Monday, May 11, 2015

Flow

Mother’s Day 2015

With the wind whipping off of Lake Michigan yesterday, and our fancy graduation clothes severely inadequate, we nonetheless whooped and hollered when Jonah, tall and confident, made his way across the stage to accept his college diploma. That's three up, three down for Paul & I, a kind of graduation for us, too! One of my all-time favorite prayers is the shehechayanu, which loosely translates to thanking the powers that be for sustaining us and allowing us to reach this moment. The narrow tunnel I went through last year, makes me even more aware of my blessings and more alive to the poignant moments that string together to make this life I love.


On Mother’s Day today I am thinking about how milestones are stacking up for our kids, as they reach for their dreams, live the lives they want and outfit themselves for futures they envision. Diana Nyad, the famous long distance swimmer & athlete extraordinaire, gave a rousing commencement address, urging grads to relentlessly grab for their highest aspirations. Channeling the poet Mary Oliver, she quoted, “…what is it you’re doing with this one wild and precious life of yours?” a line we all need to hear about once a day!  

The student speaker was equally inspiring, recollecting homosapien forbearers deciding to make their mark on cave walls with hand prints, raising his own hand he asked, what kind of mark will you make? I think about being a mother and how the marks I make include my kids and how they go forward to make their own marks--and so the generations go! What a blessing to be a mother, with all the craziness, the constancy, the exhilaration, the worry, times of bewilderment and times of fascination, the bits of self-discovery that go along with the territory, all the pride and gratitude. 


Paul & I took a Architecture of Chicago Boat tour today (highly recommended!) with Jonah before hopping on our flights home. Our guide described the mind-boggling engineering feat of changing the direction of flow of the Chicago River in the beginning of last century to help improve water quality, among other things, for the city. For me, the direction of flow of love between us and our kids flows both ways now with some serious current and sustains us all.

Sometimes all the pomp & circumstance of a formal graduation seem longwinded or pretentious. But not this time. It feels like we are all graduating from one thing or another at any given moment: a recent challenge, a course of study, one phase of life evolving to the next, a job or relationship shift, an accomplishment ,big or small,  or simply a realization that shifts our focus or changes the course of our own rivers. I am wishing for myself, my family and all the people we know & love to be fully present and appreciative of life, every step of the way. 

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Graduation!

Love & light,
Amy

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Voila!

Dear Friends & Family,

Slicing through warm hotel pool water, doing consecutive laps of freestyle, back stroke & breast stroke, surrounded by tall, rain-green pine trees shimmering in the Seattle rain, I feel like I am in another episode of AMY- SHE'S BACK! Two months since the end of treatment have slid by, happily marked by such points of normalcy, old routines and even some adventure. In ways it seems like there was a crack in my world, the year 2014 fell wholesale into; now it has healed over and I’m not sure I can even locate the crack. Chalk it up to the resilience of the human body, the miracles of conventional medicine especially when coupled with natural medicine support and …..Voila, I'm back, very much like the old Amy, only with curly hair!

Feb camping trip to St John with Misha's Felicia & our dear friend Willie!
I love having a whole lot of energy like I always did, moving this body with pleasure and purpose, walking, dancing, doing yoga, swimming. I love being back in the saddle at work, helping other people find ways to better health, and teaching our students near & far. Of course I also love having time to myself, time for Paul, time for other pursuits, i.e., time NOT running to medical appointments! I have the occasional day where I nap long deep sleeps, which I must still need and rather enjoy. I experience a bit of PTSD, not that anything in particular was so traumatic, except the whole shebang! I am doing some short term, pointed therapy to help my nervous system & my psyche let go of all that. But as my (first time ever) therapist says, I am “well resourced,” and I guess figured out much of this, unbeknownst to me, on my own.

Thank you to everyone who has checked up on me these past weeks. It is a strange phenomenon to go from a pretty constant state of focusing on healing, keeping my eyes on THAT ball, to being free. And in my definition of health there is a whole lot of freedom: freedom from thinking about health, freedom from discomforts or pain, freedom to experience a wide range of emotions in a happy balance. Many of you have asked if I am worried about the cancer coming back. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has had cancer thinks about that, but I’m good at thought stopping and ultimately, I know worrying doesn’t help. I’m clear and calm knowing I did every possible thing in my power to make that not happen. I do not have to change much in my pristine lifestyle, just have to keep it up, which as you know, comes easy for me.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer I had be wondering about my next incarnation in this life, what else I might try or do, experience or create. I put all that on the back burner last year but have found it simmering up front again. I do not know what the future holds, who really does? But I am spending time consciously open to the possibilities and trying to listen in the quiet spaces to the yearnings of my heart.

