Month: January 2013

My Treasured Sea Glass

Sea Glass Washed Up

(Originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 1/30/13)

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art … it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival.

C. S. Lewis

I’ve always been intrigued by the powerful allure of sea glass.  Though the shimmering, delicate beauty of the colors is hypnotic, my fascination lies more in the mystery of its origin . . . the story behind each unique piece.  Each frosted gem has been transformed, worn smooth from years of tumbling through the sea’s natural sandblasting action, tides, waves, and currents.  Over a decade ago, I even began a “love affair” with a novel engrained on my heart—sea glass being at the forefront (one of many bucket list adventures I someday hope to check off!)  Finding treasured sea glass along the shore reveals the elaborate, unique characteristics in each piece—all beautiful … whether transparent or opaque, individually carrying with it from its journey….a story.

I think of all the many people who have drifted into my life, whether for a season or a lifetime—amazing pieces of sea glass in the form of relationships I’ve cherished and friendships that stand the test of time.  All have stamped yet another memory, experience . . . adventure to my passport of life.

Moving around quite a bit growing up has always made it hard to answer the question:  “Where did you grow up . . . where were your roots laid down?”  My sister and I have often had conversations about this very thing.  Though we have occasionally coveted those who have only known one home town their entire life, we much more value the depth of experience and relationships that may not have been as rich for us, had familiarity and comfort in one place set the tone of our childhood.  In truth, we’ve always had roots—only instead of being planted in a “location,” they were deeply planted in the love for each other—closely bonded through the changes and challenges new situations and experiences presented.

These days I’ve been in awe, marveling at the beautiful “sea glass” in my life.  Like the best pieces of beach treasure, many of you truly sparkle in the light.

Tonight, I found myself crying (in joy) yet again . . . from my mailbox treasures.  These beautiful, heartfelt cards arriving in the mail—are not only giving me cherished moments of encouragement for today, but future rainbows for tomorrow . . . little reminders of God’s promises for my life.   I am saving each note and card to place in a special, (beautiful) mosaic box I hope to one day soon create with sea glass from a beach-combing adventure.

I am beyond appreciative . . . all the time spent checking in on me, the texts, the notes here on CaringBridge,  e-mails and beyond generous gifts have brought me to tears—allowing me to feel the love of my treasured relationships both new and old, giving value to my survival (thank you C.S. Lewis for your eloquence)!  Words alone can never express what my heart has felt through your thoughtful actions and genuine love.

Let’s face it, we all start out as shards of broken glass . . . wildly tumbling through the sea of life, and only through the refining process of turbulence in the storms, even crashing on rocks and coral—do our edges become smooth—our story become meaningful.

Isaiah spoke of the potter and His clay:  “Yet You, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”    (Isaiah 64:8)

God uses His clay made from dirt . . . his shards of glass tossed at sea, to do an amazing work in each of us.  It is only in the fire . . . or the raging storms where we can truly be refined, edges smoothed out, vessels shining—for His greater purpose.

As for my beautiful sea glass . . . THANK YOU ALL for washing up on my shore . . .

Nina Speaks . . . and I’m Feeling Good

Nina-Simone

(originally posted on CaringBridge on 1/28/13)

Birds flyin’ high you know how I feel . . . Sun in the sky you know how I feel . . . Breeze driftin’ by you know how I feel—It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good.

~ Nina Simone

Feeling Good is one of those cool songs that when you’re feeling really bad, it’s got medicinal properties to pick you up and when you’re feeling really good, it lifts you up higher.  Nina Simone always executes that powerful cry for freedom in her music that just shouts . . . Whatever this world throws at me I am still blessed and refreshed because this world can’t take away my inner freedom.

This week marks week 4 of chemotherapy . . . only 16 more weeks to go.  There was actually a faint, initial excitement typing the word only until I looked at it a second time . . . then suddenly my mental energy was completely focused on the word – more.  The focus shifted to:  “What?  16 MORE weeks to go?  Seriously?”  In truth, this is the easy part of the journey, so I will stick with my optimistic sing-songy attitude “YAY, only 16 more weeks of chemo!”   Actually, let’s scratch sing-songy and go with raspy-jazzy-Nina-Simoney.  I’m Feeling GOOD.

In terms of side effects—overall, my body has done very well so far.  I have heard horror stories and read of people who really fight a brutal battle with the nasty side effects of these life-saving poisons.  Therefore, I try not to focus too much on my trivial physical “ailments”— as I’m aware it could be so much worse.  In short, I have had moments of extreme fatigue and many more moments of abdominal pain and malaise, but no signs (yet) of neuropathy in my fingers and toes which I’ve been instructed to “expect”—a numbness and tingling that often makes certain tasks more difficult.  As for my hair situation, my scalp has become very tender, sort of like that feeling I used to get as a little girl when wearing my hair in a ponytail all day—once that elastic came out at the end of the day, it was sore and tender to the touch.   This sensation, so I’ve been told, is the forboding of hair on its way out.  It has been gradually thinning a bit . . . mostly showing up in the shower, but nothing unmanageable or overtly noticeable.  I’ll know when it’s time to shave the head, and will make no bones about embracing the buzzer when the moment does present itself.

