Friday, December 31, 2010


New Year's Eve! As a teacher, for me the new year begins in August when a new school year begins. It's nice that NYE will always be our wedding anniversary from now on. If it wasn't, we'd stay home and do nothing. Now we have to go out! We're going to Colby Jack's for dinner with my sister-in-law, Chris, and her daughter, Sarah. We are taking champagne with us and I am even going to have a glass or two. It's my week off chemo and my oncology nurse gave me permission. :)

I signed up for the Yoga Journal's 21 Day Yoga Challenge. Last summer I signed up for the Chopra Center's 21 Day Meditation Challenge. It was very helpful in the hospital and afterward, but I didn't make it all 21 days. So, starting next Monday I plan to go back to the beginning of the the Chopra Challenge and add the Yoga Challenge to it. Casey is going to join me, and we are going to start a daily meditation/yoga routine. I feel it is my best defense against cancer, and it will be so good for us!

Of course, I will still be practicing with Cathy and Jean. I had the luxury of two days in a row this week, and it was heaven. I will have another two days in a row Saturday and Sunday, and then Monday we start the Challenge. I may not be able to do all of the yoga, every day, but I will do what I can.

I also need to stop eating sugar. Although the authorities don't agree on the effects of sugar on cancer, I know it's not good for me and I need to stop. I've been eating cookies, ice cream, cheesecake (YUM! Thanks, Amelia) etc every day I don't feel nauseous for the past month or two. Casey and I both need to scale that back.

So...New Year's resolutions involve meditation, yoga, no processed sugar. These are all weapons in my arsenal against cancer!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Silent Killer

I belong to an Ovarian Cancer List Serve, where women with ovarian and fallopian tube cancer communicate about their experiences, ask questions, discuss clinical trials and new treatments etc. Some days it is inspirational and there are several long term survivors writing that day. Some days it's all about who has lost their battle and it's not so inspirational. Today there was a link to an article about a four year old girl who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Four years old. That shocked me to the core of my being. I had a student who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 7th grade and I thought that was appalling. There's a girl on the List Serve who is 18 and her ovarian cancer did not respond to any treatment. She is under Hospice care.

When you read up on gynecological cancer, you will be told it is rare, and that of all women who are diagnosed with this type of cancer, only 1% have fallopian tube cancer. You will read that it is so rare that your gynecologist may never have seen a case of it. This is not true, in my experience. Including myself, I know of six women who have been diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer (FTC). One of them is Krissy, who lives ten miles away from us and ended up in at French hospital, sharing a room with me while we did the same chemo. There's a whole group on the Crazy, Sexy, Cancer web site called Women Without a Uterus. Bonnie and I made friends through that site, and she also has FTC. It's a relatively new technology that allows them to trace the cancer back to its origin, so many women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer probably actually had FTC. The treatment is the same, so it doesn't really matter. It is not rare, and very young girls are being diagnosed and even dying of it.

They call ovarian cancer the "silent killer" because it is so difficult to diagnose. One may or may not experience any symptoms. My symptoms could have been caused by many different things, but I'm lucky I had some so my cancer was detected before it was too late. How many doctors would suspect gynecological cancer in a four year old or a thirteen year old? There is no definitive test. The CA125 can give a false positive for many reasons, and it isn't used as a diagnostic tool. A CT scan can show if you have a mass, but only a PET scan shows cancer. I didn't have a PET scan until long after my diagnosis.

Women and moms, if you or your daughters have any kind of abdominal pain, bladder pain, ovary pain, etc...ask for a CT/PET scan if the doctor can't diagnose it. Ask for a CA125 blood test. Pay for them if your insurance won't. This disease is a killer and early detection is key, as always.

Something is wrong with the world when a four year old has ovarian cancer.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memory Loss

I don't know if it's from the chemo or from being 50, but I have discovered one form of memory loss that's valuable. I can re-read books because I have no recollection of them. Yesterday I read a book titled Kiss (If you wonder why my book titles are written incorrectly, it's because I can't figure out how to format) that Sydney gave me. I knew, from the first page, I had read it before. It didn't matter because I had no idea what was going to happen. I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time, and again I read it in one day. I'm pretty sure I read it just a few months ago, but that is hazy too. I figure this gives me twice as any books to read!

One thing I know for sure is that I am much happier when I am involved in a good book. Lately I keep starting a book and putting it down because it doesn't capture my interest. I'm a firm believer in only reading books that captivate me, but I have been abandoning a larger number than usual. When that happens, a really good book can jump start my interest in reading in general and get me going again. Sometimes I'm just not ready for a book. Often I will abandon a novel only to rediscover it later and love it. I'm grateful that Pat Conroy has jump started my reading again. I tend to feel dissatisfied when I'm not reading something. It's an essential part of who I am, and I feel incomplete when I'm not involved in a book. Finishing a good book is very satisfying, but bittersweet because it feels like saying goodbye to a friend. I find I have to start another one soon, or I feel a bit sad.

I love my week off chemo. Yesterday I did all the laundry, made lunch and cooked dinner, took a walk and cleaned the kitchen. Oh, and I read a book! When I am able to complete these household tasks it makes me happy because it takes some of the burden off of Casey. It also feels good to be useful again after lying in bed getting waited on for four days. Cathy is coming over for yoga this morning, Jean is coming Thursday morning, I'm going to the studio for a class on New Year's Day (first studio class since September), and Jean will be here again Sunday. Four yoga classes this week! My New Year's resolution is to practice daily, with or without one of my teachers, and to meditate daily. These are the things that will make me strong and ensure the monster stays gone for good.

Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Perfect Gift

I had an awesome day yesterday, thanks to Randy and Dona. They came to visit me and brought me two of my favorite things - See's candy and Pat Conroy's new book, My Reading Life. Pat Conroy is one of the greatest living American writers, in my opinion. I even loved My Losing Season, which is about basketball. Only Pat Conroy could write a book about basketball that I would love. I read his new book in one sitting yesterday, which is another favorite thing to do. There's nothing better than a book that's so good you don't want to put it down. It did what great books should do - immersed me in a different world and made me want to be a better person. When he wrote about his high school English teacher it made me want to be a better teacher. When he discussed great novels and writers it made me want to be a better reader and have a better memory! It made me want to get any book he discussed that I haven't read yet and read it immediately. In short, it inspired me. I felt inspired, and it felt good to spend the day with the TV off. I had also been hoping someone would give me some See's candy, so that was also much appreciated by both Casey and me. So, big thanks to Randy and Dona. It's wonderful to have friends who know you so well they give you the perfect gift.

When you think of someone who is battling cancer, happiness isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Happy is exactly how I feel all the time. Happy and grateful. I'm a bit bored sometimes, but I am a person who enjoys a quiet day at home. I miss my students and colleagues terribly, but not getting up every morning at 5:30 is pretty good. All of the people who love me reaching out to me makes me feel happy. Yoga with Cathy and Jean makes me extremely happy. Being married to Casey, and having him here every day, makes me deliriously happy.

So, when you think of me, know that I am doing well, feeling strong and happy. Remember to ask not only that my cancer is gone, ask that it is gone for good. This type of cancer has a nasty habit of recurring, but mine is gone for good. Obliterated, Vanquished, disintegrated.

Namaste, Jill

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dreams

I had a very sleepy Christmas this year. The steroids hyped me up more than usual, and the crash was harder. I slept all day Christmas Eve. I got up on Christmas long enough to open presents and take a very short walk around the block with Casey and the dogs before I was asleep all day again. It was kind of nice, actually - much better than being awake and nauseous!!

I dreamed quite a bit, and many of my dreams took place on Dolbeer st, the house where I grew up in Eureka. I really miss that house. It was originally owned by Lloyd Bridges Sr, as in Jeff and Beau's grandfather. It's a very unique, beautiful house surrounded by redwood trees and rhododendrons. In my dreams I got to see my dad, my mom, and my cat Duder, and my dogs Molly Jones and Margy. When I dream of those who have died I feel like they came to visit me. When I think of Christmas, I think of Dolbeer st house. As a child I loved to crawl under the tree at night and curl up behind it. I loved looking at the lights and the ornaments. Our parents made Christmas special, and it has really never been the same since my parents sold the house and moved away from Eureka.

Casey and I are going to spend a week in a rental house on the Smith river in Del Norte County in August. Before we go to the house on August 6th, Casey and I will be in Eureka for a few days. I'm so excited to show him how beautiful Northern California is. It has been much too long since I've been up there. I can't wait to walk in the redwoods and swim in the river!!

I guess Christmas made me nostalgic and homesick. It's our first Christmas without mom. I'm glad she's with dad and I feel them both near me, but Christmas is just not the same without your family.

Namaste, Jill

Friday, December 24, 2010

Feeling nauseous for Christmas

Nothing like Christmas Eve and a little nausea. I know it's inevitable, but every time I hope my body will have adjusted and I will feel fine. No such luck. I wasn't even able to keep my breakfast down today. I'm just hanging out in my bed with Ben, watching Whip It, Drew Barrymore's roller derby movie. It's nice to have a dog to keep me company.

The doctor's office is closed today, so no CA125 results until Monday. I have been visualizing a 9. My FTC sister in Boston, Bonnie, just got a 9 and I want us to match! I'm so happy you are doing so well, Bonnie.

I'll be feeling better by Monday, but for now I'm going back to vegging in my bed. Everyone have a wonderful Christmas. Take a minute to appreciate your good health.

Namste, Jill

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chemo Round 4

My nurse made one small change in my routine yesterday because she was busy with two patients at once and was being efficient. Instead of putting the steroids into my port with a syringe, she hung a bag from the pole and it dripped in for 20 minutes. It was a game changer. The steroids are never pleasant. I get strange feelings in my body, I can taste it and smell's pretty intense. After the chemo dripped in for 30 minutes I was on my way.

The aftermath of the steroids last night was not fun. I could taste and smell them all night. I drank an entire pitcher of mint tea, which had me up throughout the night, but it helped with the taste and the smell and I was very thirsty. I'm supposed to drink like crazy to flush my system. I should drink plain water, but I find if I put the herbal mint tea in there it tastes batter and I drink twice as much.

