Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Out Of The Woods AND Beware!

It's been just about two weeks home from the hospital and the only residual complaint is a constant itch that reminds me of my last dog, Krissy, known as the "itchy dog". Krissy was the love of our family's life and while she lived to the ripe old age of 18, she had skin allergies that made her scratch incessantly. I've come a long way - can now see clients in person - wow, not just over skype! And yesterday, I got my doctor's blessing that I can actually shake hands, hug and kiss people once again. Watch out - I've been sorely deprived! Why? My blood counts are finally moving in the right direction on their own - no pills, potions or shots. I was ecstatic at the news and could not wait to call my family and share this with them. Many sighs of relief and giggles of joy! As I drove from the hospital in rush hour traffic, I realized how tired I still can be and it brought to mind the title of this blog. Yes, I feel that I am out of the woods, but as my doc told me, this will be a full year of being immunosuppressed. While the old me would dismiss such a warning, the new me is taking things in much more of a balanced stride. I have learned over these past few months that my energetic desire and capacity to do had also led to my illness because I did not listen to the subtleties of my body and brain becoming burned out, overtaxed, inflamed. I just kept going for years, never giving in. I am so aware that my new ways of being are still that - NEW - and that means that I must continue to practice balance, putting rest, play and joy-filled activities into my every day. While these next few months will be the "beware" season, I do believe that I have learned this lesson in life and remain so grateful to be here to practice. My wish for you all is to take each day as a gift and plant your personal garden with peace, fun and joy!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Feelin Creative In The Kitchen: A Little Thai/Asian Fusion

Feeling creative in the kitchen and craving a thai/asian flavor without the carbs, so check out my Paleo Chicken Wrap with Orange Sauce. It's been a while since the creative juices have been flowing, although I always love my food - colorful, healthy, texture-filled and satisfying. Saute diced chicken, minced ginger, the white parts of the bok choy, diced carrots in grapeseed oil. Wrap in a coconut wrap from Julian Bakery. Bake 400 for about 5 minutes to brown. Oven roast chopped red peppers with salt in a little grapeseed oil, turning to brown a bit. Dice the green tops of bok choy for salad greens. Sauce: blend 1/4 orange (peel and all), dash red pepper flakes, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 clove garlic or 1/8 tsp powder, 1/4" piece ginger, 2 Tbl gf soy sauce Garnish the wrap, greens and peppers with the sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Delic! Enjoy, Julie

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Bike Ride: Like No Other

Today I awoke with more energy and a desire to really take that bike ride that I have yearned for since my staph infection and subsequent hospitalizations in early July. Over this past few days, I have been wanting to take the bike out - after all, I have no contraptions left - the wound vac, the chemo pack, the larger bandage on the leg. While being free of these, my energy just did not support the desire and so I listened - a relatively new behavior for me. As I rode along at a moderate pace, I was keenly aware of colors, sounds, the gentle breeze on my face and while I always appreciate these things in nature, there was something more acute about today's experience. I was allowing these natural elements to really penetrate me. My pace was deliberate - not off to prove that I was back in tip top shape - but to be at a pace where my body blended with nature. This is the essence of achieving a spiritual connection with all that is! I have been voraciously listening to philosophy and re-aquainting myself with all the mystical greats - Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, Mother Theresa - reaffirming that I am on my path and that this road less traveled has been for good reason. Backing up a bit, ever since the leg surgery in July, my surgeon encouraged me to walk, walk, walk, despite pain and discomfort. And I did! I love to walk and I am not one to sit back on my laurels. Each day, I was able to go farther, until Tammie and I reached one of my favorite parks - Fort Sewall. My other favorite park is Chandler Hovey or better known as the lighthouse park. I would eye Chandler Hovey, yearning to ride my bike there which had become a ritual since Spring. Today was that day! How exhilarating to cycle to the other side of the harbor, to sit and look over and see where I've been and where I am at this very moment! I so appreciate my body for having the innate ability to heal despite curve balls. I feel grateful, blissful, energized and capable. Just for you - take these words, close your eyes, roll your shoulders back and down and breathe deeply for a few moments. When settled, repeat these very words for about 5-6 times slowly. Open your eyes slowly and bring them with you - Just for Today! With gratitude, Julie

