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Posts Tagged ‘The Book of Awakening’

Sometimes I go about with pity for myself and all the while Great Winds are carrying me across the sky.

 – Ojibway Saying (quoted from The Book of Awakening)

The days leading up to Christmas must have taken their toll on me. We purposely made just super-simple plans for Christmas Day, but even those proved to take more energy than I had. It was just Mom and Tim and me for the day, and all I planned to do was make waffles for breakfast before we sat around the tree to open our gifts. Later, we would drive to Las Vegas (New Mexico, not the glitzy one in Nevada) for dinner at the Historic Plaza Hotel and then enjoy the lights of the Victorian neighborhoods surrounding the old town before heading back home.

But the morning was a rough one for me. I decided to change the ostomy bag by myself – with no supervision from the home nurse who’s been coming weekly. I encountered some minor problems (bleeding, raw skin, etc.) and without the nurse there to reassure me that all was normal, I found myself getting more agitated by the moment. After what seemed like an inordinately long time, I finally emerged from the bathroom too exhausted to prepare breakfast. Tim took over the kitchen duties while Mom and I sat by the fire. I was also experiencing more pain from sitting on the wound on my bottom, so I wasn’t in a very festive mood as we opened our gifts.

Eventually, we bundled up and headed out for our drive to Las Vegas – me with my ever-present pillow to sit on. It was a nice, clear day and the hour drive went quickly. Dinner at the Plaza Hotel was a bit of a disappointment, but we all agreed it was more about the outing and being together than about the food. But, by the time we began the drive home, I was rapidly sliding downhill. No amount of pillows were able to make me comfortable. I got crankier and crankier squirming in the passenger seat until Tim thought to ask if I had any Percocet stashed in my purse. Hallelujah! Yes! One little pill tucked away for emergencies just like this!

As soon as we got home, I immediately took up residence on the sofa, drifting around in a bit of haze until bedtime. I tried hard to remember all that I have to be grateful for (and there is so much!), but I have to admit as I laid there on the couch I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

So, on Saturday, I finally accepted that it was time to simply rest. I spent nearly the entire day lying on the sofa reading Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel The Lacuna. It was just what this frail bag of bones needed – a finely woven tale to take me away from myself and my little world. By evening I was thankful to feel more restored than I have in a while.

Tomorrow (Monday), I will have another ultrasound to see if the blood clot that once ran from my clavicle to my elbow has finally “resolved.” If so, I’ll have the port removed from my chest at 1:00 PM. If the blood clot hasn’t dissipated enough, I may have to wait a bit longer for the port to be taken out as they don’t want to risk disturbing the clot during the port removal procedure. We’ll know more tomorrow!

On Wednesday, I have an appointment to see my surgeon, Dr. Brown. The home nurse says I will get a good report (she thinks all the wounds look like they’re healing properly). I am most interested to ask him when I’m likely to start feeling like myself again!

And, on January 14th, which will be exactly six weeks after my surgery, I’ll begin taking the Xeloda again (with faith that it will assure a healthier 2010).

My New Year’s wish for each of you is that, like me, you’ll be bowled-over to find just how deeply loved you are by so many others (without the need to become ill to learn this!), and that you’ll take full advantage of the good health you now have to live just as fully as you can dream up!

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I awoke to a blanket of snow this morning. Not too much – an inch or so – enough to give the world a fresh, clean look (for a little while at least!). Tim had sweetly left the fireplace laid with wood, so all I needed to do was open the damper and light a match. Soon I had a roaring fire before me and the Christmas tree twinkling nearby. I sipped my first cup of tea while reading today’s meditation in The Book of Awakening. One of the Curve-billed Thrashers who’s made his home in our cholla perched all fluffed-up on an Aspen branch just outside the window. I swear he was enjoying watching the fire, too.

Curved Bill Thrasher in Snow

As you can imagine, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the various options laid out by Dr. Fekrazad concerning follow-up chemotherapy. I’ve also had some heart-to-heart talks with my closest “peeps” about the decision to be made. And I’ve gotten loads of encouraging comments, emails, calls and other support from people near and far (as always, thank you for the continued outpouring of love! You all astound me!).

I knew I didn’t want to remain up-in-the-air about this over the holidays, and with Monday being the Solstice, it seemed appropriate to make my decision on a day that marks the beginning of the return of the light. So, on the longest night of the year, I made the choice to take the “middle path” – meaning I will take the oral chemotherapy (Xeloda) but not the chemo infusions. It feels like the right decision for me: if I chose to do nothing and the cancer returned, I’d be saddled with regret on top of having to take up the fight for my life again. My intuitive belief is that I am going to remain cancer-free, so agreeing to further chemo is really just a form of emotional insurance (which is why I feel it will be sufficient to do only the oral chemo and not the infusions too).

