Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: April 2011
26 April 2011
15:02   The SpokenCoast Project -- The Invitation

The last few weeks have been really on the go...

Mickey's Final Memorial
I went out to Colorado to store my remaining possessions at my dad's house, and also to attend the memorial service for my brother at Beaver Creek, CO, where he worked as a ski instructor for many years. It was much harder than I expected. Maybe it was because the weekend was the last of the ski season there. Maybe it was because all the folks in Mickey's community there were really choked up, and miss him greatly.

Who knows -- but I was far more emotional than expected. Getting hammered on the ski slopes dressed up as a "cougar-in-training" and not eating much might have had something to do with it...but, nah!

All the folks in Mickey's mountain community were just lovely! Such gracious & beautiful people there, who just adored my brother. They showed me a good time - we drank together, danced together, and grieved together. They are all very supportive of my project, and were happy to see me. Some I had met before, and others I just met that weekend. We hugged, we smiled, we laughed, we cried, and we wished each other well, not wanting to leave after last call, not wanting to see my pickup pull out of town, just for one moment clinging to that magical bond Mickey had over all of us, that bond of smiles & good times, of love & laughter.

As I pulled onto I-70 in a sleet storm, I switched on the audiobook on my iPod immediately. Hearing the lilt of the actor's voice helped me keep it together on the drive. It was final. That was it. There were no more events to be had, no more pint glasses to clink. He's gone, and that's all there is to it.

The drive back through the deserts of Utah & Nevada were exactly what I needed. The wide expanse of sagebrush & dirt devils being whipped up in narrow valleys surrounded by bands of guards made of rock, keeping watch over coyotes and hawks, kept me sane. I didn't want to be around anybody, and that's exactly what happened. Thankfully.

All that space gave me room to breath, and just be. Back in Oakland, it was a whirlwind to zip up to Bear Valley for a mountaineering class, which was a ton of fun, and very educational. I learned all new techniques, and got banged up a bit on the self-arrest practice with the ice axe. It rained/snowed/sleeted the entire two days, but I didn't mind. I was outdoors all day making new friends, and learning things to keep me alive on the big peaks. What couldn't be perfect about that?

I also had a great leap on letting go of control. The person I carpooled with was late the first morning of class, and as I was rushing to get to the ski area from our lodges, lost control of the truck on the slick road. We fishtailed a bit, then slammed into a snowbank. All of us were ok: me, my carpoolmate, and Geena the pickup. A highway patrolman came a few minutes to check if we were alright. A tow truck came a few minutes after that. The tow truck driver said we were lucky because he had to come up there for another spinout an hour before. If he wasn't there, we would have waited an hour for him to drive up from the nearest town!

Because of this, we made it to the class on time! The instructors & other students were so gracious & concerned about our well-being. Something in what my companion said, made me realize I acted foolishly. Even though we were late, I used poor judgement on how fast I was going, and not engaging the 4WD. So, I apologized for that. I told my new friend I was sorry I put his life in danger by making poor choices. The entire morning, I didn't yell, I didn't point the finger of blame. I treated him like a human being that makes mistakes, just like me. Jeez - it's usually _me_ that's late all the time!

He was very touched by this. As a result, we had a wonderful heart-to-heart on the way back home Sunday night, and became friends. This is the flame of Mickey working through me. He was the one who was gracious, and treated people kindly when they messed up. It's sad that I'm learning this lesson from such a tragedy, but at least I'm learning it.

The SpokenCoast Project
The website is being built. The lead design guy just introduced me to a great PR guy who will help craft a marketing plan to promote the project. I'll be out of my apartment by the end of the week, and house sitting or couch surfing.

I'm in dire need of a lot of gear, and also a videographer to help me film the journey. But, at the moment, I'm focused on gathering up my remaining belongings into my truck, and making myself mobile. It's scary as hell, but the moment is here.

As I came across old papers to clean up, I found this poem that my dear friend Chelsea Griffie, my rock climbing mentor, gave to me. She often uses it in her wilderness training classes. It goes along with another poem, that she reads at the end of the journey. When my journey is over, I'll publish that one. But for now, here is the poem that starts the journey off:

The Invitation
--Oriah Mountain Dreamer (an Indian Elder)

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain!

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God's presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

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08 April 2011
09:28   Fear: When your mind & body are not aligned

After Monday's teeth-gnashing about climbing, etc., I decided to do something about the extremely intense emotions that were swirling around my head. I went to a get a psychic reading at a school in San Francisco.

A few weeks back I went for a "mini-read", where a lady scanned my belly because I've had a tremendous amount of stomach problems. The energy shifted was so strong, I could feel it! The next day my stomach felt great, and my legs which were sore from running felt totally healed. It was incredible.

So, I went back two night ago for a 2 hour session. What's great about this school is they don't tell you about your future or try to predict things, or give advice on your health. They just tell you what is being revealed in your aura, then help interpret the images.

Apparently, I've had many, many past lives. In many of these lives, I've come to a violent death. The fear of my body failing in a violent way was what I've been carrying with me. This could all be metaphor, mind you, but the fact is it put an image on the fear I've been holding.

I learned a lot of other things, like my fear of romantic relationships, and a very deep rejection of my body. The healing session was quite powerful, and when I left the room, and sat in their break room, my body began to spontaneously move & "unwind", especially in my neck & shoulders.

After hearing from the psychic people my rejection of my body in this lifetime, I felt guilty. I asked my body for forgiveness, and apologized to it.

Yesterday I went for a cranio-sacral massage with the lady I've been seeing for a few years. She was able to make tremendous progress on my left shoulder, and the sticky fascia there. I really _desired_ to be free, something the psychic panel who "read" me said also.

