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Source: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, tear out your hair…

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Okay, “tear out your hair” is a bit harsh. How about “let loose your hair”? Being a veteran of the chemo process, this being my second go round, I was familiar with the hair loss part of the show. I like this part. Really. I find it fascinating that your hair begins to come out of your head just by running your fingers through it. Bigger handfuls, bigger payoff. The last time I was obsessed with the process and left it out in my garden for birds and squirrels to make nests with. I loved this process of release, of re-purposing. Shedding your past.

It took till the third treatment round for the hair to begin to go. About three days in, you can actually gently pull small handfuls out. It is deeply satisfying, like peeling a perfect sheet of sunburned skin. I am allowing you to peer entirely too deep into my psyche….

After a few days of pulling and combing and shedding, I went to my hairfresser and had my head shaved. I kept a bag of hair and a dear friend of mine put it into an encaustic art piece that hangs in my living room. (See my blog, “ I am not like I was before” https://jodeenrevere.wordpress.com)

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So, as I geared up to fo through this second round, I was secretly thrilled to go through the hair release again. I wanted to have that experience first and then shave my head. I didn’t want to skip any of the parts, and, well, I like it. It appeals to my delight in the sensory. I scare my friends.

On the day of my third treatment it was the full moon and my hair had just begun to release its hold on my scalp the day before. Of course I played with it all day. Observing the color, the texture. The shine of the silver and grey strands, the auburn/brunettey blondness of the bulk of it. Later that night I was getting ready to go to bed, but realized I had not yet seen the full moon and thought I would wait to see it rise.

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It was a perfectly still and warm night, right before we got the 30 degree plummet two days later. I walked outside in my bare feet, padding down the block, watching her slow ascent between the roof lines of the houses and the leafy trees. Breathing deeply of the late spring to summer air. Breathing in the transition fullness. Making my way back to my yard I stood in the grass, feeling the pulse of the earth underneath me and stood still as the moon rose into view. You could almost hear it move through the night sky. As I stood there in the moonlight, all of my witchy DNA snapped to attention and I did the most obvious normal thing. I began to walk the perimeter of my house and mark every tree and shrub with strands of my hair. Combing my hands through, taking a small handful and the gentle tug and release as the hair came out. I draped it over the tree branches, tucked it into the bushes, sprinkled it on the ground and in the flower beds. “This is my home. This is my place of healing and rebirth. I willingly relinquish this way of being for something new, clear and expansive. I say “yes” to the unknown.” All the way around the house I walked, talking quietly to myself leaving a trail behind me. Gifts of me to the night.

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I felt shifted that night. Ready for the next phase. Two days later, before I could look like a Barbie doll who had her hair done by someones sadistic little brother, I went in and shaved my head. The sense of lightness. I felt the last 6 years of my life with all of the over extension, emotional exhaustion, relationship turmoil and not feeling quite right in my body, slide off of me in a pool at my feet. Yes, I have it in a bag in my room and it shall be released into the wild. Duh.

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In many mystical traditions hair is thought to be a source of a persons power and strength. The longer the hair the greater the power. It is an antennae towards the heavens, connection to the ancestors, and a testament to your past. There is a certain duality in that idea (always intriguing) both the cumulative wisdom and foundation that we develop during our lives that we carry with us, as well as the weight, trauma and habitual patterns we drag around with us, that are stored in our cellular body, that are stored in our tissue, our hair.

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As the hair fell to floor I felt the heaviness fall away. Saw my self emerge, my light brighter, even more hi-def (as if that is possible, apparently it is) Although I love my long hair and I do derive a sense of power, my femininity and my sexuality from that expression, shaving my head holds all of the same intensity but from a different perspective. The power of not being stuck in your past, not dragging everything forward, but shrugging off a heavy cloak and stepping out naked into the world on a fresh path. Your past has helped inform who you and will forever be an integral part of your makeup, and now, you can move forward making different inspired choices, not patterned responses. The antennae is turned inward to listen, not outward be told.