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yoga: Back On The Mat

It was a rough few days - still losing water and up about every 1/2 hour at night to visit the bathroom and constant itching from the residual rash. Poor me!!! Despite life, I was able to maintain a sense of gratitude along with some feelings of being "beaten up". I was still able to walk with Tammie by the ocean, I was able to see the beauty in nature AND I have learned to use nature as a grounding opportunity for myself. Being recently certified in yoga, I receive updates on classes that are upcoming and restorative yoga was being offered this past weekend. I was excited to do this form of yoga because it is gentle, mild stretching, lots of breathing and just an opportunity to feel nurtured. Since the class offered was in Boston, I decided to google closer to home. Voila, there was a class available and I decided to go - fatigue, itch and all! When I arrived and prepped for class, I noticed that we were doing vinyasa - oops - what did I get myself into? I decided to go with the flow - how appropriate for a yoga class. I observed my thoughts and part of me felt nervous about being able to do any postures - after all, I've not done yoga in 2 1/2 months, have been cut up, laid up, puffed up! I also noticed that I felt a bit angry because I hurt. As the class went on, I was able to do so much more than I expected and the breath-work felt so good and energizing. I was able to adjust for poses that I cannot do as yet and I did not judge myself for not being where I was - ready to start teaching a mere 2 months ago. About 45 minutes later, we moved into the restorative part of the class and it felt amazing. I finished class, felt energized, clear and calm - those feelings that I crave from yoga. What I also learned from this experience is that while I had attended the yoga training to teach, I feel very comfortable not being in the driver seat, not being the leader or teacher, but am very content in this moment to be the spectator/participant. I am allowing things to come to me more and more, and am refusing the need to always be the leader. What a shift in consciousness. This past week, there have been many situations where I would normally get into networking gear, but am choosing to be the spectator and to just enjoy the experience. There is a physical shift when I am aware as well. Instead of being "on edge", sitting up with tension, I am sinking into the seat with comfort, feeling relaxed and connected to the earth. Yoga has been one of many venues to allow me to shift and I am so grateful for the tools at my disposal. Try a class, learn to use breath as a way to be in the moment in a relaxed state and don't judge yourself. With prana, Julie

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, I am not usually one to think about my birthday, but this year feels different. I've been home from the hospital not quite two days and have spent much of the time in the car back for check-ins at the hospital. Slowly, I am coming back from this. While the rash has died down, the swelling is a slower process, but I am making good progress! I awoke in the middle of the night anticipating the birth time of 5:07, when my Mom delivered now 57 years ago! I was feeling excited and so grateful. One might wonder why the excitement and gratitude, but for me, being alive, able to do my daily walks along the beach with Tammie, are so enriching. It was a brisk, but beautiful day today. I find these days that I am so drawn to really seeing the beauty in nature. There is a tree across the way, but in perfect view from my window and the shape is beautiful, the leaves so green, soon to wither and prepare for next year. The harbor offers glistening sunrays on the water like jewels. Every day, I repeat how much I love being in this "playground". Of course, next year, I plan to actually play in the playground - kayaking, swimming, learning how to paddle board. But for now, my mind's eye takes in this breathtaking sight and I sigh another thanks for having this day! Be grateful, see the beauty that life offers us all, Julie

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day After Down

It's not even 24 hours since my last blog entry, but I feel an impetus to share as I listen, process, feel. While yesterday did not feel good, there was much for me to listen to: wishing for things to be different, feeling out of control of my body's reactions, wanting to maintain some control and "knowing or expertise", recognizing that "relying" too much on anything, even that which is good for us is not balance and indicates that further listening and allowing to happen is needed. Wow! Can I be thankful for the "down days". Yes, indeed, for without them, we have nothing to compare, no color to life. This morning's awakening was better, as I did get a few hours of real sleep. It is truly amazing what sleep does for us and although on the intellectual level, I can recite the hormones and neurotransmitters that are impacted by both good and poor sleep, none of that matters when it comes to feeling - a place that I am residing in more often these days. As soon as the mind starts to take off with its thoughts, processes, plans, I am now more often than not, commanding myself to STOP, BREATHE, ASK HOW I FEEL. It is a compelling, yet so simple technique to quiet the mind. In addition, ADD A VISUALIZATION OF SOMETHING PLEASANT. I recently researched photos of Natural Killer cells because these are very lower in my blood due to illness. I found a beautiful colored photo that was taken by electron microscopy and the colors were the densities of those aspects of the cell - a real cell! I made a copy of this, have it by my bed at home and am now using it as part of my visualization, imagining these cells coming down through the top of my head, multiplying and permeating my body. All the while, breathing deeply and smiling with happiness and gratitude. Works for me! How can we tolerate the "down days"? Know that there are better days to come! Smiling, Julie

