Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lushy Time of Year

Our neighborhood lotus pond is in full regalia with its platter-sized iridescent leaves waving and balancing on slender stalks, the prayerful and buttery pink flowers dancing in their midst. I always think about how mucky and ominous the pool looks in spring, and appreciate the transformation from something not very pretty to something "half wild & wholly tame" (with apologies to Kipling), something anticipated and awesome.

buttery pink flowers dancing in their midst
I can say the same thing about the growth around my ovaries. Ominous when determined to show cancer, but the awesome news we were hoping for arrived today, my pathology report came back
Stage 1. This is fabulous news in so many ways and entirely rare in the world of ovarian cancer.

And here the back story unfolds. Due to strong family history of breast cancer, I decided in 2007 to test for the BRCA gene. My results were negative. I breathed a small sigh of relief and kept up my state of the art detection approaches and uber-healthy lifestyle. With the breast cancer diagnosis in January, I was asked to get tested. I quickly reported my previous-not-that-long-ago negative finding and was told much more is known now; I should retest. Lo and behold I do carry the gene for BRCA.

All I can say is PROFOUNDLY BAD TIMING ON MY PART. I was being as proactive as I could be. Had I tested positive in ’07, I would have had prophylactic removal of my breasts and ovaries.  And how frustrating that one of the largest cancer research centers in the world would not be scouring its database and harnessing digital technology to alert patients who tested negative in the late 1990s and up through the 2000s, to RETEST. I have been in touch with my team there, you betcha, and will educate & write more on this topic going forward.

Not one to dwell on the frustrating side of life, I went to work on what else could I do to help prevent further issue. Which is why I was in a bit of a rush to have my ovaries out. And a good thing I advocated for myself and pushed this along. Most of my docs thought waiting until late fall would be ideal, give myself a chance to catch my breath from the onslaught that defines conventional cancer care. So the surgery I had last week, which was supposed to be entirely preventive, did not turn out that way, but to find ovarian cancer early is huge. Stage one is excellent. In some ways that breast cancer may well have saved my life.

So, what do you do when you are supposed to be recuperating from TAH/BSO (that's medicalese for total abdominal hysterectomy-bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, or simply put: removal of the precious uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries!) while simultaneously staring down the barrel at 6 rounds of chemo-yum yum? 

Here's my Top Ten List:

1. Clean the bathroom cupboards! Of course!
2. Work with patients a few hours at a pop, in person or by Skype, offers both deep satisfaction and helpful distraction. Keep on sharpening this mind.
3. Rework the yoga postures so my sutures don’t burst.
4. Create kick ass Powerpoints (a contradiction in terms), while lying on the couch, for a number of lectures I am to give this fall. 
5. Experiment with eyeliner (verdict: makeup makes me look like a tramp.)
6. Weed the flower boxes and commence the (annual) lament on the state of the fall garden.
7. Take slow walks by myself or with whoever will have me, build my endurance and speed right back up.
8. Listen to books on tape while daydreaming as I force myself to rest up (currently: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a terrific read, even-keeled and lovely.) while lying in my chaise lounge in the shade.
9. Slip into my art room and send out birthday greetings, wedding wishes, and the ever increasing pile of condolences cards.
10. Stare at my basket of scarves and have the stunning realization that this fall I will be starring in a new show: The Reluctant Return of the Babushke Babe!
I will write again in a week or so, in response to all the replies I got about wanting to fast with me during my chemo-nation tour this fall. You guys rock! Know that I feel 100% myself, spirits high, happy at home, enjoying my family, my friends, my work and my ultimate good fortune this lushy time of year. 

Love & light,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tough Cookie

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is I am recuperating in my beautiful sun-filled home with doting Paul and Sophie nearby. Misha was at Mass General & we were in touch with Jonah, who is tethered to Chicago basketball. A finer family I could not find.  Again, no painkillers for me: they kept saying at the hospital, my, you must have a high tolerance for pain, but truth be told, I did not experience pain,  probably due to that secret homeopathic magic: Arnica  (and then for you homeopathy aficionados, Miss Bossy Pants over here took Nux vomica for the trapped air left in the abdominal cavity from the laparoscopic procedure. Worked like a charm!)

