Sunday, December 18, 2016

On Gratitude and the Gifts of This Cancer

I know it has been a while since I posted. Part of that was simply recovery and exhaustion. Part of it was struggling to find the words I needed to explain myself coherently. I am pretty sure I am still without the right words, but I am going to give it a shot.

Glennon Doyle Melton author of Love Warrior, founder of and
has become a hero to me of late. I have been binging her videos and stalking her website for several reasons. She is all about love. She speaks the language of loving each other. The language of love always winning. That is my language. That is the language which I aspire always to speak. She emphasizes the importance of facing our fears, showing up, being honest, and loving the awkward messiness of being human. She also happens to be the love of my beloved Abby Wambach, soccer's G.O.A.T., and author of her own amazing book, Forward: A Memoir.

I have been hiding behind my fear of saying the wrong thing. My fear of falling apart in front of you, when I have spent so much time focused on finding and showing the positive. I am Still and Always focused on finding the positive, but I need you to know that I feel tremendous fear, and I feel shame for  feeling fear, weakness, and sometimes for being weak. I feel sadness for all of the time in my pre-cancer life that I took for granted, even though I told myself I was living every moment, and I feel fear that none of this will make a difference when I want so desperately to do something bigger than myself with this whole damned experience.

I am rewatching The Hunger Games series this weekend, and was particularly struck by one of the lines, "The only thing stronger than fear is hope." I have hope that by talking about my fears, and yours, together we can all overcome them.

To that end, I am coming out of my fear closet. I am afraid, on some level, every waking moment of my life. I am afraid that the cancer will come back to kill me. I am afraid that cancer, illness, accident, or violence will come to take someone that I love. I am afraid of all of the things I cannot control. I am afraid that I will go back to existing without really living. I am afraid that I will go back to work full time in January and suck at my job. I am afraid I will let down the people who believe in me. I am afraid for my students, afraid that I won't be there to help them through the pain and difficulty that they will inevitably face in their lives. I am afraid of heights. I am afraid of crowds. I am afraid of going to parties where I don't know everyone. I am afraid of speaking in front of people, but if given a script, I can do anything on stage. Isn't that funny? I am okay being anyone else on stage, but I am terrified to be just me. I have been afraid to show you all of my fear and vulnerability, but fear does not get to win. Fear Does Not Get To Win. Hope Wins. Love Wins.

This video is as real and raw as am today. I will use my words to overcome my fears, and if you let me, I'll try to help you overcome your fears, as well. Together we can raise each other up out of the darkness of fear and despair, and into the light of love and hope.

Gloves up, my loves.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On Facing Fear With Our Children

I have mostly stayed away from social media today. I will likely do the same tomorrow and for a while.Tomorrow marks two weeks since my reconstruction surgery and I am trying VERY hard to stay positive and focused on healing. 
But when I read this article, as a lifelong educator of young people, I realized that This is how we walk our students through any potentially scary experience. Similar articles appeared in the wake of 9/11, Columbine, and the endless list of violence in schools. Understand, please, I am not likening this election to 9/11. I promise. 
What I am saying is that change is scary for most of us, but is Terrifying for children. The suggestions offered in the attached article by Ali Michael, PhD, can be tweaked and applied in a multitude of ways.
It is up to us to tell all of our children that they will be safe, loved, valued, respected, and defended always. That is our job as adults. We must demonstrate this ourselves as best we can so our kids see that kindness, compassion, dignity, respect, and cooperation are right, they are our rights, and they are essential for all of us.
I am not here to argue, debate, denigrate, or demean anyone. I am simply offering another look at a way for all of us, and our children to move forward today,  and as we face challenges and change in the future.
Please be kind to each other, help each other, embrace each other, respect each other, and love each other.

I love, value, cherish and appreciate you all.


Sent from my iPad

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles - Pink Hair Edition

I love that life always keeps me on my toes. I hate that life always keeps me on my toes. My toes hurt. Seriously, my toes hurt! I have to stretch my toes now, on top of everything else! I don't even think I can blame cancer for that one. I certainly won't be blaming age! I haven't aged a day in twenty years!

It has been a wild couple of weeks! Hurricane Matthew gave us another school-free day. That is three hurricane days this year! I am challenged to remember a time when we had so many days away from school! Stars Hollow came to town, turning one of the fabulous coffee shops in Ybor City into Luke's Diner for the day, and giving away free coffee to swarms of Gilmore Girls fans. I have to say that meeting my dear friend there for coffee and pastries on Wednesday truly was the highlight of my week. I have wanted to live in Stars Hollow since I saw the first episode so many years ago. What fun to pretend for a little while!

My trip to Stars Hollow was followed a few hours later by a major meltdown over a medical scare. You can hear the story in the video below this. I am taking deep breaths and trying not to worry while I wait for tests and answers. After the doctor, I visited my pups. They are both doing incredibly well and are now helping to train other dog parents.

