2016, My Year in Review…

Goodbye-2016-Welcome-2017-Images-Download.jpg2017 in just 2 days. I can’t believe it. I can vividly recall 2000 drinking wine around the pool at our Miami condo and waiting for the world to end as we awaited the new millennium. Here we are 17 years past that. Wow.

I can also clearly remember July 28, 2014 when I when I diagnosed for second time with a 2 cm breast cancer cell, ulcerated, stage 4 tumor in my colon. Talk about waiting for the world to end, I was sure that was my curtain call yet here I am 2 1/2 years later. An even bigger WOW.

Life is certainly unpredictable. My friend Chuck and I continue to beat the odds with cancer while others are plucked from our lives in the blink of an eye. So many dear friends gone this year, so many brilliant talents abruptly departing. It’s a constant reminder to never take anything or anyone for granted- yet I do, especially those I love the most. How many times have I snapped at my husband or my father, the dearest loves of my life, and not thought  a second thing about it. See that’s the human condition, at least for me. When I’m frightened and my life is in question, I can see the absolute preciousness of it. It’s like I’m in that layer between here and there where everything is palpable and I feel it into the depths of my soul. But fast forward to good health and months of remission and that ‘human condition’ of impatience and expectation comes flooding back, drowning out all the lessons near death has taught me. Thankfully though the lessons still remain and when I pause and am quiet I can return to them and be guided by them.

This really has been a remarkable year despite cancer. I’m reminded everyday I’m not alone in this disease by my friends near and far on Instagram. Some are newly diagnosed, and some are so young it breaks my heart. Some are thriving in remission, and some like me have stage 4 and are in varying phases of thwarting off the disease. Yet, we still forge ahead. It reminds me how when people call me a hero, I laugh. I truly believe inside all of us is the ultimate desire to live and we never know how hard we will fight until our back is against the wall. I’m not a hero, just a human trying to outrun death.

But I digress, this has been a magical year. The most magical of all was achieving a healthy body weight and actually coming to love my body, hanging skin and all. Being thin was the one thing that eluded me and sugar had been the one constant that had kept my weight on. In November of last year I made a decision to give it up. After all how many times have we heard that ‘sugar feeds cancer’. Is it true? Who knows but I do know sugar feeds fat. After the detox it was relatively easy and the weight pretty much fell off. I also added exercise to my almost daily routine. My doctor tells me that exercise helps the medication circulate through my body and that it’s just plain good for every system in my body. The payoff continues to be magical. From flying in airplane seats comfortably, to being able to cross my legs, to feeling my tailbone for the first time (I had to ask my husband if he thought it was a growth on my spine!), to being able to pack just a carry on for a 5 day trip. Size 8 jeans take up way less space than my former size 22’s. Oh and if you’re tired of hearing about this, too bad. Try doing it and you’ll understand my joy.

Magic wasn’t just measured in weight loss. It’s been also found in finding myself. Through the ongoing work of the 12 steps and amazing predecessors that have guide me on the path, I’m slowly finding my truth. Over the years it’s been my mission to be liked by everyone, to be the persistent ‘people pleaser’. Well that no longer pleases me. We are all individuals with our own likes, dislikes, beliefs, was ect. That’s what makes life so colorful. I’m slowly getting OK with being me and in that transition people have exited my life. It’s OK, I bless their path. If I’m not true to me and what I believe in today  I’m simply cheating myself. My circle has gotten smaller and my calendar a little lighter BUT the quality of my life is rich and feeds my soul.

This year has been about family too. I’ve been back East several times to spend time with my dear father, step mom, brother, sis in law and nephew. This year we even had an early family Christmas around Dad’s dining room table. It could have only been better if my husband was there. I’m so thankful for the relationship I’ve built with my father over the years. We’re so much alike that we can get on each other’s nerves quickly but our bond is rock solid, same with my brother. I’m so thankful that all of us can disagree from time to time but still come back together in the name of family and love.