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sobering Experience: No Direction

Day five in the hospital and I am actually glad to be staying today. I am very tired and my body is swelling by the minute or so it feels! It was another night of low blood pressures, extra IV's of fluids and nurse/doctor visits. Upon seeing my primary team doctor this morning, the good news remains that I've had no fevers or signs of infection and my rash, although no better, has not extended. What has extended or shall we say distended, is the abdominal and thigh fluid retention. It is so uncomfortable and when the oncologist arrived, he asked for daily weights and tracking my urinary output. He explained that the allergic process allowed my capillaries (little blood vessels in the body that act as accessories to arteries and veins) to become leaky and fluids are accumulating in spaces where they do not belong. He is not alarmed by this and neither am I. He also stated that the chemo drug along with my illness causes certain proteins in the blood to be less available to control the fluid shifts. While there is no imminent danger to my situation, it does require close watch and each day I understand why I need to be here which is fine. I accept this and realize that any well-made plans at this time are not worth holding myself accountable for. A very new and recent lesson learned - planning and organization are great, but being flexible is imperative! There are two areas where I found myself full of emotion, thus needing time to just process and grieve. My best friend from the second grade's daughter is getting married this Sat as I have mentioned before, and I so wanted to be there. I have already told her that I will hopefully make the church, but am unlikely to "dance the night away" with my old friends and her family, who I've known for so many years. As we talked today, she told me that she would be unable to look at me while she walked down the aisle because she would cry - we sobbed together on the phone. It took me a while to accept that while I so wanted to enjoy this time together, it was not likely to be as I wanted. It is sad. I am sad. While the doctor was explaining the aspects of the effects of chemo making me even more immuno-compromised, he also asked that I stop taking all of my supplements. He explained that probiotics can have a negative impact in my situation, although they are fine when I am not in this state and am focusing on gut health. I could accept this, but he showed disinterest and a general lack of knowledge about the other support that I rely on. Rely on, rely on . . . I felt a flush of anger, distrust of wanting to accept his credability and then I remembered that part of my struggle was about hanging onto those areas that I could control, where I was the expert. I felt no direction and for a moment, quite vulnerable. Even my body was doing its thing - leaking and blowing up! Soon I began to think of my reaction and realized that it is only a few days-weeks before I am out the woods, so to speak, with regard to being suppressed in my immunity. It is time to surrender to being taken care of, letting go of control and just letting life be as it is. While tired and not my usual "positive polly", I feel human, humble, safe and grateful to be here. The take-away today is to always observe, listen and pay attention to our reactions - they mirror so much about our internal thoughts and beliefs. With humility, Julie

Sunday, September 14, 2014

" Day Of Beauty" and A Dose Of Reality

Today is my third day back in the hospital, riding the bumps along with way, again with no "conclusive reason" why I have had such a violent allergic reaction with a rash and hives. My body's MO seems to maintain an indirect path to answers, meaning no obvious conclusion at the outstart. In the physical realm, we tend to look for cause and effect, but there are many dimensions to "us humans", thus digging for the deeper meanings in the emotional and spiritual realms, often provide more clues for self-healing. A dear psychologist friend of mine, who is also well-read in astrology, uses The Secret Language of Birthdays book (www.thesecretlanguage.com/check/birthdate/) to give him additional perspective on the clients he sees. Whenever I look at the Virgo tendencies, I am always blown away by how accurate they pertain to me - both the good and not so good! Upon reviewing this tool in detail, I was struck with how my birthday, Sept 19, is known as The Day Of Fine Appearance (Those born on September 19 are very much concerned with the appearance of things. Not only their own physical appearance is important to them, but also that of their home, surroundings and family...) . While I did not love to swallow the pill of being attracted to the outer being, the superficial aspects of oneself and others, I had to admit that yes, I am drawn to beauty, to cleanliness, to order - and have tried to keep it under lids for years due to my own inner conflict over the vulnerability of being shallow. Over the past week or so, I have been thinking a lot about this. Of course my birthday is in 5 days and while I appreciate the beauty in my life, a lot has been less than beautiful to the eye recently - water damage to my home, my leg and now my rash. I am venturing out to share this morning's selfie - my first selfie and first "unsightly photo of me!", which shows my being able to be vulnerable to not being so beautiful on the outside. If you are reading this blog, you know what the real me already looks like - and I have grown to like and accept what I look like on the outside. Reason being, I have learned to like the inside of me. In fact, last night, while feeling itchy all over, being unable to sleep with medical interruptions for blood pressures, blood work, medication infusions, I gave myself a self-massage and it felt soooo good! I felt cared for, loved and touched, not only in a physical way, but in an emotional way as well. I have not had much touch contact over the past 6 weeks due to being so vulnerable to re-infection and this reminds me of how important loving contact is critical to us all. In our society, we are taught not to touch ourselves, that it is a bad thing to do and I venture to say that if we would be more in touch with our own bodies, that so many illnesses of the mind-body-spirit would lessen or disappear. We separate the head from the body and most often live in our heads and not in our bodies. Take aways for today: Embrace and enjoy beauty in all forms - the physical, emotional and spiritual Remember that we are souls just residing in a body - we are not our bodies Hug yourself every day and think of loving ways to enjoy touch - massage, cuddle with your loved one or a pet, partner yoga With love, Julie

