Jenny Gleason, one of the counselors at A Woman's Place, who is also not staying on, passed out an excerpt from the book The Beginning of Every Transition Is An Ending. According to the excerpt, "In this time of discontinuity, it will help to remember your continuities. No matter what has changed in your life, there are things that have not changed. Now is the time to recall those things and treasure them. Whatever inner strength you've known before, you can draw on it again." Good advice. It was very weird handing over my keys, knowing that I no longer have the right to come and go as I please. It is no longer "my building". Since so many people are not staying on, it was like breaking up one big family. A friend of mine suggested I take time to think about what I really want to do and pursue that desire. It took all of about 2 seconds to say Roller Derby! Now, if I could only parlay that into a job, I'd be deliriously happy.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
It was the ending of an era and a sad day for A Woman's Fund. Today was my last day of work as A Woman's Fund will soon cease to exist. Tomorrow I will apply for unemployment, which will be a new experience. There was an article in today's News Gazette about my leaving. Ironically, today's tarot card is the Tower card, which suggests that my alter ego today is the Survivor, whose superpower for revolution lies in my epiphany for change, brought on with the aid of a serious reality check. Today I have reached a turning point. It may be all over but the crying -- but I have the strength to move on and create a better situation for myself. You may say that I never saw it coming or learned the hard way, but with profound change comes new opportunity. One door closes -- another opens. So tear down the wall, and rebuild anew. Back in March the Tower card also came up right after I was put on partial medical leave. I guess the Universe was trying to tell me back then what lay ahead. Too bad I didn't know it then!
Monday, June 28, 2010
As you probably already know, a "bucket list" is a list of things to do before you "kick the bucket" (i.e., die). My bucket list is actually a work in progress. But this weekend I got to cross 2 more items off the list! I spent the weekend in Kentucky visiting my two "bestest" friends, Karen and Sharon. We've been friends since Junior High and no matter how long it is between visits, we always pick up where we left off. I think Karen said it best when she said, "It felt like old times. We may have a few more wrinkles and a lot more gray hair, but that comes with the territory. Underneath it all, we are all just great friends that don't get to see each other very often." This visit was the first item on my list. I had been planning this trip since my breast cancer diagnosis. I had wanted to go earlier in the year but I got all wrapped up with roller derby, which was also on my list (after I first learned about the league). So, I finally got off my a$$ and headed to Kentucky. I had the best time. It was so nice to just "hang out" with Karen and Sharon. We spent Saturday afternoon hanging out in Karen's pool, along with Cassie, Karen's daughter.
Saturday night we went to dinner at Outback Steakhouse then dropped Karen back at home before heading off to Todd's Karaoke Bar. There we met up with Sharon's friend, Michelle and Cassie's friend, Joy, along with her fiancee, Ricky. Another item on my bucket list was to sing karaoke even though I possess the worst voice in the world! I was, after all, kicked out of the church choir at the age of 11. Sadly, my voice hasn't improved any over the years! LOL. So, I sang The Time Warp while Sharon, Cassie, Michelle and Joy danced the time warp! Fortunately, no one threw anything at me nor booed me off the stage! We closed down the bar and then went out to eat, arriving "home" around 5 am! Although Todd's could be called a little dive bar, I loved it. If you're ever in Lexington, Kentucky be sure to check it out! So, to my old friends, as well as my new-found friends, I say thank you for indulging me and giving me the chance to cross this item off my list.
Sunday found us relaxing and watching a movie. Karen grilled up some tasty burgers and hot dogs for supper. I took off for home after supper as severe storms were due to hit the area. As I left Kentucky, a wave of sadness hit me, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's my fear of not seeing them again? I have no immediate plans to die so it's an unrealistic fear. I do vow to visit them more often as we let far too many years go by this last time! The storms caught up with me about 70 miles into the State of Construction (aka Indiana). There was 25 miles of pounding sheets of rain where you couldn't drive over 35 mph! It subsided around Indy but started up again as I crossed into Illinois. I can no longer complain about the traffic in Champaign-Urbana after driving through Indianapolis! I can tell you that everyone in Indiana drives the speed limit, which is very annoying. Nevertheless, it was a great visit and I look forward to the next one! I have also vowed to not let things go unsaid so I can only say to Karen and Sharon that I love you and treasure your friendship!
