Sunday, January 30, 2011

We all could use some more wisdom

It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.
Francois De La Rochefoucauld

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.
William James

The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening, the third memory, the fourth practice, the fifth teaching others.
Solomon Ibn Gabriol

For sake of clarity, I would like to say that I do not profess to be wise.  I found these quotes and really liked them so I wanted to share.  I know that I have had some wise moments, lest anyone feel the need to comment, but I have also gotten lucky.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye To The Red Devil

Adriamycin is a chemotherapy drug that is bright red in color and well known for being extremely toxic hence the nickname Red Devil.  My Doctor was pleased with how well my cancer responded to this drug but elected to only give me 4 doses of it as it poses a serious risk to my heart to do more than that.

Whenever I have been put on chemotherapy I have been given a printout of all the side effects and symptoms to be on watch for and what to do if the symptoms persist.  If you ever find yourself in these shoes, keep in mind that this reading material should be reserved for a time when you are feeling pretty good.  It can be downright scary.

I had my last dose of Adriamycin and Cytoxan yesterday.  Today I had my injection of Neulasta to boost my immune system after the tremendous hit it just took.  I learned today that taking over the counter Claritin has been said to help with the tremendous pain that follows this injection so I picked up some.  I will let you know if I notice a difference because in the past I have suffered a lot of pain.

It is strangely true.  Claritin minimized the pain I was in and the duration.  I am not sure why this works but it did.

The plan from here is to take an oral medication to help keep things at bay and when things progress I will have to go back on chemotherapy.  My doctor states that it is unrealistic to think that I will get the cancer into remission and be able to go off treatment.  I will take this under advisement but I still believe in the power of prayer.  I have a lot of people praying for me across the country.  I owe them a debt of gratitude for taking time out to remember me.  Thank you everyone!!


Family Ties

I'd like to introduce my second cousin Eduardo Seda to you. Susan met him a couple of weeks ago when we took the opportunity for lunch in Denver.  Eduardo was one of those distant relatives that surfaced from time to time, fondly thought of, but not there in our day-to-day growing-up lives .  Although we are both present on the same family tree, the limbs are not close and neither was our relationship.  How could it be, I was raised in Fairfield, Maine and Eduardo grew up in Puerto Rico.  

We share the same great-grandparents.  His grandmother and my grandfather were siblings.  You've already met his grandmother, she was my Aunt Yvonne.   Now, Aunt Yvonne was an original.  In an era when women were not educated beyond the necessary, she valued education and learning and strove to excel, even walking miles to take classes at night.  She raised her three daughters exactly that way too.  They broke the mold of living typical, French Canadian, Central Maine lives (not saying there's anything wrong with that lifestyle).  Those three sisters were all strong, interesting and independent women, good women in their own way.  Eduardo's mother, Lois, went to college in Boston and there she met and fell in love with an interesting man (not sure if he was another student) who was Puerto Rican.   They moved to Puerto Rico and eventually had four children, Eduardo, Maria, Rosa, and Marta.   Occasionally, their paths and ours would cross, but we never got to know them as we did the rest of the clan who had stayed close to the home fires. 

Aunt Yvonne

Fast forward to present, after those in my generation had grown, married, and raised our families and those in our grandparents generation were gone.  Our family tree was bigger and more splintered but I had heard through the family grapevine that Eduardo was a medical doctor, a radiologist.  And, somehow, I knew that he lived in Denver (there IS a point to this whole story).

Back in October 2009 when we knew that there was something very wrong with Susan, we were dismayed that she could not seem to get her MRI scheduled.  Late one Friday evening when I could not sleep, I set out to find Eduardo, I wondered if he could help.  It didn't take long to locate him, there he was on another cousin's Facebook page.  I immediately sent him a long email message, told him what was going on and asked for help or advice.  Very early the next morning he replied and provided some phone numbers and contact information for Susan to call on Monday, as well as his cell number if we needed it.  Susan was able to get the MRI promptly done and in fact, Eduardo did the interpretation.  On her MRI report, he stated among other things (horrible things) that Susan had a distant family history of several types of cancers.  He was referring to his own grandmother and mother's cancers ( though he didn't come right out and name them).