Another newer, more pronounced side effect I’ve had going on . . . joint pain.  I know people who struggle and suffer with debilitating forms of joint pain, including Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.  My heart breaks for those living with thisdaily and I truly sympathize—what must be torturous day in and day out.  Now I’m not suddenly claiming to be an expert in pain by any means, but feel there is a tiny part of me that can trade my sympathy for literal empathy.  Though I have not walked a mile in the shoes of people in chronic pain, this past week I’ve experienced a noticeable, constant sense of joint pain.  One night, mid-sleep, it came out of nowhere and almost felt like there was a little sledgehammer banging by bones from my shoulders down to my feet—a little demolition taking place throughout my body.  The thought of people living with this constantly, makes my life look like a walk in the park on a perfect day.

Saturday marked exactly one month since my official diagnosis.  If I sit on that thought too long, recalling that day . . . it’s quite possible that the neuropathy I spoke of may actually be starting in my brain—a numbing sensation that still grazes that fine line between fiction and reality.  Is this all just a dream?  Unfortunately the answer would be a flat out:  No.  But fortunately, I know my summer’s on its way.  John Steinbeck wrote it perfectly in his book, Travels with Charley:  “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

In the meantime, during my cold days of winter, I can say like the Psalmist, David who trusted God beyond anything else . . .

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things.  Who is like you, God?  Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. (Psalm 71:19-20)

Staying Gold in my Winter Season

Stay Gold

(originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 1/26/13)

Seize upon that moment long ago … one breath away and there you will be … so young and carefree … again you will see, that place in time—So Gold

~ Stevie Wonder

Being a music lover . . . everything from Gospel to Jazz, there are certain songs that move me in a way, releasing a level of intimacy in the core of my soul that is hard to even express in words.  When reviewing a discography of a magnificent legend like Stevie Wonder, it’s difficult to find one song that doesn’t move you at some level.  However, one of his least “famous” songs moves me in a way that few songs ever have or will:  Stay Gold.  The song was originally written for the memorable Francis Ford Coppola movie, based on the coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton—The Outsiders.

Michelle joined me on my trip into Dana-Farber this week, and let’s just say . . . we livened up the joint—double trouble in the infusion room, (pretty typical of any outing we undertake together).  We were our naughty selves . . .  laugh-crying in hysteria over things that certainly lightened the heaviness of the environment.  I was blessed.  She was my little slice of Gold in the moment.

I guess my love for Robert Frost and his brilliance kept me company all week, as I pondered yet another poem from memory that always visits me from time to time over the years . . . Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold.  Her early leafs a flower; but only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf.  So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day.  Nothing gold can stay.

Ahhhh.  The poem may read almost depressing at first glance, but in fact . . . though the delicate, early golden leaves of spring will turn green, spring turns to summer, dawn will turn to day, youth becomes maturity . . . you can still hold on to the wonder, the “goldenness” of memories and moments, staying gold through each season’s changes.  We will find a blessed increase if we embrace the cycle of flower, leaf, bud, fruit—into the full life that includes loss, grief, and change.

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.  ~ Philippians 4:11-13

This is my season of change . . . a winter season where the gold of spring may seem buried, but I can still ponder and reflect on all that I’ve been blessed with.  I have truly learned to be content only in Him who gives me strength.  When my content takes a downward turn to sorrow, I need remember to Stay Gold.

. . . Life is but a twinkling of an eye yet filled with sorrow and compassion . . . though not imagined, all things that happen will age too old—Though Gold

Miles to go Before I Sleep

Woods

(originally written on my CaringBridge page on 1/22/13)

 . . .  The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.   

~ Robert Frost

Sleep.  That simple 5-letter word, wildly underestimated until you’re getting very little of it.  Sleeeeeep.  Often something I’ve been reluctant to do, but don’t want to stop after I’ve started.  Lately, sleep has become that simple yet complicated word that’s constantly on my mind . . . especially during the hours that I wish I were visiting its happy, sleepy place.   Oddly, it is during the moments of heavy fatigue, an exhaustion I’ve never experienced before, that sleep is so desired—but not found.

Growing up … and maybe even in recent days . . . certain music often puts me into “movie-mode” (Michelle’s roaring out loud right now, because only she totally gets what I’m talking about), when the music becomes a background score to my own life soundtrack.  As kids, traveling on long road trips, we would be in the back of the car, with our headphones on, dreamily glancing out the window—the music bringing us into our individual, private utopia.  Tonight, I went there—movie-mode . . . only instead of music beckoning me into my movie, it was the peaceful blanket of snow lingering on the trees out my back window that became my life’s score.  It was beautiful.

