Friday, April 30, 2010

Cancer is not a gift

Cancer is not a gift. Cancer is a major event for all who are diagnosed but it brings with it the chance for growth. As hard as treatment can be, many cancer survivors have told me that the experience led them to make important changes in their lives. Many say they now take time to appreciate each new day. They also have learned how to take better care of themselves and value how others care for them. Others draw from their experience to become advocates to improve cancer research, treatment, and care. The two most important things that I've learned as a breast cancer survivor: 1) I had to be involved in my treatment and care; and 2) I can't go back to life and business as usual. I have changed. I feel as if I have faced the enemy called death and lived to tell about it. This may sound melodramatic and/or delusional but it has given me a different perspective on my life and what really matters.
For the most part, my life before cancer was business as usual. I was going about life with my husband, raising Hannah, and living under the illusion that I had all the time in the world to reach my life goals. Most of my activities focused around taking care of others; in fact, I wasn't even on my own list of things to do and people to care for. Then in August 2009, a lump appeared during my breast self-exam and cancer was confirmed in September 2009; the diagnosis was like a brick in the face. The diagnosis of cancer shattered the illusion that I was immortal. Still, the most surprising side effects of cancer is that it has given me more courage than I ever thought possible. My life after cancer is more courageous, more honest and fuller than my life before. After all, time flies when you're having cancer!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cuck Fancer

This is a picture of the t-shirt I picked up at the Colleges for Cancer Relay for Life last Friday night. Today's tarot card is the Nine of Chalices card suggests that my power today lies in satisfaction. I have the self-respect, space or esteem that I need to "bartend" my resources or to live large emotionally. I am confident in and gratified by expressing what is close to my heart or in sharing my happiness like a buffet of joy. I take pleasure and pride in the new order I have created by clean sweeping emotional clutter or in honoring what has meaning. I am empowered by recognition and my gift is contentment. One of the most positive and uplifting cards of the entire deck, the Nine of Chalices shows satisfaction on all levels - emotional, physical, sensual. It is little wonder that most Tarot readers refer to this as the Wish Card, and its appearance is often taken as a sign that, whatever your heart's desire is, it shall be granted in the coming days. It may not be granted exactly as you expected but you can rest assured that you will get what you want.
The Nine of Chalices usually refers to an emotionally fulfilling situation; it shows that joy and happiness are certainly within your grasp, and that you probably already have them. It is a sign to enjoy the abundance of life for as long as it lasts. Feel each of your emotions as if you had never felt any of them before. Take some time to value every person you love - and all those who love you back. See the perfection all around you. On a more physical level, this card signals delight and pleasure, contentment with what you have and a steady foundation for the future. Your worries are all in the past, and you can look forward to a bright future. The Nine of Chalices shows excellent health (sweeeet), though when badly dignified it can often point to an overabundance of physical pleasure that can lead to intoxication and illness. But this is really the only caution of the Nine of Chalices: enjoy life and enjoy living but don't take it too far, because pleasure without regard to the consequences is rapidly lost.
It is rare that the Nine of Chalices refers to a sense of spiritual bliss, since the cards of the spirit are the Swords. But with the Swords suit so full of strife and danger, the Nine of Chalices would look out of place anywhere else but in the Chalices suit. And if you think about it this makes sense, because when the pleasure and contentment of the physical plane is transferred to the spiritual level, it becomes inner peace and harmony with the Universe. The Universe is, after all, the source of all the love and pleasure that flows through the Nine of Chalices into our lives. It only makes sense that we can sometimes follow that river to its source.
Just yesterday, my primary care physician (Dr. Nathan Walker), asked me how I was doing. I told him that I was so fabulous that to be even more fabulous would be a crime! At first he thought I was being sarcastic (me? sarcastic?) but I assured him I feel great and am doing well. I definitely live the "Cuck Fancer" attitude!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The weird dreams continue

Lately, I seem to spend a lot of time in my dreams being angry or upset. It is very vivid and I can feel the intensity of the emotion as if I'm actually experiencing it! The latest dream is that I am at roller derby and I realize that I do not have my shorts (don't worry, I still had my tights, under-armour and padded shorts on). I ask my mother to go to my house and get them out of the dryer. Instead, she sends my grandmother (who died last year). For some reason Gram couldn't find the shorts and came back to yell at me for wasting her time. As I'm trying to tell her to look in the dryer, she drives off leaving me standing there in the parking lot! I was so pissed. So, what does it mean?
To dream that are skating, symbolizes your ability to maintain a balance in your life. You are utilizing your own energy, determination, and will to progress through your life's path and working toward your goal. Alternatively, it may be a metaphor to indicate that you are "skating" over some matter. Perhaps you are tying to avoid some issue or not devoting enough attention to a problem. To dream of your clothes, is symbolic of your public self and how you are perceived. It is indicative of the act you put on in front of others. Clothes are also an indication of your condition and status in life. Thus, if you wear clothes that do not suit you or that you normally would not wear, then it suggests that you are putting up a front and trying to deceive others. The dream may be a pun that something in your life is "unsuitable". It may be a symbol of hypocrisy and being someone that you are not. Alternatively, it could also mean that you are revealing a hidden part of yourself to the world. To dream that you are using a dryer, suggests that you need to start dealing with your emotions. The dream may also signify a dry idea that fails to bring any excitement and thrill.
To see your mother in your dream, represents the nurturing aspect of your own character. Mothers offer shelter, comfort, life, guidance and protection. Some people may have problems freeing themselves from their mothers and are thus seeking their own individuality and development. To see your grandmother in your dream, represents nurturance, protection, and unconditional love. To dream that your car has been taken, indicates that you are being stripped of your identity. This may relate to losing your job, a failed relationship, or some situation which has played a significant role in your identity and who you are as a person. To dream that you are left behind, represents feelings of rejection or not fitting into a group. It may also highlight fears of not being able to keep up. You are questioning your abilities and/or may not be utilizing your full potential. If you left something or someone behind, indicates that you are ready to let go of the past and move forward.
To dream that you are in parking lot, suggests that you need to slow down and take some time to relax from your daily activities. To dream that you are holding or expressing anger, symbolizes frustrations and disappointments in yourself. You tend to repress your negative emotions or project your anger onto others. You need to look within yourself. Being angry in your dream may have been carried over from your waking life. Dreams can function as a safe outlet where you can express your strong and/or negative emotions. You have some suppressed anger and aggression that you have not consciously acknowledged. I have my own thoughts about what this might mean but what does everyone else think?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Nine of Wands

