who kept a paper calendar.  Each day he swam, returned home and with red sharpie cut a line through the day.  He was determined to keep an unbroken chain of red marks on the calendar, and did so for many years.  His collection of medals show how effective his unbroken chain of swims had been. 

His story inspired me.  Inside I’m an athlete.  Yes, an athlete who never was, but still inside I house the drive and dreams and the planning of one who is driven by such things.  I have a hard time walking much at all these days.  Still, down in the bones I tear through brush to the top of grand mountains.  I run and run and run some more. Bike till I’m in shreds.  Swim till I’m gasping.  I want to be all that, and can’t.

And so this week, I decided to start an unbroken chain of movement.  I have moved plenty in the past 2 years, with no results.  This time I decided to take the advice of those who help people with my condition for gaining momentum.  I decided to force myself to not overdo.  What that looks like for me right now is to swim 20 minutes per day, six days a week, with one day of palates and hula and stretching, the other 6 days lap swimming.  Just 20 minutes. 

Kind of like eating 1/2 spoonful of ice-cream when my body wants the bucket.  Because although 20 minutes is all I am able to manage the first week, my core is screaming at me to swim that – times 20.  To push myself.  To count laps to a mile, two, and then three.  Kind of a strain-the-body junkie.  An acceptable addiction in this culture, but damaging, nonetheless. 

Which brings me to surrender.  Surrender what I want to do for what just might help me get my health back.  Surrender the fix for what heals.  Surrender looking lazy, old and lame for what my body needs.  I don’t care for surrender.  In fact I hate it.  Will following direction and doing what is best for me prove beneficial?  At this point, I’m 30 pounds over.  I sleep more than I would like.  Am foggy brained and weak and limited.  I’ll keep you posted as day after day my calendar takes on a sharpie mark.  I pray for an unbroken chain. For a stronger body.  And a newly discovered contrite spirit. 

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Romans 12: 1 and 2 (a)

Mind Fog

I’ve so missed writing.  Day after day I’ve tried.  No luck.  Today I’m writing anyway.  Although I can’t think of a meaningful thing to write. Because my mind is a fog.  Sometimes folks with mind fog have some medical reason for it.  Such as untreated thyroid issues.  In my case, that’s been checked.  All is well in that department.  Mind fog can belong to ADHD.  Ya, I already know I have that but can’t treat it as the medicine can cause the heart reaction (Vtac) that sometimes happens to me.  Mind fog is sometimes caused by peri-menopause… there seems to be no solutions to that one but for the hereafter.  Stress can cause mind fog.  That goes away when one moves to a remote island at someone else’s expense and spends the rest of life sipping water from a coconut.  I haven’t found my benefactor yet, so that’s out.  So instead of hit a brick wall, I thought I’d blather on inside the mind of fog with high hopes that as the ugly thing is found out, it will scuttle away into the shadows.  If any of you have successfully corrected mind fog, I’d love to hear how you did it

Beauty Sings Above The Pain

I found a poem I’d written two years ago, wobbly and foggy headed.  Written from hospital bed high above the Seattle skyline.  The surgeon had taken my thyroid, then a second surgery on heels of the first to stop an angry hemorrhage.  Had a hard time stabilizing, and with day six of yet another bed-bound meal of jello and broth when it soaked in how good my life really was.  Here’s to all of you out there struggling along, with an occasional patch of sunbeams and color peeking through the grey.

Jello red it shines
in Pudding bowl and waiting
And chicken broth a golden hot that warms me

All IV places swelling, bruised
Electric shocks into my hands
The wound from surgery still pains
And pressured chest from walking

But still red jello shines
The golden broth it warms
And beauty sings above the pain,
A song about my life.

Her eyes they brown as chocolate brown
A smile wide and joyful
His careful placing of the cuff
and working on the details
Raw I feel and wobbly
Too many days no shower

But still I see
Eyes bright and kind
One working on the details
And beauty sings above the pain.
A song about my life

Trauma Treatment

Written for all who have had multiple traumas and try hard to be “fine”.

 

Everyone thinks I’m fine

I haven’t been so shut down since parts were cut off me last,

since I was carved on,

cut for the healing of me.

And isn’t that what trauma work is.