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Let's face it, cancer is a thief that robs us of power, control and good health. Just the thought of it is sickening. Some of us would rather remove body parts prophylactically than give it fertile ground to take root. Luckily there are agencies and organizations that help us re-power and re-energize, offering invaluable information and encouragement without judgment or criticism. Words have power and I have the right to use them to rob cancer of its power and to keep it from dominating my body. I also have the right to say no to anyone who tells me that I am dying, that I have only so long to live, that I must to do certain things, and that I must suffer because I have cancer. When I am faced with the rush of “experts” who have mobilized to save me, I can only tell them this: I am the owner-operator of this body. I know it and care for it more than you ever will. I will pay you to advise me about it and then I will do my own investigation and let you know what I decide to do and what further assistance I agree to let you provide. However, you may not paint a fatalistic picture of my prognosis and throw around off-handed fearful statistics and remarks. This is my fight – if you are going to fight with me, you need to act like we can win; otherwise, get me another general.
In this 21st century, we have begun a new global dialogue about cancer, fueled by “celebrity cancers” of very public figures that we’ve come to cheer for and admire: Elizabeth Edwards, Cheryl Crow, Christina Applegate, Bryant Gumbel, Sharon Osbourne and Suzanne Summers, just to name a few. We watched the public, courageous battles of Dana Reeve, Farrah Fawcett and Patrick Swayze, wishing them well with all of our positive thoughts and prayers, mourning with their families, friends and fans when their hope ran out. Statistically, every one in America has about a 1 in 3 chance of getting cancer, and there is a near certainty for everyone on the planet that someone you know will have it in your lifetime. Yet, for all of the racing for the cure, wearing of pins and ribbons, making of public service announcements, lobbying of Congress, and raising awareness, we are still treating cancer with virtually the same arsenal we’ve used for more than half a century in the case of chemotherapy, and more than a century in the case of radiation and mastectomy. The treatments are difficult and damaging and, in some cases, it’s the cure that kills. Today, the majority of investigation and expenditure of resources found in the National Institutes of Health clinical trials is involved with new approaches to those same old remedies: cutting (surgical removal of cancer), burning (radiation), and poisoning (chemotherapy).
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I always say I worry about calling in late to work because I can't find my prosthetic boob. Today, it became a reality! I thought I was going to have call Nancy Drew to solve the mystery. When I was a girl, one of the things that made me happiest was collecting Nancy Drew mysteries. I saved my money to buy them and often asked for them for my birthday. I wanted to grow up and be a writer just like Carolyn Keene. Turns out that the books have been ghostwritten by a number of authors and are published under the collective pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. I also learned recently that the Nancy Drew books were extensively revised, beginning in 1959, largely to eliminate racist stereotypes. Many scholars agree that in the revision process, the heroine's original, outspoken character was toned down and made more docile, conventional, and demure. That's a shame! Why mess with a good thing? I kept my Nancy Drew mysteries for several years; remembering my collection still makes me smile.
But back to the missing boob. Now I really only need my boob when I roller derby or I'm off balance. Without it I'm liable to fall over on my opponents. Come to think of it that might just be a great strategy. LOL. Anyway, I had it on earlier today but took it off for a while because it tends to sweat worse than a "real" boob. So, I removed it but left it inside the bra because I knew I would be putting it back on later. I went to put it back on and it was "missing". I then remembered that Mike had been playing with it (must be a male thing). Only he couldn't remember where he put it! So, I asked myself, "Where would Nancy look?" First, I looked in the bedroom but didn't see it lying anywhere. Next, I checked the bathroom. Again, I didn't see it anywhere. Then I checked the computer room. Now why I checked the computer room is beyond me but it wasn't there either. So I went back to the bedroom and started looking in drawers. That's when I found it. When he tired of playing with it, Mike stuck it in the sock drawer! Now I can join the Nancy Drew Sleuths. Yes, it really does exist. Nancy Drew Sleuths is an organization of American and International fans and scholars, established on April 10, 2000 for the purpose of fostering the enduring legacy of Nancy Drew. You can find their website at www.ndsleuths.com.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Now that cancer has officially pushed me into menopause, I have been wondering about the next phase of my life. Like children with back packs, all of us carry a boatload of past traumas, hurts, disappointments, losses, and grief. Not only have we stored all of these past miseries in our consciousnesses and deep in our cells, we have also created an oversized psychic backpack in which to carry them around. Our highly over-analyzed society has put such a high degree of importance on the work with the inner-child that we have forgotten that the inner-child needs to eventually grow up and become integrated into the healthy adult. Instead, many people are so engrossed with their inner-child and parenting that inner-child that they have become over-indulgent, giving away their adult personal power to the wounded child.
