Saturday, February 27, 2010

OM

I went to yoga class this morning (thanks to B's encouragement!), and needed it badly, but it was a rough journey to get there -

I could not have coffee because I'm out of cream.
I have my period.
My car was stuck in the driveway, and I had to walk over a mile in the snow/slush.
The man walking in front of me was smoking, and ashes were coming back at me.
I was still emotionally raw due to yesterday's trauma of being stuck in the snow with a child in my care.

By the time I got to the yoga studio, I was so mad and tired I wanted to skip straight to savasana. I followed class as best I could. I couldn't lay flat on my stomach, and kept myself slightly propped up - unlike after the first 2 surgeries, this time there is a tiny bit of stitch poking out of my incision, like fishing line, and it creates tenderness. I spent a lot of time in child's pose during class, and was so focused on protecting my breast that the resulting tension in my body led to a headache.

Partway through class, my gaze was drawn to the window as the sun suddenly burst through the clouds for the first time in 5 days, and I was so giddy with relief and joy that I fell out of Warrior I and just sat there staring at the light. I tried to absorb all of that light and keep it inside of me.

When I was in a half wheel, on my back with my hips lifted off the floor, I gazed down the length of my body - at my breast that's been through so much, my crooked ribcage, my bony hip bones that suddenly seemed more bony than ever - and I lost the rhythm of my breath as I suddenly felt the tears rising behind my eyes. With nothing in my field of vision other than my own torso, I stared at it with a fear that surprised me. I suddenly realized, in a different way than I had before, there's cancer in there. And cancer is much more serious than I usually allow myself to acknowledge. I maintain my sense of humor and laugh my way through treatments and doctor appointments, but every now and then it just hits me, that cancer is serious and scary, in a way that makes my stage & grade irrelevant. Cancer is cancer.

I thought about how in a couple of weeks, I'm going to Sojourns (local multidisciplinary holistic health clinic) for new tests - a thermogram that scans 112 points on my body, and a Live Blood Cell Analysis. These two tests will analyze my entire body and overall health in a more thorough way than any procedure I've ever had before... between the two of them, we will have information about the functioning of every organ in my body, my immune system, congestion, toxic load, vitamin and mineral deficiency, size and shape and oxygen level of red cells, my BP and circulation, my teeth, my brain, digestion, tonsils and lymphs, and just everything. I was excited about this, because the information these tests yield will be incredibly helpful as I decide which treatments to do... but suddenly, when I was there in a half-wheel and staring at my torso, I was scared to know what's going on inside of my body that I don't know about. I feel so healthy, and say that I'm so healthy, and everyone who knows me knows me as being so healthy. But there were four and a half centimeters of cancer in me that I could not feel or detect, and that's clearly not healthy. I still say "Thank you for my life, my health, and the love that surrounds me" prayers every night, but... AM I healthy because I "feel" healthy, even though I have CANCER? What IS health? Who knows what else is in my body, or going on inside of my body, that I don't know about?? I am scared to know. Part of me doesn't want to know. But I HAVE to know.

I cried all through savasana.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My Life Continues to Be a Comic Book

So this morning I had to drive 30 mins to go pee in a cup to prove that I, a currently-menstruating lesbian, am not pregnant.

I arrived at the oncology office and was greeted by E, the manager of the clinical trial I'm on (which requires the pregnancy test). We walked upstairs.

E: "How are you?"
Me: "Good, except I peed before I left the house, just out of habit, and now I have to drink lots more coffee so that I can pee again!"
E: laughs
Me: "I like your skirt!"
E: "Thanks!"
Me: "I like polka dots!"
E: "Me too! I don't really wear polka dots every day, though, even though I've been wearing them every time you've seen me!"
Me: "You SHOULD wear polka dots every time I see you."

Then I sit in the waiting room and take continuous sips of the rest of my 16-oz coffee while E waits patiently behind the reception desk and glances over at me every few minutes to see how close I am to finishing my coffee. I look at the table full of magazines and stuff next to me, and notice that the cardboard stand-up display staring me in the face is for "HAPPY FEET" - every woman with ovarian cancer is eligible to receive a free pair of sparkly, slip-on jelly shoes jeweled with Swarovski crystals. I snort and choke slightly on my coffee and have to turn the display to face the other way, before I lose it entirely. Hey, it sucks that you have cancer, but you'll feel better when you have Disney Princess feet!! Check out the website - the program's rationale is, "These women have already paid a heavy price, and we would like to help them feel comfortable in their returns to health." Plastic jellies, comfortable?? They're so NOT. And do men with prostate cancer receive free pairs of shiny penny loafers to keep their tootsies happy, too?? OH THE ABSURDITY.

A few minutes later, I announce that I am ready to try and pee. E brings me into the bathroom.
E: "Here's the jar, and here's the wipe."
I look at the packaged wipe with confusion. It looks like one of those "moist towelette" thingies seafood restaurants give you when you order lobster.
Me: "I'm so sorry to have to ask this, but what exactly is the wipe for?? Do I wipe the jar off with it??"
E: "No, you wipe yourself with it."
Me: "And then...put it in the jar??"
E: "No, in the trash."
Me: "Do I wipe before or after I pee?"
E: "Before!"
Me: "I'm sorry, I clearly have not had to do this many times before!!"