During this whole saga, Eduardo has been my mentor, advisor, and cheerleader.  When it has looked desperate, he would say 'I don't want to give false hope, but"........and then he would encourage us with positive information.   When Susan was headed to Maine in September with a painful right hip full of tumor and an MRI of the hip done but not read, I emailed him again. We wondered if it was safe for her to travel, we were afraid of a hip fracture so far from home.  He replied in eight minutes.  Eight minutes.  He said, "I just looked at her MRI, be careful, use a wheelchair in the airports, take it easy, have a good time".  We went with caution but without the fear of the unknown. 

I knew Eduardo was my cousin and a radiologist.  I did NOT know what a wonderful, interesting, smart, and compassionate man he is. He has a quiet and gentle way about him, he is so gifted but more humble.  He understands me in a familial way, "the Mainer in you" as he says.  His way of saying I am blunt speaking (and not any different than his grandmother was). I still have not met his wife and two grown children and we look forward to, as Eduardo puts it, "family time" to get acquainted.   This is a joy we would not have except for this journey we have been set upon.

I am so grateful to Eduardo.  He has helped me over some of the puddles and bumps in this journey.  I am awestruck however because of that still, small, voice that whispered to me late that Friday night, "get out of bed right now and find Eduardo, he can help you".  Truly, how can we be afraid when we have the Wonderful Counselor who knows all,  loves best and watches over us 24/7.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tumor Markers

Tumor markers are a way of testing how much cancer a person has and how active it is.  Cancer releases a substance in the bloodstream that can be measured and this is how tumor marker numbers are determined. When I was diagnosed with cancer in Oct 09 my markers were at 297.  Six months of chemotherapy brought that number down to 188 before it began to climb.

Since my cancer is estrogen fed my ovaries were removed this past summer and the next day my markers dipped but within a short amount of time they began to climb again.  The all time high was 1105 taken back in Sept/Oct 2010 which led me to this current round of chemotherapy.

Shortly after the first of four treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxan the tumor markers measured 662.  After the second treatment it went down to 398.  On January 20, 2011 I again had my tumor markers tested and they had dropped to 346.  While I am thankful for the direction, I can honestly admit that I was hoping for more of a drop.  When you look at how much it dropped after the first and second treatment you can see why I was hopeful.

Tomorrow, I am going to receive my last of the four treatments and then my Doctor and I will make a decision about what to do next.  Please keep in mind that the tumor markers need to be under 36 to register normal.  Also, tumor markers are not a reliable way of measuring how much cancer a person has.  I pay attention to the numbers but a false high can show up when a lot of the cancer is dying releasing a large number into the bloodstream.  This is why Doctors use other measuring tools like PET scans for ongoing information and treatment planning.

Please continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers.  I will continue keeping you posted via this blog and facebook.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

When Life Knocks You Down...

The Karate Kid movie arrived courtesy of netflix this week.  I had seen the movie with my mother in Florida, when it was out in the theaters, and really enjoyed it.  Just like the first time I saw it tears slid down my face when Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) delivers the line "when life knocks you down you can choose to get back up".  If you have not seen this movie I encourage you to get it.  I found it very inspirational and very true.

Life will without question knock us down but only we can decide to lay there and feel sorry for ourselves or to get back up.  This is not always easy.  If you have ever had the wind knocked out of you it might take a few minutes of laying there stunned before you get back up.  At times, getting up is only possible when a good friend extends a hand of encouragement and a little momentum. 

This movie delivers on getting up when life knocks you down, facing your fears and the importance of friendship.  I would like to say more but I don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't seen it.  I know a little bit about all three.  I have laid on the mat a couple of times and contemplated the wisdom of getting up.  Some days it would seem like a better idea to stay down.  When I find myself in that situation I am overcome by sheer curiosity to find out what is next on this journey.  So far, I have not been disappointed.