As you can probably imagine, the steroids make me very hungry. Sydney and I had been to Trader Joe's, so we had lots of good, fresh food in the house. I had sushi (No raw fish though, not allowed when doing chemo), shrimp spring rolls, an apple, cheese and saltines, a salad, Casey's salad, and countless cookies. Oh, and the last of the Ben and Jerry's. At least most of it was good for me!!

The steroids also make it difficult to sleep. The ativan (anti-nausea) took the edge off but I was still buzzing. I came up with a business plan for our large piece of prperty that included a yoga/dance studio, a recording studio, a cottage. Casey liked the cottage idea but rolled his eyes at the rest. I had fun thinking about it, though! I also worked on writing a book in my head. It was a crazy night!

All in all, last night I just felt plain weird. My skin felt wrong. I feel great this morning, but I tend to start getting very nauseous Thursday evening. I'm sure the Neulasta shot I'm getting this morning adds to it. I'll be down until Monday, but then I'll have 10 days of feeling good before round five begins. The nurse said my hemoglobin is low and that I may need to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion soon. I had three at birth, I forget how many during battle one, a few at Sequoia...I guess all of my own blood has been gone for a long time! It's not as bad as it sounds. Blessings to people like Bob Canepa who gives blood and platelets for people like me. Love you, Bob.

Just returned from getting my shot, going to lunch with Casey and walking around "Tuesday Morning." My sweet husband went along with all of it. I actually did my hair, put on make-up, wore a dress and high heeled felt great. We went to La Palapa for lunch. It's a Mexican restaurant in the Marigold Center and it's excellent. They have Chicken Mole and it is yummy! I don't know of another place on the Central Coast to get Mole sauce. (Pronounced mo-lay, not like the rodent).It makes me happy!

When we got home my friend Sharon came by with homemade pumpkin bread and we had a quick visit. Chrissy is on her way to bring me a present and after our visit I will Probably crawl into my bed. I can feel the steroids beginning to release their grip. Soon I will be nauseous and snuggling in bed until probably Monday morning. Merry Christmas, everyone!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chemo Day

I had a great time with Sydney. This is the first time she has been here that I have been out of bed. She's usually here on the weekends when I tend to be sick. We had grand adventures - we went to the grocery store twice and she took me to have my blood drawn before chemo. Doesn't sound like much of an adventure, but we haven't left the house together before this. We made cookies together and ate too much sugar. She got to participate in my yoga session with Jean, too. Now she is on her way home to get ready to travel. She's going to her sister Ande's on Christmas and they are taking Ande's kids, Justine and PJ, to Florida. They're off to put it some pool time and I wish I could go, too!!

So, chemo this afternoon, neulasta shot tomorrow, bed through Monday. Next week, I have the week off chemo. I'm happy I'll be well on our first anniversary, and happy that my big brother and sister-in-law are coming to celebrate with us. We are actually going to go out to dinner!! It's the little things, you know.

It's still raining, Maria's cleaning the house, and I'm holed up in Casey's office with the dogs. It smells like a big, wet dog in here. Bella has decided she likes to run around in the yard in the rain and come in dripping.

I may not feel up to writing for a few days, so Merry Christmas everyone!

Namaste, Jill

Monday, December 20, 2010

All You Need is Love...

The love and support I have received and continue to receive amazes me. Yesterday Terri, one of my fabulous AVID students, dropped off two presents. One is a beautiful rose plant, for me and for Casey for taking such good care of me. That one is from Terri. The other was in a beautifully wrapped package, and it contained notes, cards and drawings from my AVID class. I sat and read them and cried happy tears. One of my best decisions was to become a teacher. The kids give me so much love, and I love them in return like crazy. Being a teacher has caused my heart to expand to encompass the many kids I've taught and loved over the years. Next year will be my 20th year at the junior high, so that's a lot of kids! It's very difficult for me to be away from them, to spend just enough time with them to get attached and then have to leave was hard. I also received a present from Becca, my awesome yogaflirt teacher. She brought me Christmas cookies. She not only baked me cookies, she went to the Wellness Kitchen in Templeton and got two recipes for healthy cookies. They are delicious!!

Last week I discovered that there is a six month cap on donated sick leave. The teachers have been generously donating so that I have still been receiving my full paycheck. This is the second year they have done this for me, and it has been an enormous help to us. Starting in April, my sub's pay comes out of my paycheck. The teachers mobilized as soon as they heard this. Together with Chris Molina, who is married to Sue, the other 8th grade English teacher, they are planning a fundraiser for me. They tell me it will be a "Jill style party" with live music, dinner, kind of party for sure! I am humbled by this gesture and so glad to be a part of the AJHS family.

Cathy and the yogaflirt women are also planning a fundraiser for me. It will involve stilletto twister!! yogaflirt has done so much for me. It brought me into a community of fabulous women who have become my friends. It also gave me a great deal of physical strength. I can already sit up in bed like a normal person, which would amaze you if you saw my incision! My abs were strong going into this. The lessons that go along with the classes added to my spiritual strength as well.

One of the gifts I have received from my cancer is that I realize how many people care about me. As I've said before, that knowledge gives me strength and keeps me positive. It's difficult to feel sorry for yourself when so many people are reaching out. I am beyond sick of being in bed and feeling bad, but the outpouring of love keeps me on track.

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Results and Treatment

One of my test results is in and the news is good. The CT/PET scan showed no signs of cancer and all of the places that lit up (it lights up the cancer) prior to surgery are dark now. The CA125 is a blood test. Normal range is 35 and under. When I was first diagnosed my CA125 was 185 and by the end of treatment it was 9. It went up to 11, then 22, then 156. It's a bad sign when it doubles, but other factors can influence it so we were hoping it wasn't cancer until last August, when I actually found a lump that was visible externally. This time I started with 156 and it was 95 after surgery. The goal is under 35, but single digits are what we really hope for. They say the number you get after 3 rounds of treatment, which is where I am now, is a good indicator that there won't be a recurrence. Of course, it's all a bit of a guessing game. My oncologist was certain I would not have a recurrence because I had a top notch surgeon who was certain she got it all, because I responded so well to the chemo and my numbers were so good, and because of my positive attitude. He also told me, at one point, that if I did recur he would probably advise me to do nothing for five years because my cancer was slow growing and because in five years there will be better treatments. Then it came back and was so big I had to have surgery again!! This cancer is difficult to predict.

The first thing I asked both my surgeon and my oncologist was if they thought I'd be able to work during treatment. You may remember that he said he usually doesn't recommend it, but he knows how much I love my job and if anyone could do it, I could. That was wishful thinking. Not only are my white cell counts too low to risk it, I also have minimum eight days a month where I have an appointment or treatment and I'd need a sub. Add that to the days I am too nauseous to get out of bed and I'm not there much. It's not good for kids to have a different teacher all the time. They need a routine and consistency. My stamina is also an issue. I have progressed to the point where I can do several loads of laundry, but just two weeks ago one did me in and putting it away had me napping afterward. Teaching six classes a day takes a lot of stamina and energy, and as much as I miss my kids I'm just not well enough.

If you saw me, you'd be surprised that I don't look sick. My appetite is excellent except for the four days after chemo when I don't feel well. So, my weight is normal and my scale is actually creeping up to the too high mark. I figure I need the padding before I start the harsher chemo! My hair is thin, and it doesn't look too great because I haven't had it cut or styled in four months, but I'm not bald...yet. That should happen in March. I am now walking all the way around the loop in our neighborhood that covers two blocks, where just tree weeks ago I was struggling to walk around our backyard. I am practicing yoga with both Jean and Cathy, so I am getting at least one, and sometimes two or three, sessions a week. I am pleased and surprised at how quickly I am regaining my strength, because for eight weeks after the surgery I felt like I would be weak forever.

I know I tend to write too much about yoga, but it is the number one weapon in my arsenal. I have practiced before my last two chemo sessions, and the nausea is less afterward. I am doing poses that surprise me, Jean and Cathy! It is really helping to stretch out my poor muscles and scar tissue in my belly. It used to feel like there wasn't enough skin to cover my stomach, and it hurt to get up, laugh, sneeze, cough, etc. My skin feels like there is enough of it now, and yesterday I sneezed for the first time without pain. I could feel it pulling, but it didn't hurt. The surgery was three months ago yesterday, and I am finally feeling somewhat healed.

I have been hoping that I would be able to return to my classroom for the fourth quarter. I will finish my current chemo regimen in February, then I will have four rounds of IP chemo directly into my abdomen. There will be one to two weeks between sessions, depending on how I tolerate it. As I said recently, that is the chemo that I did not tolerate well the first time around. At the very end I may have some radiation. It is looking like I will not finish treatment until May or June. This means I will not be able to return to work this year. I apologize to my wonderful kids. I so enjoyed the brief time we had together, and I am so sad to miss out on being your teacher. It will take me months to recover from the treatment. I will be back at school next fall, but I will be bald, probably too thin, easily tired and my brain will not be as sharp as usual. I am already noticing that my spelling ability is being affected again.

I will be there in August, and I will never be out for a year again, because I am kicking cancer's butt, for good!!

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Getting Relaxed and Chatty

Getting a Ct/Pet scan is a deeply relaxing experience, and next time I'm going to remember that and stay up late the night before. First they took me into an unadorned room with green walls, a recliner chair and a counter with a sink. I was injected with a radioactive isotope. Then I had to recline in the chair and stay as still as possible for an hour while it made its way through my system. No reading, no listening to music, nothing. Just sitting there quietly in the plain green room. Fortunately I am used to yoga breathing and going within so I wasn't screaming with boredom. After about 45 minutes someone came in and gave me two valium.

