Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: July 2009
31 July 2009
22:28   Right | Gentle

My dad has been telling me a story from his early days in AA. He said he had a problem with someone & was complaining to his sponsor about it. His sponsor took out a business card, and folded it in half so it stood like a tent. On one side he wrote "right" and the other side he wrote "gentle".

He asked my dad, "Would you rather be right or gentle?" This lesson in reducing my expectations of others and moving more into a flow of accepting what is, has been quite difficult, yet progress has been made.

So it has been, with my state of affairs these last 2 weeks. What the yoga retreat taught me was to be gentle with myself, no matter what was going on. Even though my body was reacting in all sorts of different ways, and I've been sleeping for 12 hours a night and waking up tired, and not leaving the house much, I'm gentle with myself in these actions. Clearly my entire being has needed sincere rest, and regeneration. This has resulted in me not going to any meetings for 2 weeks, and only lightly touching on the daily suggestions my sponsor wants me to do.

Yesterday when she called, she kicked me hard in the ass to get back on the program bandwagon. She said I couldn't call her if I wasn't going to work the steps & daily suggestions the way she outlined for me. She said I wasn't committed to the program, and that she sponsored so many people that she couldn't waste any time on someone not working the steps. Needlesstosay, I was quite resentful & angry after the phone conversation. Later that evening, I wrote more of my 4th step, and included her, but it didn't seem to help. My pride is severely wounded, so I've been in "stinkin' thinkin'" mode since yesterday, and frankly I'm confused.

One slogan of 12-step programs is "first things first". This is a way to help prevent your brain from going to CrazyTown with distractions and overwhelm at a situation, and instead focus on just the immediate task at hand. In a way, I was doing this by trying to stay present with everything I felt, including the massive fatigue & lack of concentration. This often lead me to shirk my daily 12-step responsibilites. But, I also knew that sleep & taking care of my body, was the first thing I needed to do.

Another slogan is "Do the next right thing". What the "right thing" is changes all the time. For me, the "right thing" in these last 2 weeks has been to sleep as much as my body has asked for, to be gentle with myself, to give myself full permission to relax and go slow, to write this blog, and to cry & smile when the mood struck me.

Honestly, doing these things was a great sign of progress for me. Even though I felt physically mopey, lethargic, and worn down, inside I was quite content. For the first time, probably ever in my life, I was allowing myself to just be, without forcing myself to do stuff or be perfect in the eyes of my mom, my family, God, or a mystic cloud of peer judgement. That niggling feeling of anxiety that I wasn't "good enough" or "perfect" was barely present these last 2 weeks. It was like I climbed to the top of a high mountain on a spring day, and finally caught my breath.

Instead, I've been using the best two-letter sentence ever created: N-O I've said No more these last 2 weeks than in my entire life! It feels great! Actually, saying No is only half of it. When the person I said No to, respects the No, and honors it, THEN it's a completely satisfying reflection of self-love. It's yet another amazing result of all this hardship & pain. I'm no longer afraid to say No.

But, I digress.

What wasn't so thrilling was hearing my sponsor say No to me. Ahh, life is different when the shoe is on the other foot, eh? I have to laugh at myself for this. :)

On one hand, I can see where she is coming from. She's right: she's not a therapist, so it's probably not a good idea to talk to her about everything with an assumption I'll be helped or feel better.

On the other hand, she also told me a condition of working with her was that I was to not be in therapy, I haven't been. If I need support beyond the steps, or I have questions about what's happening (like the fatigue, etc.), or if I want to learn about her experience with the 4th step, I can't ask her unless I'm doing all the stuff she prescribed. This just doesn't feel right, nor make any sense.

It just seems like all the grief & sorrow is perfectly normal for someone going through my situation. Yet, it's beyond the framework of the steps. The steps teach us how to deal with alcoholism or drug addiction, not the death of a loved one from cancer.

The experience with my sponsor left me so unnerved, that I felt like ending the relationship. While I could see her point fundamentally, it was the lack of gentleness that blew me away. Nobody should be talked to, and put down like I was in that conversation. Something just seemed seriously wrong. Since I've gone through so much of this process with her, though, it seems impractical to find a new sponsor. I'm only half-way done.