Then she left, I peed, and went out to give her the jar of my inch of coffee-induced pee. I was giggling.

E: "It's okay, don't be embarrassed! We're used to pee around here!"

I was more giggling at the absurdity of the whole situation, but yeah...
Now I'm feeling rather nauseated, after having guzzled 16 oz. of coffee after having had nothing but curried cashews for breakfast.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

ARRGGHHH

JESUS CHRIST ON A POGO STICK!!
On Friday, I went to my oncologist's office and signed up for the clinical trial that will cover the cost of my Oncotype dx test. That's the test that analyzes 21 genes in your tumor and gives you a numerical score that indicates how likely you are to have a recurrence in the next 10 years, and this helps with treatment decisions. So I signed all the forms and gave a blood sample and all of that, and they said my tumor would be sent off for the test on Monday.

Monday was 3 days ago. I just got a call saying they actually can't send away for the Oncotype test until I come in for another test, because the rules of the clinical trial are that everyone must have a pregnancy test first. AARGGGHHH. So now I have to drive 60 min round trip tomorrow to PEE IN A CUP and prove I'm not pregnant, because BEING A FREAKING LESBIAN isn't proof enough*. And now the wait for my Oncotype score is going to be EVEN LONGER.

And my car is stuck in the driveway, which is like a huge muddy river with snowbank islands. THIS IS SO STUPID.

*Forgot to mention, I also have my period RIGHT NOW. I could not be any more NOT PREGNANT.

And wow, I wondered when the day would come when my blog would need big TMI warnings...If I can figure out how to make some of these posts password-protected and accessible only to women (yes, women - sorry, guys) who email me for the password, there is SO much more I could write about...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What??

My body is being REALLY FREAKIN WEIRD!!

My ears are constantly blocked. So sometimes I do that thing where you hold your nose while blowing, to try and relieve the pressure. (It doesn't work). But yesterday I was walking (5 miles, woohoo!) and my left quad was a little achey/tingly, and then all of a sudden when I did that thing with my nose, it made my quad spasm!! Just to be sure it wasn't a coincidence, I did it two more times, and it happened again! WTH??

Today, I've been doing pull-ups (it's how I release my anger when I'm pissed off at snow), and during pull-ups, the soles of my feet get really hot. WHAT??

I do not understand my body! My breast, on the other hand, is doing just fine, thanks!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sparkles

I hung out with 4 awesome kids today, and let the girls make a wonderfully fun, sparkly mess of my nails.



Six-year-old N wordlessly hugged me about 6 times within the first half hour, as if to reassure herself that I was healthy, solid, real. Her mom told me that the kids knew a woman who recently died of ovarian cancer, so N, especially, has been talking a lot about how the cancer Britta has is different, right? The kind the doctors can fix, right? And Britta's going to be okay. I think it was good for the both of us to be together, playing beauty parlor, laughing, running through the woods, eating mac 'n cheese, like "before"!

N's 9-year-old sister, S, asked in the midst of blowing on my nails to dry them - "So, was this surgery the same as the other two? And what were the results?" I was not only touched by her concern, but impressed by how much she knows/understands about my journey thus far, as evidenced by the specificity of her questions. I was glad to be able to tell her that my 3rd surgery was my last!

And off we ran into the sparkly sunshine.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Air Purifier?

Does anyone have an air purifier I could borrow until I move to a mold-free apartment?? My naturopath (A) thinks, and I agree, that the black mold in my apartment is negatively affecting my health, and stressing out my immune system. My immune system needs to be focusing on fighting the cancer, not mold. :( My ears are constantly blocked, and A looked in my ears and said my eardrums are some of the most retracted ones she has ever seen - my eustacian tubes (sorry, too lazy to look up the spelling) are not draining like they should be, as evidenced by my ridiculously huge tonsils.

So, I'm looking for an air purifier! Spread the word, pretty please, and thank you so much!

YUMMY Anticancer Food!

Anticancer diet = mostly veggies, whole foods, organic whenever possible, NO SUGAR, cultured soy only, limited dairy, lots of Omega-3 and decreased Omega-6, lots of foods specifically found to have cancer-fighting properties, etc.

Here is a sampling of the anticancer meals I have been eating this month:

Breakfast, almost every day: plain goat yogurt mixed with Muesli (grains + fruit + nuts, NO SUGAR!), sometimes with stevia or berries added.

Lunch: salad - baby spinach, mushrooms, carrots, and goat cheese, with balsamic vinaigrette and ground flax seeds; a baked sweet potato with coconut oil
OR
An avocado with balsamic vinaigrette, and tempeh with sauteed broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and garlic
OR
Pasta with olive oil and a mixture of turmeric & black pepper & ground walnuts & flax seeds & sunflower seeds & nutritional yeast

Dinner: fried egg sandwich on sprouted grain bread, steamed asparagus with garlic olive oil
OR
Sweet potato/onion/peanut butter soup & bowl of steamed brussel sprouts with olive oil & turmeric & black pepper

Snacks: sheets of nori, carrot sticks with tahini, apples with PB, frozen cranberries

Desserts: 85% dark chocolate, Coconut Bliss Bars (fudgsicles made from coconut milk and sweetened with only agave nectar!!) slightly melted and mixed with frozen raspberries, gluten-free/refined sugar-free/vegan cookies from the Co op

Drinks: Coffee with goat milk and stevia, green tea, nettles tea, chickweed tea, mango juice

It doen't feel like deprivation to me!! I LOVE all of these foods!

