I have been quite taken as of late with images of flower x-rays. Last year my friend Heather, made an incredible encaustic piece for me commemorating my metamorphosis thru the cancer dance. She chose some x-ray images of flowers as a nod to the array of tests I underwent. I loved seeing the delicate “bones” of the flowers. The inner architecture, the scaffolding that supports from the inside. Remembering how fragile and beautiful and delicate this life is. Enjoy.
on thursday november 14th , I went to the hospital and had my port removed. A port, is a device that is inserted under the skin, that the needle can be inserted directly into, rather than mess with your veins. Chemo can actually burn the veins (yikes!) and cause them to collapse… so the safer alternative is to install a port directly above your heart (?!?) where the toxic chemicals can be immediately and efficiently pumped through your whole body. Mine was installed when I had my mastectomy, so when I woke up from surgery, there it was. My matrix borg port…being infused with the chemo kool aid…super sci-fi. Apparently, they are not noticeable on most people, but I am leaner than most, so I looked like I was trying to smuggle a wire tap under my collarbone. Needles are never fun, but having one plunged into your chest every 3 weeks always mildly creeped me out to say the least. Then it becomes just a ritual that you are a part of, and now the day had come that I was to have the last invasive intruder removed from my body.
I walked to the hospital as it was a beautiful day, and as we walked, I was overcome with the ride the last two years had been, and wept the whole way there. Thinking of all of the people who had surrounded me with love and then come and gone and moved on, and new troops to take their places. How all of the circumstances of my life had changed so dramatically, I hardly recognized it some days. Although I was not alone, it was my solo journey. My experience exclusively.
As I checked into the hospital, I realized this was my 3rd time there. I was even put in the same curtained cubicle to wait to be wheeled to surgery, with someone new beside me, but this time I was to be wide awake. It was a 15 minute procedure, so local anesthetic only and then I would go home….so wild. My crew came to get me and I was wheeled thru the labryinth of the hospital urging them to run faster so that we could get some speed in those long hallways. We entered the operating room, which has the climate of a walk in freezer, brightly lit, no mirrors on the ceilings and a super festive atmosphere. I was wrapped in the obiquitous warm blankets ( my favorite thing about all of my hospital time) and asked what kind of music I wanted to listen to on the pandora station. Someone had just sent me this amazing youtube clip of this woman dancing in the OR before she had a double mastectomy.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/breast-cancer-flash-mob-deborah-cohan_n_4227915.html
I mentioned it to the doctors, and they said if they had known before I had been prepped, they would have let me dance first!….as a concellation I listened to Beyonce’s “get me bodied” as they did the minor surgery. Hard for me to keep still. So cool to be awake in the OR, but my face was draped during the procedure, so I still don’t really know what goes on in there, they said they would have to kill me if I saw anything..so it ended up being a positive, upbeat and party like atmosphere. I requested one other song (Aural Float) and then I took my port in a ziplock… ( I asked to keep it) and was taken to lunch at Bittercreek and then home. Done. Only the tiniest scar. Barely noticeable. Then I crashed hard. Slept. Was taken care of and let it sink in that this part was over. Actually, all of it was over. It was a new time. A new place. A new life. Not like it was before. At all. No more doctors appointments, treatments, ct scans, mri’s, exrays, ultrasounds, emotional collapses from the fall out of chemo ( a separate blog…) just living and moving forward. May I not have to do this again, but if I do, I will, and I will know the drill. Now to be in this new place because of where cancer took me and yet not identifying myself as “a cancer girl” either. Living with an awareness, but not a fear. Being healthy and conscious with my eating, but not paranoid. Today is New Years eve, and a new untouched canvas lays before me. The brushes are already swirling in the paint…
just some memories from the past and a reflection on my present…
….the thanksgivings of my childhood: often spent at a card table in the other room of a relatives house with cousins of unknown origin eating off of paper plates and drinking kool aid out of jewel toned anodized aluminum tumblers that left an odd clear metallic taste in your mouth…
