Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: April 2010
09 April 2010
02:01   Brother update

Last week my brother went in for his usual MRI, and there were more growths that had developed and shown up on the test. Everybody was crushed.

He now has to go through a full body scan, which hasn't been scheduled yet. Maybe these new growths are just benign and stuff. One can hope, at least.

I called him to check in, since we hadn't talked in a while. He had just come back from an awesome spring break with his kids. It was wonderful to hear that they are still all so close, and spending so much time together. These precious times are numbered, as they are for us all, but especially for him & his family.

He said that the kids didn't remember he was sick anymore; they acted as if everything was back to normal. I sure hopeso, for their sake.

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01:49   Other

Been meaning to write about this for some time, but have had very little free time lately.

A few weeks back I met a guy through a mutual friend. He's a climber & a skier, a double-word score. So, I really wanted to meet him to see if he was as nice & wonderful as my pal said he was.

In the course of our first climbing date, the story of my family's cancer last year came up. He was visbily irritated. When I asked about his experiences with things like this, he launched into his personal saga about his uncle dying of a brain tumor, stage 4, several years ago.

It was touching that he opened up like this, and it was wonderful, albeit a kind of bummer, to hear his story. Towards the end, we talked about how we had each coped, etc. I told him about this blog, and also about other blogs I had read where people were dwelling in the pain & suffering & grief quite heavily. I explained to this person that I had to stop reading those because it kept me wallowing in the emotional mire, instead of moving on with my life. I told him how happiness was a choice every day, and that I wanted to choose happiness, instead of reading blogs that would influence me to choose unhappiness.

His reaction was certainly unexpected. "Well, there was nothing happy about my uncle dying. I couldn't find anything good that came out if it," he gruffed. Wah - I felt bad. It seemed like I stepped on his toes. But, later I realized I shouldn't have apologized. At the end of the day, there was no harm being done, and his reaction was about his own unresolved grief.

But, what it did teach me was to maybe keep my opinions to myself more. Everybody goes through a family tragedy like death by cancer differently. No one person has the same experience & emotional process as another. So, I realized that I was being pushy & opinionated (as usual), without being more compassionate that his experience might be different.

I let the moment go, and moved on, and continued to have a nice time climbing. But, it dawned me how lucky I am to be walking a spiritual path. By tapping into a power greater than me, these tragic family events have lost a lot of charge. I've come to accept mortality much better, both my brother's, my mom's, and my own.

Yet another wonderful lesson in humility and compassion. Again, I felt grateful for cancer entering into my life, for it's given me an opportunity to grow in ways I never imagined.

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01:31   Old blog from March 2nd

March 2nd, 2010 - An American in the Nuremberg Messe
Holy crud, it was cold this morning! Even the walk from the hotel door to the cab was painful. Then, I forgot my wallet, and needed to have the cab turn around & dash back to the hotel.

The previous day’s hangover had not cleared my brain, apparently. Yikes, I know I’m a lightweight these days, but I felt worse than a colleage three-day weekend consecutive bender. Even the elevator ride two floors down to the breakfast restaurant nearly made me dry-heave. This aging thing creeps up on you when you least expect it, I tell you…

When we arrived at the convention center, there were several other conferences, and no signs whatsoever on where my taxi should go for my conference. Many zigs and zags later, we finally arrived at the conference entrance. However, I had forgotten to register for the show. Overcoming this hurdle by simply asking for an exhibotrs pass to my compoany’s booth (which was given to me with no ID check at all – hello) , I hi-tailed it into the show floor. I was met with a maze like plastic canopy over several walkways into enormously large show halls, that were all interconnected with additional maze hallways. Could it get any worse? How is it possible to have two examples of poor German engineering in one trip? I was starting to lose my faith in the stereotype.

Nevertheless, I made it to the booth just in time for my first of about 300 meetings in the next 2.5 days. What I quickly learned from my colleagues was the important cultural bias of Germans to meet face-to-face to do business. Boy, they weren’t kidding. As conferences wane in attendance in the US and most other places in the world, they are alive and kicking in Germany. The only show I could recall being as busy was at a LinuxWorld many years back when we gave away a plush toy in the shape of our logo, and every geek and their mother wanted one for their kids back home.

The other interesting part, was that although I requested most of these meetings, it was the companies themselves that told us what they wanted. This was an interesting phenomenon. So much for the hours I spent on the meeting briefs for the executives. Many occasions our agenda was just thrown out the window, as we tried to corral the talks into something more friendly & less demand-focussed.

At the end, my feet were crying so hard they were wet from tears, not sweat. Yet my colleagues insisted I attend the show afterparty, where they said people would dance like it was 1999. After the 3rd Brazilian bossanova jazz standard, something told me the dancing would not quite be up to expectations this year. However, the bonus was that I could eat & escape early using the mellow music as an excuse. This almostworked until, just as we were walking out, a colleague was hi-jacked by some old workmates, who proceeded to grill him for another 45 minutes on some hot burning issue, clearly.