Friday, September 12, 2014

Par for The Course vs Part of The Process

When my Mom was ill for the past few years, passing away just about one year ago, she always exhibited such courage and strength in her fight to be well. She wanted to attend the activities for her grandchildren and managed to do this during their last year of high school and college. Mom was on oxygen, in a wheelchair by this time and remained in Rehab due to not being well enough to go home. Mom had many health challenges during her life, but she always minimized her symptoms and was the "good patient", was well-loved by her health care professionals. Since I was a child, I would hear her use the phrase "par for the course" and as time went on, I realized that it was her way of resigning herself to the conditions with which she lived in many areas. While there was an admirable side, I also felt frustration at her not learning to use her voice. Fast forward. It is now three days since my release from wound vacs, chemo packs, pic lines and I am back here as an inpatient at Newton Wellesley Hospital. I sailed through chemo without a hitch, felt quite good in the process and when it ended, began to feel poorly again. Symptoms worsened over the next few days and I knew that I would need to be in touch if my fever went over 100.4. It only went to 100.2, but on Thursday when giving myself my daily neupogen shot, I noticed a rash on my trunk. I've had rashes many times in my life, thus it did not alarm me but I called as I was told to do. The nurse asked me to come in today just to be evaluated and I felt thankful that I did not have to pack up last night. I went on to have a very miserable night - sweats beyond belief, headache, chills etc and when I awoke, the rash had not only traveled but it was bright red and hot. Went to CVS for Benedryl as I had a lump in my throat as well and did not want to anaphylax on my joyous 1-1 1/2 drive! I partly planned for the just in case, gathering Tammie's needs and leaving them for the Pet Hotel if we needed it. I pulled my necessary supplements and stopped anything unnecessary as who knows what I am reacting to. Of course, I came with my computer to do some fun and work-related activities as I want, giving myself permission that if I do not want to be working on things, that is is OK - a new behavior style for me and not quite comfortable but better! My nurse practitioner took one look at my rash and said, "I believe that you will be admitted, but let me check". I actually feel better being here, with caring and smart folks working on my mysteries as they seem to present. As I reflect on my health history, much of it has been convoluted, not direct and I shared how I develop rashes over a few days and not instantly as my body's MO. I will visualize cutting the ties to historical influences being part of my present and in fact, was reading about that this morning in my Spiritual Practices Of The Ninja. The exercise today was about cutting energetic ties to past people, ways of being etc, that no longer serve our purpose. No coincidence here! I've been poked, probed, re-started on antibiotics and will be watched to see if this rash and fever resolves. While I never had hot flashes, I feel very sympathetic to those who have - I have two large loads of laundry ahead of me when I get home. I am not ruffled or afraid. I do want very much to be well and to participate in life again. My best friend from the second grade daughter's wedding is next Saturday and I did shed a few tears with her on the phone about how I want to be there. There are so many people from her family that I grew up with and love. I will visualize this as well. I've continued to look at these challenges over the past few months as a process with curiosity and not resignation. I do thank my Mom for being a role model for strength in the face of despair and thus and not comparing this as a right or wrong way of viewing life. My Mom gave me tools that she did not have and I have had the curiosity to not want to repeat that part that draws energy and sucks life out of people's desires. If there is a lesson in this all, look at your process. Is it really YOUR process or a belief system that was handed down to you. Be open, be curious and be fearless! Onward, Julie

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chemo: Last Day and I am Free!