David and I announcing our engagement to our families…
eating at a diner in San Francisco with a friend from Idaho on a rainy day before having wine and dessert with our new found “friend family” …
continuing the “friend family” tradition and all of us meeting up in Medford Oregon when one of the couples moved there…
on a remote cold and windy beach in Mexico with 50 people who brought all of the ingredients for a traditional spread…tequila and fireworks, sleeping on the beach, and driving home to discover multiple messages that my husbands father had died in our absence…(pre cell phone…)
on a bus traveling from Bangkok to Chang Mai and being given a small boxed “snack” consisting of some rancid drumstick from some unidentifiable fowl…
my daughters first solid food consumed that day at 6 months old, and the look of utter delight with each new taste…
cooking my first one alone 3 years ago…the last one with my grandmother…
and now, this one, a month after my final treatment and 2 weeks after my port was removed! cooking it with my daughter who is now 16. having the meal unexpectedly ready at 11:30 in the morning….Lily, my mom and I….a sweet surprise of having my roommate and her boyfriend join us…driving up to see my dad and stepmom at their cabin, sitting by the fire, rubbing my dad’s feet and admiring his new head of hair…singing Adelle songs loudly in the car on the drive…going to my boyfriends folks house and eating again that night and playing with the worlds most adorable kitten….miss hazzington. this Thanksgiving being Lily’s last one still living at home…college bound next year…
and so, I find myself grateful, full of grace of where I have been before that got me to where I am now. there is room at my table for all of it…
Well, finally… after years and years of much masquerading and posing, I am a real yoga teacher. an RYT200 thank you very much. I do indeed say this tongue planted firmly in cheek, but it has been a fascinating experience to get here to say the least.
I took my first yoga class 18 years ago in L.A. ( separate story to follow…) we moved back to Boise a few months later and I began my 3-4 year immersion in the Iyengar tradition. Deep foundation in alignment and anatomical precision. After a couple of years of class once a week, I took a “deepen your practice” series that met once a month for a weekend for 6 months in a row.
Great experience. Then I rediscovered vinyasa flow, loving the dancerly grace and stamina it required. Yoga as active prayer. I went to L.A. and took a 10 day teacher training with Shiva Rea. Amazing transformative time for me. The gates were opened.
Then more and more workshops, teacher trainings, classes. Rodney Yee, Seane Corn, Micheline Berry, Max Strom, Saul David Raye, Julian Walker, Kristy Brock, Felicity Green, Sarah Ivanhoe. I was a yoga junkie…in the best way possible.
I started teaching children at my daughter’s preschool 12 years ago. I adored it and they LOVED yoga. Got it instinctively and to see their tiny blessed out faces after class was priceless. I taught there twice a week for 7 years.
From that connection, a parent at my daughter’s school asked me to come and teach yoga to she and her boss at a small law firm in town during their lunch hour. I declined, saying, “but I am not a real yoga teacher. I just mess around like a dork with kids.” she was insistent and finally I gave in and taught a class to the 2 of them for an hour. At the end of it, I was vibrating and thinking “this is what I am supposed to do.” It was utterly validating.
So I began to teach them twice a week. Then a Saturday morning at a small studio. Then another studio. Then more private clients and another studio. Years rolled by and I was teaching 20 hours a month as well as taking one or two classes a week and doing workshops every 6 months. Constantly deepening my practice and yet, never bothered to gather all of my hours together and turn them in to Yoga Alliance to be certified. Never really seemed important to me.
I am a reasonably intelligent, passionately curious (about things that actually interest me) kind of person. I am not an academic, testing, grades and certificates kind of person. in fact, the whole idea of it creeps me out. And also, I have an extremely short attention span for that kind of thing. 10 day yoga trainings were the perfect thing for me. Not 4 years of my life, but 10 days! I could get behind that. So I did, repeatedly.
But now, Yoga Alliance no longer grandfathered in all of your previous hours of teaching and trainings, but required you to do a 200 or 500 hour program with one school. Studios were often not even allowing teachers to teach who did not have this credential. It seemed that the time had come for me to pony up and do a 200 hour program. It would be good for me to do something that was so foreign to me.
