Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giddy up

Dear friends,

The sun burst through the sky this afternoon briefly, after a long stretch of grey, dreary days. I grabbed myself for a walk and felt like I was being reconstituted by the light, the air, even the cold. After having a bit of a hitch in my giddy-up this year, I am replacing it now with a hop, skip & a jump to the finish line. As that end point comes into vision, I literally feel like I am walking faster, going harder and single-mindedly determined to get to January 5th, my last adventure in the difficult to describe, always a bit bizarre, land of chemotherapy.

Of course the vital energy could also be credited to the two units of blood I slurped up (through a vein, not to worry,) this week. Been doing a good job keeping me platelets up, but when the baby reds went so low and as we say in the vernacular, I was dragging my arse, I said, let it drip! With that elixir of life coming in, I gave thanks to the kind soul who donated blood anonymously. And I immediately absorbed it, integrated it and let it power up some new experiences.

Like how ‘bout: this lifelong vegetarian finally learns how to roast a chicken. So easy! So yummy! So perfect. Decided to do two today, one for a friend!

Two roasted chickens ready to go!
And how bout: watch my first movie on Netflix.  I know, you think I’d have watched endless movies during this year when I had a seeming surplus of time, but truth be told, my grand total: 2.  Million Dollar Arm, which I thoroughly enjoyed & Two Days In New York, which I'd give a meh rating, though who doesn't love Chris Rock?

Or how 'bout our 1st Brown Bag Lunch via Skype with students in Seattle, Paul and I dressed professionally from the waist up, pjs on the bottom, hopefully sounding smart and articulate over the miles.

We also had our second annual virtual Hanukkah with the kids on a GoogleChat so we could light the first night candle together. Latkes do not translate well, but love sure does.

Sending along here season's greetings and happy times for you & yours. Thank you for your ongoing love and prayers, good thoughts and wishes. I continue to take it all in, that's the real medicine in my book.
With love & light,
AMY


My writing from this year can be found here: http://dramyrothenberg.blogspot.com   Feel free to pass any of it on if you think it might help someone you know. The Huff Po pieces are here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-rothenberg-nd/ 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bookends

Dear Friends & Family,

On one of the warm sultry days tucked into November, Paul & I planted two hundred bulbs all around the yard. Though we used fertilizer & covered well & even mulched about a bit, we know many of the bulbs will never see the light of day. But plant away we did with childish faith in both nature & the unstoppable promise of spring. 

We also asked Kim ( who runs NESH and many of our other work endeavors!)  to take a few pix of us that could pass for a professional look, I really needed a pix with the shortie hairdo—which by the way, I am really enjoying AND I am  giving Paul a run for the money in the curls department!

As might have been predicted, based on this nutty year, I hit a big bump in the road this month, a not very bad fall where I jammed my shoulder coincided with an exceedingly low platelet count, causing after some weeks, excruciating pain—turns out bleeding into a joint capsule and also forming a hematoma the size of a nectarine below the armpit and thereby pressing on the nerve bundle under the arm-- you should cross off your to-do list.   I have mercifully shot out the other side ever thankful that of all the gifts this year has bestowed upon me, pain of any lasting or intense measure has not been in the basket. I feel I now have tidy bookends: Thanks to my post chemo prednisone crashes, I am conversant with the deep hole of depression heretofore a foreign tongue, and on the other end, I now know the taste of unrelenting and agonizing pain. My ability for compassion is fanning out by the mile and yes, I think I have now completed all the lessons in the book of what I needed to learn this year. Enough is enough! May we all be spared these kinds of bookends from here on out or seek and find deep and lasting help.

Many times this November i felt how this really is not my finest hour, I have held on to the lifeline of faith: in myself, in my ability to heal, in my greater purpose in life, in god, it’s true, in my love with Paul and the kids, in my love to and from family, friends, patients, students. colleagues and even strangers who have come across my path. I continue to be blessed by predictable support from those close in, but also by so much kindness and care from people and places I barely knew before. When I recently mentioned to Paul how I could never repay everyone in kind, he didn’t miss a beat and said, have you ever thought maybe everyone is repaying you!? That is a very kind thing to say, he has always been quick on his feet.

Today I took in #8/12 chemo, so am into the homestretch now. I am a real pro. Had the infusion room to myself early on this morning so took the opportunity to put on some funky music and dance it out a bit, why not? The nurses sit on the other side of a glass enclosure and each had their iphone out taking pictures—HA! These lovely and sweet people have nowhere to file me, may as well let my freak flag fly!

Every Friday my oncologist threatens no chemo on Monday due to low blood counts, I rally & voila-- I either blow the numbers out of the water (my athletic, competitive, type A side vindicated once more!) or just slip in under the bar—either way, I wind up being elated that I get to have my chemo-a-go-go day in the sun.