Life can no longer be measured in ‘stuff’ or vacations or a better car, bigger house. I’ve chased material things, I chased public approval. In the end I’m the one I lay down with at night. I’ve cleaned my side of the street to the best of my ability but will continue to look for ways to improve. The Universe always knows when I start to think I’m all better and throws me another angle to work on. I like that, it keeps me on my toes.

I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’ve learned to be my own friend. I have love of family and friendship beyond measure. I have a body that even though cancer lurks, is healthy now and fully functional. I have a spiritual path that helps me to keep my ego to a minimum (if I do what I’m supposed to!). I also have a husband that has stuck with me for 20+ years. I’m a lucky woman and today I know this.

So as the year wraps up I sit here kind of in disbelief of making to 56 years old. Somehow I always knew I’d get breast cancer. My mom died from it at 50 and I thought that was as long as I would live too. On days when I feel somewhat down or ungrateful I think of her. She endured a radical mastectomy in the 80’s and chemo that was horrific. They didn’t know of hormone therapy or the the BRCA gene then. I have had it so much easier than her. I owe it to her to live life to the fullest, she never had that chance. Like I said, I’m a lucky woman.

If you had told me 6 years ago there would be silver linings  in cancer I probably would have smacked you, but I have experienced many to date. I’ve said it before- Cancer came like a dark storm but it has left a brilliant rainbow. My wish for you in the new year is that you  find your rainbows and savour every breathtaking color it offers.

Happy Healthy 2017. ♥

Advertisements

“And great events will come to pass…” Pg.164

What a wild ride it is! It’s been over a year since I’ve sat down to write. Often times I wait and wait for the desire to put something poignant on paper but it seems to elude me especially when I struggle for it. I have some free time today so I thought I’d just start a post and see where it goes.

I started this blog over 5 years ago. I can’t believe it nor can I can believe I’m still alive. But let me make clear, I’m THRILLED to still be here! Let me give a huge shout out to my doctors, the scientists, to the 12 steps and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, and to me for never giving up! I also want to send special love and admiration for my friend Phyllis who is now in Hospice. Of all the people I have met on this journey, even though we knew one and other while she was in remission and before I was diagnosed, I’ve never seen anyone living life so joyously despite the outcome. I love you Phyllis N. and I carry you in my heart as a reminder of what it means to live everyday with grace and positivity.

I looked at the intro to my blog just before I started writing and I had to laugh at myself saying I was a 51 year old making my way through and trying to make sense of it. It still makes no sense, but when the journey is paved with love and optimism, maneuvering is much easier. I hate cancer but I have found gratitude even in the most painful moments. It is scary though, not knowing if and where the mutant cells are setting up house. But living in fear is no way to live and thankfully at the moment the fear is not in the forefront of my thoughts.

Life is actually incredibly amazing. These last 2 years have been absolutely beautiful. The drugs I take nightly have been doing their job. And the side effects are tolerable.

Six months ago, the day after Thanksgiving (and 2 whole pumpkin pies) I made a decision to address my food addiction, or more precisely, my sugar addiction.Everything I heard constantly reminded me that sugar fed cancer yet as much as I wanted to live I couldn’t stop eating sugar. Even weight loss surgery couldn’t stop me and the numbers on the scale had once again begun to creep upwards. I knew from past experience the only way to find freedom was complete abstinence, so off I went to Overeaters Anonymous.

Now one might think , Why? Why would anyone would stage 4 cancer fighting to stay alive decide to give up yet ANOTHER substance, especially something as good as sugar. It took 55 years but the answer was clear, as good as it tasted was as bad as it was making me feel. I was ready. There was something else too. Clearly metastatic cancer is going to win one day and the one thing that’s always eluded me was a normal body weight. How sad it was to me that I could die without knowing the freedom of letting go of the extra weight that had bound me for most of my life.

