Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life & Death

From Elizabeth Edwards, "Resilience": "Could there be a reason to die? 'No' is the obvious answer, and it would be easy for me to say the conventional no, there is no reason to die. But if you had lost a child--as I had two weeks short of eleven years before I sat in that hospital room waiting for the results of the bone scans--you might see it a different way. Death looks different to someone who has placed a child in the ground. It is not as frightening. In fact, it is in some way buried deep within you almost a relief...It is not a death wish. It is an appreciation that there might be in death some relief that life itself could never offer."


She lived for 6 years after her first diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer.

I'll bet you thought about me when you heard the news of Elizabeth's passing. Well, if you didn't, then I thought lots about me for you! Her death brought up lots of fear for me and I kept rereading her book in order to see hints of differences between us....differences that I would take to mean that what happened to her wouldn't happen to me. When I realized I'd been going down that road, I told Geoff about my fears and cried.

I've been going to an aftercare support group through WomenCare twice a month. It was nice to be able to talk about Elizabeth's passing with other women in the same position as me. I know that my life and death are not totally in my own control and that there is a plan for me and that whatever happens will be for the best but I really want to will myself into Life.

The quote I copied above from Elizabeth Edwards' book, "Resilience", touched me deeply because I've experienced depression and know what it feels like to see death as a relief. I want to stay as far away from depression as possible. I want to believe that Elizabeth had many more stresses than I ever have had and so maybe I won't die in 6 years because I don't need to seek relief from the pain of a straying husband and a buried son...

Since I am facing another scan next month, it's natural that Elizabeth's death hit me hard. I've had thoughts about the coming year and all the new business that will come to me and yet I wonder if instead of life going on like it always does, my life will change again to one of chemo, challenge and dread. I have an appointment with my oncologist at the end of the year to discuss the next series of tests I need to take.

I know that I can't believe that my thoughts totally control my reality because if I get a recurrence, it cannot be my fault. But I'm finding myself doing things this week that seem like the things I've always done to try to live into my 90's like both of my grandmas: Diet, exercise, gratitude.

So I joined a gym and am enjoying all the classes and exercise. I even got Aimee to join me there. I love yoga - today I had the thought that if I really stick with yoga, I can push away death because it helps me really listen in to my body and take better care of it... I also enjoy all the machines and circuit and zumba. I go after walking with Geoff or I go on rainy days or when Geoff's not available to walk. Today I'm picking up Aimee and going there with her after school.

I know I sound morbid but those thoughts for someone in my position are only natural. Truly when I am in a good place mentally, I check in with my body and can feel that I'm all clear and the next scan will just confirm that. I've been taking good care of myself and feel strong.

I'm joining an 8 week writing class starting in January. Hobbies are another thing that keep me going and enjoying every day. Writing is something I love doing but want to do it more regularly.

I am listening to tons of audios online that inspire me and keep me thinking positively. I found an authentic Kabbalah teacher, Shifra Hendrie, who has lots of interviews recorded online, some free, some not. I highly recommend listening to her classes. Her own story about her journey to Chabad is really fascinating and awesome.

Next Monday we are flying to Palm Springs for a week with my parents and Rachel. We are all looking forward to our time together. Jason will unfortunately be getting his wisdom teeth out, but it will be at my Dad's office, so that takes the edge off. Looking forward to seeing my parents again (haven't seen them since August), relaxation, good reading, movies, and eating great food.

I hope you all had a Light & miracle-filled Chanukah and wish you all a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

I'll keep you posted on my next scan results.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Critic

After writing that naturopath, I felt better. She never responded but writing her was a step I had to take to further my commitment to speaking up. I don't need an apology. I just want her to be aware of silly people like me who avoid reality.

Last week I read somewhere that carbonless paper gives off BPA's - the same estrogen-mimicking-thing that's in plastics. I freaked. Every week I use carbonless paper to do my deposits and write out my checks, plus most receipts we receive from the stores are written with carbonless paper!

So I go to scrambling on the internet for the old blue carbon stuff to write out deposits and checks (can't find it anywhere). I start being in fear of whatever's out there that could cause me a relapse. I fear that whatever I'm doing or not doing could cause my death! Then after a few days, I let go and try accept the sad fact that I am not in control of everything.

I am trying to develop that adult, rational voice inside of me that says, "hey, you're doing your best. You're exercising, taking Femara, eating more veggies, and every ache and pain may just be that you are growing older. You do what you can do with the information you have and let the rest go. You are not in control of when you die. You can rest."

Dying is the ultimate letting go. We are not in control of when we die! Even people who never exercised, never ate right and never thought positively live into their 90's. Even people who have smoked and had a triple bypass and a pacemaker and cancer live to their late 80's. Even people who never smoked, ate healthy and were always thinking positive died of lung cancer.

Ultimately, in my view of things, you either die suddenly of some disease or accident or you live a long, long life until you are ready to let go and give up. That's what I'm seeing around me in my own small circle of friends and family. And I know that sometimes, you're never ready to let go of living - and you may have to experience a slow, long, awful physical demise...your own body forcing you to transition...your own body forcing you to let go of control.

I've been feeling more depressed lately and reluctant to speak/write my thoughts. There's a critic inside me when I feel this way that says nothing I do is right, nothing I think is right, I'm not doing enough and am not doing what I should be doing. It's a scared, destructive and pushy voice that thinks I need to listen to it in order to not die and in order to be better and have a better life. A life with no problems...a safe life.

I've come to know this critic inside as the voice I developed as a child to protect myself. It's a childish, moralistic, religious, puritanical voice that views the world in black and white, good and bad, life and death and seeks only perfection. And it's not only pointing its angry finger toward me but also toward whoever else I think is standing in the way of a perfect world.

I'm starting to see that voice as a childish theology. Instead of having the theology of Divine Arms you can rest in, the internalized Parent/Protector is a critical pusher that drives you mercilessly, making you think that's what will keep you safe. In this childish, archaic theology there are no Arms to rest in...yours are the only arms that you can depend on and those arms must be vigilant and working and perfecting yourself and everything always.

And rather than keeping you safe, this inner critic leads you toward your own demise.

I developed tennis elbow and I burned my arm in the oven and I slammed my finger in the door. This voice has been driving me beyond my human boundaries because it's theology doesn't allow for being human because it doesn't allow for a G-d. It only sees religions and differences and the surface of everything. It only sees this world and doesn't see anything else. It only sees all the problems and all the things I need to do to fix them. It's what I get busy for and what I get busy to avoid listening to.

I think that's why I love learning from Hasidic masters. They uncover the humming underneath it all where everything is one and everything is good. The critic doesn't need to scream at me and push me when I hold a mystical, miraculous theology that is deeper than all the surface religions. Surface theologies stay on the surface of things commanding right and wrong, hating differences and other. They really bore me and I think that the worst of them lead to war and hatred and murder and my inner critic gets really angry with them.

When I look at the black hat and the wig and all the other unusual practices of Hasidisic Chabad I don't see difference and other but instead I see something magical and other worldly. I know I'm unusual, but that's how I get my kicks.

This deeper spirituality is where I can rest and be ok with my arm hurting and being myself and slowing down and remembering that death is just a doorway. I can find a voice inside of me that uplifts rather than pushes. This theology shows me what I do right and what I can be grateful for and how nice it is that I'm not in control of everything. It shows me that even the things that seem bad are all good even though they may be bitter.

