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Entering The Rest

My days meander now.
Sure, there’s the occasional appointment to attend to,
or some “chore” that needs to be done.
But in this new found freedom of
unstructured hours that are quickly
turning into weeks
which will, eventually, I suppose,
turn into months,
I find a softness I didn’t know I had
or forgot I had.

It shows up in my mid day nap
or when I suddenly look at the clock
and realize
it’s 1:00 p.m. and I’m still in my jammies.

Juxtapositioned against this softness
is the fact that I’m physically busier now
than I ever was while sitting at a desk
I move, on and off all day long

My movements ebb and flow like the tides.
And my body has found
relaxation in this movement
In the bending and lifting and plucking and walking about
of an ordinary day at home
filled with things that heal
Cooking
Gardening
Walks outside
Home making
Showering and oiling my body with herbal medicines

How gentle my weekdays have become
when I’m home alone
away from the stress and
dysfunction of my workplace

How beautiful the quiet…
How gorgeous the day spent without another sound
except the chirping of birds
or the tea kettle’s whistle
or some distant neighbors lawn mower

I have so much to be grateful for!

It is said that God gives Joy in the Present Moment.
I believe that.
When I don’t think about “what was”
And I stay away from “what might be”
I find a river of Joy
Flowing through  my soul.
And where there is Joy
there is peace
And where there is peace
there is rest.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to
be sick or to die
in order to rest.
The heavy labor is over
The burden has been lifted
My job is to make sure
I don’t pick it up again

It is well with my soul.

Broken Open

3 weeks.

It’s hard to believe that’s how long it’s been since my last post.

Here, at the end of Week 3, I am beginning to feel really good.  Any discomfort is manageable (although I miss being able to lay on my tummy).  The bruising is subsiding.  And the incision is closing nicely.

I’m spending my days taking care of myself.  Been getting out for my daily walks again this week, and I spend a lot of time cooking as I experiment with healthy, cancerass-kicking recipes.  My garden is thriving under my now-more-consistent-care, my home is getting mini organizational makeovers, and – if you take the whole “C” word out of the equations – I feel very peaceful and in love with this new softer paced life.

Here I am in that Grace Period between What Was and What Will Be – which, at least initially, involves another surgery one week from today.

This isn’t a bad thing.  I was amazingly relieved to learn that the sentinel nodes that were removed did not contain any cancer cells.  And while the tissue my doc removed was larger than expected, (one tumor was 2mm, the other area 6mm) she was able to get a “clear margin” of 1mm around it all and keep my breast looking very “normal”.  Perky, even.

It’s just that 1.5mm to 2mm is the gold standard where margins are concerned, so Friday she’ll reexcise through the original incision and remove a little more tissue.  Widen the DMZ, so to speak.

And hey – I’m good with that.  For one thing, she’s not looking for something new, praisethebabyJesus.

But more importantly is that this second surgery delayed the chemo timeline and gives me more time to figure out what the HELL I want to do.

This is where my heart is broken open before God.  See, I can face anything if I know that it’s The Divine Plan.  But I gotta KNOW.  I mean, that kind of knowing that gives you peace, even if it means facing the fires of hell.

And in this case, that’s a pretty accurate description.

Once I learned that women were dying in large numbers from what I have without the current treatments available, I’ve not been so quick to throw those treatments out with the Side Effect Ladened bathwater.  Breast Cancer isn’t a one-size-all deal.  It’s not just about “Stages”.  There are a half dozen types of actual cancer pathologies with another handful of characteristics that make up the full diagnosis.  These cover everything from indicators on what the tumors are sensitive to, to genetic risks to aggression numbers.

But.  Right now?  The tumors I had are GONE.  They were successfully removed and when the nodes are clear, there is a very low possibility the cancer has metastasized somewhere else.   So, anything I do from this point is to try to keep it from coming back, and to kill any little floaters that escaped that may….MAY….be somewhere in my body.

Basically, it’s all a fucking crap shoot.

So what is “easier”?  Where are my intentions and prayers and visionings best placed?  To believe for my complete healing and remission by just accepting the surgery and taking my chances?  (Well, along with dietary/lifestyle changes and supplements and whatever else I can think of…)

OR, would my faith be better placed in the recommended treatment plan – a plan that has proven to be very successful –  and just pray to God that I can jump over all the potential issues caused by the 4 treatments themselves?  Each of them – chemotherapy, Herceptin, radiation, and some sort of aromatose inhibitor – is reported to have some pretty icky side effects,  although not everyone experiences them and some are temporary (hair loss, for example).

I’ve learned that many of the potential side effects have to do with the HEART….which is kind of interesting.   I come to feel that with this being in my left breast and all, the cancer metaphysically morphed as a result of heart related issues.  The SOUL kinda heart, not the organ.  Things like betrayals, self sacrificing, over nurturing of others, stress and a deep soul tiredness.

Do I have what it takes to believe that I will be one of  lucky/blessed/graced/fortunate/protected ones 4 times over? Or, will the surgery and my own efforts – with God’s blessing – be enough to keep the wolves at bay?

That is the question that I must answer, and that I carry around me with me every moment of every day.  My hope is that when the time comes when I MUST decide, I will know.

breast

In Honor

  

Later today, the doctor will be cutting out a piece of my breast.  3 cm, more or less.  The size of a kiwi or a Roma tomato.

 Maybe smaller if all the prayers have worked….

