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Archive for the ‘Cancer’ Category

So here I am, sitting on the deck watching the waves lap onto the sunny shore. And yes, you would surmise correctly that I am not currently at home as we are being buried with snow in the Boston area. I am in Puerto Rico with a friend, having some sun and relaxation before heading home for more surgeries and then back to work.

We’ve been here since Thursday last week and are staying in the Condado region, just outside Old San Juan. The hotel is great, the location and beaches are amazing and the weather, well 85F each day. My body is making Vitamin D by the boat load! I have included two pictures of me below: one I am sitting in a chair shaped like a cat (not that you can see that), wearing my wig and the other is my friend, Deb and I at dinner on the beach, no wig.

With regards to health updates, tomorrow at 7:00am (welcome home!), I have to go for an upper G.I. to test for pancreatic cancer. It is something I will have to do each year as the BRCA2 gene mutation leaves me a little more prone to this than the average person and then on Monday, I am having my oophorectomy which removes my ovaries and Fallopian tubes. This is pretty easy surgery as it’s done laparoscopically but is recommended with BRCA2 as my chances of ovarian cancer are greatly increased. There are no indications that there is anything adverse going on down there, so hopefully I’ll be back on my feet very quickly. And as my friend, Liz so aptly put it, who needs those oophors anyway!

The saddest news though is that Smokey the rabbit went to the big bunny heaven in the sky on Wednesday last week, just before I left for Puerto Rico. Rabbits are very, very prone to stomach issues and he suddenly started to eat less and then Wednesday, nothing at all. We took him to the emergency vet and they told us he was very sick and having serious heart issues. We discussed the various options but in the end, decided to put him down as he was suffering and the likelihood of him recovering was small. Sarah was with me, we said goodbye, crying, and she held him as they administered the medicine. It was all over so quickly and so peacefully, but it is very somber to watch a life fade away. Rest In Peace you wascally wabbit.

And last but not least, a return to work is finally looming on my horizon. Assuming that all goes well with the oophers removal, I will go back on March 3rd, working three days for a few weeks, then up to four, then full time. I have not worked since July 9th. How will I get out of bed early enough each morning and will I remember what to do??? Eek, I hope so!

Love to all,
Amanda

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Even when they don’t leave the house! Yesterday, Victoria set off for the mall and about an hour later, our carbon monoxide monitors go bananas – danger, danger, evacuate, evacuate they scream at us, frequently, very loudly and at high decibels. Having never had this happen, we were unsure what to do, except put our hands over our ears and rush around the house in a pickle. After getting our act together, we call the fire station which is literally down the road and in they sweep, husky men to the rescue. Just what is it about a fireman in uniform? Is it the color yellow? Doubtful. Is it all that equipment hanging from their belts? Hmm. Is it visions of YMCA running through my head? Hmm again. I warned Sarah she was in for a treat but at only 14, I think she thought I was in the midst of a weird middle aged fantasy! No acknowledgement from me on that score, no indeedy! A little disappointed though as two of them looked like they were just out of high school and the other was older than Steve with a similar middle aged spread.

The carbon dioxide culprit was determined to be Victoria who had sat in the garage with the engine on, garage door closed, texting, playing trivia crack and generally doing whatever teenage girls do before she left on her trip. Perhaps if Steve won’t wear the Captain Kirk outfit, he might be more amenable to a fireman’s suit, tool belt ‘n all?? Or perhaps I’ll pay Victoria to do it again? Sigh.

Love to all,
Amanda

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I did not loose my eyelashes and brows as fast and as obviously as the hair on my head. They disappeared quietly, without fanfare, a few hairs at a time, until one day I realized that I had no bottom lashes and on the top, on the right side in particular, about 6 that I could legitimately mascara, 3 of which fell out in a clumpette last week. But I am VERY happy to report that they are growing back and it is fascinating to watch. They are coming in in lines, like soldiers marching to battle. Each morning when I get up, I examine the latest growth in the mirror. Yes, I can see more growing, little itty bitty things like dots on my eye lids. And I smile. Going through cancer can provide gratitude for the smallest things. My eye brows are also getting much bushier but I do notice some grey hair in there, too, so don’t smile quite as much when I look at those!

