Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chinese Proverb

You can only go halfway
into the darkest forest;
then you're coming out
the other side.
                               Chinese Proverb

When I read this proverb for the first time, I thought it was such a simple idea and it is.  However, the metaphor can be profound for a cancer patient/survivor.  

As I was beginning my multiple myeloma journey, it felt exactly like I was in a dark forest that was spread out around me in all directions with no pathway into the light.  I remember feeling that for the rest of my life I would be moving through the darkness of an incurable illness.  I soon found out that I wasn't traveling alone and there were shafts of light filtering through the darkness of the forest.  My family and friends and medical community surrounded me with love and support and gave me hope that I  had life beyond the darkness ahead of me.  I wish I had the benefit of the wisdom of this proverb at the beginning of my odyssey.

Reaching the halfway point in the dark forest happened for me several months ago and this summer I have reached the edge and stepped into a light filled  meadowI have regained so much strength and stamina and my recent trips to Denver and Boston have given me a sense of normalcy that has been completely absent for the last two and a half years.  I know that my new normal is a life re-invented, not the way I would have imagined, but it is the life I have.  

In this new re-invented life, I have found myself to be a stronger person who is less troubled by the small things that used to cause  me to worry and fret.  I do think I am enjoying and savoring the small things much more than I did in the past, realizing they are the "frosting on the cake" in so many instances.  I have always cherished my family and friends, but even those relationships have been greatly enriched by this journey through darkness into the light.  

On top of all this, I feel well.

Photos to share . . .

 The view of Boston from our 15th floor room.

Boston at night with a crescent moon - again, from our room.

Historic Faneuil Hall in Boston

Make Way for Ducklings
Boston Commons 

 John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Update . . .

Sadly, I have to report that Romola Robin left her nest in our wisteria and didn't return.  My hope is that she realized that the eggs would not hatch and she is safe.  My son, Tyler, reached up into the wisteria and took this beautiful but sad picture.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Random Thoughts

Regaining strength and stamina has really made a difference in my day to day life and I find myself with more energy and endurance to do things throughout the day. I am attending my exercise class and I can even have a dinner party and not feel wasted the next day!  All of this new found vitality has done wonders for my emotional and mental outlook as well.  I am holding my own with no big health issues right now and it is a blessing to not be obsessing over all things medical.   For my post today, I thought I would share some random thoughts. 

Good Angel . . . Bad Angel

Do you remember those cartoons where the character, maybe Sylvester the Cat (my favorite), was deciding what to do and there would be an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other trying to convince him to do the right thing or wrong thing?  I have found myself having a scenario like that going on in my head lately, only I like to think of it as my Good Angel and Bad Angel.  I can sometimes hear the Bad Angel telling me to worry about my myeloma and to have negative and gloomy thoughts.  However, as soon as I let those thoughts creep in, my Good Angel steps in and says, “Stop it! You are in remission and doing well and you need to enjoy each day that you have.”  I have had a few of these skirmishes lately, but the Good Angel is prevailing!  There was a time in the not too distant past when the Bad Angel would have been in charge. I think my Good Angel is winning because I am feeling so much stronger.

Going to Boston

On Monday I will be flying to Boston BY MYSELF to attend the Alpha Delta Kappa Northeast Regional Conference.   My recent trip to Denver for the Northwest/Southwest Regional Conference did so much to rebuild my self-confidence, that I know this event will help to strengthen it even more.  My diagnosis of multiple myeloma and the surgery, radiation, chemo, stem cell transplant and recovery had made my self-confidence disappear and I have never felt more vulnerable.  Regaining self-confidence is a major step in finding me again.

Best Friends Forever

This past week I had a birthday party for my oldest and dearest friend, Darlene.  We had a lovely dinner on our porch surrounded by a beautiful and fragrant wisteria vine. The birthday cake was strawberry shortcakes made with local berries and placed together on a platter.  

Darlene and I have known each other since seventh grade and have been best friends forever.  We shared high school years and college years and even our teaching careers in the same school district.  We have been spending New Year’s Eve together since 1973 when my son was an infant.  She, too, has health issues that keep her home most of the time.  I visit her every Friday and we never run out of things to talk about, especially during an election year – we are both political junkies!  She has been a great support to me during my illness and I don’t know what I would do without her friendship.


We have another nest in our wisteria right near where our table is on the porch.  A faithful mother robin, who my daughter named Romola, is sitting on the nest.  We are expecting the babies to hatch any day now.  She has no fear of us and is not bothered when we are sitting at the table and having dinner.  I feel honored that she has accepted us into her world.