Gratitude

Ten days after dx, I posted a list of ways in which I am lucky, and things I am grateful for, in spite of the awfulness of having cancer. I'm going to do that again, because there is even more to be grateful for now!

1. I have health insurance!
2. I decided "on a whim" (i.e. thanks to divine guidance?) to get a routine physical just because I hadn't had one in years, and that's when the nurse practitioner found the lump in my breast.
3. It's amazing that she FOUND the lump, considering it was so tiny!! I have so much respect and gratitude for her. And it was Breast Cancer Awareness month!
4. I'm lucky that the lump was relatively close to my skin, because if it had been deep in my breast, probably no one would have found it for years...since it would not have occurred to me to get a mammogram in my 30s.
5. I almost ignored the NP's recommendation to get the lump checked, because I was so young and healthy, and surely it couldn't be cancer. But I did get checked. Then I was tempted to ignore the radiologist's suggestion to get a biopsy, because he was "98% sure" it wasn't cancer. But I went for the biopsy. When I arrived in the office, the surgeon spent the first 20 minutes talking about how it was SO unlikely that I had cancer that it would be okay if I chose to not get the biopsy and instead monitor the lump on my own for 6 months to make sure it didn't change. But I went through with the biopsy, and thank God(dess) I did!!
6. I was SO SURE the results of my biopsy would be benign, but I asked my mom and best friend to come with me to the appointment anyway. I can't imagine how awful it would have been to have been diagnosed with cancer when I was ALL ALONE!
7. Just two days before I was diagnosed with BC, I had reconnected with a dear close friend, helping her celebrate her 100% healing from BC. What incredible timing. She is now the most helpful and understanding person on my cancer journey, providing me with both practical and emotional support to a depth that no one else can because A) we've been friends for 12 years/she KNOWS me! and B) she just went through all of this herself! I love you, Sue!
8. My tumor was Stage I and mucinous. This is just about the "best" kind of cancer to have, if you have to have cancer - mucinous cancer is rare, found in only about 2% of breast cancer cases, and it's slow-growing and non-aggressive. My prognosis is EXCELLENT.
9. I have been majorly underemployed for the past year, barely making enough money to pay my rent and bills, and it sucks being poor. But the flip side is that while I've been poor in money all this time, I've been downright wealthy in terms of TIME and FRIENDS and LOVE. Not having enough work has meant I've had lots of time to spend with my friends/family/people I love and to put lots of energy into nurturing those relationships, and that has made me really happy. And I did not know how very, very important my web of friends would become to me. Imagine if I were one of those workaholic types who worked 80 hours a week and thus had plenty of money but no time for friendships??? I would be pretty screwed right about now. I don't have a lot of money, but I have a lot of love, and THAT is what is getting me through this. That brings me to...
10. I have THE BEST FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND COMMUNITY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. The constant, strong, deep love and support I have been receiving from you all, every step of the way for the past 3.5 months, leaves me speechless with gratitude.
10a. I so love and appreciate the hugs, kisses, voicemails, cards, gifts, emails, pictures, hands to hold, tea, FB messages, encouragement, sympathy, validation, prayers, crystals, energy, metta, laughter, mochas, herbs, cuddles, Alias marathons, trapeze time, letters, and joy you give to me!
10b. The Just For Love benefit show that my NECCA family did for me was amazing beyond words. I was so caught up in the hugging, dancing, laughing, partying aspect of it, about to implode from joy, that I almost forgot about the money part of it and then suddenly realized, OMG, all this love & joy AND I GET TO PAY THE RENT, TOO!! :) I LOVE YOU GUYS! I wish I could personally thank every person that was there, but there were hundreds. :) Thank you, friends, and thank you, Mom, Dad, John, Nan, Austin, Adriane, Finn, Pam, and Loyall!
10c. A whole bunch of friends brought me delicious, home-cooked meals for the first week after surgery! Lasagna, mac 'n cheese, chili, veggie rice stirfry and mochi, minestrone soup and salad, chocolate, bread, spinach quiche, tofu veggie pie!! Thank you, Anna, Deena & Danny, Supriya, Serenity, Hannah & Julia, Suzanne, Anneka!
10d. My family is so awesome, helps me financially, loves me unconditionally, gives me support or space depending on what I need, and helps me in way too many ways for me to list. My mom, especially, has been with me every step of the way and I'm so grateful for the bond we share and for how honest we are able to be with each other about everything!
11. A dear friend of mine with inside knowledge convinced me to not continue with the hospital where I had my biopsy, and instead go to the hospital I'm at now, and I am SO SO glad, because...
12. I have the best surgeon EVER. (Everyone who knows her agrees! :)) None of us expected I'd have to go for three surgeries, but I kind of didn't mind, because being with K is fun! She makes me laugh so much my BP is always elevated when the nurses have to check my vitals! Ending the surgical phase of treatment is bittersweet, because obviously I'm glad to be done with surgery, but I'm truly going to miss K. She didn't just take the cancer out of my breast, she filled the cavity (so close to my heart!) with sunshine and laughter and magic dust!
13. For the past 8 months, my main source of income has been my work as a minute-taker. I'm employed by the City Clerk's office of a town in NH. I really love this work, and my bosses are wonderfully kind and understanding and flexible! The work is perfect for me right now, because most of it is work I can do at home at whatever time works best for me, in my pajamas if I feel like it, and it's not physically strenuous, and it pays well. This is exactly the kind of work that I can do in the midst of cancer treatments. (I just wish it was more than 5-10 hrs/wk!!)
14. Bronwyn's yoga class helps me so much! I'm so grateful to have a yoga class that I LOVE, at a time that works for my schedule, just a couple miles from my house, affordable, and taught by one of my best friends. This is a rare find.
15. I live 1.5 miles from an awesome natural foods co op that has ALL of the anti-cancer foods I need - organic, local, fair trade, affordable thanks to my membership, and delicious.
16. I have a wonderful naturopath, and her services are covered by my insurance!!!
17. Ditto for my wonderful chiropractor!! (But Julie, I still miss you!)
18. I have an apartment, electricity, clean water, nourishing food, a warm cozy bed, a sweet cat, a car that works, and a great laptop.
19. Despite having cancer, I am in excellent health overall. My immune system kicks ass. My antioxidant levels are through the roof. My body heals so well, and the scar on my breast is GORGEOUS. (Thanks partly to my body's healing capabilities, and partly to K's sewing. ;))
20. I live 2 miles from a CIRCUS SCHOOL, where I get to do TRAPEZE!! How amazing is that?!? It's been 4 years now but I won't ever take this for granted!
21. I was freaking out about the upcoming 6 weeks of radiation, especially because the only local radiologist is male and I absolutely cannot deal with any more men touching my breasts. But guess what, he's going on vacation for 2 weeks in March and will have a female radiologist covering for him, and I can start my radiation during this time!
22. I feel lucky that the cancer is in my breast, and not my lung, liver, brain, etc. My breasts are the only part of my body that I can remove if necessary without my life being threatened or without losing function.
23. I'm learning SO much from this experience of dealing with cancer...so much about myself and the world and life in general. It's helping me focus on what's really important in life, and letting go of what's not. I'm learning to put on my own oxygen mask first before trying to help others with theirs, which is a lifelong lesson I've struggled with. I'm learning to love and care for myself in new, radical, real ways.
24. I'm alive, and the sun is shining, and I have just spent over an hour counting my blessings!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making diet/environment/lifestyle changes