The hardest part of the experience of having 2 family members dying of cancer, is having to be so strong for everyone PLUS be strong for myself. It's been such an unrelenting tsunami of chaos & intense feelings, that I'm tired, exhausted. Literally! My body is reflecting that, right? (*schink* a lightbulb lit above my head) I just want to be weak for a change, to fall into the arms of someone else who can hold me for a while, because my arms are tired of holding myself. I just want a shoulder to lean on sometime. I thought my sponsor could be that shoulder, but clearly she cannot. I thought my roommate could be that shoulder, especially since she was so beautifully before I left, but she is not that shoulder either.

The spiritual option would be asking God or my Higher Power to be that shoulder. Somehow it's just not as satisfying as a real live voice, or a real live shoulder. It's worth a try though. What else have I got to lose?

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to do about this sponsor thing. So, the next right thing in this situation, is to do nothing. When the next next right thing reveals itself to me, then I'll take action at that time. It may be a day, a week, or a month, but I trust I'll know it when I see it.

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29 July 2009
23:30   Body

Your body doesn't lie. When you get sick, it means slow down. When you are anxious, it means pay attention, and when you are fearful, it means be careful. Injuries, illness, breathing, crying, and even farting, give us information to better live our lives. The body is a guide, offering non-verbal data on modifying our habits for survival.

My body is in the midst of some kind of baffling transformation, or just plain weirdness. Yesterday afternoon & evening a very good old (I mean...as in time, not age. No, really!) friend and I hung out. He was in town from Europe, also to care for an elder parent who lives in the area. We had so much frickin' fun! We went to a cemetery!

Don't knock it til you try it, especially the older ones. The monuments were super beautiful - we even saw Ghiridelli's. And the view of downtown Oakland & SF from the hill was spectacular, even with the fog.

Anyway, the point of all this gruesome blather was to say that I started to conk out at about 9PM. We bade our farewells for about an hour and a half, and I finally made it to bed (after blogging of course) around 11:30PM. When I woke up this morning, it felt like someone ran me over with a backhoe. Although I had my laptop, I shlepped to work anyway, cuz I had a meeting with the boss, and was leaving early for a massage appointment.

At said appointment, I passed out on the waiting room couch, from being pooped beyond all exhaustion. While there, I started to talk about the challenges of recent months. I hadn't seen my massage lady since before I left for Denver.

On the table, we discussed a possible Vitamin B deficiency, and then she went to work. Besides cranio-sacral therapy, she also gave me some acupuncture. Holy crap, those needles hurt. But, they really did the job, and gave me the energetic juice I needed.

I learned more about the right side/left side connection as mentioned before. Sitting here now typing, I'm recalling what the released pain in my right leg at the top near the buttock was - a severe hamstring pull from running. The 2nd day in Denver, I ran almost 5 miles, and nearly killed myself. The next day my right leg was in so much pain & could barely walk. And I had perpetual cotton mouth from not drinking enough water. However, running at 1PM in the afternoon in blistering hot Denver with no water had no contribution to my ailments whatsoever. Only fools do such things...

As I was saying, the bodyworker and I began to talk about many of the things that have gone on in my life: the fear of my mom pushing herself to recover quickly & hurting herself, the sadness that my cancerous brother & I don't get along very well, the sadness that my healthy oldest brother and I really don't get along very well, the sorrow of seeing my cancerous brother go right back to his drinking habits after his treatment was done, seeing my mom suffer under the poor treatment of her by my sister-in-law, and many many other things.

Finally, my body began to relax. But, it was resisting it. Out came yet another flood of tears. The disappointingly familiar grief of last week's dark days came back. It was such a mixed blessing. On the one hand - it was good to get some relief from my physcial pain. But, on the other hand - it was a drag to be sad again.