Everything is good and I can speak and share my thoughts and it's ok if I get long winded here and it's ok my arm hurts and in fact, my arm might be telling me something! I enjoy sharing all of myself when I strengthen my deeper, more adult theology. I can Live with the bitter knowing that there is really only Life. And what a wonderful, beautiful, mystical, magical, miraculous, good, long life it is!

Geoff's family is descending on us next week for T.G. Lot's to be thankful for this year. Hope you all have a great holiday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thermography for Breast Cancer

This is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. It makes me feel kinda weird though and I'm not sure why. Maybe because it seems celebratory in a way. There's a hype to it that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I'm just in a downer mood but I don't think I ever liked the pink ribbon stuff. Seems too froofy for what I went through and am still going through.

What really set me off was seeing that the local nutrition store is having lecturers come and give talks on hormonal therapy. Remember that I went to a natural doctor and got a thermography and was told by her that I didn't have to worry about my breast? Well, she's going to be one of the speakers. I saw that N.D., H.M.C. (Natural Doctor, Homeopathic Medical Clinician?) 2 years before my tumor was 3/4 the size of my breast.

I told Geoff that I wanted to go to her talk and tell my story. Geoff calmed me down by saying, "would you want her to do that to you while you're giving a talk somewhere to promote your business?" Besides, he told me, if you want to confront her, do it in private and face-to-face.

I know I should talk to her but I would rather not stir up all those feelings again. Stirring up bad feelings is what I've been avoiding all my life. Avoiding negative feelings is my specialty and why I ended up with a stage 3 cancer in the first place. I just didn't want to go there. It wasn't her fault. It was me not listening to myself, not wanting to face what I was fearing.

I think thermography might be good for people with no risk. I don't know. If you read all the natural doctors, it's the test that can detect breast cancer before even the mammogram can. That's one of the reasons why i took the test in the first place - 2 years before I took another one. The first one was done by the N.D. I've been talking about and she told me i had nothing to worry about...I went two years more in denial and then started thinking that maybe because her type of thermo doesn't give the photo, it would be better to get my next one with a doc who does give a photo.

When I got the one with the photo, the results said that maybe there was a cause for concern and maybe I should get a mammogram to really find out what was going on because what it showed was that I had something going on that might turn into cancer... So even then, I wasn't told I may have cancer but only something that looks like it could lead to cancer. So, based on that and as scared as I was to get a mammogram (with all the false positives and radiation), I ended up having to get one anyway. By that time, the docs had never seen a tumor as big as mine. I got the prize for being the most in denial of anyone they'd ever seen... Very embarrassing.

My first mammogram was taken 11 years earlier when they told me I'd have to come back in 6 months to see if the suspicious thing they saw had changed. So I was freaking out for 6 months with a 2 year old baby and then after I got pregnant with my 2nd child, I had to go back & get that 2nd mammogram, PREGNANT. Then when they told me it was nothing to worry about, I was freaked by the false positive and having radiation while pregnant and decided - no more.

So I was turned off to mammograms and didn't do anything other than once in awhile going to a doc to get my breast manually checked. Around the
same time as my first thermography, my doc had told me to get a mammogram, so I went to get a thermogram instead. My doc also told me I might have endometrial cancer and got me to do a biopsy... My head was on that instead of my breasts and the scare of endometrial cancer was another false positive by a doctor.

My head was also telling me that people like Mercola (who sends out natural health info by email) were right and doctors were bad, so I went with thermography...Maybe getting a thermo each year earlier on would have charted changes & have alerted me, but still I needed a
mammogram to confirm it, so why waste all that money when you really need to get a mammogram anyway? I guess you could keep getting thermos until something comes up vaguely suspicious but mine shouldn't even have been vaguely suspicious so that's why I would never recommend them. The 2nd thermography just told me that something was looking like it could lead to something!

I just am so much more leery now about natural medicine...I do both though, natural and traditional - keep my bases covered. But when I read too much of Mercola I get afraid of the traditional medicine. I am still on his list and am getting better at looking at his advice but not taking it as the ultimate truth...traditional practitioners only say that
natural medicine is a waste of money - they don't believe in it. But natural doctors make it out like traditional medicine is dangerous and you should never go down that road. Maybe it is dangerous and toxic, but it is saving lives too and has worked better for me than any natural remedy.

For 10 years, I suffered miserably with just doing all natural stuff & only natural stuff. I think doing both is better, at least it has been better for me and I don't like it when the natural people make you frightened of the traditional stuff. People like me don't get help because of all the fear mongering around traditional stuff.

Then again, maybe most people aren't as gullible as me or as ignorant or as stubborn!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Week Before Rosh Hashana

It's been two months since I've written on this website. I think I'm winding down and will probably only write on occasion. I don't have another scan or test until January. For those of you who don't have the time to read this whole update, I've given titles to each part, so you can skip what doesn't interest you.

From S.Y. Agnon's book, "Days of Awe"
"It has been taught: Rabbi Eliezer says, In the month of Tishri the world was created, in Tishri the patriarchs were born, in Tishri the patriarchs died. On Rosh ha-Shanah Sarah, Rachel and Hannah were remembered on high and conceived, on Rosh ha-Shanah Joseph left prison, on Rosh ha-Shanah the bondage of our ancestors ceased in Egypt. In the month of Nisan they were redeemed, and in Tishri they will be redeemed in time to come. [Rosh ha-Shanah 10b-11a]"

Rosh Hashanah always has been a big day for me but ever since being diagnosed right after the holiday, two years ago now, it touches me even deeper. I've been listening to audio after audio from Chabad.org in my car for 3 months straight. It started during the weeks of not listening to music 3 weeks before Av. Learning and learning and learning about the Jewish holiday season and the energies that impact the world and our lives on those dates, year after year, new moon after new moon.

The new moon of Tishri starts sundown next Wednesday eve, along with the Rosh Ha Shanah service/holiday/days of awe.

My life has been full of challenges, one after another since before the 9th of Av. And I've been taking the month of Elul to think about what I need to change about myself that is related to these challenges. Elul is supposed to be a month of reviewing yourself and the past year to understand what you want to commit to on Rosh Hashanah...like a new year's resolution...hoping that your return to your mission in life is enough for G-d to give you another year.

Since I don't follow a whole lot of Jewish Laws as far as all the prayers, koshrut, hametz, etc., etc., I've always thought that my resolution has to involve taking on one or another of these mitzvot for the coming year. This year though, I realize that the part of Jewish practice that comes easy to me is study and "heshbon hanefesh" or the work surrounding the betterment of one's character. These are probably the special mitzvot I was given the responsibility to excel in and if I concentrate on them, I feel less guilty about not doing all the rest. Part of my resolution this year is to accept that I'm human and definitely not perfect.

This year I'm really getting into studying more than I ever have - so keeping this up is one of my resolutions. The other one has to do with my character. We are supposed to look back over the past year at what we have done that has "missed the mark" and ask to be forgiven and make a commitment to redirecting our arrow/actions to hit closer to the "bulls eye". Every challenge I have had this past year and many years previously is a direct result of "missing the mark" by having the tendency to keep my truth to myself and not speaking up when I need to.