Since walking in the door of OA Nov 29, 2015 I am down 40 lbs and in total, 120lbs. The physical change is incredible but the mental and spiritual are even more remarkable. The shame I felt and wore openly has left me, and my relationship with my family is no longer strained by my negativity and self loathing. I’m sure there are some that see me as conceited but that’s far from reality. I’ve worked hard for this and while I might be proud, I’m not conceited. Food addiction sucks (all addiction sucks) and I know and understand the pain of it.

So while it appears that I digress from my cancer blog that’s not really the case. What I have learned so far is that life is for living. My number may be on the que but it hasn’t been called yet. Great things have come to pass. My marriage has been restored, my relationship with  family is better and more precious to me than ever. I have the best friends in the world, and I’m a good friend to others. I’m the thinnest and fittest ever of my life, and I’m blown away by the freedom. I’m grateful for every moment I can take a breath and thankful for the countless lessons and blessings this past 5 years has unveiled.

As always, if you’ve stumbled upon my blog on your own journey, please don’t give up. The fear is paralyzing but together we can walk through it. Don’t hesitate to contact me.

Live big, love madly, leave nothing to regret!

With love and hope,

Michele T.

IMG_4926

21

Living With Cancer, the beat goes on (and hopefully on and on and on….)

download (1)
Boy when they say ‘want to make God laugh, make plans’, they aren’t kidding. Not sure to this day who ‘they’ are but in this case ‘they’ were right! The Universe is always in control and it’s my job to learn to go with the flow. I suppose that’s why it’s taken me so long to write again, I was in the process of acceptance and sometimes it takes a while. we’re all different in that regard. The good news is “I’m OK today”. I quote my friend Trinka when I say that. I love and miss her. And I’m also writing this with my 10 lb poodle mix on my lap that adopted 3 weeks after surgery. She saved my life, giving me a reason to get dressed and get up when I felt I had no reason to live.
On September 11th, I had surgery to remove the 2 cm tumor in my colon. That one rogue breast cancer cell had made its way there and set up camp. Between losing my beloved black Lab of 10 years the week before and this blow, it was more than I expected and more than I thought I could handle. Anger and fear consumed me. The loving friends I have held me up and allowed me to venture down my dark path all while holding my hand. I planned my suicide, I wrote the scripts, several of them. I shared them with my dear friend Kristin and she never once tried to stop me from going through my process. 
Thank God the human spirit is far stronger than we can ever know until we’re backed against the wall. I went through the stages of grief and found my way from the darkness to the light. I had my surgery and though it took far more out of me than I expected, I slowly began to return to another ‘new normal’. I started new drugs and slowly began to adjust to their side effects and over time I began to remember that I was lover of life and while I was here I wanted to experience all the beauty. In my life there are moments I experience what I like to think of as the universe opening a window and allowing me to see the world without the filters life has set in place. Cancer in a sense has actually allowed me so many more of those moments. I remember the day I walked out of the hospital after my first chemo treatment. I stood in the courtyard of the hospital and it was like I had been given new eyes. I knew I had something coursing though my veins that would ultimate change everything about me, the way I looked, the way I felt, and the way my life would play out over the next 6 months. As I stood there I looked at all the people passing me by and understood that although like me they looked perfectly fine, I had no idea what pain and suffering they may be experiencing in that moment or what their life was like or where they had come from. I had a level of compassion and understanding that was new to me. I’d like to say that level stayed with me forever but often I would revert back to my selfish human ways. Getting diagnosed a second time though stripped me once again of the things I often took for granted and my desire to experience life on a deeper level has me keenly aware of my shortcomings and keeps me vigilantly working to overcome them. Compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and pure joy are the things I strive for today. They aren’t just the things I strive for for me, they’re the things I strive offer to the people I love and the strangers I meet on a daily basis. I fall short like any human but that awareness is always there.
I hate cancer. I hate what it does, I hate it robs us of loved ones, I hate that it destroys families, I hate that it cuts dreams short,  I hate that for the most part it is incurable. But what I know today is I must learn to live in unison with this disease. I’m here NOW, I am as healthy as I can be now. I see an oncologist monthly and there is always fear that things may be happening that I can’t feel but that doesn’t stop me from showing up and living my life to the fullest. When I found about the tumor I was back in school. For a fleeting moment I thought I’d quit but that’s not who I am today. I finished school and even became nationally certified to work in a field I’d left 30 years ago. I’m presently putting that out to the universe and moving forward towards that reality if it’s meant to be.
 I have opportunities to leave a legacy far better than the one I may have left with the knowledge that this frightening adventure allows me. I wake up every morning thankful for my life. I say yes to invitations, I allow myself to be vulnerable. I’m learning to forgive, I love, and most of all I put as much into living today as I put into dying.  
In closing I want to say that cancer came in both times like a dark storm but when the clouds clear, the rainbow is spectacular. If you’ve stumbled on my blog and feel you’re alone in your journey, you’re not. Contact me, we are more powerful together than we are alone. And I need you too.
 