It has been said that we must connect with our teenage selves, in order to unlock the door to our second half of life purpose. To do this we must delve into the traumas, hurts, disappointments, and shattered dreams from our teenage years, embrace them, and love them into healing, so that we can move through the dark passage of menopause into the light of our true purpose. But too often we want to hold onto the pain instead of pushing through or diving down through the muck to come out on the other side. It is much easier to baby the wounded child’s tantrums, than to love her while simultaneously expecting her to heal through that love and come to stand on her own. Sometimes we actually prefer to stay in the old familiar patterns than push through into joy. Is this because joy is such strange new territory, and whatever is unfamiliar is frightening? But what if we let ourselves experience the joy? Would we still want to go back to the old patterns of worry, and pain, and anxiety? For many the answer is, yes. For some joy seems fleeting, short-lived. Worry, anxiety, unhappiness, and drama seem more real in this world we live in. In order to dive deep and find the light on the other side you must trust your own path. You must know how to hear the voice of your spirit and tell the difference between it and the voices of your wounded child or its extension, your fear driven ego. The less pain you have in your backpack and the more essence you have in your heart, the easier it is to hear the voice of your spirit.
When we allow our wounded child to run our lives we can’t possibly stand in our strength and power as adults. But it takes more than acknowledging them. We have to talk to them. We have to listen to them. We have to take charge. And we have to be willing to let go of the addiction we have to carrying around their pain and indulging their hurts. We need to release the pain, and assimilate the gems of wisdom that the pain taught us. Then we must invite our inner-children to grow up and join us in the present. We must connect to our inner spirit. Because it is the connection to spirit that makes the joy possible. It is the connection to spirit that allows the healing to happen. When we carry the backpack filled with our old pain we allow the pain to drive our lives. We have been taught that our past is who we are. It is not the past; it is the lessons learned from our past gathered together in our present that makes us who we are. When we empty our backpacks of the pain and carry only the lessons learned in our hearts, we will be much stronger, healthier and more powerful. And then we will have the strength to dive deep and come out on the other side to experience true joy.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
A friend asked me if I missed the "old" Mike. I told her yes, because we used to be a lot of fun. Let me tell you a story about how much fun we were. Way back when, there was this bar out on West Springfield Avenue called City Limits. They featured "jello wrestling". This consisted of women in bikinis wrestling each other in a ring full of jello. Yes, you read that right, women in bikinis wrestling in jello! Would you believe that Amateur Female Jello Wrestling actually exists? They say it is a female-run sports satire. They mix showmanship and sportsmanship into a fun event where women get to show off their sense of humor as well as their bootie! Google it and you won't believe what you'll find.
Anyhow, our friend Char talked us into meeting her out there on jello wrestling night but then stood us up! So of course we gave her tons of crap for blowing us off! Char's daughter, Kayla, was at that impressionable age and apparently we talked about it too much in front of her. She was playing with her Barbie dolls, who were getting married. She said they were headed off on their honeymoon and planned to go swimming. Char asked her if they planned to go swimming in the hotel swimming pool when she exclaimed, "No, in jello!" Char was ready to kill us! So, of course, we had to take it to the next level.
We decided to make a Jello Barbie Pool and stick it in her yard! The original plan was to get a kiddie swimming pool, fill it with jello, drop a mannequin in it and put it in her front yard. The pool and the jello were easy, but do you know how hard it is to find a mannequin? You have to know that this was before the Internet Age so after many, many phone calls trying to procure a mannequin, we had to resort to plan B. Plan B was a pie tin filled with jello, with a sign proclaiming it "Barbie Pool" with a generic Barbie plopped down in the middle of it. After it got dark, we parked down the block from her house and snuck into her yard to strategically place the Barbie Pool where it would be seen (as it turned out no one was home). Easier said then done! We spent a good 20 minutes arguing whether to put it on the front porch or by the back door. I'm surprised her neighbors didn't call the cops on us! We ultimately stuck it on the back doorstep and then raced home to wait for the phone to ring.