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What if my DNA are being rewired through the chemo and I am being enhanced, upgraded for an entirely new chapter of my life? “I am not like I was before”, and why would I want to be the same person I was six years ago, or 10, or 20 or 30 or…..? I am being challenged to shift, to adapt, to see what’s next. When I am complete with my treatment, I will not go back to how things were before. It will be even better, and my life was pretty great before. I don’t know what that is, but it will be fresh and expansive and I am ready to start anew with my sleek aerodynamic self.

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Source: My North End Bell Jar

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Suddenly a couple of weeks ago, I started having thoughts about bell jars and not the Sylvia Plath kind.

Plath’s character Esther in the Bell Jar experienced her madness as “an airless jar that distorts her perspective on the world and prevents her from connecting with the people around her”.

Although I understand and have had that experience of isolation myself, this time the image of the bell jar is a self contained place of quiet and comfort. Deliberately stepping away from the outside world to, reflect, to gather up, to heal.

I am blessed with a fabulous home, a marvelous landlord and the ideal roommate. It sits in the heart of the beautiful North End of Boise, Idaho. Truly idyllic neighborhood. Close to downtown, to everything I need. During the summer I rarely drive my car, but am on my bike or on foot.

I have a porch surrounded with tall trees and an expanse of sky. A dogwood tree that when I catch it out of the corner of my eye fools me into thinking it is snowing. Bird song, the chattering shenanigans of squirrels, the ringing of the wind chimes, the scents of flowers, trees and freshly mown grass.

I now understand Emily Dickinson in a way I never contemplated before. If your eyes are open, what is right in front of you and in your consciousness is more than enough to be endlessly engaged, enthralled and moved. Why go out?

There was a day last week a couple of days after the first chemo when I was leaden and stalling out and I spent 7 hours on the futon on the porch. It rained gently, winds blowing softly and then gale force sending blossoms spinning. Blue skies punching through clouds, the color contrast knob dialing up on the entire scene with God light and then turned down to mute. I was entranced, wanting nothing. Utterly content.

Sitting still and watching the landscape around you kaleidoscopically shift and change. Never still. Never stagnant. Always in motion, no place to get to. Right now, right now, right now.

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I read a lot. A couple of books in already. Some writing. I go for walks. Gentle yoga. Lots of sitting quietly and breathing, feeling my body dial down, cells killed off. When do you get to experience your own death and not die at the end? That is amazing. I am fully having this experience. I am paying very close attention. My body keeps loudly reminding me to be still. Be very, very still. I am listening,.

I am fully aware of what a gift it is that I can take this time. My expenses are minimal, no house or car payment. I don’t buy stuff. I live really well and very simply on very little. I have a tiny cushion to float me for a month and my lovely community is keeping me nourished. I am very, very lucky.

So I have stepped off of the carousel and I have no intention of stepping back on. Many new choices and priorities being made. I feel that this experience is about making me stop, listen, recommit to my well being on all levels, not get through this “horrible ordeal so that I can get back to my life”. Not backwards but forwards and my life is happening every moment between those two made up constructs.

Excuse me, but I need to get back to listening to the trees. My life depends on it.

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First chemo, kicked pretty hard out of the gate for four days, then the tide goes out and you get your footing. Then for reasons unknown, 6 days later, I went about having a “normal” day. By normal, I mean how I would have operated prior to being enrolled in Camp Chemo.

I had a client that morning. A bit of down time. Rode my bike (slowly) to Yin. My first yoga in 10 days. How wonderful it was to not be teaching. Not driving the boat. Tell me what to do, please.

Pedaled slowly home. Had lunch. Had a client. Paid bills. Read for awhile. Rode my bike to dance class…

Are you wiping the tears of WTF?! from your eyes as you knowingly shake your head, “What is wrong with her?!” Yeah.

