Thursday, November 27, 2008

an abundance of gratitude

there is so much to be thankful for today! here is my short list...what is on yours?

my clear mammogram.
you sitting there at your computer, following my story & caring about me ~ even if we've never met in person.
i may be broke, but more important ~ i'm healthy.
my sweet, almost 14-year old dog is curled at my feet after a nice walk.
i have an incredible, loving family.
even though i have become a hermit, my friends have not given up on me.
i can walk, after months and months of pain and limping!
oh, and then there's obama...*happy sigh*

thank-you from the bottom of my heart for sticking by me through this topsy-turvy year. writing this blog and knowing you are there, reading and hoping the best for me ~ that has saved my life. thank-you, my friends. thank-you, internet. thank-you, universe for this day of abundance.

and as promised, i drew a name today for my little give-a-way. the celebration of my one year anniversary of this blog and of the turnip's arrival in my life. i am so glad the turnip is gone and you are still here, my readers. so without further ado, the winner is...

laura, who writes the inspiring blog, nothing to attain. congratulations, laura! i'll be emailing you for your postal address so you can receive your prize. (to be honest, i have not decided yet what the prize will be, i thought the winner might want to look over my website and give me a hint.)

to all my readers...wherever in the world you are today, i wish you happy thanksgiving and i hope you feel how very much i appreciate you. may your day be warm and blessed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

it's all good, people

i've picked up on a vibe lately from many of you, my dear readers. you're feeling sad and sorry about my business dissolving. perhaps you are disappointed, feeling let down. maybe this change in my life represents something bigger to you, maybe you are having a hard time getting excited about my new career path because, well, it just doesn't fulfill your yearning for romance.

i'll admit, going back to school, getting a job, pursuing a career path that promises security ~ on paper that certainly doesn't read as exciting as being an independent jewelry designer. as a culture, we romanticize the artist, but we don't support them. i don't mean you, my friends who follow this story. you have been incredibly supportive and i am so grateful. thank-you! i speak of the culture at large. we americans in particular are drawn to the dashing image of the solo entrepreneur, making their own rules, not bound by the 9 to 5. but without universal health coverage? just that issue alone points to the huge disconnect between what we say we value as a country and what truly support with taxes.

i want to be clear. i want this change of plan. i choose this new career path. this is good.

i am celebrating, even as i slog through resume writing and job research. the financial crises provided the breaking point, it is true, but i am thankful for the insights these current conditions have pushed to the surface. i am thrilled to have figured out some essential truths about who i am and what brings my life meaning. i am so happy, so relieved to be moving in this new direction. for those of you who only know me through this blog and since i got cancer, i realize it's a stretch of imagination.

for my old friends and family, nothing makes more sense than where i am headed now.

you know, for years i thought that the ultimate would be having my own business, running the show and making beautiful objects to sell. but to be clear, i saw myself as the artist, not the production worker. i never wanted to do my own production. it burns up your body and your spirit. i knew that wasn't for me. yet to be brutally honest, i didn't start with capitol. i didn't start with family money or a partner who paid the bills. i did not have the resources to hire help or set up shop overseas. i started with only a wing and a prayer, with rose-colored glasses firmly planted on my face.

the way i did it is not the way to success.

no regrets. i had to do it this way, my way. the lessons learned could not be gained any other way. anyone who knows me well, knows i can be very stubborn. (although growing softer with age) it often takes a big sign to get my attention. i will never say that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. however, when cancer showed up a year ago, i recognized it as my teacher.

what an incredible year of learning.

i have learned that i don't want to work all the time, i want to have a healthy balance between work and life. having my own business meant i could set my own schedule, but it was very hard for me to impose enough structure to be efficient or have any sense of personal equilibrium. some people thrive on working 16-hour days, but not me. i do not like the lifestyle or the hours of having my own business. for me, it means never really being "off" work, not having enough money to take a vacation, constant worry about the future and no safety net when shit hits the fan. i got sick. i developed chronic injuries that take an incredible amount of time and dedication to manage.