Well, we waited and waited. Turns out she didn't notice it when she returned home but her son, Ryan, did when he came home. He asked her what that thing was on the backstep and that's when she finally discovered the Barbie Pool. She couldn't help but laugh even as she was on the phone trying to give us holy hell about our prank. I told her she was lucky we couldn't pull off our original plan because then she'd really be pissed! The funniest thing was that Kayla asked if she could keep the Barbie! Of course we said yes. That's how much fun we were!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Not too long ago, while discussing breast cancer, I heard a survivor say, "Why not me?" We had been discussing "why" we had gotten breast cancer. Her statement was so profound. I realized that while I no longer question why I got breast cancer, I have yet to move to that place where I can say, "Why not me?" I am not far enough along in my journey to accept that there is no reason for cancer not to have chosen me. I still have to remind myself that I haven't done anything to put myself in this situation. I am still angry that I am one of the "chosen" ones. Who am I mad at? God? The Universe? A Higher Power? I'm not sure. Sometimes I just rage at the darkness. As it happens, the "Why Me" question falls within a significant stage of grief (anger). I was sure I was through all that but I guess I'm not. Interestingly though, today's tarot card is the Knight of Wands. This card suggests that my power today lies in rising to the occasion. I keep my options open and am ready to ""use it or lose it."" I set trends and I initiate exciting opportunities to get attention, conquer fears, enhance reputation or image, or to express or inspire liberation-often by extreme measures. I am empowered by ambition or the "zest in quest" and I transform through charismatic communication of passion.
There is no card in the Tarot that portrays such daring and enthusiasm as the Knight of Wands. His energy and courage are boundless, and he has no fear of anything; while this sometimes serves to get him into trouble, these are also the means by which he can free himself from any detrimental situation. There are few times when he does not move with the speed of a flash of lightning. When he rides into the area he always kicks up dust behind him, and when he enters your life he can be one of three things. He could be a person around you, an event that you will experience, or a part of yourself that you must bring to the surface. His energy moves with the speed of a raging fire pushed onward by the wind, and with just as much energy as such a blaze. The Knight often represents the coming or going of an important matter, and you can rest assured that these comings and going will be swift ones, no matter what the matter involved.
Such a person, shares his spontaneity and kinetic outlook on life. Though he may seem gruff or even violent at first glance, underneath that armor he wears a warm and generous heart. He will be highly supportive of those he considers friends - and you'd be surprised how high that number can go! He typifies the "knight in shining armor" prototype because he is always swooping into situations, saving the day and then moving on to the next adventure. This suddenness hides a deep sense of morality and honor; he is always ready to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But he cannot stand to stay in one place for long; there is always more to do. Tackle any and all challenges that come into your path, and always be ready to help others who lack your determination and exuberance. Take the torch he offers you and step into the light of your own strength. Just be careful not to burn yourself while holding that flickering flame!
When we are faced with a challenge we often ask “why me”? Why not ask…WHY NOT ME? I realize that this is an opportunity to grow, to learn, to laugh, to cry, to feel, to see, to move, to dance, to accept and to realize how much I am loved. After all, I am stronger than I sometimes believe. I just have to get to that level of acceptance and be truly grateful for the blessings in my life.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I recently joined a breast cancer support group at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute called Write to Heal. We spend time writing about what we are feeling in relation to breast cancer and sometimes share those writings within the group. It is sponsored by Carle Foundation, so it is costing me nothing. They even supply the notebooks, pens and snacks! I am really enjoying it. Listening to the others makes me realize I am not alone as they share some of the same sentiments. It is easy to share those thoughts that others find too morbid. Someone mentioned tonight that you never know what gets people through their cancer and I exclaimed, "Roller Derby saved my life!" I had heard that exercise during chemo was recommended as it helps make chemo easier. Guess I took it to the extreme when I joined Roller Derby?! But I swear, it saved my life. I was feeling so bad all the time back then and was fairly sure I was dying. Getting up on wheels again and flying around the rink made me feel alive.