I am trying to get out of the house more, as I have learned that curling up into a little ball, hiding at home in my pajamas isn't the best way for me to heal. Some days it is okay to stay in pj's, but getting out has to happen, too. Reverting to the 9:00 PM bedtime that my parents strictly enforced throughout my childhood has made a huge difference this week, and so has yoga. I am getting back to the mat, slowly but surely. This is definitely a good thing. Made it to a movie yesterday in the theatre for the first time in years. Then this morning, I headed over to St. Petersburg for the Hooked on Hope pamper party that took place during their annual fishing tournament. It was a blast! Check out the results of that in the video, too!

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement! I really do have the strongest army on the planet! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My trees are calling, so I have work to do.

Until next time.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

One of those weeks

The port has been out for ten days now, and for that I am so very grateful! The removal went very well. Dr. Rock Star and his fabulous team were amazing, as always. I think my body had been fighting so hard against it that when it was finally out, all I could do was sleep. I haven't slept that long since just after the surgery! 

This was my first complete week back at work, and it kicked my behind! Some days just trying to put one foot in front of the other takes all of my energy. I'll keep doing it, though, and doing whatever it takes to get stronger every day.  

Oy! Such a face!

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is October 22nd, just five days before my next surgery. Join me and the rest of Amy's Army if you can. We'd love to have you with us, and have your support for our cause. We still have a long way to go to reach our goal.

Thank you to everyone who purchased one of my metallic trees in support of our team. They all will go out in the mail this week, and it is entirely possible that there will be more trees for the cause to come. Perhaps an auction next time...we'll see.

If you want to order a Gloves Up t-shirt, this is your last chance. Follow this link to the Gloves Up With Amy page on Facebook. The order will be placed with the printer tomorrow, so reach out now if you'd like one. Unisex tank tops are also available.

Have a wonderful week! Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Port Comes Out In The Morning!!!

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray, this port, my doc to keep.

That's all I've got for tonight. I should be asleep already. More post-port removal. 

Gloves up!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles : The Poking Edition

As I got out my phone to film the week's edition, I realized that I completely missed posting an update last week. It was a rough one! 

My final expansion was last Tuesday.  Woo hoo! I am stretched enough now. That meant that we could set a date for the second surgery. Unfortunately, it also meant that a rash of hives broke out on my left breast. It was weird. It would get bad, come back, then get worse, and start all over again. I could live with in the beginning because it was in the part of the breast that I can't feel, but Monday it got much worse and sent me to the doctor early. I took pictures if it over several days, and I am so glad I did! The doctors were able to see the changes and pinpoint what the cause might be. 

I will tell you that after two days of urgent doctor's appointments, hospitals, and tests I have been drained, incised, excised, and pierced. I have five holes in my upper torso in such a configuration that regardless of in what position I sleep, there is a spot that hurts like Hell! More meds, here I come.

The second surgery will be the morning of October 27th!!!
 Hopefully it will be the last. And guess what! We scheduled the surgery for after the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Saturday, the 22nd of October. That means I will be walking with Amy's Army! If you have yet to sign up to join us or to donate to our team's goal, here is the link to make it happen right now. Amy's Army is Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.  We'd love it if you would wear one of the Gloves Up t-shirts on October 22nd. If you have yet to order one, this is the place. Gloves Up t-shirt orders. We will walk #glovesup together to end breast cancer.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. You all mean more than you know. 



Monday, August 8, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles : The Stop Overthinking It Edition

I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to overthink things. If you know me I'm sure this comes as a complete shock to you. (Go ahead and laugh now.) Anyway, I do. I am mid-way through my fifth week post-op and have been away from work now for six weeks or more. Our students start next Monday, so this week seemed like the right one to get back into the proverbial saddle. I was terrified! I was worried I wouldn't even be able to walk up the stairs. I was worried that my bald head would scare people. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to last more than a few minutes. I was worried about making sure I had everything with me that I needed. In short, I was worried about everything. Apparently I'm a worrier.

I should have known better. I did know better, but it was still scary until I stepped onto campus. Immediately I knew I was home again. I was surrounded by love, and hugs, and smiles, and offers to help me carry things. I was with family, and I was happy to be there. I only stayed a couple of hours, but at least I made it. And I will go again tomorrow and stay a little longer. I can do this. I am stronger every day, and I am surrounded by people who are willing and eager to help. I am so very, very lucky and so very, VERY grateful.

It bothers me that I still let overthinking take control. I know that I should be better about it by now, and sometimes I am, but not always. Nothing is ever as bad as I am afraid it will be. Imagine all of the stuff I could accomplish if I could get out of my own way!  In the immortal words of Cosmo Kramer,"Serenity now!" is what I seek. More mindful meditation, yoga, and Buddhify is clearly what I need.

Is it just me, or do you build things up in your head until they are far bigger than they need to be?


Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Sometimes You Just Have to Sleep (Five Weeks Post-Op)

Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep is awful. I think we can all agree on that, regardless of our politics. Yesterday I woke up around 4:00 am. I thought I would go right back to sleep, but I didn't. I couldn't. I fought with myself about taking something, but I didn't think I was hurting badly enough to need it. I tried reading a book, reading the news (big mistake), listening to relaxing music. I finally gave up and downloaded the first season of Outlander. I didn't have a chance after that! I was hooked! Midway through the second episode, Mom texted and we went to explore the new art store in town.

Welcome @blick_tampa
We had a blast tinkering with all of the tools and toys for artists! I, of course, couldn't resist picking up some new goodies to create my trees! When I asked for test paper, Dave, the guy helping us, asked me to draw something which turned into a sign welcoming them to Tampa. I'm told it will be framed and hanging the next time I am there. What fun! Give them a follow on Instagram @blick_Tampa if you are into art or crafty things.

New pens = new trees! 

So, of course, I had to try out all of my new goodies when I got home. This tree has a long way to go, but I am enjoying seeing how it develops. I also learned a valuable lesson yesterday. After YEARS of hunting for yellow ball point pens, I found a set that included yellow last week at the dollar store, which I used to begin this tree. I also found some more expensive ones at Blick, but I left them in the store until I could try the first ones. Now I wish I had bought the fancy ones. The cheap ones work, but they leave globs of ink all over the paper. Lesson: sometimes cheap pens aren't worth the price. At least I know now, and can now save up for the good set at Blick.

After waking up way too early yesterday morning, and running around more than I had in weeks, I knew sleep was imperative. To help, I decided to search some post-mastectomy yoga videos on YouTube last night. I tried a couple of very slow and gentle practices, and they helped me relax enough to sleep. I guess I needed it more than I realized.

Thank you for all of the input on the videos. I hope they are getting a little better. Today's was a struggle for a multitude of reasons, all of which can be summed up by the words Operator Error. Learning new things is so much fun, isn't it? Welcome, once again, to my world. It may not be pretty, but this is the way it is today.

I misspoke on the video about how long I have been off the estrogen. It has been about eight weeks now. Still flashing, and not fun! Sorry for the mistake, but I simply could not record this AGAIN! LOL.

Oh, big news! The wristbands are in again! Thank you to everyone who took one the first go-round. If you would like an Amy's Army #glovesup wristband, please send us a message and we'll make it happen. If you would like a bunch, let us know. The new Gloves Up t-shirt order is up on the Gloves Up With Amy FB page, so check that out and we'll put in an order with the printer asasp.

Thank you for all of your love, support, encouragement, time, energy, and thoughtfulness. I am still the luckiest girl I know, and I am thankful to all of you every minute of every day.

As always, like, share, comment, tweet, message, whatever works for you as I learn this blogging and video blogging process.

Be well. Be happy. Be kind.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: The wanted to stay in bed edition

Some days it is hard to get out of bed. Some days I hurt a lot and just want to sleep. Today was one of those days. But instead of staying in bed I got up, took a shower (That helped a lot!), had lunch with my parents, and then drove myself (HUGE!) to see my puppies at their sleep-away camp. What a treat it was to see them for the first time in over a month! They are doing great, being well trained and well taken care of while I heal. If you have a dog that needs training, check them out here.

Inghram's Sit & Stay

I forgot to take pictures while I visited puppy camp, I was too busy loving on my babies. Got caught in the storm on my way to the car, and came home to a very unhappy completely soaked kitty on the back porch. Cat trapped now, as I type. The rain didn't ruin my hair, so that was cool!

Cat Trapped under a sodden Bitty Kitty
Trying to get back my strength so I can start working again soon.

Thank you for all of the love, support, and encouragement.

Peace, love, and #glovesup

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: The Best News!

Sorry it has been so long between posts. A lot of life has happened in the last four days. Really good life with lots of celebration!

Check out the video below for the details. Like, share, comment, subscribe, celebrate, whatever you wish.

Know that I am thankful to and for every, single one of you whether we have met IRL or only through this blog. Your support, kindness, and love have kept my #glovesup and those of my family, too.

I'm still getting the hang of this video thing, so please be kind.

A new post may even happen later tonight. We'll see. I am still really tired and relatively weak, but I am getting better every day.

Peace, love, and thanks!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles ~ The Video Edition: Day One

This is new territory for me. Breast cancer, double mastectomy, bald head, chemotherapy, and now we add to that list Video Blogging. It does, however, seem like it may be a better option some days than writing a full post because fighting cancer can be exhausting.

I was holding the camera while I shot it because I am computer-challenged and too tired to figure it out tonight. This is raw video. I feel silly talking to a camera, I apparently look up A LOT when I'm trying to think. Maybe I need a script next time. We'll see. I just wanted to give it a shot and see how it worked.

Watch with those warnings in mind. Then please be kind if you choose to comment. If you have a suggestion for a phone stand to use during video, I'd seriously appreciate it. I mentioned this is new to me.

Enough stalling. I need sleep. Laugh. Smile. Giggle. Enjoy. Be kind.
And since I forgot to say it at the end of the post, #GlovesUp


Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: It's Me Again!

I'm back! At least for a little while...