oh, it feels so good to say that i do not like having my own business!

call me a heretic, i don't care. for me there was little glory and much pain. but, i have learned so much from my experiment with being an entrepreneur. skills and experiences that will serve me well in any new career direction. now, i am a guerrilla-marketing expert. now, i know how to write a business plan. now, the web is my right arm. now, i am plugged into an incredible network.

i may not have found my calling with a solo-proprietorship, but i found my voice.

so celebrate with me, my dear readers. change is good. even looking at a balance sheet all in the red and worried about the immediate future, i am happy. happy to see the way forward.

the biggest thing i have given up in starting this business is making art. ironic, but true. that loss has been a source of sadness and imbalance that i believe contributed to cancer, to injury, to weight gain and all sorts of unhealthy conditions. i am so excited to get back to myself as an artist. you know, the product design comes so easily to me so it has been tempting to think that it is my path. i have an inventor's brain, an affinity for problem-solving. those gifts make me lucky, but not bound to direct that talent into a career. i have always suffered from too many ideas, too many things i was good at. such a problem, right? again, i know i am lucky to be able to choose how to apply all those strengths.

i hope to keep my jewelry studio for as long as i can and am currently seeking a studio mate to share the costs. i see myself continuing to make pieces, but only one-of-kind high end pieces. i'll offer them on my website, but in the future i won't make jewelry for a market. i'm going to play the timing by ear. at this moment, i intend to have my business transition into a hobby that may provide some occasional income, but nothing that i'm counting on to live. i am looking forward to painting again and to pursuing opportunities to create and show site-specific installations. for now, nothing has changed except my intention. when i land that full time job i am pining for, then i will really make the shift away from the jewelry studio and business.

at this point in life, i choose to put my energy into those things that feed my soul. connecting with people and helping them through big life transitions. making art for the sheer joy of creating, on my timeline. that is it, people. that is it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

good news and a revealing story

to start, the excellent good news. i had my first post-cancer follow up mammogram this week and am thrilled to report the screening was all clear. free of cancer and free to go on with my life! my beat up little breast didn't enjoy being squished so hard and is tender now in response, but it's worth the pain to get such great news.

as a follow-up to my last post, i want to offer a few more reflections.

i can only assume life is long, that my life will be long and healthy and full. after the year i have had, it seems the only outlook that brings any daily peace. i can't live as if it will all end tomorrow, or next year, or i would not be able to make a plan for a future. seeing the future as long and wide, full of promise, that helps me be in the moment. being in the moment is a very good thing, as we all know.

all the dreams i have, the things i would like to do in this lifetime, i hope to have a chance to see even half of them come to fruition. yet, i am more realistic at 42 than i was at 22, as i should be. which isn't to say i've given up anything truly important to me with my recent decision in regards to career path. in fact, i feel i have embraced the very most important things of all.

in the past, i have made some choices that delivered more flash and drama to my story than substance and consideration for those vital basics in life; health, security, comfort. i regret very few choices i've made. after all, this winding path has made me the interesting, empathetic and experienced person i am today! hopefully those qualities make me employable too.

when i started my retreat in september, i had one strict agreement with myself: stay open. accept what comes without judgment. i wanted to see where my inner investigations would lead. i'll freely admit, this last chapter has surprised me too, on one level -the surface level. dig deeper down (my old friends can attest to this) and choosing to work with young people in transition, to enter a counseling field? it makes sense like ducks in water.

is my heart still tugged towards international development work, towards the entrepreneurial life? oh, yes. of course it is. i have always been drawn to helping people in far-flung places that haven't even reached the bottom rung of the economic ladder. i want to save every one of those dying in poverty every day. my heart is there. and i have always longed for adventure, for travel, for change. yet i know this: i tend towards the romantic view (that's my optimistic side), which isn't strongly rooted in reality. intellectually, i know that the grand gesture isn't as effective as slogging away in the field, making small steady steps forward.

