Wednesday, March 31, 2010
this is my youngest son's new dune buggy. he made me so happy by selling his motorcycle and both dirt bikes!! i worried constantly about his safety on the bikes. so this is the replacement - it's going to be super fun at black rock desert and on peavine behind our homes. he and his wife will be taking it on long rides on service roads out in the woods. i can't wait to ride in it once the weather warms up! this is something i wouldn't dream of doing before i had cancer. i remain grateful.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
one year ago i was preparing for chemo treatment #6.
now, a year later:
the most amazing impromptu trip to the ocean, to pillar point harbor, to san francicso, to santa cruz, to davis, took over 800 iPhone photos
early, early mornings driving over devil's slide through thick fog to the harbor, talking to the fishermen as they brought in their fresh crabs and prepared to sell them - hot coffee, harbor dogs barking, seagulls everywhere, the sun breaking through
hours and hours at the beach and on the pier in pacifica - i was so blissed out, i could barely breathe. this was my home for 8 years and this was the first time i've been back since right after my surgery and before treatment started. the ocean air, the sounds, the smells, the luxury of time to do anything i wanted - it was so perfect
visiting with my wonderful friends, pizza dinner with jason, long talks and a photo shoot with rachel and her boyfriend, talks with beach joe, and a great drive to santa cruz with my surfer buddy kevin to photograph him. it felt so good to reconnect again.
wandering around and photographing my very favorite cemeteries in colma at sunset - an interesting experience now that i feel so much closer to death
going into san francisco for veggie spring rolls at my favorite vietnamese restaurant - experiencing the shock of a shoot-out on a very busy 16th street and cops coming from everywhere, people scattering everywhere, made me appreciate the quiet of living in nevada
i realized that having breast cancer and treatment has affected me in subtle but meaningful ways. i no longer say no to impromptu opportunities to travel. for some crazy reason, i'm no longer afraid of huge hills in san francisco! i truly appreciate my friends and the places i've loved and gotten to know intimately. and i'm more than ever determined to go back to the ocean and harbor every month until winter comes again. it's only a 3.5-hour drive and i have a free place to stay right at the beach. i feel so incredibly lucky to have my energy and health back, to have such a full live in nevada and also still in pacifica.
and in one month i'll be on a road trip with scott to corpus christie, port aransas, and rockport, texas! we're renting a place on the beach for a few days and getting the lay of the land, looking for areas where he might want to live. an 8-hr road trip from dallas. i can hardly wait! then a week with my mom in dallas.
Monday, March 15, 2010
after my breast cancer diagnosis in september 2008, i often noticed an older woman smoking cigarettes on her porch, which was near my car. i went through surgery, four months of chemo, two months of radiation, and it seemed like every time i had to go to treatment or come home, there she was, on the porch, puffing away, even in the dead of winter with lots of snow on the ground, and she must have been very cold in her housecoat. i'm a very friendly person to all my neighbors--except this woman. i would never smile when she looked at me. i would look right at her and scowl. sometimes i would cough. the smoke was awful and always in my face near the car and on the stairway up to my apartment. it was disgusting. but it was more than that; i was mad. i didn't smoke and yet here i was going through treatment. she should be going through chemo and radiation, not i!! every time i saw her, i was reminded of my mother, who smoked for 50 years and almost had both legs amputated becase of the blockages. i was reminded of my brother, who smoked packs of cigarettes every day for decades and who now has Stage 4 throat cancer and is undergoing chemo and radiation. and for what? every time i would see this woman smoking, even long after treatment ended, it ruined my attitude.
until yesterday. i saw her walking up to her apartment and i walked up to her. i asked her if she's the woman who smokes on the porch. she said yes. i told her i owed her an apology. i told her why i was never friendly and why her smoking upset me. she said she figured it out after she realized i had lost my long hair. we talked for a very long time, and it was a wonderful conversation. she also moved here from the bay area, and we laughed about what a culture shock reno is. we talked about her smoking. she said she doesn't want to take drugs to keep her from smoking, but i said, well, when you get lung cancer, believe me, you'll be taking drugs. she works nights at a casino, where indoor smoking is part of the culture. what a shame.
it felt good to say i was sorry. it feels good to see her now and call her by name and smile at her. i just wish she would quit smoking.
i'm going to the bay area tomorrow, back to pacifica and san francisco for a few days. it's been a long time since i've been at the ocean and the harbor. this will be the first time since i finished treatment. the snow here has melted and it's in the 60s and spring! time for a road trip.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
i was so surprised and so happy to receive the following e-mail. the wheel keeps going full circle. many wonderful people helped me through my cancer experience, and i am so glad my blog is helping others:
I am just e-mailing you to say... you are amazing! I am a 4th year nursing student, and I am currently doing my last clinical placement at the Ontario Breast Screening Program. Our program provides free mammography to women ages 50+ every 2 years. When I first started here, my instructor gave me loads and loads of material to read relating to breast cancer, and the continuum that a patient undergoes from screening to diagnosis to treatment to survivorship to aftercare. Nothing that she gave me taught me more then when I came across your blog! Many women here in Ontario, Canada will benefit from you sharing your experiences. It has definitely made a difference in how I view my patients, and how I talk to them and provide care. I have shared the link to your blog with all the ladies in the breast screening office. It isn't often that we get to view the patient experience, and their thoughts and feelings throughout their breast cancer journey, so thank you!