The bad news is the there was cancer on one of my ovaries. This is a bit of shocker as we had all visualized this surgical foray as the endpoint of this cancer tour. It was caught early and my spunky, red-cowboy-boots-wearing-surgeon, says it’s likely no cancer was left behind. But it does mean I win a free return trip, all expenses paid, to that bummer of a place, chemo-land, to begin mid September as a precaution…. which makes good sense to me. I have faith I will fair as well a second time through as I did earlier this year. I will be doing the whole fasting regimen again (can’t wait, anyone want to join me?!) and in these coming weeks will have to sort out all the many work, social, & travel plans we made for our now, not-so-celebratory autumn. Paradoxically, the main feeling I have, is feeling badly about disappointing or burdening people. So, I’m sorry!

Your ongoing love, support & humor really does help me. And I am always open to your prayers that I will tolerate well the treatments ahead with this strong body, upbeat nature, and my shiny spirit. Throw Paul & the kids in those +++ thoughts, too; I know it is hard on them to worry about me. Like everyone, I really need to get along with all the work I have set out to do, dreams to accomplish, family to cherish & love to share. But I have also learned how to be in the moment and focus on healing.  I’m a tough cookie as you know by now; I feel peaceful and powerful even with this news. As Jonah reminded me late last night: Ma, no problem so big, we can’t solve.
Love & light,

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flexibility & grace

Rechem is the Hebrew word for womb and from it comes the essential word rachmanus, or compassion. As I contemplate having a hysterectomy this morning, I am not thinking about losing even an iota of my own ability for compassion.  Each challenge feels like an opportunity for getting stronger and better and for leaning on the people and the habits of mind I am blessed enough to know. SO! No loss of compassion here J.
There is an element of stepping into the unknown, no matter how much I know about this procedure. Here’s to stepping in with confidence and faith.

Stepping out near Lake Michigan last week. Just like the ocean and very calm this day
What an amazing organ I am about to let go of, this peach of a womb, soft and warm, that has lived inside me since I was inside my own mother. It has graced me with blessing beyond belief, three healthy, robust children who came rushing out into the world, eyes open and spirits ready to fly. That growing with child and shrinking again, growing with child and shrinking again always impressed me. Not too many parts of us can expand and contract like that and do it without much complaint. That was and continues to be the exact physiologic metaphor for the flexibility and grace motherhood demands.

I like to think of myself as creative, in the art room, the kitchen, our clinic, all over. But surely my greatest creation is my kids who leap beyond me in that department and spread so many good ideas and so much beauty and goodness in the world. I am thankful I was able to have and raise a family. Now on the morning of this procedure, it seems even more poignant to me that though love with Paul brought our kids into being and intertwining genes left clear and specific growing instructions, it was in and through the womb each had their start and began growing into the people they are.

I dragged my feet after Jonah was born, through my 30s and I am embarrassed to say, through my 40s, too. I could never say for certain and greedy as it sounds, that I did not want another child. So now, at this auspicious age of 54, (I say auspicious as in Hebrew, when you take the word for life (chai) and give its numeric equivalent, it adds up to 18, so 54 is considered triple chai,) I can finally say, OKAY! I’m not giving birth to any more children! Time to shift my posture toward grandchildren (you reading this Sophie, Misha, Jonah!!?) HA!!

My friend ZP wrote: “It took me forever to let go of that uterus, when I finally resolved my attachment I visualized it as this lovely angel with the flowing fimbria wings that I was releasing after its glorious service in providing a nest for my 3 children to develop in.”

I feel that. I feel the self-compassion I know I need for healing  and I feel your compassion and love for me too. May we each go from strength to strength, be fortified by the challenges we face and know that in love and community healing and resilience happen.

With love & light,


Monday, August 11, 2014

Saving All the Good Stuff

Greetings from sunny, dry, blue skied Arizona. Paul & I just spent a fun, engaging, social, political HOT week with our naturopathic clan at our annual convention where I was one of the speakers. I am also on our national board, so even though that kind of work can be tedious, call me nuts, but I rather enjoy it.  I will never tire of these people, our vision and the promise of natural medicine. 

I also wanted to let you know that this Friday I am having a hysterectomy and hoping that everything goes well. If you have a sec drop me into your prayers and positive thoughts. I am visualizing a good outcome; I know I keep giving up body parts but not to worry, I'm saving all the good stuff!
Sending love & light for an excellent end to your summer!