I'm so bummed that I missed last night's Talk Derby to Me at Radmakers! I "vegged" out on the couch after supper and promptly fell asleep, sleeping right through it! I'm guessing the Herceptin caught up with me. The most common side effects associated with Herceptin are fever, nausea, vomiting, infusion reactions, diarrhea, infections, increased cough, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, rash, low white and red blood cells, and muscle pain. Luckily, Herceptin is not chemotherapy so it not nearly as harsh. Felt a little tired this morning but went to Speed Skate tonight. I was joined by some of my league mates and found it to be helpful. I'll have to go again!
Today's tarot card was the Nine of Wands. This card suggests that my power today lies in remarkable gratitude. I am not a victim. There are no lost causes. I've been there, done that, and know suffering -- but it's all good. I'm still standing. Can't touch this. Self-pity is an excuse to do nothing. To appeal to sympathy for pity's sake is to seek affirmation of the choice to do nothing. I am empowered by the spirit and support of meaningful experience and I transform with silent resilience. Inner strength, stamina, and the will to go on despite impossible odds are at the center of the Nine of Wands. But this is not the same card of static defense that is found in the Seven of Wands. The Nine of Wands is more of a dynamic defense, and thus it is much more powerful. This card illustrates the aphorism "change is stability". In times of great difficulty and stress, this card show us that you will always have strength to endure if you search for it deep inside of yourself.
You should expect difficulty when this card appears, but you should also expect to find a way to overcome it. Keep your power at the ready and be vigilant for opposition, always ready to defeat it. Identify your own power and be ready to use it in your defense. You should be aware, though, that combat is not always the best answer. Often, waiting is the only way to bring about victory. Beware also of waiting so long that you are still ready to fight long after the conflict has ended. It is often hard to tell whether a period of calm marks the beginning, middle, or the end of a storm. Holding on is admirable, but sometimes it is even more remarkable to let go. This card often marks the final ordeal, the last hill that must be climbed or the last hurdle that must be cleared before the finish line. And it is the last obstacle that usually proves most dangerous, because it is a last ditch effort by whatever forces oppose you to stop you before you reach your goal at last. To surmount this obstacle you have to realize but one thing. You have made it this far, and this obstacle is no different that the others you have already defeated. Great glory lies ahead, so reach down deep inside and give it everything you've got.
Such strength can be found in everyone, though for some reason it only shows itself to us when we need it. The strength to proceed against all odds is not a force that can be invoked, but that must be earned through adversity and challenges of all sorts. It is only available when every other option has been explored, when every stone has been turned, when the fuel gauge is teetering on empty but you still want to try one more time. Then, admist the greatest of darknesses, your inner strength starts to shine, lighting the way to glory. And how brightly that light can shine when you need it to! I like this card. I was just telling someone the other day that I had to decide that cancer didn't get to win and that I could not wallow in self-pity as it is too much of an energy drain!

Friday, April 23, 2010

An Infusion Day

:-( Today is infusion day. The way things are running today at the clinic would make you think it's a Monday! Everything is backed up and nobody in CU can drive in the rain! So, I finally got my labs and saw the doctor (blood work's looking good!) and I'm still waiting for the Herceptin. I've been here for over 2 hours hanging out with Robert Reese from Channel 3 who is also waiting. Apparently his status is no better than mine even though he's on tv! Of course, I do bring treats to the staff when I come. Guess it keeps me in their good graces! Coming to Oncology always freaks me out. Waiting to find out what the labwork says is always nerve-wracking as mine has been such a roller coaster ride. It makes me paranoid, but I'm thrilled with today's report.
You have to think about it this way. When you are told you have cancer, it amounts to being given a death sentence. All sorts of crazy thoughts run through your head. Mine were "Will I live long enough to see Hannah graduate High School? Graduate College? Get married? Watch my grandchildren grow up?". Next you realize that you have just set milestones to meet. Then you dive right into the self-pity. When you finally come up for air, you prepare for your recommended treatment. Then (hopefully) you vow to fight the cancer with all you've got and set out on your survivor's journey. And it can be a tough one. I've only had one instance where I was sure I was dying and that was after the last chemo treatment when I came down with that awful sinus infection. That on top of chemo was almost too much. I never really worried about immune system suppression because I was "powering through" everything. Yeah, wrong! I should have been more careful but even through all this I still think I'm bulletproof! I guess there's something to be said for denial sometimes.
Tonight I will be attending the Colleges for Cancer Relay for Life Survivor's Dinner at the UI. There will be dinner, an opening ceremony and then a survivor's lap to start the relay. I'm happy to participate but I always feel like I'm not doing enough towards the breast cancer fight. I have the best of intentions but can't seem to get it together. Maybe it's still all too fresh?! Hopefully one day soon I can get past the "freshness" of it all and become a more active participant in the fight against breast cancer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The nodes are clear!