And so, my body keeps telling me what my mind does not want to accept - I'm grieving. But, I don't even know what for! They're not dead yet... So far its just a flesh wound. Yet the grief, mixed with despair, melancholy, and sadness crept over me like a grey, lifeless mist, just as the fog rolls in every evening at sunset. Fundamentally, I know there is a silver lining, just as the top of the fog where the sun shines, is bright & happy. You see it every time you fly into the Bay Area. But, once your plane has descended through the gloomy fog layer, it's a Crayola Crayon grey, although not as easy to handle. As a crayon is. Right.

Before leaving in June, I cried oceans of tears. My pal last night & I were talking about being a victim and martyr, and how we both wanted to avoid that in our writing. I was concerned about writing too much doom & gloom on this blog. Plus, it feels good to stay positive. But, truly being gentle with myself & loving myself means accepting where I'm at every day. That includes tears, grief, and physical limitations. While I don't cry everyday for my brother and mother anymore, I do cry from the heavy weight of the grief on my back. It's like I'm carrying a single block of granite from a quarry. I so desperately want to put it down, but don't know how.

So, while the tears are mere streams compared to the recent past, they come because of the grief. When the burden and pain get so bad, my body reacts by crying. When the burden of grief gets so cumbersome, my body stifles the energy to go out and do the regular things I do.

This body thing is something else.

All in all, the bodywork was beneficial, though, because at least the grief is not being shoved down to a numbing depth where it'll manifest in my own cancer in 15 years. No thank you very much - don't want to walk this yucky path, no matter how nobly my mom may do it.

And so it goes, my self & my body awareness ever unfolding, and my tears telling me stories of internal universes.

Take it from me, kids - be kind to your body.


28 July 2009
22:58   Noticing

I'm finally getting to something that's been in my head since last week.

By the 3rd day of being back in the Bay Area, I began my old habit of trying to pack so much into a space of time, before I had to be somewhere else. It happened both in the morning while getting out to the bus for work, and the evening, catching the bus to yoga class.

In both instances, I tried to do "just one more thing" before the time I had to leave. I didn't leave until the time was _absolutely_ down to the wire, the ultimate last second I could leave before missing the bus. Then I rushed to get there, and had to run like hell.

It struck me so hard that after 4 weeks of not being in this schedule, this habit of creating chaos and stress via time management (or lack thereof in this case), sprouted like a weed among roses. It was so instant, so complete, and apparently so stubborn.


It scared me, honestly. I asked myself, "Why are you behaving like this? What's stopping you from simply taking it easy, being on time, and enjoying the moment?"

At present, I think the answer is: fear of my own feelings, fear of being present and not being happy with the moment, fear of being present and _being_ happy, fear of feeling vulnerable or some other feelings I don't like.

F alse
E vidence
A pearing
R eal

The 12-step programs talk about this concept of fear. By believeing my fear is true, it causing great chaos. It gives me the false impression that I'm truly "alive", only if in crisis, and rushing.

As a result, some stuff dropped out of my bag while racing down the hill. I've been forgetting stuff a lot (although that's been most of the last 4 months giving what's going on in my life), and not able to stay present.

The yoga retreat was another great reminder about staying present, and enjoying each moment for what it holds by itself, not for the False Evidence I put on it, Appearing to be Real to me.

Seeing two, not one but, two family members struggle with cancer, really made me stop & think about whether I'm taking advantage of every second of my day. If I'm not being present, what am I doing with myself? Am I seizing all life has to offer? Not at all.

Each time I take a breath, in and out, I'm one breath closer to my own death. This is inescapable. While we all know this on some level, look at all the things created in our society to help us forget it: Prozac, movies, books, iPods, music, computer games, amusement parks, fast cars, prescription & illegal drugs, booze, and anything else that helps you to "check out".

Since noticing what I was doing last week, I've actively made a choice to slow myself down, and let life unfold more. Both days this week, I've walked to the bus & arrived with plenty of time to spare. I haven't gone to the climbing gym once in 7 days. For those who know me and my climbing addiction, this is front page news. I've often been tired early, so I come home early & take naps, or go to bed earlier.