Fortunately, I was able to do this training right in my home town. The Shanti Yoga School, run by Deb Murphy meets once a week and one weekend a month for 6 month programs. You just jump in at any time and ride the cycle through until you have completed all of the units, do your homework, asana check off, writings and tests and you are good to go.
I loved school. All of the information felt new and fresh. I never felt “oh, I already know all of this.” Was never bored, always excited, always ready to go to class, to spend the day learning and exploring. Total yoga geek. Constantly inspired by the endless conversation with the teachers and students.
A little while after I started the school, I got cancer…and then got cancer again… and then ended a relationship, and then my parents were both not well, and my daughter is a teenager and I moved and, and, and…..completing school kept getting put off. I had all of my contact and classroom hours, now I just needed to do my homework. just do my homework….just sit down and actually do the homework…
As procrastination, flowed into procrastination, the ominous pile of books and notebooks, always in plain view, anxiety always lurking, I started to ask myself “What the hell is your problem? Just do this thing!”
Then I began to realize this low grade panic and fear lurking just under the surface. I started to listen to the whisperings, and was so surprised when I was able to hear them say quite clearly, “What if you can’t pass? What if you really don’t know this stuff? What if you really have no business being a yoga teacher? What if you are nothing but a charlatan, faking it all of these years? When you go to take these tests and write these papers, you will be found out and you will be hung from the gallows” wow…
It was staggering to me to be faced with my insecurity around this detail. This piece of paper. I love teaching. I feel that I am a fine and competent teacher. My students are safe with me. Can I tell them the difference between abductor and adductor muscles? Not without consulting my notes….but I can tell them in perfect sensory detail how to allow their entire body to breathe as if they were a jellyfish, and when they tap into that, their abductor and adductors will operate in perfect accordance with each other. That is my area of expertise.
I feel less like a teacher and a bit more like a priestess holding safe space and creating a rich sensory experience for people to surrender into. To allow the breath to breathe them. The yoga to work its magic on each person exactly as they need it to be worked. Each individual experience unique. It’s not about me. It’s about the yoga. I am so very blessed to be witness to that alchemy.
So, I am now official! And when my daughter graduates from High School (June!!!) I will look into the 500 hour program. All I want to do now is go to school, and take workshops and study and travel to workshops, to teach workshops and do yoga and teach yoga and give and receive massage and dance and laugh and love big every day…oh wait….that is my life…lucky me…
It delights me that at 51, I have found my passion and my place. The college world never held any interest for me at all, and now I have found my schooling arena. That there is no end to that diving deeper and learning more . I am forever an eager student. And now I can say with confidence, “Why, yes, I am a yoga teacher. Don’t believe me? Let me show you my papers…”
…now, if i could just figure out how to rotate photos on this site….
one year ago today, I shaved my head on Halloween. the ravages of chemo and my “cotton candy pull it out by the handful hair “could be denied no longer. I went to my salon to have it done and ironically all of the stylists were wearing wigs. loved that. now I have a rather sweet soft baby animal growing on my head. I am told, most lovingly, that I look a bit like a who. this makes me smile deeply and I am embracing my seussian qualities. my softness and my wildness. cindy lou who and the cat in the hat…
(me one year ago…)
last week I had my final herceptin treatment. herceptin is a drug that is specifically for her-2 positive breast cancer. (that would be me) you have to do a full 12 month cycle and then you are released back out into the wild… follow up appointments every 6 months.
interesting mixture of relief and anxiety around the end of my treatment. so grateful that I no longer have to go in every 3 weeks and have a needle plunged into the sci-fi borg port in my chest. ( I get that removed soon!) I will miss the warm blankets and the hour nap I got to take curled up in my hospital bed, but other than that, not so much.
the anxiety comes from the thought that as long as I was having something blasted into my system that I was impervious. (not true, but a great illusion to hold onto) now I am just a free radical…:) waiting…?
there is something so trippy about the landmark of this happening around and on Halloween. my first trip to an oncologists office was 2 years ago in October. I wrote in another blog about the surrealism of taking an elevator to the bowels of the hospital, the rubber skeletons with ropes tied around their necks, suspended from the ceilings over the receptionists desk with a plastic pumpkin full of white death sugared Halloween candy…seriously….processed white sugar feeds cancer and there it is laying all around the cancer wards…ah….irony….
