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