I've been thinking about what big changes I can make in my diet, environment, lifestyle, etc., in an attempt to improve my overall health and prevent a recurrence of cancer as best I can. (DISCLAIMER, which I hope I don't have to keep adding to EVERY post: I know there is NOTHING AT ALL i can do, whether it's a natural or conventional treatment, that can totally guarantee the cancer won't return! But I try anyway!)

Immediately following diagnosis, I was outraged that I, of all people, could possibly have cancer - remember that post where I was like, "I'm the freakin posterchild of the anti-cancer lifestyle!"?? It's true that there are many things I've been doing well for years already, but clearly since I DO have cancer, there are things with which I can improve. I still don't believe that cancer is entirely self-created and self-healed, but I do believe that my dietary, lifestyle, and environmental choices can impact my health greatly. I still am not sure which conventional treatments I will agree to/complete, and which I won't...but if I'm going to refuse any of the recommended conventional treatments, I want to at least be doing other things that will greatly improve my body & life, in an attempt to compensate for the lack of conventional treatment - even though I know it doesn't exactly work that way. I just don't believe that refusing chemo automatically = "doing nothing." I don't want anyone to be able to point at me and say, stupid new age hippie freak refusing treatment, don't come crying to me when you get a recurrence!

I'm not going to "do nothing," nor am I going to just sit around eating mushrooms and visualizing sparkly white light. I spent time thinking about what has NOT been working in my life/what has been BAD for my health for years, that I can change, and here's what I've come up with so far as my ACTION PLAN:

- BREAK MY INTERNET ADDICTION. I have been strongly addicted to the Internet for about 16 years, no joke - more than half my life.
- Stop eating refined sugar and dairy. I have a major sweet tooth and used to eat a lot of sugar, until just this past month when I stopped, and I'm actually allergic to dairy but have kept eating it because I love it, despite how bad it is for my body.
- Eat ONLY foods on the anti-cancer food list!
- Find work that is as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, and STOP working for under-staffed, disorganized, low-paying non-profits I always get too emotionally invested in and caught up in the drama of. I want to focus more on writing!
- Move to a mold-free, affordable, studio apartment that's just for me and my cat. I love living alone, and thrive when I have that privacy, space, freedom, quiet...
- Return to therapy to process/heal from past traumas that I've been shoving aside for years.
- Improve my sleep habits, by going to bed and waking up and approximately the same time each day and getting as much of that sleep before midnight as possible, sleep in total darkness to help with melatonin production, and learn the art of napping when necessary.
- Meditate regularly, FOR REAL! I SAY that I am a person who meditates, but really I meditate approximately once every 3 months, despite how much I INTEND to meditate more.
- Correct my vitamin D deficiency! I didn't know, until last month-ish, that I was deficient!

