Sunday, May 29, 2011

I don't Mean to Whine, but UGH!

I'm going to try to stay up this morning long enough to write. After four days without a treatment, you'd think I'd feel at least a bit better. I actually feel worse. I have thrown up twice this week, so not my favorite thing to do. I am beginning to question the value of this treatment. Dr. Spillane (my wonderful oncologist) said to us "At some point we stop the treatment and let your immune system take over the fight." This makes good sense to me. The radiation is destroying my immune system, it's making me physically weak (I canceled yoga twice last week), and it is weakening my spirit. I don't feel well enough to read, and that has always been my salvation. Too much TV is not good for the spirit. I think maybe it's time for my immune system to take over, but Casey really thinks I should stick this out.

When I finish the radiation, Dr. Spillane gave me a drug that inhibits estrogen. It will make my menopausal symptoms worse, but there has been some success in using it to keep ovarian cancer at bay. I'll trade hot flashes for vomiting any day.

Dr. Oz did a show last Thursday on Ovarian cancer. If you missed it, you can watch it on his site. I recommend you do. Apparently he did a similar show a few years ago and women went to their doctors and got a diagnosis based on what he told them. I wish I'd seen it. He confirmed what I've been hearing, which is that all ovarian cancer started in the fallopian tubes. While it seems the more times you ovulate the higher your risk, young girls and women with multiple pregnancies get it, too. They say being on the pill for at least 5 years reduces your risk by 50%, but women who have been on the pill for years get it, too. It's the 4th killer of women in the U.S., yet very little is known about it.

Anyway. I'm going to attempt to walk around the block with Casey and the dogs this morning. I'm going to hope my breakfast stays down. I'll inevitably end up back in bed, watching my Google TV and trying not to go out of my mind with boredom. I feel best in bed, and I don't feel like doing anything. I'm working really hard on keeping my spirits up and staying positive. Throughout this journey, I have not really had to work at it before this. This is why I'm thinking radiation may be doing more harm than good.

Send some of your love and positive thoughts Casey's way. This is really hard on him. He is having to make all the meals, do all the dishes, grocery shopping, dog care, work full time...and try to find some time for himself. He is a prince and I can't imagine doing this without him.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Diificult Blood Draw and my Idol Opinion

I had to go in for a another blood draw today because my platelets are low. Two nurses tried unsuccessfully to access my port, which is sometimes problematic, with no success. That was two sticks, but I put my lidocaine cream on beforehand so no pain. Then the nurse tried my right arm, also with no success. Ten she had someone from the lab come in. She tried my left arm, with no success. She finally managed to get it from my left hand. All together it took 5 sticks. These things no longer bother me, nor do they really hurt. I felt bad for the nurses, who had trouble through no fault of their own. They are all angels, as always.

Now that I have started sleeping, it's all I want to do. I took a 4 hour nap yesterday and I slept 9 hours last night. I would be sleeping right now but Maria and her son Gordon are cleaning my bedroom and bathroom. Maria is another one of my angels. I'm on the couch, writing this with my laptop propped up on a pillow. It's not easy so please excuse the inevitable typos.

A word on Idol. Haley took all the pizazz with her when she left. I found last night's show to be pretty boring. I enjoyed Lauren's last song to her mom, but I wouldn't download the single. America chooses two wholesome, Christian teens...yet Lady Gaga earned 90 million last year. Chris Allen won because Adam Lambert was too flamboyant for America, but he was boring and he bores me whenever he comes back to perform. I guess you have to ask who is doing the voting? It's not me, that's for sure. I doubt if it's my generation. Scotty is sweet, I like his voice, but every song is starting to sound the same. Ho, hum. If I got to pick, ( I know, I can't complain when I don't vote) the top two would have been James and Haley, and last night would have been a rockin' good time. I know that Haley, James, Casey and Pia will all go on to have big careers. Yesterday I asked my Casey if he remembered who won last year and he had no idea. We remember Crystal, though. We've seen her on TV a bunch of times, and Michael invited her to play at Power to the Peaceful last year, so we saw her live. She was, apparently too edgy for the Idol audience. I don't get it. Lady Gaga grosses 90 mil, but you have to be bland and inoffensive to win Idol. Are the people casting the votes not the people following Gaga on Twitter and downloading her music? Just wondering!

In the absence of Haley, I'm rooting for Lauren. I'll download Haley's album when she releases it on itunes, though. I predict she will outshine them all!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Z is for Sleeping and for Zapping

Cathy is so wise, and I'm so lucky to have her in my life. I told her I was staying awake during the days for fear it would make the nights even worse. She explained that when I do that, my body produces adrenaline and then at night I can't sleep because of it. She advised me to sleep whenever my body wants to and then sleep will come easier at night. She's right! I slept the weekend away. Yesterday I was up long enough to have something to eat and write my blog, then I went back to sleep. I slept until 3:00 in the afternoon and went back to sleep at 9:30 and slept until 7:00 this morning. My nausea went from a 9 (scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst) down to a 3. It will escalate when I go back for treatment this afternoon, but for now I am up, drinking my milky coffee and doing laundry. Thanks for your wisdom, yoga angel. You rock!

