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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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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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Today felt like paradise to me! The weather was just stunning for November and I actually had enough energy to do my pottering, a snip here, collecting leaves there and taking pictures along the way. My love of the earth and the wonderful space I have created in my garden are such a gift to me. I am full of gratitude today as after all, how can I be anything else but joyous when there is such beauty in every day life. Pictures below.

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For the last 23 years, I have been reading gardening books, gardening magazines, garden catalogues and lurking in garden centers just to find out as much as I can about plants, particularly perennials. My kids will attest to the fact that I also talk to my plants, call them my babies and that once Sarah, then around 5 but now 13, asked me if I loved my garden more than her. Of course, that brought on an attack of the mother guilts but here we all are, 8 years later, happily (for the most part) co-existing! They expect to find me outside most weekends from April to November, tending to one thing or another, happily snipping and pulling and spraying (organic only of course), chatting and cursing (bleeping woodchucks) or just sitting out there waiting for the next hummingbird to visit my bee balm. And you should see the bees on my thyme in July, divine!

This year going through surgery and chemo, I have had plenty of time and desire to rest peacefully in my beautiful garden sanctuary, pondering the meaning of life and other spiritual questions. I have had a vision for many years to create a series of gardens around the world that are all about connection, bringing people of different nations and cultures together through the earth. These are gardens with a difference as they also contain sophisticated electronics, allowing the visitors in the different spaces to communicate/connect with each other.

But I have always wondered how do I get from here to there? I am sure there are many roads but one that came to me this spring was to start small, one plant at a time whilst paying forward, in some way, the amazing amount of love and support I have felt from everyone around me during my latest journey.

I purchased small coneflower plants and new pots, planted them in organic soil and with the help of family and friends, filled these plants with the energy of love, peace and connection. I envision a grid around the world, full of these plants, beaming love to whomever plants them or sees them, but also sending these same attributes to the ground itself and encasing the whole world with this energy.

I have started small, giving them to my wonderful friends, my neighbors or where I travel, to others who appear to love gardening. I have donated plants to the Healing Garden and the school, along with my new breast cancer colleagues at the hospital. At this point, I have given out around 35 plants. I know that some will make it and some won’t (bleeping, bleeping woodchucks), but I feel such gratitude that in some small way, I am bringing beauty to this earth. I have included below images of the tags created by Victoria that I include with the flowers.

On the medical front, all is well and I have my radiation planning session next week and from there will know when I start the treatments. My hair is growing back, but due to descend again by the end of this coming week from my final chemo dose.   After that the growth will remain unabated. It is coming back patchy but definitely white. I look like a little baby bird, hatched naked then growing fluffy, scraggly, downy feathers before the full ‘coat’ comes in. I have a feeling the final feathers will render me Snowy Owl rather than Brown Owl!

Love to all,
Amanda

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Words from a song by Kool and the Gang, for those of you old enough to remember. On Thursday, I had the final of my four chemo treatments. And how do I feel about this? Such a roller coaster of emotions leading up to it. Last week I was in a bit of a funky place. I am seeing a therapist and what became clear as I sat and cried in her office is that whilst I am going through treatment, I am giving myself permission to really take care of myself, to ask for what I want, to rest when I need to, to buy healthy, nutritious food and to spend time at The Healing Garden, radiating in self care. I had it in my head that no chemo meant no more permission, that I would have to be strong again, self reliant, disappear into the morass of busyness and chaos that so many of us experience. It is so easy to get caught up in giving others what they need, putting ourselves at the bottom of the list. When you go through cancer you realize there is nothing more important than your health, nothing. And maximizing wellness takes a conscious effort, requiring us to give up some of the things we think we should be doing to make time for ourselves. Not easy, I know and a critical lesson I am still absorbing.

But I am happy to report that when the time actually came, when the IV was finally removed and the nurses toasted me with little cups of Ginger ale – hopefully not in urine sample cups – I felt great, somewhat giggly and super excited to be on to the next phase, which is radiation for 5+ weeks, along with an MRI on my ovaries so see if they can find the one that mysteriously disappeared from the ultrasound! My friend, Lina who was my escort for the day’s activities, then took me to the Wegmans which has just opened near the hospital. What an amazing experience – we purchased some really healthy food. The best thing by far was that I came home with a plump, fresh trout which I cooked whole, head on ‘n all. Apart from loving the taste, I find trout fascinating as like salmon, they spend an inordinate amount of energy swimming upstream in order to spawn. In the space I’m in right now, I’d just hang around in the calm pools and hope that nobody noticed that I’d much rather relax than procreate!

Love to all and stay away from the left over Halloween candy!
Amanda

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Losing your hair is like losing your virginity

It never turns out the way you expected *

Last week was my 54th birthday – thanks to all of you who sent notes and cards.  Some people are quiet and hide the fact but I am not bashful when my birth date comes around, letting everyone know who cares to listen!  This year, I believed all would be as normal, but starting a couple of days before the big event, noticed myself getting teary when I thought of it.  It gradually occurred to me that I was experiencing some very conflictual, ambivalent feelings along the lines of how can I fully celebrate the day I was given life when I am being treated for something that kills people? I was both grateful for having life and simultaneously grieving what I was going through.  I did not try to alter this in anyway but let the smiles and tears come as needed.