*It's a tendency to not want to make waves and not have anyone get mad at me.
*It's a tendency that always makes things worse between myself and others.
*It's a tendency that ruins my relationships and blocks my ability to really be there for others because I'm always sacrificing myself, even when others aren't asking for me to sacrifice.
*It's a tendency that causes me to not be able to be there for others, because I'm not there for myself.
*It's a tendency that makes me want to run away from people who I fear being honest with.
*It's a tendency that doesn't want any honest feedback from others because it hurts so badly to not be as perfect as I think I should be.
*It's an arrogant tendency that thinks I can be like Mother Theresa.
*It's a tendency that puts up a barrier between myself and others because I just am not totally present with myself and them.

I realize after writing all that that I'm being extreme here because being able to be totally present for someone else makes me good at the work that I do. But even there, my honesty can be lacking at times.

That's probably why I wrote this carepages when I first got diagnosed. It was a relief to be totally honest. And yet, even here I hold back some for fear of how I'll be understood... Sometimes when I don't get the response I want or get a response that I don't want, it pains me.

So that's something I want to grow out of. I want to feel more free to express my honest truth in all of my relationships without the fear of how I'll look or how people understand what I say.

That's what I'll be asking for help with this coming year and I'm asking to not have my lessons on this need to come through tragedy or calamity or severe illness. I never want to need that kind of correction ever again. 2 years ago my illness/correction was enough.

On a cheerful note (sorry I'm so serious lately), I feel completely comfortable in my new body. When I look at my chest in the mirror now, one and 1/2 years from surgery, I don't cringe or feel deformed. My new chest is feeling more like me again. I'm not as embarrassed for people to see me without my fake boobs and I'm totally fine with wearing them too. I'm not feeling fussed by them and keep them in my bra and hang up my bra every night instead of the extra work of taking them out and putting them in their cradles.

I'm finding ways to make my life easier and I truly love my family and my life right now.

P.S. We had a fantastic time in NYC and the best was seeing my relatives and having my kids get to know them. Jason went with my Uncle Barry to the hospital and his office - which was such a thrill for him, though maybe more of a thrill for me to have him get to know my uncle. (My uncle is kinda like House...and is as colorful as my mom.)

Seeing my dad with his siblings was also so meaningful to me and touched my heart. I felt so proud of my Pokras heritage and how much I love each and every one on that side of the family...they are really good people. My cousin Beth told me something I hadn't heard before: that I was her little cousin she was looking forward to seeing all the time...before we moved away when I was 2. Everyone was so sad when we moved away. We always went back east to see everybody but it's not the same as living close by and seeing people all the time, so I never really got close with my New Jersey family. Seeing them this visit though, helped me to feel really close despite the distance.

On the Grabelle side, everyone is such a kick and I'm completely enamored with them and felt their love for me. I also felt closer to everyone than I ever have due to my challenge and how everyone was so supportive through it. Family means so much to me.

Even Geoff's mother's sister and her husband came to see us at the Grabelle's which was so nice for us because they are family that my kids know and love and really wanted to see again. Plus Geoff's uncle Martin knows everybody and it was so fun to realize he went to the same high school as my mom and dad and worked next door to my mother's uncle, the lawyer - he even asked about his son by name, my mother's cousin. So Geoff's uncle knew the Grabelles in Newark so long ago.

NYC and the tourist stuff we did were nothing in comparison to seeing the family.... Then again, seeing Geoff's house he grew up in and eating such delicious pizza in Fort Lee was quite a topper.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Balancing My Life


By Tzvi Freeman

Everywhere in the world, parents play peek-a-boo with their children. It is a major discovery of life, a cornerstone in human development: To realize that something is there even when you cannot see it, that the world is not defined by your subjective perception, that there is something that absolutely is--whether you know of it or not.

All our life, all of the world, is G-d playing with us that same game. He peeks with a miracle and then hides behind nature. Eventually, we look behind nature to find Him there."

By Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/default_cdo/jewish/The-Rebbe.htm; words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman. To order Tzvi's book, "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, go to: http://www.judaism.com/display.asp?cdo=01.chabad-centers.org&type=quicksearch&etn=CAIJJ&ds=1. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3009/jewish/Freeman-Tzvi.htm.

We are within the 3 weeks of counting down to the 9th of Av now and I am looking at my life and watching how I am in the mode of "cleaning up". The 9th of Av starts sundown on the 19th and it coincides with several historically bad times for the Jewish people: the "scouts" bad report to the flock who were going into the land for the first time; Spain's expulsion of the Jews who had to leave or get burned or convert; the start of WWI, which some say led to WWII; the destruction of the 1st Temple by the Babylonians; and the historic event we commemorate on the 9th of Av, the destruction of the 2nd Temple by the Romans. It's totally that "peak-a-boo" moment when you realize all these events happened on the same day.

It's kind of an insecure time and as I hear about the heat in NYC and feel sorry for all the travelers to S. Cruz on this very foggy 4th of July week, I am laying low, driving carefully, and wondering what more I will be faced with during this time.

The heat of NYC makes me afraid of going there on July 30th. I don't want my arms to swell in the hot, humid weather. But on the other hand, I am so looking forward to it. I am going with Aimee & Jason and meeting my parents and niece for my cousin Susan's daughter's wedding!! We have planned out a 10 day trip - 6 in NYC and the rest visiting my family down the Jersey shore. My kids have never met my side of the family, so that's very exciting for me. I hope all my cousins will be around. Geoff's going to stay home and hold down the fort, the dog, and his parents.

If you have any suggestions or tips for our stay in NYC, please email me.

Unfortunately, I will be missing my dear friend's son's Bar Mitzvah, which all of us really, really regret.

Update: My practice has been full for awhile and I've gotten to see how stressed I can really get from working. I have done a lot of things to help re-balance my life to make it work better for me. It's is so much better now. I have made the time for my family and now have the time to relax and write. It's been really stressful but I am finally slowing down now and paying more attention to the fact that I am in recovery!!! (Work was such a good distraction...until it started reminding me of how fragile I am and how protected I need to be.)

Only I can protect myself and I had to do something that was very hard after the 17th of Tammuz that was so important to my work and my sanity. It's like I was able to rebuild that Jerusalem wall that the Romans had breached. Yay!! Hopefully I will continue to keep that wall strong so I can continue to enjoy my work.

I also got the results of my blood tests. My Vit D was on the low-side of normal according to the medical community, but 27 is too low for optimal health. So I've been increasing my intake and getting more sun (before the fog came in). The optimal range is 50-80 and I will probably get retested in January.

The urine test I took showed me that my estrogen metabolites are very low. This means that my body is metabolizing very little of the bad estrogen and very little of the good estrogen. Whether or not that means that my body is producing very little of each kind is a question I have. For sure, I need to raise my good estrogen somehow, for my bone health, etc., and get the ratio between the two larger. So I'm increasing supplements that help the liver to metabolize estrogen, like DIM, and increasing supplements that help me produce good estrogen, like flax meal, omega 3, and broccoli. I will also get this retested after awhile.

One very important thing I am doing for my mental/emotional health is meeting regularly with my new friends, Paula & Nancy. They are the women I met while going through radiation. We meet for coffee at Gayles every Friday morning that we can. I love them!!! When we meet, we can't stop talking and time flies too quickly. I love hearing what they have to say and I love sharing my thoughts and experiences with them. No one else but my new friends can understand just where I'm at and it's so nice to compare notes and discover that I'm not the only one going through what I'm going through.

I've learned that the most important time during this diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, is the recovery part. When you get the "all clear" and the doc says, "I'll see you in 3 - 6 months" and you no longer have anywhere to go with all of your questions, thoughts, and concerns, it's hell. My new buddies have bridged that gap for me.