Not only are you helping women facing cancer and its treatment, but you are also helping health care providers. I loved reading all your entries, I spent 2 days at clinical reading it while I was working. I laughed and I cried and I didn't get a whole lot of work done haha but it was worth it!
I've also been inspired in my personal life. I had stopped exercising and I started eating junky foods, but after reading your blog i'm ready to get healthy again! It's time to get my life back."
i hope this woman knows how much her e-mail means to me. i replied and have thanked her, but it's just not possible to describe how wonderful her words make me feel, to know that my cancer experience is helping others.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
glyn evans was kind enough to run a profile about my iphone photography on his iPhoneography.com website: www.iphoneography.com/journal/2010/3/10/the-iphoneography...!
this is a photo of Dave, matt and molly's beautiful red husky. i am Davesitting for two weeks while they are in costa rica celebrating matt's 30th birthday. i haven't lived with a dog since i grew up with our airdale, and it's been quite an experience.
my second night with him, he was outside and i heard the most terrifying sound, like a pack of dogs viciously fighting, and i rushed outside. it was dave howling and crying for help, his body thrashing back and forth. he had pushed so hard on the fence, trying to interact with the dog next door, that his paw went through the slats and was stuck. the slat is less than an inch thick, and he was in severe pain. i tried with all my might to push against the fence to open it up, but i wasn't strong enough. i screamed HELP over and over, while pushing on the fence. the next-door neighbor came outside and was asking me where we were, because it was so dark. he ran up to the fence and started pulling, and then another neighbor jumped the fence and came into the back yard to help. both men finally opened up the fence board. i was expecting dave's paw to be amputed, blood everywhere. but aside from limping for a while, dave was perfectly fine. i, however, was not! i sobbed for hours, was really shaken up by the experience. what if i hadn't been here? what if the neighbors hadn't been here? and what if the neighbors hadn't been the kind people that they are? the next day, our good friend monte came over to reinforce the fence.
so i've been thinking about the importance of neighbors and friends and how in a split second they can make all the difference in the world. and i've been thinking about the helplessness of domesticated animals and how much they need us. it's not all that different, in the long run, from us depending on our neighbors and friends, sometimes when we least expect it.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
one year ago i was right in the middle of chemo treatment and relying on the friendship of two women who had already been through surgery and chemo to get me through it. we talked almost every day on the phone or sent e-mails to each other. they told me what to expect and how to get through it. thank you, adriene hughes and debbie buckner, with all my heart.
what goes around comes around. in the last few weeks i've received these e-mails:
"Well, I have hit the mother lode since finding your 'Love, Cancer, Etc.' website! I have been so concerned about what to expect, when to expect it, etc. Now I have the reference material I need during this 'interlude' of my life. On Jan. 20, 2010, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductile Carcinoma in the left breast and lymph node(s). My surgery is scheduled, and afterward, I will have chemo. The oncologist thinks 6 sessions of chemo will do it. I hope so. So, my steps differ a little from yours but none the less, I have to walk down a similar path as you. I now have a site I can go to, click on the symptoms and know what to expect. You will never know how much I appreciate your writing your experiences. This is invaluable information for me and millions who will follow. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences. Wishing you continued good health..."
"I just wanted to acknowledge what an inspiration you've been to me. Early last month, I marked my first year after my BC diagnosis. Ten days later I had my first post-treatment MRI, and was promptly sent in for a biopsy. It turned out to be a new primary in my other breast. I've decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, and I'm 95% certain I won't have any reconstruction. That's due in large part to your example. Back when we were going through rads, I read through your blog, saw some of your photos, and just sat back in awe of your spirit and grace. I now understand that I can be as spirited, sexy and confident as I want to be - with or without breasts.....it's all a matter of what's inside. I hope you are doing well, loving life and making the most of it. I am, I have, and I will continue to do so. Thanks again."
"You have such a wonderful positive, healthy attitude about your experience...I'm truly grateful to you for posting on BCO and also on your blog. Thanks to you, I have an insider's view of what happens during surgery and recovery - and it all seems fine and straightforward. It made my decision-making that much easier."
this fills my heart to know that i can help others the way i was helped by adriene and debbie. i love it when life seems like a big full circle.