These actions are all super different than I've ever done before. While I'm nervous about gaining weight, since I have barely worked out but once after my return, somehow, something deep inside me is asking me to trust this, to trust the slower me. Hopefully trusting in this new path won't result in needing to buy bigger pants in a few months...

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27 July 2009
07:30   Yoga Retreat

Didn't have time to post before heading to a yoga retreat at Sierra Hot Springs over the weekend. It was exactly what I needed. The instructor is someone I've taken classes from for about 8 or 9 years, and is also a cranio-sacral bodyworker whom I've worked with for a long time. You can learn more about this teacher here: http://www.youthyogadharma.org/

Anyway, it was a very deep & important time. The theme was Mothers, as it turned out the yoga instructor's mom was also ill. We dedicated our practice to her. The underlying theme, was gentleness, kindness, and compassion for oneself. The teacher brought in many readings from well-known female spiritual guides, that discussed how finding "grace", could be done via gentleness with oneself. The idea was that meditation could lay a foundation for this gentleness, and grace could spring from that. When I get the authors' names, I'll post them.

The first evening after the meditation, I chose a card from the Goddess card deck that the teacher brought with her, and placed on the altar. The card I chose was Inanna, the Queen of Heaven from the Sumerian mythology. Inanna decided to travel to the Underworld, to meet her sister, Eriskegal, the goddess of death. On the way there, she was stripped of all her regalia, and stood naked before her brutally horrible sister. When the Goddess of the Underworld turned her stone eyes onto Inanna, she died, and hung on hooks for 3 days and nights. The only way she could return home, was to find a replacement for herself. All the ones sent to her to replace her were captured by demons. Finally, she chose her arrogant lover, who had ascended her throne while she was gone. A fitting choice, if I do say so...

While I certainly didn't dangle from hooks at the retreat, the story illuminated for me the process I've been going through. Caretaking for my mom was going to the Underworld; and in a way, meeting her was meeting my shadow self. There are many aspects to my mom that are troublesome to me: her constant anxiety, need for self-perfection, magical thinking, and abject willfulness at situations she doesn't like, not to mention her fear of just about everything these days. Yet, she and I are cut from the same cloth. I struggle with these things in many ways. It's taken years of therapy, yoga, meditation, and 12-step programs to undo many of the bad mental & emotional habits I learned from her.

In caring for her, I got to see how far I've progressed. However, it took a lot of strength, prayer, and un-willfulness (meaning letting go of the results) to withstand being sucked back into a negative mindset & habit-track. Every day could have been miserable, if I let it be, or chose it. But, instead, I battened down the hatches of my spiritual core, called for reinforcements through friends & fellowship, let myself cry, and withstood the storm.

The rest of the retreat resulted in me coming back from my visit to the Underworld. I'm not sure exactly who was my replacement - maybe my old self? Either way, a new me was born, rising through the ashes of these challenging times, like a phoenix with twin turbo afterburners.

I was reminded of my choices, and how easily I buckle under the cajoling of strong personalities, with an interaction from another retreat participant. It was amazing to see myself try to blame her for my choice, even though I felt pressured by her offer. In the end, I buckled under her repeated offer. The responsibility falls on me. It was a poignant reminder of how I interact with my mom's willful personality.

I also struggled with interactions with a group of men who were on a nature & mediation retreat. They often sat next to us at the picnic tables for meals. I started to get involved in their business in a seemingly innocent way, over a piece of pie. But, beyond that, my interactions were inappropriately assumptive. None of their conversations were about me, but I tried to make them about me. It was fascinating to see. I can say that now but there was a lot of shame, embarrassment, and KFUK radio all through the evening and next day.

In the Saturday evening meditation, I experienced great pain in the shoulders and upper back area. I figured it was a result of being super loose from all the yoga & massage throughout the day. But our teacher explained that this feeling is common during sitting mediation. It is a result of the heart opening to some new aspect of the self, awaking a part that had been unconscious. It's funny how awareness and advancement to enlightenment involves pain. Although I was skeptical at first, the painful feeling wasn't there the next morning during the morning mediation session. So, it rang true for me after all.