 

The Hallway of Faith

images

So here we go again. Yesterday I went from the hallway of faith that had no open doors to a door opening and leaving me in another hallway. I must really be in need of lessons in patience, faith, and acceptance. I thought I’d graduated already but apparently more classes are in order before I receive my diploma, angel wings or halo. 🙂

I saw the oncologist yesterday and he is not convinced this is metastatic breast cancer. While it does display similar characteristics, it is not common for breast cancer to metastasize to one location like this, especially the colon. So that is why I find myself right back where I started. The only difference is I have a surgery date of September 11. Once the tumor is removed they will be able to name it and stage it and determine what the next step will be.

Right now I am moving forward and feeling positive again. I am strong and as long as I wake up sewn back together, in one piece and all parts working as they should I will fight and live. I am envisioning a perfect surgery and great results. No room in me for anything but those thoughts for now.

Life is good. I am not done living.

X-Rated

X-rated warning label

Warning: This blog contains elements of fear, self pity, hopelessness, and reflection. Read at your own risk.

“♫ I was to run, I want to hide, I to tear down the walls that hold me inside.♫” U2 Where The Streets Have No Name

Fucking cancer- you life sucking, joy stealer.

I’m stuck, it’s like quick sand. Fear is wrapping it’s darkness around me and choking my flame of hope.

I am not this person, I am a doer, a celebrator of life, a rose colored glasses wearing, shiny, happy person. Or is that who I used to be?

It’s the ultimate state of powerlessness knowing that something is growing inside me that I can’t outrun. I looked online about metastatic breast cancer last night. I hadn’t allowed myself to do that since my diagnosis. The findings cut me down at the knees. I no longer believe I have ‘beat’ this. It’s more like a race against it. No, I haven’t been to the surgeon or the oncologist yet, that’s Friday, but reality is reality. I know we all die but there’s something unsettling about knowing my card has been moved closer to the top of the deck. Powerless.

All I can think about was my post chemo hike up Solstice Canyon with Joan. When we got to the top and stood on the pool of crystal clear water under the waterfall I was so happy. Cancer was beat, my strength was back, life was bright and promise stretched out before me.

This past 2 years have been amazing beyond words. I feel like I’ve lived more and done more than I have done in my entire life in that time. When I found out cancer was back I felt as though I was OK if I had to die because I’d experienced so much in that time and so many dreams had come true. But- that’s not how I feel now. I want to live. I admire my friends that speak of detachment and not fearing death. I’m don’t think I fear it but I don’t want to let go.

For so long I compartmentalized my life. After each experience or move I closed the door and sealed it, not looking back. Over these couple years I’ve opened the doors, reconnected to my past and embraced it. I’ve reconnected with old friends, family members, memories. I guess in many respects I have torn down walls. I have experienced love in a whole new way and finally become ‘a part of’ instead of ‘apart from’.

Then cancer returns to separate me again. Goddamn it!

I know my life is far from over yet but I can’t help thinking the treatment will slowly chip away at my strength and alter my life yet again.

My heart breaks at the fear and sadness this new diagnosis brings to Nikko and my loved ones. I love you all so much.