what i have come to be at peace with is that "the field", my field, is right here in portland. and that when i can help young people form clear intentions for their lives and perhaps even inspire some into values-driven careers, that i am making a significant difference. what our western developed world needs most is upcoming generations of leaders and followers that are dedicated to service and sustainability.

i offer you a story from another pivotal crossroads in my life, one where i didn't stop and consider carefully the path i was taking.

first, the back story. at age 24, as i was nearing completion of my undergrad degree in fine art, i was clear and determined about my future. my art was flourishing, i was excited about making a career in the academic world and planning for grad school. i was surrounded by talented friends and supportive professors, my world was rich with interesting discussion, with art-making, with exhibitions and writing.

i was putting myself through school by waiting tables and scholarships. my minor was women's studies and i was planning on writing some grants (i had already been successful in getting other grants funded) and after graduation, going overseas to study and write a book. i was particularly pulled towards the isolated communities in the outer islands of the west coast of scotland. i wanted to live with and study the women working in ancient craft traditions that were dying out at that time. before me, i saw a bright future that included grad school, eventually earning a doctorate degree and hopefully heading a women's studies department at a university.

what a great plan, right?

i met a man at a party. he was a very handsome brit, genius level-intelligent and clearly a troubled soul. you guessed it, my dear readers, i fell for him.
hard. without a pause to see that i was turning onto another path entirely, i soon found my life revolved around him, his troubles, his potential for success. we were together for three years, we planned to marry, raise children, build the perfect alternative energy home. my strong urge to make a difference, to save someone kicked in and his broken psyche became my big project. i forgot about my whole career path, the plans i was so passionate about.

i lost my way. in the end, i lost myself.

i did find myself again, but i never found my way back to that path i was on. i had passed the crossroads and it was too distant to return to, too foggy to find again. i went forward in my life, driven most by my personal demons(the above wasn't the last unhealthy love relationship i found myself in) and my eventual quest for deep healing. there simply wasn't energy for forming a plan, finding a new career path.

here i am, 16 years after finishing my undergrad degree, finding my way. looking at a new path open wide.

in the far distance
i can see some hazy possibilities that do combine my drive to work in counseling, guiding teens and my desire to contribute overseas. i can volunteer on summer vacations. eventually i will retire and explore yet other options for making a difference. life will be long, there will be time for everything that matters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the bright clear path ahead

I fell into a funk shortly after my last post. it didn't last much more than 24 hours and i do think my hormones contributed something to the equation. yet, when i woke on friday i felt refreshed, hopeful again, energetic. seizing the day, i went to the studio and got more accomplished than i have in weeks. then yesterday i moved a rosebush, and did some gardening. it felt good to move my body, even though i have the sore muscles today to show for my efforts.

it seems i am coming out of weeks and weeks of rest and what has sometimes felt like inertia. even though my emotional world, along with my spiritual and mental investigations, have been very active. why does checking items off a to-do list feel so valuable? and why does spending blocks of time in contemplation feel like it doesn't measure up, like it isn't real work?

for the past 77 days, i have been on a kind of retreat.

in times past, when i had no work and little money, but plenty of time, i felt trapped. certainly in these weeks i have experienced that feeling yet again. i have time to travel: but no money. i have time to go out: but no money.

thing is, i am not meant to be traveling or going out.

in the absence of work (nothing is selling on my websites) i have made myself into a work-worthy project. my cleanse in september kicked off a very contemplative period. soul searching has led to job searching, which has led to even deeper soul searching.

this personal work has been very, very productive.

for perhaps the first time in my life, i recognized that i had reached a significant crossroads. for absolutely the first time in my life, i stopped at the crossroads, sat down and cleared my head. i am still sitting there, my dear readers. no sugar or booze to cloud my view, i seem to be able to see for miles in every direction. at first, the way forward was foggy. the path to the future was littered with fallen branches and leaves. i wasn't exactly sure that there was even a path.