As I was weighing the options of public humiliation versus the excruciating pain of keeping my shoes on, he broke free and scrambled for the exit without anyone else he knew seeing him. If I had known him better, I would have harassed him & made him buy me a drink the next day, but he seemed like one of those super shy & uptight German geek dudes who spend half-an-hour with the lint brush before walking out in the morning. Sweet guys, but hard-pressed to release the sphincter.

Safely on our way out from the booth, I almost began to skip down the show steps at the thought of being so close to my hotel bed, and shoeless feet. Then my collegues had to steady me from feinting when they interpreted what the security guard told us: the taxi stand is a block or so up the street on the left. Only a 3-minute walk. Yeah, 3-minutes for a non-crippled person.

It’s amazing how the will to impress Europeans that Americans are not whiny cry-babies when we don’t get what we want can bring about stoicism in even the most painful bi-pedal moments. Choking back an urge to scream like the famous Edvard Munch painting, I carried on to the taxi stand, where the only taxi there pulled away 30 seconds before we arrived. Steady now, steady.

Just a few minutes later another taxi arrived, and I was on my way, having successfully held back a complete 5-year-old meltdown. Partly it was the kindness of my Eurpoean colleagues. Despite what people say about the excellent public transit and infrastructure in Euroipe, travel chaos seems to occur often enough that many Europeans have a higher tolerance for inconveniences like no taxis to a hotel on the outskirts of town when it’s –15F at night. Bless their sselfless crowded-city hearts for it.

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01:18   Old blog from February 27th

February 27th, 2010 – An American in The Frankfort Airport

It’s been several years since I travelled internationally, and this is the first time for business. Arriving late into the Frankfort airport resulted in a shoving match and apologetic line jumping through bookou customs and security, and the 100 meter dash to the very last gate at the very last terminal of the airport, only to have missed my connection.

Germans are so well known for their engineering and design, that when met with a poorly designed facility one is shocked, if not down-right flabbergasted. The space in-between gates at Frankfort airport is about a quarter mile for every gate. At least, that’s how it felt when I was juggling two coats and a giant bag with a laptop to my gate. Additionally, the moving walkways were lifted above the main floor by a foot, and only as long as half the distance in-between the gates. It was like running up & down speed bumps on steroids. It completely slowed me down, yet the lack of stamina to persevere on the hard airport tile floor kept directing me back to the moving speed bumps. Wish I had kept up that treadmill practice…

Nevertheless, all was not lost. It turns out my connecting flight was Business Class – woohoo! I got to sit in the Business Class lounge, away from the riffraff, and watch the Winter Olympics on German TV to my heart’s content. The best part was the monitors were on silent. In fact, the lounge was about as quiet as a library in a school for the deaf. I had forgotten how Germans, and many other Europeans, are very quiet, soft-spoken people. No loud blathering on about marketing projects, and sales figures from egotistical businessmen (and I say men for good reason) in this place.

But, wait! What’s that I hear? It’s the lowered English murmurings of several American businessmen griping about their crappy little tech company, while simultaneously trying to pump their meager penises into giant baseball bats of power. At least it was at a decibel that could pass as mouse scratchings, which is what it was equivalent to in value.

No matter, for it was time for another mad dash to my connecting gate. I thought I had left enough time, but forgot the quarter-of-a-football field length in-between gates. My arrival was met with delays because a gigantic storm had blown in anyway. No worries, away to the Business Class lounge where beef broth, snacks, and tea awaited.

After several more delays resulted in cancellation, the only thing I cared about was getting to a TV in time to watch the Canada vs USA men’s ice hockey final at the Vancouver Olympics. My chipper attitude did not wane, as I knew I’d see the game somehow.

I elected to try the train station, which was equally as much a madhouse as the airport. Apparnetly the storm was so bad, it collapsed a wall or ceiling at the long-distance train station at the airport, and prevented most trains from leaving the main station anyway. This was highly irregular for Germany. My conclusion is that one or even two crises can be handled with ease. But, throw 3 or more consecutive crisis at a nation and all hell breaks loose. At lest there was no looting and pillaging, a dishonorable act indeed for a proud nation with many national social systems.

Grouping up with a lovely gal from Mexico & a faucet salesman from Lebenon, we stumbled our way through the chaos, into the main train station, and managed to find a train to Nuremberg. I elected to try & find a seat in the 1st Class car, since my ticket allowed for it, but no luck. At least there was more room for my bag.

A kind German interpreted the ridiculously loud & incomprehensible public address system, where the announcers stated the didn’t know anything about every 10 minutes. Although the announcement when on for several minutes, our friend’s translation lasted only seconds. We all had a laugh at his ability to boil down the incomprehension.

Finally we were off, and despite my desire to stay awak to battle the jetlag, I conked out when a seat became available, only to wake up just in time, and forget to meet my Mexican friend. In my just awoken-stupor, I bee-lined for the taxi stand. Thankfully, I checked in & made it in time for the game, having only started 10 minutes earlier.

The rest of my night was consumed with wine drinking and ice hockey game watching, only to cry tears of sadness at our loss. After such a long & crazy day, preventing me from spending the afternoon with some friends in Nuremberg, I only had a USA hockey team silver to show for it. Wah.

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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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