A carving.  A clearing out,

a reworking of the old wound

cleared away for the new to heal all complete and pink.

Everyone thinks i’m fine

I haven’t been so shut down since last time I said

“I’m fine, thank you.”

In answer to a question that wasn’t one.

Everyone thinks I’m fine

And that’s OK.

I will be again one day –

And what they think

And what I am will line up nice again.

 

Cancer is Not Cancer; The Agony of being Dependent.

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This was written when I was still quite sick a number of months ago.  I was too low at the time it was written to post it.  I’ve decided to post it now.  I  share it to truth-speak about how painful cancer can be. Sharing what it was for me, as a way of being a voice for those who have not words to share.  This rant of sorts is not an attack on any one person, but a broad-brushed painting of the reality of what it is to be sick and dependant on others.

Cancer is not cancer. It’s not breast cancer or thyroid cancer. It’s strokes, heart attack activity that isn’t, doctors treating you like a hypochondriac while functioning slips away.  It’s skin that peels, clothes that don’t fit anymore, potassium levels so low that legs throb through the night.  It’s not recognizing yourself in the mirror.  Foggy mind half the time not remembering what I’ve said, what you’ve said, what we were talking about.  It’s family sweet as can be, and condescending sometimes too.  It’s having to listen to people “Oh you look like you’re feeling better” while the entire left side of body is numbed out, can’t hear from the left ear, do laundry for five minutes before having chest pain and doctor saying “you’re heart is in great shape”.  It’s your little six year old daughter telling you that you get first place for being the meanest one in the family.  The mean mom that gets tired of the denigrating remarks when trying to get kids to do their chores, one by one the entire family decides they are going to be sicker than Mom today – until their pals come over and off they race across the yard, Nerf and laser guns a-blazing, and once again, when they return to the house, asked to pick up coat, or feed the dog, the sudden illness takes over and death is at the door. 

It’s the doctors passing their job off to another doctor.  Oh it’s the endocrinologists job, no the oncologists job, no the primary care, … .on it goes, while the mystery symptoms that take away my ability to take walks, swim, drive, to care for my kids get worse.  The computerized diagnosis is last word, with physical problems all hovering in the “rare” category, no one bothering to dig deeper while symptoms hold me in place, so much piling up around me, and I must be still. 

Cancer is having all the kind persons who have pitched in to help become judgmental of the way my life looks, judgmental of what happens in this house, condescending of who I am.  It’s having to receive help from others who don’t respect me because they are incapable of helping and empathizing at the same time.  The most empathetic person is the world can flip a switch when doing another a good turn.  It’s watching them lose respect by the day – each and every act of kindness they provide decreases the peer to peer relationship – me having no alternative but to receive it. 

Cancer is not a surgery and missing body part.  It’s the loss, week by weakening week of clients, and eventually a career.  The destruction of a business.  The death of a dream.  It’s not rosy and romantic.  It’s ugly – creepy … the stopper of life.  And I’m stuck between.  Alive and not at all.  Stuck receiving support, care, favors, errands, driving kids to school, with bitterness in the doer, irritation of the helper, and shame at being the taker. 

The part of cancer I can do quite well is walk into the hell hole of the chopping block.  I can tolerate physical pain.  I can usually manage being mangled.  I can’t handle the shame I feel receiving assistance – the baring all – the inside scoop on our junk, irritably of the one doing all the favors due to their superiority and my shame. 

Cancer could be the most ideal way to go if it weren’t for all that.  Known outcomes, time frames, managed symptoms until death.  What makes it awful is loss of dignity (relationship) with people I care about most due to my neediness at the end, and their inability to give and maintain respect for the person they are giving to.  A few of us can give without shaming – most of the time, a few can receive without feeling the shame, but most can not.  We call it being “stewards” of our time and money by nosing into others lives when a need arises.  ‘If she hadn’t let herself go, he’d have never looked elsewhere.”  “There are consequences to slacking on the job”.  “Live and learn”.  We have all said things like this – or thought them.  It’s obvious it’s wrong to give cash to a meth addict.  We take this reasoning further and do harm – judge – while extending a helping hand.  I tell you from the receiving end, it helps more to not help but maintain a relationship of respect then to help with judgment.