Luckily I also have my acupuncturist who specializes in cancer and who I see every other week. I didn't realize how important her services were to someone like me. She definitely got me through the chemo and even visited me in the hospital with some congi and helped my immune system recover and stay up, but after the treatment is over, Emmy plays a huge role in my life. I wouldn't have known about the urine test without her and wouldn't know the optimal levels of D3 or how much to take to increase my levels. Plus, her presentations at WomenCare every month are so informative and give so much hope.

I don't know how she does it though. I can only be friends with two other people who have my same diagnosis. I can only let myself have the chance to be triggered by two new friends in case they stop being "all clear".

So I am very happy with how my life is going. I'm looking forward to the trip, meeting with my acupuncturist twice a month, and meeting with my support group of 3 each Friday. My client load is perfect and I get as much down time and family time and writing time as I need. Wow, maybe my house will even get cleaner!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

What I Learned from Breast Cancer

What I've Learned From Cancer

Posted Jun 3, 2010 1:46pm

Leaving Ecstasy
By Tzvi Freeman

A favorite story of the Rebbe, central to his activist view of life:

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of the Lubavitch dynasty, led the services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. He stood wrapped in his prayer shawl, profoundly entranced in the cleaving of the soul to its source.

Every word of prayer he uttered was fire. His melody and fervor carried the entire community to the highest and deepest journey of the spirit.

And then he stopped. He turned, cast off his prayer shawl and left the synagogue. With a bewildered congregation chasing behind, he walked briskly to the outskirts of town, to a small dark house from where was heard the cry of a newborn infant. The rabbi entered the house, chopped some wood and lit a fire in the oven, boiled some soup and cared for the mother and child that lay helpless in bed.

Then he returned to the synagogue and to the ecstasy of his prayer.

The Rebbe added:
Note that the rabbi removed his prayer shawl. To help someone, you must leave your world, no matter how serene, to enter the place where that person lives.

By Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory; words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman. To order Tzvi's book, "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, go here: http://www.judaism.com/display.asp?cdo=01.chabad-centers.org&type=quicksearch&etn=CAIJJ&ds=1. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3009/jewish/Freeman-Tzvi.htm.

Tzvi Freeman is one of those Yiddishe Kops that grew up in American culture and yet didn't go on to elucidate Buddhism, like so many other Yiddishe Kops (Stephen Levine, ad infinitum). I love him. And it's now ok for me to say that I mourn for our losses in America to Buddhism. It's ok for me to be proud of my heritage and even say out loud, "I think Judaism is the best religion!"

I could never have said that out loud before learning from Chabad. Jews post-Holocaust are afraid to claim chosenness or to show pride - makes us too visible. But I've learned that my heritage has sooooo much to be proud of. And it's totally fine to have a preference in religion! I prefer to learn about Judaism through Chabad, for example. I think it's the best and that's why I do it. Everyone has their own path that they consider "best", otherwise, why would they follow it?????? It's only the politically correct who have a problem with the notion of saying theirs is best...and Jews who have learned anti-Semitism from the culture think that claiming choseness is just embarrassing - but if they ever learned what being chosen really means, there's no question they'd believe in it...

Anyway, this morning I was thinking about how much I learned from my cancer and then read Tzvi's Daily Dose and it struck a cord on that theme.
It's important to make a fire with your prayers but when there's a mitzvah to do, you can/should also make a fire with your own hands - even on the Shabbos of all Shabboses, Yom Kippur, you can/should "work": build a fire, cut and carry wood, (if you don't know: those things are always forbidden on a day of rest).

There is fire in a mitzvah - even when it's not one of the mitzvot that obviously connect us to G-d through prayer or ritual or worship. Doing something loving for someone else is a way of connecting G-d to earth, just as powerful (and as full of fire) as praying on the holiest of all days. Even though Tzvi titled his Daily Dose, "Leaving Ecstasy", I find that doing a loving act for someone else brings with it that same ecstasy. And like the rebbe added, you take off your tallis (prayer shawl) to go into the trenches but I want to also add that when you go into the trenches, you transform everyone there into a holy tallit!!!

That's the main thing I've learned from this: love shared with family members, relatives, friends, co-workers, etc., is the best and most important/rewarding thing in life. Everything else pales in comparison. But especially doing loving acts with family is the highest of all ecstasies. The connections I've made with Aimee, Jason & Geoff in the past year have been the most "firey" and Divine.

Here are some other things that I have learned:
* frozen blueberries, soy milk, home-made granola, whey protein powder and ground flax seeds, make a delicious, healthy breakfast.
* cinnamon, cardamom, clove, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary and other spices have anti-cancer properties and regulate the NF-kb (?) the master switch that controls turning on or off cancer (I think??? Anyway, I know it's an important thing but really don't know a lot about it).
* spices taste delicious with every meal.
* curry is delicious too and is something that has lots of turmeric in it.
* cabbage & lentils can be made into tons of different kinds of salads that can be eaten throughout the week.
* soy milk is fine, as long as I get the whole kind found on the refrigerator shelf.
* green tea comes in chai flavors, so I get a 2 for one punch.
* broccoli and tomatoes work together when cooked and pack a better punch than either alone and they taste great with garlic and thyme and a bit of Parmesan cheese.
* 3 brazil nuts a day can substitute for a cookie and give you your daily dose of selenium.
* organic apples can substitute for a cookie and are great with cinnamon on them which adds more cancer fighting in my sweet snack.
* even rainy days on your birthday are beautiful.
* when you're really wiped out, just sitting in bed watching one TV show can restore you.
* taking medicine when you're suffering is actually a good thing to do for your self-care.
* you don't need to suffer.
* you can enjoy wearing falsies if you don't want to be reminded of your cancer every time you look in the mirror - and getting a comfortable bra is possible.
* you don't need to work harder than you can handle emotionally.
* it's more important to not be tired from work than to make extra money because when you are not too emotionally exhausted, you can better deal with family work and stay close to family members.
* I can plan to go on a trip with just Jason and Aimee, leaving Geoff at home...he'll be ok taking care of his parents and Summer. I have the power to make fun plans for myself.
* I don't need to blame Geoff for all my problems or for giving me cancer and I don't have to blame myself either.
* I'm sure there are more things I've learned but that's all off the top of my head for now...

Blood test results coming soon - and we're saving $3K because I finally got my oncologist to say that there's probably a 1% chance we'd find anything in a scan right now. Phew! Putting that off for another 6 months is a relief in more ways than one.

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the Spring!
BTW, I now have very curly hair!

Monday, May 3, 2010


I've been feeling so weird since the last update I sent out and I'm so glad to see it didn't go out to everyone.

I love to share what I learn about the Jewish path to everyone because I feel it's the antidote to the Holocaust and all anti-Semitism. I want to shout that I am proud to be Jewish! And I am proud of Israel. And I am proud of the Jewish teachings.

And I use the holidays to help me understand my day - to - day struggles. I find it so amazing that I was diagnosed on the week between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur!!!

So I never want to seem like I think no other religious path has it's purpose on this earth. I don't want to seem like I'm looking down on all other religions. I'm just wanting to put down in writing what I am learning from the Jewish path. There is a place for all of us on this earth and a unique purpose that I believe will help build the final redemption. Yes, I believe in the only One Invisible G-d that contains everything and everyone. That doesn't mean I believe that anyone else should believe that too.