First, thank you to everyone who has been supportive of me and my family through this first round of the battle with breast cancer. Your love, time, thoughts, prayers, energy, calls, texts, messages, tweets, cards, gifts, meals, and shoulders keep us going whenever things become too challenging or scary. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I will say it again later because there will never be thanks enough.

One of my goals in dealing with this damn disease is to use my experience to take some of the fear out of cancer for the next person, or loved one of a person, who faces it. When we talk openly and honestly about things that scare us, the power that those things have begins to dissipate. If it were up to me, and frankly it should be, cancer wouldn't be able to scare or hurt any of us ever again.

As I have said before, I am lucky to have had the amazing doctors who have helped me through the first surgical part of this journey. Dr. Rock Star and his staff have been lovely, kind, gentle, and even entertaining throughout the "taking them off" part. Dr. Superwoman took the second half of the surgery, "putting them on" in the form of expanders to help my chest muscles learn how to work in their new place. The expanders kind of remind me of whoopee cushions, or empty beach balls. They go in flat and get filled every week with sterile saline until they are the size and shape that the actual implants will be. Pretty cool, right? But I am jumping way ahead. We'll come back to Dr. Superwoman and her terrific team in a little while. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I am still on meds, so I talk in circles sometimes. (Like that is anything new! I just have something on which to blame it now!)

The surgery was three weeks ago yesterday. and I may have to tell this in installments because so much has happened in the last twenty-two days.

Day One: Surgery
I knew that the scan they needed to do of my lymph nodes before the mastectomy involved an injection, what I didn't know until the day before my surgery was that the injectionS were to go in just below my nipples without anesthesia! I had never been in so much pain in my entire life. Until after the surgery. There was no way to prepare for that! If any part of it could be funny, it had to be the fact that the doctor who came in to give me the shots was the parent of a former student! I knew as soon as he introduced himself, and I told him how much I enjoyed teaching her. Then, midway through the injection, I remember wailing, "I was nice to W...! Why would you hurt me?" He apologized and just kept on sticking. Then I was left alone for twenty or thirty minutes so the stuff he injected could get where it needed to go to be detected.

Next was Pre-Op for loads of questions, weight, BP, and an IV. The nurse or tech trying to put in my IV was midway through her second try when a lovely doctor walked in and asked, "Amy?" Instantly I recognized her as the mother of yet another former student! She said, "K... told me you would be here today! I'm not your anesthesiologist, but I wanted to make sure you were okay." I was thrilled! Then she looked at the IV debacle happening in my right arm and said, "I got this. Thanks." Not only did she numb the area -What a concept!- but she put in a painless IV on the first try into an even tougher spot! Thanks, Dr. B! I still have a bruise from the one that was happening when she arrived. After huge thanks, an update on her kids, and a couple of hugs, she was on her way. Just a few minutes later, a former student popped in to check on me. Come to find out she is a tech at the hospital and wanted to give me a pre-op hug! Love you, KH! Again I was overwhelmed with thanks for this amazing life I live.

And then it was time.

Surgery started later than scheduled. My Dream Team of perfectionist surgeons had another case before mine, and they wanted to make sure everything was right. We were  happy to know how much it mattered to them to get the little things right. The complete operation lasted between four and five hours. Through the post-op haze I remember being almost unable to breathe from the pain I felt coming back into consciousness. Baby Sis tells me that all I got out was a barely audible, "," that made them all want to cry. I'm pretty sure I was crying. Loads, and loads, and loads of Dilaudid later, it still hurt like Hell, but I was able to rest a little. E stayed the night with me in the hospital so Mom could go home to get some sleep. He made sure I rested as comfortably as I could with with four drains sticking out of me, not an easy task. That night when I first tried to get out of bed to use the restroom, I remember being so thankful that my office is on the second floor, and that I have taken the stairs up and down several times each day for the last year. That made getting into and out of bed without using my hands or arms a possibility. I'm not sure I could have done that eighteen months ago. #glasshalffull

Who would have believed that a complete double mastectomy with reconstruction only merited a single night in the hospital? Not this Betty! But that is, in fact, the case. One night only. Getting out of the hospital should have been the easy part right? Not if you know my family! Mom, Dad, and Baby Sis were all there to help. Truth be told, I wasn't feeling particularly well as I made the switch from IV pain meds to pills. I thought I was just a little light-headed and figured it would pass, but probably should have said something. The wheelchair came, everyone took a bag and we were out the door. Suddenly we entered what I was sure was the Walking Dead hospital crossway, remember? You know, the one that was so bright, where they were going to get Beth back from the woman who held the hospital. Yes! That one! The image popped into my head and as it did I heard a crash behind me, followed by an expletive or two. I twisted around in my chair (bad plan after double mastectomy) to see Dad on the floor! The man has a pair of bright, shiny, new hips, so his fall was more than a little scary for all of us! He was fine, but mortified. I remember trying to ask if he was okay, as the nurse was explaining that she needed him to go to the ER to get checked out, and then everything went black. Yep! I passed right out in my chair! I had already been released from the hospital! This had to be a joke. Right? Next thing I knew they were wheeling me back into a room, Dad and Baby Sis had gone downstairs to fill out a report and agree not to sue, since he refused to go to the ER, while I lay in a freshly made hospital bed sobbing. It was, at the time, awful. The next day, it was hilarious! And it gets funnier by the day. I'm pretty sure we have more fun laughing at ourselves than just about anything else. We crack ourselves right up almost all of the time.