looking back over the landscape behind me, the one i've traveled these 40-odd years, things grew more clear the longer i looked. i started to see the other crossroads i've passed. the places where i plodded on, blindly, when i most needed rest. the streams i waded through, oblivious, even while i was so thirsty. the big signs in the road i didn't notice, distracted by drama, by boredom, by a driving need to be right. i saw alot of murky bogs in my past, a few of which i barely escaped with my life.

then, some encouraging themes emerged. the whole path behind me was not dark. there were lush green meadows as well as frozen, rocky mountain passes. i looked for, and found, some real jewels of information in the journey behind me. just in this last week, sitting still at my crossroads, i realized some truths both profound and useful.

here are those truths, in two parts.

part one: i dream of changing the world, of making an impact in some dramatic and measurable way. to revolutionize the way something is done, to "save" a whole bunch of people. i have global vision and big ideas, i always have. yet what i've realized and am ready to admit is that this desire is driven not just by compassion, there is no small amount of ego involved. perhaps that is not even a bad thing, i'm just saying i noticed it and i am owning it. sometimes it's good to go for what makes you happy, not what you dream about. for me, it is a breakthrough to see that those two things are not always the same.

the second profound and useful part is even more revealing. this nugget serves as a red neon arrow at my crossroads, pointing this way. what i realized is that my most satisfying work has been directly helping individuals, especially teens and young adults. people at that first big crossroads in life. what i love most is connecting authentically, listening, mentoring, guiding, supporting dreams and nurturing ambitions. that work resonates on all levels. that work is a worthy use of my time and talents.

this, what i'm doing right now, sitting at the crossroads, is the work i want to help others do. this powerful, important process of sifting, learning to see, being honest with self, finding the way forward - this is where i am an expert. this is what i have to give. i am moved to tears as i write about it, as i finally see those last dead leaves blown off of my path.

it is clear. i can see now where i am meant to go, where i want to go, where i will go.

behind me, i see my five years of classroom teaching. i know i don't want to return to that. before me, i see high school school counseling, academic advising. work that sustains my interest because, in part, it calls upon what i have lived. i know from experience that working with teens asks you to use everything you have ever learned. as a side benefit, they teach you all sorts of interesting lessons.

i realized during this retreat in my own home that i am more interested in people than business. that MBA i considered in september wouldn't get me to where i really want to be. i have come to accept that my core values have not changed, that they won't change. people always trumps money. in this life, i am meant to accumulate my wealth in social capitol. in this life, all i need is to be comfortable financially and to do meaningful work. all i would do with extra money is give it away, anyhow. and i see now that what i have to give, of myself, my time, is of immeasurable value.

i am wealthy beyond my wildest imagination.

Note: two tools were instrumental in this retreat process. i recommend them wholeheartedly, if you are ready to face, with curiosity and tenderness, any possible answer that may come.
  • i asked for help from five people i really trust and know without a doubt, love me dearly and forever. (for me, that was my sisters, my brother and my parents. i could not have made this request without healthy relationships with each of them). i asked for each person to draw up two lists, one of my strengths/gifts and another of my challenges/weaknesses. i received them gratefully, without getting defensive. this was a difficult and painful tool, but very useful. what i was looking for in those lists is the things that i couldn't easily see. i approached the exercise as research and both lists gave vital information.
  • i read a superb book called making a living while making a difference, conscious careers for an era of independence, by melissa everett. everett's book is more than theory and enviable case studies, as this type of book often seems to be. this book offered real tools and exercises that refined my data, focused my thoughts and opened my heart. i recommend the original, not the revised addition, unless you are looking at moving into environmental fields.
what first steps do i take down this clear path ahead of me? that is exactly what i am figuring out, with gratitude and openness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

notes on a healing body

it has been a while since i gave you an update on my physical health. it's a low-drama report, really. yet there are a few things to note that those following this story may like to know.