My birthday is next week on Pi Day (3.14), so have a slice of pie and think of me! I cannot say I am sorry to close the chapter on year 54. That said, though it may not have been my brightest hour, that whole experience shed light on my patience AND my fortitude right nearby my mortality. I don't recommend using this approach to garner such self-knowledge, but!! That twelve-month interlude showcased the incredible, devoted, unwavering man by my side and highlighted the broad & loving community of people that make my life worth living. I am someone who tries to be present & appreciative of my many blessings, and last year, with all its ups & downs, provided endless opportunities for that.  I may as well capitalize on perspectives gained and carry some of these new bits of understanding forward. Here’s to a beautiful, long-awaited, reawakening spring for us all; I hope our paths cross soon.
Love & light,

AMY

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fini


Dear Friends & Family,


At my very first chemo-extravaganza last winter, Paul set us up to watch our first episode of Downton Abbey. During the slow times last year, we watched it all, including the bootleg version of Season 5, which we just finished off. Decided to underscore our viewership by attending the Dowtown Abbey Ball this Saturday night, a fundraiser for our local public TV station. Here we are with dear friend (& acupuncturist extraordinaire,) Lynn Curry, where we ballroom-danced the night away to The Masterpiece Ballroom Orchestra, playing period music, think: Foxtrot! The point being, even at the tail end of the cumulative chemo-rah-rah, Paul doing the lion’s share of cheerleading, information gathering, emotional support and random heavy lifting this elongated, somewhat strange year …. I think we still clean up pretty darn good!

Downton Abbey Ball January 3, 2015. The Log Cabin, Holyoke MA
Also this:  a neighbor called a few days back to tell us a bobcat had just walked through his backyard and was heading to ours. Perched from our upstairs bathroom window, binoculars fetched, Paul & I watched incredulously as the stubby-tailed, broad- shouldered, tawny cat slinked through the raspberry patch and around the garden gate. Bob came to stand sentry at the (one of our sad to say, many) groundhog holes, then sat majestically back on his spotted-like-a leopard-hind legs a moment, and poked a curious, husky paw into the opening. He soon gave up and sauntered across the lawn to our fire circle where he hopped up, like a tiger at a circus show, onto one of the tall log stump seats, lingering a bit before nonchalantly ambling off, stage right.

As I lay in the reclining chair today taking in what I hope to be my last-ever chemo cocktail, I thought about that cat, comfortable in an unfamiliar setting, but not too interested in sticking around. That’s how I feel about this year. I was comfortable enough in the medical worlds but BOY, am I ready to move along. Of course there are scans and blood tests and lots of follow up, which I aim to do with my usual cheerful demeanor; I will stay with the pristine lifestyle and all the prayer, song, dance, time with loved ones, satisfying work, etc., I can muster. I know with a confident mind and strong heart I have done everything in my power and taken advantage of all that both conventional and natural medicine has to offer. Really, all I can do is hope for the best.

I will sign off today wishing you every blessing and with my deepest gratitude for your year’s worth of being there for me in the myriad of ways you have shown up: prayers, humor, cards, little gifts, food, love and care-- I will not soon forget your kindnesses and the time you took to be with me in your own way. And god-willing, I will soon be back to my usual posture of giving-more-than-taking from this life-affirming-community pie!
Love & light,
AMY

Monday, December 29, 2014

Grasp the Baton

Dear friends & family,

As a beneficiary of the first wave of Title IX, I play three sports in high school. I gain skills and understanding about so much in life, from the importance of teamwork & the commitment to discipline, from learning to trust & lean on others to knowing how to push past fear, difficult moments and disappointment.  I also learn how to be a gracious winner. I was an outside striker for the South Shore High School volleyball team in Brooklyn, SO FUN: I miss SMASHING something….anything…to smithereens like that! I certainly learn about being in the moment and finding ways to get my head in the “zone,” though I’m fairly certain that in 1974 we don’t call it that. 
Sporting #18 here, the Hebrew equivalent for the word CHAI= LIFE :) 
When I run track, my favorite event is the 4 x 100 relay race where I run the anchor position, the last of four runners responsible for catching up if the team is lagging or being sure to guard and improve on a lead if we’re ahead.

When I found the little “bugger in the boob,” on New Year’s Day last year, I never could have known how my year would unfold. Today I begin running the anchor leg on some iteration of an exceedingly long race; just one more chemo-can-can next Monday. In other words, I am turning the clubhouse corner into the home stretch. I am not competing with anyone per se or myself, but I feel a similar rush of adrenaline seeing the finish line in crystalline view a skinny slip of a week away. I know as I grasp the baton to take this last lap, it is from the loving hands of my family & friends. I would never have made it this far, in this good a shape, without you.

Sending Happy New Year Wishes to you & all the people you love, for good health, family peace, time for both reflection & action, work that satisfies and enough wisdom to grab for the fun stuff, too.
Love & light,
AMY

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