I haven't had a treatment since Friday, so Monday is my best day. I'm excited that next weekend is Memorial Day, so I will have three days to recover and I'll feel good on Tuesday! A lot of old friends are coming to town next weekend, and it would be nice if my nausea wasn't at a 9 while they're here. I know I'm going to have to miss all of the bands playing at Sweet Springs (Rockin' Down Memory Lane), but hopefully I'll feel up to dinner with everyone Saturday night. If you are part of the Rock n' Roll group of friends from the '80's and you're reading this, dinner at my house on June 4. I won't be the one cooking, I'll be the one huddled in a chair trying to control my nausea.

I continue to be grateful for my yoga teachers, my village, my wonderful husband, my king sized bed and my Google TV. These people and things are getting me through this. The middle of this week will mark the half way point for this treatment. The end of this treatment will mark the end of my cancer treatment, forever. I do not intend to go through this again. Every time I have a radiation treatment, I visualize beams zapping the cancer into oblivion and creating fireworks that go out int the universe and harmlessly disintegrate into nothingness. Radiation is so harsh that I don't see how the cancer could survive.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Still Here on May 22!

I have radiation treatment M-F and then have the weekend to recover. Yesterday I felt worse than I have all week, but today I do feel better. I managed to get some natural sleep last night, although I was up five times to pee - side effect of the radiation, I assume. I was awake at 4 and my belly was empty, which makes it hard to sleep. I ate yesterday, but I didn't manage to finish anything. I get to the point where I know I can't swallow another bite without it coming back up. So, at 4 am I had half a bagel and a glass of milk. Then I took two Ativan, which is both an anti-nausea and an anti-anxiety sedative, and I slept until 11! That is unheard of, for me. I woke up feeling better than I have since this started. I had coffee for the first time, if you can call it that. In my large cup is about 5% very weak acid-free coffee, mixed in with 95% hot milk. You can see why I call it "Milky coffee." I get a little bit of coffee flavor without upsetting my stomach. I ate two toaster waffles with cream cheese and apple butter, and that is the most I've eaten since this started. My doctor has been very concerned about my weight, and I have now gone down another pound for a total of six. It makes my ports stick out even more!

I have had to temporarily abandon my anti-cancer diet. Right now it's about whatever I can manage to swallow. At a certain point, my throat rebels and there's no way another bite is getting through. Everything that Casey offers me sounds disgusting. I really can't tell if I can manage something until I try. A dish that works one day repulses me the next. I have not been eating any dairy for months, but now I find that a large glass of organic milk soothes my stomach and makes me feel better. I've also been eating Haagen Daaz mango sherbert. It's not sweet enough to make me sick, it just makes me feel good. I eat it in very small amounts - in a Fiesta tea cup.

Two weeks down and four to go. This is the real test of my strength. I know I have to power through this to find my permanent remission, but sometimes I wonder how I'm going to be able to stick it out. I keep reminding myself that I felt much worse during the two months after the surgery when I didn't get out of bed and had no contact with just a few people - mostly Casey.

Casey helps me to hang on. He is so good to me, and so cheerful all of the time. His strength lends itself to mine, and together we are facing the cancer beast down. I believe I am meant to survive this, and that the universe gave me the tools I need to do so: Casey, Yoga, Cathy, Jean, The Wellness Kitchen, Dr. Spillane, my always positive and wonderful oncologist, Dr. O'Hanlan, my wonderful surgeon, Dr. Prewitt, who saved my life by referring me to Dr. O'Hanlan, all of the many wonderful nurses we have encountered, and of course, the family, friends and colleagues who make up my village. These are the things and the people that keep me strong. I can't believe this has taken the entire school year. I am so excited to get back into my classroom in August and start my life again!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Zappin' that Nasty Cancer

I really liked Dani's comment after yesterday's post: "Having an intention that is specific and devotional is the most amazing way to fight for or against ANYTHING!" Wise words from a wise woman. I have been using visualization and putting my desire to beat this cancer into my yoga intentions from the beginning. It was Cathy, my yoga angel, who told me I need to be very specific. Not just to beat cancer, but to beat it for good. Every day on the table, when the radiation beam goes on, I visualize rays zapping the cancer cells into oblivion. There are explosions going on in my imagination. At night when I am having trouble sleeping, I repeat a mantra to myself - My cancer is gone, and it is gone forever. I know there are many people out there putting me into their yoga intentions and praying for me. I believe this helps. The more positive energy going out into the universe on my behalf, the better. I appreciate everyone who is helping me out in this way.

I put a post on the ovarian cancer list serve, asking for advice on dealing with this radiation. A woman responded, and gave me the email address of a woman who dealt with it and has not had a recurrence since 1999. She said she only knows of two women who have had radiation, but both of them have not needed any other treatment since. So good to hear, particularly after another night of little sleep.