Yet here I am, after a very long night's sleep, struggling with the muscular habits in my shoulder & neck. I tried to limit my computer use yesterday, and also not carry my backpack hardly at all. I was trying to be gentle.

What I'm learning is there is a split between my conscious mind who is totally psyched and ready for my journey, and ready to conquer new things like this mountain climbing stuff. And then there's my unconscious mind, or aura, or whatever you want to call it, that is paralyzed & gripped with fear. This is what is showing up in my body.

So, I guess it's going to take a while for my body to catch up. It's hard to be patient.

During the start of the healing session, the panel of psychic people ask me to say my name to give them permission to heal me. When I did this, the lead lady was confused and asked me to say my name again. Was I resistant to these healings? Did I not really want to let go of the fear? Why? My body seems to be saying I didn't let go of it all.

This is causing me some pretty severe desperation. It almost seems like the fear is some other kind of entity that's hijacked my being, like it's a monkey on my back. How do I shake this? How do I get through this to keep moving forward with the trip? How do I keep up my training without injuring myself because my body is resistant?

Piano, piano...

If I can find a way to be gentle, accept my body for where it's at, then maybe it'll be less scared. Today I plan to take it easy, just pack up stuff for storage and prep for tomorrow's yard sale. Maybe run an errand or too. And, I allowed myself to sleep in, even though I woke up exhausted. The reason? My dreams were full of fearful scenes...

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06 April 2011
08:54   Mountains reveal desperation, grief


The last week has been a whirlwind. I've learned a lot about what it takes to climb a mountain. My physical limitations have hit me smack in the face. My pal & I tried to summit Mt. Tallac last Thursday & failed because we both got so wiped out. Then I hiked out to Little Round Top at Carson Pass, but, didn't go all the way because of weather & stamina.

Both situations humbled me deeply, and I began to question whether I could climb Denali in 2011. I now accept that I can't.

But, during that Carson Pass trip, I came to a place of great acceptance & enjoyed & delighted the situation & the scenery, even though a big snowstorm blew in.

So, I'm trying to reconcile in my own mind & heart whether I can climb mountains. I'm trying to not beat myself up for moving Denali to 2012. This entire last month of training has taught me that I'm incredibly hard on myself. I knew this already to some degree, but this is a new version revealed.

What do I do now?


Last night some folks from my yoga class went out for a drink & bite to eat. One really great gal ended up talking with me at length, as she lost her mother last summer & was still coming out of it. She mentioned to me that my life is my own to live, and that nothing I do will bring my brother back.

I stink at hiking and mountaineering. My ankles & feet are bad. My brother's atheletic ability was beyond human it seemed. Just look at this photo of Mickey & his buddy Nick at the top of a Peruvian peak:

Mickey, on the right, looks like he just stepped out of a spa. He's happy, smiling, raising his axe high, his cheeks are flushed with a great color, etc, etc. His pal Nick, on the left, is barely raising his axe, still has his pack on because he probably only just got up to the summit where Mickey was waiting, and looks a little more peckish & not great coloring. (Saying this with love, Nick!)

The point is, Mickey was a flipping mountain goat. High altitudes & long hikes made his body feel good. He was excellent at this kind of activity. My body doesn't like this activity.

But, will I let him, and all his buddies at the services, down, if I don't climb the peaks on the list?

More grief

The whole situation with what it'll take to climb Denali, the courses, the fitness commitment, the training, the practice hikes, etc. burns my gut. I've actually been quite pissed off these last few days. I'm angry because this isn't happening as smoothly as I had hoped. Glacier classes for Rainier are full up, causing schedule crunches, & are way expensive. Other Shasta glacier classes are interfering with the WFR I want to take.

The whole endeavor has just become a giant hassle. Trying to fit in all this training AND prep for "my" trip (the interviews) has been super insanity inducing.

But, something is compelling me to do this. Something tells me I _have_ to. If I don't complete the climbing list, then I'll be letting my brother down, I'll be a chicken, and the whole community of people I talked to at the services will think I'm lame - right?

Internal stuff

What might be also happening here is that I'm changing. My ability to handle the snowstorm on Carson Pass even surprised me. I'm going with the "flow" more, as previously noted, and great things are happening. Is my desire to not climb these peaks a way to stop myself from the changes that will come as a result?

What I said to the yoga class friend last night was that two things will happen if I go through with these climbs:
1) My mind will completely change; my outlook on life & attitude will be transformed
2) I'll face the fear of my own death.

These are not bad things. I sense my anger is a resistance to these 2 things. It could be that creeping adder called Fear, too, that's trying to put the breaks on. But, on the same token, all this training, these classes, are a lot. And, more to the point, I'm not living my life the way I want. I'm totally stressed about "fitting in" all this stuff before I launch on the trip, and "getting done" these climbs/classes/etc. It doesn't feel fun. This is not what I want my trip to look like or feel like.

So, I'm at a crossroads, and there's a tremendous amount of guilt welling up. I just don't know what to do. But, my ankles have totally rebelled from all this training. I mildly sprained my left ankle on the very first training run 3 weeks ago, and have been in denial of it. Then my right inner arch sprain was re-ativated after my training walk on the stairs on Monday. My body is saying "no", and I'm pissed because my mind & heart are saying "yes" to all this.

I simply don't know what to do. More will be revealed, I guess. But, one thing is I don't want to force myself into a Rainier course on April 23rd. It's too soon, I don't have any of the gear, and I have to be out of my apartment at the end of the month. This leaves me only between today & leaving for CO on Wed to vacate. It's too much.

I'm trying to learn how to care for myself through all this. I'm not very good at that either. How is all this gonna work? Right now it just feels overwhelming & scary.

No solutions in today's post, folks. Sure wish there was...

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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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