21 December 2013

Greetings of the Season



Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and join us in following Spackle into the New Year! 
(from the look on his face, it's going to be epic)

19 November 2013

18 November 2013

Complete 180

This could mean a number of things in my situation. One, that my cancer signs have stopped growing and are, instead, retreating. This is partially true: my brain MRI showed significant response to my recent radiosurgery. The lesion near my ventricle appears to be about half the size it was when treated. It is too soon to tell, however, if TDM1 is having an equally successful effect on the rest of the systemic cancer and other lesions.

A Complete 180 could refer to the way Ian and I have had to severely limit our expenditures, but once again, this is only partially true. While we have done a virtually complete 180 in our thinking habits--beginning with questioning every potential purchase as to its utility in our lives, instead of questioning none of them--we have not stopped spending money (and lavishly, it still appears).

No, this Complete 180 refers to the gravitational pull on my body, as registered at the SCCA clinic, on its super-fancy scale. That's right--I weighed in at 81.65 kg, which, when converted to pounds at the touch of a button, left me gaping, as Mary Poppins suggested, like a codfish. One hundred and eighty pounds! I laughed--it still makes me laugh. It never, ever, occurred to me that this was possible. One hundred and eighty pounds is the upper limit for most Equitours horseback riding tours, like the one I took to Australia a few years back with my friend MS. I am an Upper Middleweight for the Mixed Martial Arts classification, and am now in the women's Heavyweight boxing class (don't mess with me!).

I'm finding that my reaction to this new weight height is another example of a partially true 180. I have clothes that fit, and I recently--prior to the weighing in--re-started a long-ago practice of treadmilling to Star Trek: The Next Generation, simply because I felt I'd like to get more aerobic exercise (and more awesome TV). I've been pleased to find that the years away haven't left me totally out of shape. The point here is that I have virtually no self-image tied up in this weight--it is what it is. This realization, in an of itself, makes one feel quite light. I am obviously not built on a foam core; I have more of a solid-state drive infrastructure.

It's also quite likely that TDM1 has helped me reach these unexpected altitudes by encouraging my body to retain fluids it otherwise wouldn't have deemed necessary. Also, the fact that it's chilly now in Seattle means that my clothing added a bit more than usual.

At any rate, a 180 seems auspicious!

27 October 2013

Fall Color

We've had an unusually colorful fall here in Seattle this year, because instead of rains and winds beating all the leaves off the trees, we've had mild foggy mornings and warmer afternoons. On strolls with Spackle I've enjoyed watching leaves lazily circling through the still air, as opposed to slapping me wetly in the face. Here are a few recent shots:









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20 October 2013

Perspective

Time heals all wounds, and I'm feeling more circumspect and hopeful today about our prospects for a long, fruitful, and satisfying future.

On Friday afternoon I had an appointment in Lake Stevens for craniosacral work to help me recover from Gamma Knife, the dentist, and the snotty, snotty flu-like cold. It had been less than 24 hours since discovering the massive change I would need to make to my style of living, and I was still throbbing in the aftermath of the blow. I sobbed out various hurts to Debbie as she worked, and after an hour and a half of highly skilled labor on her part, and a draining of my emotional tanks, I felt like a new (albeit rag-doll) person. I really got my money's worth--a newly crucial goal in all my transactions.

Taya arrived out in the office as Debbie's next client went back to the massage room, and we sat to chat about my upcoming treatment plan and the state of my life. I've known Taya for several years now, and as she's got about 20 years on me, she often sees situations in a different light.

I told her about my new awareness of the loss of utter financial freedom, and that I was still smarting a bit from the loss of my Gorilla Tape blindfold, and she interrupted me.

"Don't beat yourself up," she said. "You have not ripped a blindfold off; you've just looked up."

"Oh?"

"You were living really in the moment before," she went on. "You weren't sure you were going to live long enough to need to save your money, so you spent it. Now you are sure."

Now I AM sure.

I ruminated on that.

Here's what I think: I am not SURE that I am going to live long enough to need a huge amount of money, but I EXPECT to live a long time. Cancer doesn't loom over my existence anymore; it snaps annoyingly around my ankles, occasionally tripping me up, but mostly just being one of those things that makes us human and alive. We don't live in a snapshot of perfection; we live in a process.

Full moons and eclipses are believed to spike the influence of celestial energy on earthly circumstances. The effects we humans feel are accentuated by an open awareness and an eagerness to feel them. This is an awareness that I have been encouraging, with my tarot and my I Ching, my astrology newsletter and my meditation. I was not surprised, therefore, by the depths of my despair on Thursday evening, as that night we experienced an eclipsed full moon. But depths of despair are balanced by heights of hope, and the Universe works in mysterious ways.

Ian and I decided, about six weeks ago, that Orcas Home needed a truck rather than a 4-Runner. I had tarted up my car at Elephant Super Carwash and gone shopping at Toyota of Seattle for a Tacoma, with a list of things I wanted, including various paint colors and other optionals. Well, over that day, I decided that what I really wanted was BLUE first, and other things second. Of all the hundreds of pick-up options available in the region, it turned out there was only one that would work for me. There was not a single 2013 blue Tacoma left, anywhere, even as far away as Montana. "No problem," I said. "I'll wait. It'll come at the right time."

"They're changing the colors for 2014," I was warned by the sales manager.

"Is there going to be a blue?" I asked. There was. So. I'll wait.

The 2014s began trickling in late in September, in the standard, boring colors of the auto industry as a whole. Black, white, silver. Yawn. I wasn't paying much attention. They weren't my truck.

Well. I had just published Just Starting Out, mourning my awareness-change, and not ten minutes later, when I was racing around trying to leave for Lake Stevens (late), my cell phone rang. It was my salesperson from Toyota of Seattle, saying my Tacoma had just rolled off the trailer into their yard, and it was beautiful. "It's a Double Cab, and it's gorgeous! You were right to wait!"

"Sorry," I said, "I wanted the Access Cab. The Double is too big."

"Oh! That's right," said Shay, deflating. "Well, they're starting to come in, at any rate. I'll call you soon."

I shifted back into high leaving-the-house gear, slapped a sandwich together, filled my water bottle, made sure the checkbook was in my purse, collected Spackle and his leash. My phone rang again, a peal of insistent whinnying making me jump.

"Hello," I said, breathless, my heart racing.

"I found your truck," said Shay. "It's in Centralia, and we're trading the Double Cab. How soon can you be in?"

The Ship of Life crested the wave and started racing exhilaratingly down the other side, and I felt a burble of laughter at the preposterousness of it all (because I had no fear or doubt--I was going to buy this truck).

"I'm on my way out the door right now, late for an appointment in Lake Stevens. How late are you there tonight?"