I have been afflicted with insomnia for years. It used to be that it only happened if, for some reason, I didn't get enough exercise. I have always been a high energy person. Even at 40, in the summer there were days where I would go to two aerobic classes, take my dogs hiking on the trail, and then go dancing at night. Most days, when I'm well, I 'll go to a yoga class and take my dog for a walk or a hike. Right now I am struggling a bit with yoga and yesterday my walk was half its usual length. I felt awful afterward. I am spending the majority of my time in bed, watching streaming Netflix shows on my Google TV. At night, the only way I can sleep is to take an Ambien. Ambien puts me to sleep for 3 1/2 to 4 hours and then I'm tossing and turning. They gave me 12.5 milligram time released Ambien and the pharmacist said it would put most people out for 20 hours. We had to pay for it because insurance refused, and it was around $200. It doesn't work any better than the regular 10 mg variety. I spend a lot of time at night repeating my affirmation and listening to the sounds of a sleeping husband and two sleeping dogs.

I will be so glad when all of this is over, and I can go back to the yoga studio on a daily basis, go back to Yoga Flirt, go back to hiking the trail with Bella, and in general just go back to having a life. Alfredo, the very sweet radiation tech, apologized to me yesterday for "Having to do this to you." I told him that, as hard as it is, if it saves me from ever having another recurrence/surgery it would be worth it. I'm thrilled to hear about two women who went down this path and found their long term remission.

With most cancers, five years NED (no evidence of disease) takes you from remission to cure. This is not true with ovarian and fallopian tube cancer. We have to remain vigilant for the rest of our lives. Even after five years, it's in remission but not cured. It can, and often does, recur at any time. This is why my intentions and affirmations must be very specific. Those of you are who sending out those positive vibes on my behalf, in whatever form, I would ask that you be specific. I will beat this cancer, and it will NEVER come back, either as a recurrence or as a secondary cancer. Unfortunately, the chemo and the radiation cause cancer, so a secondary cancer is a risk, too. Oh, the irony of it all.

Many technologies from Star Trek have come true. I'm hoping for a transporter, where they can program out the cancer cells before sending you through.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Not So Silent Killer

Yesterday I finished reading a book that was written by women who survived ovarian cancer. Every woman's story is different, but they all had symptoms at an early stage. Doctors call it the "silent disease" because they think it has no overt symptoms. One of the main points that the book makes is that this is a misconception, and if doctors investigated more thoroughly, most women would be diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. It is the #4 killer of women simply because of the late stage diagnoses. A vaginal ultrasound, a CT scan, a rectal exam, or a CA125 could make the difference between life and death. It affects women of all ages, often with no cancer in their families. One particularly harrowing account was from a woman who was diagnosed while her baby was being delivered by c-section. What was inspiring for me is that many of the women were diagnosed at stage IIIC or IV, the final two stages, and they survived. I was diagnosed at IIIC, but I had symptoms for a few years before I was diagnosed. I have to question the quality of American medical schools when doctors are so ignorant about this disease and in most schools they receive no instruction in nutrition at all. There is a program where ovarian cancer survivors speak to medical school students to familiarize them with the symptoms of the disease. I wish there was one near us so I could get involved. Women, parents and doctors need to be educated about this so more women can survive. There needs to be a more reliable screening test than the CA125 so that every woman can be screened annually. I have so many friends whose mothers died of ovarian or fallopian tube cancer. The treatment has improved, so more women survive today, but I can tell you the treatment is hell. The surgery is hell, the chemo is hell, the radiation is's all hell. I intend to be one of the women who survive.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rambling Thoughts

Here's me doing Bakasana, or crow pose:

Recently I rediscovered Bakasana and am gradually holding it longer each time. My cousin Becca did it on her first try! It's harder than it looks. Did you see Conan trying to do it? His guest had ripped arms and she said all she does is yoga. The uninitiated tend to think yoga is gentle, non-cardio, and probably easy. It's much harder than anything I ever did in a gym, it makes you sweat, it gets your heart rate up, it feels fantastic, and it gives you an awesome body - yoga butts are the best!! Add to that the mental and spiritual benefits and it's magical. So grateful for Michael Franti and his yoga at Power to the Peaceful, because that's where it all started.

Michael is going to tour with Casey's hero - Carlos Santana. Hoping they add another CA show - only one so far is Chula Vista.

Can you tell I'm feeling better? Either my body is adjusting to the radiation or I finally got enough Zofran into me. I still feel nauseous, but yesterday I was able to get out of bed and do the laundry. I have today off to recover because my doctor was concerned that I wasn't handling it well. I'm grateful, but I will probably do five days next week. Skipping days adds more time to the end. Ugh.