so here I am 2 years later….an entirely new life….my cat like self creating a new one…. by rough landmark calculations I am on life number 7 right now….or maybe 6.5….and I know for a fact that being here is a treat. a delicious, if often overwhelmingly intense, and complex treat, to be savored daily.
two years ago last Sunday I was told that I had breast cancer. one year ago today, I had a mastectomy. and now on this same day, my dear sweet friend Carolyn, who spend a week with me after my surgery, feeding and taking care of me, is having a service for her father who passed a week ago from cancer. and the wheel turns…
incredible how all of my stuff seems like life times ago. multiple life times ago, not just a calendar year.
have been reflecting on all of the change that has come for myself and those around me. it all feels fast forwarded and like it is picking up speed…keep wanting to say, “stop! can I just catch my breath for a minute? just WAIT please before anything else happens in my life…”
when I gave birth to my daughter it felt like that. the relentless, endless contractions. I was sure that if they would just stop and I could sleep for a couple of hours and then we could get back to it, and then I was sure that I would be able to give birth, no problem. but to quote a friend of mine, “be ready. like life. once it starts it doesn’t stop….”
a surgery. the ravages of chemo. healing. moving. reunited with a brother I had not seen in 15 years and feeling out that relationship as advanced adults. babies born to friends and new ones on the way. relationships I thought would always be there, shifting and drifting. some that had been periferal, being pulled to the forefront. climbing out of serious financial stress. losing clients I had depended on for a long time, other opportunities slowly manifesting. leaving a yoga studio I have been with since it’s doors opened and building my student base at 2 others. both of my parents with serious health issues I learned of within the same week. watching my parents get frail. watching my daughter move into her senior year in high school. college apps, financial aid paperwork, class schedules for the year. teaching thai massage trainings. exploring acro yoga with a dear friend who has been in town all summer. his third summer he has been here for. celebrating his birthday on the river. my daughter getting strep and having all 4 wisdom teeth out in less than 10 days. having most unexpected healing love appear in my life.
the full spectrum of living, ever in play. there is nothing unique about my experience. this is being played out everywhere on the globe by everyone. birth and death, grief and love, change and possibility. relationships ending and beginning. old ways of living and being, blown apart at the seams. hands forced to incite healthy change. second chances at a new life and sometimes just the inevitability that that life is ending and all you can do is make peace, give thanks and exit with as much grace as possible. nothing unique. it is a shared universal human experience. but by sharing, we all take a breath and say, “yes, I know that. I am not alone and we are all Alive.”
I love you my friend Carolyn and you are not alone and I am so very sorry for your loss. I am so sorry that I cannot be there with you right now. He was such a beautiful dear man. It was a treat to spend time with him. You two were so blessed to have each other. You will always feel him with you.
I am gifted beyond belief to be surrounded with friends who are artists of one kind or another. my friend heather is a renaissance woman of the highest order. self taught musician, singer, teacher, writer, poet, artist of all mediums, plant whisperer, communer with bees, all round good witch and now stepping deep into encaustic magic. what better medium for such a girl, than to work with bees wax…?
a few months ago, I approached her about doing a piece for me. marking this time in my life. I put total trust in her and asked her to let her own inspiration drive the project, asking only that butterflies be included, as she has called be “butterfly” for as long as I can remember and I gave her a bag of my hair, (post shaving) saying that if she felt drawn, to use it in the piece, other than that, it was her process. the result of this is astonishing.
