Trick or Treat?

Thank God October is almost over. If you believe all the media hype coming from those pink campaigns, you’d be convinced that in this day and age no one dies from breast cancer anymore…unless they simply didn’t take care of themselves. Sure, they lose their hair, they get chemo and radiation and then… they re-emerge from the darkness to live full and long lives.

These campaigns spotlight survivors everywhere, celebrating the end of their “cancer journeys”… living their lives with relief that they had “the strength and personal empowerment to beat cancer!”

That’s all complete crap.

Because the fact of the matter is, no one dies from breast cancer. They die from METASTATIC BREAST CANCER. And all those jubilant survivors? Thirty percent of them, no matter how clean they’ve lived their lives, thirty percent of them will be diagnosed again, maybe just months or maybe years later, with stage 4…metastatic breast cancer.

This cancer doesn’t care how old you are, what the color of your skin is, what language you speak, or what country you were born in, and it doesn’t care about the foods you eat (or don’t). It doesn’t care what gender or religion you are.

It doesn’t discriminate. Period. NO ONE is immune from getting breast cancer or even metastatic breast cancer. It’s all a complete crap shoot.

The five year survival rate of metastatic breast cancer? Just 22%. You don’t need to be a math whiz to know those odds stink.

Can YOU imagine? What would you change in your life if you were handed that diagnosis? Would you cut through the noise to insist on hearing the narrative?

Would you decide who does and does not bring joy to your life? Would you choose to take on new hobbies as you watch the old hobbies take a back seat to your disease? Would you be willing to take daily chemo pills and/or attach yourself to an IV every three weeks, like clockwork, that drips cancer-fighting drugs into your body in an effort to stop the charge of an insidious disease…the same disease that garners a paltry 7% of all dollars raised in an effort to ‘find the cure’? Nancy Pelosi would call that “breadcrumbs”. Of all the billions of dollars raised, funding towards research to find a cure for the only stage of breast cancer that kills gets measly breadcrumbs. Sounds like a very cruel trick to me…but well, hey.

Tomorrow I meet with my oncologist to discuss results of my recent scans. A nurse told me the scans looked great…BUT.   It seems there was something new… ground glass, seen on one of the CTs.

Huh? Is this a TRICK?  Ground glass isn’t a medical term I’m familiar with and although Google tells me what it often refers to, I’d like confirmation from my oncologist that, in my particular case, it’s nothing cancer-related.  It may in fact only be the ghost of my nagging cough that struggles to go away due to damage left in my lungs by radiation.

Yet, it still sort of feels like a TRICK…but I’m hoping not. Because I really want to do that happy dance…but not until I hear my doc declare that I’m STILL STABLE.

Please oh please oh please.   My TREAT? Godzilla #55 will be tee’d up for me tomorrow. #BringIt

Who Knows Best?

So today, while Godzilla was kicking cancers ass, the woman in the chemo chair next to mine decided that she, not her oncologist, was better informed on the manner in which to treat her severe dehydration. Her nausea was bad, and she was complaining about her inability to stay hydrated. Apparently, she then tried to light up a joint (privacy curtain was pulled between us, I couldn’t see her) and when the nurse told her she couldn’t light up on hospital property, she went on this rant about how UCSF is in the dark ages and that her doctors in Alaska (!) know far more about how to treat cancer than the clueless f-ing doctors here at UC f-ing SF. And with that, she dialed her “bro” from her cell phone, told him to come back for her. “I am NOT wasting a full f-ing hour here getting NOTHING but saline!” she barked into the phone. The nurse offered to call her oncologist right on the spot. That woman was already out of the chair, and preparing to head directly out the door.
I couldn’t help myself…I leaned forward and peered around the privacy curtain. I’d assumed this was a younger woman, but nope…she looked about like me, but with no hair and sporting a rad chemo beanie. Probably made in Alaska. Her face looked so drawn and fatigued, I couldn’t be sure but I’m guessing she’s not early stage. But either way, I’d say her emotional rope, whatever remains of it, was quite thin.
Ya can’t make this stuff up….and that movie line just keeps on playing over and over again in my head. You know the one. “Help ME help YOU.    HELP ME….HELP Y O U !!!”
That woman’s got a rough rodeo in front of her. Hope she’s got some good strong weed…she’s gonna need it.

Soooo… Godzilla #51 is in the books. Wonder what #52 will be like. I’ve got three weeks to ponder the possibilities.

Four Decades

Back on our wedding day, exactly 40 years ago today, this milestone was nothing more than a vision in the far distant haze of life.