i was walking into my studio a couple of days ago and noticed that i was not stepping gingerly. this is more exciting than it sounds at first. not stepping gingerly and with extraordinary care means one thing: my foot is improving. now, i am just walking. not racing along as i used to, like a native new yorker plunked down in the laid-back northwest, but just walking without thinking about each step. slower than before, but that in itself very well may be a good, a very good thing. really, what was my former bustling haste all about? after all, i am not a native new yorker (well, perhaps in another life) and i don't live in a city that requires a brisk stride.

note that i am not going crazy with this news and starting a 10,000 steps a day routine. but i am feeling much lighter in spirit about this change and as if, yes, it will happen. my foot will be healed. another huge bonus is that my new orthodics fit in a variety of shoes. even my cute red wing-tips and my low-heeled, tall black boots! there is alot of talk floating around these days about change from the bottom up. let me tell you, my dear readers, about the change that begins with shoes. suffice it to say that it ends with a little lipstick and a smile. expanding my options beyond running shoes has had a profound effect on my overall appearance and confidence.

now, to the breasts. well they are changing too, quite soon. i did get a surgery date for december 18, almost a year to the day of my last one. dr. reid mueller at OHSU is my plastic surgeon and has a marvelous reputation. it's still difficult to believe that i will submit to cutting open my one breast that has been untouched until now. accept more scars. yet, afterwards, i can move on into a new year with symmetrical breasts that are 100% paid for by insurance. no more heavy silicone prosthesis. no more sport bras everyday (after a few months of healing).

after a few years, all these scars will fade so much that i won't think of breast cancer everyday.

last week was full of doctor appointments, including my 6-month check up with dr. marquez, my radiation oncologist. turns out i will see her for follow-ups for five years! good thing i really like her. i was nervous about my breast exam, but it was fine. she talked me through the new landscape of my breast, after cancer, after treatment. there is less tissue to examine now, which will make my own self-exams easier. the trick is learning the scar tissue and natural lumps, so i know if something new appears. nothing new has appeared. next week is my yearly mammogram, so that will reveal any hidden dangers. please, everyone, fingers crossed for a clear result!

i am experiencing some hair loss, it's been increasing for a couple of months. now, i am losing enough to be concerned. could be caused by stress (although i've certainly been stressed before and not lost hair over it). some reports i have read said that the trauma of surgery and radiation can cause hair loss, which would have a natural lag time. that makes sense, but i will still be asking my doctor about it. seems unlikely that it is caused by any vitamin deficiency, as i am eating near perfect diet.

today is 73 days without any meat, booze, most grains or refined sugar.

i am eating lots of veggies, a bit of fruit, a little fish, some eggs & legumes, healthy fats like avocado, coconut and fish oil and still drinking quarts of water everyday. i have learned to make excellent "raw" crackers in my dehydrator, which are delicious with a smear of goat cheese for a light meal. as the colder weather, dark evenings and rain has come in, it is much harder to eat even 70% raw. yet, i am doing pretty well. i am not suffering and i eat tasty things. considering my stress level, it feels great that i am not soothing my nerves with sugar.

my ph balance quest is going well. it is working, this diet i follow. the weight loss effect has tapered off (although to my credit, i have not gained). yet, my most important goal has been accomplished: i am keeping my body slightly alkaline. when i started, i could not ever get my morning urine reading over 5.5 ph, now it is consistently close to 7, which is a bigger leap forward than it sounds. ideally, i will maintain my ph around 7.25. cancer cells cannot live, cannot form groups and multiply in an alkaline environment. so, each day i follow this plan, i am preventing cancer. i am frankly quite impressed by the change i have been able to effect through diet and nurturing my emotional well-being. more exercise will only help keep things going in the right (alkaline) direction. slowly, i am getting back into regular exercise, which also feels really good.

i used to charge through life, now i am more careful. baby steps to change.