There I was, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”— trapped in a Robert Frost poem.  The outward simplicity of this 16-line poem brought so much depth to my movie moment.  Like the narrator, lately I find myself often yearning to linger in the quiet solitude of isolation . . . the darkest night, watching the snow fall.   In the poem, only through the resounding bell of the horse’s harness, does the narrator finally get jolted to remember the many promises he has to keep . . . miles to go, no time to give up.

<sigh>

Thank you, Lord for reminding me of your promises.  I choose hope, knowing that I have many miles to go before I sleep . . .

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.    

(Jeremiah 29:11)

 

Unconventional Therapy with a German Shepherd Named Miles

SAMSUNG

(originally written on my CaringBridge page on 1/19/13)

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.   ~Anne Bradstreet

Thursday marked my second treatment at Dana-Farber.  The late afternoon infusions work out well because not only can I work most of the day, the entire atmosphere at DFCI is quiet & relaxed.

I was blessed to have my mom come with me this week, and my prayer beforehand was that everything would be seamless—from driving in, parking, to overall ease of the treatment process.  I really needed her there with me early on this journey, so her mind could eliminate any scary, pre-conceived notions that often come with the idea of chemotherapy.  It was just as I had hoped for . . . drama-free.  Actually, we even had 10 minutes to spare upon arrival, so we popped into the boutique where my wig was waiting to be picked up.  They brought us out back and I tried it on for her . . . she was amazed at how natural it looked—exactly like my hair, fresh out of the salon.   I laughed at the idea that soon, I could eliminate “bad hair days” for a while from my life.  Glass half full thought of the day.

My anxiety level was considerably reduced this week before treatment because I knew what to expect, confident in knowing how my body handled it last time—the likelihood lessoned of an anaphylactic response this round.  My nurse heated my arm in advance, helping to ease the pre-treatment Benadryl pain.  He will also be gradually decreasing the amount each week, as I prove to tolerate the drug more and more.  Fighting the grogginess from Benadryl and the high from the steroids makes for a “unique” slumber experience (or there a lack of).

Arriving home late on a school night, I was unable to spend time with the boys.  Instead, waiting for my arrival was my other boy, my “angel nurse dog,” Miles who anxiously greeted me with kisses and love.

Miles’, our German Shepherd is now referred to as my angelic nurse dog, because he’s glued to my side whenever I’m home, checking on me all through the night, and if tears are ever present on my face, he licks them away.  He’s got a level of intelligence and heart revealed in those beautiful eyes that blows my mind.  God knew in advance, how much I needed his companionship during this time . . . and I’m blessed to have a furry prince to add to the “court”.

Though I felt depleted of all energy, Miles carried on a “Chewbacca” conversation with me for 20 minutes, tilting his head back and forth, as I snuggled in a blanket watching him.  I knew he was eager for some Miles/mommy time that we relish each day—usually consisting of lots of outdoor exercise and play, but sadly it was not physically possible for me.  I know he’s “just a dog,” but he honestly seems to get it, and he came over to me, gently motioning his head toward the dining room, nudging me along.  I got up and followed him.

There, we did laps around the dining room table, me following his lead.  It was honestly hilarious—a YouTube moment to behold for sure.   He started us off walking.  Next, a slow jog …then into a sprint.  He’d look back at me periodically, making sure I was keeping up.  We must have done 150 laps before we were done.  It was amazingly therapeutic.

Though my steep climb just begins on this uphill venture, I am blessed beyond words for the “cream” that has risen to the top of my relationships.  I am so grateful for the AMAZING people in my life who have gone above and beyond to support me, love me and encourage me.  The generosity of each of you is overwhelming . . . truly overwhelming.  You are loved beyond words.

A Mind Resting in Eden

James Dean

(originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 1/15/13)

 Only the gentle are ever really strong.

~ James Dean

Have you ever woken from a deep sleep with a face ingrained in your mind?  Confused for a moment, not quite recalling what you were dreaming about, but knowing it had something to do with this face.  Often times this face is someone you know who’s been heavy on your heart, or maybe someone you’ve recently encountered.  Sunday morning I woke up with a face fixed in my mind of someone I’ve only ever “met” through pictures and films—James Byron Dean.  Not sure why exactly? . . . I mean, I haven’t been thinking about him lately, haven’t seen one of his films recently.  Anyway, there it was . . . his beautiful face.