"I can be here until nine. How about coming in at seven?"

"Great! See you then!"

Because I'd wanted this specific truck, because I'd kept in touch (I sent Shay an actual paper note thanking him for taking the time with me after my first visit), they knew I was serious and they'd initiated the trade before I'd signed any papers--something car dealerships don't do. And so, soon after Ian and I arrived at Toyota, before getting a trade-in value on the 4-Runner, before getting a credit report, before discussing just how much this new Tacoma was going to put us out, before they even looked at our licenses, I was driving up 99, putting Newblue through her paces. She felt absolutely right, and she's gorgeous.

A Toyota Tacoma is probably the best value for money one can get in a mid-sized pickup, and she's going to be with me for a long time.

Meet Nublu!

18 October 2013

Just Starting Out

Ian and I have known, theoretically, since making our decision in July and embarking on our Orcas project, that building our house in the islands is going to have a significant effect on our spending habits.

We had a phone meeting this past week with our financial managers, and said goodbye feeling optimistic--what they were telling us--that building our home would take all of our remaining cash and that, therefore, we would be required to make a major lifestyle change--was entirely consistent with our own beliefs. "I'm not talking about just a 10 or 15% reduction in spending," said Phillip. "Most of our clients, when they need to reduce, find that amount hard enough."

"Oh, I know," I said, laughing. "We are talking about a major change here. I find it kind of exhilarating in a way, though," I went on. "I feel like I've been spending flagrantly, frittering away my money for a long time, and it will be a relief to have that option taken away."

Earlier this week in the depths of my illness, I spent an afternoon on the sofa downstairs watching the movie Uptown Girls, which I love. It's light and pretty and heartwarming in an uncomplicated way, and I sobbed--SOBBED--as the princess lost her tower, and her financial support, and her naive, ingenuous trust in how her world worked--but I really broke down when she, ultimately (and with the help of some dear friends), learned how to stand on her own two feet, and define herself, and actively choose and embark on her new path. I passed off the intensity of this reaction to exhaustion, but niggling deep in my mind was a suspicion that I was mourning my own coming change of circumstances. We're not exactly the same, me and Molly--my dad was a French horn player, not a rock star, and I was the one who absconded with my inheritance--but the similarities were enough to strike a deeply resonant note.

Last night Ian and I sat down in our living room and had what I now understand was our first ever real look at our spending habits. I've known for a long time that we were playing an unsustainable, and in some ways uncomfortable, game. I look in my closet, for example, and see stack upon stack of cashmere hoodies in a rainbow of colors. It's a large closet but I can't step in the door because the floor is littered in boots, shoes, flip-flops, and slippers. Shirts and pants and dresses and skirts and non-cashmere sweaters bulge from shelves and hangers. The rest of our house is not much different--books and art and artifacts and mugs and tchotchkes and unfinished projects abound. I grew up in an environment of judicious abundance--a great plenty of simple food, direct experience, and intellectual stimulation; but reserve and rationality when it came to discretionary spending. I meant what I said to Phillip: I do feel uncomfortably that I have been frittering my boon away.

I have not been wrong. We discovered, last night, that we, simply in living what has come to be our day-to-day lives, are hemorrhaging money. I have been moderately more active in spending the money and receiving the ostensible largesse than Ian, but we are partners and this is our challenge together. Not only can we no longer afford any discretionary spending; it is not clear that we can afford all of what we believe is necessary spending. I looked in shock--actual, literal, body-chilling, heartbeat-skipping shock-- at the total we spent last year on truly unnecessary things, and how much on things we believe are necessary, and how poorly those totals relate to how much money we are actually bringing into the house. I felt my house, my sense of self, my reality, my unconscious and frantically gripped safety net--pitch and yaw and groan and crash and pitch and yaw again. I felt nauseated, and then I REALLY burst into tears.

I don't know who I am right now. I don't know what, if any, of the beautiful, splendid, things in my life I can claim as mine anymore, as things that the fundamental, ur-me would choose. I have spent 20 years making impulsive rather than discerning choices, and I don't know how often I hit on something real. Everything looks different this morning.

I know that I did make some important long-term decisions about where to put my inheritance, and I understand that my newly-perceived penury is lifestyle-changing, not life-threatening (and only penury in hyperbolic, hysterical comparison to recent habits). I recognize that I am, still, unbelievably more fortunate than most humans, in most ways.

In fact, coming to this realization at this time still gives Ian and me the option to make a major choice, open to few. We still get to build our dream house, or at least a comfortable facsimile, and go live in paradise.  Our home will be funded by our parents and ancestors, which is not an unheard-of position to be in. And, with that solid foundation, we will be set free on the world, to make our ways and our fortunes responsibly and independently.

But oh! My blindfold had been made of layer upon layer of Gorilla Tape instead of silk, and the act of ripping it off still smarts, and I'm still too blinded by the light of my future to see any of the details.


17 October 2013

Patriotic

I woke up this morning just before 5:00 am. I had to pee, and I was thirsty. The endless cycle that interrupts one's sleep, with greater and greater regularity, as one ages. As I snuggled back into bed--clean flannel sheets and the perfect combination of wool mattress topper and fall-weight down comforter--I realized that I was breathing effortlessly and deeply. I lay there for some minutes simply enjoying being alive, and then realized, with some amusement, that my October has not been unlike that of my government.

This has been a month when I've really had to buckle down and do some hard labor. While I don't believe I had to reach quite the same crisis point to make that decision, I have been experiencing some unpleasant days.

It wasn't all bad--on Sunday last week, just a couple days after Gamma Knife, we took our (almost) annual boat trip out through the Locks (working with a partial crew during the shutdown, but we still breezed through), onto Puget Sound. It was the perfect fall day--bright and crisp and not too cold--and we went to Blake Island where we ate a gourmet picnic lunch that S had prepared. After lunch we meandered around the island for a short time, S and I reminiscing about childhood camping trips there with my dad and the boat (we camped; he slept in his comfy V-berth). I skippered us back across the shipping lanes and up to Shilshole.

It's always a touch exhilarating to be crossing the shipping lanes in a 19-foot open ski boat, and after an utterly terrifying wall-of-wake experience near the mouth of Hood Canal a couple years ago I have decided to always wear my life jacket when cruising salt water. There are massive container ships, tug boats towing barges on long, almost invisible cables, cruise vessels, ferries and other boaters, not to mention winds and currents. On Sunday we had the added excitement of meeting the wake of a giant tug heading in our direction back to port--which is to say, a boat with a massive, ponderous displacement, hauling ass at 25 knots (which feels super fast on the water). This very slightly out-paced us, and, while there was a lot of space for us to move out of the way and brace ourselves, there was no way of completely avoiding the 11 (or 1100)-ft wake the Pacific Titan kicked out.