I awoke this morning tired as I have been with some stomach stuff - the usual. I had breakfast, checked emails and gathered my files for a longish day of appointments. My chemo stopped by 9am as it was supposed to and I would see the doctor later to have the bag removed. By 10am, Tammie and I were on our walk to Fort Sewall. The sun and cool breeze felt good. We passed through Crocker Park to overlook the harbor and boats - beautiful site as always. I was beginning to feel better and focused on deep breathing. We sat on a nice bench at Sewall and I watched the other dog walkers pass by - everyone is so friendly in this back town and when there is a dog, there is definite conversation. As I sat, I began to feel poorly - like I hit the wall. Vision got fuzzy, heat palpitations began and I had that "buzzy" sick feeling as I describe it. I got up to get back home and upon arriving, took off my shoes and laid down. I felt pretty miserable and there was only an hour before departure. I listened to my daily audio training for the Detox Summit and that took my mind off me for a bit. I finished packing and left for acupuncture - a sure treat, but also an hour drive! Acupuncture did help me to feel better and my treater agreed that my pulse was pretty weak today. I now know that this obscure "sick feeling" has been my low white counts and that the chemo must be doing its job. I met with my doctor an hour or so later and he confirmed that I now officially had my lowest counts and it is time to rebuild the system. I asked about the important things in life - being around people, getting back to work, going to my best friend's daughter's wedding. He told me that since I have responded so well to the neupogen shots, that he would buffer me, thus assisting in this vulnerable next few weeks! I was thrilled. He also told me that I could have the pic line taken out today as well. This was going to stay in for another 2-3 weeks, but I was ecstatic to say the least! What a pleasant surprise on both ends - shots to feel better and get on with life and no more pic line. Of course, I immediately thought of being able to take my bike out for a ride, getting back to yoga and pilates. I will pace myself - newer terminology for me, but I am proud to say that I am reformed! One of the oncologists who worked with me as an inpatient told me that I was the happiest cancer patient she has seen - and I felt it. I feel free, I feel ever so grateful and this past 7 1/2 weeks of being hooked up in some way, has just come to a close. Love your body as it truly is a miracle. Julie

Chemo: Day Seven of Reflections

It was a another night of insomnia - something that I've been dealing with for quite a while now and when I awoke for the day, I felt poorly - a little sick to my stomach, a little headachey - but nothing new, so not chemo-related. I also needed to be out early for work to be done for the water damage - last day before the clean-up! I prepared for the day - to be out of the house until mid-afternoon - and it was going to be fun and enriching, being with a close friend for a walk and picnic at the beautiful lake. She passed the "healthy test", as this is the period when I cannot be around anyone who has a cold or any illness. I'm still doing my "air hugs", washing with anti-microbial soaps - such a different process for this type of cancer and treatment. Solid tumors are treated differently than blood/bone cancers and even more so, following a staph infection. While I am not alarmed at what I need to do and have been a "good patient", I am still in awe that my numbers on paper (the labs) do not match up with how I feel and get around in the world. I "look good" - this used to be a real sore spot for me - while I wrote about this in the past, I'll highlight it once again. In my many years working as a nutritional therapist in eating disorders and disordered eating, I've recognized how clients will talk about their increasing depression, compulsion and anxiety, when they are told that they "look good". The reasoning for this is that inside they may feel really unhappy, very much misunderstood and unable to express their feelings. If they "look good" on the outside, this further enhances the disconnect. While I did not suffer any longer with the body image aspects of "looking good", I sure felt that my failing health was not being taken seriously because I was still highly functioning. I finally was able to step out of my own perception and realized that people do not often know how to face illness and that being positive with someone helps to not only alleviate their own feelings of discomfort and reminder of mortality, but they truly hope to make the patient feel better. I do feel really blessed that I do maintain positivity and stamina 90% + of the time and have looked at the pros and cons of this personality type, recognizing that I occasionally need to "allow myself" time to grieve, time to be angry, time to feel really tired and unable to achieve. With regard to my day, I felt better while walking, talking and eating my yummy meal, but when I arrived home, I recognized how tired I was and listened to my body. I ate dinner earlier, listened to the two webinars that I had signed up for - one for the Detox Summit class and the other on EFT Tapping Technique. At this crossroads following the webinars, I had many items on my list of To Do's, but chose, instead to go to sleep. I was very aware of my setting new ways of being - listening to MY needs, pacing myself, following through with a guilt-free attitude! Try it, practice it and you, also will be on the path to true healing. In health, Julie