Many of those are difficult changes, and I don't yet have a timeline for them or a plan of how to make these changes, but I'm working on it.

I suspect that simply curbing my Internet addiction will result in these other positive changes occuring almost by default. If I am not spending so much time on the Internet, I will have more time to do things like cook and eat healthy meals (which I will be eating more mindfully, instead of in front of the computer), meditate, do creative things, read books, spend more time in nature, exercise, etc! Right now, I sign online the moment I get up in the morning, go online during every free minute I have during the day, and stay online till the wee hours of the morning, right up until bedtime!

Combatting my Internet addiction is THE MOST DIFFICULT change I need to make in my life, because it's been a strong addiction for literally over half my life now. It is not something I could ever go cold turkey with, because I use/need the Internet for so many things, and it meets needs of mine that cannot be met in any other way. I need to regulate my online time, not give it up.

I'm taking baby steps. My goals are:

A)Walk around the block first thing when I wake up, instead of immediately going online.
B) Stop eating meals in front of the computer.
C) Shut my computer down at least one hour before bedtime.

This is hard! I walked around the block a couple mornings ago (and this morning) and I kind of had that jittery, I-need-the-Internet-NOW feeling, but the walk only took 11 minutes, so geez, I should be able to handle this. The benefits of walking around the block first thing upon waking are vitamin D, time in nature, exercise, melatonin regulation, and 11 less minutes on the Internet!! As for turning the computer off an hour before bedtime, I tried that last night, and pathetically stood in my room thinking, what the hell am I going to do for an hour? And then I thought of something I wanted to write, and turned the computer back on. AAAHHHH!

I will keep trying!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WOOHOO!!

MY MARGINS ARE CLEAR!!!! :) NO MORE SURGERY!!! (Third time really is the charm, I guess!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How I understand it...

I think this* is how it will happen next:



These charts MAY happen simultaneously, or will overlap in some way... I'm unclear on the timing of it.



*This is about the conventional treatments ONLY. Regardless of the path I follow on this chart, I will be continuing to work with my naturopath, and doing everything I possibly can to make anti-cancer diet/environment/lifestyle changes. That is a given, which is why I don't include that info in the chart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Just for LOVE


yesterday was "just for love," the circus benefit show that my friends put on for me at NECCA. and wow, i have tried several times now to write the story of yesterday, and i am still so overwhelmed by it all that i'm having trouble finding adequate words to explain how amazing it was. i felt loved in a way i've never felt loved before. between the audience, the show's performers, producers, directors, backstage people, volunteers, etc., there were approximately 300+ people there...all to support ME... and i... i don't even have words for how amazing that is. just writing about it is making me cry all over again! the audience of hundreds included my mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad, brother, sister-in-law, niece, aunt, uncle, and numerous friends, some of whom i hadn't seen in a long time, some who drove a long ways to get to the show, and i was so touched.

the performances were awesome! there was tightwire, solo trapeze, duo trapeze, chains, diablo, hooping, contortion, straps, dance, clowning, lyra, and juggling! i loved it all, and so appreciate the generosity of all of these performers who put so much time, work, and heart into the show. then came the finale - i was so surprised when the entire cast performed the pink glove dance!! the moment the music started, and the gloves came out, and i realized what was happening, i started bawling.



i have watched the pink glove dance video SO many times on youtube, especially when i'm having blue moments and need something uplifting, because the energy and optimism of that video is so infectious - hundreds of people dancing to "you won't be lonely, even when the sky is falling down"...it's such a comfort and reassurance to those of us who are dealing with breast cancer. so to have a room full of friends and family and people i love sing & dance to that song just for ME... WOW. in the middle of it, deena came to pull me up on stage to join them, and i was crying and laughing at the same time, trying to dance with her but mostly stumbling around like a dork because i was just so overwhelmed i could barely breathe. then lots more people from the audience came up to dance with us, too, and there was a whole sea of people hugging me and kissing me, dancing with me, picking me up and spinning me in circles, and i was just speechless with a pounding heart, soaking it all up.