Although the body felt fairly okay, my brain exploded in emotional meltdown. “I’m never gonna dance again, chemo feet have got no rhythm!…..” I am fat and steroid bloated, I am old, I am utterly OUT of my body, I have no business being in this class with these young fit, healthy women…I will not dance anymore ever again. I am sick, what if I really am dying, what if this is the last time I ever get to dance and it ends like this. A shortened future of senior water aerobics and Zumba for the infirm?!” Blah, blah, blah.

It was ridiculous.

A million tears. My ladies gathered around, held me. Loved me. “How can we help? Are people bringing you food? Is there something organized? We will take care of it.”

I rode my bike the few blocks home and listened to my body..”NO MORE DANCING RIGHT NOW! Be quiet. Be soft. Do less. Be still. Walk. Gentle Yin. It is not business as usual. Your business, your work is to heal your body, so knock it off!” Got it..

Within 24 hours my friend Erin had put together a Meal Train site, with a write up that made my heart swell, all but four dates are covered with people bringing me amazing meals and money has been donated as well to help with medical expenses. Blown away.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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I am saying “thank you and yes, please” again and again. It is my mantra. I am leaning into the support, the love, the generosity and letting it be part of the healing. Crowd surfing. Trusting. People want to help. They want to tend to each other. This outpouring is beyond a Village, it is a small country of people who are tending to me. I am staggered at their love and generosity.

There is a part of me that feels guilty about this. My cancer has been removed. It was in a low stage of development. It is not metastatic, although it is the third time it has shown itself. My prognosis is “We got it, now let’s do clean up for safety measures.” I do not feel that I am living with cancer, but making my way through chemo and radiation. The ease of my situation is not lost on me at all. I am humbled by that and it is still so, so challenging.

This week’s treatment was a kinder, gentler flavor of “really not right.” I appreciated that tremendously. As I get ready to go in again the day after tomorrow, I try not to have any expectation of how it will be. We never know. *Life hack.

In as much as I am crowd surfing on the love, I need, in equal measure, to be willing to toss myself into the mosh pit of treatment, trust that process and let myself be carried forward to a new and unknown destination.

But at the very center of the crowd is me holding my arms wide open to catch myself.

I’ve got you Jodeen. I will choose you and take care of you first.

 

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Huge Tidal wave crashing onto the beach with man

Sunday. Day five after chemo.

First go round was felt right out of the gate at the time of infusion, which did not happen before. “Before”…..”that last time I did chemo….”

Maintained that steroidal frequency, the leaden stomach, the sharp olfactory twang of inhaling gasoline and the slightly metallic burn at the back of the throat that has a flavor to it. It tastes anxious.

Suspended in this for four days. Extra specific attention to breathing. Herceptin can damage your heart, so I imagine if I can breathe smoothly and efficiently it will protect the sac around my heart.

Sure, I can control this….

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Strapping into the roller coaster, the anticipation, you begin the slow climb face tilted towards the sky. At the top you level off, and meander in a gentle horizontal serpentine, making your way towards the edge before you are hurled over the cliff. They give you time to contemplate and acknowledge that you have absolutely no control over the ride. You know what’s coming. Not exactly, but a rough outline.

I spend three days in this lit up, heightened, anticipatory state, but instead of going over the edge, the cart is returned to the start of the ride and comes to a halt. Psyche! The safety bar raises, I can stretch my legs, but not leave the area.

We will be boarding again in three days.

Never has stretching ones legs felt so satisfying…and tinged with dread…

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Arrive at MISTI at 9:15 a.m. My mom drops me off on the street corner. I wave good bye and send her on her way.

I stroll into the Chemo Lounge and it’s like Cheers “Jodeen! Hi, how are you?!” The atmosphere is generally happy and there’s a lot of laughter. My ladies and I laugh a lot during my treatment.

