Monday, April 28, 2008

11,000 steps closer

darling readers, dear friends...thank you all for the comments. it's so good to reaffirm you are out there! knowing you are reading keeps me inspired to keep writing.

i am continuing the trend towards happier days and more energy. whew. it feels as if perhaps, just maybe, i have turned a corner. almost five weeks out from the end of radiation and finally, the corner. surely not the last one, as i am still not 100%, but with sure and steady steps, one after another, i will return to myself.

if any of you are thinking perhaps you want to exercise more, please do get a pedometer. it's such fun to see how many steps one can make in a day. my personal range has been from 1,500 (a very slow day of lots of rest and sitting at the computer) to a day like today, where i walked to the studio and back, then walked to the bank and post office, a couple short walks with the dog and viola! i am now at 11,000 steps! that is my highest day yet and it equates to nearly 4 miles.

the daily goal is 10,000 steps and for now, to get there at least 4 days a week.

walking to a destination is so much better than walking around the track. if i walk to the studio then i am stuck and i must walk home again. for certain i would not walk on the track for over an hour, it's too boring!

as i think of you here, the circle of love and support that surrounds me, i know i am lucky. i picture you all out there in your home turfs, walking or running. we know we are connected by a common joy in the beauty of spring and the pleasure of moving ever closer to better health.

i hope my 11,000 steps inspires you! thank you for sticking with me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

are the stars out tonight?

the stars have aligned for you, my readers of turnip! a rare thing has happened. i am having a great day and have time to write. yes, it's true. i have good days, too. seems like i've been writing posts on the rougher ones, however. sometimes i worry you all have drifted away and are no longer reading. i wonder if collectively you've just had to move on to more uplifting pastures.

there are no shortage of blogs to read, as you know!

but then, do i write for me? or do i write for you? turnip is really only useful in my life if i stick to the honest facts and feelings. so i guess knowing you are reading helps me come back again and again to tell my story.

so, um, are you out there? is it nice where you are? tell me about it, please.

can you tell i'm a little sassy today? what is that? someone is feeling better. nothing is really changed in my life, except my two sessions of colon hydrotherapy were very, er, productive. it was a brilliant detox and i think the emotional & mental release has been no less dramatic than the physical one. some of you are no doubt thinking that sounds good, but must have been uncomfortable. actually, for me it was lovely. a big ole zen pooping experience, one might say. it's quite amazing to get rid of toxic stuff that has been hanging around for possibly years.

after the second one i actually felt like the little pig in the movie babe (a great favorite of mine) when he stands in the sunshine and sings la la la la la la. it must be that feeling tired and shitty for so long means you are much more sensitive to feeling good. when it hits, like yesterday, watch out, baby!

today i got up at 7am, nearly 2 hours earlier than i've been managing of late. i jumped in the car and went to the lab to have blood drawn for some tests (had to be fasting) and was back home by 7:45. wow, i was falling over myself, eating breakfast before 8 and out the door walking to my studio before 10. yes, i said walking to my studio. which i now know the distance one-way is 1.5 miles, or 4,200 steps and took me 35 minutes.

it was actually quicker than i thought it would be and i am so proud of myself. i got alot accomplished at the studio. then came home this afternoon to start a batch of yogurt, eat a late lunch and take a little nap.

as i write this at 7pm, i just peeked at my pedometer and it said 9,435 steps!

now that is a good day. oh, and it wasn't rainy today, either. thanks, mother nature for giving me a break today, i really needed it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

wandering and yes, a bit lost

i've been so busy this past week, no time for writing. and now i find myself at a bit of a loss. how to really describe the ups and downs of my days? it's small joys, like a wonderful surprise gift in the mail from half-way across the world and also it's huge dips into the well, sleeping for hours.

i pushed myself. too hard, in the end. 3 doctors appointments. 2 networking group meetings. 1 new yoga class. oh, and i made 10 rings. what?! yes. i learned that for this girl, that was way too big of a week. by friday afternoon i was stumbling about and by the time i closed my office on saturday afternoon, i just had to climb straight into bed. it was snowing, after all.

i keep being surprised by my lack of reserves. the pot is empty. it's never been this empty.