I'll end this post here, but stay tuned for new ones, shorter, and funnier, and filled with hope.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Take care of each other and be kind.



Peace from Post Op

Thursday, July 21, 2016

GUEST POST: Three weeks post-op

"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion..."
-Miss Truvy, Steel Magnolias

These past three weeks have been most stressful we can remember, and we are in for several more before it is all over and done...

This is Mom, SandiPaints, guest posting now.
Amy is and always will be the most positive person I have known, and with this attitude we have all laughed more then we have cried around this cancer bullsh!t, that is for sure.  I love her so much for helping us to help her get on the other side of this and on to the next step.

Next up we are on to chemo, which none of us likes the idea of, but it is the lesser of two evils so... Bring it on, Chemo! Our gloves are all up!

 We, in this family, have been so blessed and we are Thankful to everyone who has shown us so much love. The doctors, the nurses, the techs, the support staff everywhere we go who have been so wonderful, done so much, and just keep doing more...
The cards, letters, shirts, bracelets, foods, gifts, prayers, shoulders, and good thoughts have been more than we could have asked for, and we are so appreciative...Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Please keep the good thoughts coming as we head into the next phase of crushing this cancer. Chemo starts next Thursday. Amy (Betty) will post her own update soon.

Thank you all so much.  Take care of each other.

Gloves Up, y'all!


"Working hard" a while ago at Painting With a Twist.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Guest Post: Two Weeks Post Op

This is Amy's Dad.  Guest posting because she asked me to. Not sure Wy.

So Amy has been home for 2 weeks today. 2 weeks. And she continues to amaze. She is doing so well. Her last drain (of 4) "fell out" Sunday night. No more drains. She did a little Yoga last evening.
She must get her positive attitude from her Mother. It is serving her so well and we are so happy about it.

Going to have to have Chemo. Preventative. We'll know more later this week. Surgery seems to have "got it all." All of us feeling so blessed.

Since Jenn left, Sandi has stayed the night mostly to supervise pain meds, drains, etc. and has taken great care of our girl.  I've taken a few shifts as Night Nurse and Amy says I am progressing nicely.

So much thanks to so many people for all the food, gifts, positive thoughts, and prayers. You have been such a help to our bodies and our spirits. This is going much better than we ever thought. Thank you. Thank you.

Amy will write her own update soon.

Thank you for all of your love and support.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

GUEST POST: The Post-Op Update You've All Been Waiting For

Well, here we are. First of all, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jennifer, AKA "Baby Sis", "Monster's Mommy" or "Nifer". I am the little sister of our favorite Betty and I am visiting from Seattle to get in the way, ahem, I mean help with the recovery of my dearest sister.
So the surgery was three full days ago, and she got through it like a real champ! Both surgeons said she did amazingly well and the surgery went just as expected, no surprises. The cancer does NOT appear to have spread to the lymph nodes! Great news! Thank you, thank you!!
She will be meeting with a medical Oncologist on the 21st to discuss chemotherapy. Meanwhile, she is home and resting (un)comfortably. She is feeling all of the love and support from "Amy's Army" and she feels, in her exact words, Incredibly Grateful. The calls, texts, cards, deliveries, etc have been wonderful and we are all so, so thankful to have all of you out there pulling for her. It really does make hard times easier when we know that so much love and positive energy surrounds us.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You all know My Betty, she can't stay down long, so she will be back to share her words of wisdom soon. Until then, she will be resting, medicating, and building her strength back up so that she can return to being the Rock that you are used to seeing.
Keep those positive thoughts and prayers coming! Gloves up!!
#glovesup #breastcancer #gratitude #surviving #luckygirl

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles Volume Eight or Nine, I've lost count: Tomorrow's the Day!

Good evening, friends!

Tomorrow is the big day. Two boobs are coming off and the beginnings of two fabulous new ones (extenders) are going in to get the next phase started.

This will be quick. I am exhausted, as I have crammed as much fun, friends, and family into the last few weeks as humanly possible.  Today was sincerely one of the most wonderful, memorable, restorative, soul feeding days of my life. Thank you to everyone who had any part in it.

Hair chopped off: check
"Before" picture taken: check
First boat trip with Monster: check
Dinners with the family: check
Fun times with friends: check
Laughter until tears flowed and I was in pain every day: check
Smile from ear to ear: check
Gloves up playlist(s): check
Deep breaths in and out: check

Thank you to all of you who have called, texted, emailed, FB or Twitter messages, and snail mailed cards, gifts, and care packages. I have smiled and sometimes cried, too, as I opened it.  The thank you notes are going to take me ages, but I am already thanking you in my heart every minute of every day.