perhaps it's not realistic to think that a person can feel carefree as they age. yet, i still have hope. my papa celebrated his birthday last month. i called in my congratulations, as he lives 2,000 miles away. when i asked him how he feels at age 75, he replied "i feel like i am 40! i feel great". my answer was quick, "funny, i feel 75!". my hope grows stronger that sometime in the not too distant future, i will be back to feeling as i used to, far younger than my 42 years.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

barack obama, a victory for healing

what an incredible week we've all had! on tuesday night, when barack obama delivered his acceptance speech, i was crying tears of joy, of relief and of some disbelief. millions of others world wide were having the same experience.

did we really do this?

the next morning, i wanted to write about it, but there were no words. tears still choked my voice. but i was increasingly giddy, i woke smiling. and i have remained hopeful, expectant, excited, proud. like a 13 year-old girl crushed out on a pop star, i have this strong urge to put a picture of mr. obama on my wall. silly, i know. for now, i put him and his family on my blog, found object. which is, after all, my most public "wall".

my brain is finally settled down enough to begin to express some of what the election of mr. obama means to me.

his election symbolizes healing. it also accomplishes healing.

much of this blog has been about healing. i have been occupied with healing my own emotional, spiritual and physical wounds for years. this particular year has been completely focused on healing from breast cancer. over my lifetime, as i've faced and healed from various traumas, it has been natural to take those experiences and try to use them to help others heal. this blog is, in part, about offering my healing journey up in the hopes it might just help someone else who is struggling.

in this, i feel a strong link with mr. obama.

mr. obama grew up poor, by american standards. like me, he grew up not going hungry, but knowing want and knowing that his parents were not going to be able to financially support his dreams. like me, mr. obama came from intellectual, academic parents who inspired him, who encouraged him to believe that he could become anything he set his mind on.

for me, the deepest piece of my personal connection to this historic moment in american history is not that mr. obama is a person of color. (although that certainly represents immeasurable healing for us as a nation). the piece that resonates to my core is that mr. obama did not grow up financially privileged. he grew up with a single mother. he rode the bus. he spent his youth in an apartment in a big city.he spent part of his childhood living in the developing world. he got all scholarships to an excellent private high school because he was smart and his mother (and grandparents) put a high value on education. and he worked scooping ice cream through those high school years.

barack obama grew up and made his way in the world from, as i see it, essentially the same place i did. without money, without the power and network of upper-class parents, without a father that showed him support, but with an incredible mother and grandparents. (a non-traditional family can produce well-adjusted kids? now that's revolutionary! supporters of prop 8, do you see that?) he understands on a personal level what it means to be a working american. mr. obama understands grassroots economics because he came from the bottom, not somewhere close to the top, as presidents in my lifetime have. he has lived sacrifice and service to others in real, tangible ways that i can understand. he got where he is today on the strength of his intelligence and his willingness to work hard.

mr. obama's election to the office of president represents healing for all of us who grew up close to, or at the bottom of, the economic ladder. his victory affirms us all.

dear readers, you have heard me in this last year express much anguish over my finances, my sense of insecurity and my tenacity to be paralyzed by fear. seeing barack obama be elected by a significant majority this past week has not completely erased those fears or immediately fixed my dismal money situation.

but, it has given me hope in something bigger than my problems. his election does offer a healing balm for people struggling. for me struggling, right now. it has sent a clear message of hope to every kid growing up poor, every child of a broken home and to every person who feels on the outside. if you can dream it and work hard for it, anything is possible. the impossible has become possible.

a year ago, i considered the election of barack obama highly unlikely. i didn't vote for him in the primary because i didn't believe he was electable at this point in america history. i am so glad to be wrong. i am so deeply comforted by this wonderful, improbable result.

the story of barack obama makes me hopeful that other unlikely things may come to pass. the seemingly impossible things become possible. even personal things. if obama can get elected, then maybe i will fall in love and find an amazing partner. if obama can get elected, maybe even in an economic crises, i will land a great job.