It was petrifying, and it had to be done at speed. The crests could easily have swamped us when we were down in the troughs if we weren't doing our best to skitter along the top of the water. I had to fight the urge to race for the shore, which would've ended in disaster as we were dashed against the rocks at the base of Magnolia. I gritted my teeth, headed for the mountain looming for me, and we flew up and crashed down. And flew up and crashed down. At one point in our traverse of this range of mountains we were heading straight for a cliff of water at least 10 feet high. We know this because L saw it and reported it afterwards; Ian and S were looking elsewhere, and I was trying to cower down near the floor, and strongly remonstrating myself that I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO SIT UP AND DRIVE THE BOAT.

Well, we made it through just fine. The Sea Ray bobs like a cork, I have learned some skills in the past years of skippership, and the gods smiled on us. (Incidentally, Ian and I watched Life of Pi a night or two later and I can say with absolute certainty that I will never, NEVER go to open sea, on any size boat. NEVER.)

But back to buckling down. It seems that filling one's body with the toxins and radiation of modern cancer treatment, and then heading out into the wide world and flushing that weakened, recovering vessel with wave upon wave of terror and adrenaline, combine in unpredictably (well, I didn't predict this) noxious ways, and I came down with the flu.

And so, my recovery this week has been prolonged and stunted. My sinuses, already compromised by the pressure of the head-gear pins, filled enthusiastically with snot, blurring the line between Gamma Knife symptoms and sickness symptoms. The toothache I'd seen the dentist for last week added a piquancy to my experiences.

But last night, the US Government reached an agreement with itself, and when I awoke this morning, I realized that all of my problems were resolving as well.

With good sense, practicality, patience, and reserve, we can do anything!

THIS IS A LINK:  see pictures from our outing here

11 October 2013

Heady Stuff


Here we go again . . .

My head feels slightly less awesome today than it did a couple weeks ago, because yesterday I went in for Gamma Knife Radio Surgery for the third time.

I had a brain MRI last June, after about 5 months of no cancer treatment, and even though I felt fine, Dr Jason didn't like the looks of the scans. He suggested I get Gamma Knife within the next couple months, ideally by the end of July. To play the insurance game, he was going to put in a request for coverage right then (with my approval), before we found out, from the following week's scheduled CT, if anything serious was going on in the rest of my body. Gamma Knife on the brain is one of those new-fangled, super-expensive therapies that the insurance is loath to cover anyway, and extremely likely to deny if there is evidence of broader systemic disease.

In the event, I decided I'd rather not subject myself to a CT at that time, nor was I interested in getting Gamma Knife over the summer. I filled out the acid-green end-of-life desires form (Do Not Resuscitate) and posted it on the refrigerator for everyone (EMTs called to the house for an emergency) to see.

You see, I had planned out several months of summer vacation, and was not yet ready to return to the drudgery of clinic work.

The summer was delicious, with a week-long visit from my 9-year-old friend P to go to horse camp and then a few days with the rest of her family; cousins traveling with me to Orcas for a mini-retreat; a visit from my best friend from the days of linguistics; and ten days on Orcas with our boat, among other things. Just before our trip to Orcas in August we decided to put in motion our plans to build our dream home.

Ian, strong, stalwart, loving, sensitive, and direct, asked me if building on Orcas, if actively working toward the goal of our future home together, was enough for me to consider using Western medicine again, if it appeared there were still some things in it that theoretically could help me extend my life. Yes, it turned out, our Orcas home was the kind of goal I could wrap my soul around.

In late August, after reestablishing my dedication to our land, I had a blood draw that showed my tumor markers had gone up, but not, in my personal experience, a huge amount. I requested staging scans for six weeks later, when my port would be due for another flush. I would discuss a treatment plan then based on what those scans uncovered. I contacted Dr Jason to get an MRI at the same time, which happened last week.

Ian has been on furlough since 1 October. We're lucky about this because one: he already knows he's going to be paid his salary for this time (someday). But two: we have a pretty big financial buffer, so the only discomfort we've felt with the situation was a brief stepping-on-of-each-others-toes for the first couple days. He was on vacation; I was still at work. Since then I've delegated some of the householding exercises to him, but then three happened: my six-weeks-to-port-flush was up and scans and medical issues leapt back into the spotlight. It's been a blessing and a delight having my sweet companion lock-step with me through this latest part of our journey.

I've discussed in past posts my yearning to be a good student--to ace the exams, to impress the authorities, to SHOW THEM what I can do on my own. That kind of attitude makes objectivity in the face of information difficult, however, so I've been spending some time working on changing my thinking. I decided that, instead of looking at these scan results as some judgment on my character or prediction about my life, I would look at them as prerequisites for allowing me to choose Western medical therapies. There is a lot to be said for the brilliance and dedication of the scientists and doctors who work with the physics and chemistry of modern medicine, but the methodology of accessing this brilliance is likewise scientific rather than personal.

That said, my results were personal rather than the expected norm: while my MRI showed one relatively serious spot near a ventricle and a somewhat larger spot in a less serious location, the six other blips that showed up on the screen were, to Dr Jason's surprise, pretty innocuous considering the lack of care and attention they'd been given for several months (arguably, because of the vagaries of the blood/brain barrier, I haven't had brain treatment since December of 2011).

Since he was free, Ian had driven me to my MRI and follow-up last week, and he and I decided together to go ahead with Gamma Knife, as soon as we could get on the schedule. Things fell tightly and serendipitously into place this week like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle: (Monday)Car Toys-Witch Doctor-Urban Float-(Tuesday)PET/CT-(Wednesday)Piano Tuning-Witch Doctor-Dentist-Mom&Marsh for dinner/movie-(Thursday)Gamma Knife-Dr Specht for PET/CT review. We never felt hurried, we just felt that things were right. And my PET/CT also had personal results: a bit more activity in long-term bone sites, but no new sites, and no soft tissue involvement. In other words, also pretty surprising for Dr Specht, considering my last TDM1 was almost 8 months ago. In a couple weeks I'll probably go back in for some more TDM1 (with premeds), but we'll decide for sure in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, I woke up this morning feeling almost euphoric after yesterday's events. I think I said it best to Dr Jason, in my first email of the day:

"Hi there--just wanted to let you know that I feel--psychologically--really good about yesterday. I (with the help of Ian) made the choice to do Gamma Knife directly when and because I felt it was right, instead of just doing it when you, who I trust, thought it was right. Subtle difference, but boy, I feel empowered."


Enjoy the pictures Ian took here.




29 September 2013

Kewpie!