I chose a triptych format. past, present, future. maiden, mother, crone. she delivered it 2 weeks ago. I was speechless….every element is loaded with meaning….
the moon. a huge constant in my life. she is part of my moon circle and the poignancy that it exists no more in it’s original form. she and I the last two standing. the x-rays of flowers, mimicking the x-rays/tests/science experiments of my existence, the last two years. two years…. we are coming up on one year from my mastectomy…might as well be 20 years ago…..lifetimes ago…
these strange sea creature/ ameba like creatures with the red nucleus, trailing tendrils of my hair….like cancer cells…?
the embedding of basil and thyme seeds….basil, representative of mars, a fire sign…that would be me…love, protection, good luck and a potent anti-cancer herb.
thyme,: love, purification, restoration of physical power and frequently used in healing rituals. especially powerful coming from the master magical gardener…
the third panel pulling away from the other two….their connection, a constellation, a subconscious constellation, she says….what does it look like to you? made up of string and nails….hmm….not sure….but there are 15 nail heads…15 in the tarot is the “art/temperance” card. “the creator, the alchemist” one who achieves balance and integration through the creative process. the ability to balance and blend the masculine and the feminine. merging fire (spirit) with water (emotion) which makes a new element, steam (mental and spiritual creativity with passion) integration and synergy. in order to come into the artistry of who we are, we must balance the apparent paradoxes, oppositions or polarities within our nature. the union of opposition to create something new.”
15 : 1+5 distills down to 6, “the lovers”. “the synthesizer of dualities, polarities and oppositions. the art and craft of relationship. the highest card of balance in the deck. the love of truth and beauty for its own sake. the highest art form is that of artful relationship.”
the butterflies….well…enough said…..transformation doesn’t get much bigger than that…right after I had my mastectomy, she gave me a precious necklace, that is one silver butterfly wing. I wear it all of the time.
lastly, “I am not like I was before.”…I am all that I was before, and yet not arranged in the same way, so i am not like i was before. I am something more. somehow there is more power, strength and passion and yet also more softness, quietude and tenderness. not sure how that works, but there it is. take the paradox and create something new and beautiful from it. fire/water/steam. creating something new each day. making and remaking.
thank you heather bee for creating something so beautiful and so powerful for me to look at every day and remind me “i am not like i was before”. you are a true artist and a true friend. i love you mermosa.
(interested in having her do a custom piece for you…? )
“just like a white winged dove sings a song it sounds like she’s singing…whoo, whoo, whoo….” I do my very best stevie nicks impersonation and baby dove seems very impressed. maybe not, but then she’s not speaking since she’s just a baby, so who knows what she really thinks….she is at my mercy.
I just love an audience, and babies are a captive one, so it works well for everyone. as you may remember I have
mondays with dove, and this last time my daughter lily was with me as well. lily and I love to sing together, and we do every chance we get, so we were excited to share our sweet singing skills with dove. we sang many different songs, but our rendition of “bohemian rhapsody” complete with me doing guitar solo sound effects, might be my favorite number. good times.
I had missed a couple of weeks of dove time, due to travel, packing, etc, and so I was amazed to see how much she had grown and changed. babies are like stop motion photography in how quickly they shift. I remember putting lily down for a nap and going in an hour later and her not looking at all like the baby I laid down before. as if a changeling had been left in her place. total morphing. she slept in a laundry basket next to our bed for the first couple of weeks ( I did not have a basket made of reeds and rushes, so the next best thing…) one night she was screaming bloody murder and when I reached down to pick her up, I discovered that she was wedged in head to toe and couldn’t move in the basket. she had outgrown it that fast. yesterday it was fine. today not.
I have been observing as of late that our human lives are bookended in these polar opposite accelerations. babies growing up by leaps and bounds, in a visible way, on a daily basis. then we hit a place where it seems like we just stay the same and are impervious to any outside change and the future seems far away and aging seems like an impossibility. and then all of the sudden, the stop motion picks up again. every time I look in the mirror, I see another line, a new potential jowl, a spider vein, an age spot. my supple skin has a grainy texture that no amount of water consumed can plump up.
I feel strong and supple and fit and sexy, (actually more so than ever before) but when I catch a glimpse in the mirror it doesn’t line up. there is a middle aged woman looking back at me. well past middle aged. I am 51 and seriously doubt I will live to be 100.