During this week of Thanksgiving, may we all continue to nurture and encourage postures of gratitude; may we all know good health, family harmony and peace- inside & out. And may all the things we sow during this darker times of the year find light and beauty come spring.
Love & light,

AMY

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Breezy

Dear friends & family,

After chemo today, riding the energy wave of the dexamethasone, Paul& I went for a long breezy walk along the Hadley dike. The brush hog must have just come through; the unobstructed views of the meandering Connecticut River shimmered in the midday sun. Off to the side we saw a field of feed corn, I don't know how many acres, planted seasons ago, in meticulous row after row. We scampered down the embankment and decided to walk between the densely packed crops from one end all the way to the other. If you’ve never walked between endless rows of corn, I highly recommend it!  
Walking with the Tall Corn
First of all, this corn is just about 11 feet high! The ground was soft and smooth, with corn roots, like gnarly fingers, determinedly grasping the ground. The rustle of the crispy leaves poking at my sweater and drying corn peaking out from the cobs, spoke loudly of autumn. I felt protected in there; I felt quiet and peaceful and a little bit silly tromping along this long, slender corridor of corn. I felt like I was on a different sort of path, like this entire year, and one that has not been all bad. I’ve had things to learn and experiences to have everywhere I’ve been, both inside & out. God knows I am a better person for it.

And to catch you up after my previous post: After ongoing very low blood readings last Thursday, I was told I would have to forgo chemo unless the #s came up by Monday. Paul & I, with input from our loving advisor (thank you Jacob!), tweaked the game plan. I am back on the IV Vitamin C (thank you Ian!), which helps protect many organs and the bone marrow; I have bumped up some of my bone marrow supporting botanical medicines, added more of certain foods and less of others, kept up with acupuncture each week (thank you Ms. Lynn!), I really worked harder at staying better hydrated (bizarrely one of the hardest thing for me, just not a thirsty gal….) I took a homeopathic remedy. I added more exercise and cranked up my personal visualizations of healthy marrow. I also increased my own time praying for and sending +++ vibes to other people. And with my secret powerful ingredient of all your +++ thoughts & prayers, a scant 4 days later, I walked into that lab and wouldn’t you know it: platelets: normal! white count: normal! & my baby reds comin’ right along. SO! Like anything in life, it was gratifying to see a problem, make a plan, take specific action & see desired results. And in the end…….. I could have my chemocake and eat it too!

It’s true that these are powerful drugs doing good work AND my marrow is tired. My goal is to keep up all the things I do, along with the stuff of normal life……to be creative finding solutions for issues that arise, to not get thrown off by bumps on the road and to carry on strong to that glimmering January 5th finish line. That someone tells me, okay girl, you can have your chemo today and I feel elated, reflects the particular oddness of this phase of my life and believe you me, I will not miss it ONE bit.

Love & light,
AMY



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweet Spot

Dear Friends & Family,

Today,  walking the perimeter of the newly mown fields of my backyard Mt. Pollux, I was blown away by the sultry October warmth, the grasses lying down as if swaying in water, the leaves on the painted mountains, the blast of colors alive. I could walk forever here, with breathtaking closeup eyefuls and of course this view. Most of you have seen the vista, curvy and soft, cradling the valley close. The puffy clouds run along the clear sky with late afternoon shadows coming across the meadow, this sweet spot in the middle of Amherst, a blessing I never take for granted. 

Side meadow on the way up Mt Pollux
                                                                                            Personally, I am in a different kind of sweet spot, between chemo infusions, where everything seems fine, cancer treatments are like a vague far away concept and life is normal & full. 

I often get the question, what can I do for you? What do you need? How can I help? 
Thank you for asking, thank you for caring. 
For the most part Paul & I don't need or want a thing, we are in a good rhythm with my treatments, our writing, teaching, family, resting and healing. 
But! My bone marrow is a bit weary at the moment, meaning that all my blood counts are quite low. The marrow, where new blood cells are born, has taken a bit of a hit by all the strong medicines I have taken for many months now, with very little reprieve. Once chemo is over, I will be able to build back up, but in these intervening months, I can use all the help I can get. I know what to eat and how to exercise; I am taking all the right supplements and herbs. I am good at resting and being peaceful, I know how to do powerful positive imagery. Now I am calling out for some prayers & +++ thoughts to help me along. And if you can give blood, please do. I was so helped by a transfusion last week and sadly, neither Paul nor I (later on!) can give blood any longer. We have traveled to too many (wonderful!) places or stayed too long in others, which puts us on the CAN'T GIVE BLOOD LIST. But if you can, it will help someone else in need and blood banks are pretty much always in need.
So…. here's that verbiage for some positive thoughts or prayers if you have a sec: Let Amy continue to handle treatments well, and make plenty of healthy white & red blood cells. Let her healing be complete.
I will now instruct my bone marrow to listen up :)
THANK YOU, thank you, as I go further into your debt!

Love & light,

AMY

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lordy- Loo!

Dear Friends & Family,

After my last post, a number of you wrote asking how could I continue to be relentlessly positive in the face of challenging news, intermittent discomfort & the sheer amount of it all. First off, know that I have the urge to write when I feel good. When I feel badly, like many people, I want to crawl into bed, curl up in a ball and pull the quilt over my head!