it was truly one of the best days of my entire life. definitely the best valentine's day EVER!! okay, so it was the night before valentine's day... but our after-party lasted past midnight, and when someone noticed that it was officially valentine's day, we all toasted. i have always loved valentine's day, despite always being technically single, because i love the idea of a whole day devoted to love. it frustrates me when it is narrowly seen as a day for couples, because really it is a day to celebrate love in ALL of its forms - love for family, friends, your self, community, children, animals, nature, chocolate, god(dess)/spirit/etc. for those who believe, the world, and love itself. i get sad when the media/society presents this false dichotomy of either celebrating valentine's day because you're in a romantic relationship with someone or being bitter and snarky and anti-valentine's day because you're single. valentine's day (and life!) is about so much MORE than that!! i am very rarely in a romantic relationship, but i don't consider myself "single," and certainly not lonely, and my "love life" is not lacking. yesterday is the definition of my full and satisfying love life!! i LOVE my family and friends and community SO much!! during the pink glove dance, when we were all clustered together and so hyper, jumping up and down, dancing, hugging, someone yelled, "WE LOVE YOU, BRITTA!" and i couldn't see them and don't even know who it was, but i yelled back into the crowd, "I LOVE YOU, TOO!!" and it was just beautiful and perfect. i kept on dancing, and in one hand, i had the bouquet of beautiful flowers that deena had presented me with, and in the other, i was holding the valentine i had made for everyone way up high - a big red heart that said "thank you so much, NECCA, friends, and family! love, britta." i hung it on the wall of the studio when the show was over. i was carrying my 2-year-old friend ruby around (deena & danny's daughter), and she asked me about the valentine, so i read it to her and explained that i had made it for all of my friends and people i love. she smiled. "for me? and mama, and papa, and aimee?" i said yes, for her, and her mama and papa, and aimee, and all of those people who were out there dancing, and all of our other friends who couldn't make it to the show but were there in spirit... ruby looked at the valentine some more and asked, "where's my name? where's R-U-B-Y?" :) i explained that i didn't have enough room on the heart to write everybody's name, but that it says "thank you, friends," and ruby is my friend, so that includes her. and i hope everyone knows that although i did not have room on that paper heart to write everyone's name, all of their names ARE on there, and all of their love is inside my real heart... my heart that is SO SO full of everyone's love and joy and healing energy. and you know, my heart is mere inches away from where that cancerous tumor was in my left breast...and the cancer doesn't stand a CHANCE against all of the love that my heart and whole being is flooded with.

BIG BIG THANKS to
- amanda and henry, for creating/organizing/producing the show
- all of the performers, especially deena, for performing right to me and hugging me at the end
- all of the people working backstage and all of the tech people
- all of the volunteers, doing box office, concessions, house managing, decorating, and stuff i don't even know about
- the people who stayed past 10 pm to clean the studio up
- everyone in the audience, for your energy and financial support
- the person who spent his morning driving all over western MA to find the pink gloves, and the people who did other things like this that i'm not even aware of
- everyone who donated money
- the winning bidders during the mid-show auctions, and all of the bidders
- everyone who shared a piece of their heart
- my family & friends for coming to the show and supporting me yesterday and always
- my friends & family who couldn't make it to the show but are always in my heart
- elsie & serenity and ALL of NECCA
- the universe
- you reading this

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oh, What a BEAUTIFUL Day!


I feel so good right now. I enjoyed work this morning, then went home for 20 minutes - long enough to open a surprise package from my friend Molly Kate and ooh and aah over the lovely thoughtful gifts inside, and then I went to pick up Cathryn and we had a trapeze lesson with Bronwyn! (Which was a bday gift from my awesome parents!) It was my first time on the bar in about a month and a half, is my guess...and I was SO HAPPY TO BE BACK!! Yes, trapezing 21 days after my last surgery and 4 days before my next... Stupid silly cancer can't stop me!!





There was only one trapeze trick that I did that resulted in me yelping "OOWW OWW MY BOOB!!" and scrambling off the bar, ha. That would be this one, the meathook. This is a photo of me doing a meathook on the OTHER side. :)

While I was trapezing, the hospital called my cell phone...so I scrambled off the bar to listen to someone from the surgery department give me the instructions for Tuesday: arrive at 7:30 am, don't eat after midnight, don't take vitamins, don't wear jewelry. Then I hung up the phone and got back on the bar!!









I am so lucky to have awesome friends who support me literally/physically, as well as emotionally!!



I was so, so happy today!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Multi-tasking

I wanted to hula-hoop. But I had to read this 15-page consent form for this clinical trial I may be eligible for/want to join. SO....



Also, I have been recording my most recent doctor's visits - 2-week post-surgical follow-up with K, consultation with medical oncologist, and consultation with radiation oncologist - on my MP3 player. This way I don't have to stress out trying to take notes during the visits. But it sure is funny to be walking downtown with my earbuds in, not listening to music on my MP3 player like normal people, but listening to doctors talk about mastectomies and lymphedema and chemotherapy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Anti-Cancer

well, my meeting with the medical oncologist, dr. C, was frustrating and disappointing. she didn't tell me that i probably won't need chemo, which is what i had (perhaps naively) been expecting. she didn't flat out say i DO need chemo, but i definitely got the sense that she's in favor of it/recommending it - i mean, that's basically her JOB, i guess... but i didn't get the sense that she was recommending chemo because my specific situation warrants it, but more because chemo is the standard of care. she basically only talked about the benefits of hormone therapy (i'm assuming tamoxifen - we didn't get that specific), and chemo, or OVARY REMOVAL instead of chemo. i don't think i need any of those options, and i don't believe they are my ONLY options, as medical oncologists say.