Next I was taken to the scan room, the one with a huge sticker announcing radioactivity on the door. Same sticker on the recliner chair room and on the bathroom I was directed to use. I am told to avoid babies, small children and pregnant women for 24 hours. The scanner is similar to an MRI, except instead of one long tube it is two donut shaped tubes. The table had a comfy mattress, and they gave me a bolster for my legs and a pillow with an indentation for my head. That and the straps on my legs and arms prevent movement. The scan took close to an hour. The table moved me back and forth through the scanner, slowly. Wiggy on two valium, I feel asleep right away. I woke up shortly before the scan was over and had that panicky moment where I had no idea where I was and why my arms wouldn't move.

As I posted yesterday, certain drugs make me chatty. Pain meds and valium, apparently. I could not shut up afterward when Casey took me to lunch and drove me to SLO for my labs prior to today's chemo. I talked non-stop in the chemo room, which was full. Later I realized as I was chatting away with my nurse the rest of the patients were silent. I think I was dominating the room. Embarrassing!! Why would a sedative make me unable to stop talking? Who knows.

The actual experience of being in the scanner is sort of cool. It's like a cozy savasana, or final relaxation in yoga. Afterward, despite the manic chatter, I felt very calm.

Yesterday before we left for the scan I posted my affirmation that the scan would be clear and my CA125 would be in single digits. Apparently I was unclear and people thought it was the results. Apologies! I get the results today when I see my oncologist. That entire hour in the recliner chair I was visualizing myself cancer free forever and chanting it in my head. I was asking everyone to visualize, chant, or pray with me. Next time I'll be more clear!

My week off was wonderful, but it ends today. On with the fight!

Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Strength and Cookies

Whenever someone has cancer or dies of cancer, it is described as a battle and the patient is described as brave, courageous, strong... I have never heard anyone criticized for fighting a weak battle. Cancer brings out strength you never knew you had. It does take strength to fight. It takes strength to get out of bed after surgery and walk. It takes strength to eat when all food sounds disgusting and you're so nauseous your stomach is rolling. It takes strength not to rail at fate. The strength lies in staying positive and it's fed by the people who reach out and who care.

Casey quickly changed the channel when the news reported Elizabeth Edwards' death. He muttered something about how neither one of us needs to hear about that. He is very protective of me when I'm sick. I know he worries that the monster will get me. Cancer forces you to confront your own mortality, but I don't worry about it. I feel confident about my ability to smack the monster down for good. When someone famous dies of cancer it doesn't scare me for myself, it just makes me sad for the person who lost the battle.

My scan was rescheduled - again - and it's today. Blood work in the afternoon and lunch inbetween. We're going to Colby Jack's, where I can get lunch and a fabulous dessert or a pastry. I have been craving cake, and I feel it is wise to listen to my body and give in to its cravings. The more weight I have on me before the IP chemo in my belly, the better.

I really love Christmas cookies, if anyone wants to bring me some!

Namaste, Jill

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Monster is After Me...

There is so much information out there about cancer, it's overwhelming. There are many theories and "cures" people are writing about. There's the asparagus cure, the baking soda cure, the raw diet and juicing cure...lots of theories about diet especially. There's a list out there on the internet that is attributed to Johns Hopkins, which gives it credibility. Further digging reveals that it is a hoax, at least in it's supposed origin. One item on the list has become almost an adage: "If you like your cancer, feed it sugar." There is the belief that processed sugar feeds cancer.

I a not a fan of processed food. I think that one day it will be proven that processed food, including sugar, causes all kinds of health problems. There are currently more options out there. I have stevia in my cupboard - a natural sweetener that has no calories. When I am in charge of the diet and the grocery shopping, I patronize Trader Joe's and buy organic food. Before I was diagnosed in 2008 I was a vegetarian for 15 years, I drank soy milk, and I limited the sugar. Two years prior to the diagnosis I was misdiagnosed with interstitial cystitis. I followed the very strict IC diet, which meant no caffeine, no alcohol, no fun! The list of foods I could eat was short. I had a very healthy diet for years, I exercised consistently from the age of 19 to the present, and I am not a person who tends to get stressed. Yet the monster is after me.

My first friend who died from cancer was Rolly. I met Rolly when I was living in Sunnyvale. We worked together as rec leaders. He was in high school, and I was working as a substitute teacher and went to work for Parks and Rec because I was bored and lonely. Rolly later moved to SLO to attend Cal Poly. Rolly was a young, vegan hippie who was very health conscious. The monster got him. He left behind a young, beautiful wife and daughter.

My second friend who died from cancer was Ben. We knew each other as kids, and he and his future wife Susan lived across the pool from Jack and I in the 80's. Susan became one of my best friends. Ben was one of those people everyone loves. Together Ben and Susan were a shining example of true love. They had two beautiful children. Ben was diagnosed with brain cancer when Susan was pregnant with their second child. They endured six years or treatment before Ben passed. He left behind a family who loved him and will never recover from their loss. Ben lived his life with integrity, with love, and with honor. Yet, the monster got him.

It doesn't matter what type of diet you follow, what type of person you are, or how you live your life. Cancer is random and can happen to anyone. Of course, cigarettes cause cancer as do other things and there are things we should avoid. A healthy diet has many benefits and is very important. It didn't help me, however. My healthy diet and lifestyle didn't keep the monster from coming after me.

Unfortunately we currently fight one monster with another. Chemotherapy is brutal. It kills healthy cells as well. After a treatment it's like having a bad flu for several days. The chemo I did in my port last time was the worst - afterward I was beyond nausea and into vomiting, and it caused abdominal pain as well. It put me in the hospital for five days in an isolation room because my white cell count was dangerously low. This is the chemo I'll start in late February or early March. Hopefully it will not be so difficult this time - it is not soon after surgery like last time, my weight is back to normal, and I am stronger every day. I am dreading it, but hoping it will not be as bad.

This morning I am off to have a CT/PET scan. I am not allowed to eat before the scan, so of course I'm ravenous! The scan is to make sure the treatment is working. Results Wednesday before chemo. I fantasize that my doctor will tell me the scan and blood test show the cancer is gone and I can stop treatment. I now that won't matter what, I must finish the treatment so that the cancer is gone forever. But a girl can dream, right?

Namaste, Jill

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kids Today

Kids today are unlike the kids of previous generations. They have so much technology that they were born into. They are so connected to each other, electronically. They are exposed to so much more than we were, at a much younger age. It is harder to keep their attention in the classroom, which must seem so tame compared to the world they are exposed to, every day. How has all of this affected them? In my opinion, it has made them more confident, more savvy, more interesting. I am constantly amazed by the kids in my life.

Starting with my niece, Catherine. We call her Cate. I admit I am biased, but I think she's incredible. She is so confident, and she has many talents. I finally convinced her to send me some of her writing this year. The kid writes like a college student, and she's only 16. She is thriving at The Met, her charter school in Sacramento. She went from struggling with math to tutoring geometry. She is focused, college bound, and so intelligent. So far, she makes wise choices when it comes to boyfriends. I spent a week with her last summer and I had do much fun! She is more confident and mature at 16 than I was at 26. We are so lucky to have in our lives and in our family - she is the best of us. She is sweet, appreciative and delightful to be around. She is also beautiful, and she shines brightly. I love her, unconditionally.

Next we have Katie, my poster child for AVID. One of the few AVID kids who actually likes taking Cornell Notes. She has fought, and continues to fight, for the program she believes in. She personifies individual determination. With no support at home, she set her sights on college long before she discovered AVID. She is one of those resilient kids who is focused on her dream and is going to achieve it come hell or high water. She won the AVID writing contest every year until this one, when her school cut the program and made her ineligible. She has won at the regional level, which means she wrote the best essay in Region 8, which goes from Thousand Oaks to Paso and over toward Kern County. She also writes like a college student. She has been granted admission to UCSD in advance, but she is hoping for Stanford. Stanford will be lucky to have her. She is also beautiful.

Yesterday our friend Rob came over with his beautiful daughter, Gabriella. Gabriella was in my class the last time I was out with cancer. It broke my heart to miss out on having her as my student after looking forward to it for years. She came over to play music with Casey. She is a talented guitar player, and Casey loves playing music with her. She has that special quality that talented musicians have - she can play the notes but she can also improvise. Her singing voice is lovely and her songwriting is unique. Her phrasing is interesting and makes her songs work really well. She has also, thanks to her dad the concert junkie, gone to many concerts and written reviews that have been published in online magazines. She also writes like a college student. She dreams of being a music journalist, and she is well on her way at 16.

Then there are the three Willis children. Peggy was my first friend to get married and have children. Ashley was the first baby I ever held. She went to Cal Poly and did part of her student teaching in my classroom. Ashley is an English teacher and Brittany and Eric are planning to teach. The Willis kids are adults now, but they have all impressed me, all their lives. Last summer at Ashley's wedding it was wonderful to see how close the three of them are, and how close they are to their parents.

Overall I am awed by today's kids. I have been teaching and observing kids since 1984, and I think today's kids are an incredible generation. I could give many more examples from my classroom - my AVID kids over the years have been amazing, and the kids in my English class have been wonderful. It's the kids who make teaching such a wonderful experience. I would be proud to have any of the six kids I mentioned as my own. There is something really special about knowing a kid, like I've known Cate and the Willis kids, their entire lives. Watching them grow from babyhood to adulthood is a gratifying experience. I don't have my own kids, but I feel like these kids, and all of the kids in my classroom, fill that void in my life. I feel proud to have a part in their lives.

Namaste, Jill

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Thursday was a day of mechanical failures. I had to go into the diagnostic center to sign some paperwork for the CT/PET scan scheduled for Friday. On the way, Casey and I went out to breakfast. Stella Blue has had this intermittent problem where she starts and then promptly dies. When we would take her in to see our mechanic, she would start just fine. Every time we leave the house, it's something to do with my cancer treatment, and every time I wonder if this is the time she'll leave us stranded. Like the good girl she is, she decided to do it on a non-critical day when we were close to home. We had a tow truck drive up within minutes of calling our mechanic, and the tow was only $45. Our mechanic is close to our home so it wasn't even too much of a time suck, as Casey would call it. When we got home, Casey had to deal with his jeep (which, sadly, doesn't have a name) because his alarm had been going off. That dealt with, we resumed our journey to Templeton. We got on the freeway and the jeep started to shimmy and and lose power. Casey had to keep a foot on the gas at every light. We made it there and back, but it was stressful! An hour or two after we got home I got a call from the diagnostic center. The scanner was malfunctioning and they had to reschedule for Monday. There is a form that must be signed if the scan is canceled, so she asked me to come back in Friday. Fortunately Stella was fixed by 2:00 Friday so we didn't have to take the jeep again!