This is not intended to be maudlin and I am sure my reaction is not unique.  After all, how can one go through this and not be altered by the experience?  A ‘new new’ is created where things just do not look the same or even feel the same.  Physically my body will always be changed, I will be at the hospital a lot more than I used to be for years to come and my girls will be faced with potentially life altering decisions due to the presence of BRCA2 in their lineage.  My mental, emotional and spiritual worlds have shifted too.  The courage I feel inside of me has grown exponentially, I have stared the tiger in the eyes and am living to tell the tale (perhaps it should be tail?).  And although it was evident to me before, I really do need to take the time to stop and smell the roses.

I have always believed that the greatest gift we have on this earth is the journey of our lives.  I sense that many people are striving towards an imagined destination – when I get this I’ll be successful or happy or whatever.  But this is IT.  Life is happening all around us, the good, the bad and everything in between.  I am not sure what other gifts are coming to me as a result of this year but I am going to be awake enough to my life to let the wisdom in when it comes.

The above picture is of me and another hair challenged lady looking out the doors of The Healing Garden Center in Harvard, on my birthday.  The picture below is of cranberries being harvested in a local bog, just cause it’s such a New England scene.

Love to all,

Amanda

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*No More Bad Hair Days by Susan Sturges Hyde

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In Over My Head

Firstly, an update on how I am doing post my 2nd chemo treatment.  The answer is OK.  I got all the same stuff as before, heartburn, achy bones, very sore mouth but this time had many pills to take before things got too bad and also knew what to expect.  The worse thing is the fatigue as I am tired the whole time.  I have grand plans but then can’t muster the energy to do much at all.  To add to everything, we (I use that term in the royal sense) decided to get another cat.  Peanut, although loving her walks, pays very scant attention to me, preferring everybody else in the house and even some who are just visiting.  In an attempt to convince Steve that our little kitty needed a play mate, I hatched a plan to get a new, new cat that would love me the most and be the companion I had envisioned for myself.  Off Sarah and I went to the MSPCA, promising Steve that we would come home empty handed and indeed we did but only because Louise needed to be spayed.  Two days later, she was MINE and as she’s been very sick with cat flu since we got her, has clung to me like a limpet and I am loving every minute of it.  Maybe I am getting empty nest syndrome in advance of it being empty?  Or perhaps some days with two teenage daughters, wishing it was empty?!?!

And yes, her name is Louise.  She arrived at the shelter with a kitten so the pair were called Thelma and Louise.  I had wanted Peanut to be called LuLu but was outvoted. I think it’s a cute name, loved the singer LuLu when I was a kid and last but not least, my sister-in-law who died of breast cancer was called Louise, so a trifecta.  Nobody else got a vote, period.  I keep joking that she completes me like Mini Me and Dr. Evil or perhaps Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth who lost all his hair when he was unfrozen.  And yes, Mini Me has a cat, too (images below).  Unfortunately, the cat flu has caused LuLu to drool, snort and sneeze all over me, particularly at night, but life is short, eat dessert first I say.  We now have to give her antibiotics which I am going to force Sarah to administer so that she doesn’t think I am a mean Mum (the cat that is, not Sarah).  They say that chemo cooks the brain but I do not feel that I am a living example of that in any way at all.  No Siree.  And to prove the point, have taken some images of the garden whilst out walking Peanut which I have added to my photo page.  My life is just so busy, having chemo, cleaning up cat snot and crawling around in the bushes, being dragged through the yard on the end of a leash.

On a separate note, I am developing a whole new relationship with my head.  Yesterday, I went on a nature walk through the Healing Garden in Harvard.  Us cancer ladies took a short walk with a hiking guru and we did silent walking meditations, along with observing nature and talking a little about our stuff.  The weather was beautiful and the walk was very scenic.  I left my head bare and the sensation on it was just amazing.  It was as if I was sensing the world through my head in a way I had not before.  The breeze, the sun, just the feeling of it all up there on my noggin.   Although my head has been bare for a couple of weeks, it was the first time I was really conscious of how I was experiencing it.  And then I went to buy apples at a farm store and later on, took the cat to the vet.  In both cases, I had on a baseball cap and felt like a cancer patient.  Such a contrast. I know it’s my interpretation, but when I am in a normal situation with a bald head, think that people are pitying me, feeling sorry for me.  Of course, I have no clue what’s going on for others.  They might be thinking that I am brave, beautiful and wise.  Who knows, but still I am keenly aware of  how I feel.

So that’s the skinny for now.  I got a whole new bunch of hats from a woman in my Pink exercise program and without exception, are the most awful looking things on me.  One of them looks like a cap you’d see on the maids in Pride and Prejudice and as I was very into Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, making Steve watch it, too, acted a number of parts to him last night, quite convincingly I must say.  I was giggling my ass off but he was just shaking his head.  Oh well onward and upward.