she showed me this computerized tool that calculates a person's risk of recurrence, based on information that you plug in - age, general health, tumor size, grade, and stage. this tool said that with lumpectomy + radiation only, my estimated risk for recurrence in the next 10 years is 35%. it also says that if i do 5 years of hormone therapy, my risk falls to 22%. if i also do chemo, my risk of recurrence becomes 15%. but an online calculator tool doesn't know anything about me personally. i asked, knowing the answer was no, does this calculator take diet and lifestyle changes into account? no, of course not, there's no way to measure that. it also doesn't take into account the fact that my tumor was the MUCINOUS type, which is non-aggressive and unlikely to spread.

that calculator assumes that the person it is assessing is living in a "normal" way - e.g. living a mainstream lifestyle, eating a mainstream diet, and not making any anti-cancer lifestyle or dietary changes after being dx'd with cancer. it says that my risk of recurrence is 35% "without treatment," because it wrongly equates "no chemo/hormone therapy" with "no treatment." it cannot possibly know that during the past several years, i have made big improvements in my diet, environment, and lifestyle and that i am continuing to do so.

the online calculator does not know the following:

- i strongly and consciously practice loving/being a good friend to myself
- i never smoke, drink, or do drugs
- my weight is ideal for my height
- my diet has steadily improved over the years and continues to do so. as a teenager and throughout college, i ate fast food, soda, junk food, white flour everything. now, i've been a vegetarian for 9 years, and eat lots of organic vegetables. since reading "anticancer" by dr. david servan-schreiber, i've started eating a very specific ANTICANCER diet. i haven't had refined sugar in almost a month. i am eating organic fruits and vegetables, sprouted grains, limited dairy, seaweed, turmeric, onions, garlic, berries, etc.
- i found out i was deficient in vitamin D and am now supplementing
- i'm seeing a wonderful naturopath, who has me taking many supplements with proven anti-cancer properties, as corroborated by dr. servan-schreiber's book (melatonin, green tea extract, medicinal mushrooms, etc)
- i get plenty of rest and sleep
- i have THE BEST FAMILY AND FRIENDS IN THE WORLD, who love and support me so, so much. i am swept up in a tidal wave of love every day. my social/support network is better now than it has ever been in my life.
- i exercise! this is new for me in the past few years! i am obsessed with trapeze, and also do yoga regularly, and walk a lot, and rollerskate, and hula hoop!
- i receive immeasurable healing from the michigan womyn's music festival every year
- i am introspective, self-aware, self-analytical. i have several strategies for exploring/healing what's going on in my psyche that may impact my cancer. i meditate, journal, work with psychotherapists off and on, read helpful books, talk with friends and family, pray, etc. i live a "conscious life."
- i am now more conscious than ever of avoiding whatever environmental pollutants i can, whenever i can. i used to be oblivious to this. but now, i reduce my use of plastics, and for several years, i have used only natural body care and cleaning products
- i grew up on cape cod, where the rate of breast cancer is 20% higher than the rest of the state, but i moved away!

and there's even more that i'm just not thinking of right now. because of all of the above, my risk for recurrence is MUCH LOWER than that online calculator can possibly know. i don't know exactly why cancer grew in me... but something about my life/my body was "fertile soil" for cancer to grow in. by the time a tumor gets to be as big as mine was, it's likely that it had been growing for 8-10 years. so it's likely that the tumor started growing several years ago at a time when my body and lifestyle were very different - LESS healthy than today. i've made big improvements in my health and life over the years, and keep continuing to do so. i am doing everything i can to make my life and body TOTALLY UNWELCOMING to cancer. what's exciting is that i am learning lots of SPECIFIC ways in which to do this, thanks mostly to my wonderful naturopath and dr. david servan-schreiber's "anticancer" book (which K herself recommended to me!). i'm learning that there are very specific ways of creating a "terrain" (as david puts it) that cancer cannot thrive in - it's not as simple as just striving to "be healthier." for example, i would not have intuitively known that drinking 10 cups of green tea per day, or eating turmeric and black pepper and olive oil in combination with each other, or having optimal levels of vitamin D helps fight cancer. but now that i DO know, i can do these things.

there are so many GREAT things i can do (and DO do, and will CONTINUE to do!) for my body to make it all-around healthier and stronger, and a body that cancer cannot be at home in. i will treat my body with so much LOVE, and nourish it well. it will be a lot of work, and these lifestyle/diet changes are major, and must be done in symphony with each other - it's not like i'd benefit from just sprinkling a bit of turmeric on my food every now and then. no, i will strive to eat ONLY anti-cancer foods, and exercise regularly, and diligently take my supplements, and do yoga regularly, and deepen my meditation practice, and make big changes in my work life so that work nourishes instead of drains me, and continue to play and laugh and spend quality time with my family and friends, and go back to therapy if that's what it takes to work through some lingering childhood issues and past traumas, and research environmental carcinogens even more so that i can avoid them as best as possible, and ALL of that. i am not your average girl, i'm just not. so that stupid online calculator can BITE ME.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!