All will be well. Updates will follow as soon as I can get them posted, or have someone post for me. All will be well. I am surrounded by love on every front. I have the best doctors and hospitals I could ever have chosen. All will be well.

Please be kind to each other the way you have all been so kind to me. Please be even kinder to yourself. You are important. You are special. You are needed. You matter. You are valued. You have gifts to share with our world. Please know that you make my life better each and every day. Our job is to leave our world a better place than we found it. We must each work to do that every day with every breath. Hug someone you love today. Forgive someone today, whether they have apologized or not, for yourself. Forgive. Wrap each other in love. I will be drugged up and sending only positive energy and love into the world for each of you, and those I have yet to know.

Can you tell I am getting tired?  Will likely not even proof this, if you don't tell my students.

See you on the flat side. Hehe!

Peace and love to you all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Seven

After soup, sleep, and antibiotics, this weekend I finally worked up enough energy to set my house in order to receive loved ones who will be here to help for surgery and recovery. Preparing my home to become a place of sanctuary and healing had been weighing heavily on my mind, beneath all of the really big stuff, from the time I found out that The Big C would require a calling-in of the cavalry. Of course I am well aware that no one would actually come into my house to help me and say (or even think), "I can't believe she didn't even vacuum the office!" Or, "I know just the thing to get those rust stains out of your toilet."  Go ahead, laugh at that last one, but there is precedent. Bless her heart, my late grandmother was kind enough to offer that tidbit of wisdom to my mother (and our houseful of twenty-plus people) at full voice one particularly memorable holiday. I can't make this stuff up. Seriously. So you can see why I might worry about the thick coating of dust "protecting" the blades of my living room ceiling fan. Right? Right. (But if you are good on a tall ladder cleaning ceiling fan blades, I seriously need you. Call me. Thanks!)

I digress before I have even begun. Shocker! Welcome to the cacophonous maelstrom of voices jockeying for position in my head.

In all seriousness, the struggle this week has been to find a way to manage all of the appointments, insurance calls, paperwork, pre-op, pharmacy, sleep, food, meditation, yoga, work, planning, and preparation for all possibilities while still maintaining the "stress-free environment" insisted upon by Dr. Rock Star. I laughed out loud when he said, "No stress," to me with a straight face. I thought he was kidding. I have since learned that he was not all. Who knew? So, once again, I have come face to face with my own limitations. And, to be clear, I am not a fan. Today I had to retreat, give up the idea of working normally until the day of the surgery, and go home. I know talked a great game last week about being set up to work from home, but I didn't want to actually need to work from home. I wanted to, once again, be able to do it all. I learned, once again, that I cannot. Excellent, eager, exceptionally capable people are in place to do the parts of my job that need to be managed in my absence. I need to let them. I will let them. I will do what I can do, but know that all will be well. I am so very grateful and so very lucky.

I am told that I have one job right now: to fight. I am told that by others. I am learning to tell myself. I know, and am constantly reminded, that I am a fighter. Unfortunately it appears that I have been fighting against only myself. This is never a good idea. No matter how I win that fight, I lose.

Tonight, after I hit Publish, I will hit the yoga mat, like I do every night. But tonight, rather than fighting to find the Yin Yoga poses of release, I will exhale deeply and surrender. Within the surrender the chaos will quiet. Within the surrender the stillness will be found. Within the surrender, the kind, gentle, loving voice of my soul will be heard. Within the surrender the strength that I need for this battle will be found. Within the surrender the victory will be realized.

Rest well, my friends. Find your surrender. Find your stillness. Find your light. The light in me honours the light in you.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Six, Because sometimes breast cancer just isn't enough...

I woke up yesterday with a searing sore throat. Usually I just suck it up and wait three weeks or so, until I feel like I'd have to get better to die, to go to the doctor. Not this time. My surgery is fourteen days from today, and if I am sick, it won't happen. Unacceptable.

So I went to my regular doctor today, aching all over, throat worse, and head starting to feel full and hot. Try to contain your shock when I say that I have a sinus infection. Welcome to my life. The good news is that I can take the same antibiotics that I will get for pre and post-up, I'll just be on them ten days longer than planned.

I came home and slept for four or five hours AGAIN! Then I got us, had some magic soup, took my meds, and can already barely keep my eyes open.

So thankful for the white tea that arrived today to fill me with antioxidants. Thank you to my college friend who was so very thoughtful. It is making my throat feel better for sure.

Be kind, be well, be rested, and be restored. Our job is to leave the world a better place that it was when we got here. We can do that one breath, one positive thought, one act of kindness at a time.


(Too sleepy to go back and proof this again, so please forgive any typos.)

More peace.

