The Bad Month(s)

October and November 2016 need to be voted off the island.  

October 6th marked one year since my liver resection and the day I sent walking papers to some terrible side effects of cancer. Therefore, October 6th should’ve been a day of celebration, but instead, I found myself doubled over in the ER where a CT scan revealed a small bowel obstruction. Apparently, the body doesn’t like open spaces and the absence of a liver in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen caused my small intestine to tangle up in that open space. Is it a little messed up that we were excited it wasn’t cancer related even though I would still need surgery to correct the obstruction? Yes, it is.

A week in the hospital, without any food and an uncomfortable tube up my nose, doctors finally got me on the schedule for surgery. Maybe it was the hunger or the morphine, but the days before and after surgery are blurry. A long 16 days later, I was discharged from the hospital. Home never felt so good.

Days later, my 12-year-old German Shepherd, Bear, could not walk. As if we didn’t have enough cancer in our life, Bear was diagnosed with lymphoma a couple months earlier. We took him to the emergency vet for them to tell us there was nothing more they could do. Not ready to make a quick decision, we took him home with pain meds to see if he would improve. He didn’t and the next day, he was put to sleep. It was heartbreaking.

And then there was the election. It’s no secret, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton. I know we’re all sick of election talk, but let me speak from the perspective of someone who deals with chronic illness.  I am concerned about two programs.  First, the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare).  I am so fortunate to have excellent health insurance through my husband’s employer. But, the repealing of ACA could mean the reinstatement of policy lifetime maximums, which wouldn’t be an issue for me at the moment, but most definitely would during my lifetime, when you add up the $18,000 injection I receive each month. And while I don’t expect my husband to lose or change jobs anytime soon, the thought of being denying coverage based on pre-existing condition, well, that would be a terrifying scenario. And second, I’m concerned about the Cancer Moonshot initiative. If you’re not familiar, Joe Biden is leading the charge on the use of government funds to make leaps and bounds in cancer research, treatment and cures. Will that funding go away to build some stupid wall or give tax breaks to billionaires? Ok, stepping off the soap box. 

BUT, as usual, I stay positive. I decided a long time ago that I am unbreakable and these hiccups and hurdles are certainly not enough to change that.  The last couple months are yet another reminder of life’s impermanence and that we should be immeasurably grateful for when things are going our way. 

As for writing, I’m back at it and have some upcoming pieces I’m really excited about and will be sharing soon.

As always, thank you for your support, prayers, good vibes and for reading.


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Bear (2004 – 2016)


This Too Shall Pass: Healing After Cancer

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As featured on curetoday.com

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Featured in Heal Magazine, Winter 2016

As I approach mile 10, the discomfort sets in. I’m surprised I made it this far without any pain, considering I didn’t prepare as I normally do. I found it very difficult to get up on a Saturday and run my tried-and-true training plan with a cancerous, symptomatic, metastatic, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

Weeks before, I contemplated not doing the half marathon, but I could not let cancer take away my joy of competing after it had already robbed me of so much. So, out of pure defiance, here I am. My hips and hamstrings are tight, but what’s causing me the most discomfort is my stomach. Just past the mile marker, I reluctantly stop at a Porta Potty. In my previous life, I would never do this because it would affect my finishing time. I would have convinced myself three miles of discomfort was a blip in the grand scheme of life. I exit the bathroom, start running through the pain, tightness and soreness and I hear in my head wise words a dear friend says often: This too shall pass.

Days later, I find myself, once again, in an unrecognizable life. Saturday: half marathon. Sunday: MRI. On Tuesday, I was told I needed to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. On Wednesday, I lost my job. A year ago, I was physically stronger than any woman I knew my age, had a wonderful, lucrative job and was the epitome of health. Now, I find myself asking if this is real life countless times. “God only gives us what we can handle,” right? Well, God has greatly overestimated me because all of this — I can not handle. Not just the rug, but the entire floor has been pulled from under my feet. I wondered if this was the new normal or if this too shall pass. It’s my favorite season of summer, but the days have turned into the least favorite of my life. The disease has gotten ahead of the treatments and I’m scared to get out of bed each day. A good day is when I don’t spend several hours with nausea so severe I have to call my husband to take me to the hospital for fluids and intravenous meds. I’ve become a permanent fixture at the cancer center. Staff members greet me by name with a look of pity and a sick bag. My family, friends and I are shocked to see a beautiful, vain, active, social butterfly disintegrate into an reclusive, bald, shell of a person who wears pajamas and no make-up. They respond with cliche phrases such as, “Stay strong” and “You’re going to beat this.”

While I know these words are intended to comfort and encourage me, they only make my blood boil. As if I had a choice to be strong. As if beating it was my decision. I pretend to stay positive because I know the other option does not serve me and would make my supporters assume I have given up. Though there were many moments I wanted to quit, I desperately prayed to God instead — with every cell in my body — for these days to pass.

Getting out of the hospital bed after abdominal surgery is a process and an art. This being my second time around, I knew what to expect and how I should maneuver. Being cut in half was nothing compared to what I had already endured. Plus, the physical pain is minimized because it was preceded with the world’s most beautiful words, “We got all the cancer.”

I happily push the button to move the bed as upright as possible. Pull myself up using the trapeze. Lower the bed down. Sit up. At a snail’s pace, swing my left leg left. Gently rest it on the floor. Repeat with the right leg. Get my bearings. Grab my husband’s hands. Use my marathoner legs to stand up. Resist the urge to cough. Stand for a few seconds to gather my breath. Inch the right foot forward and then the left. Could it be that this season was finally passing?

I look up at the sky and see every existing color over the next twenty minutes. It makes me feel so small, but part of something so big at the same time, and I realize it’s because I am. It is the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever experienced and tears drop from my eyes. I pass a woman unloading groceries from the trunk of her car. She’s completely oblivious to me and the pinks, blues, purples, oranges and yellows taking shape above her head. I feel both sad for and envious of her unawareness because the beauty of this moment is something only available to someone who has stared its fragility in face. I know I am blessed and cursed for my new eyes which have given me an aerial perspective of life’s most precious moments. I pray to God that these feelings, these thoughts and this awareness will not pass.

Read this on curetoday.com: This too shall pass: healing after cancer.

Read all of my curetoday.com articles.