The last days' yoga class, which was 3 hours, was the cherry on top. We did many of the same poses, from the prior day, but with more refinement. There was a lot of shoulder opening work, which also helps to open the heart. The tightness in my right hip was singing a familiar tune by then. During a series of poses involving a block and the shoulders, the instructor told me I was shortening the right arm/shoulder. She said it's likely that the right side of my body is always tight, which pulls at the left side, making it go out.

This statement was like hearing or the first time, the earth really is round. Holy Toledo, I would have fallen over, but I was already lying on the ground. It was then that the realization hit me, that I was getting in touch with the right side of my body in an aware & present way, for the very first time. The right side was always stronger, less injury prone, dominant, and vigilant. The left side was always weaker, prone to injury, clumsy, and scrunched up. Often in bodywork sessions my teacher suggested the right side of my body housed my strength & willfulness, and the left side housed my vulnerability. Now it's clear that in seeing my shadow, my Eriskegal, face to face - in my mom, in others - I was becoming more balanced, more whole. The internal journey was reflected in my outer shell of skin & bones.

Even in writing this, I'm pretty blown away. It was an incredible thing to experience. My hope is that this awareness will continue to remain, and not fade away (another post on that in a minute).

Meanwhile, the retreat ended, we took another excruciatingly hot car-ride (the car's A/C died) West on I-80 (with a respite at Ikeda's - yay!) , and into the Bay Area, where the fog was a welcome cloak of refreshing cool, unlike most days.

It was the perfect thing to wrap up a summer of intensity, emotion, and heaviness. The retreat, and all the lovely ladies who participated, helped me to tie off a giant loose end in my own psyche. I became grounded, aware, and content - dare I even say happy? - by the end. It's amazing how taken care of we are, if we just let life unfold...

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22 July 2009
21:45   PostScript on Denver

Holy crud - I forgot to mention the weather!

That's the other thing that blew me away in Denver. Every day was sunny & hot. Even when the thunderstorms & rain came through in the afternoons, it was no big deal. The temperature hardly dropped, and the moisture was instantly absorbed anyway, since it's so dry out there.

The Monday after I returned, the fog came back into the bay with a vengence. It has been so thick, the burnoff doesn't happen til 1-2PM every day. It was so thick today, it covered the tops of the East Bay hills, like a cloak of evil on a fair maiden.

The weather was so good in Denver, it made me want to move there. Who knows where my path will lead?

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16:59   Denver

There's so much to say about being in Denver for 4 weeks. Firstly, I had no idea what to expect. The last time I spent any significant time there, was the summer before my Sophomore year of college. I was totally lost, doing lots of drugs, getting into trouble, barely holding down a job, and hanging out with lots of rough characters.

I was scared of dating, and didn't know how to. I was scared of making good friends, and left people who "wronged" me in the dust, for fear of becoming too attached. I didn't take responsibility for anything, and felt the world was out to get me. This is what happens when a person grows up in an abusive home, rampant with alcoholism and dysfunction in general. A warning to all you parents out there...

But, despite those days, I've made a point to overcome my past. In flew my plane to Denver, and my heart was open to whatever would reveal itself to me; like a lotus bud waiting to flower on a pond. Also, I was so focused on how to get through each day with my mom, that I pushed any judgement about Denver aside.

Boy, I'm so glad I did!

Secondly, it turns out that some of the most amazing, beautiful, loving, caring, and compassionate people live in Denver, and I was lucky enough to meet them! I met wonderful people at the Iyengar Yoga studio ( http://iyengaryogacenter.com/ ) and got some bodywork done from one of the instructors there. The circumstances forced me to try something new, and move away from my usual yoga teacher in SF (whom I still love). It was so neat to learn new techniques for the same poses I've done for years. It helped me to keep Beginner's Mind.

Thirdly, the people at the 12-step group meetings that I attended were totally fantastic! I've never felt so welcomed, so loved unconditionally, than in those groups. The Joy group and the Sunday night Lakewood group were completely amazing. As a result, I've been blessed with deep connections with incredible people that will last a lifetime. I even got a self-care package from Melissa with tons of goodies! You rock, girl!