For the past few weeks I have been battling this respiratory infection and it has taken its toll. But, I have still managed to derby because without derby, why bother to live? I will admit to a few fleeting thoughts now and again that perhaps I should quit derby now that I have proved that I can do it. But then I have to slap myself and say, "What the hell? Short of them throwing your ass out of the league, you ain't quitting derby!" You see, it's in my blood and I couldn't leave all those crazy, dedicated, awesome women. The beloved sport from the 1970s is back. Roller Derby today, is bigger than ever. The past is a memory of people and games gone by the wayside and is replaced with a new fever and excitement of modernism. Roller Derby is lodged permanently in the hearts of players and spectators who embrace and assure success. America's fastest growing sport is not going anywhere but up. Roller Derby is back; it's future is boundless.
Concealed throughout our society, a group of us live double lives. By day, we work as bartenders, nurses, students, managers, teachers, or any other number of jobs. Unlike Clark Kent, however, we are far from mild-mannered. By night we break out mini skirts, fishnet stockings, elbow pads and mouth guards. Our skating attire expresses each woman’s personality in a manner somehow both burlesque and empowered at the same time. Short skirts, cool t-shirts, punk hair and knee socks are combined with a determined derby stance and padding thick enough to protect a football player. We take on new identities and become “glamazons” — the kind of women men might drool over from afar, but secretly fear they will meet in a dark alley. We scramble to push opposing players out of the way while staying within the strict boundaries of the flat-track course and helping our own players move forward. The result is all sorts of falls and bruises, which we display with pride. After watching our first bout, my daughter proudly declared me "CRAZY"! After all, we are the Twin City Derby Girls!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Do you ever have those songs that run through your head and you can't seem to make them stop? For me, it's Over At The Frankenstein Place and Science Fiction/Double Feature from the Rocky Horror Picture Show! Maybe I like Over At The Frankenstein Place because it says "there's a light in the darkness of everybody's life". According to the character Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." I think that means no matter how bad things are, they can always be made better or that there's always something to smile about if you look for it.
It isn't a sign of failure to find yourself standing on the edge of a dark, scary place. There’s nothing unusual about wanting to scream and wail, even, to raise your fists toward the sky and say things you learned very young never to say out loud. I think that everybody wants to run for the hills when fear and pain loom large and the edges are crumbling and you can’t make out any glimmer of light at the bottom of the darkness. You have to pick up one foot and put it out in front of you, even when you can’t see where you’re stepping, exactly. Step and step and step again. Move through the darkness. Feel the cold fear and anger and what seems like the utter absence of faith. Feel it. Keep walking. Step, then step, then step again. Light is right off in the distance. Step toward it.
I have learned that there are no guarantees that life will be easy. My life could be a whole lot worse. I have decided that the objective upon my death is not to arrive safely in an attractive, well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, glass of wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
Over At The Frankenstein Place
In the velvet darkness,
of the blackest night,
there's a guiding star,
no matter what or who you are.
there's a light (over at the frankenstein place)
there's a light (burning in the fireplace)
theres a light, light, in the darkness of everybody's life.
The darkness must go
down the river
of night's dreaming
Flow morphia slow,
let the sun and light come streaming,
into my life
into my life
Theres a light...
Over at the frankenstien place
Theres a light
burning in the fireplace
theres a light...a light
in the darkness of everybodys life
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I haven't written lately as I've felt so crappy. It seems that since chemo, I now pick up every respiratory ailment that comes down the pike! It sucks. I've managed to keep up with roller derby and work but not much else. Hannah brought home a copy of Loophole, the Literary Magazine of Urbana High School. She had a poem she wrote published in it. The poem is about her dad's accident. Be warned, it's pretty powerful stuff!
I carry a scar no one can see.
One July day, a crash,
and my Dad was taken away from me.
Life as I knew it was gone like a wind.
Where once was my heart I could feel a crater begin.
My dad never returned.
His brain function diminished.
He acts like a child.
My life with a Dad is over, finished.
The crater that has taken the place of my heart,
sometimes feels so deep and dark.
Good days come,
where I can breathe and smile.
More often now, it's been quite a while.
For years we hoped
there would come a light
into his eyes, but only darkness of night.
They say he's better now,
but my Dad isn't there.
Only a stranger
and for me he hasn't learned to care.
The crash left a hole
I know is here to stay.
My heart's an empty park
I just want to remember how to play.