So, Stella's refusing to start ended up being a good thing. It forced us to deal with it, and now she's fine. The problem was relatively simple and not too expensive. Another gift that came out of a less than wonderful situation.

My CT/PE scan will be Monday at 10:45. Think of me and send out a message for me - clear scan, no cancer, cancer gone forever. I see my doctor Wednesday before chemo and round four begins. Once again, I am grateful for my week off. It's so nice to feel good for a few days, to be able to cook a meal, do some housework etc. Just being out of bed is nice. The break helps me to get strong. Yoga is really helping me - two sessions with Jean last week and one scheduled with Cathy for Tuesday. This is all preparing me for the more difficult chemo to come when I finish three more rounds. I will be nauseous on Christmas but my next week off is the week of New Year's Eve, and our first wedding anniversary. It has been one hell of a year!

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Epic Bliss

Last week I wrote a check to our housekeeper and dated it 2008. This morning I thought the news was wrong about John being killed 30 years ago, because I thought it was 2008. This after watching the CNN special about his death with Sydney last weekend. Chemo brain? I don't know. 2008 was the year of my first cancer battle. Maybe my brain hasn't fully grasped that it's happening again and it is stuck in the past. Hmmmm...

This morning was about one of the gifts cancer gives me. I spent two hours with Jean, my amazing yoga teacher. The first hour was Thai massage. I get to be a passive noodle and Jean does all the work for me. Since he stretches my body beyond where I would go, afterward I feel like I've really worked out. It is better than any massage I've ever had. It works out the kinks everywhere, it aligns my spine and the rest of me, it involves pressure points, getting into my is thoroughly good for me, body and soul. Next I did standing poses and some really cool poses using the wall - my new favorite way to do half moon!! Savasana was a guided meditation and deeply relaxing. If I didn't have cancer, I would be practicing with Jean at the studio and would not have the experience of these wonderful private classes. Between Jean and Cathy my body is regaining its strength and flexibility and my spirit is soaring. As I've said before, my yoga journey is very related to my cancer journey. So, cancer, thanks for all of this yummy yoga!! Now get the hell out of my body and stay out!!



Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Staying home all the time gives me lots of time to think. Lately my thoughts keep turning to home. Although I left Eureka in 1978 and really never lived there again, it will always be home to me. My main priority for finding a college was that it be near the beach and the weather had to be good. Humboldt County is insanely beautiful, but it rains a lot and there are a lot of days that are just gray. At 17 I longed for sunshine and the beach. I remember saying to my sister "I don't care if I never see another redwood tree." I was young and stupid! Now that I'm older, I long for the redwoods, the mountains, the rivers, the gorgeous coast and empty beaches...

I have not been home since the high school reunion before the last. That would have been in 2003, I believe. I have been feeling homesick and have been longing to go up there. Casey, being a southern boy from Georgia, has never been north of San Francisco. Every summer we plan to go but circumstances intervene and we don't make it there. I hated missing the last reunion. It was the only one I have missed. The cliche of the miserable class reunion has never been true for my class. Our reunions are fun and we all love seeing each other.

The older I get, the more I have come to love it when it rains. I am still not a fan of a gray, dreary day, but a good hard rain makes me happy. When Casey and I retire, I think we will be heading north. I can't say for sure until he has a chance to go up there, but I predict he will fall in love with it. He also loves mountains, rivers and trees. I see us in a cabin that has a deck overlooking a river, with redwood trees and flowers all around. In the meantime, I'm hoping to make a trip up there this summer. I want to show Casey how beautiful northern California is, and I want to go back to the ranch with my big brother and our spouses.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Staying Positive

I was just watching a video Anne posted on Facebook of Michael Franti and Spearhead performing on the Craig Ferguson show. The song was "Hey, Hey, Hey" and it reflects my philosophy of life. It's about appreciating every moment in your life, no matter what you are facing. It is this philosophy that keeps me positive despite the cancer. It isn't always easy, valuing my life while spending all my time sequestered from the world. Fortunately for me, I was born with a relentlessly positive attitude. I rarely worry about anything. It just isn't in my nature. My attitude has always been that worrying doesn't change the outcome or do anybody any good. In fact, since I believe in the power of the mind, I think that worrying can call bad things to you. This is why I spend time, every day, visualizing the chemo obliterating the cancer for good. I think this is every bit as important as the treatment. One of the first things my oncologist told me is that a positive attitude is essential to beating the cancer. He recognized that I am a positive person and he felt that it was gone for good the first time. Apparently there were lessons yet to be learned and here I am again.

My biggest challenge right now is fighting the boredom. Thanks goodness for the streaming Netflix movies and TV shows. I am reading a lot, but when you do little more than read and watch TV there is plenty of time for both. There are so many channels and so many shows that it's easy to miss out on a good one. I have been enjoying watching shows that are no longer on, and watching them in their entirety. I finished Heroes yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Too bad it was canceled and ends rather abruptly, but it does seem appropriate that it ends with Claire showing her ability to the world. I'm currently involved with Eureka, which is also excellent. I see a trend here...I like shows about magic, special abilities and science that seems like magic. Bewitched, Charmed, Star Trek, Heroes, Eureka...all my life I have wanted to twitch my nose or wave my hand and do magic.

They say we only use 10% of our brain capacity. The human brain is still largely a mystery. Imagine what would happen if we knew how to use all 100%. When a group of like minded people concentrate on the same thing, things happen. This is the power of prayer, meditation, etc. This is why it's so helpful that so many people are praying, meditating, putting me in their yoga intention or just sending me positive energy. Cathy says we need to be specific in what we ask for, so please ask not only that I beat the cancer, ask that it is gone for good. On my list serve this morning I read about a woman who has battled this cancer six times. That will not be me. I will defeat it this time and I will go on to retire somewhere near a river and I will live to be old with Casey by my side. Take that, cancer.

Namaste, Jill

Friday, December 3, 2010

TV Viewing

I have been spending a lot of time watching TV the past few months. I find myself thinking about how much it has changed over the years. My generation started out with small, black and white TVs. I remember the afternoon the new color TV was delivered. It was a brown behemoth of a cabinet and it was extremely exciting to have color, right in our living room. Of course, every family had one TV, it was in the living room, and watching was a family activity. Mom and Dad controlled what we watched - not that there was much choice. Everyone watched pretty much the same shows, and at school we all talked about those shows. High school was all about Welcome Back, Kotter and Mork and Mindy. Considering those shows starred John Travolta and Robin Williams, the quality of the programming was good. Shows were family oriented and commercials were clean. No Viagra, tampons etc for us - we were sheltered.

Today's TV is an example of art imitating life. Family viewing is a thing of the past, in most families. I am always shocked when I ask my students to raise their hands if they have a TV in their bedroom. Most of them do. They are watching alone and unsupervised. TV is no longer the family entertainment it once was. Today's kids are exposed to everything from sexual dysfunction to Victoria Secret fashion shows. Kids come to school bleary eyed from watching TV, playing video games, texting and social networking until the wee hours. I see students all over town, in the evenings when they should be home having family dinner, doing homework and spending time with their parents ad siblings. These kids are so connected to each other, but is it at the cost of the family connection?

I find that many of the TV shows I watch are old shows. It's amazing how many shows that have run their course but are still on every day. There are four episodes of Charmed on a day. You can find Full House, Andy Griffith, That 70s Show...just to name a few. Between On Demand, my DVR and streaming Netflix, we rarely watch commercials. I see a big change coming to our TV sets. In an age of Netflix, Hulu, and full episodes online, who needs cable and commercials? I think a world without cable companies who monopolize the market and gauge us with high prices and no commercials sounds awesome!!

I have really been enjoying watching TV shows streamed through Netflix. I am getting close to the end of Heroes. I watched both seasons of Dead Like Me and loved it. The movie was disappointing but the show was great. I am currently enjoying Eureka, although it is not filmed in my home town. I have several shows, thanks to recommendations from Janice, waiting in my queue. These days it's a lot like having enough books on my waiting to be read shelf. Thanks to my dear Aunt Jane and cousin Debbie, I have plenty of those - they sent me a gift certificate to and you can buy a lot of novels for $100! They arrive daily and it feels like...Christmas!! I also have books from Kimberly, Cathy, Debbie, Janice, Sharon and Mary. Thanks girls - you all know how happy books make me!

Everyone keeps asking abut our Christmas plans. I will have a treatment on Wednesday the 22nd, so I will probably spend Christmas day in bed with my friend nausea. Julie may join us for awhile, but otherwise it is just our little family: me, Casey, Ben and Bella. We are forgoing a tree this year. We're fine with it - it is Christmas every day as long as we have each other. Corny, but true.

So, send me TV series, movie, and book recommendations when you think of one I might enjoy. I have a few months ahead of me in which my life consists of treatments, TV viewing and reading. Thank goodness for yoga to break up the monotony!!

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, December 2, 2010

AVID and Education

I miss my kids. I love that Facebook helps me stay connected to some of them. Today Jorge, my former AVID student who is in high school, and Terri, a current AVID student, showed their individual determination (The I and the D in AVID) by posting pleas for other kids to join their cause and beg the district to reinstate AVID in our district. Katie, a graduating senior who is the quintessential AVID student, emailed her concerns about what's going on in my classroom in my absence. She and several other high school AVID kids come into my junior high AVID classroom and tutor on tutorial days. My sub is not an AVID trained teacher, in her defense, but one of the problems has always been that AVID in our district has been too dependent on the AVID teachers alone for its success.