Love to all,

Amanda

P.S.  If you are a Star Trek fan, you have to check out Carol’s response to my last blog.  How could I have missed that episode?  I am going to look for it on you tube right now!  And to blpkmp (Karen/Brian, is that you?) who got all the answers right, way to go and Scotty, beam them up!  A dreadful picture of me is coming your way!

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My dear Mum has many adages such as ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’, ‘more haste, less speed’ and one of my least favorite, ‘everything happens in threes’. This three theory was primarily used with crappy things and if only two had occurred as decided by Mum, I was always waiting ‘for the other shoe to drop!’.

But in this particular case, I am hoping that the phrase is true because two days ago, my tooth started to really throb, particularly when I drank any liquid and today, I had an emergency root canal! Wasp attack, cat disappearing act and now root canal – math is not always my strongest point but even I can add to three. And that’s before chemo which has a whole category unto itself! On Friday, I also had an ultrasound of my ovaries just to make sure I don’t need them removed before having chemo and although one came back fine, but they couldn’t find the other one in there! Perhaps it’s lost in the same place that the cat hid in the basement, but my oncologist thinks it’s no cause for concern.

So the long and the short of this is that my first chemo session has been delayed to next Wednesday as they won’t begin if I have any risk of infection. I was originally bummed as I had myself psyched up for tomorrow, but it comes with benefits as Steve turns 50 this weekend, along with our 22nd wedding anniversary and I can go out and celebrate with him without the potential chemo complications that I had concerns would keep me housebound. Or perhaps I should not leave the house until next week!!

Wig purchasing was SO much more fun then I had anticipated. The lady at the store was wonderful and I found a couple of wigs I really liked. I purchased just one for now and left the store wearing it. The girls noticed my hair was a little different right away, but Steve didn’t even notice. There could be a couple of ways to interpret that! As I had intended, I tried on wigs like the hair I always wished I had (long and sexy) and lo and behold, they did not suit me. I have a little head and face and all that hair totally overwhelmed me. The one I purchased is synthetic and you wash it and leave it and it just goes back in shape, no having to blow dry it. I’ll take pictures of my new hair and post.

Love to all,
Amanda

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Being a pet in our house has been a dangerous occupation these past twelve months. We started last year with two cats and two rabbits and by the end of 2013, had lost 75% of our menagerie. Before you call the Humane Society, both the cats were 18 years old so had lived long lives and we took the $30 rabbit for a $350 vets visit (also discovering that she was in fact a he) and then hand feed him/her for 10 days before he/she finally died. But that’s a story for another time.

Our one remaining pet, a Silver Marten rabbit, is a beautiful looking but curmudgeonly thing who only lets Sarah pick him up and being petted and sitting on your lap are very low on his list of things to achieve in a day. So with my chemo coming up and thinking that a little cat companion would be heart warming, I decided the time had come to listen to Sarah’s constant begging and promises that she’d actually clean out the lit tray, and get another cat.

Both the girls are still in FL, spending some time with Steve’s parents, so Sarah gave me permission to go to the MSPCA and get the cat in her absence, as long as I kept in mind her list of essential attributes before bringing one home. Off I go on my mission, coming home with a beautiful little year old cat, name yet to be decided.

Thinking myself the great, all-knowing cat whisperer, as after all I grew up with cats and have owned them all my life, I did not pay as much attention to the words of advice being given to another family at the shelter as perhaps I ought. “Be careful”, the shelter volunteer said, “keep your cat in a small room, like a bathroom, for the first few days because in their fear, they can crawl into little spaces and get lost”. What’s that phrase about great advice falling on deaf ears?

I get home, proudly open the cat carrier to show Steve my wonderful choice and the cat shoots out of the box, slinks down the stairs and into our unfinished basement before I have had time to say Jack Robinson (some of you are going to have to look up what that means). Steve finds her once, she escapes again and vanishes, apparently into thin air. There we are, the pair of us, undoing all the good work of our time away together, pulling apart the basement, with me sobbing “I am a cat killer” and him responding “that isn’t helping, please just shut the #%^* up!!!”. And still no cat, not even the next morning. We had owned this cat for 16 hours and we’ve laid eyes on it for 30 minutes, including the 28 minutes it took me to drive home from the shelter.

But luckily for all, this story has a happy ending. My very good friend, Gertie who is a pet lover and shelter volunteer comes riding over the next morning on her white horse (metaphorically speaking), pulls me out of my pet murderer miasma with words of support and encouragement and helps me search the whole house. We look everywhere and still nothing – not a meow, not a scratch, as nothing as nothing can get. As a last hope, we finally decide to unscrew a 4′ false wall under the stairs in the basement. We have to use flash lights to even see, lie on our stomaches in all the cobwebs, use all our unscrewing ingenuity on rusty, worn out screws, before we open up a 6″ gap behind the wall. And who is quietly sitting there waiting for us? Yes indeedy. I have never been so happy to see anything in my life, except for the time I lost Sarah at the beach when she was 5, but yet another story for another time.

Off for my wig appointment tomorrow. Thinking I’ll get two – one like my everyday hair and the other like the hair I always wished I had. Make sure you check out the Wallace and Gromit toupee video I added in my last post. It’ll make your day if you need a good laugh.

Love to all,
Amanda

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