I can’t seem to stay in the moment no matter how hard I try. Today is my 18th wedding anniversary and all I can think about is will I make it to 20.

Fucking cancer.

Believe Survive Part 2

Welcome back to my blog. I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing here again. People often asked me why I stopped, my answer was I wasn’t in pain or fear any longer. I don’t write well when I’m in a happy place.
I’m flying over Colorado as I type this. It looks like Shangra La from 30,000 feet. The cancer has returned. I spent the last 2 years running at warp speed trying to stay ahead of it. What a tricky little foe hiding out in my intestines. Nice that it stayed in one place though.
The flight is really bumpy as we approach Denver but I’m not scared. Fear is such a wasted use of emotion. I wrote a list of things I feared a few weeks ago. Top of the list was fear of my feelings. Bottom of the list was the fear of losing my precious Monkey. Well both of those things happened and the feelings and the loss didn’t kill me. Fuck you fear, you’re right up there with cancer.
Funny as I type we’re surrounded by clouds. Kinda like life these days, darkness all around but I know the sun is right beyond the clouds.
Heading to Cape Cod to spend time and hug and kiss my dear family. It’s all borrowed time for all of us really and so very precious.
The last time I was diagnosed I embraced all the little lessons and came out stronger. This time I’m sure there will be more lessons and the one I’m most aware of this time is to slow down a little and cherish those closest to me just a little more.
I hate this cancer shit but many have it worse. I have health insurance, love, family, friends.            I see the surgeon and Oncologist the first week of September and I’ll know more.                               Just another detour I suppose. Thanks for taking the ride with me.

photo

Smelling the Roses…

Why is it that when we are faced with our mortality everything seem just so much more precious? When we are forced to our knees that the beauty of the world just seems to explode before our eyes? Perhaps I should speak in the singular since it’s my own experience to which I’m referring.

I can remember the exact place I was when I got the call that said I positive for breast cancer. I was holding the cordless phone and sitting on the chaise in the sun room.  It was August 29th and that room is not air conditioned, I sat there in heat with phone in my hand staring in to space. I wasn’t really shocked, I suppose I knew the odds were high because of my family history. As I sat there taking stock of the situation and my life, it was almost like the scene in the Wizard of OZ where it goes from black and white to color. Everything became extraordinarily beautiful.  It was like slipping into a realm where all the petty things that once mattered simply bounced off. While the waiting for test results, and surgeries, and the down time due to chemo were certainly challenging, the level of inner peace and gratitude was abundant.There were many gifts during that time, relationships forged, forgiveness shared, and a deeper understanding of myself. Life had so much meaning and I vowed to keep it that way.

As my treatment ended and my strength returned I went from 0-100 mph in what seemed like the blink of an eye. My calendar filled up as I said yes to everything I was invited. I went back to work, had another surgery to help me along the path of good health, and started moving my body. Life has never been busier. Too busy I suppose.

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I’m only into it a little way but I came across a description of my life at this present moment. In the book the author talks about ‘active laziness‘ writing that many are swept away by it. He goes on to speak of different species of laziness but describes the Western world as “consisting of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time to confront the real issues”. That described me to the T. While I was forced to slow down I was in touch with so much of what really mattered, love, friendship, kindness and compassion. Now that I am well again those spiritual things still remain but are pushed to the corners while I find myself caught up in attachment once again to things that don’t matter.

Death- it scares me, I give it so much power in worrying that cancer will return that I’ve created a world of ‘active laziness’ to prevent me from looking at and finding in acceptance in the things I fear most. But what I also have to come to wrap my head around is the fact that we all die.

I’ve searched forever for God and when I got quiet enough I found God with in me. The quiet beckons me again. I’m ready to journey within again and to have more revealed. I don’t want to spend years in “active laziness” fearing death and grasping for things with no meaning. I’m grateful to cancer for opening my eyes and my heart but it’s my job to remain open now.

It’s time again to smell the roses in all their magnificent splendor.

I love my life and I love you.

Image

Previous Older Entries