AVID began in one English teacher's classroom in San Diego in the 80's and has spread internationally. It happened when students from the inner city schools were bussed to the mostly white Clairmont High School. Teachers requested transfers to other schools and the administration planned to put these kids into remedial and special ed classes because surely they couldn't be expected to learn, perform, and attend college like their white counterparts. This same dialogue about the achievement gap has been going on for decades. Mary Catherine Swanson found the answer when she created AVID, but after all these years, very few people are listening. AVID targets kids whose parents didn't go to college. It gives them a college going dream and culture at school when they aren't getting it at home. It gives them the rigorous curriculum and skills they need to succeed and go on to college. The results are astounding.

In the regular population, approximately 35% of kids attend a university. About 85% of the kids who stick with AVID attend. The first time I attended AVID training, It was the 20th anniversary and several of Mary Catherine's first AVID class came to speak. They were graphic artists, doctors, lawyers etc. A few years ago one of the speakers was from Arroyo Grande High School, where I started my teaching career. He is the child of immigrants who work in the fields. As an AVID student, he was accepted to Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, if I remember correctly. These stories are not unique and are repeated wherever there is an AVID program.

AVID does not benefit just the kids in the elective class. The idea is that the AVID philosophy, curriculum and strategies permeate the school and all of the kids benefit. The program is introduced to all kids in 4th grade, where they learn organization skills like keeping an organized binder. You's be surprised how many kids struggle simply because they lack organizational skills. The elective class begins in 6th or 7th grade and continues until they graduate. If they stick with it, they become highly motivated kids with big college dreams, amazing writing and public speaking skills, the ability to work well in a collaborative group, excellent note taking skills, high self get the picture. This is exactly what the universities have been saying for decades that students can't do, and what the business world says they need. We have had this program that is exactly what is needed in the public schools, yet it is being scrapped because of the budget.

This is short sighted in the extreme. In bankrupting the education of our kids we are assuring economic disasters in the future. One of the reasons this country experienced an economic boom after World War II is because of men like my father, who came from a working class family but attended college and became a lawyer on the GI bill. In order to reclaim our spot as a superpower and ensure economic health, we need our kids to become as educated as possible. They say they use statistics regarding the test scores of African American boys in the 4th grade to predict the amount of prisons they will need in the future. How appalling is that? In California, the state with the largest college system and three of the best universities in the nation, we not only send a low number of them for further education we lose many of them because they drop out of high school. Charter schools like the Harlem Success Academy prove that kids of color can succeed and attend college. AVID proves this also.

So...why isn't every school in the nation an AVID school? Why are we building more and more prisons instead of funding our schools?

I realize this doesn't seem related to my cancer journey, but it really is. The first time I fought this battle was the year my school was supposed to be a National Demonstration AVID School. They chose not to do it without me, and the next year we had a different principal so we decided to wait. We missed our opportunity, and I can't help but feel if we had reached this goal it would have been harder to cancel the program. This year, there is one last AVID class, in my room at the junior high. Without me, I hear it has become a study hall where the kids just do their homework. There is an AVID club at the high school, which keeps the connection alive for the kids but does not fulfill the need.

If you are local, please contact the school board and speak out in support of this vital program. If you are not, contact your local representatives and President Obama and do the same. What we need to fix education in this country is to repeal No Child Left Behind, which is terrible legislation and any teacher will tell you it is ruining the education of this generation. Repeal NCLB, make every school in the nation an AVID school with 100& of the teachers AVID trained, and we'll see the achievement gap disappear. Oh yes - and fire any teacher who is resistant to change and still expects the kids to sit in rows and listen to the "expert" drone on.

This blog was inspired by my AVID kids, who show their individual determination every day and are fighting for this amazing program that they believe in. I love you all, and I am so proud of you for fighting for your future.

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yoga is Yummy.

It never fails to amaze me, how wonderful I feel after practicing yoga. It makes me feel energized yet calm and centered at the same time. Doing the poses causes my arms and legs to wobble these days, but I can feel that chi energy zinging through my body. I picture it eradicating those nasty cancer cells for good. I had a private with Cathy yesterday and another this morning with Jean (French pronunciation, Jean is a guy). I am betting that I will recover from today's chemo faster because of the yoga. Yoga has taught me to tune in to my spiritual self.

Before I go in for a chemo treatment, I indulge in a little positive self talk. I tell my body that, although the chemo is harsh and makes us sick, it is killing the cancer and saving our life. Yes, I said us. I tend to speak to my body as something separate. This is something that just sort of happened. I know that this body is a temporary thing, but my spirit is eternal. I am very aware of that connection, but it has become clear to me that my spirit is the guiding force helping my poor, battered body fight this disease.

It has been 12 weeks since my surgery. I have recovered a great deal of my physical strength and all of my spiritual strength. I confess to feeling weak in both areas immediately following the surgery and for awhile afterward. I was so ill and so unable to function. I was suffering from anxiety in the evenings and that scared me and made me wonder if I would have the same strength to fight I had the first time. Losing my mom so soon after surgery played a role in this also. Whenever I am sick I want my mommy, and although I felt her presence I longed for her to be with me in the flesh. My private yoga classes helped me with both kinds of strength. My first class with Jean he kept having to hold onto me so I wouldn't fall over. He had to help me get upright after most poses. Yesterday I was able to come up after triangle pose with no problem. I am still awkward getting up and down off the floor and I won't be doing a hand stand anytime soon, but it is so gratifying to see my strength returning.

I have some very pissed off stomach muscles. It hurts like hell to laugh. It hurts to sneeze or hiccup. Throwing up is agony. Having the same incision twice takes much longer to recover from, obviously. The muscles and the scar tissue need to be stretched, and I can't imagine how I would do that without yoga.

I have so many things to be grateful for. Yoga in general and Cathy and Jean specifically are such blessings in my life. Not only for the yoga, but also because they are both such wise, wonderful people and I feel honored to call them my friends. Cancer and yoga have combined to make me brave. There was a time in my life when I would never have taken a one on one class with a yoga teacher. The first time I went to Cathy's studio I took Susan along because I was chicken to go alone. Thank goodness I conquered that silly fear!

Jean and I dedicated one class together to finding my mantra. It ended up being "Yoga saved my life." I am counting on it to do it again.

Cathy and Jean both use the word "yummy" to describe the way yoga feels I couldn't agree more.
Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Writing for such a public forum is a new experience for me. I have always shared my writing with my students, and I have many folders and notebooks full of my writing in my classroom. I tend to do the assignments I give them and show them my process. Because English teachers did not teach it as a process when I was a kid, or maybe just because it's the way I am, my process is messy. I rarely prewrite - I just jump in and start writing. I always do my introductions last when writing an essay. I don't know what I'm going to say until I say it and I write the intro to fit what I said. If it's something I intend to share I go through many drafts and revisions. I know to walk away from it and revisit it later before I share it or publish it in any way. If it is going out to parents I had better ask Debbie Martin to proof it for me, because as writers we don't see our own mistakes. In the beginning, I only wrote when I had a topic in mind. Now I write every day I feel up to it and I just jump in and get started. Like I tell my students, getting started is the hardest part.

Last night I amused myself by reading my blog posts on my big Google TV. There is at least one error in every one of them, which is embarrassing for an English teacher. I never took a typing class, and I am a terrible typist. Add chemo brain to that and mistakes happen. I write these entries quickly, read them over once and publish. I think from now on I will take my own advice and let is rest awhile before I publish. I can't be setting a bad example for my students!!

One lesson I am learning here is that it is very good for my psyche to write every day. I tell my students it is cathartic to write and I encourage them to keep a journal. I get so busy during the school year that I don't take the time to follow my own advice. Many years I have had a local poet from California Poets in the Schools come into my classroom and teach a poetry workshop for a few days. I sit down and write with the class and I always share what I write with them. I find this inspires me and I start writing poetry at home for awhile afterward. I find it very rewarding and I don't know why I always stop at some point.

The writing folders in my classroom are full of all different kinds of writing. Poetry, Quick Writes, essays, even a short story or two. The short stories are, frankly, embarrassing. As much as I love reading it, fiction writing is not my thing. I really enjoy reading my poems the most. As I said in as earlier blog, when we write it captures who we are in that moment in time. Sometimes I'm surprised that some of my poems are actually pretty good. Even when they're not, they remind me of something I was going through or feeling when I wrote it.

I know a lot of people are reading this who are not official followers. It seems whenever I talk to someone they tell me they are reading it. I appreciate the support and encouragement - despite the imperfections I get lots of positive feedback. It's one more way of feeling connected and that's a beautiful thing. I encourage all of you to write a poem, write in a journal, write a blog...keep a record of your life. Believe me, the older you get the less you remember!!

Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The past week had been amazing. I have not been nauseous in over a week, and I still have hair! I went to the doctor yesterday and both the nurse and my doc commented on how good my hair looks. Not bad, considering it hasn't been colored or cut in over two months. I know I am going to lose it at some point, so I am grateful every day it's still with me!! It's so nice to feel relatively normal and healthy. I was nauseous for so long that it was starting to feel like a permanent state of being. I still have limitations and I still have some pain, but I can now do two or three loads of laundry instead of having to go back to bed after one. I have been cooking breakfast and doing all the dishes. These things makes me feel good for accomplishing something and also for lightening Casey's load. I'm used to being a busy, productive person. Lying in bed reading and watching TV not only gets boring, it starts to affect my self esteem. Our self worth comes from what we accomplish. I know I am battling cancer and accomplishing something extremely important, but it's difficult to feel helpless and dependent on others. It feels good to contribute. Casey, as usual, has been wonderful. When I was unable to get out of bed without a struggle he did everything for me. He took charge of everything from my medication to my meals. Suddenly everything I usually do became his responsibility. He never complains and he does everything with a smile and a song. After the surgery I had a period where I was experiencing anxiety in the evenings. Casey would bring his guitar and either he'd sing to me or we'd sing together. It would calm me down and help me to sleep. He takes me to every doctor and chemo appointment. He is so much more than a husband and a caregiver. He's my best friend and my biggest cheerleader. I can't imagine going through this, or anything else, without him. I go back in for chemo tomorrow, but I'm sure the nausea will be minor and I'll recover quickly. Thanksgiving with Casey and Sydney!!