I know we are supposed to believe that we are all the same and that any idea that you are different or special signals the early warning signs of being a sociopath, but we are not all the same. every one is different and special and uniquely themselves, but even within that context some people gravitate to be part of a collective herd. I just never have. it has never been the case and keeps becoming more defined as I get older. getting older by the minute. the aarp crowd, no offense, but you are not my people…
sometimes I wonder how much has been fast forwarded by the cancer dance of the last two years. chemo ravages you, literally from the inside out and then just the experience of making your way through a cancer diagnosis forever changes you. but I feel an interesting mixture of deep strength and peace as well as a poignant poise in my life. it is happening now, and now, and now, and right now….and can I bring all of me to each moment.
I always knew I only would have one child. only wanted one child. very clear on that. after lily was born in was even more pronounced. the very idea of having another child felt like I was being unfaithful to her. how could I possibly take away any time from her for another? so because of that, there was this incredible heightened poignancy to everything in her life. “ this is the first and last time I will ever experience this moment as a mother.” over and over again. the thrill and the sad ache of knowing it would never be again.
our lives are like that too, we just don’t really understand that, until something catastrophic comes into play. then you really get that this is not a dress rehearsal. so instead of striving for perfection and planning your ideal future, go for sheer whole heartedness. not wreckless abandon, but fully engaged involvement with what feels impeccably true and right. right now and right now and right now. and know that those things will change, because they always do. the only thing you can ever count on is change and that is a hard one to swallow at times. you want so desperately to be able to depend on something, on someone. the basket fit yesterday, today it does not… we want so much more guarantee than that, and there is none.
the clock is ticking…live. live beautifully. drink in the day.
”tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – mary oliver-
greetings. i have not written in quite awhile and wanted to just write to say that i will be writing soon. well, soonish…
i went through a time a little while ago, when i thought, “no one is remotely interested in your sophomoric, navel gazing ramblings and your stream of consciousness. you delight in your writing and perhaps it is just a written form of masturbation, better left to you alone.”
then i hear from people about how much they identify with what i wrote. how it has helped them negotiate some difficult time, understand something in themselves. to gain strength or perspective. and so i decide to keep writing. it seems selfish not to. and it’s kind of a win/win. creative/emotional outlet for me and somehow, support for others.
SOOO much to write and just no time to do so. but soon.
mexico. portland. dance. music. surprises. moving. work. summer. babies and friends and teenagers and parents. yoga. workshops. my heart. my health. it’s all headed your way. in chapters. one at a time.
thank you for reading. thank you for your kind, positive feedback. makes my trials feel more purposeful some how. like i have no choice but to share my journey. isn’t that how we all help each other on this planet, is by sharing our stories? knowing we are not alone.
it’s all so life like…stay tuned…
the morning of the race was sunny and beautiful and i felt better about doing it. sort of like i was an investigative reporter behind the lines…i rode my bike through town and along the greenbelt to the event area. amazing. 12,000 people were there. a sea of pink and white. how, i have to say that i am not a “group” kind of person. i don’t like clubs or team sports or sororities or anything that involves matching t-shirts and ball caps. i got there 3 minutes before the race was starting. got to registration, declined the t-shirt, but actually did need a hat…damn, had to break my “no group hats” rule…sigh… i declined a number as well, i just wanted to be a rogue free agent walker, do the 5k course and be part of the experience. i went by myself. walking by myself seemed fitting somehow.
although, not for long. i immediately ran into a friend i had not seen in a couple of years and we walked the course and caught up. as we walked i was struck by the festive nature of the event. music blaring, people in costume, musicians singing, a team of hot guys in running tights, no shirts and pink tutus, babies in strollers, people in wheel chairs. everyone smiling, laughing, dancing, talking, celebrating. living. virtually everyone sported a sign, t-shirt or poster bearing the names of those in their lives who had been touched or taken by cancer. it was staggering. one degree of separation these days. stories that made me feel so incredibly lucky.
after about 4k, i bid my friend farewell, crossed the median and made my way back alone in the crowd. got on my bike and pedaled down to the farmer’s market. breathing deeply of the cool air along the shady river path, a sweet contrast to the 90 degree day it was shaping up to be. in the end i was very glad that i went. i will continue to seek my wellness, my health, my balance and choose this life. it is a really good one.