like clock-work, i've begun to panic about money. the lack of sales combined with the dwindling bank account. and this always happens when i feel too tired, i get overwhelmed. i look at the worst scenarios. those evil, busy monkeys in my mind start chattering until it's just a solid wall of screaming in there.

where is the volume control?

returned to the doctor today. another morning sacrificed from the studio, another day started off working on health, not working on making a living. what care and maintenance these bodies of ours take! does it ever shock you, to think what huge amount of time and energy we spend just keeping the machines of our bodies going? so, i will give blood for tests. we check the basics to start, make sure my thyroid is functioning alright, make sure i am not anemic. see if i my vitamin d levels are where they should be. make sure this fatigue is just lingering side effects of the radiation. it's nearly a month now since i finished, but it may not be over and out of me.

on wednesday, i have my first colonic, but for now, we have decided i am too depleted to handle a juice fast. that is a relief. i need to be keep things simple, take the easy path. just getting up and being productive and active is plenty.

how can my plate be so full and yet i feel so empty?

baby steps. i got a pedometer. counting those baby steps and happy about each one. taking the stairs, walking to the store, even in the rain. my bright green raincoat matches the new leaves bursting out of each branch on each tree.

today, nearly 6,000 steps. the biggest number so far.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

would you like an encouraging word?

how about cleanse? yes. it is what you are thinking. my new naturpath doctor is wonderful, i am feeling very hopeful after meeting with her yesterday. part of my lightened mood is due to getting a recommendation from her for internal cleansing. cancer patients at quest center for integrative health, where she practices, can get free colon hydrotherapy treatments at all's well that ends well.

what an unsavory topic, you say? pish posh. it is all natural. spring, what a good time of year to cleanse the system anyway. following radiation treatment, doing some focused detox will be a great start to my new healing plan. so next week, i'll have two treatments, then do a gentle juice/broth fast for three days, then two more treatments the following week.

readers, how do you embrace spring cleaning? a body cleanse, a closet overhaul?

the other part of my lighter mood is simply getting on with things. walking, bouncing to music and starting therapy. it's good just to start moving in a new direction. damn, it's good to just start moving, period! in talking to dr. naik and martha, they both said the boob was looking great and that i really won't know what it will be like when i am a a lower weight until i get there. so try not to worry. i'll have my next mammogram next november and then we'll be able to see more what to do next.

meanwhile, back here in the present, i've got plenty to do. job one, stay in the present. job two, make a living. job three, move my body.

that's the plan. sounds like all work. jobs one, two and three. how can i make them fun? maybe i shouldn't call them jobs, but call them things. like from dr suess'
cat in the hat - thing one, thing two and thing three.

inspiration, anyone?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

disconnected from normal

some of you out there reading may be thinking i am getting depressed. i want you to know i am being proactive. as you may know, i've been on anti-depressant meds for a few years now and they work well. but they don't erase the range of emotions a person can have, nor would I want them to. i want to be able to cry if i need to and to laugh as well! so, i am adding on some herbs and i am sure the increase in exercise will also help even out the moods.

some of you may be dealing with depression of your own. you certainly don't need to get cancer to feel down, that is for sure! i hope reading my story somehow helps you with yours. and i hope you all know how much your standing witness to my story gives me strength and helps me carry on.

my sleep is a bit better already since i started the exercise. i have had an easier time waking up and feeling ready to get out of bed in the mornings. two and a half weeks have passed since i finished radiation treatment. perhaps the bulk of the detox is complete? but it's my emotional energy level that is of most concern right now and this lingering feeling of only being secure at home. perhaps there is a disconnect between my experiences of the last few months with now "looking normal" and feeling some pressure to return to "normal"?

is this what everyone deals with post-trauma? after an accident, fighting in a war, losing someone you love, surviving a terrible disaster? do you all walk through life in the world and feel so different, so disconnected? does it seems insincere to make small talk and go back to touching down lightly into conversations for everyone?

it's easy to feel like this cancer experience is defining who i am.

so. monday i have my first appointment with my new naturpath doctor, a woman who has developed a practice that kind of specializes in breast cancer. she comes highly recommended and is really focuses on nutrition and lifestyle to prevent cancer. i am very hopeful about her and what we will figure out together for this next chapter of getting back to excellent health. especially since i want to find natural alternative to taking tamoxifen, the drug patients with positive estrogen receptors are usually prescribed. directly afterwards i head up to OHSU for my 4 month follow-up with dr. naik and martha. my scar looks really good and i am quite proud of how my skin is recovering. i anticipate dr. naik will be pleased!

then tuesday i see a new therapist for the first time. fingers crossed that we are a good fit and she can lead me through and out of, some of this emotional muck i am in. it seems like some impartial accountability would be useful. and what the hell, while i am paying for this crazy expensive good insurance, i might as well exploit it fully!

this poem has been resonating, from the great Persian poet Rumi...