I keep finding TV shows that I like in Netflix that are canceled after a season, or in one case after only 7 episodes. I finished the first season of Flashforward last night. It ended on a cliffhanger, or course, and then I discover it was canceled. I had to put the book it was based on onto my Kindle. I think there are so many channels, and so many shows, that people don't know about them. Personally, I think it was better when there were just a few channels and people had one TV. TV was family time, everyone watched together, and everyone watched the same shows. There's a lot of crap on. Most of my students have a TV in their room and I think that's bad! We have HBO and we rarely watch it. They run the same movies over and over and they tend to be movies we didn't want to see in the first place. My sister-in-law, Tracy, introduced me to Doctor Who. I can't believe I never knew about it before! If you like Sci Fi, it's great. It's apparently the longest running show on BBC. It's campy and I love it! I DVR'd it for Tracy and now it's taking over our DVR - it's on constantly. How did I miss this?

Time to go do a yoga session with Jean and Rachel. I will feel even better about 9:30. Yoga, yoga, yoga!!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Missing Out and Looking Forward

Mondays I go to the hospital to have blood drawn from my port and I see the doctor after treatment. It was the first time anyone has accessed my port without numbing it first and it hurt! Next week I'll be using the lidocaine my nurse Shannon gave me before I go in. At the oncologist's office they use cold spray that instantly numbs it. but hospitals don't have it for some reason. It takes the lidocaine 45 minutes to work, so the other alternative is a shot. Hmmm, a needle to get numb for the needle. Seems silly, so Shannon gave me lidocaine for my belly port. Anyway. The radiation tech put me on the scale yesterday, saw the number and said "Have you been eating?" It's getting a bit better, but it's still a challenge. The doctor is giving me Wednesday off this week since I'm having such a hard time. He also said we could do every other week, but that would make it last twice as long.

Yesterday was not as bad, probably because of my private yoga class with Jean. He'll be back tomorrow and Cathy will be here Friday. It never ceases to amaze me, how much yoga helps.

I am missing out on so much that's coming up, and it's breaking my heart. My very first AVID class is graduating from high school, and I'm going to miss it. Thursday night is the night where they honor the "Top 30" seniors, chosen by the teachers. Katie asked me to attend and sit on stage with her. Last night she sent me part of the speech that Ed Cabrera (AHS teacher) will be giving about her that's about me. It touched me deeply and made me cry. Many of my 8th graders have asked me to be at their promotion and I will be missing that, too. My friend Amelia is retiring and I'm going to miss her party. In June a large group of old friends are coming to town and having a 30 years later reunion. I've been looking forward to it, and I doubt I will be able to make it.

Enough whining! As hard as this is, it is part of the battle to Kick Cancer's Butt. It will be over mid-June, I have a great trip north with Casey, David and Chris to look forward to, and, best of all - I get to go back to work in August!! It will be like being a first year teacher or being at a new school in some ways - I won't know any of the kids on campus! I can't wait to have a brand new crop of students, and thinking about them keeps me going. I am so glad I was smart enough to choose teaching as my profession. It's the most rewarding thing I can imagine doing.

Last night I watched the last episode of the first season of Glee, where they sing "To Sir with Love" to their teacher. That song always makes me cry. It's a beautiful depiction of the teacher/student relationship.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Poisoned Cake

It's Monday morning and this is the best I can expect to feel, not having had a treatment since Friday. I made it through half of a bagel before my stomach rebelled. Last night I ate a baked potato and then felt horrible for a few hours before my stomach settled down. I'm going to ask to see the doctor after my torture session this afternoon. I'm hoping he has some stronger medication or advice to get me through this. He said this treatment would take between 3-6 weeks, depending on how I tolerate it. Based on the first week, I'm hoping for 3. awful as this is, it's not as bad as surgery. If this keeps me from having another surgery, it's worth it.

Another question I'd like answered is this: I have most of the risk factors for ovarian cancer, such as infertility, taking fertility drugs without conceiving, and menstruating early. Apparently the more times you ovulate the higher the risk. Fertility drugs force your body to ovulate more than normal. Did they know this twenty years ago, and if so why didn't my doctor tell me of the risk at the time? Another risk factor is if you pee a lot. When symptoms started showing up, the urologist asked me how many times a day I peed. I calculated 20-25. I was shocked to discover that 4-5 is normal. That's just not something you tend to discuss with other people. Why didn't my urologist or my gynecologist at the time know this was a sign of ovarian cancer? A CT scan and a CA125 2 or 3 years earlier would have made a hugs difference in how advanced the cancer was. This is why it's such a killer - most women are diagnosed at a late stage, like I was. Women, learn from my experience and pay attention to these things in yourself and in your daughters. Demand a scan and a CA125 if you have any doubts at all. The gynecologist I was seeing at the time wanted me to have a hysterectomy - he said that in his opinion, every woman should have one when she is past child bearing age or is infertile,because of the risk of ovarian cancer. I thought he was nuts - I sure wish I'd listened. I found a new doctor the day I was sitting across his desk from him and he said "Are you new patient or have I seen you before?" He had been my doctor for ten years. I found myself a new doctor, and she was fresh out of medical school. She discovered the cancer, and I was her first. She cried when she told Casey. She will never ask me if I'm a new patient!