I asked him tonight what his most memorable memories were (aside from the birth of our three kids of course) over the past 40 years. After a few moments of pondering he said “This will come as a surprise to you…” It was a day we’d spent, years ago when the kids were young, at the beach on South Padre Island. Kids were having a blast, and the weather was perfect. I remember it pretty well. Turns out, he clearly recalls that he’d wished we could just stay there forever.

The second thing he mentioned was an even bigger surprise to me. It was the day I had to say a very emotional farewell to my horse, who was going to a new home. We were living in southern California then, and while making the long drive home from the barn for that final time, I’d called him at work from my car. I was crying so hard on the phone, I had difficulty getting the words out. Geoff had never had any interest in the whole horse thing, but had always tried to be a good sport about it for me, because I was heavily IN it. Which is why I was so surprised to hear him say tonight that the memory of that phone call stands out prominently in his mind. 

Over the decades, he’s cheered me on in my accomplishments, both professional and personal, and been supportive of every decision I’ve ever made, including the tough decisions that cancer has thrown my way. Four decades ago, I couldn’t have wished for anything more. He’s everything to me, and then some.

On the Eve of This New Year…

I find myself reflecting on a question asked of me recently. An office manager at one of my client offices casually wanted to know if I had any New Year resolutions. I was caught just a tad off guard and had to take a moment to decide how to reply.

I thought about the obvious replies: I want to run a marathon. I want to travel more. I want to get more organized. No, No and No. Or the proverbial: I want to lose weight.

Hell no.

I tried to come up with something quippy…but when I didn’t respond immediately, she turned to look at me directly.

So I bluntly said “I just want to keep on keepin’ on”.

Not what she’d anticipated, clearly. But she promptly nodded in agreement. “Ahhh, I hear ya!” She said it with that all-knowing tone of voice, and that was the end of conversation. She returned her attention to her desk, doing what no one can quite figure out.

Um, no. You don’t hear me. You don’t have an effin’ clue.

I want to keep on keepin’ on… to create more wonderful memories with my special peeps: my three kids, my husband, and our many extended family members and dear friends, all of whom I adore to the moon and back.

I want to keep on keepin’ on… to enjoy watching my grandchildren grow and thrive, as they become good and kind citizens of this world. I want to watch them treat everyone kindly, and to show respect and thoughtfulness towards those with whom they may disagree on many topics.

I want to keep on keepin’ on…in hopes that those who control the research dollars for cancer finally understand that early prevention does NOT save lives. The number of annual deaths from breast cancer has not changed in THREE DECADES. 40,000 a year. That’s 109 people a day. Just imagine a regional jet… crashing, with ZERO survivors, and some fatalities on the ground to boot…every single day of the year. An effing regional jet crash, every single god damned day of the year….

I wonder how long it will be before anyone starts a loud boisterous national march demanding that research dollars focus on that?

To be sure, I have enjoyed many blessings in 2017:

I’m still STABLE according to most recent scans, and for that I am incredibly thankful. The odds of hearing the R word (remission) are extremely remote, but I can be forever hopeful as science continues to advance, even if it is at a starving snails pace.

I’ve connected closely to several other ‘metsters’ around the country and even locally at the hospital where I get treated. They’ve become kindred spirits as we share our similar thoughts and concerns about the uncertainty of our futures. We boost each other up on all fronts.

I’ve found tremendous joy in a German Shepherd who was in need of a new home. I am so overjoyed every single day, as she continues to blossom in all the best ways possible.

I continue to work and stay busy. Having wonderful clients truly makes it a real pleasure to stay with it after all these years.

I continue to enjoy dabbling in paint…watercolor, acrylics. Who needs talent when you can simply lose yourself in the relaxation of creating something unexpected and often unplanned?

On the eve of this New Year, I reflect on many things.

I hope for a future filled with renewed strength, spirit, and prosperity for all.  But most especially I reflect on the fragility of life. We’re all walking on the edge of an incredibly slippery precipice, yet some have no clue, nada…none. These are the folks who may in fact be so much better off that way. I sometimes wish I could join their club.

Please be thankful for those who love you, for that which makes you whole and for this glorious life we’ve all been gifted in the here and now.

Blessings to you and yours in 2018, my dear blogosphere followers.    #livethedash

On the precipice

On the precipice…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Fighting It

My appreciation for medical research and the dogged pursuit of maintaining ‘quality of life’ only continues to grow. I’m also acutely aware that my future is precarious, but isn’t that the case with all living beings? That is in fact the reality of life.