The Breast Cancer Chronicles : Volume Five, The Roller Coaster Continues

I think the things that are challenging me the most right now are my own expectations. I feel like I should be able to get everything done that I want to do, when I want to do it. I feel like I should be able to do my job by myself, without asking for help. I feel like I should be able to handle all of the doctors' visits, and paperwork, and testing, and scheduling, and meds on my own, without needing to be reminded. I feel like I should be able to go to sleep when I go to bed, and wake up with my first alarm and live my life as usual. I feel like I should be able to handle two big, energetic, crazy dogs and a neurotic cat on my own... But I can't. That is the reality that has smacked me square in the face, over and over again today. I can't do it all on my own. I HATE THAT.

I love that I have friends and family who want to help. I appreciate that more than I have words to express. I know that I Need that help, but I don't Like that I need that help. I don't like putting an extra burden on other people. I like taking care of other people. I am so uncomfortable with the shoe on the other foot. But I know that learning to walk in these uncomfortable shoes is part of my lesson in this journey. (If those shoes could have red soles toward the end of the journey, that would make it easier to handle.)

I read somewhere that the greatest way we can  show our love for others is by allowing them to help us. Well, if this is true, I must seriously suck at showing love for others! OR maybe this is the first time that I really have the chance to show all of those who have asked to help just how much I do love them. That must be it! This is my chance to show that I love everyone enough to Ask for help. Now if I can figure out what shape that help should take, I'll be one step closer to making it happen.

Thank you to everyone who has asked how to help. I am working on figuring that out, but will put it into words as soon as I do.

At work, my colleagues have gone out of their way to take things off my plate, and for this I am grateful beyond words. Working from home for some of my more challenging times has also become an option. For this I am grateful. Hugs, tissues, pep talks, ears, and shoulders appeared today just when I needed them. For this I am grateful.

Tonight we honored the birth of Middle Sister. For this, I am grateful. To have her home, even for a little while, is a tonic to my soul. For this I am grateful. Tonight I learned that Baby Sis and Monster will be home to help me through the surgery and recovery. For this I am grateful. Tonight I am warm, safe, and surrounded by healing energy. For this, I am grateful.

Be well, my friends and know that, for each of you, I am grateful.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Four

So yesterday happened. And it was a rough one. And then I slept for four hours, got up, organized the kitchen cabinets, did some yoga and went back to bed.

And then the cat woke me at 3:00 AM and peed on the floor. Immediately I decided he was in full-on kidney failure. I was a wreck again. And then I bleached the floor.

I tried to go back to sleep. #fail
I tried journaling. #fail
I tried mindful meditation. #fail
I tried stretching. #fail
It was shaping up to be a great morning to go back to work!

But go back to work I did. Not as early as I had hoped, but I got there safely. Many other people around the world never made it to work today.
And then my day became about gratitude.

I am grateful that I made it safely to and from work today.
I am grateful that I was greeted with smiles, hugs, love, and support at work when so many others are miserable in their jobs.
I am grateful that the first thing the vet did was give me a hug when he came into the room because he knew I was scared.
I am grateful that I spent a surprise evening with Mom and Dad, floating in the pool, eating, laughing, and listening to amazing music when so many others are away from those they love in one way or another.

I am so grateful to realize how incredible my life is. I am surrounded by everything I need to get through each day. I have been taught to find the strength I need to get through anything. I have been taught to ask for help. I have been taught to look for the good in people, even when they try to show me something else. I don't always see it, but I always know it exists.

Thank you to everyone who called, texted, messaged, emailed, hugged, gifted, laughed, sent prayers, sent positive energy, thoughts, strength, and healing my way today. You each reinforced for me how much we have to take care of each other. We all need love. We all need to belong. We all need to heal.

Tonight I go to bed chlorine-soaked, skin shriveled, belly full, heart warm, and soul at peace.

Love and celebrate each other with every breath.

Gloves up!


Monday, June 13, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Three

Trying so very hard to put this day into words, and really struggling. As much as I hate to admit it, I let this day send me into fetal position (the very day after I said I wouldn't do that for lmore than a few minutes!) where I slept all afternoon and allowed my brain to rest and process.

Nothing has changed, except that I learned today how much harder this was going to be than I wanted to believe.  Notice the word "wanted" in there. I knew it was going to be awful. I knew it was going to hurt like Hell and have a long recovery process, but I didn't realize just how long and how involved a double mastectomy with reconstruction really is. 

In my perfect dream world, I wake up from the surgery, cancer and pain free, with a perfect new set of breasts that are complete and need nothing else. I've also lost fifty pounds, my hair and make-up are so perfect that I could be on a movie set. I LOVE that world... In the real world, I wake up with expanders in my chest, that will be injected with saline every week until they reach the right size and shape. Meanwhile I am taking chemo regularly and going bald. THEN, well after any chemo has ended, there is another surgery to put the actual implants in place. 

In my head it went: surgery - back to work the next week - chemo - shave head - life and work as usual - cured forever! Celebrate!  In the real world it goes more like: surgery - recover from surgery - chemo - next surgery - recover from next surgery - cured - back to life as usual.  I am sure that work and home life are in there at regular internvals, but I don't know when, where, or how. 