Good news! My mother learned that her lymph nodes are clear of cancer. That's significant because cancer can spread through the body either through the bloodstream or through the lymph nodes. In breast cancer, the breast cancer cells can move into the sentinel lymph nodes and then to other parts of the body. When cancer spreads from one part of the body to another, it is called metastasis. In the TNM system, TNM stands for Tumor, Nodes, and Metastases. Each of these is categorized separately and classified with a number to give the total stage. T Classifies the extent of the primary tumor, and is normally given as T0 through T4. T0 represents a tumor that has not even started to invade the local tissues. This is called "In Situ". T4 on the other hand represents a large primary tumor that has probably invaded other organs by direct extension, and which is usually inoperable. N classifies the amount of regional lymph node involvement. It is important to understand that only the lymph nodes draining the area of the primary tumor are considered in this classification. Involvement of distant lymph nodes is considered to be metastatic disease. The definition of just which lymph nodes are regional depends on the type of cancer. N0 means no lymph node involvement while N4 means extensive involvement. In general more extensive involvement means some combination of more nodes involved, greater enlargement of the involved nodes, and more distant (But still regional) node involvement. M is either M0 if there are no metastases or M1 if there are metastases. I believe that my mother is a T0N0M0, which hopefully means that no chemotherapy is needed. She'll know the answer to that question next week. Yet again, it's hurry up and wait! All of this anxiety is making my weird dreams continue!
The last dream had me and my friend Sharon attending a concert. I asked her to lock my purse in her car so I didn't have to take it into the concert. Well, she didn't lock the car and my purse was stolen along with the money that was in it. I was so angry with her but she didn't seem at all concerned. That just made me even madder! I was stomping around cussing but still no reaction from her! Damn friends! To dream that you lost your purse, denotes loss of power and control of possessions. It also suggests that you may have lost touch with your real identity. To see a parked car in your dream, suggests that you need to turn your efforts and energies elsewhere. You may be needlessly spending your energy in a fruitless endeavor. Alternatively, a parked car may symbolize your need to stop and enjoy life. To dream that you lose money, signifies temporary unhappiness in the home and a few setbacks in your affairs. You may be feeling weak, vulnerable, and out of control in your waking life. But to dream that you are at a concert, represents harmony and cooperation in a situation or relationship in your waking life. You are experiencing an uplift in your spirits. To see your childhood friend in your dream, signifies regression into your past where you had no responsibilities and things were much simpler and carefree. You may be wanting to escape the the pressures and stresses of adulthood. Consider the relationship you had with this friend and the lessons that were learned. So, what is this dream telling me? To stop and reevaluate? I am definitely not feeling weak, vulnerable or out-of-control-quite the opposite in fact! I am planning a trip to visit Sharon and Karen soon so perhaps that's the longing for a simpler time? But I'm feeling great and feel like I have returned to a simpler time because of roller derby!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A stolen fan and the Death card

The weird dreams have returned. I was dreaming that someone was trying to steal the fan out of my office. Every time I found it and returned it to my office, it was stolen again. To see a fan in your dream, refers to the changes in your life. It may also signify your need to calm down after a highly charged emotional situation or state. Is this referring to the fire or the changes in my life? Then, today's tarot card was the Death card. The Death card suggests that my alter ego today is the Mover and Shaker, whose superpower for transformation relies on my bargaining ability to make a change. Even though tomorrow is another day, the time for change is now. Know that you can handle it and that you will not be alone in making it happen. Things may not seem to be going your way, but know it may be for the best. It may be time to find a new direction for the better of all, especially you. You've seen the writing on the wall and something's got to give, but it's not too late. You're well-equipped to overcome your fears and step out of your comfort-zone. Make your best efforts to direct the outcome as you wish by acting proactively now, rather than having to react later when it's out of your hands.
When the Death card appears, big changes are heading your way. Usually this change refers to something in your lifestyle; an old attitude or perspective is no longer useful and you have to let go of it. While the Hanged Man was a card of voluntary sacrifice, the Death card is a forced sacrifice - but that does not mean that it is not for your own good. Sometimes you cannot see how your attitudes are hurting you, and when that is true, the Death card is your wake-up call. Death is not simply destruction; it is destruction followed by renewal. Even though one door may have closed, another is opening. Will you have the courage to step through? If so, before you go forward, take a moment to look back. Is there anything that you are carrying with you that is no longer necessary? Let it go now, before you proceed. Are your old attitudes holding you back, or are high expectations constantly disappointing you? Cast them off, or let Death's watery energy wash them away from you. Open yourself and let it strip away all that you no longer need - fear, revenge, intolerance. Flowers cannot bloom if the land is full of weeds which choke the ground, and likewise, your spiritual enlightenment will be held back by doubt and fear. Let them go now or risk having them painfully ripped away when Death inevitably returns.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surf, Skate, Create, and ...Advocate?

I found this organization as I was reading Women magazine; they are wildly creative. Keep-A-Breast (KAB) was founded in 2000 in San Diego, California, by Shaney Jo Darden and Mona Mukherjea-Gehrig. The two friends were inspired to join the advocacy community when Mona’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, but they knew they wanted to take a fresh approach that would incorporate their interests and appeal specifically to young people. Mixed in among the surf and skateboard gear retailers and thronged with crowds of young, hip women (and men), you might—almost—miss the fact that the tent you’ve entered at the event venue you’re checking out is in fact all about cancer. That is, until you spot the T-shirts for sale—which are emblazoned with a bright pink boobies! logo—and you start to read the signage and take in the fine print. It’s then that you realize you’re about to meet a very different kind of advocacy group.
With a target audience of women between the ages of 15 and 30, KAB has since developed a mission to “produce art events that increase breast cancer awareness among young people and benefit education, prevention, and treatment programs around the world.” The organization’s signature fundraising event has become its creation of one-of-a-kind plaster forms of the female torso, which are customized by internationally recognized artists and auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting such organizations as the Young Survival Coalition, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Asha Kilgallen-McGee Fund, Kapiolani Breast Center, and Europa Donna. Once the casts are made, they are shipped off to artists around the world—many of whom have been affected by breast cancer personally—who create their art on the surface. The results are truly incredible, and no two are the same. With images ranging from comic to abstract to representational, the plaster casts are returned for exhibit and sale, telling the stories of the hands that created them, exuding the power of the women whose forms they embody, and creating a powerful legacy of hope.
In addition to being displayed at auction openings and other fundraising events, some of the forms travel around the world to the many surfing, skateboarding, and music venues where KAB gets out the word about cancer prevention through its education booth. With educational videos, live art, breast self-exam cards, and other healthy-living information on display, the booth imparts both art and education. But it’s the young people who come through the booth and take part in these events, Shaney Jo says, who remain the inspiration for everything KAB does: “All our programs go back to our mission, which is to eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection, and support, through art events, educational programs, and fundraising efforts. We seek to increase breast cancer awareness among young people so they are better equipped to make choices and develop habits that will benefit their long-term health and well being.” For more information about Keep-A-Breast, visit