Judaism has never believed that everyone should be Jewish and in fact, it's very hard to become Jewish if you weren't conceived and cooked in a Jewish woman's body. Rabbi's practice is to turn away wanna be converts. Not because this is an exclusive club, but because the rigors of the practice are so complex and numerous. It's supposed to be very hard work that we've been chosen to do. But that doesn't mean we are better than everyone else. In fact, the joke is, "I wish He'd choose somebody else sometimes."

It's not easy being Jewish. And it's wonderous.

I believe all paths lead to the same Place. Truly it's semantics that gets our knickers in a twister! What do you mean by G-d? What do you mean by redemption? What do you mean by getting close to G-d?

You'll see in the Noahide laws there is no law stating you must have one and only one god.

Anyway, I never want to seem like I think I'm better than everyone else. Even other Jews. My path can be different from another Jew as well. And I love that Bailly never wears pants and yet she could tell me to get another pair of the pants I showed her I got from Costco that fit me so well!!!! And I love that D'vora Leah could say how much she likes my new curly hair despite the fact she'd never go without her head covered in a wig or sheitle. We are all different and all Beloved.

That is what Rabbi Hillel said that the entire Torah is based on - only one law: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Law: all the rest is interpretation."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Breast Surgery Anniversary

As you already know, I love to learn from the Jewish holidays as they relate to the flow of my life. Right now we're in the Omer Counting days between Pesach and Shavous where the custom/tradition is to act as if we're in a period of mourning. No haircuts, shaving, celebrations (like a marriage), no listening to music, etc. It's interesting to me that my surgery anniversary is during the counting this year. I also got together with my radiation buddies today and enjoyed our friendships so much - it's been about a year since we've met.

I like to take it upon myself to abstain from listening to music during this time. Music is always so much more amazing when I start listening to it again once the counting is over. This of course means that right now I am listening to audio lectures, learning and learning. It's a serious learning time right now and as always we are working on improving ourselves. During this time, we look at one of the sefirot each day and how each one interacts with the others within our own character traits.

This week was Pesach Sheni, which used to be a second chance to offer the Pesach sacrifice in the Temple, if you had not offered it during Passover - for any reason - even if you just refused or didn't want to do it at the proper time. So it's a second chance day - another day of reminding us that Tshuva is possible no matter what mistakes we make or how awful we've been. There's always a second chance to turn ourselves and our lives in a positive direction. Plus, you get to eat more matzo, so unless yours is now stale, it can be a yummy day!

On the day of 2nd chances I went to see my oncologist for my 3-4 month check-up. I was very frightened about this visit because in the past he told me I'd be getting scans every 3-4 months for the first year after treatment. After talking to the oncologist again though, he pretty much said it's my choice how often I get scans. Some people are extremely frightened of recurrence and they do them as much as they can. Others don't. What I got from all my questions about it, gives me this dilemma: do I want to possibly die in 20 years from a different form of cancer due to all of the radiation I've had in the past year or do I want to skip the scan and possibly miss something that may grow to the point of not catching it before it's too late? What would you do if it happened to you????????? (Isn't that a line from Dr. Seuss?)

Anyway, I ran it by Aimee, Solomon the Wise, twelve years old, and she said, "Mom, this is how you got yourself into trouble in the first place!"

So, I guess that warning was my 2nd chance.

Since I can't get the cat scan with the iodine (because of my non-lymph noded arms) and the pet scan shows more, I will get one of those by June, if the insurance agrees to it. That will make it 6 months since my last scan.

I am also getting blood tests for Vit D3, C Reactive Protein (to test my inflammation), and Glycohemoglobin A1C which shows my blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. I've learned from nutritionist, Jeanne Wallace, that those 3 tests help to determine how well you are doing on your diet. As inflammation rises, so do your chances for growing cancer... spikes in blood sugar increases your chance for growing cancer. She has very specific numbers where she feels you are in good shape - numbers that are more strict than the standard of care. And my acupuncturist has supplements that I can increase, as needed, along my diet tweaks.

I am also getting a urine test for the levels and types of estrogen my body produces.

Yes, this year's Counting of the Omer has been very serious in many ways and somewhat difficult in many other ways that I can't go into here. And it's all about the freedom we started to look at on Passover. So whatever you find yourself going through, it's about finding more freedom. (I'm learning from listening to Rabbi Riskin's cd he sent out to all of his supporters) And freedom has to do with getting rid of all the humetz/puffiness/arrogance in your personality & mind.

Whatever's been difficult these past weeks, it's for your own refinement and is giving you a chance to let go of the way you've always been...the way that's been hurting you, whatever you've been holding on to that's not working...whatever philosophies and attitudes that you don't want to let go of. And it isn't easy to admit that you've been wrong all along...but it is the way to freedom. Your idols can't be your own wrong thinking! Make yourself as humble as the bread of affliction, the bread of humility, the stale matzo you haven't thrown out yet!

And as you step back you can then spring forward even stronger! Yay!

Interesting that I am wearing my fake boobs again and working through that one. It's OK now for me to wear them or not to wear them. It's OK to do what makes me feel like I look better. And it's OK to not wear them when I don't want to. And OK to wear a bra again even though I promised myself I wouldn't have to wear a bra ever again once the breasts were removed... Boy, was that promise to myself a slavery of sorts and now I am free. I can change my mind and see where I've been wrong. I can get another scan even though I don't like the radiation of my own cell phone.

Jews believe in the ultimate redemption. We are all empowered to create a better world. It will not be destroyed, it will be perfected. And we're not alone in that endeavor so we will never be allowed to fail.

Can't wait for this counting time to be over Erev May 18th when we symbolically get to a place of deserving to be given the Ten Utterances. You don't get to the promised land if you are worshiping idols of gold at the bottom of the mountain. And I've been getting really sick of the worship of gold. "Goldina Mandina" is not all about that. Instead there is an invisible One that offers us 10 concrete laws to follow so we can, in partnership, make this world a better place. (And there are 7 concrete laws for non-Jews, called the Laws of Noah). So no one ever has to wonder about what is right and what is wrong, nor make your own self the idol that makes those decisions.

(Murder is just wrong, for example...there are no hidden good intentions or reasons that make it right. A murderer is not a freedom fighter. A murderer is not a poor, uneducated, underprivileged Latino that just happens to need to be in a gang and have his own territory to feel safe and powerful. OK, maybe I'm a bigot but I'm on a rampage now because a 17 year old was shot to death right around the block from my house during this counting time. And aren't you sick of the Sentinel telling all the kids not to wear red or antagonize them????? I know it's stupid to antagonize gang members but pride in the Westside never meant, I'll kill you or you'll kill me. Why can't they separate gang gatherings if their intentions are to murder? I just don't get how the focus in the Sentinel is all on us taking more precautions instead of the gang membership being dismantled...Geoff says they are probably keeping mum what they are doing with the gangs in order not to tip them off....

Anyway, lots of seriousness in this writing today. And sorry for foaming at the mouth. I sure did write a lot and seem to not be able to cut things out... May we all have only learning experiences that appear clearly good during these days of counting. And may we have many, many days of celebrations and listening to music.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Geneen Roth & Chocolate Sundaes

My favorite author on the topic of women's relationship to food and compulsive eating, Geneen Roth, just wrote a new book called, "Women, Food & God". I watched the video of her reading an excerpt on http://womenfoodandgodbooktour.com/ and one of the lines really hit me. It was something like, "We think we want a chocolate fudge sundae, when what we really want is for our lives to be a chocolate fudge sundae."