During my last meeting with my oncologist, she started out by apologizing for her tardiness. The tardiness and the apology weren’t unexpected, because she’s been late, often as much as two hours late, for all of my appointments.

She’s in high demand. And to her great credit, she does fully focus and converse with each and every patient she sees. She answers all questions honestly and in great detail, without a single glance to the clock. Occasionally her cell phone rings, and she picks up, but I don’t begrudge her that either. Rather than dart off, she takes the call, gives medical direction to the caller, and immediately refocuses back to me, the patient.

So with apologies out of the way, she got seated and began with a comment so unexpected, it has since taken up residence in my mind and continues to hang out there like an uninvited guest who won’t take their leave.

It was clear she was referring to the patient she had just seen before me.

I wish they’d stop fighting it. It’d be so much easier. Anger and denial doesn’t help.”  For a very unsettling moment, I thought she was actually looking to me for advice. I didn’t know how to respond because my mind suddenly stalled out.

stop fighting it. It’d be so much easier. Anger and denial doesn’t help….

With absolute certainty, I know there is no truth more powerful than that.

When it comes to terminal illness, anger and denial only begets more anger and denial. Which in turn brings on depression, despair and hopelessness. Anger is exhausting, both physically and mentally. And it changes nothing, because the fact still remains. Terminal is terminal…whether it’s imminent or delayed. It’s still terminal. But then again, we are ALL terminal.

So how do you tell someone who is living with stage four cancer that they must see a brighter side of the universe?

Which brings me to the anger and denial that is sweeping our cities in response to our Presidential inauguration. Maybe you’ve experienced that anger and denial yourself. From my seat, the rage and declaration of denial has become so unhinged, that those who protest against what they claim is the vitriol of hate do so by using the vitriol of hate themselves.

Do they not see the hypocrisy?

The Free Speech Movement was birthed in the 1960’s on UC Berkeley’s campus, the very campus where violent rioting just days ago shut down an event where the invited speaker dared to have an opposing view. America has so much freedom that those who smashed store fronts, attacked the media with paint balls and pepper sprayed a woman giving a live interview on the street apparently forgot that they could have instead simply chosen not to attend.

The negative attention they garnered from their own reprehensible behavior seems to have been lost on those who support the notion that it’s okay to deny First Amendment rights when it’s denied to those with whom they disagree. And now they’ve unwittingly gifted the one individual they tried to silence with more national exposure.

The election is over.  It’s really baffling to me; those who protest and march under the guise of ‘love not hate’. Is it only attainable to those who vote a particular way? Do they not see the hypocrisy?

If we can’t take pause to digest what IS, to learn what we might have done better, then how can we move forward in concert with each other…in the effort to lift America and ALL of her citizens UP?

Coupled with blatant disrespect for our duly elected officials, anger and denial only serve to deepen the massive divide that President Obama left in his wake, which unquestionably has given rise to President Trump.

How can we come to understand that sometimes life doesn’t go the way we plan…but life can still have a favorable outcome?

Well, here is something I do in fact understand: A poor medical prognosis is NOT irrefutable. Perspective and attitude can morph prognosis into a variety of possibilities that don’t preclude personal acceptance of what is and what is not.

All of us can make a directional correction in our behavior, but it must come with the understanding that life isn’t something we can control. With each second, minute and hour of the day, life is a gift…delivering lessons for furthered understanding of our own individual immortality, along with hope for a better tomorrow.

And for those of you living with stage four cancer who may feel anger and a sense hopelessness? Look within yourself. Listen to the beat of your own heart until you feel its’ strength and steady rhythm. Then eyes forward! And keep your eyes on that horizon. Don’t look back, and don’t look down. Eyes forward always, because time is what YOU make of it. No matter the distance, no matter how long the journey, the horizon will always be there waiting for you, no matter how long it takes.  Treasure the moments along the way.   Blessings to you all.  xo

#LiveTheDash

 

 

 

 

Fostering a Shared Humanity

We recently bid a tearful farewell our beloved Labrador Retriever, Charlie. It’s been a very rough loss. He was just a young pup when I was first diagnosed with cancer back in 2003, and he was eleven years old when my cancer returned after almost eleven years of dormancy.

Throughout the worst of the initial chemo treatments I received, Charlie’s intuitive concern was a tremendous comfort to me in a way I can’t even begin to express in words. He hovered close on the darkest of days. His unspoken devotion was more meaningful to me than any form of written expression.