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chemo: Day Six of Reflections

I awoke to a sunny and much cooler day today. Sundays are the day to do the bills and billing for my business. I was prepared to do this before we would take our walk. With files and piles still around, I had a moment of the "old me" having angst about getting it all done, being able to check off the list in my head. Quickly, I observed, breathed and let it go, knowing that it will happen as it is supposed to. Something that I've observed about my long-term behavior pattern is that I feel a need to finish tasks before allowing myself a break - this was a childhood pattern and I have found that it often takes the enjoyment out of the process. I would also judge myself if I wanted to stop a task and go onto something else for a while. Judge, judge and more judging - that was my past - and will not be my future! Of course, I do a lot of self-talking, hoping that no-one is watching! I would also check the clock frequently, always feeling that tasks should take me less time than they would. Today, I finished the billing, walked with Tammie, took our rest and did not even check the clock. As I continued with filing, webinars and organizing, I did not watch the time or judge how I completed my tasks. It felt enjoyable to go with the flow. This evening, I thought about wanting to wash my hair, but realized that I really cannot accomplish that task on my own. I'm a pro with the hose down, but I will need to be a week without a hair wash. I've already decided how to fix my hair for the next two days - my new Marblehead baseball cap tomorrow and on Tuesday, the fidora that Mom and Dad bought me in the islands a few years ago. I will be stylish, even in the face of flat hair! Getting ready to read and hit the sack, as I must be out early for the final touches of the water damage repairs in the morning. By Wednesday, I will detached from my chemo pack and will have my home back in order. I feel satisfied and grateful! Lesson for all: stop the little voice in your head that brings you down, that creates anxiety, that judges you and tells you that you are not good enough. It is so not true! In positivity, Julie

Chemo: Day Five of Reflections

Felt good to sleep in a bit before my morning conference call. It was the only agenda item that I scheduled as I felt a real need to stay put and to allow the day to unfold as it was intended. The day was to be a steamy one with a likely T-storm later on, so I decided to walk to Fort Sewall in the morning with Tammie. We took the shadier route as I am not supposed to be in direct sun for too long while doing chemo. We arrived at this beautiful place and I sat with Tammie, breathing in not only the fresh air, but all that surrounds - the blue water, the myriad of sailboats, kayaks and motor boats. Many people walked by, commenting about how cute Tammie is - this is a daily happening - she is quite cute if I say so myself! We came back and I prepared my delicious lunch - colors of the rainbow included. I chose to work on purgeing files, organizing them, listening to the Detox webinar series that I signed up for. Later on, feeling tired, I decided to lay down for a bit, using my stones to create a body layout, while meditating. I've learned about body layouts during my healing process and find it to be fun, comforting, and it helps me to focus on the energetic and spiritual qualities that these stones possess. I place the stones on chakra points along the center of my body and begin breathing deeply. Within a few minutes, I am very relaxed and ready for some zzz's! I continued with my purgeing and filing while the storm blew in and wow, it was quite a storm. Tammie needed her Composure Chew in order to calm down. I learned about these natural supplements for dogs that contain l-theanine, a green tea extract that promotes relaxation and it does help. I am amazed that I no longer need to hide from T-storms, as I used to absolutely freak out. The time that really piques my memory was coming home with Ashley from pre-school. Mom was with Lindsay and when I arrived, I flew in the door from the rain and storm and Mom asked, "Where's Ashley?" I said, "She's coming", leaving her to come in on her own. I was so anxious that I could not even wait for her! Mom emphatically told me that I needed to get help for this. Agreed! Well, over the past two years, I've lost most fears - T-storms, being a passenger in a car, being asked to sing without practice, fear of not having enough money to survive. I consider it one of the gifts that cancer has brought into my life. I feel prepared to live life to the fullest - to take the ups and downs with grace. I am also surprised that the side effects have been quite minimal - fatigue and mild headaches - otherwise, I am grateful and excited to begin Chapter Two. Amen!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chemo: Day Four of Reflection