I am in a better frame of mind than I was yesterday. As usual, my village rocks. I appreciate the supportive messages and emails. I realize I said something that was incorrect - I cried when I told Casey the cancer was back, and I cried when I told the teachers. So, three times...not too bad, considering. It's harder to stay positive when I'm in bed all the time and food makes me sick, but I can do it with the love and support of my friends.

Jean is coming this morning for some yoga, and I am hoping it works its usual magic and makes me feel good, or at least better. I have two privates with Jean and one with Cathy scheduled, and if anything can help, my yoga teachers can.

I now have to go to Twin Cities hospital to have my blood drawn every Monday. Radiation has more effect on blood counts than chemo. Apparently there are oncology nurses there who can access my port, but there's no way to tell how long it will take, so we'll have to go out twice today. I find myself wondering why the women on the Ovarian Cancer Alliance web site told me that radiation was easier for them compared to chemo, when it is so much harder on me. One woman said it was a "piece of cake" for her. My cake seems to be poisoned!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hanging on, barely

Right now, my battle is simply eating and getting out of bed. Food is not at all appetizing, in fact, it's nauseating. Yesterday I managed a bagel and a bowl of soup. I've had 5 treatments and I've lost 5 lbs. If I can't eat, and I can't get out of bed, I will become weak and it will be harder to fight. I feel a bit better today and I managed a bowl of cream of wheat. I did the dishes and I'm sitting at the kitchen table. These are big victories, for now. Casey is going to the store to get me some liquid meals - smoothies and Carnation Instant Breakfast, for example. I'm going to have to not worry about sugar for a little while, in favor of keeping my strength up. The Carnation Instant Breakfast has sugar in it, but it's also got a lot of nutrients. It's basically the same thing as Ensure at half the price. If I keep going the way I have been, I'll weigh 110 at the end and I'll look like a skeleton. I got down to 125 during my first battle and I looked pretty bad. So, cream of wheat, smoothies, CIB, maybe even ice cream. I'll worry about sugar being "cancer fertilizer" later.

Every day I read posts from women on the Ovarian Cancer Alliance. Yesterday I read one by a 22 year old girl who will never have babies. Another woman was venting that she can't talk to her husband, and that he was complaining that when she had long, blond hair everyone told him how pretty his wife was, but now that her hair is short and gray they don't. I have always been grateful for Casey and his support, but that made me even more so! He takes such good care of me, and he's always there for me.

I confess I'm having more trouble than usual remaining positive. I cried for awhile last night, and believe it or not that's the first time I've cried because of the cancer. The battle is going on for so long this time, and I feel so weak and so sick. Being unable to eat is very dispiriting. I feel weak and hungry, but then I take a bite and I can't swallow. There have always been breaks in the chemo where I felt pretty normal. It looks like I am going to be sick until after this radiation ends. While I am better today, I am nauseated and I doubt I'll be up for long.

OK, enough whining. It poured last night and was apparently windy. The umbrella was in our outdoor table, and this morning the glass is in shattered pieces all over the ground. A big mess for poor Casey to deal with, and he'll have to do it soon to keep Ben and Bella safe. His mountain bike is in the shop and he really needs a ride for the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. He is my rock, but he also has to be his own rock.

I've been up for an hour or so and it's long enough. Thank goodness for my Google TV, or I would be going out of my mind!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Radiation Sucks

My doctors and the women on the Ovarian Cancer Alliance all told me that radiation is not as bad as chemo. In my case, they were wrong. I started feeling sick on the way home from my first treatment and have felt nauseous since. I have already, after 3 treatments, puked more than I did the entire time I was doing chemo. To manage it, I'll have to stay on the anti-nausea meds 24/7 until this is over. They make me sleep. Except for going to treatment yesterday, I slept around the clock. I'm back in the tunnel again and it isn't fun. I forced myself to get up and eat some breakfast, but it was tough. Food is pretty revolting to me right now. They tell me it will get worse and time and treatments go on. I see too much weight loss in my future.

I will probably not be writing every day through this. This is hard, after the relatively easy chemo with breaks where I felt good. As a matter of fact, I'm going back to bed now because my breakfast made me nauseous.

Radiation. Ugh.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Gayle Price Pentoney

My beautiful mother was born a Texan in 1928. She was in high school during World War II, and she was a very modern woman. She attended SMU (Southern Methodist University) for awhile, but ended up working as the secretary for a rich oil man. She shared an apartment in Dallas with her friend Irene and didn't marry my dad until she was 26. She was engaged to someone else when she met him. His movie star good looks and California lifestyle swept her off her feet and they married not long after they met. She went from Dallas to living at the beach in San Diego in a heartbeat. They eloped, and she had to go back to Dallas to break up with her fiance after she was married!