Continuing on with my practice of getting rid of things in my life that aren't working for me, I decided today to adopt Ian's hairstyle from now on (note: the top picture was taken most of the way through the haircut. Alas, I don't have a corresponding picture of Ian.). Continuing to pay $90 for a haircut that never seemed to leave me with more hair suddenly didn't make sense anymore.

My head feels so AWESOME!

16 September 2013

Wild Kingdom, Spider Version

It's been a super-spidery late summer here in Seattle this year. We normally think of the advent of giant spiders as consistent with the advent of cooler, wetter weather. At least giant, hairy-legged spiders in the house. Perhaps the fact that it's been so sunny has distracted us from the migration this year, because we see it as a temperature thing rather than merely a date thing. Perhaps it's only that the spiders are warm enough and dry enough outside. There are certainly a lot of there there outside, tirelessly restringing their guy wires and reweaving their nets. I cannot walk outside without gossamer threads and tiny explorers tickling my face and sending instinctive streams of icy water down my spine. Like anything that doesn't kill you, however, familiarity breeds boredom, and I've found myself becoming almost blasé about the ongoing invasion.

I had to remind myself, sharply, of that boredom with spiders when, several days ago, I came upon a fine, large specimen who had caught a fine, large dinner (somewhat representative of Frodo and Shelob), and was enjoying it across the gate leading out of the yard on the north side of our house. I was clearing the bags of dirty old compost, rotten fir needles, and trash out of One Tree Woods in the back yard (a job is not complete until the work space is cleaned up, right folks?), and was on a mission.

I aborted, or rather, diverted my mission for a bit, and went for my camera instead.

Enjoy!




15 September 2013

Lightning Fast!

The Seattle area has had some spectacular, mid-Western plains-style thunder and lightning storms recently, and this evening we've been enjoying another.  That is, we're enjoying it now that Ian has landed safely at SeaTac after a week of fish mathing in Boise (because Idaho has salmon that swims all the way in from the ocean). He said the lightning was scary to see from the plane. Yes.

That is, also, I am enjoying it. Spackle is not so sure (he says, hiding at my feet under the dining room table).

Anyway, the sky's been doing interesting things, so I took my camera and went outside, hoping to catch an afterglow or something. Several of the lightning bolts have been multipart--the sky lights up, then immediately lights up again--and I was thinking that if I had my camera at the ready, I might be able to capture one of those "again"s.

No way. Not even remotely. I move not even as fast as a sloth when I'm compared to lightning. I am laughably slow. "Oh . h . h .h . h . th . e . r . e . g . o . e . s . . . . o . n . e . . . . " as my creaking arms raise the camera in slo-mo.

I did, at least, manage to see a pretty awesome bolt blaze out of the sky above east Queen Anne and smite, I'm pretty sure, a houseboat along western Lake Union.

Exciting!

10 September 2013

One Tree Woods



I have yet to be hypnotized by my new therapist, but I'm finding the experience of talking things out to be valuable. She suggested, a couple weeks back, that I create a little bit of forest in my Wallingford house. I universally feel alive and well in the woods--where I'm the only human around, I'm breathing fresh air, I'm listening to bird song, I'm surrounded by towering, pulsing Life. The city pulses with life, that's for sure, but it pulses in a high-pitched, frantic, frenetic, noisy, busy way. Some people find this exhilarating. I find it enervating. 

I understood her reasoning for bringing a bit of forest into the home, though. Some evergreen needles and cones to touch, some cedar essential oils to smell, a recording of twitters or breezes through trees to listen to--it was so that I had some tools, some triggers, to find that peace and clarity so natural to me in, well, nature. When things got a bit overwhelming, I could retreat. 

I didn't want to bring Nature into my home in that way, though. Over the past several months I've done a good job of updating my house to be my ideal of a home, and I don't have an interior place singing out to be Forest. We are far from aseptic in our habits, but I do try, mostly, to keep the outside outside (that being said, one of the things I love about the holiday season in the winter is bringing in big vases of evergreen cuttings . . . I know, inconsistent, right?). 

Out in the back yard about ten days ago I suddenly remembered a thought I'd had much earlier in the summer, which was to clear out our city equivalent of the country trash heap--the hidden space behind Ian's workshop and under our ancient fir--and put in a tiny slate patio so I could sit out there, in the farthest corner of our property from city bustle, and just be. So, while Ian worked on cleaning the trash out of his workshop so that it could be a workshop again, I armed myself with gloves and a shovel (but not a face mask, which would've been a healthy addition) and took out our old composting stations. I dismantled an old metal mesh box Ian had made 12 years ago and hauled out stacks of dry, dusty twigs and shovels-full of decaying needles. I dug up our two green cone composters (abandoned when the city began picking up food waste several years ago), spreading one bucket of dirt infused with moldering eggshells and avocado skins under our currant bush, then deciding to bury the rest of it back in the composter holes. Even though we'd just experienced a couple tropical-style deluges, the space under the tree was bone dry, boding well for year-round use, but not so good for major works. Moldy, composty, ancient dust swirled, coating my sinuses with black. 



Decades ago in an earlier incarnation of our back yard, there had been a plank-defined bed around the foot of this old tree; I cleared out the rotting wood and Ian and I rebuilt the bed, measuring and sawing new pressure-treated 4X4s (more noxious dust lining the nostrils). I leveled the ground and re-purposed some slates (that Ian had made into a path) for my tiny patio, carried in one of our director's chairs, and voila: forest at my city house. 

One Tree Woods!

27 August 2013

Maybe I'm Not So Unusual After All

This article in the New Yorker (which I don't seem to be able to forward in its entirety, or maybe even at all) isn't about cancer, but it sure does hit home about chronic disease. 


26 August 2013

In the Dark of the Night

Fortunately for us up here in Seattle, particularly when we’ve been spending several months immersed in an existential crisis, the dark of summer nights doesn’t last all that long. I can tell the season is changing, though: catalogues full of fall fashion are cluttering our mailbox almost daily, for one thing. I’m happy about this, as fall is my favorite clothing season, and I’m going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe this year. A year ago fall I weighed about 30 pounds less than I do right now (which was obviously too little for long-term sustainability), and I’m eager to fill my shelves with new trendy and commodious garments. This may even extend to shoes; I’ve had a recent meeting with a podiatrist (Dr Floyd) for the first time in 30 years, and have ordered orthotics to help slow the growth of my walnut-sized bunions and, more to the point, reverse the increasing hip pain I’ve been enduring due to an ill-aligned foundation (flat-as-flippers feet).