My favorite woman who seems to be the head of the program is great. Chit chat, catch up, port access which involves plunging a needle thru the port into your body to then hook the tubing up to the bags of drugs. So many bags of drugs. All clear, unassuming. Could all be saline, But, oh no, they are not…

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You can do the drip in a space age bark o lounger or in a bed. I always choose a bed in a window bay. Sunlight pouring in and on this day followed by an epic rainstorm. My favorite.

Special wrist bands strapped to you which need to be scanned every time they change bags. Asking you each time “What is your name? What is your date of birth?”

Making sure they are giving you the proper cocktail.

Took well over an hour to actually get hooked up and then we were on our way. First thing, I take Tylenol to prime the pump. Two capsules.

First bag: Perjeta a new chemo drug for HER2-Positive breast cancer. On the drip for an hour. Occasional sensations of liquid nitrogen flowing through my veins. Softly, but pushing open the veins and capillaries. Making room for the drugs to flow through.

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Second bag: Herceptin. Another chemo. Another hour drip. A slow motion swirly stirring of the depths. Ink added to water and watching it spread out and become dense, saturated.

A saline flush. A palate cleanser. The sorbet.

Then premeds before the Taxol, the heavy hitter.

A small bag of the steroid Dexamethazone which is used to control inflammation from the chemo drugs.

I have a low threshold for steroids, so I am on a super low dose, which I will gradually be weaned off of. Last time I did this I didn’t sleep for 3 days and ended up in the hospital. Dr. duly noted this…

The next bag is Pepcid to aid in curbing nausea that can accompany the chemo drugs. Then Benadryl. This all takes 45 minutes. The swirlyness infiltrating deeper in to the interior. The inside of your body is liquid and then you are also floating in liquid, but there is a thin glass wall that separates the two. Like an aquarium full of water resting inside a bigger aquarium full of water and you are having the experience of being in both tanks simultaneously.

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A quick saline flush and then the Taxol for an hour and 10 minutes.

As the Taxol moves in the swirls feel heavier like sand or sediment instead of ink. Skin prickling ever so slightly. Hair gently raising and swaying on head and body.

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There is a moment where all of the colors in the room dial a couple of notches brighter, everything inanimate and mechanical in this room is breathing in as natural a way as trees and grass and animals.

Medical world no longer frightening. No longer “other”, just a different flavor of healing.

I invite the drugs in, asking them to do a deep cleaning. I will not fight them, but work with them. Allow and trust.

Finally six hours later I am sent home.

Note to self: Don’t ever eat hospital food. Call in a friend favor next time.

The rain has stopped and the light is spectacular. It would be under normal conditions, but in my current state it is almost too much to take in. So much beauty. The steroids have me rather hopped up, in a not unpleasant way. I do laundry, write, eat, go for a walk, pay bills, listening to music. The windows open and the rain pouring down, then the sun coming out. Again and again. This flow. It’s great actually. If only the whole experience could be like this…but I know the roller coaster is heading up the hill and eventually it will tip over the edge and then….I have no idea…

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No projection. No anticipation This is s different cocktail. I am in a different place. It is a unique and new experience. Like it is for every single person and their how they walk through their life and the different challenges that are placed before them. Uniquely theirs, even as there is a level of understanding that we can glean from it.. The beauty of telling and sharing stories. To find insight and shared human experience.

Right now is all I know, and this is a really pleasant way to spend an evening.

One down. Eleven to go.

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“Aimeriez-vous achiever un verrou?” ” Would you like to buy a lock?”

My daughter and I look at each other puzzled and start laughing. We are walking from the Louvre to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris, on a gorgeous June day, and suddenly vendors everywhere are selling… padlocks.

Not Eiffel tower key chains or Victor Hugo action figures, but padlocks. With keys. Random…

Then we get to the Pont des Arts foot bridge and we see the reasoning. The entire expanse of the grating on this bridge is covered with padlocks sporting the names and initials of couples, embellished with hearts etc. Once the lock is put into place, the keys are thrown into the Seine, so that the lovers are forever bound. The “Love Bridge”.