Mom should have finished college and had a career. She was fiercely intelligent, had a quick wit and a wickedly funny sense of humor. She made friends easily and quickly and her heart was infinite. Growing up, our friends always wanted to hang out at our house because mom was so cool. Mom and dad took our friends into their home and hearts and unofficially adopted some of them, especially those who lost a parent. Mom's daddy died when she was little, and she always reached out to anyone who suffered a similar fate. Jennie, Chris, and Tommy are our unofficial siblings. My friends Carrie and Pam both lived with us at different times, and so did Tommy. Many of our friends would show up at Dolbeer St when we weren't home, to spend time with mom. When she moved to San Clemente, she joined the Women's Club and the Friends of the library. Soon she knew everyone in town, had scores of friends, and was running the used bookstore that was helping to fund the library. She started the hugely successful buck-a-bag sale on Sundays during the Farmer's Market. After dad had the stroke, she ran his office for about a year. She was his main secretary already, and there were lawyer friends of theirs who helped when something involved an appearance. Dad was a workman's comp lawyer so much of the work involved getting people into see doctors and into retraining programs. Anyway, dad was always more interested in fly-fishing than anything else, and he never pressed clients for payment. The year mom took over she made a lot more money than he ever had.

The heat was in pipes of hot water than ran underneath the floor on Dolbeer St. At night when mom would cook dinner, I would lie on the warm kitchen floor and talk to her. She would have to step over me as she moved from the sink to the stove. It must have been annoying, but she never told me to get lost or complained. She patiently talked to me as she cooked around me. Now I feel rather guilty that I didn't get off my backside and help her. The kitchen floor and early mornings at the ranch are my favorite memories of her. Mom and I always got up earlier than David and Joyce and usually dad, or else he would be gone fishing. When we were at the ranch we would walk out onto the bridge, mom with a steaming cup of coffee. We'd stand while, looking down into the crystal clear water at the fish swimming below. Then we'd walk across the bridge and sit on the rocks above the river on the other side, still watching the fish and talking quietly. I loved having her to myself, before the day began and everyone else was up.

She gave me my love of reading, and it was something we always shared. She introduced me to Shakespeare long before I encountered him in School. She took me to plays at College of the Redwoods often. She loved poetry and wrote her own as well as reading it. Many of her favorite things became mine and shaped my life. I never rebelled against her or went through a period when I thought I knew more than she did like most teenage girls do. I always knew she was special, she was wise, and she was wonderful. When I looked around I realized that everyone loved her. She kept friends for life and she was constantly making new ones.

When mom was still living in California, I called her every day. If I had a question about something, I tended to go to her first. I went to her first to celebrate my accomplishments and to read her my poetry. I went to see her monthly and we spent every Mother's Day together from the time she moved to San Clemente until she moved to Hawaii, and later Tahiti, with Joyce. Joyce was even in town one Mother's Day and all three of us went to brunch at the Country Club in San Clemente.

By the end of her life mom was tiny. She was shorter than me and I could wrap my arms around her almost twice. I was able to go see her three times during her last year. David, Cate and I went in August of 2009. David and I went back during my spring break 2010 and I went back alone after school got out and stayed a month. Although she was suffering from vascular dementia, her eyes still sparkled a bright, beautiful blue and she was lucid during the daytime and still wickedly funny.

I don't claim to know exactly what happens to us after we die, but I know it isn't the end. I have felt both of my parents with me since they passed, at various times. I talk to them both and I feel that they know this. It's not the same, of course, but it comforts me.

I started this yesterday, for Mother's Day, but felt bad and ended up sleeping most of the day and night. So, Mom, this is for you. Happy Mother's Day. I hope you spent it fly-fishing with dad in a heavenly stream.

I love you.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Good Things Come in Threes!

Yesterday was a very special day. Casey say if he had known how wonderful and rewarding it is to be a teacher he would have chosen that path. He says this because of my students and how they reach out to me, and that's what made yesterday special.

First, I checked the mail and there was an envelope from AJHS. Inside was a letter from Allise Jeffries, one of my current students that I am missing out on. She wrote me a lovely letter, telling me her grandmother's cancer is in remission and she hopes mine is, too. Then she said "You changed the way I look at people, in a good way." That means the world to me. We spent the first two weeks of school (and the only time I was there) doing Challenge Day activities. This is to break down barriers, stop the bullying, and teach them tolerance for others. It's good to know that Allise got the message. I've been wondering if I want to do it again next year. I took it further this past year than I ever have before, and it was intense. There were lots of tears, and I spent break, lunch and after school with various kids who had heavy hearts. Allise validated that for me and now I know it's important that I continue this work with my kids. If you're reading, Allise, thank you so much and I love you, girl!

Second, my wonderful AVID kids and my sub, Heather Wolcott, all sent me texts on Terri Mylan's phone. Each of them sent me a sweet message, and at the end they sent me a group picture. Heather, thanks so much for letting them do this. It meant so much to me, and made me feel so loved. I love you, AVID kids!!