So where am I in my treatment? Last Friday, I finished radiation. My skin is sore, but luckily not split or bubbling like a chicken in the oven which is how some experience it! The hospital tells me that for 7-10 days the irritation will get worse, but after that things will start to heal. I am rubbing endless amounts of cream on the affected area and smell quite wonderful (most of the time)! Last night I tried a sample I got from the health food store which was Dr. Hauschka’s Almond Body Lotion. I didn’t want to go to sleep as I kept sniffing myself it was so yummy! So physically I am getting there.

Emotionally? Hum….up and down. I felt like I might cry whilst having my final radiation treatment but in the end did not, getting my certificate of completion and ringing the end of treatment bell. But as I was explaining to friends, I see the whole thing like a comet with a long tail. The front end, the big kahuna is done, but there is much still to be experienced. BRCA2 raises my chances greatly of ovarian cancer, so I have to book my oophorectomy for this year. It also slightly increases my chances for pancreatic cancer, so have to have yearly tests for this, needing an Upper GI in the next month or so. Both of these procedures will leave me waiting for tests results, my now most hated way to spend time! And of course, the final breast implants and endless oncology appointments will keep the hospital well funded by me this year.

I did celebrate though, having dinner with friends on Friday night and with Steve on Saturday night, but the prevailing thought that comes to me is “Holy shit, I had CANCER.” The emotions that phrase evokes are so varied – sadness, gratitude, courage, fatigue, connection, loneliness – all with the potential to coexist at once.

Jim Morrison once said, “There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors”. I am standing in the hallway with one hand on the door of this past year. It is closed behind me but the memory and energy of it still exist as my hand touches the doorknob, not yet ready to let go but knowing that eventually, I will.

Love to all,
Amanda

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Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/user/sequinofkindness! I am featured in Episode 6, which you can either watch in it’s entirety or in shorter segments that are labelled as to their content. I discuss how I am spreading the energy of love, peace and connection through my  “You’ve Been Flowered” program.  Enjoy!

If you happen to live in Chelmsford and want to see when it’s on the telly, go to http://www.chelmsfordtv.org/schedule.

And here, also, is a picture of me being attacked by wolves from my visit to the wolf sanctuary this week (they are really just after the food in my hands!).  More to come on the trip.

Love to all,
Amanda

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I have not written for a few weeks due to the holiday season.  It’s not that I have been busy, but rather very pensive, thinking about 2014 and pondering what 2015 might bring for me, although who the bleep knows, right?

But here I am, right now, in Colorado Springs, starting  2015 with an adventure! I have been allowed a few days off from radiation to give my burned skin a chance to heal a little before the final week of my treatment. I am using this time to take a trip to Colorado Springs to hang with wonderful women and wolves! I have joined a women’s group and we will work together for ten months on a journey of self discovery and growth via phone, skype etc., but are meeting in person this weekend. We are from all over – Texas, London, California and me from Boston. Steve thinks the whole thing is very bizarre, cavorting with people I’ve never met in a house in the middle of nowhere and visiting wild animals that could eat me.  And I suppose if you look at it like that, perhaps he’s right! But those of you that know me are not at all surprised, I’m sure.

And why wolves in Colorado Springs?  I have always been fascinated by them and about ten years ago, I discovered that I have a beautiful white wolf as my spirit guide.  The energy of her brings me comfort and wisdom.  This women’s group is about using the energy of wolf in our everyday lives and we are spending half a day at a wolf sanctuary here.  The thought of looking a real wolf in the eye gives me the chills. I have attached a link to the energy of wolf if any of you are interested:  http://www.spiritanimal.info/wolf-spirit-animal/

I am also craving an oasis in time, space to just be with my inner wisdom after all I have already been through and the pieces I have to face this year. Apparently, there are two times when cancer patients have the propensity for depression: when first diagnosed and when finishing treatment. I certainly experienced the former but have been wondering how treatment end would hit me. Well in therapy this week, I discovered, getting in touch with the massive vulnerability I feel, sobbing all over the therapist! It’s particularly acute for me as this is a cancer repeat performance and with the BRCA2, know just how vulnerable I am, along with my girls. My sense of invincibility is rocked to its core.