We’ve always referred to our oldest son, Colby as an “old soul,” incredibly wise beyond his years.  When he was three years old, his favorite movie was It’s A Wonderful Life, and he earnestly remained captivated, even during parts of the film that would likely bore even the most passionate Jimmy Stewart fans.  I, too, was one of those “old souls,” a girl before-my-time.  While many girls were donning posters of Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze on their bedroom walls in the late-80s, it was not uncommon for my walls or bookshelves to include black & white images and books of actors such as Montgomery Clift, Audrey Hepburn . . .  or more significantly, James Dean.  I was especially enamored with him.  Recalling my fancy over this complex, young actor—who came and went before my time, I began to think about one of my favorite reads of all times . . . John Steinbeck’s, East of Eden.  James Dean’s face brought this book to mind, as I was reminded of his infamous role as Cal in Elia Kazan’s film based on this haunting novel.

As a lover of literature, I read this book at a fairly young age and reread again later . . . at the time never exploring the depth of my own human condition. Cal was symbolic of Cain in the Bible, and like all of us, he had free will to decide between good and evil.  Choice.  Just as each character in East of Eden faced—so does, ultimately, every human being.  This same free will that we’ve been given, even blessed with, applies to every aspect of our lives…and at times it can be really hard to choose responsibly, especially in the realm of the mind, when the bad creeps in at your weakest moments.

This past weekend, I got to enjoy a wonderful “date” weekend with my three little princes.  The good stuff came with:  snuggling by the fire w/a movie & popcorn, watching magician, Logan perform his latest card tricks, laughing with Lance as we read through a great book, and getting goose bumps, listening to the latest story Colby wrote in his journal . . . and then church Sunday followed by a fun, “mom & guys” brunch afterwards.  Good times.

The bad stuff found a way in too, looming in the always active mind.  It can quickly become a vestibule of doubt, worry and fear—closing in when you least expect it.  It usually presents after a long day of distracted fun, perhaps in the middle of the night, when everything else appears peaceful yet lonely.  My mind visited some unwelcomed destinations. I won’t share them, but I will tell you how much I thought about the significance of mothers.  Being one.  Having one.  Loving many.   I thought about my mom who is tangled up in her own web of worry—over a daughter who is ill, over her own mother, struggling with leukemia, and seemingly in a downward spiral …blood transfusions more often than not.  It saddens me to the core to know how much heartache my mom is no doubt dealing with.

If you’re not careful, when it’s left to its own device, the mind becomes a filthy watering hole, “corrupting” your being with negativity and lies.

I love the line early on in East of Eden when John Steinbeck writes:  “I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east.”

You can love the east for the light that every morning sunrise brings or sigh at its reminder of another hard day’s work ahead.  You can dread the west for the darkness that every sunset creates or relish it for the colors that linger on the horizon.  Basically, we can choose to wander east or west . . . not always finding what we’re looking for.

As for me, I so long to rest my head in Eden, allowing paradise to guide my heart and mind.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  (2 Timothy 1:7)

No Pain, No Gain

no pain no gain

(originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 1/12/13)

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”

~ Mother Teresa

Oddly enough, I’m someone who enjoys the victory pain associated with a tough workout.  When I feel my quads aching while walking up a flight of stairs and the general feeling that I’ve kicked some real “glute” at the gym, it’s a “comforting” reminder that my reward is coming . . . progress is being made.

Wednesday’s first chemo session went well … and as of today, I physically feel GR-R-REAT.  I know that’s an excellent report and I should be doing a little hallelujah dance right now, but the sad truth is, I psychologically long for that physical assurance that “my reward is coming.”  Basically, I want to feel the tangible pain of progress.  Yes, I now give each of you permission to remind me of this foolish philosophy on week 18 of treatment, when I will most likely long to feel like Tony the Tiger again.

I got a call Thursday, telling me I do NOT need another biopsy for the trial!  To say I was thrilled with those words would be an understatement.   I was assured that I’m still being researched in the clinical trial, but after reviewing all the information with my oncologist, the researchers indicated another biopsy would not be necessary.  One less distress.  <Sigh of relief>

Genetic Testing:  The results came.  All results were negative.  Though “negative” in the realm of cancer always seem positive, I’ve been told that there is still so much work being done on genetics that it’s hard to feel “secure” in the findings.  Although the BRCA gene test (which tests specifically for breast cancer) can detect the majority of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, it’s still possible that you could have some type of gene mutation that the tests weren’t able to detect, and/or one that researchers haven’t yet identified and developed a test for.

Please don’t misinterpret this as a “Debby Downer” moment, but rather an expression of caution in validating these results as “great news.”  The fact is, I still have breast cancer and feel the very real need to advocate for my family — to be vigilant in testing, self exams and even potential genetically linked cancers for my own children.  This doesn’t mean I plan to live in fear, but rather live with shared knowledge… knowledge that gives confident power in caring for our bodies.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is what keeps me going and keeps me secure in knowing that regardless of my physical state, good or bad…my hope can only be found in one source . . . Moment by moment . . . new mercies He shows.

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