Namaste, Jill

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I think the best thing about the Thanksgiving holiday is that people tend to take the time to think about what they're grateful for. Counting your blessings instead of dwelling on your problems is always a good idea. I did not write a blog the first time I battled cancer, despite my good intentions, but I did sporadically write in my journal. Many days my entries are nothing more than a list of what I was grateful for. It's one way of staying strong, and it's much more productive than railing at fate. Sure, it sucks that I have cancer, but being angry about it would help nothing. Instead, I feel grateful for my excellent health benefits, for teachers who are willing to donate sick leave time so I continue to get paid, for my husband who is a wonderful caregiver, for my vast network of friends who pitch in and help, for all of the people and prayer groups who are praying for me, for all the yogis putting me in their intention, for everyone sending out love and positive energy on my behalf, for everyone who has sent a card, email or facebook message, for everyone who has brought or sent books, flowers and meals, for my yoga get the idea. I even count the cancer among my blessings because it has brought so many positive things into my life. I expect it to go now and leave me in peace forever, but I don't entirely regret the experience. So this is me, sending a great big thank you out into the universe for all of my blessings.

Namaste, Jill

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vicarious Living

Last night my brother David and his wife Chris went to see Michael Franti and Spearhead at Chico State, in a venue that only holds about 1,000 people. That is twice they have seen them since we all saw them together at Power to the Peaceful in September. I hate missing a show, although realistically if I weren't sick I would be working and unable to go anyway. It makes me happy to see them loving Michael like I do. It makes me happy to see them driving 90 minutes to a show on a work night. Driving to Santa Barbara or San Francisco to see a show on a week night used to be something I did regularly. I never thought I'd quit wanting to do that, but the past few years I won't even travel on a week night for Franti. Somewhere along the line, sleep became more important than the shows. Old age creeping up on me, I guess. I'm glad my big brother will still travel on a week night!

Next week David and Chris are going to spend Thanksgiving and Chris's birthday (Happy birthday, Chrissy!!) in a cabin on the Smith river. They will not be far from "The Ranch." Our parents bought The ranch in 1964. We called it The ranch because the sign above the gate said "Sissi Q Ranch." It was 60 acres on the north fork of the Smith River. The older couple who had lived there before left the house fully furnished and equipped, from dishes to linens. I remember being confused, at 4, about why our summer place was so much nicer than our house in town. The house was gorgeous, all knotty pine and ceiling beams. There was a loft overlooking the living room, and an upstairs reached by a ladder that pulled down out of the ceiling. The Smith River ran through the property, crystal clear, clean and wild. Near the house was an enormous old wooden bridge. You could stand on that bridge and gaze down into the river, which was so clear you could see every fish and rock clearly. There were three swimming holes on the property, and whenever I need to go to my happy place I go to one of them. It is the most beautiful place on earth. It is 26 miles on a winding, narrow mountain road to the nearest civilization. There was no other private property near us, and when we went up there it was peaceful, quiet, and amazing. In the early years it was rare for a car to drive by. The ranch was a huge part of what made my childhood magical. I spent many happy hours swimming and playing in the river. I made rock forts for lizards I caught and would briefly imprison in a cat carrier until I could move them into their new home. I caught water snakes and wore them as bracelets around my wrist. For a few years my sister and I had our horses up there and we would ride. I remember riding to the lower meadow with my brother once and coming across a world that was literally covered with lady bugs. I put my hand down on a tree stump and my hand was instantly covered with millions of them. We would spend the fourth of July up there, and Daddy would set off fireworks that would light up the night sky and the mountain across the river. When the old bridge wore out and they were going to tear it down to build a new one, Dad negotiated and instead they built the bridge upriver a bit and the old, majestic wooden bridge became ours. The bridge dedication party with my parents' old friends was something to remember. One year that old bridge buckled under the weight of snow and ice during a harsh winter and it collapsed into the river. Apparently the noise was deafening and scared the caretaker half to death. I never went up there after the bridge fell, and after Dad had his stroke we ended up selling the place. It has been on the market on and off since. For a long time I thought I would never go up there again, because it would make me too sad. That changed a few years ago. I want Casey to see it, because it means more to me than any place on earth or any childhood memory. The breathtaking beauty of the place will be the same, whether it belongs to us or not. I have always felt so blessed that I grew up in a place full of mountains, redwoods, rivers and rhododendrons, and that we also had The Ranch. My father's love of the outdoors was a blessing to us all. The older I get, the more I miss Northern California. If it weren't for my stupid cancer, Casey and I would be going with David and Chris next week. I've told him we will need to plan a similar trip next summer. I want to see The Ranch again, and I want to be with my big brother when I do. For now, I will live vicariously through their trip, and count the days until I am well enough to make one of my own.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yoga, Part Two

On September 10th I wrote "Yoga, Part One." It was the day before Power to the Peaceful, and four days before surgery. I intended for my next post to be part two, and I expected that to be a day or two after surgery. I actually did write it, but I neglected to save because this site automatically saves. Perhaps because of poor connectivity, it didn't save that day. I was only able to sit up because I was in a hospital bed, and writing it was difficult. I labored over it, then lost it. I had to distance myself from it before I could rewrite it, so I just reread the first one for the first time. One of the great things about writing is it creates a record of who you were in that moment in time. I had no idea what I was really getting into, and that's a good thing. Anyway, back to yoga.

As soon as I was well enough after surgery in 2008, I would go to Yoga in the Vines for a private, therapeutic yoga class with Cathy. She helped me to regain my physical strength and to develop my spiritual strength. It's wonderful how much strength turning inward, breathing, and meditating gives you. The poses become meditative also, so the yoga experience is very zen. Everyone should take the time to find their zen state, every day. It has multiple benefits for your physical, emotional and spiritual health. I don't remember now how long we did private classes before I was strong enough to go back to regular classes at the studio, but I do know I took a class with Jean for the first time in November. It was another private class because only I showed up that day. I was weak and I remember struggling with the vinyasas. I took classes with both Cathy and Jean until January, when Cathy sold the studio to Danielle. When Cathy stopped teaching yoga, I knew I would have to try yogaflirt as soon as I was strong enough. I couldn't imagine my life without regular classes with Cathy. Thankfully there was still Jean.

Jean D'Abreau has been teaching yoga for 6 years, and he is only 23. I love that he is so young and has so much to teach me. I have not practiced with lots of different teachers, but I know Jean's class is unique. He often plays Jimmy Hendrix during class. He can twist and contort his body into any shape, I think. His classes are fun, challenging, and deeply spiritual for me. He makes me laugh, he makes me think, and he taught me to do inversions. Going upside down was terrifying for me at first. Jean would help me get up, than I would experience fear and disorientation once I got there. The first time I did a headstand, and later a handstand, by myself I was so excited! Fighting cancer made the fear of going upside down seem silly, and Jean gave me the confidence to make it happen. As my yoga journey continued, I gained strength and got to the point where I was strong enough to try level one at Cathy's yogaflirt studio.

People tend to think stripper when they hear about yogaflirt, but that's not what it's all about. It's more like spinning on the playground bars, with a lot more athleticism. The spins are fun and very challenging. The flirts who have been spinning since the beginning are amazing to behold, and watching Cathy is a jaw dropping experience. Being a flirt is also a very spiritual experience. The friendship and camaraderie that develops as you go through the levels with the same group of women is extraordinary. You begin learning about concepts like ahimsa from the beginning - no judgement of yourself or of others. There were spins I never mastered, but I got nothing but encouragement and support from the teachers and the other flirts. Like yoga, it helped me to conquer my fears. I never played on the playground bars because I was too scared. Some of the spins are terrifying at first, and if felt so good the first time I successfully mastered one, with helpful tips from Julie, Becca or Cathy. Angela offers a monthly meditation workshop for flirts called Inner Journey, where we meditate, journal, and share our thoughts. Yogaflirt changed us all in positive ways. For me, I gained even more strength, both physically and spiritually. Yoga and yogaflirt, for me, put me in touch with my mind, body and spirit connection. They gave me the strength to fight cancer, and I firmly believe that they saved my life once and will do so again.

Where am I in my yoga journey now? I am doing private classes with Jean on Saturdays. Yesterday I did a private with Cathy and we'll do another next Monday. They both come to my home and they are both wonderful. I have learned so much from both of them, and I feel so blessed to have them in my life. The universe sent them to me to help me grow and to help me fight. Jean's early morning class in SLO often send their intention out to me, and it is powerful and much appreciated. I intend to start attending that class next summer. I will go back to level one and restart my yogaflirt journey as soon as I am able. In the meantime, my private classes with my two awesome teachers are making me strong and happy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had not been in the hospital since I was born. Hospitals were scary places to me, things where bad things happened. My journey has changed that misconception completely. Every hospital I have been in - Sequoia, Twin Cities and French - have been positive experiences and this is due to the nurses. Nursing is obviously a calling and the nurses are angels. I loved some of my nurses and liked some, but every single one of them took excellent care of me and was kind. When I went to Sequoia for my second cancer debulking surgery, the nurse I saw first who puts in the IV and does the intake information was the same nurse I had the first time. Two years later and she remembered me. She sees lots of patients every day, yet after all that time she remembered me. I was very impressed by that. After the surgery, for two or three days I had a nurse named Catherine. I liked her immediately because she shares her name with my beloved niece, but she proved to be an exceptional nurse and person. She was funny, she was kind, she was encouraging. She came in often and spent time with Casey and me. She brought a roll away bed in so Casey could sleep in the room with me. She made sure I had Julie as my nurse one night because I had fond memories of her from two years before. She brought me a small pillow to press against my stomach when I painfully got out of bed to walk. She decorated the pillow case with a picture of her cat, and she wrote on both sides. One side says "The nurses think you are awesome" and the other side said "Walk, walk, walk, deep breathe." I brought it home with me. I had one male nurse who was nice but not very warm. After Catherine came in to visit and spent time with him in my room he warmed up and became much more friendly. I don't remember all of their names, but every one of them was wonderful and took excellent care of me and also of Casey. When we got home from the hospital I had not eaten solid food for over a week and I was miserable. I was nauseous and weak. Our friend Linda, who is a nurse at Sierra Vista, came over about a week later. In addition to being an angel, she is superwoman. She is a nurse, a mom, a massage therapist, a Reiki healer, and she sings in a band. She brought me pressure point wrist bands, aloe vera juice for my digestive tract, made me kim chi which was the first food I was able to eat, and she gave me a massage because my back was hurting from being in bed. I felt mothered, which meant a lot to me because my mom had just died. She put me on the road to recovery and made my nausea manageable. I no longer fear hospitals, IVs, or surgery. I know now that hospitals are there to help us, and nurses are earth bound angels.