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Fire

Today we had a fire at our house. Mike and I had gone to the grocery store and when we returned home, the back deck and the back corner of the garage were on fire! I grabbed the garden hose and called 911. Two firetrucks and several firefighters responded. Although hearing those sirens was a "sweet" sound, by the time they arrived, I had the deck fire out but was still spraying water on the garage. I gave permission for the firemen to break down the garage door that was locked to get inside. They tore out part of the inside wall as well as the siding on the outside. They are unsure of the fire's origin so they took evidence samples and a police report was made. The lab will check for accelerants (such as the charcoal starter fluid that was sitting on our back deck). It was like watching CSI in action! Fire investigation is one of the most difficult of the forensic sciences to practice. Unlike most forensic disciplines, even the basic question of whether a crime has been committed is normally not obvious. During a fire investigation, an entire process must be undertaken just to determine if the case involves arson or not. The difficulty of determining whether arson has occurred arises because fire often destroys the key evidence of its origin.
I actually inhaled some of the smoke but luckily, not much. I was coughing and my throat hurt. Smoke inhalation occurs when you breathe in the products of combustion during a fire. Combustion results from the rapid breakdown of a substance by heat (more commonly called burning). Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases. It is impossible to predict the exact composition of smoke produced by a fire. The products being burned, the temperature of the fire, and the amount of oxygen available to the fire all make a difference in the type of smoke produced. Most interestingly though is the fact that they assumed Mike had put out the fire. I told them several times that I put out the fire but they didn't seem to hear me. This was actually the second time I fought a fire! Years ago when I lived in Streator, Illinois, my stupid ex-husband left a lit candle burning and went to bed. I was already asleep so I was not aware of it, until the livingroom was on fire! I managed to contain the flames while he called 911. I kept it under control enough that there was only minimal damage. Once the Fire Department arrived, I exited the house like a bat out of hell! Only, it was December and I was naked (I used to sleep au natural). I didn't realize I was butt-naked until someone brought me a blanket! At least I value my life over my possessions. For Christmas that year my boss gave me a fire extinguisher! Now if I could just recreate that adrenaline feeling I had while fighting the fire for Roller Derby, I'd be unstoppable! Seriously though, I owe the Urbana Fire Department a great big thank you!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Derby Luv

Today's roller derby is a phenomenon unlike any other: a wildly popular, wholly independent sport that is international in scope, completely built on grass roots, with no big-cheese owners. It is unique as a sport, as a structure, even as a social phenomenon. Not only is there no other sport that operates on such a widespread, hog-on-ice [independent] basis, but there is no other endeavor that works like roller derby. Even though Alcoholics Anonymous is widespread and independent like derby, AA lacks that all-important full-contact angle, and it leaves a lot to be desired as a spectator sport! Roller derby of today stands alone in a lot of ways. It's something to be admired, treasured and wondered about. Modern roller derby's most important asset is fun, built on a foundation of enthusiasm and energy. The bouts are the "shiny" part of this deal that everyone sees, but in real time and terms, the bouts are only a tiny fraction of the activity involved in roller derby. Like any good show, a lot of hard work goes into making it look easy! Roller derby attracts the best and brightest people, squeezing their best and brightest efforts out of them. They give their all, do their best, "dress up" and wear a smile with a dedication that holds up for years. What most employers and politicians would give to be able to garner that dedication and focus!
Roller derby combines punk-rock aesthetics, pin-up pulchritude, and athletic ability into one showy existence. We've spent hours stretching, running drills, even holding our still bodies in positions designed only for cruel and unusual punishments (Really Coach, I love squats!) Occasionally we may cry, hyperventilate, even pass out but when we're done with all that, we skate! There are several reasons we put so much into the athletics part of the equation:
  1. It's fun to win and bouts are tough. We need to be in the best shape possible to last the two 30-minute periods during which the game is played.
  2. Roller derby can be a dangerous sport but the better shape you're in, the better chance you have of making it out safely.
  3. We respect roller derby for what it is-a sport. Derby is hard; it's physical; it's demanding!
Considering the practices, additional trips to the rink for more practice, membership dues, event coordination, public and charity events as well as the possible injuries we face, this is serious business. Hell, it's damn near a full-time job that you can't help but love!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roller Derby Queen

I was messing around on the Internet and came across Jim Croce's song, Roller Derby Queen. You can watch a video of it on YouTube. He explained that he met this woman in a bar and just had to write a song about her.

Roller Derby Queen
Gonna tell you a story that you won't believe
But I fell in love last Friday evenin'
With a girl I saw on a bar room T.V. screen

Well I was just gettin' ready to get my hat
When she caught my eye and I put it back
And I ordered myself a couple o' more shots and beers

The night that I fell in love with a Roller Derby Queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The meanest hunk o' woman
That anybody ever seen
Down in the arena

She was five foot six and two fifteen
A bleached-blonde mama
With a streak of mean
She knew how to knuckle
And she knew how to scuffle and fight

And the roller derby program said
That she was built like a 'fridgerator with a head
Her fans call her "Tuffy"
But all her buddies called her "Spike"

You know that I fell in love with a Roller Derby Queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The meanest hunk o' woman
That anybody ever seen
Down in the arena

Round and round, go round and round
Round and round, go round and round
Round and round

Well I could not help it
But to fall in love
With this heavy-duty woman
I been speakin' of
Things looked kind of bad
Until the day she skated into my life

Well she might be nasty
She might be fat
But I never met a person
Who would tell her that
She's my big blonde bomber
My heavy handed Hackensack mama

You know that I fell in love with a Roller Derby Queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The meanest hunk o' woman
That anybody ever seen
Down in the arena

Round and round, go round and round
Round and round, go round and round
Round and round

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mom's surgery and my obituary