Our Home

With our unusually wet spring this year, our yard has been especially lush and green.  I love the color scheme of our house at this time of year because it goes so well with the many shades of green and flourishes of coppery reds.  We have lived in this house for 38 years.

Savoring Small Moments 

Edison, Washington is a tiny hamlet in the Skagit Valley near Puget Sound.  It is small and quaint and delightful.  Today, my daughter, Marisa, and my dear friend, Laurel and I made the 45 minute drive to Edison.  

Our first stop when we arrived was to the fabulous Bread Farm Bakery where I bought crusty bread and the best hamburger buns ever.  From there we moved down the block to Tweets, pictured above, which is located in a ramshackle old building that is just oozing charm.  All of their food is locally sourced and the menu changes daily.  We enjoyed cappuccinos and shared a scrumptious blueberry, raspberry, lemon custard filled brioche topped with marscarpone whipped cream.  Yum!

We weren't finished!  After savoring the ambiance and flavors of Tweets, we went on to Slough Foods where they sell wonderful cheeses, meats and various wines, olives, olive oil and other enticing delights.  They also serve lunch on a patio that overlooks Edison Slough.  We couldn't resist!  Lunch consisted of a small cheese sampler, salami sampler and ham and Gruyere on baguettes.  Of course, we each had a glass of wine to toast being together and savoring the small moments of this beautiful day.
The Patio at Slough Foods

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Aislinn Striking a Pose

In my post, The Fledgling, I spoke of my Survivorship class and our instructor giving 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.  I went on to tell about a fledgling robin who had left the nest in our wisteria vine creating for me one of those moments and how it gave me such a sense of peace.

Two nights ago my nearly 17 year old cat, Aislinn, provided another small moment to savor.  I was talking on the phone with my daughter when I looked down and saw Aislinn striking this pose.  It made me laugh to see her in this cozy position, not asleep, but with her eyes wide open. My daughter and I hung up so I could take the picture with my IPhone and send it to her.  We both enjoyed this small moment and, apparently, so did Aislinn because she stayed that way for quite a long time.  She may be old, but she is still flexible!

Thank you to Dom and Nan for your post about your kitties. I enjoyed reading it and it inspired me to write this post about Aislinn.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Finding Me Again

I am feeling better, both physically and mentally, than I have since being diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  My energy and stamina seem to be increasing, I feel well and, dare I say it, I am beginning to feel like me again.

Last week I flew to Denver BY MYSELF, got on the shuttle at the airport and made my way to the Inverness Conference Center for the Northwest/Southwest Regional Conference of Alpha Delta KappaStill feeling a bit nervous, I told my husband that I wished I was home when I called him that evening.  Of course, that was upsetting to him.  However, by the next day I was enjoying myself and rejoicing in seeing my friends from around the country.  With each day of the conference I felt more self-confidence and it felt like my life was getting back to normal.  

Recognizing that normal now includes multiple myeloma, it is still good to be  back doing things that were an important part of my life for so many years.  I have attended numerous Alpha Delta Kappa state conventions, regional conferences and international conventions since becoming a member in 1978 and it was tremendously comforting to be doing it again and feeling well. Multiple myeloma can't take that away from me. 

At the end of the conference, I felt like I had passed a major milestone and that I will be able to easily get on a plane to fly to Boston in two weeks to attend the Northeast Regional Conference of Alpha Delta Kappa.  I won't be nervous to be going by myself  and I don't think I will be telling my husband that I wish I was home as soon as I arrive.

I am off to the YMCA for the Livestrong Exercise and Thrive program........ 

I am back from a good workout at the YMCA.  Up until now it has been so hard to make myself start exercising, but this program is great.  We each have our own exercise plan and we track our progress online.  It is motivating and just what I needed.  I have high hopes that I will get myself into better shape and even lose some weight along the way.

Yesterday, I noticed that my breathing was stronger and I began to wonder if my week in the high altitudes of Colorado had helped. Apparently, Olympic athletes train there to help with their endurance and strength.  I won't be turning into an Olympic athlete any time soon, but I do feel stronger.

I had my monthly oncologist appointment today and my blood counts are holding their own AND I don't have to see the doctor again for two months and that means I don't have to worry for two months! 

Realistically, I know I will probably continue to have ups and downs, but right now things are going well and I feel as though I am moving forward with the wind at my back and I am finding me again. 

In Castle Rock, Colorado with Brent

After the conference, my husband and daughter flew to Denver and we spent a few days with our niece, Tova, and her son, Charlie.  What a special time it was.  Charlie will be three in September and he is quite the dinosaur expert.  We wish they would move home to Washington State!