And lastly, the climbers I met at Thrill Seekers gym ( http://www.thrillseekers.cc/ ) were hella amazing! Dave & Josh treated me to a fantastic day trip to the Dream Canyon of upper Boulder Creek (I'll post photos soon), and Troy & Derek took me to the Capitalist Crag of the Clear Creek Canyon. Bence didn't come outdoors to climb, but he showed me this super cool house that he built. And, he pushed me hard in the gym - what any climber would ask for from a more experienced partner.

All in all, it was a completely & totally amazing experience. People who barely knew me a week were so incredibly supportive, caring, and helpful to me. All these folks opened their hearts to me, in a way that will touch me forever. it just goes to show, that when someone has a bad day, you never know what they are going through. Go the extra mile to offer compassion to them. You never know who you might touch, and lift up, even for just a moment.

The capacity for the human soul to care & offer compassion to others is truly a miracle. I will take this feeling with me, and try to practice it in all my affairs.

Thank you, Denver.

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21 July 2009
08:55   Work

I was quite afraid to come to work yesterday, not knowing what kind of large pile would be in my inbox, and what people's expectations would be.

Bless my boss's heart for telling folks I'd need a few days to get back into the swing of things. But, how do you jump back into something when your heart isn't in it?

For those of you taking time off work to care for a sick loved one, take it from me on what _not_ to do: don't try to work while you are caretaking. That was the biggest mistake I made. I tried to keep tabs on things, and it did nothing but stress me out. Because, when people in the corporate world see you respond to emails, they assume you're working & are mentally up to snuff like usual.

One thing I didn't expect was to see my mental faculties, even just basic concentration, plummet. It was quite difficult to maintain my thoughts on a subject at length, or to remember what was said in a meeting even a day or two prior. I wasn't keeping accurate notes, and struggled to search for old emails or documents to aid my delivery. For someone who manages a heavy workload and is pretty dialed-in every day, not staying at that level was a shock to me. I thought something was wrong with me that I couldn't keep up.

By the time I realized this, it was already 2 weeks into my time away. So, I began to respond less, and redirect folks to other people or locations for information. By week 4, I simply gave up. But, people's expectations were based on week 1 . Now, I'm asking for people to get me up to speed, and help me remember what was discussed. It feels embarrassing & weird.

One good thing that came out of it was recognizing how I trained colleagues to come to me for the answer, instead of empowering them to find the answer themselves. During the last weeks, someone told me, "We train people how to treat us.". Giving some slack to myself, let's also be real about people simply being lazy, and not looking up the information with the tools they have. However, by being "nice", and helpful & answering everyone's questions, people come to me for fish instead of catching their own fish. A positive result was my seeing this, and responding with firmer boundaries. Probably I stepped on some people's toes, but I need to protect and care for myself now. My roommate calls this "mojo protection mode".

Much to my surprise, yesterday wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It hasn't taken me as long as I thought to get back into "work mode" brain. Still, the question, "What am I doing here?" dogs me, and is immediately followed by "And how did I get here in this handbasket?".

I'm not even phoning it in, but snail mailing it. "Going through the motions" just feels yucky. But a good pal reminded me the other day "This too shall pass". I just don't want my life to fade away in passing, and wake up 20 years later in exactly the same boat. Starting this blog was one way to break out of the routine, and explore more creativity. We'll see how the rest of my crazy ideas go. More on that later.

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20 July 2009
23:10   Change

It happens whether you want it to or not, gosh darnit.

There's no way to come through caring for a parent while they are going through chemo & radiation, without being changed. In the case of my sister-in-law, she has changed to a very controlling person, struggling with the fear of raising two children alone when my brother dies.

In the case of me, it's unclear as to what I've changed to. But, one thing's for sure, I can never go back.

A near-term change has been that my bubbly, sparkly, witty personality is dampened. There's a cloak of grief, or sadness, or some such medley of raw & heavy emotions hanging on me. I don't have the same energy I normally possess, and I'm not laughing, giggling, and smiling with my roommate. She's my best friend, and we've known each other for many years. We only became roommates recently, in March. It was a week after I moved that my mom had a seizure resulting from her brain tumor.