Namaste, Jill

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeling Better

I feel better today then I have since this whole thing started, I think. I have come to really appreciate my week off, when the nausea lessens and I feel more like myself. Even on days like these, things that used to be small have become large - like laundry. Today I put away laundry that Maria, our wonderful housekeeper, did last time she was here. Then I did two loads of sheets and towels. Walking back and forth from the bedroom to the laundry room a few times makes me tired and I have to sit down and rest. My goal was to do all of the laundry today, but after just that much I realize I've done enough for today and the clothes will have to wait until tomorrow. It's hard being so fragile and easily tired. Just three months ago I was so strong. The surgery robbed me of my strength and my energy. I am slowly getting it back, by taking baby steps. Two loads of laundry today, two more tomorrow. In a little while Casey, the dogs and I will take our little walk around the block, and after that I will have to rest.

I read Dan Brown's latest, The Lost Symbol, over the weekend. I loved it. One of the best books I've read in awhile. It's so good to be off the pain meds and able to read. I don't understand how anyone can do pain medication for recreation or get addicted to them. I hate the way they make me feel and how they affect me. So happy to have that part of this journey behind me!

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big Love

Like anything else in life that is hard, cancer also has its gifts. A big one for me has been the connections it has brought and the amount of love people have shown me. People who don't even know me have reached out by donating sick leave, sending me emails, posting on my Facebook wall, responding to my blog posts - once a woman approached me in the grocery store to express her support. It was when I was bald last time, so it was obvious what I was dealing with. Almost every day there is at least one card, if not multiple cards, in the mail from people expressing love and support. Current and former students send me Facebook messages and posts telling me they love and miss me. So many people have offered to cook for us, to grocery shop, to stay with me so Casey can go for a mountain bike ride...these are the things that help me to stay strong. Sydney comes every weekend she can to do our laundry, grocery shop, and spend time with me. Susan comes almost every Friday to help and hang out with me. The other day our cupboards were bare and Peter showed up with flowers and delicious casserole. The day I finished that Mary came over with homemade muffins and soup. Kelli will make me anything I ask for, and she is a fabulous cook. Johnna offers her own cooking and that of the students in her hospitality classes at the junior high. I ask for novels and I get two from Mary and two from Debbie the next day. Cathy and Jean both offer private yoga in my home whenever I feel up to it. I feel truly loved and blessed to know that so many people care about Casey and me. Casey is so loving and supportive, even though this is just as hard on him as it is on me. Most people live their entire lives without knowing how loved they are. Although this is the hardest thing I have ever faced, and it sucks to go through it twice, the love and support from so many people warm my heart and give me strength. A big, heart felt thank you from me to everyone out there who cares about me and is cheering me on. With your help, I will be healthy and cancer free before too long.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Comfort Food

I go in for chemo this afternoon, but it's one kind instead of two so hopefully I will feel as well afterward as I do now. The first time I fought this battle the chemo left me with neuropathy (numbness in the hands and feet) and it affected my brain. Specifically my short term memory and my ability to spell. Fortunately over time I recovered fully. This time, so far, the only problem I'm having other than the nausea is that my mouth tastes like metal...all of the time. No amount of flossing, brushing or rinsing helps. Water tastes just awful right now, and I really need to be drinking lots of it. Sparkling water helps. My friend Mary brought me some and it was an excellent idea. I find myself craving milk and drinking lots of it, which is something I haven't done in years. I think I had 4 glasses of milk yesterday! I also crave sweet things - cookies etc - which is really not the best thing for me. Many people believe that cancer loves sugar, and that cancer patients should stay away from it. It's hard to deny the cravings, however. Sugar has always been comfort food for me. When we were sick, our Mom would buy us candy and make us ice cream sodas. As a child my favorite lunch was sugar and butter sandwiches on white bread washed down with a glass of chocolate milk. To me, getting sick means watching TV and eating goodies, which is pretty much what I've been doing. When this is all over, I'll have a healthier diet. Right now, my oncologist and Casey are worried about my weight loss, so calories are good. Bring on the cookies and milk!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gaining Strength

I haven't written in awhile because I didn't really have anything to say. My life, for now, has shrunk down to dealing with the side effects of the treatment. I rarely leave the house except to go to the doctor. Yesterday I felt pretty good, so I dealt with some laundry and went for a walk with Casey. It was my first walk outside the yard since the surgery. We walked once around the block and I had to come home and get in bed right away to recover. I was nauseous, my ears hurt for some reason, and my heart was pounding. I know I need to push myself, but the only place I feel good these days is in my big, wonderful bed.

The new TV is helping a lot. This morning I finished the last chapter of the first season of Heroes, streamed directly to my TV from Netflix. I watched all 23 episodes in 3 days. It was compelling and entertaining. I have put the next 3 seasons in my "Instant Queue." Thanks goodness for technology, or I would be going out of my mind with boredom. It's nice to watch something new, although I am still addicted to Charmed!

I go in for chemo tomorrow, and then I get next week off. I plan on going around the block every day, so that I can rebuild my strength. Right now a few minutes doing dishes or laundry send me back to bed. The surgery was big, cancer is big - but my will is bigger. I will prevail!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Entertaiment, Magic, and Chemo

I haven't written for awhile, not because I'm too sick, mostly because I can't think of anything to say. The Cancer and the treatment have taken over my life, for now, and other than visits to the doctor I am always home. I spend 90% of my time in my big, comfy bed, either reading, watching my Google TV, or I'm on my laptop writing my blog, answering emails or Facebooking. Thank goodness for technology!

I read 2 more of the books Kimberly sent me: Desert Eyes (I think that's the title. It's about scheherazade and it's beautifully written) and Take Another Look which was compelling and hard to put down. I also read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and I highly recommend that trilogy. All 3 were hard to put down. So sad that the author died shortly after delivering the 3 manuscripts. I'm always up for a good read if anyone would like to send me books or suggestions so I can get them through I like novels that are literary and look at human universals through the characters. I'm kind of over sci-fi and fantasy, although I do enjoy a good vampire story - loved the Twilight series, the House of Night Series, and the Sookie Stackhouse series.

I admit I have been watching too much TV. Other than Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, most of what I watch is old. When I was a kid I loved Bewitched and wanted to be Samantha, or at least have her powers! I love Charmed even more than Bewitched, because the Halliwell sisters don't have wimpy men who try to prohibit their use of magic! I evolved from wanting to be Samantha to wanting to be Phoebe. There are 4 episodes of Charmed on, every day. I tend to watch all 4, even though I have seen the series from the beginning to the end (7 seasons) countless times. It just never gets old for me. The Power of Three!!

I have also been streaming Netflix onto my TV. Send me movie ideas - I'm running out!

I saw my oncologist yesterday and had chemo. I will be doing Gemzar one week and then Gemzar and Carboplatinum the second week, both on Wednesday afternoons, through December. I'll have the CA125 blood test and a PET scan after 3 rounds to see how it's going. At some point after that I will have Taxol in my IP Port (goes directly into my abdomen and requires 24 hospitalization). The Taxol will cause my hair to fall out, so before that happens I will have Lizette shave it off. After the chemo is over I will probably have radiation. My cancer has stayed in the pelvic region, so they can zap it directly. The samples they sent to the lab didn't grow and the results were inconclusive. Hopefully that means they are finished growing inside me!!

I have been reading and hearing about lots of women with my cancer who have one or two recurrences and then go on to be cancer free for years. The treatments are improving all the time and my doctors are wonderful. I know I will, indeed, Kick Cancer's Butt. I am feeling positive, well cared for, and very loved.

I miss the yoga studio, walking my dog, teaching my students, leaving my house to do anything...preferably something fun! I know my life will get back to that, so I am patient and confident that I am winning this battle.

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Healing Power of Books

I tell my students that, in addition to being informative, persuasive and entertaining, writing can also be cathartic. Yesterday's blog proved to be so for me. Writing those words motivated me to make a change! I got myself out of bed, first of all, and took a long, hot bubble bath - the first in 6 weeks. As is my usual habit, I took a book with me. My dear childhood friend, Kimberly, had mailed me a package full of books and jewelry. Knowing she has excellent taste in all things, I read one from her package.

I read The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. I read the first 5 chapters in the tub, then moved to the couch. In the middle of the day I moved to the outside with Ben and Bella, our dogs, and read in the sun for awhile. I had the delicious experience of reading a really, really good book in one day. It has some of my favorite elements in a good read: an unreliable narrator and a surprise ending.

I have not read a book since before the surgery, and those of you who know me well know this is very unusual for me. One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me is my love of reading. I typically finish one and go right on to the next. If there is too much time inbetween I start to feel sad, like something is missing. Given that this is such a big part of my life, no wonder I was feeling like I didn't recognize myself! There's nothing like 6 weeks in bed watching mind numbing TV to make you feel out of sorts.

I spent the entire day out of bed and away from the TV yesterday. In rediscovering the joy that comes with a good read, I feel like I found myself again. I am able to read now because I have been off the pain medication for several days and my brain has cleared. Another thing I tell my students is that if you love to read, you are never bored. So, I am off to read another one of the books Kimberly sent me. If you're reading, Kimberly....thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who is this woman?

I woke up this morning, feeling good and ready to have a somewhat normal day. I got up, opened some mail, answered some emails, drank a cup of tea...and threw up. It has been 6 weeks today since surgery and a week tomorrow since chemo. I should not be this nauseous all the time. It is debilitating. I have been in bed now for 6 weeks, and boy is it getting old. Getting up = getting sick.