Third, last night I heard a knock on the door and I opened it to discover Jake and Hannah Cuen on my doorstep. Jake is in college and Hannah is in high school now, but they were both my students. They came by with their mom to bring me a gift certificate for a massage at the Spa of the Central Coast. It was so very sweet of her to think of me and purchase this for me, and it was so wonderful to see her awesome kids. I love hearing that my kids, especially smart ones like Jake, are in college. I love it when I have all of the kids in a family, too. I tend to know the parents better when this happens, and the kids also. I love Jake and Hannah, and seeing them on my doorstep made me happy.

I am so glad that I decided to become a teacher. I decided this when I was very young, and I'm not even sure exactly why. I suspect I knew, even in elementary school, that I didn't want to give up summers off and all of those other vacation days. I used to play school in my play room, teaching my stuffed animals. I wasn't a kid who loved school, except for Mr. Cloer's class 5th grade class and every English class I ever took, so it wasn't that. Whatever the reason, I'm very grateful. Being a part of the teaching community has enabled me to stay home to focus on fighting this disease, thanks to the generosity of the teachers of A-town. My insurance has covered everything but co-pays. Add to that all of the love I receive from both the teachers and my students, past and present, and I am one blessed English teacher. Loving your job makes you love your life, and I highly recommend finding something to do that you love and makes you happy. If you can make a living doing what you love to do, your life will be happy.

My life is very, very, very happy. Big love and big thanks to the wonderful teachers and kids of A-town. I love you all and you make my life complete.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Writer's Block and detoxing

I seem to be suffering from writer's block. All of the company associated with the benefit altered my schedule. I usually write first thing, as I'm having my milky coffee. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, so I buy low acid coffee from Trader Joe's and lace it liberally with rice milk. One large cappuccino cup full a day and then I switch to the cancer healing benefits of green tea or green juice. I find if I don't write at the usual time I tend not to write at all. I need to write for my sanity, so I am making it a priority. Now the problem is thinking of something to say!

You would be surprised, if you aren't a juicer, how many greens and/or veggies it takes to make a glass of juice. I mix it with water because otherwise it's too strong and it makes me nauseous. It also really detoxes, especially beet juice, so if you drink it on an empty stomach and it pulls all the toxins out it will make you sick. There are many people who have kept their cancer at bay with a plant based, organic diet and juicing.

Obviously I want to do everything I can to make sure this is my last recurrence. The two fund raisers and all of the support help me to keep this a priority. Cathy and the yoga flirt girls worked very hard on the Kicking Cancer Carnival. Chris, Sue, Lori, Johnna, Debbie, Carol...and all of the other teachers (forgive me for not naming you all. You know who you are and so do I!) also worked very hard on the benefit last weekend. I must honor their hard work and their support by doing everything in my power to get well and to stay well. It's not always easy. When we go to restaurants, there is often nothing on the menu that is vegan, especially at breakfast. If there is a vegan or vegetarian option, it's probably not going to be organic. This would be much easier if we lived in Arcata, or probably anywhere San Francisco or north of there. I will eat dairy occasionally, and meat if I'm at someone's home and they serve it to me, but it's not my preference. It's also challenging to stay away from processed sugar because it's everywhere and in everything. We don't eat processed food, so I'm doing better with this. The food from the Wellness Kitchen and our baskets of organic fruits and veggies from Nature's Harvest helps a great deal.

So, when I can't think of anything to write, if I just get going something happens! This is exactly what I tell my students - don't fear the blank page, just jump in and get started! You can always go back and fix it later.

Hope everyone is having a lovely, warm spring day. I'm off the dry brush my skin and soak in a lovely detoxing bath with baking soda and Moroccan Rose Oil by REN, a British company that makes toxin free beauty products. It makes the bath water soft and fragrant and my skin soft!

Check out these photos from last Saturday night, taken by Christine Sedley, another talented local photographer: (Sorry - you have to cut and paste. Or go to my Facebook page to see the photos!)!/media/set/?set=a.1642790962432.235227.1616600776

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Movies and Radiation

When you have cancer, everyone in your life reaches out to you, if you let them. People who don't even know me have reached out to me. Most people, unfortunately, have someone close to them who has battled cancer, or they have battled it themselves. There is way too much cancer. I was asked about my dog Bella quite a few times last Saturday night. We assume the doctor got all of the cancer, and that she is going to be fine. I still can't believe my black, very hairy dog got skin cancer.

I heard from the radiation oncologist today and I will be starting radiation treatment Monday the 9th at 3:15. I thought about waiting to see what my CA125 is, but I decided I should have the treatment regardless. It will be worth it if it works and I never have to have surgery or chemo again. I'd rather do it now than wait and start it later if the CA125 continues to rise. The most important thing to me right now, other than kicking cancer's butt for good, is going back to work in August. The next time I don't work for a school year I want it to be because I'm retiring!