My daughter swoons, “That’s so romantic.” It makes me shudder.

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I am a deeply romantic person.  Madly in love with love. Love loves to love love. God knows I need that kind of fire in my life, but I am also realistic. I was married for 22 years. Then it ended. I have had other relationships in my life that ended too. Like they sometimes do. Not because they failed, but because they were done. Sometimes that choice was mine and sometimes not. No matter how emphatically you declare your love, you cannot promise that it will remain the same forever. That you can “lock” yourself to another human being. Chain them to you for all eternity. Control how that looks and behaves. That is a wild illusion.

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A couple of days later, we had dinner with some friends of ours and I asked what the story was behind the bridge. It was met with snorts of disgust from our hosts. It was not some romantic French fairy tale, but something that some tourist started a few years ago. Now it had become this crazy spectacle. But most intriguingly, the locks were changing the structure of the bridge…. the weight of the locks was destroying and weakening the bridge. Now there is a metaphor to end all metaphors.

I need another model. Marriage feels like a bizarre construct of play acting and conformity. The weight of the lock. A numbing sort of domestication and complacency. It feels inattentive. I know you are never supposed to say never, but I will say I have a hard time imagining ever, ever wanting to live with someone again, much less marry them. This does not mean that I do not love fiercely, with great devotion and cherish having someone in my life.

Polyamory feels like a weird new take on free love. It feels slippery and noncommittal. If you are just wishing to sleep with numerous people for sport and not get emotionally entangled, I can see how that could work. The idea of being one of many…”Monday, meatloaf with Marcia…Tuesday, that must mean it’s filet mingon night with Jodeen” does not fly with me. (Notice I did not say “two for taco Tuesdays”?)
If I am going to open my heart to someone, it is just for them, not to be an extra item on a menu. I need my relationship to be monogamous in all ways, and I will gladly do the same.

And….I love being alone. Really, dearly love being alone. I crave it much of the time. I love sleeping in my bed by myself, making snow angels in the sheets searching for the cool spot. Spending time with my friends, my family, my writing, my art projects, my books. In my home with my stuff. And…I think about the one I love all of the time when I am not with him. I miss him. I look forward to when we are reunited. That sweet ache. My time apart is not to keep myself “open to someone else”, but to keep myself available to ME. The “other” I seek is myself, and she seems to dissolve when I am in a relationship. This separation seems to keep her in tact and to also fan the flames of intention within the relationship.

This is very hot indeed.

“Love does not just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” -Ursula K. Le Guin-

So I want love in my life. Strong meaningful committed love. And I want my own life. Parallel lives, not a single track. I do not see that this is mutually exclusive. Some people can do that and be with someone all of the time. I cannot seem to do it.  I turn into a horrible version of me under those circumstances…and, yes, it is something that I am looking into, but.. perhaps, I am onto something healthier and more sustainable. At least for me.

So do I need to forfeit all together because it doesn’t look the way other people are doing it?

I don’t think so.

Love is a verb. An action. It is dynamic and changes all of the time. There is some magical sweet spot of committing and not being enslaved. Being willing to stick to something and knowing when it just isn’t healthy for anyone anymore. Longevity but not imprisonment. Total monogamy, not just “technical” monogamy. To have the courage to let someone go when it is the best possible thing for their soul, even if it breaks your heart. To love someone dearly, honestly, specifically and to know simultaneously that it can always change, on either end and to have the balls to do it anyway.

Let’s skip the locks and just jump into the river together and swim. Maybe that’s the key.

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ImageTulips are without a doubt my favorite flower, and I love all flowers. My birthday is in April so I feel an extra affinity for this jewel that blooms during this month. Just wanted to share some luscious pictures..ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I have had a hard week. A very hard week.
It is Tuesday…..wow…..A very long and hard week.

This made my day.

She so preciously ties into my blog I wrote last week about the little girl dancing on the street corner.

I hope she gives you the same lift to your heart that she gave mine.

Spiritbath

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