This is why I have been hibernating. I don't feel much like talking, either on the phone or in person. I only really feel OK when I'm in my bed. I have not been walking because it makes me feel too sick. Although I am off the pain medication, I still have no interest in reading, which is most unlike me.

I don't know who this nauseous, non-reading, non-exercising, TV addict is, and I'm not sure I like her much. I hope she doesn't stick around much longer...

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weathering the Storm

I am feeling pretty good today, after yesterday's chemo. My white cell count is down, however, so today I go in for a Neulasta shot. It causes the bone marrow to produce new white cells, so it makes your bones ache. Reminds me of Harry Potter, spending the night in the infirmary regrowing his arm bone with "skeleton grow." At least mine won't be that painful!!

Casey told me yesterday that I am much stronger than he would be in my place. I told him that, until it happens to you, you don't really know how you will respond. Everyone admires my strength, but what is the alternative, really? Cursing my fate is counterproductive to the fight and to the healing process. I know that I am very fortunate to have had a very strong mother who modeled strength, every day of her life. It is she who taught me, through example, to be strong. I thank her for that and I know she is with me now, offering comfort and cheering me on.

I have come a long way. I had some serious health issues as an infant and small child that involved lots of doctor's visits. I was so afraid of doctors they tell me I would scream whenever I saw a man wearing a white coat, no matter what the circumstance. Having blood taken was always a terrifying ordeal for me. Now, after all I've been through, needles are no big deal. I've had a tube coming out my neck, a tube coming out of my nose, countless blood draws, daily shots in my stomach while in the hospital, chemo going into my stomach through a port, and now also a port in my chest to save my poor, abused veins. None of this phases me. It's what I have to do to survive, so it's worth it.

I don't rail at fate, get angry that the monster is after me (taken from one of Casey's songs), or fear I will lose my battle. I feel strong and confident that I am on the right path. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I will get through this, with the help and love of my husband, friends, family, and all of the students who love me. The amount of love coming my way every day keeps me going.

"So here I am, just waiting for this storm to pass me by. That's the sound of sunshine, coming down..."Michael Franti, of course!!

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Birthday Blessings

Despite spending part of my birthday at my oncologist's office, and despite feeling pretty crappy yesterday, it was an amazing birthday. The day began with a dozen gorgeous roses and a heart felt card from my wonderful husband. I can't say enough about how amazing he is and how much he does for me. He is my rock. The cancer journey has deepend our love in unexpected ways. I do not know how I would get through this without him.

This was my first birthday on Facebook, and I really enjoyed all the birthday messages from friends and family. I treasure the connections I find there.

My room is full of flower and balloon bouquets, many of which were placed on our porch while we were at the doctor's office. So many cards, phone calls, emails....I feel so blessed.

I spent my 40th birthday at the funeral of a dear friend. I spent my 50th battling cancer. I plan to be somewhere doing something fabulous on my 60th!! Meanwhile, big love back to everyone who sent it my way yesterday and every day.

"Love is all you need..."   Jill

Monday, October 18, 2010


I went into this recurrence full of hubris, thinking I had two years of yoga, yogaflirt, and lots of physical and spiritual strength behind me. My attitude was "I can take it" and "I'm going to kick cancer's sorry ass." What I failed to realize was the cancer had that same two years to regroup and gain strength. My doctors thought the surgery would be much easier and that there was much less cancer. We were all wrong. This time, one of the tumors had attached itself to my colon via my blood vessels. This made for a difficult surgery and meant cutting my colon and then putting it back together. They had to remove a lymph node from my right leg, at the crease where your leg meets your body. This involved cutting through the muscle and replacing the muscle with mesh. When I walk, it feels like the skin on my leg is not long enough and it's painful. The skin on my belly also feels a few inches too short. This makes walking difficult, and I'm supposed to be walking to regain my strength. Ugh. I do my best, but I am not walking as much as I did the first time around.

I've had one chemo treatment so far. It is much lighter chemo than last time - I maxed out on Taxol and can't have it again. The nausea the next few days was debilitating. The medicine to control it makes me sleep, and it has not been unusual for me to sleep almost around the clock. This is why I have not been writing, answering phone calls, and seeing many visitors. I am either asleep or miserable!

Still, I am strong, and I will get though this. Casey is an amazing caregiver. Every day I am grateful that he is here with me, every step of the way. Susan has been coming once a week to clean, grocery shop, etc. Sydney comes every weekend she can to give Casey a break, do laundry and errands, and keep me company. Nurse Linda came my first week home and got me eating and helped control the nausea - nurses are angels and I'm glad she's our friend. I appreciate all of the messages, cards, emails, prayers, yoga intentions, etc. I'm feelin' the love and it helps me stay strong.

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. I will be celebrating it by going to see my oncologist and having a blood draw before my second chemo the following day. I think this birthday will end up being celebrated in the spring - it's my birthyear instead!

Namaste, Jill

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Power of Love

Yoga, part two will resume after my soon as I can sit up and type! I go in for surgery tomorrow morning at 7:15, which means we have to arrive at the hospital at 5:15!! We are ready to dive in and tackle this beast and put it behind us, though, so it's a good thing.

Power to the Peaceful was amazing, as usual. There were 70,000 people this year, which is about 10,000 more than last year. It seems the band "Rebolution" brought in the teens and twenty-somethings. It got very crowded when they played, but then opened back up when Michael and Spearhead played. Things got a little dicey for awhile, but my sister-in-law Chrissy was my fierce protector and kept me in a safe, blissful bubble. Thanks, Chrissy - you rock! I was surrounded by the love of my friends and family and it was amazing. It was also a bit too much for me. I didn't make it to the show at the Fillmore Saturday night. The day wore me out and I can't believe I actually missed seeing Franti because all I wanted was my bed.

Sunday we went to the Fillmore for yoga with Sean Corn - what a beautiful, warm spirit she has. Ran into her in the ladies room and had a nice chat. She was lovely. I did as much of the yoga as I could, but I was still feeling exhausted. Listening to Michael Franti play acoustic music during the class was blissful. Afterward he was out mingling with his fans as he always does. I took my warrior goddess self right up to him (Bulldogged right past the shyer people who were waiting) and was rewarded with a big, loving hug. Then I told him about my cancer recurrence and that I delayed my surgery until after PTTP. I got a second, bigger, longer, hug out of that - oh yeah, cancer gift! Then he asked me my name and handed me his guitar pick. If anyone has major pull with the universe it's this beautiful, peace loving man who has given us all so much beautiful music. That guitar pick is going to become a necklace at some point. Michael Karma!

Sunday night I lounged on Richard and Brandon's couches, ate a meal worthy of a 5 star restaurant prepared by Brandon, then watched slides of the trip to Europe Richard and I took together in 1981. That was an awesome summer, and I was so lucky to share it with Richard. Their home is beautiful and so relaxing for me - just what I needed last night.

Today I saw my surgeon, then went to the hospital to have blood drawn. Now we are at the Best Western in Redwood City. Casey is having food for me tonight or for the next few days. Tonight I get to do the "bowel prep." I'll leave that up to your imagination...

I'll post again when I can. Going into this surrounded by love, peace, healing energy, and two hugs from Michael. Power to the Peaceful!! Namaste, Jill

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yoga, Part One

My yoga journey is all mixed in with my cancer journey. Prior to 2007, I had not had a positive experience in a yoga class. My experience was limited, but it seemed too slow, too calm. For 27 years,  I was at the gym 5 to 7 days a week, doing high impact aerobics! I loved it, it kept me healthy, and it was fun.

In 2007 I went to the Power to the Peaceful concert for the first time. The show is at Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. It begins Saturday morning with a yoga class from 9:00 - 10:00 am, followed by a second yoga class from 10:00-11:00. My first year I was very ill. I thought I was suffering from interstitial cystitis, a condition I had in my 20's. It is not unusual for it to go into remission and recur later in life, and the symptoms were the same. So, I parked Stella Blue (My VW van with a pop top) near the show and made up the downstairs bed. Yes - she has an upstairs bed, too!! I was feeling so bad I did not expect to make it through the show, which lasts all day. I took my beach chair and prepared to watch my friends practice yoga, because I wasn't into it and because I was feeling so bad. There were about 200 people there, and 199 of them were on a mat, practicing yoga. It felt wrong to sit and watch, so I grabbed an extra mat and positioned myself next to Amt but with my mat staggered behind hers so I could mimic her. I didn't know a Warrior II from a Child's Pose! I followed along with Amy and I did the complete two hours. Afterward...I felt better than I had in a really, really long time. I not only made it through the show, I danced all day long and then went to the Fillmore that night to see Michael Franti again and danced until around 1 am!!

I could not believe that two hours of Yoga could do so much for me. I came home determined to find Yoga teacher. Being the Humboldt County Hippie Chick that I am at heart, I wanted the total spiritual Yoga experience, not just Yoga in a health club. Just a few weeks after the show, I received a post card in my mailbox, announcing the opening of a Yoga Studio in Atascadero! I asked, and the universe sent me Yoga in the Vines and its fabulous owner, Cathy. I went to a class the day she opened the studio, and my real Yoga journey began. Since the studio was new, in the beginning I had many private classes with Cathy because only I came to class. I not only received lots of one on one teaching, I gained a friend who has enriched my life. I practiced with Cathy from October 2007 until December 2008 when my cancer was first diagnosed. I had been sick for two years but misdiagnosed. That year of practicing with Cathy gave me the strength, both physically and spiritually, to stay strong and positive and to fight. Cathy gave me private classes throughout my treatment, which kept me strong, centered and positive.

I find  have more to say on this subject but not enough time to write, so next post will be Yoga, Part Two. Casey and I are heading off to Power to the Peaceful this afternoon, so we have a fun and friend filled few days ahead of us, and then surgery Tuesday. I may not post again until after I get home from the hospital, which will be Sunday, September 19. Send me all of your love and positive, healing energy - especially on the 14th.

Namaste, Jill