I awoke early in anticipation of a full day ahead. Before my daughter left for a weekend away, she needed to clean and dress my wound. This is a breakthrough for her, as she was always very fearful of cuts, blood, needles etc, but over the past few years, she has become a champ! I had my breakfast, finished the reflection for the previous day and prepared for my hospital check-in with labs and a nurse visit. Labs were as anticipated - fairly low white cells, but also consistent. This is good news, as it means that the chemo is doing its job - killing off my cells for now. I can also feel the fatigue and mild headachiness that can be a side effect of treatment. On to acupuncture - ah, the stabilization of my body's response, supporting the process of attack while keeping the "chi" flowing as it should. Felt great - vision clearer, energy better. Ready to get groceries and go home for the weekend before the finalization of work to be done for the water damage repairs. All in all, it was a long day - out by 9am, home by 5:30pm. I arrived to the air conditioner not working, but the maintenance fellow came immediately to get things working, at least for now. I ask myself, "what else is supposed to go on here?" Not ruffled (a newer response for me), I decided to take my wonderful walk to Fort Sewall along the water. Tammie sure appreciated getting out and we sat for a bit, just mesmerized by the waves and the serene feeling that the ocean provides. I often refer to this area as my "playground" - a place that is always there for me to enjoy! The next venture was to figure out how to shower without getting my apparatus wet, as I could not be disconnected. I figured it out and it sure felt amazing to let go of the "diaper wipe" baths that I've had for the past few days! Tomorrow night, I will attempt the hair wash and am already planning logistics. Cleaned up, prepping tea and my amazing snack of nuts, berries, 100% dark chocolate and coconut, I spoke with my younger daughter who is now at UMass. She has had a great week and I vicariously am able to be with her by her great descriptions of happenings. I'm now ready to continue to listen to Mind Over Medicine, mentally staying in the place of true healing, knowing that this process is bringing me closer every day. It was a good day!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chemo: Day Three of Reflections

I had a really good sleep - 9 hours, which is what seems to be best for me these days and yet with my medical schedule, it often does not occur. This luxury felt great! I had a somewhat busy day ahead, but continued to set a pace that seemed achievable. Last week, as I prepared to take my daughter to UMass for her 2nd year of college, my battery died the day before, but at least I had finished my medical appointments for the day and thankfully, it was the day before and not the day of our 3 hour roadtrip! While life gets complicated and full, I notice that it all does seem to work out anyway. I've also noticed that I become much less "ruffled" than in the past because in the grande scheme of life, hassles are normal and expected and as one of my wise healers has told me, "Julie, you need to learn to live in the messy." I think of this phrase often, especially when I plan how "I'd" like to see things happen. Really need to take that "I" out of there and am getting better at it! Car shop to fix minor issues caused by replacing the battery - check Long ride during afternoon rush hour back to home to meet with my nurse for pic line dressing change - check Print and fax work-related stuff that is time-sensitive - check Prep and have dinner - check Wait to get Tammie from my dogsitter - check Pack up to return to my daughter's for last overnight, as she has changed two of my wound dressings and has one more to do - check Drive back - check Relax with my daughter and her boyfriend, watching a movie - favorite past-time for us all - check Tired but thankful that I am still so capable and while diminished energy from what I was used to, I'm pretty impressed with being able to carry on life. This mindset is new for me. I have been the "energizer bunny" for years, accomplishing things beyond what many people do, and yet, I felt never good enough, never accomplished enough, always judging and evaluating what I did and did not do. While I've "worked on it, the ego digs its claws very deeply into these thoughts and feelings of oneself. Slowly, life is evolving as it must - balance in the messy will bring me through. I challenge you today to balance while being in the messy! Julie

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chemo: Day Two of Reflections

I awoke tired and groggy, but soon thereafter, felt good. The day was a beauty - less heat and mugginess than the day before and I knew that I would want to take a walk - a typical way for me to engage in my day after checking emails and tending to business! As I walked, I really took in the colors of green trees and plants - I find this to be very soothing - as well as the blue of the sky and gentle breeze that accompanied the sunshine. Somehow, these feelings were amplified. On the one hand, I am walking around with my fanny-pack of drugs(!), and on the other, I am deeply breathing in fresh air and am walking with vigor. I felt happy and grateful. I focused on allowing my muscles to sink into the earth while I walked, enhancing the connectedness to Mother Earth and overall sense of safety. I came back with good energy and decided to do a few errands before coming back for my continuing education webinar at noon. I love learning - it excites me - and I am really beginning to put the picture of my life together - the creation of my life as I want it with the pace and elements included. I felt a need to rest and did my visualization and regrouped for another little outing with my daughter when she arrived home. I walked after dinner, finalizing my day of good energy - groundedness, pace, awareness of my needs - and true gratitude for feeling well in this unknown territory. May you be in your moment, Julie