Her premise is that we go to food for reasons other than being physically hungry. Then our lives revolve around the drama with food, weight, body size. The reason that we went to food in the first place when we weren't hungry, never gets addressed. We have a hunger for something and it's not really for food... Instead of beating ourselves up about compulsive eating, she directs us toward self-love, compassion and the discovery of what can really soothe the emotional & spiritual hunger in a way that food just can't...making our lives the chocolate fudge sundae.

Since my confrontation with losing my life to cancer, I've been turning my life into a chocolate fudge sundae. These are the things I've done:
* I'm discovering work that I love
* I'm taking anti-depressants that are helping me to stop feeling insecure about myself
* I am taking something to help me sleep at night
* I am repairing relationships with my husband and kids
* I am learning to limit myself to only what feels good to me and so decreasing my stress levels
* I am exercising & eating more veggies
* I am saying "no" more
* I found something to take that prevents my migraines
* I am sharing my feelings with a therapist and friends
* I am reading detective novels, and I am watching TV, and remembering to give myself downtime.
* I am noticing the small enjoyments in life: getting a green light, getting a red light, music, nature, people, everything can be a joy.

I still crave cookies though and Geoff has been getting the ones from Pacific Cookie company. Yummy! I need to get baking so I have on hand some of my sugar free goodies or my blood sugar will skyrocket and produce inflammation and cancer! Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!

Sometimes, I have no cravings at all. What is that? Am I just calmer? Is my life more like a chocolate sundae at those times? Right now I'm feeling the craving so I'm wondering if it's because all I really want to do is sit down and read my detective novel. So why am I wasting my time on the computer?

When I worked, before I had kids, I would go on walks along the strand in Hermosa Beach. Every time I passed a person or couple who I thought were retirees, I would envy them. I constantly felt like I just wanted to sit in front of the TV and have nothing to do all day. The thought of having a baby filled my mind with the dreams I had of "downtime". Little did I know I left my job to go home to a new job that required me to work 24/7 with no bathroom breaks!

I craved "retirement"....hmmm...do I just need to sit down and watch TV or read right now instead of craving a cookie? It's taken me a long time to slow down and figure out how to make my life feel like what "retirement" meant to me back in Hermosa Beach. It took being forced to stay in bed for days on end with nothing else I could do but sleep and watch TV. It took being committed to going through the worst things my body could tolerate in order to save my life. It took being face-to-face with the possibility of losing my life for me to do what I needed to do to make my life into a chocolate fudge sundae. It also opened up my eyes to the chocolate fudge sundae that surrounded me and that was inside my very being.

Have you heard the song, "Live Like We're Dying", by Kris Allen? It's become my mantra.

I had to start a new estrogen blocker a couple of weeks ago because the 2nd one I tried, Aromasin, gave me mouth sores that wouldn't go away. So I'm on to "Femara", and hope for the best. I like the name - it's "fem"-inine and hints of a to-"marro"w. If it doesn't sit well inside me though, I've only got one more to try, "Arimidex".

If that doesn't work, it's on to broccoli sprouts, though I'm eating them now anyway! And they don't taste like a cookie or a chocolate fudge sundae....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Truth Feels Good

Things have been going well. I went from wanting to stay in bed all day watching TV to feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. It's so nice feeling happy again.

And still, thoughts creep in every now and then. When I was depressed, I didn't want to live. Now that I'm happy, I'm afraid I might get a recurrence and die. Of course, I don't think that thought a lot but sometimes it creeps in. Funny how I didn't care if I lived or died and now that I'm enjoying life, I'm afraid of dying.

But I don't want you all to worry about me. It's just nice to voice these thoughts that float through my head from time to time.

I have never been afraid that I might die. I've lived my life like I would always be alive, forever. Truthfully none of us knows when our time is up. Could be hit by a bus tomorrow. So even though I've been diagnosed with cancer, it doesn't necessarily mean I will die from it. And so we just go on with our lives as if we are totally in control of being alive. How could we dwell on the fear? Some terrorist could drop a bomb on us tomorrow. Can't live your life worrying about that.

I do like exploring my pain though and putting words to my painful experiences, fears and anger. It helps me to feel myself all the way through. I used to find a lot of solace in writing poems about my pain. I was able to turn my pain into poetry - into something beautiful.

So I tried writing a poem today and thought I'd share it with you.


A tear drop falls down my face
It's a constant reminder my body
isn't the body it once was
My right eye drips every day now
And I dream about screaming
as I touch my chest

Work - a way to feel like I'm still
To push past what happened
To move on without looking back
To run away and believe it was just
a bad dream that I can leave behind me

But now I'm awake.
And a tear falls down my face
All day long.
Wakes me up from my sleep -
This Is Me Now
My body has changed
My right eye now sheds constant tears

And it's sad -
I'm afraid of losing my life!
The bad dream filters through my
You are mortal, life can be sad
You deserve to cry
You can shed tears for your own pain
And all the pain.
The shtels are gone
and so is your innocence.

I cried when I got to the line: "I'm afraid of losing my life." It felt so good to cry. I feel so much compassion for myself. And love. The pain is beautiful. And it brings me back to myself. And I'm not in pain all the time. But I can touch on it and feel able to rest there. Then I go back to my Life. L'Chaim!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shlumpy to Gorgeous

"There Is World

By Tzvi Freeman

here are three things to always remember:

The One Above, yourself below, and the world in between.

Abandon any one of those and you will stumble and fall.

Even those who grasp for G–d alone, they do not build, but desolate.

To reach G–d, you must deal with the reality of your world and redeem it.

—from a talk, spring of '91 (Iyar 5751)"

By Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe , of righteous memory; words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman . To order Tzvi's book, "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, click here. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page.

I've been enjoying working on my world lately. I get so much more of a reward out of the good work I do with my family if I compare it to the work I do with my paying job. And I've been remembering how good I really am at my non-paying job as wife and mother, daughter, sister and friend, though, of course, I can always do better.

Walking with Geoff in the morning is key. Otherwise, we just don't make the time to talk. Maybe one day I'll even get him to walk in the trees with me instead of always being on West Cliff. My new name for him is "savant" because of his incredibly quick mind.

Making more time for my kids and focusing on what needs to be done better in that department really feels good. Especially since I was so absent last year and they had to go through fears of losing me, it's important for me to show them I'm still here. I get up in the morning with them when they have breakfast and I told Geoff this morning that I want to pick up Aimee from school from now on.

There are other more personal things I am doing for each of my family members that has improved our relationships and dissolved some of my own stress too. I just want to protect them, so I can't go into them here. But my usual method of running away from difficulties has transformed into realizing how much I get from going through them and getting to the other side.

My job outside of the home is a great distraction and mostly I feel energized after a day of working, unless I just overbook myself which is easy for me to do. But it gives me a sense of power and self-worth when I know that at every moment with a client, I am just doing my best. That way, I can let go of old thoughts and worries about the problems of others that I can't solve for them. My therapist reminds me that my clients tend to come back, so I must be doing something right!

I've paid off all of the scam this month!! So I'm going to start paying my friend in April to rent the beautiful office she so graciously allowed me to use for free.

I can now see the "reason" for the scam. It's Higher Purpose was to help me commit more to a job that pays me well and that I do well. I've always had so many doubts about it and my ability and fears around whether I really wanted to get into all that again. It's been 10 years of trying to find another way of making an income. I needed that scam to stop me from trying to find an easy way out. And the cancer to make me fear I wouldn't be able to work just when I had started back up again. So the scam also forced me to not run away, but instead, move forward through to the other side of the difficulties.