I knew from all the statistical data of my medical diagnosis that Charlie would very likely outlive me. But, as it turned out, the ‘Emperor of All Maladies’ (cancer) silently and aggressively claimed his life before any of us were prepared to say goodbye. In my effort to stay steady, especially in the presence of my hubby and our daughter who has been at home these past several months, I’ve managed to keep myself ‘together’ pretty well, as they grieved their own profound sense of loss. We all miss him so much. But the ache in my heart remains substantial. And the quietness of the house…well, it’s become an uninvited guest that I’m ready to boot out.

So, in my effort to look forward, I’ve turned my attention towards the search for our next pup. Of course, with the high standards that Charlie set, this makes the due diligence somewhat more intensive.

I’ve researched purebreds and breeders, and I’ve researched rescues too, of all kinds. Hubby and I stopped by the local animal shelter and filled out an application. We looked at the many dogs already there awaiting for their forever homes. 95% were either Chihuahua types, terrier crosses or Pit Bull hybrids. None seemed a good match for us.

I spoke at length with the founder of a German Shepherd rescue group, who happens to live just a few blocks away. As convincing as he was to consider bringing a Shepherd into our home, a rescue leaves me very wary…especially given that we have young grandchildren to consider.

So, while clicking around on the internet to consider all angles, I came across a kennel in neighboring Sonoma County that raises AKC quality English Labrador Retrievers, both for show and hunting, as well as for service dog temperament and trainability. But, what really caught my eye on this particular website was their fostering program.

After careful review, I contacted the kennel owner and arranged a visit.  We spent an hour there, learning about her breeding program, her training methods, her fostering families, her lengthy wait list for those simply purchasing a pup.  We met her on-site breeding dogs, we played with the most adorable puppies and left feeling very happy.

Here’s how it works:

The owner of the kennel selects a female pup for the continuation of high quality breeding standards, and rather than keep that pup in the kennel environment, the pup is placed with a loving family. (Studies have shown that happy well cared for dogs produce healthier litters.)

When the pup is one year old, confirmation through x-rays and blood work will determine that she is sound genetically to produce high quality litters. The breeding process and the whelping process are managed by the kennel, so the pup is away from the foster family for ten days or so initially (when she comes into season), then again for five to six weeks during the whelping period. Aside from that time away, she is home with the fostering family as a beloved pet.

Here’s the BEST part though: From the litters she will produce, one special pup will be donated to a recipient in need of a therapy dog…a soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with PTSD, a child with autism, someone who is hearing impaired. As the foster family, we get to help choose who that recipient will be.

Now, that just warms my heart…perhaps because the holiday season is upon us.  But the opportunity to help someone in need is so compelling in this way.

So as to leave no stone unturned, I’ve reached out to other foster families who have all given heartwarming reviews of this breeder and her dogs.  And, a local vet who worked at Guide Dogs for the Blind over the course of ten years also gave this kennel an outstanding endorsement.

Yes, raising a puppy will be work, but so is pretty much anything that’s really worth doing, is it not?

And once she’s had her third litter, she will be “retired”…she’ll be spayed and the best part: she’ll be ours permanently. The breeder also gives us the option of a parting gift: a free puppy from that 3rd litter. Gee, any bets on what we decide there?

I’ve not yet signed the contractual agreement for fostering but that will be done ceremoniously on Thanksgiving Day, which is just days from now.

For me, it can’t get here fast enough. I am more than ready to detach from the talking heads and divisive rhetoric on social media, and instead foster a season of holidays that asks us to reflect on the blessings that are inherent in our own lives.

Hopes and dreams, compassion, and heart; they all weave each one of us together in our shared humanity.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

(Charlie at 10 weeks old)

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Focus

13227626_10153593182477286_8243213380518012620_oSometimes it’s wise to focus on nothing at all.  Because we all know that when we focus on something, anything, it evokes emotion.

My perspectives have changed somewhat in recent years. My field of vision has been more finely honed to reveal a level of clarity I might have never known was possible had it not been for a few unexpected challenges in recent years.

I take more pictures with my iPhone these days, in an effort to capture what I SEE.  That’s one thing I love about the iPhone…it’s always ready to point and shoot.  I notice things now that might have otherwise escaped my attention completely.   The burst of yellow wildflowers lining the endless mountain trails where I live.  The tall grass of mountain meadows blowing in the wind with patterns of such rippling rhythmic perfection. The explosion of color in my own garden at home.

Photos I take with my iPhone remind me why I like to focus on nothing at all.  Nothing but the HERE and NOW.   Focus is highly over-rated.  Field of vision is where it’s at.

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