I’m not quite sure when I’ll begin the chemo treatment. Dr. Fekrazad indicated we would start as early as January 3rd, but I’m going to ask to wait just a little longer in order to be more fully recovered from my surgery. Dr. Brown and the ostomy nurses have each said it’ll take at least 6 to 8 weeks after surgery before I start to feel like myself again. And I’m reluctant to start chemotherapy while I’m still feeling depleted from surgery!

I keep reminding myself that on Christmas Eve it will be only three weeks! Although I continue to do a bit better each day, I still easily experience fatigue and pain (generally when I do too much – imagine that!). Of course, I’m very grateful to be able to do as much as I am, but I also find myself getting impatient and wanting to be “all better” already! While Shawn was visiting a few days ago, I told her I was getting really antsy to get back to yoga practice (my last class was in July!). As I told her this, I was shifting uneasily in my chair to accommodate the pain in my bottom from sitting. She looked on with her usual yoga instructor compassion and gently suggested I might want to wait a little while longer…remember that thing about 6 to 8 weeks for recovery?

So it seems my work these days is to accept where I am in this process of healing. Often I can approach things with humor (I’ve discovered that my colostomy behaves a lot like Pavlov’s Dog – no sooner do I go through the messy process of emptying the bag, cleaning myself and the toilet up, and getting redressed, before I find the thing immediately pooping out more! So I’ve changed my stoma’s name from “Vesuvius” to “Pavlov’s Dog”). But, on occasion, I have to let myself indulge in a full blown Hollywood cry*, especially when I find myself struggling with the permanency of all this. I know some day it will all be part of my ordinary routine, but right now learning to accept my life as it is feels something akin to grief – it has it’s own rules and time table. I’ll feel better when I feel better, and not before!

*  Credit goes to my friend Michelle for coining this phrase as we compared notes on our post-surgery progress. An accomplished ski instructor, she had an accident during a routine instructor training clinic, and found herself with a badly broken tibia. Her surgery (plate and pins under the knee to put it all back together) was just a couple of days after mine. She’s already crutching around and doing physical therapy, but won’t be skiing again this season – that’s for sure! If you’re anywhere near Ouray, CO, be sure to check out her whimsical little shop The Blue Pear. (Tons of love to you, Michelle!)

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Here’s a portion of a recent entry from The Book of Awakening (my daily meditation book of choice) that spoke directly to me.  Although I’m not sure I can fully embrace the author’s message today, I have hopes that I can find my way there eventually:

Be content with what you have, / rejoice in the way things are / When you realize there is nothing lacking, / the whole world belongs to you.      – Lao-Tzu

Beyond what we need to survive, to better ourselves has come to mean having as much as one can store…Such a want to have things comes from a sense of scarcity, an anxiety that something is missing, which owning will somehow soothe.

But to better ourselves inwardly is another matter. The closer to heart we take this, the more we find ourselves trying to inhabit what we have carried since the beginning…a yearning to unlock the mystery of what is already there.

This difference became stark for me while struggling with cancer. For while I prayed for things to be better, my prayers were answered when I awoke one morning content to be who I am, no matter what was happening. Though things were not as I wanted, there was truly nothing lacking, and I vowed, as the nurses started their morning rounds, that I would trade places with no one, spirits with all.      – Mark Nepo

At the moment, I can only aspire to this, as I must admit I pray fervently for things to be better and find it hard to really, truly accept that nothing is lacking (nourishment, strength, and health all come to mind). I believe I am content to be exactly who I am – I’d just like to be vibrantly healthy, too. But I also trust that as I work toward not wanting to “trade places” with anyone, I will find that I am “bettering” myself, both outwardly and inwardly.

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I turned to the meditation for August 20th in my beloved Book of Awakening and, as often happens, found something in the entry that spoke directly to my current situation.  I smiled with recognition as I read this quote by Swami Sivananda:

The inward battle – against our mind, our wounds, and the residues of the past – is more terrible than outward battle.

Although I’ve tried hard to avoid using the term “battle” in connection with my experience with cancer (choosing instead to use words like “journey” and “adventure” and “dance” as they seem less violent to me), I think this reflection by Swami Sivananda offers me a wise perspective on the what is really at the heart of all I’m dealing with these days.  Yes, my “outward battle” is with a disease that would like nothing more than to take over this shell I call my body, but I recognize also that a very real struggle I face daily is with my inward self – mostly with my mind that wants to take control, does not like the unknown, and works tirelessly to make things fit in it’s fairly narrow box of understanding.

For now, it’s enough just to be reminded of this and to try to be gentle with myself when I find my mind taking off down a road that really isn’t helpful or healthy.  It seems to me that beating myself up and doing “battle” with my inward self is probably equally as detrimental as letting cancer cells run wild in my body.  I believe the chemo and radiation treatment will do it’s job and make my “shell” inhospitable to cancer. All I really have to do is show up for treatment and endure some unpleasant side effects.  The much harder work is continually finding ways to nudge my mind back to a healthier path when what it wants to do is stray off course every few moments.

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