Needless to say, I've only spent about 8 weeks in my apartment since then, what with all the surgeries, treatments, plus work events, conferences, etc.

Through it all my roommate has been there with me, holding my hand, offering a shoulder to cry on. Now, things are different. I've changed, and maybe for the worse. But, also, I'm sensing she's struggling to know how to deal with me because my reactions, words, moods, etc. are different than before. I've changed, it's that simple.

Part of the change is realizing what's important in life - friends, family, enjoying oneself. But, it's also wanting a community and a solid group of reliable folks around you for when times get tough, like now. It's wanting someone to ask you how your day went first, instead of you always asking them. My perspective on life has changed, which may be something my roommate is picking up on.

Whatever the change is, it'll take time for us to acknowledge it in the friendship, and envelop it into the mix, like folding egg whites into a souffle.

There's a lot more about the dynamic that's unfolding in my head, but I'm pretty exhausted and need to stop.

But, one thing's true: change happens, like death & taxes. It's unavoidable.


19 July 2009
23:00   Intro

And so it begins...

Today I flew home after four weeks of caring for my mother while she wrapped up chemotherapy and radiation treatment for her grade 3 astrocytoma brain tumor. It's been a scary & difficult time for all of us, and so finally I worked up the courage to write about it.

But, there's more than just my mom, and just a tumor. The last 2 years have shown our family, and me, a succession of tragedies and challenges. Here is the summary chronological breakdown that I emailed to a friend recently:

Jan 08 - my grandma passed away (dad's mom)
Feb 08 - got into a new job at my company, where I still am
Jun 08 week 1 - my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and had
surgery a week later; the tumor was benign
Jun 08 week 3 - my other grandma (mom's mom) passed away
July 08 to Dec 08 - finished my Project Mgm't certificate.
Aug 08 - tried to date a boy, but it ended horribly
Dec 08 - tried to date a boy, but it ended horribly
Mar 09 week 2 - moved to Oakland & rented out my condo
Mar 09 week 4 - my mom has a seizure and gets an MRI
Apr 09 week 1 - my brother complains of a back pain & tingling in his
arms & gets an MRI
Apr 09 week 1 - brother diagnosed with grade 3 cancerous tumor in
spinal cord & scrambles to find a specialist to operate
Apr 09 week 2 - brother has surgery
Apr 09 week 3 - mom diagnosed with grade 3 cancerous brain tumor
Apr 09 week 4 - brother starts chemo & radiation; continuing pain &
loss of mobility in all 4 limbs
May week 4 - mom starts chemo & radiation
June week 2 - my company gets bought by Intel
July week 2 - mom finishes first round of treatment
July week 2 - I drive mom & her car to Chicago to stay with my oldest brother
July week 3 - I finally come home

Sure, it's life. But, jeez! This is an awful lot of "life" for one group of people or one single person (me, let's say) to handle.

There are many other aspects to the unfolding misery, too. I'll create separate posts with various topics as they come to mind, so things are easier to follow.

Things aren't all bad. There are some wonderful things to be grateful for in recent months as well. There are always lessons to be learned in every situation, even if the lesson comes much later. I just hope I can survive to learn it...

Meanwhile, it's been an extremely long day of travel and unpacking, so I shall retire. Hooray for my first post!


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about this blog

I'm a 30-something professional woman who's mother & brother were both diagnosed with Grade 3 Astrocytoma tumors within about a week of each other. My mother's tumor is in her brain, and my brother's tumor is in his spinal cord, causing him to lose feeling in his arms & legs. These writings are about my experiences dealing with them, coping, loving them, loving myself, and living my life knowing that they are both dying. I hope you find inspiration and courage from my writings to help you get through whatever is going on in your life.

Lady Vroom


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Rio Caliente Spa
Casa De Las Flores
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Youth Yoga Dharma
Being Cancer Network
Bryon Beck
Daughter of Cancer
Hockey For The Ladies
Psycho Lady Hockey
Burning Man
Climb On Gym


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