One benefit I've garnered from several months away from Western cancer treatment in that I have found the spare energy to go into a new clinic situation. It was such a pleasure to talk to a professional who was happy to see me as a plain ol' live person with plain ol' solvable issues. I think Dr Specht sees me more like a ticking time bomb. She had finally found the right wire to cut and was ready to clip it and step back for a huge sigh of relief when, like any grade school bully, I snatched her toy away from her right before her final move. I am mixing metaphors and using poetic license here--she know my body is mine and I get to choose what I believe is right for it. But she also worries.

I had an appointment with Dr Specht at 4:00pm Thursday afternoon, and this appointment had been weighing increasingly on my mind, my heart, and my spirit. I’d been living with an accelerating, anxiety-inducing, almost debilitating dread of what she might tell me that day (this even though, aside from the dread and anxiety I can’t squeeze off, I’ve had a glorious summer). I chose to stop treatments last February in part because my intuition told me to, and in part because I was roundly sick of them, but also so that I could build a little bit of vacation from that reality. One thing I’ve learned over several years of far-flung travel is that stepping out of one’s day-to-day existence offers a chance to look at one’s life philosophically. Who am I far from triggers and habits? What of this travel-person would I like to keep upon my return? I decided that this year, the year that I’m 40 and on the top of my life’s theoretical curve, I wanted to be mostly at home. I wanted to see what intangibles I’ve kept from my travels across the world, and see if I could figure out how to recreate the benefits of stepping away from my triggers and habits, while staying in them.

This has been far, far more difficult than finding a bus on River Road in Nairobi or a hotel in the not-touristy-at-all-and-therefore-no-English-is-spoken city of Petchaburi, Thailand. I want to be making health decisions from my whole self—mind/spirit/body—that will benefit my whole self. But I have had a devil of a time finding even a millimeter of distance from my grief and terror and frustration at being a chronic cancer patient. I’ve been hoping that, by taking several months off from the constant triggers of clinics-doctors-infusions-scans, I’d be able to find a blessed bit of objectivity. It’s hard to deal with dashed hopes every three to six months. Year after year.

Wednesday, my day began poorly with a disappointing ear appointment. One of the side effects of the full-brain radiation I experienced in 2008 is that the thin, delicate skin lining my ear canals has become more delicate and, I guess, brittle. After ear infections in China a year and a half ago, bits of bone became exposed in both ears. It’s exceedingly dangerous to have exposed bone in one’s body. The skin is a well-designed rubbery, breathable bandage that, mostly, keeps the blood and guts and bones aseptic as well as contained. The risk of infection really close to the brain is high in the ears. For the past 18 months, I’ve been diligently coddling my ears: ointment daily, Vaseline-soaked cotton balls when I take a shower, earplugs only out of absolute necessity when I’m having a brain MRI (ANYTHING foreign carries a risk of damage or infection). Exposed bone can’t get wet (risk of infection), so I’ve been keeping my head above water except for one leap into the lake this summer (brand new earplugs firmly installed) to celebrate a cousin’s 40th. I’ve been trundling along to my quarterly ear-cleaning and monitoring appointments, mildly uncomfortable with the snooty atmosphere at the UW ENT clinic check-in desk, but gamely continuing so that someday I can shower again without getting grease all over, or leap into a pool, or practice rolling a kayak, or waterski. So I asked Larayne, the NP who does my ear maintenance, what sort of timeline we were looking at here. As it has been a year and a half.

“Well,” she said, “the area of exposed bone in your left year hasn’t changed size in several months. It’s not red around the edge right now, so it doesn’t look infected! The right area of exposed bone is smaller, but see this line of redness here? It’s a tiny bit infected.”

“So . . .” I said, “what does that mean?”

“It’s not healing on its own,” she said. “Remind me, did you have radiation?”

“Yes, full-brain in 2008.”

“Okay,” she said, “that’s right. That’s why we haven’t talked about a skin graft. With the radiation, it’s unlikely it would be able to heal anyway.”

“So . . .” I said, “this is it? I have to keep my ears dry forever?”

That’s what it looks like. My long-term, deeply percolating hope—no, not just hope, BELIEF—that I would, after my months of conscientious ear care, get back my freedom to splash—dashed. I couldn’t fix my ears; how could I continue hoping to fix anything else?

“But you don’t like snorkeling,” Ian said to me, not unreasonably, that evening on the couch after I’d sobbed out my day. “You have said multiple times you wouldn’t want to paddleboard on Lake Union with all the boat traffic.”

“SO WHAT!” I shouted. Misery knows no logic.

I had still not decided whether or not I wanted to hear the results of my blood tests in the clinic the next day. I’d toyed with asking for them to be sealed in an envelope, like the sex of an unborn infant, for me to open in the privacy of my own home, when (and IF) I wanted to. I’d had a first appointment with a psychotherapist earlier in the week, and she had suggested, as a way to begin calming/disengaging my emotional reactions to everything medical, that I imagine holding my brain cradled in my hands. Instantly, I saw my hands out in front of me, my brain, mildly pink and softly glistening in a diffuse glow, resting in my palms. I cried, overwhelmed by the rightness of this suggestion. Later on, as I sat with my brain in my hands and watched it glow, I began to see it at work—synapses firing with a shot of electric pink or indigo light. Calming though it is to spend time sitting still with spirit and intuition and imagination, one must come back to the real world.

Wednesday night, after Ian and Spackle said good night and went to bed, I spread out my oracles around me on the guest room bed (my journal, my two sets of colored pens, my Inner Child Tarot, my I Ching, my quarters, my medicine animal cards). I have found this summer that I like to spread my things out on a thick mattress. The loft in the Dacha, with its wall to lean against and its porthole for fresh breezes and light to read by, is a perfect place to encourage introspection.

I began my self-studies a little after 11:00pm. All oracles pointed to ego, and ego-based wishes. A sure way to be disappointed, this information said, was to yearn for something that you weren’t going to get. What I was yearning for, desperate for—what I have been yearning and desperate for for years—was proof, physical, Western medical PROOF, that I was done with cancer. I wanted it for me, but I also wanted it so that I could Show Them that I could do it on my own. I have kept hoping, as I’ve had each new epiphany about myself and my spirit and how everything works, that THIS EPIPHANY will be the one to free me. Live life in spite of cancer? You got it! Live life using my experiences with cancer as a way to inform others? You bet! Stop treatments and live wholly in the moment? Will do!

Did any of these epiphanies stop the cancer? No. I was sitting right there on the bed in the guest room, wishing my hardest that my tumor markers would turn out to be somewhere in the 20s, as I have done for as long as I’ve known about tumor markers.

You know that wise saying about repeating things that don’t work? And how, if you do that—repeat things, over and over and over, that don’t work—it means you’re crazy? The tear-rusted gears in my brain, bound up from years of devastating disappointment, slowly began cranking.