if barack obama can get elected, then i have hope that we can end world hunger in our lifetime.

making seemingly impossible things happen takes more than hope, it takes hard work and time. yet nothing ever happens without that hope to get it started.

let's get started.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

what i didn't know, then

what a difference a year makes. this blog is one year old today. the story of the turnip has taken us on quite a journey. i have learned so much. i have suffered great loss, yet also experienced incredible blessings. for instance, you, sitting there at your computer screen, you are a blessing.

thank-you for being there. thank-you for being part of my circle. i couldn't have made it through this year without you.

in honor of this anniversary, i want to offer a little something more than words. leave me a comment on this post and be entered into a drawing for something fabulous, made by me. i'll draw the lucky name on november 27, the anniversary of my surgery. this idea came from another blogger and thought it would be fun!

there are so many things i didn't know when i wrote this, one year ago. i still had some innocence. i still had respect for my surgeon from before, nearly eight years ago now. i didn't know the truth about phyllodes sarcoma, my turnip's medical name. i walked through the world thinking i was safe, that it was nothing, just a tumor.

and what is a tumor, actually? well, it is cancer.

a tumor is a tent revival of rogue cells. maverick cells, really. normal, sensible cells of the body that turn crazy, get excited, then clump together and reproduce. in the case of a phyllodes sarcoma, they reproduce quickly, these tumors can grow from nothing to the size of a baseball in just a few months. it feels like they grow overnight.

after my first one years ago, which was thankfully on the benign end of the spectrum, my surgeon was very reassuring. he didn't even call it cancer. he patted my hand and told me what anyone would want to hear. he said i was more likely to win the lottery or be hit by lightening than to get another one of these very rare breast tumors.

a year ago today, i sure didn't feel like i won the lottery. being hit by lightening only hints at how surprised and blindsided i felt.

what i know now is much, much more about phyllodes sarcoma than the vast majority of general surgeons out there and probably most surgical oncologists as well. what i know now, is that if my surgeon had done his research, he would have gone in for a second surgery and taken more tissue. he would have had to get clear margins around the tumor, to prevent it's recurrence. my pathology report even spelled it out, that recurrence was a probability. not just possible, but probable! so yes, those sneaky rogue cells he left behind eventually re-grouped and formed another tumor, the turnip i have been writing about this year.

funny thing about those rogue cells, they took seven years to find each other, to re-group and start reproducing like crazy, but when they did? those cells were stronger than the first time. the second tumor wasn't benign, it was more aggressive. the second tumor was on it's way to being dangerous. that second tumor meant business.

i found both tumors because i touch my breasts. i know them, i examine them. i treasure my breasts and even though i don't have breast cancer in my family, i did self breast exams. most breast cancers can be caught early, most will not get to the dangerous point if treated early.

here is my advice for every woman:
  • no woman is too young for breast cancer. don't be naive, do your self-exams. don't allow any doctor to brush you off, or minimize your risks, because you are under 40. phyllodes specifically, even though a rare cancer, is more commonly found in younger women.
  • trust yourself. trust your gut and your instincts and your heart. doctors are not gods. don't take every first opinion, do your research as fearlessly as you can. find doctors you can trust.
  • know your breasts. love your body and learn it's landscape. tune in to the changes in breast tissue through your cycle and always self-examine the same time very month, ideally 5-7 days after your period starts. if you don't have periods, just pick a date on the calender and do it on the same day every month, without fail.
even though this year has been very difficult on many levels, i know now that i was lucky. i know that i was smart to continue my self-exams. i know that catching my cancer before it became a monster was really, really good. it could have easily been worse. for many women, it is much, much worse. women still die of breast cancer.

please don't let yourself or any woman you love become one of the unlucky. practice self-love through regular exams. be brave, face any fears you have around cancer and take care of yourself. you are the only you there is and this world needs you.

what i know now is that catching breast cancer early is still the best hope we have. it's in your hands. our hands.
images found here. thank-you, maryam, for posting them.