I'm happy to report that my mother came through her surgery with flying colors. She came out of anesthesia talking and asking for food. She responded to her surgery so much better than I did! I came out "tossing my cookies" and avoiding food at all costs. Leave it to my mother to show me up! They did a sentinel node biopsy, which is a surgical procedure that doctors use to stage (determine the extent or spread of) certain types of cancer in patients who have been recently diagnosed with cancer. While they did find some "atypical" cells, they could not determine if the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. More in-depth testing is needed and the results will take a week. Should it show that it has spread, she would then need to have the lymph nodes removed. So, keep your fingers crossed!
Last night I dreamed that I was writing my own obituary. I'm sure it was due to anxiety over my mother's upcoming surgery but it wasn't a scary process. It was enlightening. If you're looking for a way to motivate and jump start your life, write your own obituary. By writing your own obituary it forces you to take a long, hard look at your life and where you are compared to where you want to be. It's not as morbid as it sounds and can be a life altering experience. So, how do you write your own obituary?
  1. Start off with your name and a completely bizarre way of dying. The stranger the better so writing your own obituary won't feel so morbid.
  2. Set a death date that's 20 to 50 years into the future depending on your age. Be optimistic.
  3. Write a list of your accomplishments and of those accomplishments what you most want people to remember about you as you write your own obituary.
  4. Make a list of the things you would like to accomplish in the next 20 to 50 years and write them down. Keep realistic long term goals in mind.
  5. Take stock of the person you are and the type of person you want to be. One of the best things when you write your own obituary is that it offers you the opportunity to be brutally honest about the person you are verses who you want to be.
  6. List the people you will be leaving behind, and be optimistic.
  7. Assess everything you've written down and put it together in a witty, endearing and thoughtful prose. Put it away and check it every 6 months or so to see where you are in leading the life you said you did.
I woke up with a new sense of purpose as I now know how I want my obituary to read. Then, today's tarot card was the Two of Swords. This card shows those times when you deliberately avoid seeing the truth. Maybe one of your ideas has been proven incorrect and, though you see that you were wrong, you do not want to admit it. It can be painful to remove a blindfold and see the truth, because even the softest light will blind those who have lived in darkness. But being blinded by the light is far preferable to being blinded by darkness. The Two of Swords often represents situations where an answer could be found and the truth could be seen, but where the person or persons involved choose not to see it. I feel like I have chosen to see the truth. I know which path to take. The Two of Swords suggests that my power today lies in opinion or blind instinct. 'I just know it.' My perceptions are sharp, balanced and reasonable and guide my decision or support a position free from momentary distraction or impulse. I honor my authentic self when I choose to protect emotional vulnerabilities without compromising virtue, reputation, or principles. I practice self control but I know that denial can't hide truth forever. 'Once bitten, twice shy.' I am empowered by the status quo and my virtue is justification.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Speaking of finding your grail...

Apparently the Universe is on the same wavelength as I am as today's tarot card is the Six of Chalices card, which suggests that my power today lies in self-consciousness. I am not alone. It's not too late to make a fresh start or to pursue my hearts desire. The fountain of my youth or my Holy Grail is revealed in the simple pleasures and gestures that are unaware of their own beauty, connection, and power. I am empowered by nostalgia or past perceptions and my gift is rejuvenation. This card is the only one in the Tarot that refers explicitly to the past, and of memories and good times experienced there. We sometimes have to take a time out to heal, to look back on the past and all the good that lies there. And during such times it's never the right thing to focus on the negative, and that's why this card is so positive and full of light. The fallen cups are now full and upright again, but with blooming flowers that cannot be spilled or washed away. Now that you have looked back, maybe now the way will be clear to look forward.
Often, people tell others to concentrate on the present and not get stuck in the past, but this counsel only applies when a person stops looking back at his past and starts dwelling on it, wishing he could change it and make things better. There is nothing wrong with looking back at the good times for inspiration when things aren't going so well. In the midst of change and crisis, looking back at what you have endured is often a good way to assure yourself that, whatever trials lay ahead, you will meet them and you will overcome them as you overcame others. Take a look at your emotional trophy case, then go out and win another cup! The Six of Chalices almost radiates an aura of joy, because it represents the past with all its memories, the present with all its gifts, and the future with all its wondrous opportunities. It has ties to all kinds of pleasure and can also refer to smaller, everyday pleasures. Simple gestures of affection are still meaningful despite our modern world and its frantic pace. The Six of Chalices can thus signal a gift given or received, or some other similar gesture.
Children are a good role model to follow when this card's energy is about. They see the world as a completely perfect place, and their hearts are totally open to experience all the myriad pleasures of the world around them. When the Six of Chalices suggests a path to follow, it tells you to open your heart to all the possibilities of life. Live in quiet harmony with those around you. Live in constant peace and joy. Live in the moment, remember the past, dream for the future. I have looked back and now my path is clear.
I learned to roller skate when I was 4 years old and have many happy memories of the skating rink in Pontiac, IL. My friends and I spent countless hours there on the rink. My Holy Grail is the simple pleasure of roller skating! Throw in roller derby and it's a damn lot of fun!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Find Your Grail

I fully intended to post a blog entry last night but I was in a weird space and couldn't put it into words. I was thinking about my mother's upcoming surgery, scheduled for Monday. They originally thought they could do a lumpectomy but her MRI revealed a third cluster in her right breast, so she has to have a partial mastectomy. I made her some of my homemade caramels as she likes them so much and I figure that it will make her feel better. It seems that whenever a crisis of illness or injury occurs, I immediately go into "cooking" mode. I just have to fix food. It's a definite throwback to my childhood. I try not to let my mother's breast cancer diagnosis ramp up my own anxieties but sometimes it overwhelms me. Yesterday was so exhausting. Then this morning dawned bright & clear and Saturday morning is Roller Derby Practice! It put everything in perspective.
A few years back, I was lucky enough to see the hit Monty Python musical, "Spamalot". It was incredibly funny and entertaining. One of the songs in the play is "Find Your Grail", meaning find who you were meant to be, or find what you are meant to be doing in this life. The song expressed the true joy of being you and only you. So many of us plod down a path that was laid out for us by our parents or our upbringing and circumstances at birth. Or we fall into our careers based on whim or chance or what will gain us the most money. We choose as young adults, either after high school or in college, what we will do for the rest of our lives. Our career choices often become our identity. Our egos cling to this, creating a huge story about our life as a ____ (fill in the blank). We may swell up with pride or cringe in embarrassment about what we do. We take it on as if it were who we are. We eventually believe that our professions are who we are and that without this profession, we'd be no one. We weren't born being this vocation, it is a choice and can be unchosen. After all, when introductions are made, the next question is often, what do you do? And we answer with our career choice, I'm a _______! A much more interesting question is "who are you when you're not at work?"
I like the thought of going on a holy quest for the grail, the answer to life's questions about who I am meant to be. I think everyone goes on this quest at some point in their lives. Some do it early, some late. Some do it thoughtfully and well, some don't. Some do it in response to a major illness or accident. The quest is to discover who you are, what your unique gifts are and how they can be expressed in the world.