I am not going to have a tumor marker score in the twenties tomorrow, I thought to myself, my heart aching.  I am not going to have a tumor marker score in the twenties. OF COURSE I am not, I thought. I am not going to have a tumor marker score in the twenties.

So. What now?

As I let that truth sink in and infuse my tired body and my tired soul, a faint mist of light entered into my consciousness. The slightest sliver of a new dawn. I may be on some form of chemotherapy for the next 40 years, yes. But, if I am truly living with my body and spirit integrated, my body will be able to handle that. And now that I know, I KNOW, that my tumor markers will be above the twenties, I can start to think about what I want to do about that—how I want to personalize and customize my cancer treatments—instead of endlessly hoping I won’t have to deal with it anymore.

I spent Thursday without anxiety, getting a new car radio installed and doing a little shopping. When, a little after 4:00pm, I was asked if I wanted to know my blood test scores, I said, calmly, yes. My tumor marker was a little over 100, which strikes me, mostly, as remarkably low considering that the last full infusion I had was in early February, six months ago. I have been doing nothing since but living my life. Sure, my markers have gone up, but not so fast that I don’t have time and space for negotiation.

“Here’s what I want,” I said to Dr Susan, who is learning the ropes and helping Dr Specht. “I want to have some scans done in six weeks, when it’s time to get my port flushed. And then I want to discuss customization of my treatment schedule. I’m not like everyone else,” I said, “and I would like to have as little chemo as necessary. Ian and I have started our plans to build on Orcas; perhaps my schedule can be every four weeks instead of every three, and Ian (who would need to be here for work) and I could spend our monthly long-weekend-in-Seattle together. And maybe I’ll have a summer break each year—three months off.”

Dr Susan left; she and Dr Specht came back; scans were discussed; a treatment plan was mentioned with assurances that we would discuss after the scans; and we were done. I’ll be back the first week of October, and we’ll see what happens next.


This latest epiphany—that my only choice for being done with cancer in this lifetime is to integrate it fully into my life (another paradox)—did not bring me the rush of joyful adrenaline that other epiphanies have brought. But it did bring a deep down, low-hum, fundamental relief. 

14 May 2013

May Pictures from Orcas





Start at picture 114 for the latest scenes from the Dacha (https://picasaweb.google.com/nilact/TheDacha?authuser=0&feat=directlink).

25 April 2013

New Pictures From Orcas!

Ian and I spent last weekend on Orcas. The Dacha is finally in a place of enough completion that we can leave it be for a bit, and spend some time outside when we're there, and fix it up more when we're truly moved to do so.

Enjoy! https://picasaweb.google.com/nilact/TheDacha#





15 April 2013

Whistle Stop on the Path to Enlightenment


*Note: it took more words than I was expecting to get the following information out there. You might want to piddle, put the kids to bed, make yourself a snack, find a comfortable place to sit, turn on your computer instead of just using your smart phone. You might want to get reading glasses.*

I was lounging in the bath late on a recent afternoon, the water thick with heat and Epsom salts, the spring air ebbing and flowing around my head through the cracked window. I had gone rock climbing in the morning, and had just returned home from a massage. My mind drifted, floating on swirls of energy as my body floated in water and air. I was perfectly primed for an epiphany.

When it came, it was, at first glance, small. The earth didn’t shake, and I didn’t gasp out years’ worth of self-inflicted pain. But I felt something deep inside my heart begin to unwind.

Maybe we put too much energy into trying to find perfect PHYSICAL health, I thought. Maybe what’s more important is actually something else. Emotional health. Spiritual health.

My eyesight is compromised. For a few years now, that’s how I’ve been perceiving my ability to see—as compromised. The degeneration of sight in my right eye, the cyst on my retina that distorts the picture that my brain receives, began with full-brain radiation in 2008, progressed with little or no positive response through various eye treatments (including the oogy injections right into the eyeball), and stabilized sometime last year. A cataract that formed as a result of some of the steroid injections was removed in October and, now that my glasses are updated (normal distance+astigmatism correction in my left lens; progressive distance-to-near+astigmatism correction in the right), I see pretty well. I’ve been assuming all along, since the beginning of the eye trouble, that it would someday reverse, and my eye would go back to the way it was. I had an insight sometime last year that the pocket of fluid represented unshed tears . . . but then, I’ve shed so many tears and it’s still there. Someone suggested that it wasn’t tears, per se, but just a representation of something I hadn’t yet “seen”. Certainly, a distortion of exterior sight can lead to a greater need to recognize insight.

For a few days before my bath, I’d noticed myself expecting my right eye cyst to “heal”, and yet I noticed at the same time that I hadn’t had the same expectation for my long-term nearsightedness and astigmatism to resolve. Why have I been judging one sort of issue as something that I could and should fix, and the other as a non-issue? It’s because the cyst developed because of cancer, and I’ve been trying my level best to heal my body—completely—my body completely—so that I can go on with my life. I’ve been looking for the perfectly healthy body, the perfect score, the 100%, the A+ on the essay, written after missing the entire two-day lesson, with the scrawled note from my Satire and Advanced Comp teacher: I hate gifted kids!

I want to be a gifted kid again!

But . . . bodies are not perfectly healthy. There’s no such thing. Or, instead, bodies are always perfectly healthy, because they are always behaving how they are supposed to behave, for us to learn the lessons and fulfill the contracts we encounter on our life paths. It’s one of the paradoxes of existence: we are perfect exactly the way we are; yet we are in constant flux, working for perfection.

I was talking to my father-in-law at dinner the other night, about a concept I learned in one of my sociology classes at Lewis and Clark (maybe the only concept I learned from my bachelor’s studies). Ian was out of town at a conference and Dan had just arrived back in Seattle after spreading some of Janet’s ashes in the Southwest. We were sober, contemplative, discussing travel in space, as well as travel in time, and I was reminded of the idea of liminality. Liminality, in its most basic definition, refers to a space in between, and often describes the transformational elements of ritual. It’s a transitional space, a threshold between one state of mind and another; one physical place and another. It can be interpreted as the absence of something else—we’ve left Seattle, but we’re not yet in London. Our focus jumps from point to point. The lesson, though, for me, the lesson I learned by learning the concept, is that the spaces between those points, the liminal spaces, can be just as dense with information and experience as the points. But we don’t look there; we’re excited about London.

Taken to its extreme, life itself could be seen as a liminal space, the threshold between two points: birth, and death. All the more important, then, to pay attention along the way.

I recently made the choice to stop cancer treatments. It’s a good time for this decision, if one is looking solely at a snapshot of my physical health. My CTs and MRIs and MUGAs are stable. My blood tests, even the two tumor markers, are all within normal range. I am as healthy as anyone else. My allopaths, Dr Specht and Dr Jason, took the news of my choice gravely. They don’t see the snapshot version of “perfect health;” they see the range, over 14 years, and especially my brush with death in 2008. They have found a medication I’ve responded well to, a safety net, and they would prefer that I stay on it indefinitely. I am humbled, and honored, that they speak honestly with me, and that they accept my decisions with respect. They are both good people, not just excellent physicians.