If you are finding yourself in a struggle keep getting up.  It might be the last thing you want to do.  It might feel like a terrible idea but there are sure to be good times coming up around the bend.  You don't want to miss those do you?  Of course not, you have more fight in you so keep going.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Navigating our individual rivers

We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities. Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote reminds me of that Garth Brooks song The River.  It is a beautiful song.  It is a very beautiful song. If you haven't heard it in awhile or if you have never heard it consider looking it up on

He sings of taking risks, living a brave life and meeting opportunities with a head held high.  It encourages each of us to weigh the pros and cons and consider them against the regret of not trying.

I know that sometimes the going gets rough.  Some days it is difficult to determine if you are overcoming obstacles or receiving a few knocks intended to let you know you are heading in the wrong direction.  Keep on course and re-evaluate often.  If it becomes clear the latter is true then change course immediately. 

Our Excellent Adventure

Yesterday, Susan and I embarked on a long anticipated adventure.  We went “Typhoon Bordeaux” hunting.  Now, lest you think that the altitude has affected our mental status, let me assure you that Typhoon Bordeaux is a particularly lovely type of granite.   So, off we went to Denver, and after an errand or two, we found ourselves in the granite district of Denver (much like the flower district of NYC).   Susan has been relishing this kitchen remodel project and has invested hours of research and creative thinking into her definition of perfection.  So to be able to share in the “piece de resistance” of the project (so to speak) was quite wonderful.  

Susan was like the proverbial kid in a candy store, beaming from ear to ear, and wondrously wandering around the gigantic (and freezing) barns of the granite warehouse, comparing, admiring and inspecting the various slabs.  She knew just what she was looking for having spent hours pondering the various effects of color, pattern, and sparkle in her kitchen.  She was on a mission to find the particularly perfect slab of Brazilian granite that would fit the bill. 

Susan has suggested that everyone should go granite shopping at least once in their lives, just for the sheer enjoyment of it, and I am inclined to agree with her.  It is absolutely mind-boggling.  There is a color and pattern to satisfy every taste.  There are jet black slabs with gold flecks, whites with black flecks, blues,
greens, burgundies, grays, and every color and combination under the sun.  There are some that are muted and understated (almost boring), others classy and formal, and some that remind you of 4th of July fireworks with pop and sizzle.  We found ourselves using words like "character, personality, cool, and warm" to describe them.  I felt quite important and pondered a second career in the granite business just to be around this beauty all the time. 

After all was said and done, we got more of an education yesterday than a final decision.  She is still on the hunt for the PERFECT piece.  So thankfully, the quest continues and we get to play for a day or two longer.  This is the kind of decision that is best drawn out and savored, exactly like the gorgeous stone that will decorate their kitchen for years to come will be.  Ah, the sweet agony of it all........

The Final Selection...Niagra Gold - very similar to Typhoon Bordeaux


Monday, January 10, 2011

Everyone needs a snow day

We had a nice snow storm with cold temperatures last night into this morning.  Since I work for myself and can easily shift appointments, I decided to take a snow day.  I do not like being out on the roads or having my clients drive across town when there is just no need for it. 

It was so nice to linger in a warm, soft bed and have a leisurely breakfast.  My husband came home with our son and we had a fun morning.  A lady in our church had given Tan a zebra 3 in 1 scooter/bike from Vtech toys and the baby was exploring it and pushing all the buttons as he sat on the seat.

Snow days are like mini vacations or mental health days.  It is a pajama day where you move at a slow pace and give yourself permission to say no to whatever does not appeal to you.  Ahhh...such a nice luxury.  The best part of Colorado Springs, in my opinion, is that we can have a pretty snow storm and also that it quickly and rather politely melts away so that it doesn't cause much of a bother.  By this afternoon the roads were already melting. 

I am from Maine and so it almost seems wrong to stay at home in my pajamas when I am fully capable of driving in two inches of snow.  I said almost because mental health days are vital and so are vacations.  I wonder when the last day you had a snow day or took a break from your routine?  If it has been too long and you are a bit stressed plan one for yourself. 