The lyrics to "Find Your Grail"

If you trust in your song
Keep your eyes on the goal
Then the prize you won't fail
That's your grail
That's your grail

So be strong
Keep right on
To the end of your song
Do not fail
Find your grail
Find your grail
Find your grail

Life is really up to you
You must choose what to pursue ohh yeeeah
Set your mind on what to find
And there's nothin' you can't doooo

So keep right to the end
You'll find your goal my friend
You won't fail
Find your grail
Find your grai-a-a-a-ail
Find your grail

Find your grail
Find your grail

When your life
Seems dejeffed
When we all need a lift
Tell yourself you won't fail
Find your grail
Find your grail

Life is really up to you
You must choose what to pursue
Set your mind on what to find

And there's nothin' you can't do
You can't do

So keep right (so keep right)
to the end (to the end)
You'll find your goal my friend
Find your grail!
You won't fail
Find your grail
Find your grail
Find your grail!!

You'll find it!
You'll find it!
You gotta keep on
Goin round!
Goin round!
Cause I know

So, who am I when I'm not at work? I AM A ROLLER DERBY GIRL! I have found my grail - it's called the Twin City Derby Girls (TCDG)!! I must give a big shout out to the founding members of TCDG for following their vision and providing us with an awesome sport to pursue. I applaud all the hard work that has brought such a fabulous group of strong, empowered women together. I am proud to be affiliated with you all. Derby On!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Strength Card

I'm still on a high from passing last night's Roller Derby Skills test! Then I discovered that today's tarot card is the Strength card. This card affirms that my alter ego today is the seductive beast of my Animagus, whose superpower is to master self-control to tame fears or impulses to prove of what stuff I'm made. I boldly go... but a willful heart is part of my secret identity. My infinite fortitude is seen by what I do, sacrifice or defy to stand up for what I feel is right, including admitting when I'm wrong, keeping out of it or not dignifying responses provoked by moral cowards and brutes. When resolve is tested I draw on the courage of my true character from the more savage or humble virtues of my natural instincts to maintain objective by composure. This enables me to hold my tongue against bravado, repress claws at empty threats, and not turn tail in pride against passion when it's hard or inconvenient, but to persuade through self-restraint until assimilation is complete or resistance is futile.
True Strength is fortitude of character, and the ability to not only control the emotions, but to rise above them, and triumph over all out lower impulses and desires. Strength is not a card of compassion and love, but a card of quiet yet unstoppable power. Such power radiates from the soul, and for a consciousness aware of this power, there can be no resistance, and no defeat. This is simply mind over matter, superior will over inferior desires. No matter how strong the beast within you seems, you have the power to control it and make it submit to your will. This cannot be done with physical force or with undue haste; it is a slow and difficult process. When Strength is around, however, you can be assured that you have enough endurance to see this task through to its eventual end. If you are pushing too hard, Strength shows the need to withdraw for the moment, and be patient. Enlightenment will come only when the time is right; it cannot be rushed.
Many don't talk about their experience with cancer, or any traumatic event for that matter, because they're afraid to show weakness. But I'm beginning to think that the very fear to show weakness is a weakness in itself. Surely, if you can't draw strength from within, you can certainly draw it from others. But I believe if it isn't at least felt from an honest place inside you, the strength exuded on the outside will be fake and contrived. Being strong isn't shown through a stoic face, or holding back tears. To me, strength is when you expose yourself to the world proclaiming, "This is me! This is what I've been through. Take me as I am!" Showing how you feel on the inside - that's not just strength. That's bravery.
I'm slowly learning to leave yesterday behind. I'm gaining understanding that anxiety about tomorrow steals joy & satisfaction from today. Anxiety disables me when I dwell on what might happen beyond what is absolutely necessary for planning for the future. So, Derby On!

I am an "official" Derby Girl!

I did it! I passed my Roller Derby Skills test tonight! I will now be placed on a team. I am so stoked! Ok, so I was a bit of a maniac tonight during the test and I'm sure it wasn't pretty but I passed. I "threw" myself into the falls and practically tore my knee pads off. But I was just so damn hyped up. I am happy to report that all my practice jumps paid off as I nailed my jump on the first try. After celebrating with my derby girls with a round of drinks at Buffalo Wild Wings after the test, I came home and woke up the household to tell them the news! I couldn't help it. It was such a significant accomplishment for me at this point in my life, I wanted to shout it from the rooftop! I'm so very excited because I am almost 47 years old, battling breast cancer and yet, can still be athletic. I have proven that I can kick cancer's ass!!! Softball has always been my game and I always gave it my all. But now I think Roller Derby has replaced softball as my favorite sport. Melissious Intent (hopefully I spelled that right) and I are trying to figure out how to become Professional Roller Derby Girls so we can quit our jobs to do what we love!
Today's tarot card was the Justice card, which suggests that my alter ego is a portal to a Reality Check, whose access to where truth lies is guarded by the superpower of my Karmic Credit/Debit Card. The verdict or results are in and I will get the payoff or payback I deserve today through the natural laws and cycles of accountability, reward, truth and consequences. But the ""return on my investment"" will diminish or intensify until I finally notice or reap the message sown loud and clear. Whichever way it comes in, at least it happens for a reason and keeps my life in balance. So today when it comes full circle, whatever the result, I accept that I will use it as an opportunity to either try again, make amends or make it right. Let it come around in its own time, keep my hands off the wheel while this ride is in motion, or impose my brand and risk paying the price. The two most important laws governed by Justice are really two sides of the same coin. First comes the law of cause and effect, stating that all events are connected and each present state is the result of all past states. This is a such strange idea to get your mind around because sometimes seemlingly meaningless actions will have great ramifications. Justice shows that every action you do will eventually have an effect, someday, and you really have no idea of knowing what that event is until it happens. Often the figure on the Justice card is pictured sitting in front of a curtain; this curtain hides the machinations of the universe that bring about these final results. I have to believe it's about Roller Derby because all of a sudden everything seems so clear and life feels balanced!
Congrats to all the girls who passed the test tonight as well as those who passed last week. To those taking the test next week, I know you will do it. We are all sending you our positive energy and support. It will be an honor and a privilege to be teammates with any of the Twin City Derby Girls. And for those of you who end up on the opposite team, it'll be fun to "kick your ass"! And No Coach, I'm not sorry I said that! Derby On!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Will I ever be "cured"?

