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

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