Please place your tray tables back and your seats in an upright position. We will be touching down shortly…

Hello my Dear Family and Friends near and far:

I can’t tell you where this blog will go but unless a miracle awaits me, I know this will be my last one. It also may be very random and very long. please don’t feel the need to read until the flight attendant requests you to power off your electronic devices. Aren’t I witty tonight….

It’s so strange to knowingly be in the final chapter of your own story. So weird to be knowingly closing down your own shop. Even more eerie how in hindsight the Universe had already begun making arrangements. Like when I returned from my fantastic trip to Florida last month, my lap top died. Thankfully I still have my trusty cell phone.

What a 2019 so far. I only wrote my last blog 4 months ago and I thought I was on the road to another grand remisission.  I was on a new drug and had lost the 70lbs of fluid brought on by the lymphedema.  I was able to travel to FL to visit my brother and sister in law on the west coast of FL and then across the state to visit  Dad and Mom Marion on the east coast at their winter residences. It was a wonderful trip and one I really didn’t think would happen.

All along I still hadn’t returned to feeling like the old me. I didn’t have my previous strength and things were just off.  I went for my quarterly scan and was told my lymphnodes were back to normal size but one marker was up. I told the doc about the funny feeling in my lungs to which he shrugged off as ‘a touch of pneumonia’. Well  I’ve  been doing this cancer duck and dive long enough to know that 3 antibiotics later and a week stay in the hospital all pointed to lung metastasis. So here we are. Just call me Dr. Peacock (that reference is for you Dad).

So fast forward to today. Nikko and I spent 2 emotionally exhausting hours with a Hospice nurse. I am not seeking chemo only to buy myself a 40% chance of it working but 100% guarentee I will have all the side effects. Nikko and and I have had this conversation at great length over the years and always came back to the same decision.  Life is about quality not quantity for us. We’ve had a magical life together. Coupled by the 12 steps halfway into our marriage we became a stellar team. That’s where the heart break both lives and dies. It lives in the human part of me that wants this love to last another 50 years and it dies with me knowing that miracles ARE REAL.

Still I don’t want to leave my best friend.  I know he has new chapters to write and so much more to experience and I’m excited for him. But the pain, oh how I want to spare him the pain, but I’m just not that powerful. I love you so much Nikko and that love will never fade. Your love made me a better human being.

Then there’s my family both blood and marriage. How hard it is to say goodbye to you. A father should not have to bury his daughter, it’s  out of line with nature. A sibling shouldn’t have to say goodbye to a sibling for many, many decades.  What about dancing at my nephews and nieces weddings???

And  most horrific of all, is that I will die while a Cheetos parades as 45th president of this country! That right there sums up how bad this stinks!

There’s a myriad of stories I want to write. So many, many miracles I want to share with you but I’m being mentally pulled from my frame of thought. It’s a calling to be here now. So I have to stop and listen to that still, small voice within that I’ve learned to trust.

Know that I have loved life deeply, my husband even more so.  I have so enjoyed knowing each and everyone of you out there and loving you.

All my dreams have come true. I am a very thankful woman.

Lastly a special shout out to my dearest loves: Nikko my forever and ever.

Dad, Mom Marion, Bob Russell, Lisa Russell, Jordan Russell,  The WHOLE  Tsiotsias family, I loved marrying into your family, the Stolzberg’s, the Kornfield’s, June Russell,  Bob Ulrich,  the Goldman’s,  the Chadwell’s. ❤❤❤

Know we will both see 11:11 at the same time and I will be wishing you the BEST DAY EVER.

All my love,

Michele T.

2018, A Year in Review

Well here we are again at the close of another year. I’ve been wanting to write but I haven’t found myself inspired. Truth be told, there was a lot of inspiration this year but it didn’t leave me feeling wiser, it left me completely human and aware of the fact that I only have this present moment.