I also was worried I wouldn't be able to find a way through my latest setback with the Tamoxifen but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel. With the Wellbutrin, I've gone through the uncomfortable parts of starting a new med and it's working better inside of me now. And I'm not afraid to take a tiny amount of Lunesta every night. It's so nice to not have to suffer from insomnia when there's a solution for it that works better than anything else natural that I've ever tried.

This week I've been looking at my insane desire to eat cookies. I really don't want to put sugar into my system because it feeds those bad cells. My question for myself this week has been - what else gives me pleasure? What else could be a treat for me? So I've reintroduced myself to a different, healthier addiction, crime novels. TV is one of my unhealthy addictions and I don't want to spend so much time watching TV so it's been fun to have the energy to get back into reading without falling asleep from it.

But I still watch Law and Order and now love the shows Medium and Cold Case. I allow myself to watch TV in moderation and remember hearing somewhere a long time ago that TV's the modern form of meditation. My favorite new show is one that Aimee turned me on to: "What Not to Wear". I watch it with a smile on my face the entire time. Aimee was imitating my face while watching it and we laughed so hard. I love seeing the transformation from shlumpy to gorgeous!

I think that's the Jewish purpose for life - to turn our world from shlumpy to gorgeous!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Anger and Depression Aren't 24/7

Some of you really "got" what I was writing about last update. Glenna and Gina both said, "Go Girl!" But lots of others just got real worried about me and depressed themselves. Or wanting to advise/help me.

I can understand the misunderstandings because I was writing from the depressed/angry/grieving voice. But I want the people who are worried about me not to think I am listening to that voice all day long. I am not in depression or anger all day, every day. I surely didn't want to bring anyone down when it should be a "freilichen Purim"! What I was trying to convey was that I was understanding the grieving process better and going to anger would help me with the depression.

It was like the anger was helping me. It still is. Whenever I go to depression, I am now turning it around to anger and I can let go of it faster and keep my energy.

It's amazing what taking away your estrogen can do to you!!!

And I don't think I will ever end the grieving process. I will go through denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance over this loss forever. I may not get stuck in the depression as much as time goes on, but I know things will remind me of this and I will go back into it again. I can't leave this behind.

When we lost our school it was 6 or 7 years ago. Both of my kids now are going to school at that site that they were kicked off of in 1st and 5th grades. Still, I go through the grieving process all the time around the loss of that school. It comes up whenever I hear someone diss the site because it's really for elementary kids and not for high school kids. And whenever the school board messes with us, I go quickly right back to the anger stage again. Grieving is an ongoing process that I don't believe ever really ends.

So just to let you know the other side of the story, these are the ways I'm helping myself:
1. I exercise every day. I'm now walking with Geoff on the cliff every morning.
2. I stay away from sugar as much as I can. It messes with my energy.
3. I am on 3 different medications trying to manage the effects of losing all my estrogen so quickly.
4. I see a psychiatrist regularly to discuss the meds and I see a therapist weekly to work on myself and support myself.
5. I listen to audios on chabad.org.
6. I am working 4 days a week and loving the distraction from my own problems.
7. I have decreased my stress levels by doing certain things with my family members that helps them. I'd been avoiding this stuff but have worked through it and now things are better at home.
8. I write this blog and another one.
9. I am seeing my acupuncturist regularly again.
10. My parents are helping me pay my medical bills.
11. My dad told me he'd come visit me anytime I wanted him to.
12. Geoff makes most of the dinners and gets the breakfasts and kids ready and off to school.
13. I've got cleaning help here weekly.
14. I'm reading again now that I've got energy from the meds.
I guess this list could go on but I'll stop here.

It's hard for me to have people worried about me or thinking I'm in a bad place all the time or feeling the need to help or advise me. I can't stand people thinking I'm defective and can't or don't do what I need to do to help myself. I don't know where that comes from, but it's powerful for me. So when I write something from that negative place, I will probably quickly follow it up with the other side, just to avoid having people think badly of me. But for those of you who got that the bad part was actually good, thank you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Getting Angry

I haven't been wanting to write because I have been depressed still and I feel like I should be over it. But today in therapy, I realized I haven't been angry. It helped to get angry about everything rather than just cry.

The Stages of Grieving are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I think I go directly to acceptance and then go back to depression and just stay there. This morning before going to therapy, I had a headache. After she encouraged me to be angry, my energy came up and the headache went away.

I think I just am not used to getting angry with G-d. When I first started to try to get angry in the session, it felt so phony. I just couldn't connect with that feeling. It's easier for me to be mad at a person than it is to be mad about a situation I find myself in.

Once I got into it though, there were many situations in my life that I got angry about. I'm angry I had to lose my breasts and I'm angry I'm still dealing with medications and I'm angry I have to lose my estrogen so quickly and I'm angry that the very things I got a handle on I have to now figure out how to deal with in another way and I'm angry I have to take more medications to deal with the Aromasin and I'm really angry that the Aromasin costs $326 for a 30 day supply and I'm angry that my insurance company has a $750 deductible for non-generic meds and I'm angry I now have to start paying for all my tests because my deductible is so high and I'm angry that Aimee has to deal with me losing my breasts just when she hits puberty and I'm angry I have to deal with losing my breasts just when my daughter hits puberty and I'm angry that I have to deal with the idea that I may have a recurrence and may have to deal with the fact that Aromasin may not even work...

Yeah, my energy gets up and then crashes again. Because I tend to go right to crying instead of being angry.

So this Purim, I'm looking at putting on a different hat by being angry rather than sad. It feels like a costume because it doesn't feel like me. Last year I had to put on a wig for Purim. Remember me as a blond? My hair's really getting longer now. And I'm angry I had to lose my hair!!!!

So if I can get really angry with G-d, maybe my cries for Moshiach can be really strong too. That's a good thing. Because as we celebrate Purim, we can't help but remember a not so distant past when there was no Esther or Mordechai and no miracles and so the villain did get to kill us - around 6 million of us. So I'm angry about all that too and just because we now have risen out of the ashes with the birth of Israel, I'm still angry that Israel isn't where it should be/could be and I'm angry it has to be in fear all the time. AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! We want Moshiach NOW and we don't want to wait!!!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Taxes & Reminiscing

I've been working on our taxes today and feel really resistant. It seemed easier to do this last year when I was going through chemo! I wanted to get the hard stuff over first. So it's interesting that the first thing I tackled was going over our medical expenses from last year. But I didn't realize how I would feel seeing all those medication receipts. They brought me right back.

I've been feeling lately like I'm being pulled back into all the sadness about the situation I went through, that my family's had to go through. I haven't cried, but I have touched into that sadness. I do feel sorry for myself and my body. I thought the treatment part would end one day, so I just needed to get through it and then I'd be done. But I'm not done. And we're all still healing from this past year yet, still it all continues.

My dad's coming to visit me! That's one good thing that's come out of this latest setback. He'll be here tomorrow through Saturday. Yay!

I'm still trying to get my medications right for my mental state. Last week I went to a psychiatrist and tried something (Abilify) for 3 days, then switched to something else (Wellbutrin) because someone told me bad stories about the first thing. OY! And now I'm on the Wellbutrin and feeling more energy - actually like I've drank a lot of coffee but I'm more tense, anxious and unable to fall asleep... It does take away my appetite though which is a good thing.