Most of us have ZERO BUSINESS being involved in another’s crisis, because crisis is a HOLY PLACE.  It’s where God hovers.  It is SACRED.  Anytime we have all the answers, we do harm.  Anytime we can’t give without judgment, we harm.  Anytime we get inside the disaster of each other’s life and can’t set judgment aside, we hurt each other.  I’m getting to feel it, first hand.  No one means to harm.  They just want the system to work better.  Just want routines in place that make things better, but that’s not how it feels to the one is on the receiving end.  If I ever get beyond this cancer mess, I vow to God and to others that I will NEVER HELP SOMEONE UNLESS I CAN HAVE A SOLID CHECK ON MY ATTITUDE. 

Do I resent helping my kids with things they need help with? 

How does that make them feel? 

Do I resent making supper. 

Giving a gift and resenting the giving DOES HARM. 

Do I resent helping a friend, I HAVE ZERO BUSINESS HELPING UNLESS I CAN HELP FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY. 

Cancer is not cancer. 

Cancer is everything else – but one thing. 

Cancer is not Boss, God is. 

God is the only one out there I know what manages disasters and love all at the same time. 

If i’m well enough to work again, I’m working for Him.

What Race are the Kindest of Doctors?

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I had a doctor once, slight of stature, brown kind eyes, practical wash and wear hair, nothing fancy about her, and the one who sifted through mountains of charts – two separate charts belonging to one giant medical system.  One chart spelled with an “e”, the other spelled correctly without.  Both charts mine – and she found them.  Bent over her desk.  Diligent she was. 

Discovered, out of dozens of notes that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations.  This information was not found where one might expect.  She found it anyway, because she worked on my case.   From this information she realized I must not take Tamoxifen, a medicine used for breast cancer patients who are found to be estrogen positive.  A medicine that can cause a stroke for those with my gene mutation.  She suggested I not take it.  Diligent hunt.  Diligent follow-through. 

I had 6 miscarriages before the gene mutation was looked for and identified. 

The gene mutation that caused the miscarriages. 

A number of doctors did not check, though they knew my history.

One did. 

Brown kind eyes he had, too.

Found it. 

Treated it. 

And Butterfly was born perfect and alive.

“Miscarriages are not unusual. 

They are nature’s way of discarding what is flawed”

say lazy doctors everywhere,

brown and blue eyed alike. 

Those doctors who do not see the value in learning the cause of a problem

before using one-liner’s to shush up the likes of me.

My PCP, always respectful of me, when I mentioned how heavy my sheets felt on my neck at night while laying on my back, immediately stepped out of the tiny examining room, hurried down the hall and ordered an ultrasound.  There it was, thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist who hand checked my neck each and every visit paid no attention when I told him the same story.  One doctor listened. On doctor didn’t.  Taking little stock in what the person that lives inside the body might know about herself.

After the thyroid cancer diagnosis, my husband and I asked my oncologist if thyroid cancer might have been related to the breast cancer I had months before.  She said “no”.  The next visit, the same oncologist brought in research showing us she had been wrong.  Said that it very well might have been related. 

She didn’t have to tell. 

Didn’t have to admit she had been wrong. 

There are doctors who are sloppy, lazy, don’t read the fine print. 

Make mistakes because they don’t listen,

don’t trust,

don’t respect. 

And then there are the doctor’s who do.

Thank God for the gene testing doctor’s of the world.

Doctor’s who don’t take it upon themselves to social engineer other people’s lives. 

Doctor’s who don’t minimize another person’s need when it causes them inconvenience.

For doctor’s that hunt and read and listen. 

The doctor’s who set aside ego, and act accordingly.   

I am alive because of some good ‘work hard for another’s sake’ sort-of doctor’s.

Women,

Men,

Asian,

Puerto Rican,

Jewish

Irish,

Tibetan,

Middle Eastern,

African American,

German,

a mix of them all. 

Each of these good doctors have more in common with each other than language and country of origin.  Hard-working kindness is a culture of it’s own.  A race of kind hearts, and kind eyes. 