The Guesthouse

This being human is a guesthouse
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness
Comes as an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture
Still treat each guest honorably
He may be cleaning you out
For some new delight!

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them in
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from the beyond

(Translated by Coleman Barks)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

stuck in the sand

there are so many topics rolling around in my head and heart these days. i've been meaning to write for days, yet have been stuck. it's a slow plod through the day of late, like the air is a bit too thick and my body too heavy.

once in a while i seem to surface and gulp in the fresh air. i little burst of energy bubbles up and i'm optimistic. each time this happens i think, alright, now i will get on with life. those bursts seem so short lived. everyone is telling me that it's perfectly normal to be tired, to feel confused, to have these ups and downs.

i am having such a hard time just letting it be. i worry that my lack of motivation is going to stretch on too long, that i have fallen into bad patterns of the sedentary life. too much time on the computer.

it's a marvel and a modern-day pool of quicksand.

i have been spending hours on, in the community resource forums. the women there have seen me through the worst of radiation, we went through it together. long live the febuary rads girls! that is what we are all hoping for after all, to live long, to prosper, to learn to not think every day about breast cancer coming back, to spend our days loving others and doing meaningful work. i read other threads as well. learning all i can from my sisters about alternatives to taking the hormones. asking questions about possible reconstruction methods. offering what i know about health and well-being.

i have not wanted to go to my studio at all. even though it's my livelihood and i need to catch up financially. even though i now have my fake booblet and look "normal", i still feel reluctant to leave my apartment. i've developed some social anxiety that surprises me. parties, concerts, crowds - they all fill me with a sense of dread.

i really, really want to feel like "me" again. i want to just snap out of it. i am impatient with myself in ways i would never be with someone else.

i walked my mile on the track 3 days so far this week. and i got a rebounder and have been bouncing. that is fun, actually. no weight lost, but i am making an effort. i worry it won't be enough, that my deadline is racing towards me.

in the bursts of good energy, i've been making paintings again. this much is good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

sleeping beauty?

oh, my. it seems all i want to do is sleep these days. i am dragging myself out of bed in the morning and not at an early hour either. how can i be tired after sleeping 9 hours? it boggles the mind. and it's a battle with myself to just go with that flow and if i am tired enough to fall asleep in the afternoon, to allow the nap to happen. perhaps there is some lingering fatigue from the radiation that is catching up with me? something is catching up with me for sure. moving as slow as i am, that's not so tough to do.

happy to report that i have gotten a few walks in during the past week, although not as many as i would like. there it is again, that critical voice telling me i'm not doing enough. i have to remind myself that on some level, every cell in my body has just run a marathon, a long stress test of endurance. that being tired is a logical reaction. it's up and down. i'll have a day with plenty of energy where i get loads done and even take a walk then think, ok! here i am again, living my life. yeeees!

ah, noooooo. not so fast. then i can't stay awake the next afternoon, sleep a 10-hour night and take another nap the next day. i haven't yet found my rhythm.

the new normal is still a pie in the sky idea, nothing has settled.

a couple of bright spots, however. my prosthesis is in! today I go pick it up and start looking, at least in clothes, like myself. two matching breasts? wow. it's been 4 1/2 months since i had that.

and the other good thing? i started a four week workshop to help me transition back into my business and focus my goals. it's a cool thing called an incubator, with a national women's group, ladies who launch. our first meeting was last night and i am really encouraged by the diverse, creative group of women who gathered. i am hoping that this next month will be a fertile time of building myself back up. i have to get back into a productive groove in my studio.

will all this sleep help me find my beautiful? stay tuned.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

sunshine and gratitude

i cannot thank-you enough for the sweetness that has poured into my comment box the past couple of days. i was so scared to post about this particular set of issues and now feel reassured i made the right choice. thank-you for the validation that is perfectly normal and ok to want to feel beautiful.

