Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Earth is Trembling!!!

Center city Philadelphia is not the place to be when an earthquake decides to roll through.

I had my appointment with my oncologist today. Not sure which was more earth shattering, the quake or my news!

I woke up slightly agitated this morning. I didn't have to wonder why.

I was headed down to Jeff to meet with my doctor. This wonderful man made it a point to call me after each and every test last week to read my results over the phone and try to make sense of all the numbers and gibberish that I didn't quite understand. Today I was meeting him face to face. I have not  met with either surgeon yet, as they called to reschedule my appointments until next week. I won't have the full picture until then.

As we were leaving the house I checked myself in the mirror and the white of my one eye was completely red with streaks of blood, it still is. When I had my pressure taken, it was much higher than normal. I usually have a very low blood pressure number and the doctor attributed it to my nervousness,"white-coat anxiety", that will give you an idea of my anxiety level~"red alert!"

I made my rounds through the infusion floor, hugging all my chemo nurses and saying hello to everyone I know. "You look great" "Love your hair!" Everyone was so sweet.
My doctor came in and sat down, I love that about him. He is there until I stop asking questions, his focus of attention is on me. Which I really appreciate.

We went over each and every test, he gave me a copy of everything and we went step by step.

While there is an increase in the spot on my liver, he takes the reports as good news. The Cancer did NOT spread! There are no new spots or tumors. He made several points: my blood work is all normal, even my CEA which is a big factor was till the same, I feel good, actually I feel so good it is very hard to believe this is still in my body.

I look good, I am told this over and over again (Thank You).

He told me we have to look at the whole picture and treat each symptom individually. So I will meet with my liver surgeon next Friday and decide the course of action about the liver.

The PT/CAT scans showed an increase of activity where the tumor was in the colon so I will meet with the colon surgeon on Wednesday and have an exam (can't wait) and we will make a decision about that too.

Although I am still up in the air about all of this, I came home feeling optimistic.

He told me I am an informed patient, a good patient, a sophisticated patient. I am keeping an eye (granted a bloodshot one) on my health and tests, gathering all the information and making informed decisions. He feels positively and consequently so do I.

So we left with optimism, amidst an earthquake.

I will meet with both surgeons next week and then decide on a course of action. It can be wait and see attitude as well as a more aggressive attitude.

One thing he did tell me today when I asked him point blank~"Am I being stupid?" is that he can tell that keeping my life as normal as possible will have the best effect on this disease. He knows my work, my classes, my trips are important to me and he reiterated this over and over, saying we will work around you, keep doing what you are doing, it serves me well.

That is the best news I heard all day!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


This week is an emotional roller coaster ride.

Tests, needles, radioactive dye shot into my veins for two days, thoughts that I try to keep at bay, emotions that I try to keep under control, tears that I close my eyes tightly against. I am trying my best to push it all away, not think about it, not think too far ahead, trying to enjoy just the moments, trying to breath through the fear.

I woke up early to write, that always helps me clear my mind. Today it brought things into focus.

I sat by my window as a storm raged outside, thunder and lightening and heavy rains were my companions as I scribbled on my pad of paper. I sat in stillness and let the rain wash away my thoughts, clear my head, open my heart, loosen the tightness lodging there. It is a temporary fix I know.

My oncologist has a heart. He knows I've been getting my tests, he knows my appointment with him and the other doctors is not until next week, he knows the anxiety and stress these scans produce. He calls me everyday with results, so I don't have to wait in silence.

"The blood work is normal" he tells me, nothing is elevated, all my numbers are good. A big sigh of relief on my part.

"The next day brought unwanted news from the MRI. "The spot on your liver has tripled in size" he tells me. Once the size of a dime it is now a silver dollar. Funny, but on my desk, right in front of me is a very old silver dollar, edges worn smooth, the face almost gone, minted in 1885, it is a silver dollar that my father carried with him since he came to America in 1953. I remember it as a child, always in his pocket, a good luck piece, to remind him that he was always wealthy no matter what. My mom gave it to me a few years ago and it sits on my desk, front and center. I look at the silver dollar and now know the size of that spot on my liver.

Yesterday was the PT/CAT scan, today at some point I know the doctor will call.

My stomach is in knots, no matter how hard I try to calm myself down, make light of it or wish it away.

Did I expect good news with Cancer? did I expect a miracle? My answer to that is YES, I did. Why would I expect the worst, think bad thoughts? It is not in my nature and does not serve me well, and so my optimism was up, my hopes high. At this point I don't have the whole picture yet and when I do I will go from there. I know that worry never served a good purpose, doesn't change a thing and does me no good. I will gather all the info and make decisions then. I will go on with my life, make plans, make love, make food.

As a matter of fact that sounds like a good plan to me.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” ~Denis Waitley

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Meditation of Beets

My anxiety level was high, for a number of reasons, although I have been successfully denying this disease that I carry in my body it is time to take the "TESTS."

I have been off chemo for the summer. I decided to wait to have any operations, I made a deal with the doctors that I would return at the end of the summer, end of July is what they said, to take the tests.

Here it is the middle of August and I have an appointment almost every other day for something or other. So stress level is on "High Alert" as they say at the airport!

A few things, minor things put me over the edge today and here I was shaking and near tears, I need to calm myself down, distance myself from the drama that everyday life provides and quiet all those crazy voices in my heart and in my head.

It was too early for a vodka and cranberry, so I thought I would go sit in my voodoo room to try to get myself in a better place. I thought if that didn't work, I always can try the vodka.

The only problem was the beets.

I needed to roast a mountain of beets.

So instead of going up to my room, I went into the kitchen. I piled the tiny ruby beets on my counter, took out a variety of peelers, a knife and a cutting board.

I started peeling, on about the 4th or 5th beet I realized I was gripping the peeler and scraping the skins so viciously off the beets, it was as if the skin was 2 inches thick. My shoulders were crunched near my ears, my heart was still beating fast and my head was full of crazy nonsense, one thought after another circulating like buzzards on road kill.

I took a few deep breaths and concentrated on the beets, actually the beet in my hand, I dropped my shoulders consciously and watched myself peel, I slowed myself down, I looked at the shape of the beet, the way if I relaxed my grip, how easier it became to peel them. I looked at the beautiful beet red colors, sometimes rainbows with a white whirl, like a candy cane. I diced them carefully and methodically, holding each one like a precious globe.

I was in the moment. The moment of beets!

My heart slowed, my mind was filled with how to peel the beets. I realized that I made a meditation of this simple act. By paying attention to only what I was doing, bringing my thoughts to the color, texture and feel of my act, I had released the anxiety and calmed down enough to come up to my desk and write this blog.

I haven't written in a while and that is because the words wouldn't come. I tried several times to write a blog and it just wasn't happening.

No matter how much I try to push this away, these next few weeks will be very stressful.

Maybe I'll eat a lot of roasted beets!
Along with a vodka and cranberry with lime!!!