I just finished my “antibacterial” shower, the second in less than 12 hours (doctors orders) and applied the Lidocaine patch.  The patch needs to be in place 6 hours before the lymphatic mapping procedure at 11:00, where they will inject me with a blue contrast material and after which I might have a little after glow going on that might make me look gray around the gills.

The nurse told my husband not to worry…I might look like I’m not breathing, but it’s just the dye.  Awesome.  It will go great with the gray hoodie I’m wearing.

*sigh* It will be a long day at the medical center.  I have to be there at 8:30 for the needle localization…a procedure where they insert “needles” into my breast as markers for the surgeon.  This will give her the tumor coordinates, so to speak.  Surgery is scheduled for 1:30 and I’m thrilled that they keep telling me I will be ready to go home at about 4:00.

As I washed myself a few minutes ago, touching my breast with healing and compassion for what is to come, I couldn’t help but wonder.  Wonder at this companion I’ve carried with me for 58 years, from tiny bud to full ripe fruit….through the nursing of two babies and sensual delights of an unmentionable number iof lovers.  I’ve loved my breasts and hated them, only to come around full circle to love once again once I realized that they were in jeopardy.  That I  was in jeopardy.

And I couldn’t help but wonder how the surgery will effect the way my breast will look and feel….what angle the scar will take and whether or not the change will be obvious to others.  It will definitely be smaller but my doc has assured me that she will make the shape as “nice” as possible.  Having a female surgeon, and an excellent one, gives me great confidence.  She gets it, in a way no man ever could.

Naturally, prayers have been going forth that the cancer be obliterated…the tumor shrunken like a dark brown raisin under a white hot sun….leaving a fresh healthy margin in its place.  I’ve been praying that my nodes are clear, and that the surgery itself will be quick and brilliantly successful.

But now…in the early dawn hours as I lie here, cleansed and waiting, I want to thank my breast.  To honor her journey thus far, and to pay homage.  It….I….will not be the same after today.  But I vow to love myself, scars and all, into health and wholeness, with a holy gratitude for the gifts my breast – my entire body – has given to me.

The precious and fragile and resilient and mysterious earthen vessel that houses my soul and makes this journey through physical life possible, I Thank you.  I Bless you.  I Love you.

Amen.

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What A Girl Needs

It’s 3:33 am.

I’m having one of those moments….the type that come upon me on and off through out the day…or night….and leave me feeling very alone.  

One of the unexpected side effects from this journey I’m on is that it’s revealing to me who is really “there” for me, who is kinda sorta “there”, and who is MIA completely.  

It’s showing me who my friends really are…who I can count on and – more importantly – who I can lean on for emotional and spiritual support when times are tough.

Sadly, apparently not that many…at least, not in the way I need right now.  I’m actually getting more encouragement and support from virtual strangers than from my “friends” at the moment. How ironic is that? 

And how grateful I am for these new women in my life.  So very very grateful.  They are literally God sends.  And they get what I am going through because they’ve are either breast cancer survivors themselves, or supported someone who went through it.  Caron.  Elissabeth.  And most recently, Marnie. 

It’s my nature to want to analyze all the “Whys” of things, and this new development in my relationships is no different.  I know my friends love me and want the best for me.  I know this from the depth of my being. But is a 2 hour get together once or twice a month really enough right now? Are they frightened?  Do they think cancer is contagious? Are they too busy or too preoccupied with their own lives to check in with me?

Or do they have in their minds that I don’t need more than that because I am “strong”, and capable and appear to be handling everything OK without their constant emotional support?

I am not discounting the accumulative effects of these bi-monthly visits.  Multiply them by the 3 gals I do this with and it adds up.  I love our times together.

I guess I mistakenly thought that I would have at least one friend who would be at my side, emotionally speaking, walking through this with me a little more closely.  A little more consistently with, say, a text message very now and then.  A phone call during the inbetweens.  An email  to say, “How is your day going?”

I mistakenly thought they would act like I would if the tables were turned.

This is a HUGE eye opener for me.  This is one of those things that alters you forever, because it shows you the true nature of things.  Truth sets you free, but sometimes it hurts like hell first.   My relationships are undergoing a radical transformation as well as my body and my soul.  And rightly so, in the Big Scheme Of Things.    It will be the ones who didn’t leave me to face this alone, who didn’t wait for me to reach out to them for “help”, but took the initiative to move towards me that I will be bonded to.  That I will remember and put my trust in.  That I can count on.

I may be a strong capable woman, but I have moments of fear and dread when I feel anything but courageous.  Especially as things get closer.  How I long for someone I could call anytime of the day, and say, “I m having a meltdown here!  I don’t want to so this!” And have them be there for me…to cry with me and pray with me and hold me until the storm passes.

No one in my immediate circle has gone through an illness like this.  But if and when they do, I will know…from the depth of personal experience….how important being there will be.  And I will be there.  I will do the things for them that I wished someone had done for me.

And today, I will spend more time cultivating these new friendships that have come into my life…women who have told me they are there for me…really there for me…24/7.   I will reach out and let them know how I am feeling, because I know they are available and I know they care.  

Thank you, Mother, for bringing these women into my life.  They have come to be my sisters.  The sisters I never had.  You heard my prayers. 

And thank You for being here with me as well, especially as my own mother is essentially absent.  I need my Mom right now, and You are always here for me, when no one else is.