Casey's mom is still here visiting and we just took her to our brand new movie theater to see Water for Elephants. Loved it! They should make more movies out of good novels, in my opinion. We saw a preview for a remake of
Conan the Barbarian...I'm sorry but, it's been done already! There's so much good literature out there, I see no need to keep remaking the same movies. I'm happy about a new version of Jane Eyre that's coming out, though, so I guess it depends on the movie! Or maybe it's OK with me if they keep remaking movies based on classic literature. Anyway, our new movie theater is beautiful and we're so happy to have movies in our town again!

I am gearing up for what feels like Battle Number Three. Fortunately I have yoga and lots of love to keep me strong.



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Wonderful Village

There has been so much going on that I haven't written in a week. Last night, when my insomnia was raging, I could feel the words bottled up inside. I need this outlet! The "It takes a village to kick cancer's butt" fundraiser was amazing. They put me on a rocking chair throne, crowned me with flowers, and showered me with love. I have never felt so much love. It's such a gift to know how loved I am, and it helps, so much. All of that love flowing into me is a big part of what keeps me strong. Casey and I are so grateful. It was Chris Molina's idea, and he and his beautiful wife, Sue (the other 8th grade English teacher) got the ball rolling. The teachers all pitched in and I can't even believe how hard everyone worked on my behalf. I love you, my AJHS family.

For those of you who weren't there, I will describe it the best I can. The winery is beautiful and it was a warm, sunny evening. As we drove in the first person I saw was Cristal Fernandez, one of my AVID students. I had to jump out of Stella and hug her, I was so excited to see her. I knew that Katie and Lyssa, also AVID students, were going to be helping, but I didn't know that Cristal, Paul, Nadia, Brenda and Cynthia were also going to be there. They are all AVID kids from our first two years of AVID. I love those kids and having them there made it even more special. We parked next to Denise Davis and her son Jake, who was also my student but is all grown up now. Jill and Meg were at the table checking people in, and they stayed there all night. You girls rock! The silent auction items were amazing and people went home with some really cool stuff - beautiful jewelry, hand made quilts, Bob Canepa photographs, baskets of wine and other goodies...amazing. Bob was our photographer, and the pictures are wonderful. He also took us out to his car and let me pick a photograph from a recent show. I picked the one of the dancing egret. It is bathed in golden light and looks like it's dancing. My mom loved egrets, and it made me think of her and feel her with me. Bob is so talented, he's just incredible. We arrived just a bit after 5:00, when the event started, but there were already lots of people there. They reserved two tables for us, and I had a rocking chair filled with comfy blankets and pillows. I don't know who thought of that, but it was genius. It really helped me to be in such a comfortable chair. Even though I feel strong, it was a big evening for me and I sat most of the time. I felt like a queen receiving her subjects, except I was receiving lots of hugs! Johnna, our art and hospitality teacher, is a wonderful cook. She and the teachers made all of the food - I believe Johnna, Debbie, Carol and Lori were in Johnna's classroom preparing food Friday night. The food was organic and delicious! Johnna even made her grandmother's yeast rolls and they were yummy! Lori, my principal, was the auctioneer for the live auction. She was like a fierce warrior up there, egging people on and encouraging them to bid higher. Lori is a formidable woman, and she is definitely someone you want on your side. It was good to see her husband, Reggie, and her son, Evan. Reggie worked at AJHS until last year, when he switched to being a groundskeeper for the district. We miss him. Evan is now a very handsome college boy, but he was my student too. With me were my brother David, his wife, Chris, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, Sydney, Yvonne, Susan, Chas, and Chris and Helen from San Diego. I really appreciate everyone making the effort to come for the event. Cathy, my beautiful yoga angel, and her husband Michael were there, too. I don't know the exact count, but I'm guessing there were about 200 people there. They haven't told me how much money was raised, but I am humbled by the love and the generosity. The music was great. Janice and her husband, Ted, played first. Ted plays guitar and Janice sings beautifully. They were awesome! The band was Level 41, and Jackie, who plays the congas, is a cancer survivor. She and her husband are in the band together, and their original music is about her cancer journey. I don't know how they found this great band with this meaningful connection, but it was cool. Jackie and I have similar attitudes toward our journeys, and I value the connection.

That old cliche "you play, you pay" proved to be true. Sunday morning I felt like I had a terrible hangover, even though of course I drank only water. My head was pounding and the nausea was raging. Casey rubbed my head and David rubbed my neck and made me his magic bubby oatmeal. I love my brother's oatmeal! I felt better by the evening, and it was well worth it. My chest port was even a bit sore from all of the hugging!

So, to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen, to everyone who attended, to everyone who donated and bid...I can never express how grateful I am and how loved you made me feel. Casey and I feel so blessed to be a part of such a giving, loving community. Thank you, from the depths of my soul and the bottom of my heart.

Here is the URL so you can see Bob's photos: