Friday, January 18, 2013

Back from blogcation and my chemo story

I’ve been absent from the blog for about a month, and some folks have started to ask me why and where I’ve been and quite startlingly if I’m still alive. I just wanted everyone to know that I’m certainly not dead, and I’m not even feeling worse than usual. I’m just living my life and following my internal compass as I navigate my healing journey. 

As the holidays approached back in December, I made the decision to take some time to focus my energy in some different and deliberate ways, and part of what I felt called to do with this was to go on a technology sabbatical. I shut off my laptop. I got off Facebook. I switched off my mobile phone. And, I went on a blogcation. This opened up some space so I could spend time with my family and friends, and with myself, in the direct practice of my healing. With the holidays, I felt called to cultivate a new quality of space in my home and mind through cleansing and de-cluttering, and to spend more time with healing practices like creativity, yoga and Reiki.

As a creative, throughout my whole life, I have always found that my process, whether that be for writing or visual arts or adventure projects or something else, requires times of introversion to complement the extroversion. Times of going inside and times of being more open and interactive are both really important. Balance is the key. I’ve learned lately that this same approach, and especially occasionally removing myself entirely from all the wonders that technology offers, are also important to my healing journey. I absolutely benefit from all the words, support and wisdom of others. But, a big part of my personal healing journey is learning, and constantly re-learning, how to stand firmly in my own power. For me, part of that means spending time alone with myself, cultivating and listening to my own voice of wisdom, free from any outside influences.

So, that’s a little about why I’ve been quiet. Thank you, so much, everyone for holding space for me, and for sending your love and compassion my way. I appreciate you all so very much, and know that you are always beside me. And, when I disappear again -- and I will -- don’t worry. That’s just how I do my life. It’s perfectly okay. It’s the way the Universe wired me, and I honor this as part of my path. I appreciate it might make you nervous. But, there’s no need to be. All is truly well. Please just hold the space for me. I’ll be back. Promise. Surely you know by now, I’m not that easy to get rid of. ;)

With that, since the biggest question I get right now is, “How’s chemo going?”, and I know there’s a lot of anxiety for folks around that, here’s a quick update on my experience.

At this point, I have to say, chemo is flying by. I finished my last two rounds of A/C chemo and my first round of T (taxol). I have only three rounds left, and the Snoopy Dancing continues apace. The chief thing I’d say is that chemo has been a constant reminder for me that we 100% create our own reality every moment of every day. 

I can’t count the number of amazing, empathetic people who have reached out to tell me how horrible they imagine chemo must be, or how awful their chemo or the chemo of their loved one was, and how sorry they are for me. 

I really appreciate all this love, and I have to say, please don’t worry or be sorry for me! This just isn’t my experience of chemo. I am super lucky. Yes, there are some really sad pandas in my chemo pool, who are having a majorly yucky old time. Believe me, I get to hear and see all the horror stories on a daily and weekly basis, and I am constantly warned of what to be on guard against by the crew and doctors and nurses alike. 

But, my experience of chemo is not that one. No doubt for a million reasons, and chief among them I believe are two: one, I have an amazing team of healers behind me who are doing everything to give me a solid, ease-filled treatment in both my traditional and holistic courses, and two, I simply refuse to allow my chemo to be anything other than the perfect experience for me. 

Chemo is not easy. But, it can be done with ease. 

My chemo experience shows up like this: I go every other week to a place where all the people I interact with have only my healing and perfect health in mind. We smile and we laugh and we tease each other and we high five and everyone makes me feel like a rock star and I do my damndest to do the same for them. 

Yes, my darling vampires poke me with needles and take vials of my blood from my heart. They give me shots and we celebrate all kinds of weird body numbers and levels I never even knew existed. (Who knew I'd be so excited about my own kidney functions?) At times it’s all kind of like a bizarre out of body experiment mixed with the very hard, surreal awareness that all of this is really happening, and it’s happening for me.

Yes, I am given a mighty powerful cocktail of chemo drugs that folks will tell you do all kinds of bad things to lab rats and people alike. For me, as my IVs are hooked up, I send Reiki to the bags of fluid, and I know that the Universe is with me, and I affirm as the drugs pass through my system that their contents are here only to help me, to kill the can’t-sir cells in my body and then pass through harmlessly, doing only good, only healing. I continue this affirmation on a daily basis, believing 100% in the power of my choice to take this therapy as part of my healing journey. 

That is something I want to be very clear about: I keep constantly in mind that as with every step of my treatment, I chose to have chemo, and to experience anything and everything that could go along with it, no matter how terrible it might be. I signed up for this. Big Time. Out of the myriad ways I could have addressed my treatment regime, I chose this one as part of it. So for me, to do anything less than believe in the power of my choice, or to spend time in worry, doubt, self-pity, or fear, would be to undermine my belief in myself. That is not something I am willing to do. I just don’t see the point.

It’s true that I don’t feel like a million bucks after chemo, and the next week and a half is a week during which I have the opportunity to remember to take exquisite care of myself before we start it all over again. I choose not to focus all my energy on the side effects I have, and I choose not to make them bigger as some bid to improve my personal dramatic landscape. When I notice I’m doing that stuff, I shift my thinking. I try to keep things simple. I notice what I experience in my body and acknowledge it. If something starts to worry me, I write it down to ask my doctor about, and send it Reiki to soften the symptom or pain. If it feels urgent, I say something to my husband, and then we call the nursing team and take action to address it. This healing work is about creating simplicity and ease, never stress. It is about honoring all that is in the space, and keeping the space clear for all the good stuff to keep emerging.

In fact, the space of my days continues to be those of simple routines: I sleep, I eat, I do a little gentle restorative yoga and Reiki, I pray and meditate and dream. If I have the energy, I might write, or read or watch a movie. I choose to recognize this time as an extraordinary gift, an opportunity to learn to nurture and care for myself the way I would care for someone I love beyond words. It is a chance I have never given myself in my lifetime, and thanks to this chemo time, I now have that opportunity. 

Think of it: at long last, I get the chance to learn to love myself as much as I have ever loved. That means, in addition to chemo, I also get the chance to do amazing complementary practices and holistic treatments, and work with incredible healers and teachers. Some days, I can do one or even two "big" things, like an hour of yoga and making a little lunch. I count those as huge victories and celebrate them by saying out loud, “I DID that! I did some yoga! I ate my whole cup of soup!” Many days, I just do a lot of resting, and I am lucky to have a fabulous husband who makes me smoothies, and does our laundry and pretty much everything else that needs doing, and makes sure I don’t ever feel I have to do anything but relax and heal. I celebrate those days as huge victories, too, saying out loud, “I ate my whole smoothie! I slept for an hour!” I honor it all. I give myself gold stars for everything, small or big, because it all matters that much to me. I am like a child, celebrating everything. (If you haven’t tried this lately, I recommend it. It’s a fantastic way to get your wings back.)

It’s been my experience that you can choose to hate your chemo, or you can choose to love it. I believe that like all things in life, some choices feel easier to make than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make them. It doesn’t mean you can’t still love that you made them. It doesn’t mean you can’t still love the hardest, oogiest, most hateful things. It’s all available to us, all the time, all that love.

For me, after I was diagnosed, I realized I needed to make some big changes. One of those was to honor a commitment I’d forgotten I’d made to myself a long, long time ago: I choose to only fill my life with things I love and believe in. Things that make me happy and hopeful. That is the place I have returned to. I recognize that I am choosing it ALL, every moment. This is a powerful recognition, because it helped me to see that if I was going to hate on my chemo, I wouldn’t have chosen to do the chemo in the first place. That's not who I am.

When the checker at Whole Foods awkwardly asked me the other night, “This may sound super weird, but, do you have cancer?” I looked him right in the eyes and said gently, “Yes, I do.” When he looked away and stuttered, “How are you? Are you doing okay?” I gave him a big smile and said, “Yes. My chemo is halfway through! I’m doing really good.” It was clear his moment of courage had passed and he felt he’d dug himself a little hole, and he really didn’t know what to expect or what to say next. It was clear he was having his own story, whatever it might have been, about what all this big, scary can’t-sir stuff is about. So, there you go. As we experience anything in our life, we have the chance to shape it to be OUR experience, our reality, and not carry the stories of anyone else. We get to choose it. And we get to share that with others, to help soften their burden, in a small way, if we can. How amazing.

My story is that my chemo’s going great, and the smile on my face is big and real. I am bald as a billiard ball, and my once unmarred body has a slew of unfamiliar scars and lots of moments of intense feelings and aches and discomforts I never had the privilege of knowing before this time. I love on it all. I know that so very soon, all my treatment, including chemo, will have accomplished its purpose and I will be wiser and freer and clearer than ever before. 

My story is that I just do my best to stay in a place of gratitude and try to be deeply aware of every moment. I am so, so grateful for all that I am experiencing, and so lucky to have the life I have, and so fortunate to have a chance to share even a tiny fragment of whatever awareness I have gained through all this with someone else who might not yet be in a place to see that everything -- every single moment -- is an opportunity to feel how connected we always are to source, to recognize how deeply a part of the universe we always are, to see how truly we are meant to be expressions of the universal force of love, and to see that we are incredibly powerful creators of our own reality.

That's my story. I'm sticking with it. 

How about you? 

What story or stories are you carrying, and how are they serving you and those you encounter in the world?

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