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,

but by the content of their character.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

You’re Gone

DSC_0153Breast Cancer killed you.  It took and done way with you, my friend.  Tore your life away.  Now you’re gone.  We were both getting well to run a ridge together on some grand mountaintop.  Now we can’t. I can’t even believe it.  You’re gone.  You died this morning “quietly in her sleep”.  Quietly.  Right. That’s what happens when your very breath is choked out, your brain is eaten, you just die and I HATE IT.  I’m so so so sorry Wendy, that they couldn’t heal you.  Wonder why God said no.  So sick and angry that your life is gone.  I want you back.  Want to fb you once again.  Call you on the phone.  Want to get off my lazy ass and get an airplane ticket and fly out to your Ohio farm and hold your hand and command you “Get Up in Jesus Name” but I had my fears, was too lazy and I didn’t and you are nowhere to be found as you have died, and have been taken away, and are no more and I ache with Leif who is alone now, and for your beautiful daughters who had to watch cancer show its menacing teeth, ripping tearing at you until you disappeared but for ash and earth and a stone overhead.  I HATE CANCER.  You were alive, an active God fearing beautiful woman.  Another beautiful woman fighting thyroid cancer also young died few weeks ago.  I’ve been holding on by strands, and feel I’m slipping away with the rest of you have who have been taken.  You had breast cancer, she had thyroid cancer.  I’ve had both.  How am I to fare?  I needed you both to make it, and you didn’t.  Your families, they have their reasons to need you to live.  I have my own.  I want to live.  Why will I live when you don’t?  I can’t breathe.  Something on my chest.  And I gasp, while you stopped gasping.  And the fear overtakes.  A non-pretty blog for the ripping, tearing torment of a thing called cancer death.

Faded PJ’s

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This morning, through dawn light, sitting in the stillness of my early hour house, eyes yet to focus, I glance along the edging of my soft blue pajamas and I feel a smile creeping now.  Sleepy smile, I feel it spread about my heart and down into my bones.  The fade of pajamas blue hover about me all the day, and I whisper good things under my breath.  Hope that this newest pair of already faded pajamas will become faded, no, just straight ratty.  That they will grow very old until they are ribbons of happy nothing. 

Crisp new pajamas.  I’ve grown to not like them much.  They come to me to be placed in suitcase packed for a hospital every time.  Some of the hospital visits are beautiful.  Baby boy brought home, precious and perfect.  Pajamas that didn’t fit me before, and body too much a mess to wear after.  That pair stayed nice for years. To the hospital for another baby, this time, a perfect tiny daughter.  I’d not remembered to think of pajamas for me. She had arrived before I’d expected, a month early.  Hadn’t packed a thing.  Other than things for her.  Her cotton pink footie-pajamas were washed, folded, held close against my cheek, folded again.  Ready months before.  My friend had thought of me when I had forgotten.  She brought to the hospital a lovely nightgown of soft pink and white, smocked and pleated, buttons down front.  I loved that nightgown.  I wore it year after year.  Don’t remember whatever became of it.  I’m guessing it was loved into shreds and threads as I rocked and fed, made a lap for two babies, a lap for reading and holding and spit up and …. Another baby years later.  And another. Pajamas packed and used until they were no more. 

As of late, pajamas for the suitcase bound for harder hospital stays.  Visits of cuts and drains, blood draws, parts removed, another cancer, another procedure, another and another. 

New pajamas. 

No thank you. 

I want to see how long the fade will keep on fading. 

Will the blue of light seem more white than blue?  I’m hoping so.  I could buy new ones for no particular reason.  And then I wouldn’t be needing another special book for my son on how to build something from nothing.  I wouldn’t be needing running shoes for me, or another hydrangea for my gardener girl, wouldn’t need to save for a night out with my best friend. I’d be too cut off from life to be buying sheet of music to practice with my girls.  I’d be winding down to dead, and I don’t want that. 

I really love how faded these pajamas have gotten.  Their worn down look speaks to how long it’s been since I’ve made a visit to the chopping block.  Long enough to make new fabric old.  Long enough to grow some strength on the legs that wear these pajama pants.  Fabric fades faster than it use to, I think.  Or my machine has more gusto than it use to.  In any case, time has passed without another reason for new pajamas, and I’m hoping my healthy full life thins them down to nothing at all.  I’m hoping.