yesterday was a much better day. one week out of radiation treatment is so different from just driving away on the last day. my energy is returning, a little each day. the sun decided to come out and warm the earth here in the northwest, making being outside an inviting prospect. i've crawled out of the
deep well of despair and am trying to just focus on the short term for right now.

i had a wonderful session with my massage therapist yesterday, she is a true gem. over the past few days, it felt as if a nasty gremlin had taken hold of my shoulder and was digging in, twisting the muscle. the pain was constant. darling jess dug him out of there and i feel so renewed. she's known me a long time and has seen this weight creep on over the past 3 years. she gently reminded me to just do 20 minutes or walking, 5 days a week for a couple of weeks. then maybe add 5 minutes. stay in the now and make a date with myself for exercise that is non-negotiable. i'll be conjuring up her sweet face as i work on keeping those exercise dates. visualization seems to work for me.

slow and steady wins the race. i hope it's true in my case.

i've also been doing a little reading in the breast cancer online communities about reconstruction, just to begin to face the possibility that i might need more done than i originally thought. i needed more information, but i am going to try to put any decision in the back of my mind for now.

keeping the breast on the forefront seems just keeps me frozen and angry, not very available to nurture the rest of my body. one of the best ways for me to live my fullest life is to feel strong, to be healthy. getting out of my chair and outside is my biggest hurdle right now.

i used to be in this exercise habit, so perhaps it is "just" a case of remembering a good old habit. maybe that is easier to swallow, and to form, than a brand new habit.

i'm on a quest to re-find my beautiful.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

where i started, part 2

continued from yesterday...thank-you for your sweet, supportive comments...

some essential history to understanding this story.

september 2000: at the beginning of my 34th year, i hit the very bottom of the bottom. i was so depressed. my anxiety level was sky-high. i had eaten my feelings and self-medicated for 3 years, since the break-up of my most serious and promising relationship to date. i am 5 feet, seven inches tall and then weighed 215 lbs. every room in the the house i bought was a construction site because i had started so many projects and then struggled to finish them. i was teaching full time and worried everyday that the students would find out i really didn't know what the hell i was doing. my mom and i were not on good terms.

i needed professional help and was so down, i was open to medication for the first time.

i found a good therapist and went on meds. brilliant woman, she accomplished what scores of others hadn't. after 22 days, the medication took full effect and the perfect storm in my head turned into a calm sea with birds soaring above in a blue sky.

yes, it was
that dramatic of a change. i was very lucky, the first medication we tried was a perfect fit. i started really working through the emotional issues behind the weight problem. i healed alot of anger and put the past in a rational perspective. (really, the meds should be named rational.) right away, i lost a few pounds just from the dramatic drop in my anxiety level. a few months later, i saw my regular doctor for a physical. my blood sugar was at pre-diabetes level, my cholesterol too high. she gave me 4 months to lose 20 lbs. and change those numbers.

over the next 2 years, i lost 75 pounds the slow and healthy way. i joined a gym and spent many hours on the elliptical trainer. that first spring, i was losing weight, i was planning a trip to NYC with my art students. my doctor was happy with my progress. i was feeling better than i had in years. as the weight dropped, my breasts naturally got smaller and while trying on clothes in the dressing room of t.j. maxx, i found a lump. a large lump. yep, it was breast cancer. (little did i know, then, that was only the first turnip)

i took it in stride, scared but naive. my surgeon in that small michigan town didn't even call it cancer and said there was almost no chance it would come back, ever. his lack of experience with the rare phyllodes sarcoma is the reason i am here now in this mess. he should have done his research and a second surgery to get clean margins around the tumor. i shouldn't have trusted him. when my current oncologist, dr. naik, looked at that pathology report from 2001, the first thing she noticed was this sentence:
"the tumor has irregular borders and is present at the inked surgical resection margin in which case there is a probability of future recurrence."
holy shit. it was bound to come back, with the phyllodes cells he left behind.

sad to say, it's too late to sue for malpractice. the statue of limitations is 6 years. i've been really angry about this the past few days. there is no recourse for this damage and facing the wreckage of my body, i want to assign some blame.

i will say it here: dr. mark a. kowalski, i blame you.