The year started with small hints that my health was in flux. There was swelling in my legs but nothing that prepared me for what was to come. I spent the first 3 months of the year traveling with Nikko and Dad and Marion. It was fantastic. We were in Florida and the Bahamas just living the dream. Then I spent time in Miami visiting all my dear friends.

In March my legs were beginning to swell and even hurt, and there was a gnawing feeling the medications were no longer working. My doctor changed drugs but as time passed I could feel pain increasing in my abdomen with tumors growing and a constant burning in my legs and I was certain the drugs weren’t working. By June I had gained about 30 lbs in fluid in my legs and by August it was 80 lbs. From my feet to below my breasts was so swollen and hard I was literally imprisoned by my body. I couldn’t walk, even breathing was a chore. Cancer was rapidly growing and blocking lymph nodes in my abdomen so the DR changed drugs again.In a short time I could tell that drug was not working either and I kept getting sicker.  My brother, and sister and law, and nephew came to visit at the beginning of August and that seemed like the turning point.  I was able to push myself when they were here but after they left I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t eat, was losing weight on my upper body rapidly, and I was losing interest in life . Day and night was spent in my recliner, there were more trips to the ER than I care to remember, and death began to feel imminent.

Finally on another one of the trips to the ER I was introduced to Palliative Care which is the department that deals with the horrific pain I was having. They were able to get it under control and share with me a lot of options that were available to terminal patients.  I guess this is where I really began to feel utterly human. For the duration of this cancer experience I have always been a fighter and a believer that I could beat whatever came along. This was no longer the case. I explored The Compassionate Dying program where I see shrinks and doctors and am finally given a cocktail that enables me to end my life.   My body was failing and all that was once important to me seemed so trivial. It was like having feet in two different worlds, I couldn’t relate to this world anymore but I had no idea how I was going to find the courage to end my life. It’s like I’ve said in the past when people called me a hero or Wonder Woman, I’m no different, there is an inherent desire in human beings to live, stronger then we know until we’re put to the test. Not to mention saying goodbye to a husband that I love with all my heart and I know doesn’t want me to go, and family and friends. It’s a heart wrenching decision no matter how bad one’s health is.

So in September my Dad and Mom Marion made the 5 hour plane flight with all their own health issues to visit. When they were here I had an oncology appointment where I was changed to another new drug. Within 8 days I could feel changes for the better happening within my body. It wasn’t like the fluid dissipated or I was jumping out of my chair but I know my body and knew cancer was being arrested. I’m no longer on hormone suppression drugs. This is something new called Lynparza, a Parp Inhibitor (you don’t get it either right?), that works specifically on the BRCA1 mutation that I have. I tried to research the drug but it was way out of my medical realm of knowledge. I’ve been on it 3 months. When I saw the doctor last week I asked him if I was in remission. His response was that remission meant no evidence of disease and since there were tumors all through my abdomen in last month’s scan, he couldn’t call this remission. I have lost 18 lbs of fluid and the cancer markers are way down so the doctor simply said the drug was working. When I tried to pin him to specifics on how long the drug would or could last, he said he didn’t know…

So that brings me to where I am now. My life is very different than it was a year ago. I’m still carrying 50 lbs of fluid in my stomach and legs. I’m partially handicapped, I need help dressing, getting in and out of cars. I walk mostly with a walker. I’m not as quick to laugh and be silly as I once was. This holiday season is only about being beside my husband. I love him so much and can’t imagine where I’d be without him.

I really don’t have deep things to share. The lessons have been simple and to the point this year:

  • Everyone is fighting their own battle. *As much as people care they have their own lives. I know this because I cared for a man on my street that was dying and some days I really wanted to stop in and see him but I was just too busy with my stuff.
  • We don’t know what we don’t know. *Unless you’ve been in another person’s shoes you have zero clue as to what they’re going through is affecting them.
  • Keep you opinions to yourself unless asked for them. *A friend was going though chemo last year and I read him the riot act for not finishing treatment. He was angry with me for a long time. I never understood what I did wrong because it was out of love. I had no idea how chemo was killing him. More importantly he never asked for my opinion and I felt it my responsibility to give it to him anyway. 
  • Care giving is not hovering and doing what you think is best for the patient. *Wow this one was painfully eye opening. I always thought of myself as a good and loving care giver. I was a controlling hover-er. I look back on how I exercised my will in trying to care for my father and I’m ashamed. A person being cared for just wants their requests met, not me trying to solve problems or stand over them and not allow them their dignity. If I’m blessed enough to help others again, I will never forget this.
  • Not everyone stays in your life during illness. *It’s frightening and painful to watch someone fail and like I stated above, everyone is fighting their own battle and sometimes yours is just too much to add to it. I get it, it sucks to watch people die and sadly most of us have already experienced that. It also reminds us of our own mortality.  But this also has it’s upsides because I’ve learned that less is more especially in the size of my circle. And being more private isn’t such a bad thing.
  • Cherish the people that have stayed by your side. *Please and thank you can’t be said enough. Apologize for being short tempered and never take them for granted. It is truest of all love.
  • Dying is much harder than living. *All my life I’ve run slightly on the depressed side. Suicide was always in the back of my mind when things got rough. Though I never attempted it I always kind of thought of it as the easy way out. I no longer feel that way. I now also have great empathy for those that have been in so much pain that it was their option.  Now that suicide is an option over suffering death from cancer, I’ve learned it’s a much harder choice. Like I already wrote, how do you say goodbye to people you love with all your heart? Human will is to live.

So as the year comes to a close I don’t end this blog as some power house kicking cancer’s ass. I end it as just another human learning life’s lessons some quickly, sometimes slowly.  I wish that pain wasn’t the catalyst of learning for me but it takes what it takes. I’m grateful beyond measure for the healthy, mobile life I had for nearly 58 years. I’m grateful for the family and friends that have held me up (sometimes literally) during these challenging 5 months. As always I’m grateful to doctors, scientists, researchers for giving me 7 more years than my mother had. I could write another hour of my gratitude but I think I’ve shared more than enough for now.

I wish you good health, love, knowledge, and understanding in 2019. If you’re reading this I also want to thank you for being in my life. You have, in some way, made it more special.

All my love,

Michele T

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Ramblings of a Spiritual Seeker on the Magical and Bumpy Road of Life.

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This morning as I stood listening to a podcast loading my dishwasher, my own thoughts began to block out the podcast narrator. I was listening to this bizarre 911 call that preceded the reporter getting to know the caller and telling a story about him. The caller was pretty out there, shifting gears every second and often making no sense until suddenly he was lucid and on point again. As part of my spiritual journey of coming to understand how we are all unique  and how little we know about others, this gentleman speaking brought me right back to where I am now in my own life. The changes that getting older, hopefully wiser, allow me to feel more, and understand that there is so much I didn’t understand for so long. Take a moment and ask yourself how often you use the word ‘should’ in day? How often do you give unsolicited advice? How often do you put yourself in the shoes of others before opening you mouth to share what you think you know and think is right? This isn’t a bitch fest or my way of pointing a finger at you. This is just the awareness I’ve been enlightened to in my own personality. I never started out to save the world or made a conscious choice to run other people’s lives yet in my mind I had ‘great skill’ and if you did what I said I just knew your life would be so much better. I laugh as I type this and have watched the layers of grandiosity slowly be peeled away. I stand before the Universe lately so much more frail, filled with wonder and curiosity.