Step one:  go to the grocery store and stock up on treats like hot cocoa, marsh mellows and fun breakfast food.  Step two:  take your mental health day by making the proper arrangements with your employer.  Step three: sleep as late as possible, linger in bed, eat a fantastic breakfast and do only what you want to do.  You might be tempted to organize your closet but resist this and every other productive and work related impulse.  Step four: repeat as often as possible for maximum benefit and good results.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Have No Value

In my practice I use a list of negative cognition's.  I give it to my clients as we set up for an EMDR session.  As we focus on our target I ask them to look over the list and tell me what negative cognition best describes how they feel about themselves related to the issue we are targeting.  Though I ask for a statement I am often given several.

"I am a disappointment.  I am permanently damaged.  I am shameful.  I am stupid.  I am worthless.  I deserve to die.  I am ugly."  The list goes on and on.  They feel in their heart of hearts that they have no value.  They do not know that they are children of God.  They do not know that they were crafted and woven by a God who loves them.  They are lost.

I do not market myself as a Christian counselor.  I have a heart for the lost.  They come in droves.  Weary, empty and sad.  My brother recently had a meaningful talk with his friend whom he had not seen for awhile.  He challenged him that if he asked God to show himself he would be amazed that it would happen.  It would happen in an unusual and quiet way.  I probably will not occur in a clap of thunder and appearance though I wouldn't advise anyone to rule it out.

I don't know what your spiritual life is like.  I don't want to preach to you.  I will ask you to consider the advice my brother gave his friend.  If any of the negative cognitions strike a cord with you then I would ask you to read the following verses.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  See Romans 8

We have value.  We cannot earn our way to worthiness.  Our value does not rest in what we do but in what we are.  We are children of the King.  Repeat that to yourself the next time you catch your reflection in the mirror. 


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quotes on Character

This experience has provided an opportunity for me to examine my character.  I have faced some hard times and dark nights going through this health crisis with cancer and I think I have handled things pretty well.  It has given me a new appreciation for life, health and family.  I come from strong folks and I have discovered that I am strong as well.

I came across a website with some inspirational quotes.  I would like to share with you some quotes on character.  Don't be surprised if you see some of the other quotes interspersed with my blog articles.  They had some really good ones.

You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.
Henry David Thoreau

It requires less character to discover the faults of others, than to tolerate them.
J. Petit Senn

Talents are best nurtured in solitude. Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love Is The Resolution

If you look up resolution in the dictionary it says a resolve is a determination: to make a firm resolution to do something. It also defines resolution as an act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc. .

I can think of nothing that I want for 2011 except more love in my life.  I would like a lot of things that I do not have control over.  Of course.  Since I don't have a say in some things, I am determined to spend my time loving and being loved.  I am resolved to a loving course of action, to use loving methods and more loving procedures.

Tan...Moments After Being Born
1 Corinthians 13 defines love this way

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

This is a picture of my son after he was born and I dressed him in the outfit I bought for him.  He was born in our little home with me and Huy and our midwife to assist.  It was exactly the way I wanted it to be.  I couldn't stop looking at him that day.  I can't stop looking at him now.  He is loved.  I may not be able to give him everything I want him to have but I will do what I can to ensure that he is surrounded by love.
Being a parent helps you realize what love means in ways you didn't imagine before.  Love is not always easy.  Some times it is an effort.  Having cancer has redefined a lot in my life.  It certainly has shifted my priorities and how I plan my days. I can think of no endeavor more worthy of my time and effort than loving.  I can think of no better way to ensure that not a moment of my time is wasted. 

I like that song sung by Kris Allen - Live Like Were Dying.  I suggest that you look it up on if you are interested.  If you knew you were dying how would you choose to live your last days?  I don't believe that my life is over.  In fact, I think it is just getting started.  That being said I like to hedge my bets because it seeems prudent.  Time is a luxury that none of us are assured that we have.
This year my son will be two years old.  I have not been able to parent him exactly the way that I wanted or envisioned the first day he was with me.  I have had a lot of help, though, and that help has been given in love.  He will need a lot of love and patience this year from me and from all his care givers.  I pray that God will continue to bless our family as we work on loving Tan and loving each other.  I pray that 2011 will be a year filled with love and blessings for you and your family as well.