The trial drug that I had been taking, TDM1 (the trial known, serendipitously, as Amelia, which is what I’d named my self-cooked emulsion of medical marijuana), was approved by the FDA on 22 February. A friend of mine emailed me with the news, saying “I’m sure you already know this, but . . .” but I didn’t—it’s not the kind of thing that I follow. My instinctive reaction upon reading her email, though, was I guess I don’t need this anymore—I’ve done my part.

Drug approval doesn’t automatically end the trial—patients receiving the drug continue to be followed, and the drug continues to be paid for by the research body, so I didn’t need to worry about my insurance balking at the $9000+ cost per infusion. Nevertheless, when I went in for my next scheduled treatment, 28 February, my body told me what my mind had already indicated: I was done. One of the magical aspects of TDM1 and other smart drugs like it is that the side effects are almost exclusively limited to those experienced with Herceptin, the engineered antibody that is the driving force in the molecule. A tiny amount of Emtanzine, the toxic chemotherapy part of the molecule, is released on arrival at the tumor itself. The result is that very few healthy cells are affected by the chemo, and Herceptin has very few associated side effects.

I have been on Herceptin for about nine years all told, and have had no problems with it when my dose is administered over 90 minutes (it can be administered in 30 minutes, but that’s never been comfortable for me). This was true with the TDM1 version as well, until 28 February when, within 10 minutes of beginning my infusion, I began to feel asthmatic and short of breath, as if the infusion rate was too fast. My nurse checked, but the rate was as usual. I went back to my crossword, but within another five or ten minutes, I realized my breathing was rapidly getting worse. My body was rejecting the drug. I was having an allergic reaction! My body was confirming what my intuition said! My nurse turned off the drug, ran some saline, and within 30 minutes I was breathing clearly and my vitals had returned to normal. Dr Specht came up to the infusion room to check on me, worried that I’d had a stroke or a seizure, but I was fine.

The euphoria of this realization—that I could hear and heed my information—faded over the next three weeks, as the potential of this particular information, the gravity of the choice it presented to me, set in.

My decision solidified during the first three weeks of March. I was primed for epiphanies of dislocation and renewal, as we had vacated our home for the month and were living with Friends L&S, and Dog Friend Jessie. We were having our floors redone after 13 years, and I took advantage of the need to move our furniture to take on repainting. Ian and I had stored all our “stuff”—books, clothes, tchotchkes, crap—in boxes in the basement, as the work was all taking place upstairs. We did some culling while we were packing up, but time constraints convinced us to save most of it for moving in.

So, out of home, consciously and physically redecorating, rebuilding, strengthening, reëvaluating. Ian traveled for work a lot in March also, so I didn’t have the family sense of home with me much, either. On a Sunday afternoon in mid-March, I dropped Ian at SeaTac for a week away. That night in bed I thought to myself: what would I do tomorrow if I woke up and I was healed? If I KNEW the cancer was gone? And I thought: I’d do exactly what I have planned—I’d go horseback riding, and then I’d go to Gyrotonic (I’d take a day off from painting!). But then I felt a deep, subtle, insidious fear. I would NEVER know I was healed. A picture of Dr Specht swam across my mind. I sighed, rolled over, went to sleep.

The next morning, Monday morning, I decided to try again. I thought to myself What would I do today if I knew for sure I was healed? And my first response was I would go back to sleep for a couple hours because I am TIRED, and then I’d go to the fabric store nearby and look for something fun for a project I’ve been wanting to do. And then I thought, because I wouldn’t have to prove anything anymore.

Whoa.

A realization of how I’d been living my life for the past 14 years—for my whole adult life, really—crashed over me and left me breathless. I realized that much of what I did during my days I was doing IN SPITE of cancer. I really was. I had tried not to use that language—spite—but I had built a structure around a central core of cancer. A structure of chicken wire and plaster, ornate, magnificent, flamboyant in color and shape and style, infused with cancer throughout. I can travel, I can kayak, I can horseback ride all alone in the woods, with moose and bear and coyotes and cougars and wolves. I can fill my days, my weeks, my years with busy-ness. I built, I created, a fear of rest: a belief that if I allowed myself to be tired, I was allowing myself to succumb. I was allowing myself to fail.

Death by cancer seemed to me to be the ultimate, most useless form of failure—the failure of a smart person who simply didn’t apply herself.

“I’ve built up a structure of chicken wire and plaster,” I explained to Dr Specht on the 21st of March. “Not the best building materials in this climate.”

“But I thought you were living life to the fullest, so well!” she exclaimed, her concern for me, the person, evident in her voice.

I had done that, but therein lies another paradox: I had built a life of things I loved, yes, but I had come to the point where I was doing them with the pugnacious franticness of someone acting increasing reactively instead of thoughtfully. From the beginning, I could have succumbed to cancer and all the excuses it would have offered me to be lazy, to be depressed, to be unproductive. I was 26; my community would have understood if I treated cancer as a tragedy and myself as a victim. I didn’t, though—I looked at cancer and said “NO. You don’t get to control me.” But I realized, within the last few weeks, that I had given it the power to do just that.

Ian suggested a good metaphor the other night. “What you’ve been doing is using a measuring tape to create your life at a distance from cancer,” he said. “You could’ve gone straight to living your life right around it,” he went on, “but instead you’re living your life at various distances from it. It’s still at the center,” he said, “and that’s what you’re trying to change.”

Exactly.

I’ve been keeping up with my Tarot and I Ching and meditation time, and the cards that I’ve drawn or the coins I have tossed have continued to be immediately, substantially, appropriate for my life. Every time I sit down I am offered, should I choose to accept it, insight and guidance from these sources. I accept it. I learned long ago that if I didn’t like a response I should look at why; an extension of that insight is that, if something internal gives me a jolt of fear, I send my consciousness directly there to find out what I’m afraid of. It can be discomfiting to live with this compulsion for self-examination.

I learned more recently to also look at why I liked certain responses. Awareness, rather than mere acceptance, goes both ways. I can trust my oracles no matter what information they provide, and they are helping me learn to trust myself.

During the week Ian was in La Jolla, my untethered soul used his absence to good effect. One evening I drew two cards, the Two of Swords and the Midas Touch. I was having a mental conflict (two of swords), and it was because I didn’t trust myself to make a wish. I was afraid that I would wish, like Midas, for everything I touched to turn to gold, to disastrous effect (he ran to embrace his much-loved daughter, and turned her into a statue of gold). Or more specifically, I was afraid that a wish for health would have disastrous consequences that I hadn’t foreseen. Fear of the unknown. Fear of myself.