Allow me to change gears here for a bit. I absolutely love being alive. Living with cancer has definitely awakened me to the magic that is so often over looked in life. In times of remission I revert back to a robotic human, once again offering unsolicited advice, “shoulding” all over the place,  and trying to fix things. At present I’m not in remission with is precisely why I’m writing. This is only way I can make sense of the sadness that engulfs me knowing there is something building a battle field in my body and making it harder and harder for my system to win. I’m tried these days and my strength has been taxed. It’s a place I’ve only been one other time and that was while I was doing chemo. I’ve always possessed the strength to forge ahead. Yesterday I tried to lift an empty suitcase over my head to place on a shelf and was exhausted when I finally managed it. That totally crushed me. I’m suddenly forced to acknowledge my limitations. I mean I’m even forced to accept that I have them. This makes me think so much of my father. He is so smart, he oozes integrity and goodness. He is a stand up man in his community, he sees painstaking ventures through to the end and then says yes to the next one. I am in awe of him. And at the same time I watch myself being slowed down by cancer, I watch him being slowed down by age. We’re so much alike, we both think we are still young and vibrant and we dislike having to accept out limitations.

So what is all about? Where do I go from here? A moment ago I paused and let love and gratitude wash over me. I looked at the blue sky and the new green leaves so vibrant and remarkable against it. Cancer and age have allowed my eyes and heart to open more.There is so much incredible beauty. There is also that expression- If I knew better, I would do better. I believe that about me and everyone. When I began to ride the current of the Universe instead of going against the grain, I found the peace and answers I’d sought a lifetime. It’s funny too because so many boil down to cliches that once made me roll my eyes.’Live and let live.’ ‘Listen instead of talking’. ‘Be kinder that necessary because everyone is going through something.’ I wonder what this whole experience boils down to. Was it simply to connect with others and share love? If so I have been blessed to have given and received. No one has said yet, Michele there is nothing more we can for you. But I still think of that time. I wish death didn’t to involve suffering. That’s what I fear most. That and the way the patient’s suffering tears at the heart of the ones that love them. I read yesterday about a teenage boy with a rare cancer that opted for hospice and the love of his family instead of more treatment, I thought, what a strong wise soul he was. Again, I don’t think I’m there yet. Something inside, maybe just that human will to survive still has 100% optimism that there is another remission in me.

So how do I wrap up these musings that are all over the place. What sounds good to me is the title of my past blog- Be HERE Now. I am here now and it makes me happy enough to squeal out loud. I am reminded by my painful swollen legs that I do have limitations. BUT cancer and it’s slowing me down had not touched my heart and soul. I’ve heard it said that the brain keeps us functioning. I don’t agree because the brain can be dead and the heart can still beat. My beating heart is joyous, it gives me more time to touch the lives of people I love and that have shown me love that astounds me at times. I’ve had the opportunity to build a relationship with my dad and step mom that is so precious. I’ve been able to fall madly in love with my husband all over again. Oh how I love that man! And just as I write this I discovered that these new found limitations might just be a gift. Perhaps it’ through them I have found the way to slow down and take in even more.

And that there is the magic of writing, the discovery I just made. My thoughts were all over the place, I’ve been deeply saddened these past few weeks and with a few hundred clicks of the keyboard the answer appears. Slow down Michele, take it all in, it’s ALL precious.

Hopefully my next blog will be all about remission. Let’s hope.

I love you my friends and thank you for always being by side. Love, Michele

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‘Being’ in 2018

 

bhnWow, another year in the books! Sitting with hubby on a our sofa with my doggy Elly pressed against my thigh, 3 hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather be. Getting older I’ve come to relish the simpler things, I no longer chase excitement or the next best party.  There’s so much joy in the quiet times with people I love these days.

Speaking of getting older, I made it to my 57th birthday. Three months later I found out cancer had begun to grow again in lymph nodes in my abdomen. You know what though, I didn’t freak out, I kind of sensed it was there. I don’t know where this transformation has come from but I’m thankful to be able to be where my feet are and to continue to live with optimism. Fear nips at me occasionally but I thwart it with gratitude. The last 31 months of healthy remission were probably the best years of my life.

I’ve chosen not to share this news with my Dad or stepmom in hopes that the new medication will work and grant me more remission, There’s no sense in them carrying this burden until we’ve exhausted all hope. So if you read this and you know them, PLEASE do not break my confidence.

2017 was a banner year. We did lots of home improvements, traveled, worked, and seriously enjoyed life. Over the winter I spent time in Miami with my friend Ada who is like a sister.  Nikko and I went to Cape Cod for two weeks in the summer to visit Dad and Mom (Marion). We flew kites on the beach, ate way too much, dragged Dad and Marion to Nantucket where Dad was a trooper with his walker on the cobblestone streets. Following that I spent 2 weeks in Colorado where hiked with my very special aunt. It was quite an adventure, we lost our way and ended up a mountain covered in scree, the only way down was to slide. So we did, through lots of poison ivy and me with a 10 pound poodle in one arm. We were scratched up and itchy for a while but we found our way back to the path and that was all that really mattered! There were lots of little fun trips with my 3 best girlfriends tucked in there too.

But back to Dad in Nantucket, and the revelation I had a long time ago and am once again embracing. Dad has congestive heart failure, Marion (his wife) has emphysema, Joe Schmo has any number of illnesses and diseases; we all have something. It’s not what we/I have, it’s how we/I walk through it that defines our/my character and most importantly, molds the quality of our/my life.  I think that’s the lesson I’ve learned in dealing with cancer for 6 years. Everyone has their cross to bear. No one is really a hero. For a while I really thought I was. I lost a great deal of weight and the drugs I took had me in solid remission. I had fixed my outside appearance and thought I was superhuman. I had to stumble to remember that this wasn’t of my own doing.  It was a combination of scientists + doctors + God’s grace + me showing up.  The word ‘interdependence’ comes to mind here. Without you, I am unable to be a complete me. We weave fibers through life by way of relationships and experiences and these fibers are what give me strength when the times are challenging. When I step into ‘I’ mode and believe I’m doing this and that I have some kind of power, I’m wandering into a very dangerous place. Same goes for the scary times. When I hunker down in fear and anger, I close myself off to the world and all the amazing experiences and human beings. When I share my fear but don’t don’t allow cancer to be the forefront of my thoughts and conversations, I’m open for all the magic that is swirling in the Universe despite wherever I am in my diagnosis. Cancer is a mother fucker but so is ALS, MS, congestive heart failure, losing your home in a fire, the death of a loved one, I could increase this list ad infinitum. (*Shout out to my friend’s of Bill) The simple point is- life is for living. We’ll all have our obstacles. We may or may not be graced 2nd, 3rd, even 4th chances, but this present moment is what matters. And with that in mind, I live.

I’ve met many amazing women via Instagram, many just virtually, who are also fighting to stay in remission. They give me hope, strength and courage. We share experiences with new treatments, we empower one and other when we are sad or scared. It’s a wonderful group but there is also sadness in it. Too often we lose someone and that stark reminder is there that metastatic breast cancer doesn’t give a fuck if you’re a mom, a wife, a sister, a rock star, a student, 18-70 years old. Please remember that there is a ton of funding for breast cancer awareness but very little for stage 4. If you’re inclined to donate, don’t buy something pink, find a place where your dollars go to research. I would recommend that with any place you donate.

My friend from Miami Ada,  that I mentioned earlier has a son that has lived with us for the past year while he navigates his carrer. He is a fantastic diversion to my crazy thoughts. He’s young, beautiful, and still unscathed by life. He brings a lightness and joy to our home we never knew since we didn’t have children.

New Year’s Day- So I took a break in writing this and it’s now the close of New Year’s day. It’s been great day. I made it to gym to hopefully help my lymphatic system drain better. We ate healthy meals, built a fire and watched movies. Like I said earlier, I enjoy being with the people I love and sure do love my husband. Thanks as always for being with me on this beautiful journey of life. You mean more to me than you know. I wish you good health, peace in your soul, and the ability to find the silver lining in the darkest of times.

Love Always, Michele

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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. ♥

“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.

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

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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

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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.

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