I went to my acupuncturist and felt safer. She told me she's glad I'm on Aromasin instead of Tamoxifen because the T can turn on you. She also suggested a urine test which shows me the type of estrogen I'm creating. There is a good type of estrogen. And if I can't take Aromasin, there's a supplement that's concentrated good stuff from broccoli.

It's scary to not take some kind of hormone regulator since it cuts recurrence in half...but I'm getting fearful of taking medications. Still, I feel I have to give it a chance - try to make it work. If it doesn't, then I can give up.

I also went to see that medium/psychic again. She gave me some good information on my continued healing. Mostly, she told me to refocus myself away from work and onto my family. I realized how much I use work as a distraction and a possible addiction. I can avoid problems of my own while I'm busy working. No wonder I worked throughout my chemo. I need to focus on my family for my healing - not work.

Here's something that she told me that may deeply touch a few of you. I asked her about the medium stuff she does and if people who've passed on will come to her as we have the reading. She told me "No", that I have to come in for that specifically, if I want that. Then she said, "but there's a grandma here with you. When I told you 'No', your grandma shouted, 'wait! I'm here!"

The other funny thing was she asked if Geoff has a sister. I said, "No." Then she said, "well, does he have a cousin he's close to?" I said, "well, he talks to a cousin who lives back east." She said, "Her name starts with "N". OH! Then I knew who she was talking about!!!! There is a very good friend who's a female who he talks to every day and whose name starts with N.

So, that's all I have for now. I've already taken a library break, a lunch break, a cookie break, and now a carepages break. I need to get back to my taxes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A is for Aromasin

I felt really great once I got off of the Tamoxifen. Didn't realize how bad I'd been feeling.

Then I got scared about not having that protection.
So I spoke to my role models: one a breast cancer survivor for over 10 years who didn't take any Tamoxifen or other anti-estrogen med. The other was a different kind of cancer survivor who was told by her oncologist she'd die and the oncologist died instead. My friend's now in the best shape of her life over 10 years later.

After talking to these women, the job I had in front of me looked like: if you don't get back on an anti-estrogen pill, you have to get yourself in the very best shape of your life including diet, exercise, stress, emotions, thoughts, etc., etc. or you'll have a recurrence. I really didn't feel up to the challenge.

Then I went to my oncologist, Dr. Wu, and he suggested I try the Tamoxifen again. I didn't like that idea. I wanted to try the other med for post-menopausal women. There are many of those. All the same form of the same thing, slightly different so they could patent it. All have a danger of causing osteoporosis. But Tamoxifen can cause blood clots and uterine cancer so...

I asked which was the best and he said, it's a crap shoot. So I had to decide which form of this med to choose. Femara? Aromasin? Arimedex? I chose Aromasin because it sounds like Allison. How's that for good medical practice? Now that I was back on something - even something that blocks your adrenals from producing estrogen - I felt safer. That night, I woke up a few times. The next morning I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't want to exercise. I don't really want to be writing right now. I find I can push myself through this overwhelming overwhelm but it takes a lot of energy to ignore it.

I'm going to try it for a week and in the meantime, see my acupuncturist who may have some ideas for me to deal with these drugs. And I'm getting an appointment with a psychiatrist to explore the possibility of something that will carry me through not having estrogen. Celexa just isn't cutting it.

So I'll keep you posted. It's really a drag not to get to just be done with treatment and run off into the sunshine of my new boob-free life. I keep getting pulled back into dealing with this. I keep wondering what it is in G-d's plan for me to keep revisiting these things just when I thought I'd nailed them down.

I'm just trying to remember that I am being supported through all of this and get my answers in magical ways. Briefly I'll tell you about the psychic/medium I ran into who helped me know that it was the Tamoxifen that was the problem when I had been thinking instead that my anti-depressant just didn't work anymore. "There's something you're taking that picks you up and another that shuts you down...Yes, the 'T' one is the problem. If you go to a naturopath, maybe you can find something to take with it so it's not a problem." Next day I broke out in the rash. Her website: http://lesanne.com/

BTW, Happy Tu B'Shevat!!! I saw pink blossoms on the trees today. May this turn of events for me be just another blossoming. Hope you have a great weekend and a good Shabbos too.

Friday, January 22, 2010


For the last couple of months, my energy has been low. I was more tired than usual and didn't want to do anything but sit in bed and watch TV. My memory got worse too - to the point of finding myself driving somewhere and forgetting where I was going.

Then for the past couple of weeks, the migraines started again and I wanted to die. Literally. I was so afraid that all my symptoms were coming back. I found myself dwelling on all the things that have gone wrong in my life and asking, why, why, why. It didn't help that my hard drive also crashed around the same time.

I had a dream that some woman had sliced me down the middle of my body and I wasn't dead but was going to die. While I was still alive she was still in my house. I told Geoff how inappropriate it was to have her here after what she did to me. He didn't get it. I thought, well, if he's not going to care if someone killed me than what will he listen to?

This dream is very meaningful to me because I look at all the players in the dream as parts of me. How do I split myself in two? How is that killing me? How am I not listening to that? There's a part of me who just doesn't care.

The day I realized that these symptoms I'm having could just be due to the Tamoxifen, I was relieved. That night I dreamed of my breasts growing back. It was a miracle. Someone told me I was just hallucinating. Other people said, yes, they are really there again!

I've always seen myself as someone who gets along easily with everyone and brings different people together. That may just be because I am able to always see both sides of every issue. I can understand others and tend to see their good intentions. People like that but then they don't understand how I can turn around and understand someone who holds a completely opposite view.

It confuses me too when I do that. It makes me wonder what the truth of everything really is. It makes me over analyze and second guess just about everything I do. It cuts me in two and is possibly killing me. It makes me wonder if I'm just hallucinating or am seeing something that's really there.

Self-trust is a big problem when you can see both sides of any issue. Making decisions is really hard too. Standing by yourself in any argument can be impossible. Asserting your needs, wants and desires - or even knowing what you want yourself is a huge challenge. I become invisible when I see all sides. I lose myself.

There are two side of the taking Tamoxifen:
1. It cuts the recurrence rate in half.
2. It can trigger migraines, depression and insomnia (the 3 things I've finally gotten a handle on for the first time in 30 years).

So my oncologist took me off the Tamoxifen when I broke out in a hot, itchy rash all over my face, arms, chest and back. I've been off of it for two days now and am taking benedryl to see if it gets rid of the rash. If it doesn't, then on to a steroid. Or maybe this thing is a virus that just needs to run its course and I need to see an infectious disease specialist.

All I know right now is that I haven't had a headache since taking immitrex at 4am two nights ago. My tongue sore is finally gone. My depression is not as strong and I've slept well for the past couple nights. I still want to snuggle up in bed and do nothing.

Luckily I've got lots of new clients that I enjoy and that gets me out of bed and the house and brings me contentment. I love this office I'm sitting in writing you this. My new home office with all the windows is my favorite place to be now, if not in bed. It's been fun watching the storm this past week.

So rather than cut myself in half worrying about what my next step is with Tamoxifen, all I can do over the weekend and next week is see if this rash goes away. I will then have another discussion with the oncologist. He told me he's seen 80 - 90% have a difficult time with Tamoxifen or with any of the drugs that shut off estrogen. 15% of these can't handle the side effects and have to go off of it...

I fear a decision is coming soon.