I dared to ask my oncologist how long it would be before I was considered “cured.” It has been a difficult 6 months, and from time to time, my psyche is a mess. Do I have cancer, or had I had cancer? The answer: Unlike people with cancers that are considered "cured" after two or five years of remission, with breast cancer you’re cured when you die of something else. Everyone expects you to get back to your old self after treatment, but fears about recurrence can make life hell. Although I am not “cured”, I am “healing". I am settling into that remarkable place we can find, with work and determination, where we understand that cancer does not come and then go. Cancer comes and stays. And if we face it head on, it can become a part of us that takes us to a new level of understanding. I realize that I will live the rest of my life with the uncertainty I have been handed. It has been easy to stuff all the feelings of cancer—fear, tears, anger, anxiety—into a box that I keep tightly locked in my gut.
When my cancer was diagnosed, I poured all my time and energy and feelings into gathering and understanding information—what I call “head work.” During chemo, I was surrounded by friends and family bringing food and taking care of me. Now that the chemo treatment has ended, I am left feeling discombobulated. I am still grappling with the feelings of cancer, but everyone around me is expecting me to return to “normal". I understand the journey beyond “cured” to “healed.” Cured will always be about the body, the physical self. Healed is about the soul and spirit, recognizing that “self” goes beyond blood and bone to another dimension. Or, put simply: To be well is to be cured. To be whole is to be healed. I have taken control of my life again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Healthy Survivor"

"Live each day as if it is your last." Good advice? Maybe, maybe not. I have only one thing to say about this popular mantra among patients who have completed cancer treatment: I don't think so! I understand the logic. Just as hunger is the best appetizer, the threat of loss can heighten all the senses in pleasurable ways. I remember the sensory feast when my breast cancer diagnosis first forced me to face my mortality. Fruit tasted sweeter. Music sounded richer. Skies looked bluer. Why not embrace this mantra by living each day as if it is my last? Why not hold on to the outlook that enhances the beauty of everything in my little world? Because, such an effort can be an exercise in defeat. To maintain the urgency and intensity of a "last day" mentality would be exhausting, physically and emotionally.
To live each day as if it is my last is to raise expectations about each outing and interaction, putting pressure on everyone and everything to be last-day worthy. Lastly (and most important), to live each day as if it is my last is to live without hope for tomorrow. And I won't do that. Not yet, anyway. I am committed to being a "Healthy Survivor," namely, a survivor who (1) gets good care and (2) lives as fully as possible. A central element of healthy survivorship is nourishing hope. Every day I strive to accept my present situation while hoping for a better tomorrow. How would it affect "my care" if I were to live each day as if it were my last? I would stop taking my medications and stop going for checkups. Why bother? I would eat pizza for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, and cherry pie for dinner. And I surely would not exercise!
As for the "living fully" part of Healthy Survivorship, if I were to live each day as if it were my last, would today's troubles still have meaning? Instead of seeing my challenges and unpleasant emotions as part of my path to a better tomorrow, would they feel like nothing other than my miserable lot in life? Nope, no self pity, please. A cancer diagnosis encourages us to know both the fragility and the hopes of life, and with that knowledge to live as fully as possible. As a Healthy Survivor, instead of trying to live each day as if it is my last, I will seize the day--carpe diem. I choose to embrace today--whatever the circumstances--and find some happiness today while hoping for a better tomorrow.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hoppy Easter!

Happy Easter to all. I spent an hour this afternoon practicing my plow stop and jumps out on our cul-de-sac, hence my title "Hoppy Easter"! I stuck a dowel rod into 2 cups (similar to what we use at practice). I would jump over my bar and then when I skated back to my starting point, I would practice my plow stop. Half the neighborhood came out to watch and ask what I was doing. The neighbor kids thought it was pretty cool but the adults decided I was "just plain crazy". But they sure continued watching me practice. Thanks to jumping pointers from Jo, I think I have it figured out. If I get low and jump earlier, it works pretty well. I also tell myself "bouncy knees" right as I jump. I hope to get some more practice time in before the test on Wednesday night. So, be sending me all your positive thoughts on Wednesday evening at about 8:30 pm!
We didn't have a traditional Easter dinner this year. Instead, we started with shrimp cocktail & crab, then grilled steaks and brats, and added baked sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and broccoli cheddar rice. We finished with a Michigan Cherry Cheesecake! We enjoyed our meal out on the "white trash" front porch since the weather was so nice. We found a set of large, and I do mean large, orange plastic Easter eggs at Hobby Lobby, so we loaded them up with different items for Hannah. There was gum, chocolate eggs, starburst, a white chocolate bunny, mechanical pencils & note pads, along with items for her car (air fresheners, lint roller, seat belt clip). We were going to hide them in the yard but they were so big it would've defeated the purpose! LOL. All in all, not a bad day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Derby: Where the d-bags aren't