The next night, a Wednesday, I made myself—and allowed myself—for the first time, to dive into my definitive, foundational fears. I was very alone; Ian was gone, a person I had asked for assistance had not yet responded, even Spackle had left my side to sleep in the living room. What if I am wrong about the Universe?  What if all this spirit stuff really is bullshit? What if I die? I wrote, gasping and sobbing, in my journal. I’ve built my life around cancer—what would I even do without it? Who would I even be? What if I live and that means I have to get a job to replace cancer, and WHAT IF I HATE THAT JOB??? What if everyone would be happier if I DID die, let the drama of my life fade into the past, as we were, partly, sadly, embarrassingly, relieved when Hoover died? Our lives were so much easier!

It was a true Gethsemane moment for me. I had gone into the darkest of my fears, all alone. I fell asleep, exhausted. Drained. Empty.

The next day I woke from a dream of leaving my favorite lesson horse, Gjinger, tied to a blue horse trailer at an equestrian event. In the quirky way of dreams, the person I notified, so that he could find Teri and have her bring Gjinger back home to Phoenix Farm, was Kenneth Parsell, the NBC page from 30Rock. He showed me a rack of Wranglers that he was going to try, as he had just decided to take up horseback riding. I told him Gjinger was a lovely horse, and maybe he could start with her. In a morning chat with Ian, he suggested that maybe stopping riding for a while—one of the things I was doing in spite of cancer—was a good idea.

I felt quiet, cautious, abraded as I went about my day. I climbed with Friend T, painted more walls back at home. Listened to music. That night, I revisited my journal, read over my crushing fears of the night before, and felt nothing. I had released their power over me. I still felt tentative, my light dimmed, but something suggested tarot. Okay, Universe, I thought, suspiciously. If you’re for real, let me know. I drew four cards.

First was the Archangel Gabriel, who blows the trumpet of Rebirth.

Second, the Four of Hearts, which depicts a shipwrecked mermaid. Her entire focus is on the ruin in front of and all around her. She has not noticed three friends, riding dolphins, on their way to assist her.

Third, Major Arcana card XX, the second to last, in this deck depicting the Three Little Pigs, and symbolizing the need to build a strong house. Brick, on bedrock. Not wire and plaster on shifting sands of ego and arrogance. In other decks, this card is Judgment Day, when Gabriel blows the trumpet of Rebirth. Gabriel, who helps humans unite body and spirit (okay, I get it! Rebirth!). The planetary ruler is Pluto, symbolizing the descent to and return from the pits of Hell.

Fourth, the Eight of Wands: eight fairies in a semicircle around a bonfire, holding their wands into the flames, recharging them as they invoke the birth of a new consciousness.

Okay, FINE, I wrote in my journal. You are out there. Guidance exists. I laughed, but a bit grimly. I had been through a lot.

That Friday, I had a great ride on Gjinger, then I told Teri I was going to be taking some time off from riding to revisit my life. I planned to rebuild my structure with the materials that I wanted to use—not in spite of cancer, but completely unrelated to it. The more portentous choice was the decision to go off of chemotherapy.

I had wondered, briefly, if I could separate, emotionally-spiritually-mentally, CANCER from CANCER TREATMENT. Some of me agreed with Dr Jason and Dr Specht, and wanted to hold onto the safety net. In the cancer treatment world, an allergic reaction to a drug doesn’t end the game—you add medication. You take pre-meds. Benadryl or Decadron to turn off your body’s reactionary instincts. But I realized that I could not separate the disease from the treatment. The idea of adding a medication to make my body accept one it clearly didn’t want made me feel ill, thick in the gut. If I were going to demolish my life so that I could rebuild a solid structure truly representing me, then I really needed to get to bedrock. That meant pick ax, sledge hammer, pressure washer, chisel, scrub brushes, and a lot of mental elbow grease. That meant almost nothing even tangentially associated with cancer.

Getting down to bedrock and restructuring meant, as well, recognizing as many possible outcomes as I could, and trusting, trusting, that any one of them, or even ones I couldn’t imagine, would be okay.

If I truly don’t need chemotherapy anymore, and I’ll live another 40 years without it, and without dealing with cancer, that will be okay. Maybe I get a job, but it will be a fulfilling one that I will love. That will be okay. Maybe, instead, I’ll find a focus, a job, that I need to do, but the cancer comes back, and the only way to continue doing my job is to begin chemotherapy again. That, too, will be okay. Maybe, instead, I will find that the cancer returns, and that I can’t bear the thought of resuming treatment, and I die. Even that will be okay. If I am truly doing my best to know myself, and choose according to that knowing, it will be okay.  

As for the cyst in my eye, the pale, slightly bowed line across the right side of my chest, the lumps on my left shin, the snip of a scar on my scalp, the divot on my cheek, the gray in my hair, the ache in my thumbs—these are badges of honor, of experience, of success. These are signs of a perfect body.

I have a limited amount of time here, in this body, on this Earth. I don’t know when that end point is, but I intend to learn, and create, and pay attention to, and marvel at, and mourn, and revel in, and ruminate on, all the elements of the transition of life on this planet--all the elements that I am fortunate enough to encounter--to the best of my evolving abilities.

I trust that I will continue the breathless joy of my implausibly spectacular ride, and I trust that the end will come at the right time. 

06 April 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

We've had a couple of pretty gorgeous spring days here in the Northwest, and I've been lucky enough to get to capture some of the beauty. March was a month of intense physical labor for me--I repainted rooms and ceilings and washed and touched up trim (with the help of a cousin one day, which was a welcome relief), and spent a lot of time either on my knees or with my arms straight above my head. I have many aches and pains right now, and am thinking that the next time we paint, years from now, I might just hire it done. Because, I'll be 50 then. Yep, we'll be hiring painters. 

I have enjoyed meandering around with my camera, now that the heat of home improvement has lessened for the time being. Someday I'll post pictures of our house in its new clothes, but for now, FLOWERS!








 The day I took the previous two pictures Ian and I ran into someone else *also* with camera, also marveling at the glory of blue and pink. We all gushed together about our good luck.


 Japanese maple just unfurling. 

 This beautiful thing lives in our yard. It's a manzanita. Aren't we lucky?


Dog of the Manzanita. Ian took this shot. 



Past the peak of cherry blossom season. 

 Spackle enjoying an afternoon at the park. 

 Illicit fetch. Woodland Park was crawling--or rather, leaping and racing--with illicit fetchers today. 

I just love the color of this. 

HAPPY SPRING!