I am scared, really scared, of how long the recovery part of this usually takes. I wanted to be Superwoman. I wanted to be the one who could take all of this while still managing work, taking care of two big, energetic dogs and a cat, doing yoga every day and setting the world on fire. Instead, I found out I am just a regular person. But a very lucky one who has a fierce army surrounding her on all sides. 

I had mountains of insurance paperwork and planning to do today, but instead I collapsed into bed and slept there for four hours. I bet even Superwoman has to nap too sometimes. I bet every woman and man who has fought this fight has been exhausted sometimes. But after we rest, we get back up, put our gloves up, and fight on until we win. 

One of my amazing survivor friends was with me and Mom at the plastic surgeon's today. She said something that I have heard in different ways several time of late. This time, it really seemed to get in my head. "You are going to feel everything on this journey, scared, angry, sad, hopeful, hopeless, happy, and even like giving up sometimes. Allow yourself to feel all of those things without judging them. Feel them and let them go." I may be paraphrasing a bit, but I heard it, and I listened this time. 

Today was one of those terrified, yet hopeful days. I was discouraged, but I knew it wouldn't last. Sleep helped. Writing this blog helped. An anonymous gift of a mantraband that said, "Never Give Up' arrived, and that helped. If you are the one who sent it to me, thank you. I will never give up. I will fight every minute of every day I have, even in the minutes when I am sleeping, I am preparing for the fight. 

I can do this. I will do this. I appreciate all of you for your support and encouragement. Together we are strong. 

Peace and love.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume One

Well, my friends, a new challenge lies ahead, and I hope you'll indulge me as I work through this one with my rantings and my art.  

On Monday,  I was officially diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Grade Three. This is the most common form of breast cancer diagnosed today. Unfortunately that doesn't make it any less serious. 

I was lucky enough to be sitting in my counselor's office, concluding a session where we talked about how I likely had breast cancer. We talked about all of the love and support that I have, and that I had a really great attitude about it, looking to find the positive in everything. I was picking up my bag to leave when my phone rang. I took the call and heard it in the doctor's voice before I ever heard the words, "You have breast cancer." I listened. I took notes. I asked questions for clarification. I thanked the doctor and told him that I knew he had saved the lives of many of my friends and would save mine, too.  No pressure. I laughed. I hung up. I said the words out loud for the first time, there with my counselor, "I have breast cancer." I said it again. And then I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I was so hoping to be wrong. I was not wrong. I knew when I first felt the lump a week and a half ago. I knew. 

Four of the words that every woman most dreads hearing are, "You have breast cancer."  "We have to talk," is a close second, and "It's not you...Really," are in close contention, but, "You have breast cancer," pretty much takes the cake. Like so many other strong, brave women (and men) now I have  heard them.  I have also said, "I have breast cancer," out loud, over and over, so I can almost always do it without crying.  Almost. Yes, this is serious. Yes, I am scared. Yes, I am prepared to fight like hell and beat this effing disease.

And so, gloves laced on, the fight begins...

I have amazing friends and family who did all they could to keep me entertained, distracted, and fed through the weekend. I have a job and work family that are allowing me to take the time I need to do whatever is needed to defeat this beast. I have laughed and cried more in the last week than I have in a long time. That is good medicine. 

YesterdayI had an MRI in which I was placed face-down, arms outstretched for flying into what can best be described asa milking machine position.  Having had MRI's of several other parts through the years, all done lying on my back, imagine my surprise when told that those holes were for my "girls"! A regular MRI is loud and cramped, but not particularly uncomfortable. A post-breast-biopsy MRI is far less pleasant for sure. That said, the staff and the facility were amazing.  They did everything possible to keep me calm and comfortable. No small feat, I promise you. 

Tomorrow we meet with the surgeon to find out how far the disease has progressed and make plans for surgery and treatment.   

I have breast cancer. It will not have me.

I am strong. I am determined. I am surrounded by warriors. My mother battled an "incurable" autoimmune disease and today is, in fact, cured. My father and grandfather kicked kidney cancer in the soft parts. The daughter I never had beat the pants off leukemia. The list goes on and on, so how could I do anything but fight like hell?  My young friend, Lindsey Rose, coined the phrase, "Do whatcha gotta do," when she faced her battle. It worked for her, and it will certainly work for me.
I gave Mom this boxing glove necklace when she was diagnosed with Systemic Schleroderma to remind her to fight that "incurable" disease. Today she is cured, and yesterday she gave it to me to remind me to fight my battle now. Gloves up!  I'm coming out swinging! Love you, Mom!
I am still the luckiest woman I know. The outpouring of love and support that I have already received is humbling, overwhelming, and appreciated more than I will ever find the words to express. It is amazing how kind people can be. Thank you all. My team is strong and mighty. We are tireless and relentless in our pursuit of healing. I have been well prepared to stay strong, to stay focused, to stay positive, and to get back up every time I fall.

Thank you for being my people. Thank you for helping me to stay strong, to fight, and to win. Thank you.