My lovely birthday celebration last week ;)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

today was so much better!

i feel SO much better now!! :) it was a very good day! i cleared enough floor space for my yoga mat (but haven't done yoga yet), and my roommate gave me a check for the bills, and i did a load of laundry, and bought amazing anti-cancer food at the co op... then my dear friend cathryn came over to help me with stuff and that was AWESOME. we talked the whole time, and thus, my chores were actually FUN! she helped me do all the dishes in the sink, grind my flax seeds, change my brita filter, and bring 2 months worth of stuff to the recycling center, wow. it was so helpful. it felt awesome to simultaneously feel satisfaction due to productivity AND joy due to being with a friend. i felt a lightness today that had really been missing. (thank you, cathryn! love you!)

and then we went out for lovely, lovely lemon balm/oatstraw/skullcap tea (thanks, anneka!!), and as i drove home, the glowing pink sunset was so beautiful it made me teary. i returned home to a fridge full of healthy groceries and a BEAUTIFULLY clean kitchen that made me excited about cooking. i made and ate a delicious fried egg and goat cheese sandwich with sauteed onions and mushrooms, a spinach salad with fig & walnut vinaigrette dressing and ground flax seeds, and half a gluten-free/vegan/refined-sugar-free/still-delicious chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter.

i feel SO much better now. i have wonderful friends, clean clothes, a clean kitchen, clean water, a belly full of healthy food, a happy heart, and just ROOM TO BREATHE! and i know tomorrow, and tomorrow's tomorrow, will be just fine!

Friday, February 5, 2010

bllaaahhhh

i had a great meeting with K yesterday, but that's not what i want to blog about right now. maybe later.

i am SO OVERWHELMED by my to-do list, to the point of feeling paralyzed by it. it's too long and unmanageable, and i am having trouble prioritizing.

for starters, my room, and the whole house, is a total DISASTER. i should be taking care of that before i do anything else - i can't concentrate on my computer work when my desk is like a tornado aftermath, and i can't cook healthy meals when there's not a single clean dish in the kitchen, and i can't achieve inner peace through yoga if i don't even have enough floor space to roll out my damn mat. so i NEED to be cleaning. but there's a part of me yelling, WHO THE HELL CARES ABOUT THE DISHES, WHEN I'M TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO KEEP MY BREASTS!

i need groceries, but first i need to make a list of the Anti-Cancer Foods i am limiting myself to. i need to bring the OVERFLOWING boxes of recyclables to the recycling center. work has been so stressful it puts my stomach in knots, but i don't have the time or mental energy to address that right now. my car registration and inspection are both overdue, and tonight, my "check engine" light just came on. i have to pay the february bills, but first i need to get my roommate to pay for half of january's bills and also buy stamps. i have to photocopy all my paystubs from the last 10 days and mail them to my caseworker guy, so that i can keep my health insurance. i have to try and interpret my pathology reports, and make lists of questions to ask both oncologists next week. i have to do the meeting minutes, and return emails, and GRIND THE STUPID FLAX SEEDS, which sounds like a silly thing to have on a to-do list, but i've been putting it off for over a MONTH. i have to do my taxes, and do laundry - but first i have to buy more laundry detergent, and change the brita filter, and buy more of the supplements i'm out of, and complete overdue work paperwork, and find enough change to fill a jar and put it in my car so that maybe i can stop getting parking tickets, and figure out how to stop losing weight and maybe buy a belt in the meantime, and OH YEAH, call the hospital back so i can schedule my next surgery!!

ohmygoddess, how do i even have time to do the basics, like shower and sleep?? i don't know what to start with. so instead i do nothing other than complain to the internet!!! friends are calling and emailing me and wanting to hang out, but i'm feeling like not only do i not have the time, i don't even have the time to call back to say that i don't have the time. :(

i think the problem is that all of this stuff is happening simultaneously, which is not usually the case. i mean, we ALL have to buy stamps and laundry detergent, do the dishes, pay the electric bill, do taxes, re-plenish the supply of coins for parking meters, take out the recycling, etc. but usually these stupid little things are spaced out! why are they all clustered together NOW?!? arrggghh.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In between

I slept on my stomach for a couple hours, for the first time in almost a month. OH THAT FELT GOOD.

And I'm going to attempt yoga in an hour. We'll see how it goes! If yoga goes well, I will try for trapeze!! I feel a strong need to do as much as I can to maximize these next few weeks, in between having healed well from the first 2 surgeries and having the 3rd. Yoga, trapeze, chiropractic (can't lie facedown on the table post-surgery), stomach-sleeping, pull-ups, etc!

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Benefit Show...


Oh, I know I'm going to cry through this whole thing...
My amazing friends/NECCA family are holding a benefit show for me (TWO, actually, wow) on Feb. 13. Here's the info from NECCA's website -

Just for Love
A circus & variety show
February 13
4 & 7:30 pm
at the New England Center for Circus Arts
$12; $8 kids under 12

Professional performers from the local circus and dance community combine forces, presenting a family friendly pre-Valentine's Day Circus/variety show. Proceeds from the cabaret-style show are being donated to cover the needs of a beloved member of the local circus community recently diagnosed with cancer. Step right up and get your tickets here.

I am so excited, grateful, overwhelmed, touched, and did I mention grateful? And a little speechless. Wow.