Got me thinking. I will share with you some views from the underbelly, not so you feel bad for me, but so you can see better the range of this experience. Last time round, I felt a bit defeated by fasting, seemed like a bit of mean culminating in worse mean with the attempted needle stabs into my veins. My erstwhile uber-competent nurse, who I trust like a bodyguard, kept hitting valves in my otherwise full and pumping veins; it took her 3 attempts to get my IV right. I kept my spirits up--just kept saying to myself and increasingly aloud, "Well it HURTS, but I'm not SUFFERING, I know the difference! I might have yelled that out Southern Baptist style, but reined in my enthusiasm, didn't want to scare the other kind people I share that infusion room with. We had a good laugh, but when the nurse walked away, I burst into tears. It's like that sometimes. My goodness, I would hate that job--having to hurt people to help them, no wonder I got into homeopathy, for God's sake, the medicine tastes like candy!
It somehow reminded me of my birthing stories, I always wound up, during the intense moments in those little back bedrooms of our homes where our kids were born, yelling through gritted teeth, “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME... LORDY-LOO!!!!” And Paul would murmur to the midwife or to no one in particular, why is my New York Jewish wife praying to Jesus with a full-on a southern accent!?

Section II of the downer report:
As part of my drug offerings I am given “pre-meds,” via the IV. First in is an anti-nausea potion, fair enough, followed by what is essentially 100 milligrams of prednisone. The latter is given to prevent allergic reaction to the chemotherapy, but it was found to also potentiate the efficacy of these life-giving elixirs. Don’t know how many of you have ever taken prednisone but this sudden ramp up also helps prevent nausea, offers a huge jolt of energy, jerks around your sleep & messes with your head. A taper is not offered. 
So, day one and two have me doing all sorts of things like cleaning the refrigerator, washing walls, scrubbing grout, little house jobs, catching up with bills and filing all those chores that tend to slide to the bottom of the to-do list seem just easy as pie. But the drug wears off in a jiffy and at least in my case, that going a hundred miles an hour ends with me slamming head first into a thick brick wall of depression right around day 3. It’s a deep hole of depression, entirely unknown and unfamiliar territory for me, all consuming and sickening. Even though I know it’s from the drug. Even though I know it will end. Even though I know it’s not me, I would say this is the worst part of chemo. Eating helps, exercise helps, positive self-talk helps and nothing helps. I just say to Paul in a very small voice, “Can’t find my happy place.” Now that I’ve gone through this 8 times, I am better at handling it, it’s relatively short-lived and my ND helpers have given me useful advice; I also know it will help me be a better doctor to the many, many patients I see for whom depression is part of their story. 
On a lighter note, I had my first blood transfusion yesterday. I thought it was well-timed with impending Halloween and all. My red count has slipped precipitately low, not uncommon with these medicines; I was not all that tired really, but a few nights ago after a particularly exuberant hustle with my dance teacher, which sometimes might make me say, “Oh, my God, that dance took my breath away—meaning in an awesome dance, nice connection kind of way, I found myself so literally out of breath—the OTHER kind of taking one’s breath away, I realized I must have become severely anemic. My aorta was throbbing and I had to sit down, something I never do when I am out dancing. So, I was glad to be able to receive a lovely dark red unit of blood, while lying with my feet up and watching some low brow TV and eating a hospital burger on a gluten free bun. I had quiet afternoon by myself, they let the good stuff drip in slowly. I had views of the little Zen Garden, recall my spa experience! Of course the nurse who checked me in to that floor for my bloodthirsty adventure is someone I have danced with often, never knew he was a nurse. That juxtaposition of a dance partner, checking my vitals and my IV connection, like it was life or death for me to get back on the dance floor, gave me a good laugh. 
I am now 4 infusions down, 8 to go, after the next set will be at the half way mark. I see January 5th my clear finish line. Thank you to everyone who did a fast or a cleanse with me these last months, that shores me right up to know you would do that with me. I am thinking about NOT fasting this next time through, we have a Two Year NESH class beginning in Boston and I want to be part of the whole experience with this group of new people. And maybe take out our own Boston crew for a nice dinner on the town. Here we are a few weeks back at SOWA- I WAS fasting & missed out on the FOOD TRUCK experience! That's Felicia with us; we're just missing Jonah, who will hopefully be here soon enough for Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for.
Boston on a Sunday afternoon zipping around town!
Love & light,
AMY 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book of Life

Dear all,

Two infusions down, 10 to go. Making my progress, slow & steady. AND enjoying this spectacular fall, walking in the neighborhood.


I wanted to share this HUFF PO piece published today. Please post to FB or tweet if you do those kinds of things; I would like to spread this word. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-rothenberg-nd/brca-test-and-retest_b_5853156.html
As we are about to step into the Jewish High Holidays, I will share an image I love from the liturgy: that we all be written into the book of life for a healthy and peaceful new year!

With love & light,
AMY