I want to make clear that I am not sinking into depression, but our feelings demand to be heard and acknowledged, to be brought out in to the light and loved.  So in my pondering on this past year, I have decided that I would not change a thing – nothing, nada.  Did I enjoy it all?  No, of course not.  Would I want to repeat it?  God, I hope not.  Is this journey bringing me gifts?  Yes, some of which I fully recognize and some of which need yet to be uncovered (subject matter for a future post).  So here I stand, at the beginning of another year, ready to embrace all of life’s adventures, big and small.

Happy New Year and I’ll let you know how it goes with the wolves.

Love to all

Amanda

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Hairy Tail, Part I

One of the things I most enjoy about the holiday season is our Christmas Tree. It adds sparkle and light to my holiday spirit. We don’t do much decorating around the house, either in or out, as I am much too lazy and Steve is rather bah-humbug about the whole thing. But my one effort to let the neighbors know we do posses some seasonal joie de vivre is the tree. I used to insist on a real one but eventually my tree hugging nature, combined with the chore of picking pine needles out of the rug for months after, drove me to agree to Steve’s pleading for a plastic version with lights already attached (I hear some of you out there screaming in protest!). He subsequently purchased what must’ve been the cheapest and thus puniest tree he could find in Target in the January sales.

The thing has lasted us two years but this year has received a serious onslaught in the form of ‘dearest’ Peanut, yes, the cat that got stuck behind the wall 20 minutes after arriving home from the shelter. Of course, my purrfect baby, Lulu, would do nothing as heinous as climb the tree, knock off all the ornaments, eat the tree, bend all the branches and knock the ornaments off again, right after we have replaced them. No breakable items have been dispensed from the storage boxes this year, leaving room for all the lollipop stick non-breakables the kids made in elementary school. My poor tree looks ratty tatty and the whole thing exudes an air of unkempt loneliness. I am not mirroring this I hasten to add, but do somehow feel as if my sparkle will have to find it’s mojo from another source. I have included a few images below to provide pictorial representation of the whole sad story!

Hairy Tale, Part II

On Monday I had a shower which I know sounds like just the exciting type of information you’d choose to read about in a blog! But there is a whisper of new news in this as I actually washed my hair! Is there much to wash? No. Did I do it anyway? Yes. I used my most expensive shampoo and then also conditioned the fuzz as you have to pamper the little baby shoots. It felt SO comforting to return to a familiar routine as for the 48 years pre-chemo, I have always washed my hair first in the shower.

Hairy Tale, Part III

And last, but not least in this series of hairy tales/tails, Victoria passed her driving test yesterday. I think I was more anxious for her than she was and now I am even more anxious than she is at the thought of her heading out alone. Luckily her first solo flight will probably be to Michael’s where she works, which is just 5 minutes down the road. As my friend, Eileen, whose daughter passed today, texted “now the worrying begins in earnest”.  And as I replied “ain’t that the truth”!  Another parent/child right of passage bites the dust.

Love to all,
Amanda

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So yesterday I had my TV interview about You’ve Been Flowered. It’s a taped affair and the guy who is the technical editor for the show (whose Grandmother I once helped with her garden!) won’t be back until next week, so not sure at this point when the grand reveal will happen.

I’ll tell you one thing though, I LOVED doing it! It was just so much fun. Afterwards, Barb, the host of the show, the Sequin of a Kindness, told me I was a natural and even if she says that to everyone, I totally bought in to it! I am thinking I’ll change careers and become an official interviewee, swanning around giving my opinion to anyone who cares to ask. I’ll be a professional celebrity, sort of like Kim Kardashian but older, balder and wearing more clothes. I’d not be able to recreate her champagne glass on the butt photo shoot, but I could certainly balance one on my left boob. Heck, if it hadn’t been deflated, I could’ve balanced a whole champagne bottle, accompanied by canapés! That would certainly get me interviews, I think.

