Friday, May 25, 2012


In previous posts, I have mentioned that I had the good fortune to be treated at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance which includes the world renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  We, in the Seattle area, take great pride in the ground-breaking research done at "The Hutch" and the Nobel Prizes they have been awarded. It has been a blessing, indeed, to have been treated by Fred Hutchinson doctors and have a center of this caliber so nearby. I am eternally grateful to the doctors and staff at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Here is a link to their website and an article about their pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation:

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Monday, May 21, 2012

Being Fully Alive

 It has been nearly 17 months since my stem cell transplant and I am in remission.  I am feeling well and regaining my energy and trying to rebuild my stamina.  Some of the time I am  more like myself and less like the person who has been “inhabiting my days” and feeling lost in her illness.  Recently, I had highlights put in my hair and, just like magic, I looked like who I was before chemotherapy destroyed my hair.  It seems like a trivial thing, but it felt comforting to look in the mirror and see me.

At our last Survivorship seminar, Finding Hope, Meaning and the New You, the facilitator started out by reading this poem:

Fully Alive
 By Dawna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.  I will not live in
   fear of falling or catching fire.  I choose to
inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
   to make me less afraid, more accessible, to  
   loosen my heart until it becomes a wing,
      a torch, a promise.  I choose to risk my
significance; to live so that which came to me as a
seed goes to the next as blossom and that which
      came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.

I am beginning to feel that I am at a point when I am ready to "inhabit my days" as the poem says.  If I am being honest, I know haven’t been doing it very well yet.  The days seem to slide by and I find it hard to get excited about much and I wonder what, if anything, I am accomplishing.  Then I begin thinking about the fact that my life is likely to be shorter than I thought and it troubles me that I am wasting precious time.  

In a recent blog post, Andrew Schorr of Patient Power made a powerful statement that has given me inspiration:

Yes, it can be tiring to tell people one after another that you are okay, that you are feeling hopeful about the future, and that you are determined to live every day to its fullest. But I know they are asking out of love. And, beyond that, it is a “teachable moment.” We patients, as we continue to live life, are proof that treatments can work and that our determination to live and live well matters. We can give other people hope just by showing up . . . 

Setting an example of hope for other cancer patients is something I feel responsible to do. Thank you to Andrew for helping me recognize this.  Knowing that Geraldine Ferraro's multiple myeloma story gave me hope is another compelling reason. (See February post)  I think this may be something I could get excited about and my hope is that as I feel better and my energy level rises, I will become “fully alive” and start making good use of the time I have to make a difference.

Link to Andrew Schorr’s blog on Patient Power:

Just for fun, I would like to share this picture of the Space Needle in Seattle.  It is 50 years old this year and to commemorate the anniversary, they have painted the top the original Galaxy Gold. When I was 16, I had the privilege of attending the opening day of the Century 21 Seattle World's Fair and what a memorable day it was.  I think the Space Needle is still a futuristic and magnificent sight all these years later. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

“No Drama” Continues

Last Thursday, I had my monthly appointment with my oncologist and I had my Zometa infusion.  WBC and RBC were up slightly and Kappa and Lambda light chains from last month were in the normal range.  The best part was that my doctor said there is nothing that he is worried about.  So, that means I am not going to worry until my next appointment in June!  No drama . . . 

There is a Livestrong exercise program at the YMCA and it is in conjunction with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  I have been planning to begin the next twelve week session in June. However, when I received information in the mail today,  I was disappointed to see that being diagnosed with multiple myeloma appears to disqualify  me from the program.  It is the only cancer listed as a disqualifier and I am sure that is because multiple myeloma affects the bones.  I called the coordinator to see if that disqualification was cast in concrete or if they made exceptions.  I explained that I have had no bone issues since I was diagnosed.  She said she will check with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  They have all my records since it was their medical team that treated me during my stem cell transplant.  I do hope I can begin this program. 

Their tag line is:  
 Livestrong at the YMCA – Exercise and Thrive 

In my post entitled, Start Walking CL, I set some goals to inspire me to get back into my walking routine: 

Goal #1:   Walk for 20 minutes 3 times a week.
Goal #2:   After two weeks, increase number of   
                walks to 4 times a week.

I happy to report that I am accomplishing those goals and I know it is because I put them out there for you to read and I feel obligated to be successful!  Thank you for being a reader and helping to keep my feet to the fire!

Update on The Fledgling  

While I haven’t seen my little fledgling again, I can report that the mother bird has begun nesting again.  At first, she tried to build a nest in a different part of the wisteria.  She wasn’t finding much success, so she has started refurbishing the old nest.  This morning while I was having breakfast on the porch, she was coming and going with nest building materials and working on the nest.  I tried very hard, without success, to get a picture of her with her beak full of grass and straw and twigs.  All of this activity took place about five or six feet from where I was having my breakfast.   It was another one of those small moments that are to be treasured.

Mother's Day

Yesterday, my daughter made me a lovely breakfast for Mother’s Day and we enjoyed it on the porch surrounded by the fragrant wisteria. Another small moment to treasure. 

Here I am enjoying toast, coffee and a perfect soft boiled egg in a beautiful egg cup:

This has been a week of No Drama and I love it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Fledgling

Last week at my Survivorship class the topic was coping with the emotional aspects of Survivorship.  After an insightful look at this phase of the cancer journey, our instructor gave us a homework assignment.  She asked us to consciously pay attention to small moments and she gave the example of enjoying the aroma of fresh ground coffee and focusing on it for at least 10 seconds.  The next day I had one of those moments and it gave me such a sense of peace that it has been with me since.


 We have a lovely, old wisteria vine that frames part of the porch on our house.  Over the years, the wisteria has been home to families of robins.  This year we had another nest tucked up under the eaves and hidden by the cover of wisteria.  We could see the mother robin coming and going from the nest with grass and other nest building materials, but we couldn’t actually see the nest.  It wasn’t long before we saw the birds coming and going with worms in their beaks, so we knew that the babies had hatched and if we were outside, we could hear the twittering of the babies. 

Last Friday, I looked out back and saw this fledgling robin sitting on the back of our bench.  I know he must have flown from the nest and not fallen because he was perched comfortably on the bench.  He sat there for the longest time and seemed to be surveying the world.  I wondered if he was thinking, “Now, what do I do?”  As he sat there, I noticed his mother in the yard with a worm in her beak.  I watched to see what she would do and, sure enough, she flew over to the bench and perched next to her baby and fed him the worm. Mom quickly flew off but the baby stayed.  I left my bird-watching post and when I came back, the fledgling was gone. I am pretty sure he flew safely away because I searched the area near where he had been perched and there was no sign of him.  According to Wikipedia, fledglings stay around their parents and beg for food and the parents watch out for their safety for few days.  After about two weeks, the little birds are expert fliers. I pray that my little fledgling is well and successfully beginning his new life.  What a beautiful small moment this was. 

Savoring small moments seems to be more poignant to me since I have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  My diagnosis of an incurable cancer has changed me in many ways. For example, I often feel that I have lost myself and who I used to be and I struggle to keep in perspective that this cancer is NOT who I am. 

Not all of the changes have been negative, however, and I can clearly see that treasuring the poignancy of small moments is a positive change that can help lead me to a sense of inner peace.   

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
                                                - William Blake