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chemo: Day One of Seven Reflections

I approached the hospital with confidence, had my blood drawn and met with one of my doctors. She explained in detail what I had fretted about last week and it all came together. Being the scientist, as well as the one who pursues spiritual meanings, I had my mini-meltdown last week when I was left a message to stop taking the Neupogen shots for the week before initiating chemo. First of all, it was my first official week back seeing clients in person - got the OK from my surgeon and was so excited to be back in action and not just on the skype screen! Neupogen is a medication to improve the white blood cells that fight infection and without it, I have had my worst numbers yet since the staph infection. After unsuccessfully attempting to reach the nurse - dropped cell calls, malfunctioning Iphone on my end - I faxed a note and waited to hear that I could "pad the process" by keeping the shots to every other day. Nope! And there was just a voicemail with no explanation. Back to quarantine status - getting really used to no handshakes, hugs or kisses! When I met with my doc yesterday, she explained that chemo will wipe out the cancer and the other good cells - knew that already - but she went on to say that it is a time to give the bone marrow a rest and to allow the chemo to do its demolition. I will be immune suppressed for a few more weeks before the stimulation begins. I had also met with my naturopath, for whom I immediately had an affinity. We speak the same language - natural processes, assisting the body to do its work, acknowledging the innate intelligence of our cells. He had done some tests and we were to review results. Well, the results showed that indeed, I need the sledge hammer, as he described it. But he also described the timing of the upcoming events and suggested some herbal support measures (with clinical studies to back them up) to support my white blood cells. He described the following: chemo=sledge hammer, to kill the cancer cells; then start immune building factors a week later, again test to see progress and what else may be called for. In addition, some supplements will address the resistant cancer cells that linger and may re-initiate the cancer process in the upcoming years. As I sat in the chair at the clinic, I felt good about the upcoming week, although I had no idea how I would feel. I felt ready to go into the unknown territory and truly embrace it. Later in the day, I was tired and began to listen to more of the audio-book, Mind Over Medicine. Dr Rankin talked in great detail about the relaxation response and how to achieve it. I decided to create my own guided imagery - something I am quite familiar with and use frequently. I visualized the chemotherapy cleaning out my body, as ocean waves taking out the damaged cancer cells and washing them away. I also visualized happy, bright white-golden cells infiltrating my body as the waves came back to shore. I felt my body sink into the couch and truly let go, being immersed in relaxation. It felt good - I feel good. May you be blessed with understanding your process and rise and fall with the crest of the wave - powerful and yet so gentle. With love, Julie

Monday, September 1, 2014

Surrender and Stubborness

It is now hours before beginning a week of chemo - a completely unknown territory for me. I have not felt anxious about the chemo, but have had moments of anxiety around how my labs have responded over the past few weeks. While I have continued to feel better these past few weeks, my labs do not reflect the same and it is mind-boggling to say the least. I ask why is it that I follow directions, live a healthy life, eat clean food, exercise, do yoga - you name it, I practice what I preach - and yet, this disease is entrenched! As I was reflecting on this, I had calls from two very close friends and the lightbulb went off. In fact, I awoke from my sleep last evening to write a few notes for this blog. One friend mentioned how hard it is to just surrender and I had an immediate reaction to this statement. I realized that I can no longer control this - I have tried the above, I have not trusted conventional medicine, I have been my own leader - now, I am being asked to let go and let God. For me, this is allowing divine intelligence to direct the course of my healing path and to trust that all is and will be well. When I think of control, I realize that the stubborn part me that wants to "do it my way" is now getting in the way! How ironic - after all, it is the interplay of being persistent while also allowing, that truly can promote healing and success. My other friend sent me an amazing audio book, Mind Over Medicine and she recapped a few areas such as enjoying the juicy, sensual aspects of life - the gifts that this life has to offer. While I have been better at this, I know that guilt jumps in immediately when it comes to experiencing pleasure. After all, there is so much to do, to accomplish and while I truly love what I do, it becomes that double-edged sword. It felt so good to make these connections, to feel empowered and to make sense of something that affects so many people - cancer does not discriminate - and there is no blame or finger to point. The path to healing is all about love - of self and others. Cheers, Julie