I will obviously attach the link to the show once it comes out, but in the meantime, if you know of anyone looking for someone with an opinion who loves to talk on camera, give me a bell!

On a separate note, a big call out to my Boston work buddies who outdid themselves again with a wonderful care package that I received this week. I got a mug that says “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain…”, along with a beautiful hummingbird ornament and a brand new Kindle with a wonderful lime green case. You really are an amazing group of people and it is my privilege to know you. Thank you xxxx.

Love to all,
Amanda

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Every two weeks at The Healing Garden, I attend an In-Treatment Support Group. At our meeting last week, the therapist who leads our small, intimate sessions distributed the following poem by Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks.

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
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 are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing 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 whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

This poem resonated very strongly for me as I have been feeling so many different emotions on this journey of mine around my health, family, work.  I have taken on the practice of naming my emotions and sending them love, whether I feel upset, disappointed, scared, hurt, used.   It is amazing that this approach liberates me from the spiraling head, the thoughts of righteous indignation, the ‘what ifs’, the sleepless nights spent analyzing a situation.   I recognize my feelings, give them a bed, tuck them in with a warm blanket and a glass of hot milk and honey. Letting them in is NOT about festering or holding on but about being authentic, facing what I am feeling. It is just amazing how quickly things shift when I take this approach. And I can nurture how I feel, deciding what’s at the root of it, what I can learn and last but not least, what do I want to do about it. Is there something I need to change or voice? I am not controlling or managing how I feel, I am being still and listening and that, for me, makes all the difference. And after all, who wouldn’t want to be swept out for a new delight!

Love to all,
Amanda

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Two Men and A Booby

For those unaware of my health history, I have walked the radiation path before when in 2011 I had early stage, non-invasive BC, choosing a lumpectomy and radiation.  I had, at that time, visions of warm, comfy rooms where female nurses helped me with my treatment.  No such thing!  Last time, I was in a strange space that resembled a closet that happened to hold radiation equipment and I was attended mostly by two men with the odd woman around every now and again.

Well this time, I have received a slight upgrade which I am not sure is a good thing!  I am now in the fancy radiation room that looks nothing like a closet.  It’s state of the art and the equipment is pretty impressive I must say.  The room is bloody cold to keep the aforementioned fancy equipment at its optimal temperature whilst I lie there half naked freezing my butt (and other parts) off.  And yes, once again, I have two men as my new radiation BFFs, one of whom I had before.

I have had three treatments so far and today, I feel sick of it already.  I am tired of driving to the hospital, I am tired of lying on cold equipment whilst I am fried and although the people are wonderful, I am tired of seeing them all over again!  I would like to be spirited off to a warm desert island where the name Lahey Clinic is nowhere to be seen.

On a more positive note, I am going to be on TV, sans wig, talking about ‘you’ve been flowered’.  It’s not Oprah yet, just local TV, but us philanthropists have to start somewhere!  We’re filming next Wednesday.  I’ll write more about it in the next few days.

Love to all

Amanda

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10) I shower in five minutes and am ready to leave the house in fifteen
9) I do not have to shave my legs or arm pits (yeah!)
8) I save a lot of money not having to cut and highlight my hair or buy endless fluffing, thickening or smoothing hair products
7) A lot of people stare at me – some even smile and talk
6) I go out in all manner of weather and have no fear of flat or frizzy hair
5). I can change my hair-do in a flick of the wrist
4) I let my head steam when I go to Zumba and sweat a lot
3) I get a lot of head massages as people want to touch the growing peach fuzz
2) I can go to parties as Spock, Gandhi or Kojak
1) I am getting great treatment to ensure my cancer doesn’t return

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Amanda

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