As roller derby grew from a grassroots hobby to an official sport, WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association) was born. Complete with rankings and national tournaments, WFTDA is the centralized entity that ensures partnership among derby leagues nationwide. The association, which was founded in April of 2004 as the United Leagues Committee (ULC), "promotes and fosters the sport of women's flat track derby by facilitating the development of athletic ability, sportswomanship, and goodwill among member leagues." In keeping with the themes of empowerment, independence, and assertiveness that are so synonymous with roller derby, WFTDA leagues operate under the motto "by the skaters, for the skaters." That's exactly what makes roller derby such an awesome sport!
Speaking of awesome, today at Roller Derby practice, we had guest skaters from the Arch Rival Roller Girls (ARRG). Founded in 2005, the Arch Rival Roller Girls have become a St. Louis local "must see" in their 4 seasons, drawing up to 1000 fans to their bouts (games) at All American Sports Mall. Their website mentions their ever growing fanbase that includes tastemakers, movers and shakers, kids, grandmas, punkrockers, and even Mayor Francis Slay has been spotted at an ARRG event or two. The local league is comprised of 3 teams: The M-80s, The Stunt Devils and The Smashinistas, who compete about once a month, often pitting best friends, neighbors or co-workers against each either other both on and off the track. Joanie Rollmoan, from the M-80's team; Domme E. Nation, of the Stunt Devils; and Ginny Beastley, from the Smashinistas team, along with Jeerleader, Lipstick Lezgo joined us. They drove up to skate with us and provide us "pointers". We worked on rotation and blocking, as well as plow stops (which can be extremely useful in blocking & slowing the pack down). They are the awesomest derby girls, who we all hope to someday be like! Be sure to check 'em out at
After practice, we had a BBQ/Potluck over at Jo's house so we could continue "learning" from the ARRG skaters. Even with the rain and hail (yes, hail) it was good food and good company. A big shout out to Jo (& Alex) for opening their home to us and being such great hosts. Someone mentioned that we should start the Twin City Derby Girls Catering Company. Great, that can be my next career! It can be my new start-up company and I'll be sure to share proceeds with the league. How "bout" that? If you are looking for a fabulous group of awesome, competitive, supportive, empowered, civic-minded women of all ages, come skate with the Twin City Derby Girls. I guarantee that one practice and you'll be hooked! And while I assure you that cancer sucks, I am grateful that it has brought the Derby Girls into my life. I'm not sure I would've taken the leap to join derby had it not been for the breast cancer. But I have and I'm so glad I did!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Today was another infusion of Herceptin. While in some ways it's easier than the chemo regimen, in other ways, it isn't. I'm so very tired of visiting the oncology floor. As a woman living with breast cancer there are many long waits, doctor visits, test results, scans, the “chemo chair”, etc. As I am now halfway through this year-long treatment journey, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. But now with my mother's own breast cancer diagnosis, all of those familiar, overwhelming emotions return. What gives me peace of mind during this time is music and focusing on my breathing. I often go to "my happy place" when it all seems too much. Though it is something I just learned recently, I recommend breath awareness to all, especially to those diagnosed with breast cancer. Just close your eyes and follow your breathing. Follow it as it travels through your body and find it as it calms and relaxes every muscle and nerve.
Each day, I put one foot in front of the other as best I can. Sometimes a cancer diagnosis brings us into a much deeper connection with who we truly are and allows new opportunities to enter our lives unexpectedly. You see, it is about “CHOICE”. A simple concept in theory but not always an easy concept to carry out in life. I have a choice, not only in the things I may or may not do everyday or the way I treat my cancer or the pair of socks I put on in the morning. But in the way I deal with every moment of the day. I have a choice to react with anxiety, fear, anger and despair, or to choose to react from a different place. And this simple idea gives me peace of mind. I can CHOOSE to react with calmness, quietness, love, faith or hope. Simple but powerful. It is easy to worry about jinxing things by being happy or expecting the best as life has already shown me that it can dish out the worst with one crushing blow. I am "choosing" to take my life back from cancer and the negative emotions that come with it. I will be okay no matter what. I will have fun. I will do the things I want to do and not ‘wait to get the results’.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Finding Meaning & Purpose

A recent analysis of two studies conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Connecticut attempted to assess spiritual well-being in cancer patients and survivors on the basis of two dimensions: meaning/peace, which reflects one’s purpose in life, and faith, which was defined as a perceived comfort derived from a connection to something larger than one’s self and was correlated with existing measures of religiosity. Annette Stanton, PhD, one of the authors of the analysis, which is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, says the findings were different for those who indicated they had meaning and peace compared with those who relied on faith. “We found that people who had a sense of meaning and purpose in life had a decrease in depressive symptoms and intrusive thoughts about cancer, as well as an increase in vitality over the next year. The cancer was less pressing. They had something else to go back to.” Stanton says the results did not indicate that faith was a bad thing, but that it contributes differently. “People who defined themselves as high on the faith scale perceived more growth from their cancer experience,” Stanton says. “Many faiths believe that there is a growth through suffering. Those high on faith see it as a time to grow.”
With a focus on living better and longer, complementary practices such as yoga, deep relaxation, meditation, sandtray, and both group and individual therapy sessions can raise the sense of hope and meaning. According to Michael Lerner, PhD, “Facing a life-threatening cancer raises questions of ultimate meaning. For some the frame is secular, for others religious or spiritual. The frame matters less than the opportunity to find a safe place to go inward and to see what is in your heart—what truly matters to you now. Sharing those deep heart questions with others in the same boat ends loneliness. It builds community and strengthens meaning for everyone, regardless of the frame we use. And finding meaning in the face of our greatest trials is at the heart of it all.”
What does all this mean for cancer patients and survivors trying to make spiritual sense of cancer? And what about those whose lives are filled with meaning and purpose but not a faith tradition? Having a serious illness can affect your spiritual outlook, regardless of whether you feel connected to traditional religious beliefs. After treatment, you and your loved ones may struggle to understand why cancer has entered your lives. You may wonder why you had to endure such a trial in your life. Cancer survivors often report that they look at their faith or spirituality in a new way. For some, their faith may get stronger or seem more vital. Others may question their faith and wonder about the meaning of life or their purpose in it. Many say they have a new focus on the present and try to live each day to the fullest.