ok, i
honestly cannot blame him for the 50 lbs. i've gained back. that was all me, those pounds are proof of the life i've lived in the past 3 years. it's a sorry case of too much work (7 days a week) for too many years and no time made for exercise. starting a business on a shoestring budget takes it's toll on your life. i actually eat a very healthy diet and rarely use food as "emotional medicine" anymore. but not exercising, aging and not resting/sleeping well for so long really did a number on my metabolism.

i could be a champion weight-gainer, it's so easy for me.

yet, when i quit my day job in october, i was actually excited about getting back into a exercise routine and losing the weight i had accumulated. if it wasn't for the lack of breast at the end of the weight-loss tunnel, i think i would be feeling pretty optimistic right now. what a difference a boob makes.

well, yesterday i took my first "power" walk in a long time. just 3 laps around the track, which took me 25 minutes. a slow start, but a start nonetheless. i've put it out there now, so you all are in on my struggle. i thought long and hard about it, making this public. frankly, there are very few people i could tell this story to in person, the shame is too great. if you do see me in person, please understand how sensitive and awkward this is, please don't speak to me about it. rest assured, if i feel comfortable talking about it, i will. i do hope you'll hang around and see how i somehow find my way (emotionally and physically) from exhibit A to exhibit B.

i don't know myself how it's going to go. all i know is i have to try.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

fat is where i started, part 1

this is a long story. so long, i will take two days to tell it. and let me say, it feels bloody boring to me at this point. i feel pathetic and whining to tell it. here is the story of my life, lived each day with issues. issues with my weight. issues with how i see my body. issues with my relationship to self and value and appearance. issues that breast cancer has pushed to the limit.

must there always be issues? i think of this as my ugly story.

it's not a story easily told. in fact, i've been debating for days if i even want to put this out there. can i be this vulnerable? will i feel empowered or more ashamed? will you all throw up your hands and say "enough"? will anyone understand? has anyone reading this blog ever tried to lose 50 lbs or more?

cancer is easy to show sympathy towards. but fat? we hate fat in this country.

(deep breath)
when i was 13, i lost 40 lbs. i ended up skinny. the eating disorder begins.
when i was 17, i lost 40 lbs.
when i was 23, i lost 45 lbs.
when i was 28, i lost 55 lbs.
when i was 34, i lost 75 lbs. it took me 2 years. i swore i would never go through it again.

however. here i am.

now 41, i need to lose 50 lbs.
at the very least. why at the least? well, i learned the raw truth last week. i have one D-cup breast and one B-cup breast. i can do the math. i know that when i am at my healthy weight, 50 lbs less than now, i had two B-cup breasts. so, what will i have now, after cancer, when i lose this extra weight? one B-cup and one, well, nothing-cup breast. i don't want to have to add anything, to accept a fake boob. the whole reason i said no way to a mastectomy and yes to radiation was to avoid the fake boob. having something in there freaks me out. what if i can't feel what is going on in there and another tumor grows? even thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach. and until last week at the bra store, i thought it would be as simple as just have my "good" breast reduced to match.

most of my grief is centered here, on this. i see before me no good choices. i don't want to (nor is it healthy) to stay fat, even to keep my natural breast. but then when i think of working so hard to lose those 50 lbs and then find i have no boob, or not enough to be even minimally proportional. i know i can't become (and don't want to) a kate moss type to match my nothing boobs. all my life, since i first grew breasts, even when i wasn't happy with my body or weight, i still had one thing i could count on. great breasts and a curvy figure that was proportional. it took years to learn to love my body and treat it right. now, it's like starting over again.

my own ground zero.

call me vain, but i want to be able to look good, to love my body again. some of you will say, but you do look good, you are beautiful, blah, blah, blah. thanks. sadly, that means little. i know what my beautiful is, and this ain't it.

all this weight must be lost and issues resolved before i have any reduction or reconstruction surgery. i can't even make a decision about what path to take until i lose the weight. in case that wasn't enough pressure, the surgery needs to happen in december, before the end of 2008. insurance issues, as you can imagine.

so many fucking issues, i just want to run far, far away. but i would still be there, in that new far away place, with myself. and this extra weight, these non-matching boobs, this self-loathing that accomplishes nothing.

to be continued...tune in tomorrow...